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Posts Tagged ‘1 John 3:1’

IMG_20170609_143813167I sit at my desk, enjoying the sunshine that streams through my study window. I can see shrubs close by, then taller trees beyond. Today, their leaves are rippling in the wind—it feels somehow soothing to watch them and to note how their shapes are etched against the bright blue sky. It is cool outside, but I am warm and snug, as I try to find words to describe what I am seeing and feeling. I love writing about my beautiful surroundings, but I so much want to do justice to it all.

As I reflect, I realise I am feeling a twinge of what could only be called guilt. How did we end up here, after living in our little, wooden house for thirty-two years? How come that old house sold for such a good price, enabling us to afford our comfortable, spacious unit? Perhaps it’s all a dream, I think to myself. Perhaps I’ll wake up one morning and find myself back in our old home, instead of in this lovely, quiet place where the only sounds are the birds outside, twittering and singing to one another. I know there are people nearby, but we are on the edge of our Village, where our peace is largely undisturbed, unless we choose to venture out somewhere.

In the quietness, I try to slow my racing mind. God is here with me, I know—and I choose to stop, be still and settle into that warm, loving Presence all around me. Yet, for some reason, I feel unworthy at this point in time. God, why have you chosen to give us all this beauty and comfort, my heart cries out. What have we done to deserve so much material blessing? Could it be … maybe you meant it for someone else, God? Has it all been a big mistake?

Then I sense God’s loving arms around me and feel the Spirit’s warmth and fullness flooding my being. I open my Bible, but even before I do, I seem to hear God’s gentle, reassuring voice: This is no mistake, Jo-Anne. This is just a picture in the natural of the grace I have poured out on you in the spiritual. As you look around and enjoy what you have received, know it is my delight to give you a place where you can flourish and where you can serve me with a heart at peace and overflowing with my love for others. And as you do, may you be reminded of the abundance of my grace that called you to be part of my family forever—that grace beyond measure that you can never earn or buy.

I turn the pages then and read one of my favourite verses written by the Apostle John, then another from the Apostle Paul:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God …. Ephesians 2:8

Then I sit back and relax. Yes, Lord, it is all gift. Everything we have, everything we are. Thank you, from the depths of my heart, for your amazing, overwhelming grace.

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Have you ever experienced one of those moments when a truth you have almost come to take for granted hits you smack between the eyes once again? It can be just a tad humbling, in my opinion.

There I was this past weekend, speaking to a great group of women at a church breakfast. Little did I suspect God was going to remind me of a home truth in my own life. I have seen before how the things I pass onto others when speaking at such events are the very things God wants to impress on me as well. I should know this, having spoken many times in connection with my books over these past few years. But I had forgotten. And God knew that.

I reached a point in my talk where I had decided to include part of the story of how God became real in my own life, so I began sharing with the women about the three things that had impacted me most deeply back then. I told them how I was shocked when I realised that the Jesus I had heard about in Sunday School and church was actually real—and further, that he was still alive—in which case, I needed to do something about letting him be Lord of my life. I told them about the awe I felt when I realised I mattered to Jesus—that he knew all about me and loved me. And I told them too how I knew at once that, by believing in Jesus and accepting his love, I had indeed discovered the purpose for my being on this earth—to live for God and bring honour to Jesus, whatever my future career path might turn out to be.

I was right in the moment, sharing from my heart with the women. Then, through some almost joking, ‘throw away’ words of mine, God spoke to me.

‘I hate to say it,’ I laughed as I told the women, ‘but this happened to me over fifty years ago now when I was fifteen—so now you can do the Maths easily!’

No, there was no blinding flash that knocked me off my feet at that point—but I did feel the impact of the following gentle words from God deep in my spirit.

‘Yes, it has been fifty years, Jo-Anne. A long time of journeying together, through so many ups and downs.’

Straight away, I was filled with such thankfulness for that journey that I began all those years ago as a fifteen year old, so full of uncertainties and anxieties. Yes, I thought to myself, even as I stood there and kept speaking to the women, God has been so, so faithful to me through it all—so patient and so forbearing and so understanding and so forgiving and … well, just so plain caring about me. But for God, where would I be? Certainly not where I was right at that point, standing on the platform and speaking to those women present.

Yes, I have kept the faith—but only by God’s amazing love and grace through all those years. That’s all I can say.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John :1

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I’m a writer and speaker. I use and play with words day in and day out, and our English language is so rich that I’m often spoilt for choice. Yet sometimes I wonder if, in all my cleverness, I make something sound much more complex that it really is.

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat. I was entrusted with the task of giving three talks, each forty-five minutes in length. I spent many hours preparing these and their accompanying reflection sheets and discussion questions. And in the end, those talks more than filled those forty-five minutes I had been allotted! Yet the women were very gracious and patiently heard me out.

But as I delivered what I had prepared, I noticed two things. The first was that the women present went very quiet and seemed to listen extra hard whenever I shared some personal experience I had had of God or some story from my own life to illustrate a point I was making. I saw again the power of a simple story or honest testimony, as the women related to what I shared. No wonder Jesus so often taught in parables.

The second thing I noticed was that, out of all I shared over the weekend, what seemed to have the most impact was the simple truth that God loves each one of us. Not just in some theoretical, matter of fact way, but deeply¸ profoundly, purely, honestly. God created us. We went our own way. But God called us back, treated us with such grace, forgave us, accepted us. God loves us with a love that is perfect and eternal.

It was when the power of God’s love and the power of story combined, however, that the Spirit seemed to touch us the most. At one stage, I shared how, at a needy time in my life, God’s love filled me again in an amazing way. I had been so busy and, in the process, lost any sense of God’s real presence with me. But God broke through one night when I was home by myself. To my vast relief, I found myself freely worshipping God again, full of joy and so conscious of God’s Spirit alive in me. But it was the two pictures I believe God gave me then that impacted me even more. The first was of Jesus holding me as a baby, smiling down at me with such pure love and delight as he whispered, ‘Wow! Jo-Anne!’. I knew he was showing me he loved me just the way I had been created, before I could achieve anything. In the second picture, I saw all my certificates I later received piled in a bunny rug and gently pushed to one side. I knew God was showing me that, while they were great, I was utterly loved even without any of them.

I pointed out to the women listening how each one of us is that baby in Jesus’ arms, so precious to him. And in the quietness, God touched us all.

When it’s all said and done, it’s as simple—and profound—as that. God loves me. Jesus loves me.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

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