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Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

I love Easter. To me, it’s as if God is extra close all around. It’s as if Jesus is reaching down through the centuries since he hung on that cross, looking straight at me, willing me to see the love and forgiveness in his own soul as he looks deep into mine. And it’s also as if God is crying out to a world that is rushing on, heedless, ‘Listen—all of you! Remember what my Son did for you. And remember and celebrate that death could not hold him down. Remember the price that bought your freedom!

On Easter Sunday, I received an email from a friend who lives in a country where most of the population do not celebrate Easter. She shared with me how, when life is continuing as usual around her, it feels a little surreal to be celebrating events that others do not acknowledge. Yet, the true meaning of Easter is so much a part of her that she still goes ahead and celebrates it with great joy. Meanwhile, here in Australia, I was free to attend any number of church services, as well as see family members and delight in buying those Easter eggs for our grandchildren (with a few stray ones making their way into grown-up hands too!). But best of all for me are those moments of quiet reflection, alone in the presence of God.

This year, I decided to read the account of the crucifixion from John’s Gospel. I read how Judas betrayed his Lord in that olive grove, how Jesus was brought before Annas, how Peter denied him for the first time, how Jesus was bound and sent to appear before the high priest Caiaphas and how Peter then denied him twice more. I read with increasing horror how Pilate, despite believing Jesus to be innocent and wanting to set him free, had him flogged, then caved into pressure and handed him over to the people to be crucified. I read how Jesus was nailed to that cross, with a mocking sign above his head, and how he died—for you and me.

And on Good Friday night, as I went to bed, the result of all this struck me with almost overwhelming force and simplicity all over again. This means I’m saved—completely and forever! The realisation was so strong that I almost shouted the words out loud, until I realised my husband might not be impressed with this revelation as he lay there, trying to get to sleep! ‘I’m saved’ is such a hackneyed phrase—one that is even ridiculed at times. But this to me is the bottom line of our Easter celebrations—we are indeed saved from the consequences of our desire to go our own way by Jesus’ death on that cross. We have a whole new start in life and our relationship with God is restored. And one day, because Jesus conquered death and rose again, we too will rise and be with him in heaven forever.

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

Now that’s a bottom line I find absolutely mind-blowing and well worth celebrating—not only at Easter but all the time. How about you?

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Whenever awards such as the Australian of the Year are announced on TV on Australia Day or whenever the Queen’s birthday honours list is made public, they are often greeted with a tongue-in-cheek lament in our family.

‘Oh, dear! Looks like they forgot me again,’ I sigh. ‘Ah well! I’ll just have to wait until next year.’

While many worthy people are honoured in this way, most of us will not end up among their ranks—and that’s okay. We all can’t make it there, and some people have done extraordinary things in their lives that deserve our applause. Yet I believe all of us desire in our hearts to be honoured and respected as part of our everyday lives and it seems that’s how God wants us to treat others, too. In Romas 12:10, we read:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Years ago, I facilitated a course in our church in which one session was entitled ‘The Shame Game’. At first, I wondered how relevant this session would be for those taking part, but quickly changed my mind. It soon became obvious that many, including me, knew very well those feelings of shame, not so much because of anything we had done, but of who we intrinsically were. Whatever negative messages we had taken on board when we were younger had stuck. Even if these messages were unintentional, that did not make them any less effective. Some group members had been physically and emotionally abused, causing them to feel completely devalued and unworthy of being loved. For others, it was often some throw-away line, spoken out of anger or jealousy or even simply without thinking, that had cut deep. These beliefs had affected our behaviour in various ways—and we knew we needed God’s help to change and become more whole.

I wonder if you relate to this sense of shame many of us seem to carry? Perhaps, like me, you have found that some things more than others tap into such feelings and catch us by surprise. For example, recently I saw another author’s book strongly criticised in an online review and I felt immediate empathy for her. We both know that authors having different writing styles and that no one author is going to please everyone with his or her work. Yet it hurts when one of our ‘babies’ seems to be criticised unfairly or devalued in some way. When this happens, that old sense of shame is often not far away. Perhaps that’s why it’s said that authors need to have a very sensitive spirit but also the hide of an elephant!

Yet I’ve discovered I need more than that in my own writing journey. I’ve found I need to base my sense of honour and self-worth not on some passing writing success but on where I stand in God’s eyes. I need to remember the grace, mercy and forgiveness extended to me in love and that in God, I have been given a safe place to stand where I can hold my head high, whatever happens in life. This week, I came across the following words in Psalm 61:7:

My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Amen and amen!

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One day last week, I found myself waiting with one of our daughters at a medical centre so her new baby could be immunised. We waited … and waited … and waited. Eventually, with the baby’s feed time rapidly approaching, my daughter decided to call it quits and head for home.

“I’ll come back another day,” she said in an exasperated voice. “I hate waiting, don’t you?”

Later, I thought about that question a little more. On the whole, I realised, I don’t mind any normal sort of waiting—as long as I have the time and it doesn’t inconvenience me too much! And as an author, I should be used to it. After all, even when we have finished a manuscript, we still usually have a few long waiting periods ahead—firstly, while we wait for our editor or readers to go through it; secondly, while we wait to hear back (often a very long time) after submitting it to a publisher; thirdly, while we wait for the book to be released; and finally, while we wait for it to reach the bookshelves in the stores and for people to buy it!

Right now, I am in one such waiting period—not just for one book, but for two. They are both being considered by publishers and who knows whether these publishers will take them on? In the meantime, I am left sitting here, hoping and praying—and waiting.

A few years ago, when in the middle of a different waiting period, I was complaining loudly to a dear, older friend who has been my spiritual mentor for many years. I soon discovered she had a different perspective from me on it all.

“Could you view this waiting as an active time—perhaps even an honourable activity?” she challenged me gently one day, after listening yet again  to my whinges and moans.

It was such a simple but radical change in perspective for me to see waiting as part of the whole process and accept it, refusing to let it frustrate me. I needed to keep on trusting God and wait patiently, without wavering. This was further emphasised through a passage from Isaiah I read around the same time, Isaiah 30:15-18:

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,but you would have none of it.

You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore, you will flee!

You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!

A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away

till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

I believe God was showing me I was not to run around, trying to make things happen in my own strength. Instead, I was to look to God to bring it about and wait patiently. I did not envisage that meant I was to sit around idle, however. I needed to keep writing and praying and doing my best to look for speaking opportunities, but I also needed to listen well, acting when God said to and not before. And somehow I suspect that’s what I have to do right now too.

How about you? Have you discovered that waiting can actually be an ‘honourable activity’?

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