Another imperfect offering: His gentleness makes me great.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the God of the delay. I wrote in the midst of a somewhat cloudy delay, though my vision was incredibly clear; God wasn’t going to let me down. I knew I had right there in front of me, inside of me, an opportunity to learn, to trust, to deepen my dependence. As this theme in my life has unfolded, I’ve realised what a privilege it is to ‘stand in the queue’, as it were, and to ‘sit in traffic’ for the Lord. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s just not the right time to get in the car, other times I need to take a different route, or indeed, there are times he calls me to enjoy a bit of time on the sofa.
 
This morning as I enjoyed some time with the Lord, I read this passage from Acts:
 
“But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight.” (Acts 7v17-20)
 
Something that struck me was this connection: as the time of the promise drew near…Moses was born. 
 
As Stephen retells the story of Israel to reveal Jesus as the true fulfilment of God’s promises throughout history, he suggests that when Moses was born, it indicated a time of the nearness of God’s promises to Abraham. Now the promises to Abraham were many, but for the purposes of this text, they were that he would enter the promised land, have numerous descendants, some of whom would be kings, and indeed, one of whom would be Jesus. 
 
As you may know, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt – after 40 years in the wilderness – and then, after another long period of wandering in the wilderness, didn’t quite make it to the promised land. Joshua completed this task as Moses’ successor, but then hundreds more years followed before Mary conceived. Would I have said that when Moses was born, it was nearly time for God’s promises to be fulfilled? I doubt it.
 
This morning as I read Stephen’s account of history, I wondered how God would recount my life. I’ve been alive for a lot less time than Moses spent in the wilderness (and that doesn’t include his youth and teenage years, the wandering, his death at old age), so would God have said things like: “As the time of the Brexit vote drew near, Louisa was born.”?! Even, “As the time for Ireland to repeal the 8th amendment drew near, Louisa became a Christian.” I laugh as I write! How could we possibly suggest that things are near, when in our human understanding, they seem so far away? Of course, I am not suggesting that my life is so significant that should the Bible be written today I would get so much as a sniff of a mention – if I could be mentioned for repairing a toilet it’d be an honour (Nehemiah 3v14) – but there’s a distinctive long-term vision here which has caught my attention.
 
I’ve often thought in my life, that God is slow. That he could easily have done things with a bit more urgency, or indeed, a bit less nonchalance. Minutes can feel like hours, hours feel like days and so on, and when I read passages that tell me “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3v8) I can fall to my knees in exasperation! 
 
Of course, I’m not limiting God to only act over incredible stretches of history, he is here, right now, working in the immediate, and he is passionately acting in every moment, quickly, and perfectly, looking after his flock. Yet, there is a patience that’s astounding with God, and one I really desire to know myself. You see, following the passage in 2 Peter 3v8 above, we read: “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (v9). Oh how the Lord has been patient with me! As I’ve wrestled and sulked and beaten on his door in selfishness and pride. As I’ve given up in frustration, as I’ve tripped and fallen, been bashed and bruised, I see his everlasting, never-ending and faithful love towards me gently lift me back to my feet time and time again. 
 
I imagine that’s what he did with Moses too, and Joseph before him. There are so many wonderful stories in the Bible that give me great comfort to know that whether I’m walking through a dark tunnel, or rejoicing in a sunrise, God is at work, and his plans are perfect. It’s also humbling to catch a glimpse of God’s long-term vision, and to realise how small a part of that I am. Still, it’s incredible to think, that the God of all history, who sees the beginning and the end, who determines the number of the stars and gives to every one of them a name, knows every hair on my head and every thought in my heart. 
 
David in psalm 18 says: “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” (v35) Our God is gentle, but at the same time, a consuming fire. He is both long-term and short-term. He’s outside of time yet completely in time, on time, and never a second too late. He has carefully crafted history to reveal his glorious purposes, and right now, in this moment and the next, he is patient, and he is kind.
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God of the delay

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Two months ago I worked in a responsible fast-moving job managing complex workloads, wining and dining clients and hitting optimistic targets. My salary afforded me dinners in nice restaurants (as often as I so pleased), nice clothes in abundance and a well stocked fridge of avocados and cheese. I could save, I could fly, I could give and, in my ‘humble’ opinion, managed quite well.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m in a new country, almost penniless, clutching a student card and trying to decide whether I can still justify buying smoked salmon on a weekly basis. It might not sound like I’m living the dream, but the Lord has called me to a new place, and right now I’m more privileged than ever to be learning about the God of the delay.

Jesus says: “Therefore, do not be anxious about your life…seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6v25&33)

If this is a command from the Lord, how marvellous it is to know that whilst my fridge is a little bare, and I’ve not yet been to Dublin’s ‘Ivy Cafe’, I can have peace amidst the uncertainty. I hesitate to even call it uncertainty, because, really, it depends on how you look at it.

Throughout my walk with Jesus I’ve been encouraged, and sometimes forced, to build my house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27). I’ve realised that whilst the world around me is usually rather up and down, that is never the way with God. I can testify that in the 8 years I’ve known the Lord, he has never let me down or left me on my own, even when I don’t understand his ways, or comprehend his thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

I’ve been pondering recently the story of Lazarus’ death in John 11. Oh how glorious is our God of the delay!

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

John 11:1-6

When Jesus heard that his friend was ill, instead of rushing in to help, he stayed where he was, for two whole days. I wonder if I heard that a friend was struggling, would I wait two days to call her? I wonder if my friend asked me for help, would I put her on hold to finish what I was doing?

I love how in this passage it says that because Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, he stayed where he was. He didn’t delay because he couldn’t be bothered, or because he was still trying to forgive them for something, or even because he was just a bit busy. He stayed where he was purposefully because he loved them. Jesus was entrusting to them a wonderful and powerful lesson. We can always, always, always, trust in the living God who loves us and has compassion on us, even when he seems to do the opposite to what we want or expect.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” John 11:27

As the story moves on, we see that Jesus did, indeed, come. I realise as I wait for provision and ask Jesus to come and help me, I can be sure that he will come. It’s not for me to know times or seasons for this, but I can be assured that he will come. If this is the case, I can rest and obey his command not to be anxious. If the God who made the universe, and who called me out of obscurity to do his will, is looking after me, and I am sure, then what cause have I for worry?

Still, it’s often easier said than done in particularly sticky circumstances, and Martha here clearly didn’t understand why Jesus hadn’t saved her brother from dying. Amidst her grief and sorrow, she addresses Jesus straight up: “Lord, If you had been here my brother would not have died.” Oh the times I’ve told Jesus he missed the boat! Lord, if only you had done it my way, we wouldn’t be in this mess! What I love about Martha is her honesty, yet her complete and utter faith in her friend Jesus. The fact her brother had died, didn’t cause her to doubt that Jesus was good, and God, she knew he could have saved Lazarus. No doubt! It was clear that she knew, if Jesus had come earlier, no matter how sick Lazarus was, he would have been made well. Fair play Martha.

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” John 11:28-37

Mary also shared her sisters faith in the Lord, and falls at Jesus’ feet in tears. I know I’ve certainly fallen at Jesus’ feet in tears on so many occasions, asking why he would let me go through such grief and pain. Mary, no doubt exhausted from crying, echoes her sister’s sentiment, if you had only been here…

But oh we see the Lord’s goodness in his delay. His sovereign kindness. Oh Lord, how you have been so good to me to lead me through the delays, to teach me your kindness in the ‘impossible’ valleys. How those days after Lazarus’ death must have felt for Martha and Mary. A lifetime of sorrow, an absence so great, and a longing so deep. And the love of Jesus? He is so moved that he weeps with Mary. He weeps. He loves this family like his own, and that’s how he sees me. That’s how he sees you.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:38-44

What’s incredible here, is that throughout this whole episode, Jesus is completely in control, and has a perfect plan. As he had uttered to his disciples days before: This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” his plan was to bless, and to encourage, and to save, and ultimately glorify God and bring his friends into closer communion with him. There’s no rush, there’s just a Jesus who knows what he is doing, and who has such a deep unfathomable compassion, that amidst suffering he is working for our good. 

Oh the manifold wisdom of God! What a God, what a friend!

Smoked salmon just doesn’t seem such a big deal anymore.

 

 

 

Could do better…

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Ironically, and somewhat comically, I wrote this blog post last week but didn’t upload it because I didn’t think it was good enough. God certainly has a sense of humour! I laughed, and now I post…

I’ve realised that I’ve been living under an umbrella. The thing is though, the sun is shining, and I’m not the type to hold an umbrella for the purpose of shade. This said umbrella is the proverbial barrier I’ve created to stop myself from basking in the wonderful warm sunshine of my heavenly Father and his love for me.

Now, let me elaborate slightly, as I’m sure my weather analogies will only take us so far. You see, I’m a ‘could do better’ person. Excluding, probably, the first few months of my life, I’ve lived a life that has not been enough. I’m not clever enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not slim enough, fit enough, rich enough, witty enough, confident enough, quick enough, brave enough, tough enough, strong enough, perfect, err, enough. It’s such a tiring life. Living a life of striving for better can benefit us indeed, but when you reach what you thought would be the end of the ‘not enough’, there reappears the exasperated gap of ‘could do better’. The not enoughs demand attention, and when ignored, they grow bigger and stronger, sometimes overwhelmingly so. It’s the life of a perfectionist, the life of an ambitious individual on the path of discovery, yet I’ve realised of late that God doesn’t wake me every morning by slapping me around the face with my not enoughs. No, he gently sings in my ear that I am everything he wants, just as I am.

Hosea 2v14-15 says: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt”

The book of Hosea is marvelous. It speaks of a God who is faithful when we are unfaithful. It speaks of a God who chooses the unworthy, those scorned by society, those who mess up, those who really just aren’t what we would call ‘good enough’. It screams of a God desperate for his people to come as they are, desperate for his people to accept his kindness, to turn from their old ways of living and to enter into his covenant of light and life. It sings of a God who is willing to “Go again” (2v1) to bring back the lost sheep. It speaks of a God who “continues loving” (3v1) despite rejection and dismissal. Hosea loved Gomer when she despised him. God loved Israel in their rebellion. It speaks of the cross, it speaks of Jesus’ loving sacrifice for our sins, and his pursuit of our hearts.

Now, I am learning that our God pours out blessing and hope when we have done nothing to deserve it, so why, in my tiny microcosm of life, do I feel the need to do it all myself, to make it an achievement rather than to rest on his grace? I think my proud little heart wants to impress God. I want to be at optimum performance levels for his Kingdom exercise plan, and I want to do well. I also want to impress others with my prowess; I seek the approval of those around me, who are often far less forgiving.

But, God is pleased with me regardless.

In Matthew 3v17, God declares his love for his son, and says he is pleased with Jesus, BEFORE he starts his ministry. Jesus hadn’t done any miracles up to this point, but God was pleased with him nonetheless.

Now, God sees me reflecting upon my weeks, looking at all the ways I could have been kinder, softer, more friendly, more Godly, more confident, the list goes on. I sigh at my failures and the mountains grow taller. But God speaks to me, and he says: “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46v10.

What can I do? I need to listen. I need to lift my eyes to him and stop being introspective. When I look at myself I am but a breath, I am a dusty street ready to be trampled. But, when I look to him I am a conqueror, a mighty woman of God, and wrapped in his strength, I am enough.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12v9-11

So I can take down my umbrella, and bask in the Lord’s love for me. I don’t disqualify myself when I say the wrong thing, I don’t need to cower for cover until I’m good enough to step into his presence. He says: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

The truth is, we have none of our own money to spend in the kingdom. But, the reality is, we have unending access to our King’s bank account. Jesus has bought it all for us, it is his free gift.

Oh the wonders of our Heavenly Father! He clothes us with the garments of salvation, he covers us with the robe of righteousness and speaks peace to our souls. We are enough in his eyes, we are his prized possession, bought with a price. All glory to God!

An hilarious near death experience

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Death by horses. Wouldn’t that be a fabulous way to go? It would certainly provide a few laughs at the funeral, but thankfully that day, for me and my friend Tarryn, didn’t come to pass. Still, it was ‘on the cards’ for rather too many frightening minutes during what was meant to be a relaxing holiday!

Picture it. You’ve awoken after a deep and satisfying sleep and decided today is the day to get out and climb a mountain of some sort. You’ve dressed, gulped down an athletes breakfast, made a carb-heavy lunch and sourced a map from your hosts.

Hiking boots on, you embark with the usual expectations – uphill climbs, beautiful views, a nice picturesque spot for lunch, a leisurely descent and celebratory cider.
Perfection in a day. Right? Wrong!

Laughing, exhaling great cackles we recalled our story to our hosts a few days afterwards. “We were surrounded! Our lives flashed before our eyes!!” Others in the vicinity laughed too.

We were surprised to hear that the lady who had directed us into the Horses Den had known about the dangers all along. “Cheers!” We thought, and laughed some more, in astonishment.

So, what happened? Well, everything from the deep, satisfying sleep to the embark was as normal. Omlettes in our bellies, sandwiches prepared, map in hand we set off. Beginning the ascent we took a wrong turn and came to a dead end. There was nothing unusual about that, so we retraced our steps to find the right path. We were fifteen minutes or so in, enjoying the surrounding stillness and emerging views, when we noticed a pack of horses cantering up a path to our right. They reached our level, blocking the gate of our exit, and stared. Less than 50 metres away, we too stood still, and stared back.

Stalemate.

Now, neither Tarryn nor I are horsey people. We’ve never felt at home in a stable and have never shovelled poo to earn favour and a free gallop. Our lives have been spent firmly on the outside of the paddock, yet somehow we found ourselves in the centre of one, without a stone or a sling.

A minute of well managed panic later, the situation intensified. The horses had friends. Another 5 or 6 horses thundered up the hill to join the already 6 strong gang. We were outnumbered, with only a few cheese and ham cobs for pacifying leverage.
“Let’s go back.” I suggested. I was not up for a duel.
“Ok.” Tarryn replied. We hoped they’d forget about us, move on.

As we turned and walked slowly back the way we came, the horses followed, and at increasing pace. We walked some more then panicked and walked off the path in a faint hope that we were really just blocking their morning running route. “Maybe they just want to get past.” I said bleakly. “Let’s just wait.”

As they approached the part of the path that we had sidestepped, they stopped, turned, looked us straight in the eyes, then advanced. Tarryn and I grabbed each other. My knees began to shake. I prayed!

Six or seven large horses snuffled our coats and nibbled our rucksacks. The others formed a barbed wire fence behind, munching the grass and exhaling violently. Tails flapped, hooves padded the ground.

“God!! Help!! Help!! I’m completely unqualified for this situation!! Help!!”
Tarryn and I must have looked a picture! Clinging to each other as if our lives depended on it (quite literally) praying whatever we could muster!

Suddenly, a small gap opened up between the heavy set horses. A pure white stallion, their leader, had either stumbled, or deliberately fallen into our nibbling friends and scattered them. Our escape route! Hearts beating and legs a-wobbling we slowly took steps past our unwanted friends.

“Left or right?” I said under my breath. Do we retreat and just get back home safely, or do we continue the walk regardless, oblivious to how many horses could be lurking in the unfamiliar Welsh hills.
“Left.” said Tarryn defiantly.
“Ok.” I said, surprised at her courage. We race-walked to the next style.

Once home and dry, with the horses safely behind the last fence, we let go of each other and bent over in relief! We laughed, but mostly were just glad to be alive!

As we sat atop the mountain, looking down to the sea, Tarryn made a suggestion. “Different route back?”

Switching Off, Tuning In

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It’s summer. I’ve been on holiday. It has been great.

 

I’ve visited friends, family, the beach, the hills, towns and villages, all in the name of my (now) good friend, rest. I’ve acquainted myself so wholeheartedly with this friend that, in fact, (and I hope), I have found a new perspective.

 

You see, I am aware, and have been for a time, that I find it hard to rest. Before I took my leave for the Pembrokeshire hills three weeks ago, I was far from at peace. I had worked a tireless 10 month rugby season with only sporadic breaks. I was worn out – fed up with the daily rigmarole. Even the free days I had were spent finding tasks to complete or burying my head in a serious and complex commentary on the book of Romans. I couldn’t sit still – unless asleep – and that was a challenge in itself.

 

“Woe to you!!” I hear you cry! Well, yes, somewhat. But really, my view of rest wasn’t high enough on my agenda. I hadn’t grasped the secret of the Sabbath, or even considered I should observe it. My opinion was always that Sabbath keeping was for the Old Testament guys, not for those of the 21st century. God knows we have different lives now, doesn’t he? He knows that we live in big cities and can’t afford to kick back all the time, life is busy, fast-paced and travel takes great bites out of our leisure-time; there just aren’t enough hours in the day…

 

Disagree? I do.

 

I am challenged to think more seriously about rest, and to treat it kindly, rather than to dismiss it as simply a practice of the lazy. In this immediate-age, being busy is something of which to boast. It’s the life of success and, dare I say it, power. If you’re busy, you’re usually in demand, and that means you’re worth something, and that makes you more in demand and so on. Anyway, I understand that life has peaks and troughs of quietness and rush, but I believe in those busy times, we can still know the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ by observing his teaching.

 

Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2v27 NLT)

 

A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to a Christian retreat up on a hill in Pembrokeshire – the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival, we discovered that our mobile telephones were useless. No signal, no wifi, nope, not even a smidgen of connectivity. Initially, I was a little put out, but after an hour or two, I submitted to my situation: “I’ll roll with this” I thought. “Perhaps it will be a good exercise.”

 

Not having the distraction of my smart phone during that particular weekend was possibly the biggest blessing I received. The entire reason for embarking on the 6 hour journey to Pembrokeshire (yes, we drove at the speed limit and stopped often), was to spend some quality time with God. I wanted to be present with him and seek him with all my heart, and removing my link with the rest of the world, with Facebook, emails, whatsapp and the like, gave me that blessed opportunity. Oh the peace I knew. I can’t remember a time when I have been so tranquil in soul. So calm and quiet, eager to enjoy the time on my hands. I would sit in the little chapel on site, pray and wait. I wasn’t waiting for the thing to do next, the exciting answer to my prayers, or even for God to speak to me. I was just still, ever present in his presence.

 

Of course, our God being the kind God that he is, spoke abundantly to me. In fact, when I left, I felt as though I had learnt more in those few days in his presence than I would at a week-long conference. He really is the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

As we embarked on the journey home. and as my phone picked up signal, I locked it in the glove box! I heard it pinging and pining for my attention, but I was adamant I would hold onto Jesus’ peace for as long as I could. I wanted to savour the moment, live in the now, enjoy every second. By switching off my distractions and tuning in to God, I realised what it means to lie down in green pastures, to be lead by still waters and to have my soul restored by the one and only God.

 

So what happened next? Well, in reality I flew to France, ate good food, drank good wine and mostly went to the beach, but, eventually one returned to work and to the responsibilities of life. The challenge then became how to continue enjoying God’s peace amidst the ‘stress’.

 

I can’t say I’ve mastered it, I’m on a journey into the rest of God. However, restoring a proper Sabbath into my week has so far granted me better replenishment and more of life in the fullness. The difference in my mood, my energy and my hope in God is incredible. Jesus said that the Sabbath was to fulfill a need in us, not to tick off the requirements of God. Jesus often withdrew to lonely/desolate places and prayed (Luke 5:16) and I want to follow his lead.  Try it? Why not, I challenge you. Set aside time to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46v10) this week. And let’s just, well, taste and see.

My Kingdom is not of this world

As the referendum looms this week, how do you feel? Are you fearful that catastrophe could be right around the corner? Or are you quietly confident that it will all, sort of, work out alright? 

Whatever your view is of Britain’s relationship with the EU, it is important this week to remember who has the ultimate authority over the situation and to understand who is in control.

 

During his lifetime, Jesus was clearly subject to the state. God used the rulers and authorities to control crucial events in his lifetime which served to fulfil his purposes on earth. Even his birth place was determined by a decision of Caesar’s, whilst his crucifixion was ordered by a Roman Governor. When Jesus was tried, he revealed an insight to Pilate which helps us to grasp the authority that God has over all situations; this includes decisions made by the collective people, and by kingdom rulers.

 

John 18v35-36

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 

 

Jesus allowed Pilate and the Jews to deliver him to be crucified whilst confidently expressing that he was in control. By stating that “my kingdom is not of this world” he gives us confidence to know that even those of the highest powers on earth cannot contend with the plans of our creator God. The history-changing decision of Pontius Pilate served to advance the kingdom of heaven when from an earthly perspective it looked like it was to end. Therefore, whatever situation we face this week come Friday morning, we can be confident that God has not been absent.

 

Swiss Theologian, Karl Barth, famously said to a friend the day before he passed away: “Just don’t be so down in the mouth, now! Not ever! For things are ruled, not just in Moscow or in Washington or in Peking, but things are ruled – even here on earth—entirely from above, from heaven above.”

Being a Mary in the city of success

I love London. I love its diversity, its culture, art, history, greenery and even some of its concrete. I love the pace at which one lives, the constant opportunity to do and see new things and the hope and expectation captured within its borders.
Living in the city of potential, there’s a very apparent pressure to succeed and progress. Having resided in the rather leafy west of the city for almost 6 years now, I’m not ignorant to the burden of continual movement and upward motion in which my life should be heading. It’s a burden that frustrates me, because, it’s not one I necessarily agree with. It has somehow entered into my fibres and become part of my expectation that I will swim with the upward tide of London’s successful salmon, and reach the prized pool of the elite.
However, biblically, this isn’t my expectation at all and I’m a contradiction to my very self. My belief that my life should be a continual success isn’t unbiblical, but perhaps self-involved and indulgent. To live to aspire to gain the world, only serves to diminish my standing with the Holy Lord, is that not true? Jesus said that whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Now I’m not suggesting that success in business is a sin, far from it. More so that success as an ultimate goal is a sin. My ultimate goal is to live in communion with Jesus, to serve him as my Lord, and go wherever he goes. Still, I am ambitious in this life. The tension is great.
With a desire to know Jesus first, it saddens me therefore that I often relate more to Martha than Mary in Luke chapter 10. I have been known to say, in a flurry of activity, “Lord do you not care?” (Luke 10v40) although of late my disposition has been changing. God is refining me and helping me to sit at his feet. He is shaking off the burden of busy-ness, and building in me a thirst to know his kingdom come in my life. Coming to Jesus before anything else, prioritising him over all other things, is what he calls ‘the good portion’ in Luke 10v42. If I believe Jesus to be holy and perfect, a God who never lies, then I am foolish not to accept the good portion and learn from these examples. Over time sat at his feet, my heart has been changed. Slowly but surely I’m learning not to run blindly with the crowds towards an unknown goal in an unstable world. I’m learning that, in fact, God’s kingdom is not of this world and his plans will not fail. If I can sit and listen to him instead of worrying about my upward trajectory, perhaps I’ll find myself blissfully swimming in a fresh stream of success, one which credit crashes, referendums, house prices or budget cuts will never be able to take away.