the sequel

I had an interesting and helpful conversation with someone this morning following yesterday’s bloggage. They helped me realise that I needed to expand a bit more on what I had written, so consider this the sequel.

I finished yesterday by saying that Jesus offers us life in all its fullness as the Creator’s intended answer to our search for happiness. I realised after this morning’s conversation that it looks like I meant that God was offering us happiness after all. I am sorry if that is the impression I left you with (all I can say in my defence is that it was blogged on a phone on a train).

I am sorry too if you have ever got the impression from me that if you become a Christian your life will be sorted and there will never be any problems. That’s not the message of Jesus. He told us that his followers can expect opposition, even persecution. He told us that we should pick up our cross daily and follow him. He told people not to worry about tomorrow … “each day has enough trouble of its own.” He taught us to pray “deliver us from evil” and “don’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.”

There is much more to life than this
There is much more to life than this

‘Life in all its fullness’ is a life lived in God’s presence, filled with God’s Spirit, seeking to live in a way that honours him as a follower of Jesus. As wonderful as that is, and as amazing and positive as that is, fullness of life also includes the pain, grief, difficulties, frustrations, confusion and anxieties that life can throw in our direction. It includes all of life, knowing that God is with us in it. It includes those moments when we can look back and see that God really was in it with us when we wondered if we were alone. It includes those times when we were clinging on to our faith by our fingernails. It is life lived in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Following Jesus is no guarantee of an easy life (perhaps it’s a guarantee that life will not be easy) but it is life as it was created to be. It’s not all doom and gloom, there is also brightness, joy, peace, laughter, fun and so much more – don’t read this and think that it’s all bad. God is with us by his Spirit in the light and the dark, in the laughter and the tears, in the joy and the pain.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

get real

What’s your biggest frustration in life? It may be a long-lasting frustration. It may simply be the thing that is looming largest on your horizon at the moment.

Are you worried that your fridge will explode?

Is there too much month left at the end of the money?

Do you want to be more fruitful in your work but are hampered by lack of resources / unhelpful colleagues / time constraints?

Have you got lots of demands on your time and talents and are feeling pulled in different directions?

There’s a line in the Christian song, ‘Jesus, we celebrate your victory’ that goes, “and in your presence our problems disappear…”

Get real!

I must be doing something wrong if that song is true. Because that is not my experience. And I would like to know how it relates to Jesus telling his friends that they will be persecuted, betrayed by their family, arrested and flogged, and hated (Matthew 10). I can’t imagine someone humming that tune as they are being dragged out of their bed by the authorities and being whipped to within an inch of their life…

When I have (reluctantly) sung that song I have thought that it is in Jesus’ presence that we gain a different perspective on our problems. In his presence they somehow do not seem as daunting or dangerous. But again the reality is that this is not always true either.

When we come together in church we do not leave our problems at the door, ready to pick them up on the way out after having felt holy and pious for a while. They come with us. They crowd into our minds in the prayer times. They affect how we hear what the preacher is saying. They shape the way we respond to things or people that irritate us or are not how we prefer them to be.

So what are we supposed to do with these things? I believe that God wants to minister to us in them and through them. I believe that he may want to help us gain a new perspective on them. I believe that he may want to transform them in response to our prayers. I believe that he always wants to stand alongside us and face them with us, reassuring us that we do not go through this alone.

When Elijah was at his lowest he had an encounter with God that would make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up and send shivers down our spine.

And the word of the LORD came to [Elijah in a cave]: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:9-14)

Despite the incredible experience, Elijah did not see things any differently. His response to God’s question before and after the experience was identical. Nothing had changed as far as he could see. But it had. God’s gentle whisper was reminding him that he was not useless and he was not alone. Even if it was true that he was the only one left (and it wasn’t) he still was not alone.

In God’s presence his problems did not disappear, but God’s patient gentleness drew him out of the cave into his presence. Elijah was not alone. The rock-shatterer, earth-shaker, inferno-maker was there with him.

Whatever is your biggest frustration I pray that you will sense God’s patient gentleness and that he will draw you out of your cave and into his presence today. The problem may not disappear, but you are not facing it alone. I have found this to be true in my life and pray it may be true for you too.

Of course we may experience God’s blessing directly from him, or we may experience it through other people. Immediately after this experience God brought Elisha to Elijah as a companion and apprentice. Are you Elijah or Elisha today? Who is Elijah or Elisha in your life?

Be blessed. Be a blessing

the first of many

Hi

In order to christen baptise the new blogsite I thought I would give you a little joke…

When a guy’s printer type began to grow faint, he called a local repair shop where a friendly man informed him that the printer probably needed only to be cleaned.

Because the store charged £50 for such cleanings, he told him he might be better off reading the printer’s manual and trying the job himself.

Pleasantly surprised by his candor, he asked, “Does your boss know that you discourage business?”

“Actually, it’s my boss’s idea,” the employee replied sheepishly. “We usually make more money on repairs if we let people try to fix things themselves first.”