Christianity 201

May 3, 2017

Alive in a New Way

Luke 24: On the Emmaus Road

…As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” …

Luke 24: The appearance to the disciples

…They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…

John 20: The appearance to Thomas

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Today we feature a new writer. Rev. Jesse Parker is the Incumbent at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Port Hope, Ontario. I saw this article when it appeared in a local newspaper there and asked if we could share it with you here.

Alive in a New Way

In Japan when a piece of pottery breaks it might go to a craftsman who specializes in the art of Kintsugi, which translates to “golden binding.” This is the art of mending broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with precious metal. Kintsugi treats breakage as part of the history of an object, as something beautiful to be displayed rather than something to be disguised.

In all of the resurrection stories in the gospels there is something different about the risen Jesus, something has changed. It is still him, but he is different. At the seashore, his disciples do not know him right away. On the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion do not know their Lord until he breaks bread with them. In the upper room, Thomas is incredulous until Jesus invites him to touch the wounds of his crucifixion. There is something different, something has changed. The encounter with Thomas tells us something important, the risen Lord still bears the wounds of the cross. The risen Lord, whose body was broken on the cross, still bears the marks of that brokenness, and makes no attempt to disguise them, indeed he displays them for all to see. There’s no missing them.

The resurrection does not make the crucifixion moot, it does not mean that Jesus’s body wasn’t broken on the cross, it certainly does not mean that Jesus never really died. Instead the resurrection means that death did not have the last say. The resurrection restored Jesus to life, but to a new kind of life. Something had changed. Like a badly broken vessel repaired with precious metal, Jesus was given new life, but in a new way, not hiding that his body had been broken, not disguising his wounds, but displaying them.

Jesus shows us that resurrection means being alive in a new way. And in this is the full weight and measure of the Christian hope, that resurrection is something that we have a share in. At the last day, yes, when God will establish his Kingdom fully among us, we have hope of new life. But we also have hope to live as resurrection people right now. We have the hope of new life right now. In Christ’s resurrection is the hope that God can and will take all of the brokenness of our lives and redeem it.

That does not mean that our brokenness, our wounds, our cracks, will be gone as though they had never been there in the first place, but rather, that they will be changed into something new, something different, something beautiful even, a part of our history, not to be disguised, but to be displayed as the exquisite beauty of God’s own craftsmanship, working to make something new where previously there had only been fragments. Resurrection is possible for us right now, and it is the Risen Christ, still bearing the wounds of the cross even today, who shows us this.

September 24, 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

Today, a guest post from the blog Flagrant Regard. A longer version appears at the link in the title below.

‘Through A Glass Darkly’ – A Lesson On Spiritual Renewal

“We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We’re drying up like a leaf in autumn …”
Book of the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verse 6

THE JOURNEY GETS MESSY

At the point of our conversion (or in my case, my reconversion), we’re given a new perspective by God which allows us to see more clearly the world around us and how broken it is. At the same time (and maybe more importantly) we are given much needed insight with respect to our own soul and moral character and how poorly developed they truly are. We become aware of God’s unmerited love for us but receive along with that a glimpse of how distant our goodness is from the goodness and purity of God. And because of our new, clearer perspective, we find ourselves humbly asking God for strength and the ability to live our salvaged-by-Grace lives for Him with a sincere determination.

But at some point, after this ‘great awakening’, we lapse back into familiar ways – well I believe most of us do – and find that the things of the Spirit become less important or engrossing compared to the urgent issues and distractions that make up our day-to-day existence. Still having the Spirit of God within us, we may become aware of this lapse, but often feel helpless to deal with it. And then guilt sets in – the biggest nail in the coffin for a once spiritually inspired, enthusiastic mindset. So we pray, “God get me out of this funk.” Or, “Make me better than I am.” Or, “Fix me (or things) again so I can feel connected to You!” But these repeated requests or prayers often come across as a seemingly useless endeavour. It’s like trying to repair or clean things up with broken and dirty implements.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As our spiritual energy and connection to God seems to diminish, we feel caught in a loop and a dryness of the soul begins to overwhelm us. This is a dangerous ‘tipping point’ for some believers. If they don’t feel or see enough of God’s power in their lives, they walk away from the faith and give up ‘trying’.

HOW YOU BRING AN END TO A SPIRITUAL RUT

Here’s the thing: you can’t. As your spiritual life continues, you will lose connection with God frequently and all your efforts to rekindle the excitement or ‘vision’ you had the day you knew God had entered your life will, in your mind, amount to a hill of beans. You’ll feel adrift in stagnant water and those living waters Jesus promised his followers are somewhere on the other side of dark mountains that have seemingly hemmed you in. Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death. You have now joined the ranks of every single believer who’s ever asked God to change them! This might come as a shocker, but you were meant to arrive here.

“Why?”, you ask.

kitten distressed

Because it is at this time, God is about to reveal to you that everything you think you have done or have attempted to do to put things right between you and Him is not unlike your trying to clean a pair of glasses with dirty rags. And as long as you continue to assume you’re the one who has to clean up your spiritual lenses to restore clarity, perspective and objectivity to your own soul-view you will fail miserably because God has set it up that way.

Again, you ask, “Why? Why would God allow me fall so hard if I am doing my best to put things right?”

He does this so that He can reveal within us His power, His strength and what His vision for you truly is. It’s only when every light you’ve tried to keep going has gone out that it’s His time to shine! When your knees have hit the floor it’s then He eagerly shows you how strong His arms are by pulling you back up. He takes your worn-down perceptions – all the methods that you thought were going to keep you connected to Him or ‘spiritual’ – and tosses them into His washing machine. Then He hands you back those things that are really needed to really make a difference in your world, your outlook and life-experiences.

God likes to show off – the Scriptures evidence this repeatedly with respect to His character and/or his modus operandi. Deep in our personal valleys, if/when we continue to walk by faith (what little there may be of it at times) He will restore our spiritual sight by showing us who He really is by answering our prayers from an unexpected angle or entering our world in ways we never would have anticipated.

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“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

This kind of thing – beautiful and powerful spiritual renewal – happens frequently over one’s lifetime in the hearts of those who humbly walk with God. Admittedly, it takes a lot of patience and waiting for it to happen. But God helps with that too … just hang … on … a little … longer!

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is God’s style of restoration and it’s so welcomed, especially when we’re spent from our trying so hard. With respect to our dealing with ourselves and God, preacher and author, John Ortberg, instructs us to ‘try softer’.

“Often the people in the Gospels who got in the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. It got in the way of them loving people. … there is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you. … Don’t push the river.”
~ John Ortberg, from the book, ‘The Me I Want To Be’

WHAT’S THE WORD ON ALL OF THIS?

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Bible and its guiding principles as presented to us through the many colourful characters who authored it is like having a legal representative with you when you are in your darkest trial and at your lowest ebb. It stands beside you to instruct you when direction is seeminly absent. It is there to remove (not add to) your guilt when you may be completely bereft of feelings, spiritual enthusiasm or at the tail end of your faith. There is NOTHING you are experiencing (including the dryness of soul and even the disdain for all things spiritual) that has not been experienced by those who went before us – from Adam to Amos, Joseph to Jesus, Paul to Peter.

Read the Word and wait. Don’t read it, and you’ll feel utterly alone. I don’t care if you’re a literalist or a liberal – the Power of God is in that set of 66 books. You will find God in those words (try to resource a good translation like the New International Version or The Voice) and they will comfort you and set you up for that glorious moment of restoration – the big wash – that is coming to restore you to a fresh awareness of God’s will for your life and a clarity of vision that only He can provide.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the medical field, visual clarity isn’t something that occurs by one’s trying to see better or by applying a plethora of home-remedies. It occurs via the efforts of a skilled outside agent who is able to alter the eye’s lens in order to enhance or correct poor vision. Similarly, we must await God’s agent – the Spirit – to restore to us the perspective, outlook and vision we are deeply in need of to get through this thing called life. We cannot experience these necessary renewals through any amount of redo’s that we embark on, no matter how sincere our effort.

Wait for God to be the Saviour He truly is. You will not be disappointed.

“But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired, never faint.”
The book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31 (The Voice Translation)

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 13 (New Living Translation)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 7, verse 10 (NIV Translation)

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Book of Revelation chapter 3, verse 19 – Jesus speaking through John the disciple to the church in Laodicea (N.I.V. Translation)

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, Chapter 2, verse 13

“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Second letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 1 thru 4 (NIV Translation)

 

©Flagrant Regard; used by permission

November 2, 2014

Replanting, Rebuilding, Repaying, Repairing

Isaiah 51:3 NIV

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Psalm 69:65 NIV

for God will save Zion
    and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it

Joel 2:15 NIV

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you. 

Amos 9:25:11

11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
    I will repair its broken walls
    and restore its ruins—
    and will rebuild it as it used to be,

Many times in the poetic and prophetic literature we see what I would call the language of restoration.  Other writers have picked up this theme and noted the promises to “build highways in the desert”1 and the concept of Christ’s return constituting “the restoration of all things.”2

In the verses provided for today, we see the replanting and refreshing of a waste place (KJV); the rebuilding of walls (in other passages and here implied) and cities; the regaining of lost years, whether stolen or squandered; and the repair of something broken (of the four, the one perhaps with an analogy most waiting to happen).

There have been times in my life when a project seems to be in ruins, a dream appears to have been shattered, time and energy seems to have been expended for nothing, and everything I have been building toward is simply broken.

Your life is no different; brokenness happens to everyone at some point.

But God is in the business of restoration. Replanting, rebuilding, repaying, repairing is his modus operandi. He’s in the grace business.

God’s desire is to put things right. When circumstances of career, relationships, finance, health, vision, purpose or security come crashing down, somewhere in time and space these things in your life will be restored and God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to you seeing that restoration in his complete fullness of time.

Deuteronomy 30 (The Message)

3 God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. 4 No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there 5 and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed.

I Peter 5:10 (NLT)

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

Go Deeper: 21 Verses on Restoration from the blog Jolly Verses (seriously!)

Have a comment to add? I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface on this topic. Regular readers and subscribers are encouraged to use the comment section on the blog.


1An Introduction to the Bible By Robert Kugler, Patrick Hartin p.234
2How to Study the Bible By Greg Herrick p.19

September 17, 2014

Compassion in Action

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
 ~James 1:22 NLT

Yesterday I shared this post at Thinking Out Loud, but wanted to also cross-post it here as well.  Diane Lindstrom blogs at Nice One Nana! To read this at source, click the title below.


The Fog of a Broken Heart

Apparently, the two most common lies are “I’m fine” and “It’s OK.”

Casual conversation seems to trap us into a practiced script that alienates us from exposing the truth about who and how we really are.

It’s difficult to be honest with others because to do so, we need to believe that others care and that it will be safe to expose the restlessness in our spirits, without fear of rejection.

image 0916A young woman walked into the store last week and I greeted her with a friendly, “Hi – how ya’ doin’ today?”

She walked up to the counter, took my hand, looked me straight in the eye and asked,“Do you REALLY want to know because if you genuinely care, I’ll tell you about the sh–ty day I’ve had so far.”

It was quiet in the store — no customers around — and because I had engaged in conversations with this woman before, I decided to pursue the dialogue.

“I care, Susan. I care” was my response. I put down the pricing machine and postured myself in a way that said, “Talk to me. I’m listening.”

The young woman began to speak.

“So, here’s the story. My mouth says ‘I”m OK.’ My fingers text, ‘I’m fine’ but my heart says, ‘I’m broken.’ There’s a good chance I’m going to lose custody of my two kids because of my drinkin’ and my mother is giving up on me. I’m not fine. I’m not OK. I feel like I’m gonna’ die.”

With those words, the woman began to weep.

Oh, how humanity is groaning all around us. (Romans 8. 22,23)

The Holy Spirit breathed Jesus’ familiar words into my conscience.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. ~ Matthew 25:35-36,40

I have learned that it’s a costly choice to care.

Consciously allowing our hearts to break goes against not only our natural tendencies, but also against the grain of our culture. Myriad distractions lure us from embracing pain. There are so many places to hide so that we need not heed God’s beckoning to share in the suffering of impoverished people.

But the pain and empathy I felt moved me to action.

A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ~ James 2: 24

I walked around the counter and held her in my arms. Thankfully, no other customers came into the store and I was resolved to be “all there” for this hurting woman. She didn’t need advise or exhortation. I couldn’t be the answer to her pain but I certainly could be “Jesus with skin on” for those precious minutes that she needed to be held.

The fog of a broken heart is a dark fog that slyly imprisons the soul.

If we can be a beacon of light that breaks through the fog, even for a short moment, it is good and honoring to God.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. ~ 2 Corinthians 4.7 NLT


Diane Lindstrom is a Canadian author who looks for Almighty God in the ordinariness of life. She has been blogging daily since 2010 and has recently published her first book, Sisters in the Son.

May 4, 2012

Jesus and Justice: Deliverance for the Oppressed

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This is a re-blog from Shawn Groves, but you really want to read it at his blog, if only for the pictures.  Actually, the real reason is that this is part five of a continuing series.  You might want to start with the earlier sections…

Luke 6:1-9

While traveling on the Sabbath, Jesus and his students got hungry. They picked grain for lunch. The lawmakers said this was illegal: no grocery shopping on the Sabbath.

Also on the Sabbath, Jesus went to church and saw a man in need of healing. Knowing his critics were watching, Jesus healed the man and asked, “which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, luke 19:45-47, John 2:12-22

Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of Hosanna and entered the temple. There he saw people exchanging foreign currencies so they could buy animals to offer in worship to God. He turned over the tables of the money exchangers, and of the venders selling animals too. He said God’s temple had been turned from a house of prayer into a cave for thieves.

Deliverance from oppression…

Jesus didn’t live in a representative republic. The Jewish nation (even when under Roman rule) was a theocracy of sorts, governed in large part by a religious ruling class – church and state were in many ways one and the same. When legislation/religion resulted in the oppression of the poor and less powerful, Jesus obeyed the higher law/religion of love instead.

Though Sabbath laws stood in the way of filling a stomach or healing a hand, Jesus picked and healed.

When the powers-that-be cheated foreigners exchanging currency at the temple, Jesus turned the tables on them and demanded love for God and neighbor.

Nagas & Thraou

In the Old Testament, in passages like Isaiah 58, the word “oppressed” is a translation of the Hebrew word “nagas.” It means “touches” and is translated elsewhere as “strike”, “reach”, “bring down”, “crush”, “ruler.”

When Isaiah foretold times of prosperity for the nation of Israel, he wrote…

Instead of bronze I will bring you gold,
and silver in place of iron.
Instead of wood I will bring you bronze,
and iron in place of stones.
I will make peace your governor
and well-being your ruler (nagas).
-Isaiah 60:17

When Isaiah predicted the torture of Christ he wrote…

He was oppressed (nagas) and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
-Isaiah 53:7

So, in the Old Testament, “nagas” is the exercise of power or strength over another, whether that power is for peace or violence, prosperity or persecution. “Oppression” is negative “nagas.”

In the New Testament the word “oppressed” only appears once in the New International Version – in a passage we’ve already mentioned in this series…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” – Luke 4:18

There, the Greek word “thraou” is translated “oppressed.” It means “to break into pieces, shatter.” The bible says again and again that God is close to the broken-hearted, but God is also overthrowing the systems that have held down and broken them.

Jesus delivers, and promises more deliverance is on the way, to those struck and shattered by the powers and systems at work against the disadvantaged.

~Shawn Groves

If you’ve got the time, I strongly urge you to read the rest of the posts in this series, as linked above.

June 10, 2011

Putting It On The Altar

This is probably one of the most extreme examples of wrenching something out of context from an entirely different type of online source, and a much longer series of articles;  but I hope a few of you will pursue this and check out the ministry of George Hartwell, especially if you’re hurting or currently ministering to someone who is hurting.  I first met George last month when he was taking a few days apart from his schedule to do some writing and studying in a kind of informal rural retreat.   The article is from the website, HealMyLife.com.  George is a Christian counsellor in Toronto, Canada.

A Multi-Purpose Prayer of Release

“Put it on the Altar” is versatile: a prayer of release, a prayer of commitment, and an act of worship. It is a prayerful way to release stress.  Any work can be put on the altar: the week’s work, a life’s work, one’s ministry, and one’s investment in a person.  By doing so you are making it clear that this work has been done “as unto the Lord.” Putting one’s work on the altar frees one from concern of what people think and concern about the results of your effort. So it clears your heart from the fear of man and your mind from lingering on the project.

A person can be put on the altar. It is a prayerful way to release stress. By doing so you are making it clear that you don’t control this person. You have taken your hands off and put them in God’s hands. Putting a person or relationship on the altar should bring a sense of freedom and release. We were made for freedom and when one person clings or controls neither is free.

You can put your heart on the altar with the meaning of putting it into God’s care. This is a good idea. It is especially good when we are heart broken. When we let God hold our broken heart He keeps if from becoming hard. In His care our heart can love again.

Putting on the altar the things that we want to control can free us from tension and anxiety. It we are pushing to control, striving to manage, wound up about things it is not good for our health. Letting go of wanting to control is a way of relaxing. The theme of letting go of our drive to over control as a way of reducing stress is fully explained in “the Power of Letting Go” by Patricia Carrington (1999).

Mental over control can dampen the spontaneous enthusiasm, creativity and wisdom our heart and spirit. When we learn to live more from heart and spirit and less from our head we enter a zone of excellence that the Bible calls “the rest” or “life in the Spirit.” Using more secular language, Timothy Gallwey explores this interesting theme of getting out of mental over control in his books which include “The Inner Game of Tennis”, ‘The Inner Game of Golf” and “The Inner Game of Work.”

You can put your plans (goals, vision, mission, programs) on the altar to surrender them to God and find God’s will for you. To find out if God is calling you to some project surrender the project to God by putting it on the altar. When you picture putting something on the altar the message at the heart level is about taking your hands off, letting and stepping back. God’s response, or non-response, can indicate whether God is in it. God may confirm with the still small inner voice, by an increase in inner joy and enthusiasm, by inner peace about moving ahead, with a clearer vision and creative ideas coming forth. With God’s confirmation and the sense of God’s wind in your sails you can move ahead with confidence and with the sense that you are in partnership with God.

Sometimes pleasing people is a stronger force in our life than pleasing God. That means we fear men more than God. This means that man’s thinking can control us. In fact, others have become our God. We are in idolatry. It could be liberating to put these others that we fear on the altar. Sacrifice them and their approval to God. Let God do a work in your heart. Be free of the fear of man. Be free to serve God alone.

“Put it on the Altar” Prayer of Release

The following steps are instructions for a healing encounter with God through a prayer of release – a let go and let God kind of prayer. Adapt the outline to your purposes as seems appropriate.

You start when you have identified what it is that you want to put on the altar.

Choose some image to represent what you are putting on the altar. For example, your physical heart represents your love and the center and source of your life.

Tell God what you are doing. For example, “Take my heart, loving Father as I put it on your altar. I put my broken heart in your care.”

Picture the altar and the action as you put what represents your concern on the altar.

Stay attentive to this drama as it unfolds. As you put it on the altar what happens? What else do you see and hear? At the end of this symbolic inner action notice how you feel.

You can enter into a dialogue with God. For example if you have trouble letting go you may want to ask God if it is in His hands now. For example: “Heavenly Father, do you have my heart in your hands?” Listen for His answer.

When something significant happens, when something encouraging is heard in a prayer encounter, you will usually have a good feeling inside. It is important to soak in this good feeling, this encouragement and comfort. Take time to receive. Be still and let this feeling soak in. Let your heart feel good.

Let you heart be thankful. Let your spirit rejoice. Thank God. If your putting something on the altar represents a meaningful release and loss then it is health if you are experiencing some grief. See the next topic on Grief and Comfort.

(Optional extension) Ask yourself what implication this has for your life. How does this change your life? How would your life be different now?

Picture how things can be different in your life. What is one thing that would be different? Imagine how that would be. How does that change feel?

Thank God for how this went, for how you feel, and for this can change your life.

Make notes: write down a record of what happened, how you felt and what God said and review this later for discernment and encouragement.

 

Click this link to learn more about George Hartwell’s counseling ministry

Click this link for a directory of online articles at HealMyLife.com

 

February 19, 2011

Sometimes When Giving, We Receive Even More

This week we’re catching up with some devotional bloggers we met up with this past summer.  Jennifer Slattery shares a personal story with a narrative that many readers here have experienced in similar but different ways.  This appeared on her blog under the title, The Beauty of the Broken.

I was eight, maybe nine, and on my way to school when I noticed a woman taking her trash to the curb. She held the black bag in one hand and a walking stick in the other, scanning the ground with her “eyes” as she went. I ran to her side, ready to rescue this blind lady, little did I know that God had sent her that day to help me.

She smiled at me and nodded, then humbly allowed me to carry her trash to the curb. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen that I realized the humbled love she showed to me that morning. As I watched her answer her phone, make popcorn in the micro (for me) and flitter around her kitchen with more ease than a sighted woman, I was slightly embarrassed by my offer to “help” her only days before. She let me help her not because she needed it, but because doing so would form a connection–a point of contact.

Before long, I was at her house nearly every day. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about. I do remember the popcorn, and the tremendous joy that filled her home. I remember watching her husband and son very closely, curious by their rather silly antics and the ease with which they interacted. But what I remember most was the overwhelming sense of being loved and accepted as day after day Mr. and Mrs. Neighborhood (my name for her and her husband) showed me love.

She died a few years later, not knowing how the story would end–not knowing the chain of events her allowing me to carry her garbage started, not knowing the impact those afternoons had on me. She didn’t understand fully until she got to heaven, and although I don’t believe God caused her blindness, (it was the result of a stroke), I know He used  it to bring her and I together. And through her, I got a taste of the love of Christ.

I wonder if she were standing on the edge of eternity, able to see into the abyss, and asked to choose between her sight or my salvation, I wonder what she would have chosen. Actually, I know what she would have chosen. She showed me daily.

But even now, Mrs. Neighborhood’s story doesn’t end. Every time I write, every time I pray, every time I cuddle up with my daughter, a Bible spread between us, we are seeing the fruits of her service (and other amazing women God placed in my path as I was growing up.)

And it all started because she let a little girl help her.

I thought of her this morning during church as I read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-7

1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

Her visits with me were not without results. The results just wouldn’t be seen until many years later, long after she’d passed. And she wasn’t concerned with the praise of men. To the contrary, she humbled herself and allowed a young child to help her.

Her life was the very first domino in a beautifully intertwined display, except the story really began long before then, with another domino set in motion in her life, and the domino set in motion in the life that loved on her. Each life, each domino, was but a tiny, yet powerful, part of a glorious, life-saving story that will one-day unfold before us. When we stand in God’s presence, surrounded by an innumerable family of believers, each one but another domino that set into motion another chain, everything will all make sense and all we’ll be able to say is, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelations 7:12 NIV)

~Jennifer Slattery

February 9, 2011

Where is God When Trouble Strikes? Right There.

Earlier today at Thinking Out Loud I linked to David MacGregor, a pastor in Brisbane, Australia; the area which has been hit by record flooding over the past few months.  The post I linked to at T.O.L. is one where David is most honest about the trials of dealing with the flood’s aftermath.  The unsettled feeling he gets looking toward the future makes it hard to sing certain songs, like “It Is Well With My Soul.”

After stumbling on his blog, I decided to scroll back and read more of his writing, and uncovered this post and poem, written more closely after the catastrophic weather events there.  I think that both posts combine to show that we can be broken, and yet still see the presence of God even in the middle of it all.   He called this piece, Christ Shows His Face: A Flood Reflection.


Long time since I last posted. Combination of post-Holy Land acclimatization, everything Christmas, helping out at NCYC 2011, beginning a holiday at Hervey Bay, coming home prematurely because of Brisbane River floodwaters entering our house, moving back into our home just two days ago and finally getting power restored just two hours ago.

This has been an incredibly draining time – and that’s without the massive hardship and loss experienced by so many.  It was SO hard being stranded for those days at Hervey Bay, yet unable to get back to Brisbane due to flooded rounds between there and Brisbane.  I reckon it’s been some of the hardest few weeks of my life.

We had no option – from afar – to leave the evacuation of our home (either to the top story OR the church OR friends’ places) to an incredible armada of folk from our church, longtime friends and of course Joel and Jeremy back at the ranch. Like so many others, I find myself not starting the year anywhere near refresh.  I feel totally drained.

I was taken by a Facebook posting by radio station 96.5 FM’s Billy Diehm last weekend.  Billy was asked basically, “Where was God in all this?”.  His marvellous answer was loosely along the lines of: God was there in every volunteer, every emergency services worker, every SES worker. So true.

So – the song that had been ‘coming’ for weeks finally poured out yesterday – Christ shows his face…  This song is dedicated to all of those “face of Jesus” folk these past weeks, and especially those who ministered to us…

Christ shows his face

Christ shows his face
when lives are pained
weary hearts are breaking.
shows God’s grace
while troubles rise,
past foundations shaking

Every smile
Every hand
Every soft embracing
Christ shows his face
when lives are pained,
hope is hard, displacing

Christ shows his face
in thirsting souls
When hunger’s met with feeding
When nakedness for all to see
is met with love, with clothing

Offered rest
Offered home
Offered hope’s new morning
Christ shows his face
when all seems dark, the
light of Christ keeps shining.

Christ shows his face
in community
extending past their comfort
Sharing steadfastly as one
Self-giving for another

Every smile
Every tear
Every soft embracing
Christ is found
when all seems lost, when
When love’s true heart
When love’s true hope
When love’s true light keeps shining.

© David MacGregor 2011
Willow Publishing

click the article link in the introduction to locate a link to a lead sheet for the music for this poem

the link to 96.5 was added because way up here in frozen Canada, I’m actually a regular listener

October 24, 2010

Unpacking the Meaning of Brokenness

This week I discovered blogger Daniel Jepsen, who does a great job summarizing Nancy Leigh DeMoss; but I’ll let him introduce it…

A year or two ago my friend Gina loaned me a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss titled, Brokenness. I found the whole book helpful, but especially the description of what brokenness is.  I printed this out last week to distribute to the class I am teaching on the holiness of God, and thought I would reprint it here.  Warning: it is very convicting.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Proud people focus on the failures of others.
Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope.
Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others.
Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit.
Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right.
Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit.
Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation.
Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served.
Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success.
Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement.
Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated.
Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked.
Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God.
Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know.
Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious.
Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length.
Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others.
Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized.
Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation.
Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others.
Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up.
Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?”
Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin.
Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin.
Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught.
Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship.
Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor.
Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition.
Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of.
Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does.
Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

~Daniel Jepsen; source blog link

May 13, 2010

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

Whether your tastes run to hymns or modern worship, this song is both.   “I Have a Shelter” is a Sovereign Grace Music song, and on this video version the lyrics appear onscreen.   If this is new to you, play it several times.

O Jesus, I will hide in you
The one who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven.