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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’ sacrifice’

Jo 17I wonder if you have ever been in some busy place at 11.00am on 11th November when that moment came for a minute’s silence to commemorate the ending of World War One and remember all those who gave their lives in what was to be the war to end all wars. That happened to me in a busy shopping centre on one occasion—and I can still remember what a sombre, moving experience it was.

Recently, I discovered some Armistice Day activities are held on the weekend prior to 11th November. Last Sunday week, soon after arriving to speak at a nearby church, I was warned that a brass band involved in a commemorative event would march past outside during the service.

‘You might need to be quiet when that happens,’ one helpful lady told me, ‘because no one will hear you anyway!’

As the service proceeded, I forgot about her warning. But midway through my message, just as I was about to share a key illustration, I heard music in the distance. It soon became louder, so I decided to encourage everyone to sit quietly and remember those who lost their lives in war.

As the music eventually grew softer again, a gentle and reverent hush enveloped us all. One or two of the older folk surreptitiously wiped their eyes—and I too felt moved, as I remembered those in my father’s generation who had fought in World War Two. I felt reluctant to break the silence but knew I needed to continue our service.

‘We are so blessed to live in Australia—so very blessed,’ I found myself saying then, to my surprise. ‘We need to be so grateful to those who fought on our behalf, don’t you think?’

Many present nodded in agreement—especially those who had come to our shores as migrants, some fleeing from war in their own countries. It was a sober moment, as they too remembered those there who had given their lives while trying to protect them.

I finished my message and went onto lead the congregation in a time of communion. Then it dawned on me how well our shared experience had prepared us for this moment. Through that music the band played, we had been reminded to be thankful for those who had given their lives for their country. Now here we were invited to remember the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf—the sacrifice of the Son of God himself.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

John puts it even more simply in his first letter:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 1 John 3:16a

For those of us who take part in communion on a regular basis, its impact may well be lessened, unless we take care to stop and appreciate what it truly represents. That Sunday, I know that band was God’s gift to me, almost forcing me to remember not only the price paid to ensure my safety and freedom in this life but the enormous price paid by God to offer us all eternal freedom.

May we all remember well—and be so thankful.

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IMG_20170404_142602648Last week, I discovered a new calling in life! Someone lent us one of those water pressure cleaners that make concrete, bricks and stones look as good as new. Over a couple of days, I had such fun finding that nice, white concrete all around our yard and the lovely golden and brown rocks that form the terraces and borders everywhere. We had forgotten what it was meant to look like. All that moss on the rocks and that greying of the concrete paths and barbecue area had kind of crept up on us, just as it had on the rocks and paths themselves.

Inside our house too, I recently unearthed quite a few possessions I had forgotten about, as we have cleaned and tidied everywhere, in preparation for putting our home of thirty-two years on the market. Some of these brought joy to my heart—books I remember our children loving, videos our grandkids liked to watch over and over again, jewellery that is not precious but has sentimental value. But there were also some I could not believe I had kept all these years—pictures I had cut from old Christmas cards for our granddaughters to create something with, material for covering our own children’s school books, instructions for long-gone kitchen appliances.

These two experiences, both inside and out, have given me much food for thought, especially in the lead-up to Easter. What a stark reminder it was, as I unearthed those lovely, clean surfaces outside again, of the ease in which we forget how we ourselves have been made pure and clean through the death of Jesus! Once we were lost. Once the unique image of God we were created to be was hidden under layers of mess and wrong thinking and wrong choices. But then Jesus came, washing it all away, giving us a way to be made new through him. How easily we forget the huge, huge difference this brought about—for all of us!

But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT

And as I tidied inside and unearthed those hidden things, I reflected on how easily we forget the wonderful treasures God has given us through Jesus Christ and how readily we replace them with our many material things. Yes, we do need those material things in our lives—for shelter, for covering and warmth, for sustenance in various ways. But that is not where our true wealth is. That is not where our deepest security lies. What a reminder, especially as Easter approaches, that my focus in life needs to be firmly on Jesus! As Jesus himself told us:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  Matthew 6:19-21 NLT

As you remember Jesus’ sacrifice and celebrate Easter this week, may you too rejoice in the renewal this brings us and those riches in God that will last forever.

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Jo 23I’m sure I’ve managed to embarrass quite a few people in my life. I can recall several occasions when my parents ended up rather red-faced over something I had done. And I’m sure I can remember one or two times when my own children let me know how much I had embarrassed them in one way or another!

I’m also good at embarrassing myself. Now I can laugh more readily at some things I do and have done. But there was a time when I was much more sensitive and much more prone to feel ashamed long after I had goofed in some obvious way.

And I can certainly remember feeling ashamed when others have pulled me up about something I have said or done. As a young child, I hated to be disciplined in any way by my parents. It was altogether too embarrassing. When this happened, I would curl up in a ball, with my thumb in my mouth.

‘I’m not a naughty girl! I would wail as I sobbed my heart out.

I understand that sense of shame. It can become all-pervading and was something I had to deal with later in my life, with God’s help. But recently, I was given an entirely different insight into this whole experience of shame—from God’s own perspective.

At the time, I was reading through Hebrews 11 where the writer describes the exploits of brave and godly people in the past and how they were commended for their faith. There I was, enjoying being reminded of these stories when I came across a verse that shocked me:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:16

If God was not ashamed to be called the God of these heroes of the faith, I reasoned, then that must mean God could well have been ashamed of others who did not persevere. So could that happen now? Could that apply even to me? What a horrifying thought—imagine embarrassing God! Surely I could never do that.

But … what about the times I put other things before God in my life? What about when I dishonour God by not mentioning my faith? What about those occasions when I do not trust God will provide for me and give in to my doubts and fears? What about the way I so often live like an orphan instead of a much-loved child of the King? Could these things ever cause God to feel ashamed of me?

How wonderful it is that God is so forgiving of wayward, forgetful children like me and so gracious towards us all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf! How amazing it is that God continues to love me, at the same time as possibly feeling ashamed of my behaviour! How thankful I am that God is able to lift any guilt and shame off me and replace it with perfect love and acceptance—forever! As Isaiah 43:25 tells us:

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I don’t want to continue practising the fine art of shaming God—do you?

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