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Posts Tagged ‘following Jesus’

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 17I wonder if you can identify a time in your life when you decided against pursuing a particular career or course of action or when you perhaps closed the door on one part of your life and opted for a different direction. How did you feel as you made that decision?

I still remember the moment I turned my back on high school teaching in the late eighties and opted for an editing job instead. Part of me was relieved, while another part was sorry to walk away from the classroom setting and the opportunity to engage with so many young people. And I can well recollect my sorrow at leaving a ministry position over twelve years ago now, after agreeing to stay for a further four years. I knew God had something else for me to do, which turned out to be my whole writing journey, but I hated disappointing our church and walking away from a role I loved.

These decisions of mine, however, pale in comparison to the one made by the rich, young man we read about in Mark 10. Jesus gives this man the offer of a lifetime, in answer to his question about how he might inherit eternal life:

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (21b)

It was not as if Jesus said this harshly at all. In the first part of that verse we see how much he cared for this young man and longed for him to make the right decision:

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

What beautiful words—so simple, yet so profound! Can you imagine the scene here? Can you perhaps put yourself right in that scene, either as an onlooker or even as that rich, young man for a few moments?

This week I did the latter. I imagined myself coming to Jesus with a sincere question about eternal life. I listened as Jesus responded and I answered him honestly. Then, it was as if I could not believe my eyes and ears. There was Jesus, looking straight at me with such love—and my heart almost turned over. But his words were too much for me. I wanted to follow him, but all the beautiful things I own flashed before my eyes—and I wanted them too. I turned away then from his loving face, but even as I did, my heart felt so, so heavy.

Now in reality, I am not this young man. But this experience of allowing Jesus’ words to come alive for me showed me things within myself even now, I believe. What holds me back from following Jesus with my whole heart each day? Are there areas in my life where I still turn from him and go my own way, unwilling to give him everything in response to his love for me? Or have I forgotten those eyes of love with which Jesus still looks at me today, just as that rich, young man experienced so long ago?

Let’s not walk away from those life-giving offers Jesus extends to each one of us. Let’s look him full in the face, listen—and follow.

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P1030810If I have ever had any doubt about the capacity of human beings to copy others, it is rapidly being dispelled by our nineteen month old grandson. It behoves all around him to watch what they do and how they speak, because, just when you least expect it, our Zain will say and do the very same thing as you—in exactly the same manner and with the very same intonation!

Several times recently while minding him, I have noticed how he copies my mannerisms—that shake of the head and slight frown as he says a very firm ‘No!’ or that lifting of both hands, palms up and open wide, as he agrees with me that his food is ‘all gone’! But all that pales into insignificance in the light of a sequence of events I observed last week when we were out together.

It happened in a small play area at a local shopping centre. A little girl was playing on the tiny slippery dip there—although I use the word ‘playing’ loosely. She was in fact sitting on the highest point of the slide, completely blocking any other child’s access, with her arm out straight and her hand very definitely commanding everyone to stop. She was also scowling ferociously, warning other children off with a very authoritative ‘Nooo!’ And if any ventured too close, she would quickly add loud crying to her repertoire! However many times this little girl’s mother told her to move, these instructions were ignored.

Zain just stood watching all this, finger in mouth. He didn’t seem too fazed—and a quiet word from Nanna turned his attention to a car he could play in nearby instead. Eventually, the little girl and her mother left—and then it was Zain’s moment. He climbed the couple of steps to the very same spot the little girl had occupied so successfully, turned to another child waiting, put out his arm in the self-same expert, policeman-like manner and said loudly ‘No!’

I was gobsmacked! The whole sequence of events he had observed took only a few moments all up—but that had obviously been long enough for him to take on board an apparently very desirable way of behaving. I had thought he was just innocently observing, when all the time, he was plotting how to use the same method this little girl had employed to his own advantage! Of course, Nanna quickly intervened and nipped these plans in the bud.

No doubt, as Zain grows up, he will copy the behaviour of many other little children and young people—and adults—over the years. No doubt he will make some wrong decisions at times in choosing people to emulate, but I pray he will always be able to hear God’s voice, calling him close and pointing him in the right direction. I pray for his parents and for good friends around him who live in a way that honours God. Above all, I pray the day will come when he chooses to follow Jesus for himself and to imitate his way of life—and that one day, he will be able to say to others, just as the Apostle Paul could:

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Cor 11:1

Now that’s the sort of imitating worth putting into practice, don’t you think?

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