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Posts Tagged ‘believing in Jesus’

A few weeks ago, someone pointed out to me how the immediate response many of us seem to give these days when asked how we are is not, ‘Good, thanks!’ or ‘I’m fine!’ Instead, what we often say is ‘Oh, I’ve been so busy!’ or ‘I’m actually so tired—I’ve had so much to do!’ or some other phrase that indicates life is currently a little too full or perhaps even overwhelming for us.

It seems to be a badge of honour, in some circles at least, to be able to point out how many tasks and activities we manage to pack into our lives. Yet, in the midst of it all, how are we ourselves truly surviving? What is happening deep down inside us—to our soul or our spirit? Have we perhaps lost sight a little of who we are, apart from all that we manage to do and achieve? Have we forgotten how to sit and simply be? And, beyond that, have we perhaps allowed our faith to recede into the background somewhere, as if there is no room for God in our heads and our hearts, in all the busyness of life?

No room. Those words have such a sad, empty ring, don’t you think? Centuries ago, it seems to me, I used to sing a Christmas solo occasionally by John Peterson that began with the words:

No room, only a manger of hay,
No room, He is a stranger today,
No room, here in His world turned away,
No room, no room.

Perhaps nothing has changed really since that time over two thousand years ago when Jesus came as a baby to live among us. And perhaps nothing has changed since those days when Jesus, despite the many amazing miracles he performed and despite his wise teaching, was rejected as an adult either. Recently, I read some strong words Jesus spoke as he challenged the Jewish leaders to honestly believe in him in their hearts.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Yet, they kept arguing with him, which resulted in Jesus speaking even more strongly to them.

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  John 8:37

Wow—there are those sad words ‘no room’ once again. These people back then seem to have been so proud of their heritage and position in society and so bent on disproving Jesus’ claims that they would not even let Jesus’ words truly enter their hearts and minds at all.

But what about us right here and now? To my shame and regret, I know there are times when I say a rude and disrespectful, ‘No room!’ to Jesus—times when I am just too busy to bother to leave any space for him in my life. How much wiser it would be to let Jesus order my days and lead me through them, as I listen to him and make room in my heart for his loving words!

No room. Let’s not say that to Jesus this Christmas—or at any time, for that matter.

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It can be so easy at times, can’t it, to criticise others? I would never say anything so silly or so rude, I may decide, as I listen to someone talk nonsense. Or I may watch someone act in a certain way and think, I would never do that. Yes, I am adept at such thoughts. And my pride will often not allow me to realise I may be just the same.

I had my critic’s hat well and truly on recently as I read Jesus’ words about being the good shepherd who would lay down his life for his sheep and give them eternal life (John 10:1-30). This divided those present who then tried to stone Jesus.

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:31-33

Then I noticed I had put two little exclamation marks in the margin beside these verses on some previous occasion. Yes, I thought, I must have found these verses staggering then, just as I do now. What a weird response from those Jews! How could they possibly not believe in Jesus, after seeing his miracles firsthand? They couldn’t deny them, but, somehow, they simply ignored them and pushed on with their charges against him. How crazy is that?

The next day, I came to the account of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and how many Jews put their faith in Jesus as a result (11:1-45).  Yes, surely this is to be expected, I thought. But then I read how some still did not believe and indeed went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done. And what did these Pharisees do then? They called a meeting—of course! And what a dilemma they had.

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 …” (47-48)

How ridiculous, I thought again. They could not deny Jesus’ miracles, yet they could not bring themselves to believe in him either. What a stupid and dangerous way to respond!

Then it was that I heard that gentle rebuke from God somewhere inside me. Would you have been any different, Jo-Anne? And … what about the miracles I perform each day in your own life that you miss entirely?

I sat back and reflected. Yes, there just outside my window were those trees gently swaying in the breeze and that beautiful, blue sky. Yes, this past week, we saw two of our grandchildren and marvelled at how much they had grown. Yes, this past while, God had enabled me to finish editing someone’s manuscript in time. Yes, there was this. Yes, there was that. So many miracles came to mind then—so many I had overlooked or taken for granted or explained away.

I may not have seen any resurrections or physical healings this past week—but I saw miracles, just the same. May I never miss them again. And may I always be so thankful to God for them.

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I have done my share of gardening over the years. Wherever we lived, I usually tried to make some sort of garden or use what was already there as best I could. But then we moved to our retirement village, where we have gardeners to look after all the trees and shrubs and flowers everywhere. And, apart from asking if I could plant some roses near our balcony, I was happy to leave all that trimming and digging and weeding to them!

IMG_20171008_170427567But then I met our wonderful neighbour and soon realised she was responsible for the beautiful flowers growing outside our front door and along the nearby pathways. I would see her working there for hours, as she sat on her little stool and weeded or broke up old leaves, then scattered them back in the earth. She would often spend her own money too, buying little, half-dead plants on special, then bringing them back to life, as well as more expensive ones. But the day came when our friend could no longer care for it all and she and her husband moved into our nearby nursing home.

In the following weeks, I watched as her beautiful garden deteriorated. Occasionally, I pulled out weeds or cut off dead flowers, but we knew that the gardeners, who had been happy to let our friend care for it and indeed to learn from her, would deal with it all in good time.

Eventually that day came and soon, many of our friend’s beautiful plants were no more–although some were left in certain spots to continue flowering where they were. And then something else sprouted in those gardens as well—two little signs that read ‘GardenIMG_20200220_092912991 Renovation in Progress’.

What a lovely concept, I thought to myself. My friend’s garden hasn’t disappeared altogether—it’s just being renovated! No doubt it will all look lovely again soon, with the remaining spaces filled with hardier, easy-care plants such as azaleas and nandina.

But as I gazed at those signs, another thought came to me too. Sometimes, I think my life can be a little like that garden outside our front door. Yes, when I first believed in Jesus Christ, I was given a completely new start in life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet despite that wonderful ‘renovation’, I can still easily mess things up. I can forget to listen to God—or perhaps deliberately choose not to. At times, my own selfish desires might kick in or I take my eyes off God and let the worries of this world overwhelm me. Then those weeds can begin to grow in my heart—and soon that internal ‘garden’ of mine needs a good overhaul yet again.

I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on us, but instead, graciously sets about renewing us, picking us up and setting us on our feet again. Truly, we are each a ‘renovation in progress’. But we are in the hands of the greatest master gardener ever who will continue to transform us to become more like Jesus. And that has to be the best reno ever, don’t you think?

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

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