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Posts Tagged ‘becoming a Christian’

Jo 17One night last week, I went to bed early to read, but in the end, did not feel like concentrating on all those words. Instead, I decided to relax and try to stop recycling the disturbing issues in my mind that had been fuelled by the many negative news reports I had heard on TV. And these days, that can be a little hard, don’t you find?

I lay there in the half dark, listening to the sound of our TV from the lounge. Often all I can hear is the monotone voice of some expert on planes or machines or battles that my husband enjoys listening to—surely enough to send anyone to sleep? Or it might be the sound of laughter from some comedy show. But this time, it was neither of these things. This time, it was a simple but beautiful old hymn, written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835:

Just as I am, without one plea,

but that Thy blood was shed for me,

and that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

When I first heard these lines as a fifteen-year-old, I am sure I did not understand fully what they meant. One way of putting them today might be: ‘Jesus, the only grounds I have for coming to you are that you died for me and that you tell me to. I have nothing else of my own to plead my cause.’ But back then, all I knew was that I had to get to the front of the meeting room as fast as I could, because Jesus was calling me and I wanted with all my heart to be close to him. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by the truth that I mattered to Jesus—that he knew me and loved me so much, exactly as another verse of this hymn says:

Just as I am, Thy love unknown

has broken every barrier down.

Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

What a joy then, having felt so tired and disheartened, to lie in bed and hear this wonderful reminder of how Jesus’ love drew me to him all those years ago—to be taken back to the beginning of my journey as a Christian in an instant and to realise how faithful God has been to me through the years!

I realised too that, in one way, nothing has changed since then. Jesus certainly hasn’t—and here I am, still so thankful he loves me and that I belong to him. Yet, in another way, everything has changed. That day, I was made new. That day, my life took on a clear purpose—to live for God. And over the years, Jesus has been so patient with me, as I have sought to grow in my faith and know him better.

… anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Today, as so many disturbing things are happening in the world around us, may you too be able to rest in the simple truths that Jesus loves you, that you belong to him and that he will never let you go.

 

 

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Jo 23‘I have HOMEWORK!’ our almost six-year-old granddaughter announced ecstatically, her big brown eyes wide with anticipation, as we picked her up from school one afternoon last week. ‘I’m going to do it right now!

Then and there, in the middle of the schoolyard, Maxine wanted to set to work. But I managed to get her to the car and then home at least before she tackled this wondrous new thing called homework. Last year, she had spelling to practise at home. But now being all grown up in Year One, she finally had those magical homework sheets in her hands.

First off, she tackled her spelling list for the week. She wrote out all her words in the column marked ‘Monday’ —then the Tuesday column as well, since she might not have time the next day. The Wednesday column soon followed and the Thursday one too.

But wait, there was more. As well, we completed some little ‘Maths’ exercises to do with measuring things and deciding which things were bigger or smaller than something else.

‘This is fun!’ she declared—until her granddad tried to help her draw a map of her bedroom. But she did not want help. She did not care if things weren’t in the right place or weren’t drawn to scale. What mattered to her was making that chest of drawers she drew bigger and brighter than everything else in her room and enjoying the whole experience of doing her very own homework!

As I watched, I found myself hoping she continues to be as enamoured with the idea of doing homework for a long time to come. After all, she has plenty of it ahead of her. But I began to think too how I initially embraced some things in my own life with passion and excitement, only for it all to die down a few weeks or months later. For example, I know I should walk regularly and I do enjoy it. I used to walk every day. But things happened—and now I resent the time I need to take from my writing to go walking. Then there are some books I have started reading too with enthusiasm, even taking notes as I went. But sadly, I soon became too busy—or too lazy—and lost interest in them.

I’m so glad God has enabled me not to do the same in my Christian journey. I well remember the joy and enthusiasm with which I embraced my new-found faith in Jesus Christ in my mid-teens. Over the years, while this joy and enthusiasm may have changed in degree or shape, even becoming a little dulled at times through the pressures of life, it has never left me. Today, many years later, I still rejoice that I am God’s beloved child, through the great grace God has shown me and goes on showing me. And, through God’s strength, I am still embracing with enthusiasm the things I have been given and gifted to do right now.

May that deep joy continue to flourish in my life and yours—and may we, like Maxine, embrace all God has for us to learn and experience with enthusiasm, whatever our age!

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

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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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We currently have a dilemma in our family – and it’s all about whether to open a certain envelope or not. You see, our younger daughter and her husband are expecting their first child in January, so our daughter recently had an ultrasound. As a result, she was asked whether she would like to know the baby’s sex – but she couldn’t decide. If she found out now, she reasoned, she might be disappointed. But if she found out at the moment of birth, she would no doubt be very happy whatever it was! So the baby’s sex was written on a small card and the card placed in an envelope and given to her husband. That way, he could look at it if he wanted to – and so could our daughter, if she changed her mind.

Well, it seems our son-in-law has had a peek, but so far managed to keep it to himself. Our daughter’s boss has also, because she wanted to know what clothes to buy the baby. The envelope was then waved in front of me – I could even see the little card inside it as my daughter held it up to the light. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if I found out – I would just have to be vigilant and not blurt it out by accident. After all, it would mean I could knit something pink or blue instead of white. In the end, however, I decided against it.

But this whole experience has caused me to reflect on other ‘envelopes’ I’m glad I have opened in my life – my husband’s request to marry him, studying at theological college, the call to serve on a church ministry team, the challenge to write my first novel and, underlying all this, the invitation to believe in Jesus Christ and follow him. What if I had ignored that particular invitation I heard one evening when I was fifteen? What if I had thought it wasn’t for me? What if I had decided it wasn’t important enough to open – or that I could leave it a bit longer?

But would God have offered me a second invitation at another time? I don’t know. And I’m so glad I didn’t decide to wait and find out, because for forty-eight years now I have enjoyed the wonderful presence of God in my life, the wonderful privilege of belonging to God’s family and the wonderful hope that I will be able to spend eternity in heaven.

Yet every day, many people turn down this invitation. Many don’t even bother to open the envelope. They might hold it up to the light for a second, see its shape and wonder about it, but then discard it. And others immediately decide it’s just rubbish and throw it in the bin.

It’s so vital to open this particular ‘envelope’, to see the reconciliation God offers in love to each one of us. In fact, it’s a matter of life and death, of being welcomed into God’s family or not.

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

I’m so glad I accepted God’s invitation. How about you?

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