Sunday, August 31, 2008

Something That Isn't Jesus

I have come from a church history of preachers that like to dissect Bible passages and then order their notes neatly with alliterating headings! They make four or five points that are perhaps memorable because the headings start with the same letter.

This way of bringing a word appeals to the “control freak” nature in me. I like things to fit into neat patterns and structure. I don’t really do “messy”.

However, having said that, in the Monday evening contemplation of the first chapter of Genesis, we were encouraged to think about just one thing that struck us as we read through. Under normal circumstances my mind would be making leapfrog connections between the words and alliterated headings for each section! But I kept it to the one thing!

I am bringing the word this week in church and decided to focus on the one thing again. The story is following on from the account of the Transfiguration. A man with a demon possessed child brings his son to Jesus and finds his disciples instead. Despite their experience – they have cast out demons before – they are unable to help.

The one thing that struck me was the whole concept of people coming to us, the Church, or us, as individual Christians, looking for Jesus, and finding something that isn’t Him at all.

Personally, as I was praying as I prepared my word, I am aware, that just like the disciples, I have done it before. I am on the rota for bringing the word. I have a bookcase-ful of commentaries and studies. I have a list of favourite website addresses and a history of successfully (?) bringing a message. I have done it before! But when my brothers and sisters come, and visitors come, to a meeting, looking for Jesus, do they get Jesus or do they get Mel? There are times when there is no difference. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing – just being the messenger, and faithfully delivering a God given message. However, there are also times when, I am not sure about the message. I am not sure that I have heard from God, but I am sure that with my mental gymnastics I can come up with the alliterated headings that apply. What I might end up with is good stuff that can inspire anyone. It’s stuff that they can build with – but it might not be God stuff which is what truly transforms.

This morning I went to mass at St. Mary’s. There seemed to be a little bit more incense waving and more bell-ringing than normal. I thought of the people that come looking for Jesus. Do they find Him? Undoubtedly there are people who find Jesus in the ritual and the ceremony, but for some people, all of that becomes interference and intrudes on their search of Christ. Perhaps there are others that never find Jesus but never realise they haven’t found him. The ritual and the ceremony becomes a substitute fro the real thing.

All churches have their ritual. Substitute a worship band for incense waving, for example, or clapping hands for bell ringing. Any of the things that we do can end up being a substitute for the real encounter.

The man with the demon possessed child knew when he had encountered Jesus. In the presence of Jesus he couldn’t pretend a faith level he didn’t possess. He realised the poverty of his spirit, acknowledging just how much help he needed. His son was released from his demonic jailer. Without Jesus none of those things are possible.

I don’t want people to come to me looking for Jesus, and finding something that isn’t Him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Exploding

Earlier on in the week I was reading from Psalm 33:9 “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” Last night, at a prayer meeting, we were reading and contemplating the first chapter of Genesis. It didn’t take much for me to remember those words in Psalm 33.

The spoken word of God is creative. There was no wave of a magic wand, or dipping a divine hand into a celestial top hat and pulling out the earth and all the bits that go to make it up. God spoke things into being. The Message paraphrases v9 as “he spoke and there it was, in place the moment he said so.”

What God spoke into wasn’t small. It wasn’t limited to one or two varieties of things. The land bursts forth with every kind of grass. There are not just one or two stars but a whole sky brimming with them. The waters swarm and teem with fish and the skies fill with birds. There is an abundance of life exploding everywhere in a variety of different forms. There is more than enough. This is like God going over the top, doing more than just the minimum.

When I read the words in Psalm 33, what came to mind was a desire for God to speak words of life over me. In terms of salvation, Jesus’ words, “It is finished” was spoken over me. Sin is finished. Death is finished. The old self with its carnal nature is finished. My citizenship under the prince of darkness is finished. Any old allegiances are finished. I live in the good of what Jesus accomplished.

But I do believe that there are other words that God would like to speak over me. Just as in the creation story there was bursting forth, brimming, swarming and teeming – I think that is for each and every individual life too. As I said last night – I feel very little is happening a lot of the time and long for some kind of spiritual explosion.

I have been in the kind of church that lays hands on people and imparts a blessing. People prophesy over other people. To some extent I fall into the trap of thinking that if the church leader says something then it carries more weight than if I say it. This is so not the case. It is lazy thinking – letting someone else shoulder s responsibility that I can take on for myself.

It is also dangerous thinking. I don’t need to look many years into my Christian history to see people that I was encouraged to think heard more clearly from God. I am not saying that some people are not gifted with discernment and words of knowledge or whatever, but sometimes it is too easy to surrender up that responsibility solely to people in leadership.

I am not a baby Christian. I am well capable of hearing God. That I don’t always trust that I what I hear is from God – that’s a different issue. As much as I would love to take the “easy” option and encourage someone to lay their hand on my shoulder and tell me what God is saying – what I really need to do is to by-pass the middle man, to have God say what he want to say to me directly!

And God will say it!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Telling it Like it Isn't

I am sure that we have all rented out duff DVDs in our time. Included on our list is “Sands of the Sahara”. I have no idea what the story line was all about as it’s so long ago now, but I remember my husband thinking that in a previous existence it might have been a mini series, and then edited down to film sized length. There was a lack of continuity.

Another on the list is “Night Train to Venis”. I think it was supposed to be a spy thriller – it certainly sounds like it, doesn’t it. I can’t tell you that much about it as I only watched the first fifteen minutes. The dialogue and the acting were not great.

A third DVD made the list a couple of nights ago. The blurb on the back of “Virgin Territory” sold it as a romance with a bit of swash and buckle. The princess is in trouble, the villain takes advantage and the hero from the wrong side of town arrives on his dashing steed, sword in hand to save the day. It wasn’t heavy. Just fluff – what you are looking for to chill out and leave your brain soaking in a glass of lemonade.

What we should have looked at was the small print on the back that tells you things about the amount of violence, swear words and references of a sexual nature. No violence – which is surprising as the two men in the picture on the front were definitely wielding swords! No swear words either! Ah! There is was “frequent references of a sexual nature!” We should have read that bit! The “Virgin” bit of the title should also have offered us a clue.

If ever there was a film where the blurb on the back cover bore absolutely no relation to the action – this was that film. The characters were all there – the princess, the hero and the villain. They just didn’t follow the usual story book protocol. It was all too “adult” for me and I switched it off and watched the round up of the Olympics instead.

I felt robbed of a good night, curled up on the sofa, drinking lemonade and snuggling up. I was robbed of a feel good, happy ending where good triumphs over evil – that might have been the ending, but getting to it was more than I could stomach.

The words on the back of the cover promised much but failed to deliver!

So much in life promises much but fails to deliver!

Not so with God! He makes no promises that He doesn’t deliver!

“By faith Abraham…was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise.” Hebrews 11:11

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Healing - Part of the Salvation Package

I shouldn’t be surprised when God answers prayer. It’s not that I don’t get answers – I do, but there are some requests that I make that at the time do not seem to be answered. I am speaking of prayers for healing – the ones I pray for myself!

I can’t count the number of times when I have prayed over colds, sore throats and other aches and pains. I have always assumed that the nature of the illness was not that severe that time and nature would not do their stuff eventually. A sleepless night of coughing and spluttering were small in comparison to dealing with cancer or something.

There has, however, been something probably just as small, but infinitely more painful over the last few months. I have been waking up in the middle of the night with a feeling of being suffocated. It feels like tight band across my upper abdomen and I find it hard to breath. After a while, things begin to relax a little, but it is all very painful. I am quite sure that it is just a very painful episode of indigestion. I am not a doctor, so I could be wrong. After an hour or two of the cramps, a visit to the toilet usually sorts things out.

While I was away on holiday, visiting family, I had a very bad session. I was awake most of the night and eventually drove to an all night petrol station to buy pain killers and indigestion tablets which had absolutely no effect at all. That was after praying fervently for a healing touch that never came.

I was no better in the morning, the day we were due to come home, and was incapable of driving anywhere. The following day, having had to pay for an extra night at the hotel, I drove home. I wasn’t really up to it, but another night was out of the question.

I think it took a week to feel like myself again. That maybe sounds like something more serious the indigestion. Frankly I think it was the KFC chicken things. A touch of food poisoning perhaps. I used to have a steel lined stomach in my younger days, but as I get older, things don’t always agree with me. I know that you can have these allergy tests done, but I would be horrified to discover a list of things that I am allergic to.

Earlier this afternoon I felt the stirrings of another attack of indigestion. There was the same tight feeling of being unable to breathe and a severe pain that had me doubled over. It was bad. I am sure I was groaning loud enough to be heard next door. I will admit to taking a couple of painkillers just before I slipped onto my knees and prayed.

I don’t think there was anything different in the words I used, or my sincerity, or faith level. I just knew that I couldn’t do another week like the last time. There was absolutely no time for the painkillers to take effect. I had taken them some twenty seconds before I began to pray. I remember praying that the pain would leave just as swiftly as it had come, and that healing was part of the salvation package. And then it happened – just as quickly as the pain had come, it went away. Not after a while. Not a gradual feeling better. It really was instant, straight away, immediate – and I was amazed!

The sceptics would say that it was the tablets. The spiritually zealous would condemn me for taking the tablets in the first place. I say that God healed me!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Eau de Burnt Bolognese

“Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John 12:3

There is a fragrance in our house at the moment. The word fragrance evokes images of something pleasant. Perhaps the word smell would better describe it.

Earlier on in the week, perhaps Monday, my husband arrived home very late. I had made a Bolognese sauce to go with pasta and left it in the pan for him to heat through. Then I had gone to bed. Apparently, between switching on the hotplate and returning to see how it was doing, he had fallen asleep on the sofa. Who knows how long he was asleep, but I can guess what it was that woke him up – smoke!

I was woken up by the smell of the smoke and made my way downstairs through a misty haze.

My husband was in the kitchen “dealing with it”. The black burnt remains of the sauce were being scraped into the bin.

Since that day, the “fragrance” has hung about the house. I find myself sniffing the hall carpet, the net curtain in the kitchen, the towels in the bathroom and, yes, even pressing my nose against the painted wall of the hallway. The smell seems to have permeated every surface of the house. Doors and windows left wide open seem to have little effect in diminishing the odour.

Just how long does it take? What else must I do?

It reminds me of the story of Mary breaking the jar of perfume over Jesus’ feet and filling her home with its wonderful fragrance. How long did the fragrance fill her home? Did she open all the windows and doors to try to clear the house of the aroma? Did she, perhaps, keep the doors closed to try to hold on to the fragrance? For week afterwards, did she pick up things and catch a hint of the perfume that remained?

There is nothing pleasant about the aroma of burnt Bolognese sauce. If only my husband had spilled a bottle of perfume instead!