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Archive for August, 2017

Jo 23I wonder if, like me, you have discovered that there are some people who are easy to get on with and others who … well, perhaps I should leave it at that! Of course, you and I both know we belong to the former category rather than the latter. After all, how could anyone ever have trouble getting on with us? Ridiculous! If they do, then it must be their problem, not ours!

As I woke up one morning recently, I realised with a jolt that I was about to spend part of my day with someone who I have to say irks me more than a little. This prospect did not fill me with glee and, not being a great morning person anyway, I grabbed some coffee and headed to my study in even grumpier mode than normal, feeling hard done by. Why me? I had more than enough other things to do than waste time with this particular person.

Still grouchy, I reached for my Bible and the study guide we had been given to help keep us connected with the current sermon series at our church. As I did, I was reminded of the title of the message I had heard only a few days earlier: ‘Learning to live peacefully’. Snippets of what had been said that day floated into my mind, but I quickly pushed them away. I did not care to remember them at this point. Instead, I wanted to wallow in my grouchiness for just a little while longer.

Yet somehow that did not seem to be God’s ideal plan for me right then. I glanced at the reading set down for the day—Galatians 5:22-26. And, despite myself, verse 22 caught my eye:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.

Hmm. I noticed verse 25 too:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Hmm again. I had been all set to ignore the Spirit’s voice that day, for sure.

In the end, our guest came and went—and no one had made too many waves. But I am an expert at post mortems, so I was still grumbling more than a little by the next morning, ready to criticise and condemn our visitor for this and that. Then I turned to my Bible reading for that day and my heart sank, because I knew I would find some verses there that I did not want to see.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32

Oops! Sometimes those gentle rebukes from God are more like sledgehammers landing on one’s head, don’t you think? Yes, our guest may have been one of those ‘extra grace required’ kind of people. Yet surely, if I say I know and love God, I should be able to take a deep breath, listen to God’s Spirit and allow that love and grace of God to flow out to others, whoever they are?

I hope there aren’t too many more ‘oops’ moments like that in my life—but I suspect there might be!

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Jo 17There I was, happily reading John’s Gospel when I noticed I had previously put two exclamation marks beside a particular verse. Then I discovered two more in another spot—and I realised why. What the Jewish leaders were saying and how they were responding to Jesus just seemed so crazy-ridiculous to me!

I read how the Jewish leaders pester Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Christ. Jesus points out he already has—and how his many miracles back up his claim (10:25-26). They try to stone him, but when Jesus asks which of the many great miracles from God the Father has upset them so much, they dismiss them, as if they are unimportant:

We are not stoning you for any of these,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (10:33)

I then read how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). While many Jews put their faith in him as a result, some head off to the Pharisees, who call a meeting to discuss the matter:

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …” (11:47-48)

Their conclusion, in collaboration with the chief priests, strikes me as sad but kind of funny too:

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (12:10-11)

Doesn’t it seem weird to you that the best idea the Jews can come up with is to kill Lazarus? If Jesus had brought him back to life once, could he not do it again?

Finally, I read the saddest verse of all:

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (12:37)

As I reflected on all this, I remembered a time when I was a student at Queensland University and a keen member of the main Christian group there. One year, we held a mission on campus and tried to strike up conversations about Jesus with passers-by. During one such discussion, some sceptical philosophy students clinched their arguments with us with the following very definite statement:

‘If Jesus were to appear here right now and do some miracle, then we’d believe in him, for sure.’

An older minister helping us then chimed in.

‘Would you really? … Would you really?’

At that point, they left, uncertainty written all over their faces.

I sat for a moment, remembering and reflecting. If God had not opened my eyes to see who Jesus truly is and changed my life forever, I could well have had the same response as these students—and the Jewish leaders. I too could be lost in that sea of scepticism and unbelief. I still scratch my head at God’s absolutely amazing grace and love for me—but I also receive it with a truly grateful heart and with determination to treasure this gift forever.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … John 1:11-12

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Jo 17Years ago, I discovered something that intrigued me. I was in the middle of preparing a talk and had become stuck, as I tried to organise my thoughts. So I took a break and went to have a shower. To my surprise, as I stood there, letting that water flow over me and mulling things over in my mind, my input simply fell into place. Somehow, it was as if the water was cleansing not only the outside of me but the inside too, washing away my muddy thoughts and bringing so much more clarity.

Now some might say it was the relaxing effect of that water flowing over me that cleared my mind—and I’m sure that was part of it. But I suspect there was more to it too. It seemed to me that, as the physical water flowed over me, so did the living water from God’s Spirit, inspiring me so I could express myself so much better. And, while I hadn’t swallowed any actual water, I felt I was being filled up on the inside with ‘spiritual water’ somewhere deep in my being, so that the right words were able to form and bubble away there, ready to flow onto the page and eventually out to my audience.

Only a few days ago, I experienced something similar—but not in the shower this time! Twice a week, usually late in the afternoon when no one else is around, I try to make my way up to the heated pool and spa in our Village Centre, not far from our unit. I am quite out of practice as a swimmer, so each week, I challenge myself to do a few more lengths of our smallish pool and improve on my previous efforts. Gradually, I am beginning to enjoy the sensation of that water flowing under and around my body again, now that I don’t have to focus on whether I will make it to the other end of that pool or not! Instead, I can let my mind mull over whatever blog I am writing or whatever talk I am preparing and chat about it all with God as I swim.

It was afterwards, while relaxing in the spa, however, that I felt that lovely, cleansing flow of both actual and living water strongly again. As those super warm bubbles surged around me and the water jets massaged my body, it was as if a curtain lifted from my mind, giving me much clearer direction for my writing projects. Then, once again, I sensed that deep peace and joy filling me up inside. And I knew the Source of this peace and joy was Jesus, who still delights to provide living water today, just as he offered to give that Samaritan woman at the well all those centuries ago (see John 4).

How much I need that beautiful, life-giving water to fill me, so it can overflow to others as I write and speak! How much we all need it, so we can bring light and life to our hurting world!

… Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38

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