New Life

Something we can all struggle with from time to time is impatience, particularly when we live very full and busy lives.  We can even be impatient when we have time on our hands because we don’t want our time to be wasted by other people.  I am sure you, like me, will have had experiences of trying to make direct contact with people at your mobile phone company, utility provider, or IT technical support hotline only to have your patience tested at times beyond the limit.

Imagine though if you contacted the technical support line about a problem that you had already been told had been fixed.  You just weren’t in a place to listen or believe or even acknowledge that that was the case.  We can get so caught up in our impatience that we can lose clarity about what the actual status of the problem is because things didn’t happen as we expected or planned and certainly not to our time scale.  We can become so self-absorbed that we project our expectations onto others.

Now imagine if you can a people living under oppression.  Imagine what it must be like for the people of Syria or North Korea who are living under oppressive regimes.  What must hope look like to them?  Would they even believe it if someone came along and said I am here to bring you freedom?  They would probably find it hard to even imagine it might be possible and could even respond with some measure of hostility.  Has anyone ever told you not to give them false expectations or build up false hope?  The thing is when we have these experiences we can become desensitised, we can find it so difficult to embrace the truth and hope even when it stares us in the face.

I think perhaps that the Jews were like this, living as they were under the oppressive Roman regime.  And today’s reading presents us with an account that is deeply tragic.  People who had built up false expectations and false hope had come and gone.  And then Jesus came.  You get a sense of their frustration when they asked Jesus “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”  When translated literally it becomes even clearer…“How long do you intend to annoy us?”   So we see a people who had lost hope, a people who had become completely desensitised to the truth of the gospel and therefore unlike Jesus’ sheep they couldn’t recognise him as the Good Shepherd.  Even when Jesus made an incredible statement, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand”, the people quite simply couldn’t, or chose not to, hear.  And in response, the account goes on to tell us that they took up stones again to stone him.

Jesus offers something to each and every one of us that is truly incredible.  He offers NEW LIFE and all that that entails.  It is an ABUNDANCE of life.  It overflows with love, hope, truth, freedom, security, peace, safety, belonging, provision, self esteem and purpose.  We have a simple choice…do we accept it and embrace it, or do we turn our back on it?  And Jesus brings that choice into brokenness, into oppression and yearns to re-sensitise us, to breathe new life into us, just as Peter did with Tabitha.

I would like to invite you to do something.  If you are in a place in your life where you are tired, where you have lost hope, where you would like to rededicate yourself to God, where you would like to know more of Jesus breathing new life into you, simply say out loud or in the silence of your heart “Come, Lord Jesus”.  I pray that you might know His presence, and the Holy Spirit restoring and renewing you.  Amen

Advertisements

The Invitation

A friend of mine recently shared a poem on Facebook which was written by Shel Silverstein.  I reproduce it below for you.

“If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin
Come in! Come in!”

(The Invitation by Shel Silverstein, 1974)

(http://www.shelsilverstein.com/html/About1.html)

I have to say the poem intrigues me.  I would love to have been able to chat to Shel about it to get to know what inspired him to write it, but sadly he passed away in 1999.

So what do I like about this poem? Well, the poem is called The Invitation.  That along with the lovely picture of people coming in to sit by the fire conjures up for me a place of warmth, a place of fellowship and a place of intimacy.  That’s how church is supposed to be.  I wonder if when we talk about church – the local church that we are part of – do we talk about it to strangers with such fondness?  When we have conversations with people about Church do they leave feeling invited?

I also like it because it reminds me of the kind of people Jesus ministered to…the dreamers, the wishers, the liars, the hope-ers, the pray-ers, the magic bean buyers and the pretenders.  I am sure at one time or another you will have been able to include yourself in one or more of these categories.

Do you know that Jesus presents you with an invitation all of the time?  Do you hear his “Come in”?  In this world we need to hear those flax-golden tales; but the ones that Jesus presents us with are not tall tales, or fables.  His words are the words of truth and life.  So come in, warm yourself by the fire and listen.

Coming Home

For many years after leaving home, first when I started studying at University, then when I got my first house, and subsequently as I moved around the country with work, I felt that home was wherever I was.

That is certainly true to some extent.  But in recent years many of the things that would typically support that view have been stripped away.  At times I have felt like a stranger in a strange or foreign land.

In Psalm 137, the captives in exile in Babylon were taunted by their captors…For
there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How could we sing the
LORD‘s song in
a foreign land?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right
hand wither!

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not
set Jerusalem
above my highest joy.

That question, “How could we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” has certainly resonated with me.  I believe it resonates with all Christians because we are in the world but not of the world.  We are often in a ‘foreign land’ don’t you think?  But we need to be reminded that God is with us wherever we might be, even in that foreign land.  We don’t take God with us; he is already there.  He is even there with us and others in our brokenness.   It is when we acknowledge his presence that we may find our voices  and begin to sing the LORD’s song wherever we are, in trouble and joy, in adversity as well as peace.

I like singing the LORD’s song and in my heart I yearn to sing it wherever I am, in all times and under all circumstances.  I am still finding my voice, but oh what songs I would like to sing!

Don Moen sang a beautiful song composed by Robin Mark called ‘When it’s all been said and done”.  It includes the following verse:

“I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after
For you’ve shown me heaven’s my true home
When it’s all been said and done
You’re my life when life is gone.”

When we are away from home for a long time, we may know excitement, joy and anticipation when we are finally able to return home.  Let’s show our appreciation for that in giving thanks to God for the blessing of our homes and families and the many connections we have with friends, and all those things that make our earthly home so special.  Wherever we are, whatever circumstances we may find ourselves in, let’s remember that through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit heaven is our true home buy until that glorious day God is with is right here and right now.  Amen

Choose life

We can often be so blind in how we fail to see the choices we have in our life. We always have choices, even if some of them are tough choices.

Having choices is part of being human. We can fail to recognise the choices we have for so many reasons, and I want to stand up and boldly declare this truth…”Through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we ALWAYS have a choice.”

Read Deuteronomy 30:11-20. At this time when we rejoice in our Risen Saviour, let’s choose life.

Gracious Lord, we thank you for giving us choices. Help us to choose wisely and not squander our dignity and humanity. Help us to live in the light of your love and truth.