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Posts Tagged ‘the Apostle John’

One night recently, I received a phone call from a distraught friend.

‘I’m in a terrible pickle!’ she gasped. ‘We filled in a form on my computer and now I’ve been scammed. Please pray!’

The next morning, I received a text from another friend. She has been quite unwell and was facing a scary doctor’s appointment.

‘Would appreciate prayer,’ she wrote. ‘I don’t want to cough in the middle of my eye injection!’

My heart went out to these friends who both needed God’s protection—and the courage to keep trusting God in their scary situations.

I began to pray for them, yet soon found myself almost overwhelmed with fear and so doubtful God would be able to rescue them. Then I realised I was falling for one of those old traps the enemy loves to set for us. I could almost hear him sniggering at my lack of faith and, at that point, I became determined not to let him win—over me or my friends. So, I prayed again, entrusting them and their situations to our loving, all-powerful Lord.

We all need courage, not only to face life’s challenges but also to stand firm in our faith, resist the enemy and be prayerful at all times. Recently, I started reading Acts again. And again, I marvelled at the change in the disciples, particularly Peter, when the Holy Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2). Immediately after, Peter does not hesitate to address the crowd who have gathered and call them to repentance (2:38). Then, after the lame man at the temple gates is healed, Peter boldly preaches to a huge crowd (3). And when he and John are jailed and hauled before the rulers, elders and teachers of the law, he again does not hold back.

It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 4:10

I find the religious leaders’ baffled response so interesting too:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 4:17

But this is not the end. After Peter and John are commanded not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name again, they boldly declare they simply have to (4:20). They are threatened further but finally released—at which point they head back to the other believers. Then a wonderful time of prayer ensues, during which the Holy Spirit fills everyone present, enabling them to share the word of God with great boldness (4:31). And on it goes, with Peter and the apostles continuing to proclaim the good news of Jesus day after day with amazing courage (5:12-41).

I want to face life with more of this same courage and boldness, don’t you? Although we cannot be with Jesus in human form, as Peter and John were, we can still talk with him and learn from him each day. And, like those early believers, we also have God’s Spirit within us who will fill and empower us to face whatever comes our way. So … let’s trust God and go for it!

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT

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IMG_20170609_143813167I sit at my desk, enjoying the sunshine that streams through my study window. I can see shrubs close by, then taller trees beyond. Today, their leaves are rippling in the wind—it feels somehow soothing to watch them and to note how their shapes are etched against the bright blue sky. It is cool outside, but I am warm and snug, as I try to find words to describe what I am seeing and feeling. I love writing about my beautiful surroundings, but I so much want to do justice to it all.

As I reflect, I realise I am feeling a twinge of what could only be called guilt. How did we end up here, after living in our little, wooden house for thirty-two years? How come that old house sold for such a good price, enabling us to afford our comfortable, spacious unit? Perhaps it’s all a dream, I think to myself. Perhaps I’ll wake up one morning and find myself back in our old home, instead of in this lovely, quiet place where the only sounds are the birds outside, twittering and singing to one another. I know there are people nearby, but we are on the edge of our Village, where our peace is largely undisturbed, unless we choose to venture out somewhere.

In the quietness, I try to slow my racing mind. God is here with me, I know—and I choose to stop, be still and settle into that warm, loving Presence all around me. Yet, for some reason, I feel unworthy at this point in time. God, why have you chosen to give us all this beauty and comfort, my heart cries out. What have we done to deserve so much material blessing? Could it be … maybe you meant it for someone else, God? Has it all been a big mistake?

Then I sense God’s loving arms around me and feel the Spirit’s warmth and fullness flooding my being. I open my Bible, but even before I do, I seem to hear God’s gentle, reassuring voice: This is no mistake, Jo-Anne. This is just a picture in the natural of the grace I have poured out on you in the spiritual. As you look around and enjoy what you have received, know it is my delight to give you a place where you can flourish and where you can serve me with a heart at peace and overflowing with my love for others. And as you do, may you be reminded of the abundance of my grace that called you to be part of my family forever—that grace beyond measure that you can never earn or buy.

I turn the pages then and read one of my favourite verses written by the Apostle John, then another from the Apostle Paul:

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! 1 John 3:1

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God …. Ephesians 2:8

Then I sit back and relax. Yes, Lord, it is all gift. Everything we have, everything we are. Thank you, from the depths of my heart, for your amazing, overwhelming grace.

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Jo 17I love Easter. Apart from anything else, I enjoy this time of the year, as autumn leaves begin to appear everywhere and there is a promise of cooler days to come. I love witnessing the pleasure on the faces of children as they receive Easter eggs. I love seeing relatives or friends who take the time to visit. But, above all, I love the opportunity it brings to stop and reflect once again on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This year, I read the account of the last weeks of Jesus’ life on earth in Matthew’s Gospel and, as often happens, it was as if I had never read some parts before. Yet I have—many times. And maybe these particular verses have even impacted me deeply before. But I am good at forgetting—and no, it has nothing to do with age! We all need this constant reminding, I believe, of what it cost God to send Jesus to die for us. We all need to allow those words written so long ago and the words Jesus himself spoke to pierce our hearts again and to spur us on to be and to do all God has for us to be and do.

I came to Matthew 26:34-35 and began to read how Jesus predicted Peter’s denial.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Now I know I have read these verses before—there is a big pen mark in my old Bible beside the last sentence there which shows me it impacted me on at least one other occasion. Yet this time, the sadness of those final, few words almost overwhelmed me. I had remembered Peter’s assertion that he would never disown Jesus. But I had forgotten how all the other disciples had joined in as well. How difficult it must have been for Jesus to listen to their promises, knowing they would not be kept—at least not immediately anyway.

I read on and came to the scene in Gethsemane where Jesus asks Peter, James and John to keep watch with him while he prays.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Mt 26:38

The disciples knew exactly how Jesus was feeling—yet three times when he returns from praying, he finds them asleep. Surely he felt utterly forsaken and devastated enough, without being so let down by those closest to him? Again, I felt deep sadness on his behalf—yet also compassion for those three disciples. After all, I may not have been faithful enough to be anywhere near the Garden of Gethsemane that night.

Yes, these verses might have made for sad reading–but what a privilege to enter fully into Easter with Jesus and to realise once again his incredible love for you and me. Easter 2015 has left me feeling so grateful, as well as strengthened and somehow enriched.

May you too have experienced something of that same strengthening and enriching as you identified with our Saviour in your own way this Easter.

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