Tuesday, May 27, 2014

All For Jesus

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:8-10

Familiar words, yes? I daresay it is one of the top ten verses memorised by the entire Christian world! I read it this morning and it was like greeting an old friend.  In one of my previous churches the pastor was very keen that learning verses wasn’t just something for the children to do but for adults as well.  Each Sunday meeting incorporated a memory verse complete with people standing in a circle and throwing a ball about or jumping along a string cardboard stepping stones as we recited the verse.

I took it a step further, as I often do.  The last line, which was the line we were supposed to remember, I set to music.  Feel free to phone me and ask me to sing it to you if you are so inclined! The tune is Caribbean/ Calypso in nature and I have no idea how I came up with it but it has stuck with me.  I no longer read Ephesians 2:10 but sing it – it’s my default setting now.

One might expect someone to be impressed that I can sing the verse – but I have come to the realisation that singing it is not as impressive as doing it!  You know, those “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I was watching a documentary on Mother Teresa earlier.  She probably couldn’t sing Ephesians 2:10 like I can, but she put it into practice. When God challenged her to step out of a clean and peaceful convent into the streets of Calcutta to serve the poor she obeyed. She did the good works that God had prepared for her. She put herself in a place – not just a physical place on a retreat in Darjeeling – but ion a spiritual place of listening to God and He spoke, not in an audible voice, but clearly enough in her heart for her to act on it. There is a well-documented account in books and magazines of the help she gave to people in Calcutta. She consistently refused to take any credit for her actions saying repeatedly “All for Jesus.”

Some people might frown about some aspects of her life. She responded to people in poverty but did not really address the issue of why people were in such poverty.  Perhaps you can only pick fault with the woman when you have matched her compassion and service.

There have been times when I have heard and responded to God’s call to the “good works” he has prepared for me.  There are other times when I have just fallen into something which may or may not be His “good works”.

Come the end of next month, our church has planned a day away together – a retreat focussed on the “us” part of our Christian walk.  We are in the process of planning how to organise the day to make the most of the opportunity we have to be together. I can’t help thinking about God choosing the time when Mother Teresa was on her retreat to talk to her about His plans for her life. God is still in the business of talking to people about His plans.

I cannot help but sing Ephesians 2:10.  It’s like breathing.  It’s something that I do. But – the greater challenge is to do it. In doing it I change not only the world around me – but I change me too.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Thorn

I stood before His Royal throne
To seek a gift to call my own
I took His gift, made to depart
It was a thorn that pierced my heart
How strange a gift He gave to me
Treasure there I could not see
The thorn within was sharp and sore
I sought His presence more and more
I learned that with the thorn comes grace
As God the Father shows His face



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Destiny

I once watched an interview with Dame Judy Dench.  She talked about what led her to become involved in acting.  One of the things she mentioned was being involved in drama from a very early age.  I am sure I have mentioned before that my first appearance on stage was as a pygmy in a local pantomime “Robinson Crusoe”.  As I listened to her answers to questions it was fascinating to discover that our lives ran pretty much parallel in childhood and teenage years.  I’d always been involved in drama right through university. She went on to a great acting career and I went on to a teaching career.  Come to think about it there are times when acting comes in handy in the classroom.

Acting was never my destiny. It would appear if you talked to my mother that teaching was the one and only thing I wanted to do.  I don’t remember this business of lining up my dolls and teaching them what I had learned in school that day.  It feels too much like a cliché.

Last night’s Women Aglow meeting with Alyson Sim from Fire Ministries International was really inspiring.  She was talking about finding the treasure in each other and pulling the destiny out.

She began by talking about Barnabas in the book of Acts. I had never thought that without Barnabas there might not have been a Paul.  It was Barnabas that stepped in to open doors that others insisted should remain closed.  The disciples were suspicious of Paul, with good reason, but Barnabas chose to see what Paul could become rather than what he had been. He took Paul at his word choosing to believe that God had spoken on the Damascus road and turned his life around.

When interesting things were happening in Antioch, Barnabas fetched Paul and the two of them joined in the fun witnessing an outpouring of the Spirit there.  Barnabas was a link man – linking Paul to his destiny.  Later on he did the same thing with John Mark – choosing to leave Paul to travel with Silas and Timothy, while he and John Mark ventured elsewhere. 

When we are in the place where God planned for us to be there are blessings to be had.  That doesn’t mean to say that we are in the wrong place if there are trials to be lived through.  There is a whole long list in 2 Corinthians 11 when life was not a bed of roses.

What God wants us to do He prepares us to do.  He makes the necessary changes to fit us into the place He has planned for us.  Square shapes in round holes and vice versa are not part of God’s plan for anyone.

God links us up to the people who speak into our lives, who see the treasure there that we are sometimes blind to and are able to draw it to the surface.  And it’s never too late to look for the treasure and find the path of destiny.  Some people never get to be the people they were meant to be.

I had a dream one night, many years ago, about a homeless man who was meant to be a great opera singer.  Childhood had messed him up and thrown him into a path of drugs and crime.  Then one day there was a microphone set up in a city centre street.  There wasn’t a stage, or lights like the Britain’s Got Talent show.  It was just a single microphone and people were encouraged to take a turn – tell a joke, read a poem, dance or even play the spoons.  My man sang a song.  He had a wonderful voice, rich and vibrant.  People just stopped to listen.  In the dream Marie Osmond, who just happened to be shopping at the time, joined him and sang a beautiful harmony.  Afterwards my homeless man went away.  He didn’t give a name, or a contact number – he just sang and walked away. He was eventually tracked down and offered a music deal and a slot on a TV show.  I don’t know whether he took it up or not.  Yes, it was a very cohesive dream.  It had a feel good factor to it.  

I am not sure that at the time I read anything into it. I wasn’t conscious that I was about to be presented with a super-duper opportunity and God was saying not to let where I had been stop me from being where I should be.

But today I am thinking about what Alyson said about the treasure in my life and being pulled onto a path of destiny.  I am also challenged by her insistence that it’s never too late.  I have had treasure pulled out of me by my church.  Their generous funding to publish a poetry book drew out treasure inside.  I have embraced the poet in me and found myself on an amazing path.

But there’s more treasure to be unearthed and more of the path to tread.

Life continues to be an adventure.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Telling and Being Told


A teenager declared in yesterday’s newspaper “If I had been taught about HIV, I might not have the virus.”  He said he had received absolutely no information on the subject in school and that sex education should be compulsory in schools.  He said that his generation had not been exposed to the campaigns that were part of the curriculum in the 1980s.

I can’t imagine that in this day and age HIV awareness isn’t part of the curriculum.  According to a survey done in 2011 one in four teenagers knew nothing.  I find that really surprising.  I’m also just a little inclined to think that just because something is taught in schools doesn’t mean that anything is actually learned.  Just because a student is physically in class doesn’t mean that they are there in mind and spirit.  There’s also an unwelcome notion that if someone doesn’t tell us something we can never know it. Only a small amount of the knowledge we possess comes from someone telling us.  There’s a lot of learning to be done outside of the classroom and a teacher’s telling.

That said there are some things that we need to be told.

This morning I was reading Acts 19:8-12. Paul was speaking boldly about the Kingdom.  After three months there was sufficient opposition for Paul to move out of the synagogue and into a lecture hall. For the next two years he spoke every day.  The end result was “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” There was no one able to say they had not been exposed to Paul’s teaching.

Along with the compelling preaching of God’s truth, there was also the evidence of miracles of healing and evil spirits being cast out.

I am sometimes inclined to think that my town doesn’t have people like Paul.  What I really mean though is I am not like Paul then therefore there isn’t anyone like Paul.  As if it was all about me and what I am not doing that perhaps I should. 

There are Pauls in my town.  There are people like the Healing on the Streets team, the Street pastors and individual men and woman who regularly talk to people about the Kingdom.  Over the next week our churches are collaborating on a Prayer Space project in one of our local schools – giving young people and opportunity to explore what communicating with God is all about.

Paul would be impressed by that and join in.

This morning as I read about Paul and thought about the variety of things that are happening, God did ask the question “What about you?  How can you contribute to telling people about the Kingdom?”  Evangelism has become an uncomfortable word. 

What came to mind was my long-ago days on a gospel outreach team.  Like most out-of-the-comfort-zone experiences there was a lot I didn’t like doing but the one thing I excelled at was the sketch board.  I was so far in my comfort zone that I didn’t really let others take their turn.   It involved lots of paint, squares and pictures.  Painting in bits of the squares produced letters, then words and provided a prompt for a short gospel message.  Having run through the sketch boards we had been taught I set about designing my own.  It’s not pushing the Bible down anyone’s throat.  People stay till the end because they want to see what happens next, but they are free to walk away any time.  Truth comes in teaspoon sized doses. 

Our church is working slowly through a study about getting the message of the Kingdom into our local community.  I shared my ideas about using a sketch board in the city centre.  There was support and enthusiasm for the idea.

The next step…to be bold and just do it.


Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Disciple Jesus Loved

“Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”” (John 21:20-23)

“The disciple whom Jesus loved”  - I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside because, like the apostle John, I am also the disciple Jesus loved.  

Because he knew that he was “the disciple Jesus loved”, John positioned himself as close to Jesus as he could get, and he leaned on him.

Because I know myself to be “the disciple Jesus loved”, I will also position myself as close to Jesus as I can get, and I will lean on him.