Tuesday, 17 November 2009

When you don't know, He does

Well, it's been a long time...My blog is blocked in China by her Great Firewall and so I've not been able to post. But I'm back in the UK for a spell and so can now think about posting something. I wish I were here for different reasons but the truth is that my marriage to my Chinese wife is excruciatingly painful to the point that for my own self-preservation I had to pack a bag and leave her for a season. Culture gaps too wide to bridge, language gaps, disparate universes. A bleak time of pain and wondering where is God in all of this. Anyway, having arrived on the Wednesday of last week when Saturday came round I started to think of where to worship and to my great delight - it had been a long time too since I had received any direct transmissions - the Holy Spirit prompted me to go to John St. I had to look it up in the London A-Z, but duly found it and trotted off expectantly on Sunday morning. As I was coming round the corner onto John Street the Spirit told me to get my camera ready so I did. I was fully expecting to find a church of some kind, instead I found the plaque pictured in the photo I took of it above. Sir John Kirk, Christian philanthropist, the children's friend. This is deeply significant to me, since I was abandoned as a child and adopted through a Christian children's agency. Plus, this year I had committed to giving more. So I was encouraged and deeply touched by this little display of my Father's omnipotence. Although I may be feeling utterly bereft and powerless to overcome my current challenges, he knows all about it and somehow just him knowing is enough for me to be able to trust that he is fully involved in the process. So I'm renewed with hope and strength and will trust Jesus to bring some good out of this and to make all things new. Bless His Holy name. What about you reader? Are you facing some difficulties which you know you cannot cope with? "Come unto me all who heavy burdened and I will give you rest" is the promise, not of a mere man whose word is unreliable but of the Living God who is full of faithfulness and loving-kindness. Will you trust him today to bring you through the storm you face? I pray that you will.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Self-made and proud of it?

My grace is enough for you.
When you are weak, my power
is made perfect in you.

2 Corinthians 12:9

There are certain mountains only God can climb…

It’s not that you aren’t welcome to try, it’s just that you aren’t able…

If the word Savior is in your job description, it’s because you put it there. Your role is to help the world, not save it. Mount Messiah is one mountain you weren’t made to climb.

Nor is Mount Self-Sufficient. You aren’t able to run the world, nor are you able to sustain it. Some of you think you can. You are self-made. You don’t bow your knees, you just roll up your sleeves and put in another twelve-hour day… which may be enough when it comes to making a living or building a business. But when you face your own grave or your own guilt, your power will not do the trick.

The Great House of God
Max Lucado

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A Higher Standard

"I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me" - Philippians 3:14

Most of my life I've been a closet slob.... Then I got married....

I enrolled in a twelve-step program for slobs. ("My name is Max, I hate to vacuum.") A physical therapist helped me rediscover the muscles used for hanging shirts.... My nose was reintroduced to the fragrance of Pine Sol....Then came the moment of truth. Denalyn went out of town for a week. Initially I reverted to the old man. I figured I'd be a slob for six days and clean on the seventh. But something strange happened, a curious discomfort. I couldn't relax with dirty dishes in the sink.

What had happened to me? Simple. I'd been exposed to a higher standard.

Isn't that what has happened with us?... Before Christ our lives were out of control, sloppy, and indulgent. We didn't even know we were slobs until we met him.... Suddenly we find ourselves wanting to do good. Go back to the old mess? Are you kidding?

In the Grip of Grace
-Max Lucado

Saturday, 9 May 2009

His Strength is Perfect

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I had seen the goodness of the Lord... Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage." Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

Do not despair! Oh, how great the temptation is to despair at times! Our soul becomes depressed and disheartened and our faith staggers under the severe trials and testing that come into our lives, especially during times of bereavement and suffering. We may come to the place where we say, "I cannot bear this any longer. I am close to despair under these circumstances God has allowed. He tells me not to despair, but what am I supposed to do when I am at this point?" 

What have you done in the past when you felt weak physically? You could not do anything. You ceased from doing. In your weakness, you leaned on the shoulder of a strong loved one. You leaned completely on someone else and rested, becoming still, and trusting in another's strength. It is the same when you are tempted to despair under spiritual afflictions. Once you have come close to the point of despair, God's message is not, "Be strong and courageous" (Joshus 1:6), for he knows your strength and courage have run away. Instead, He says sweetly, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). 

Hudson Taylor was so weak and feeble in the last few months of his life that he told a friend, "I am so weak I cannot write. I cannot read my Bible. I cannot even pray. All I can do is lie still in the arms of God as a little child, trusting Him." This wonderful man of God, who had great spiritual power, came to the point of physical suffering and weakness where all he could do was lie still and trust. That is all God asks of you as His dear child. When you become weak through the fierce fires of affliction, do not try to "be strong." Just "be still, and know that He is God." And know that He will sustain you through the fire. 

God reserves His best medicine for our times of deepest despair. Be strong and take heart. Psalm 27:14

Be strong, He has not failed you
In all the past, 
And will He go and leave you 
to sink at last? 
No, He said He will hide you 

Beneath His wing; And sweetly there in safety

You then may sing.

Streams in the Desert, May 10th

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Sitting Opposite the Tomb

"Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb." - Matthew 27:61

Oh, how slow grief is to come to understanding! Grief is ignorant and does not even care to learn. When the grieving women "were sitting there opposite the tomb," did they see the triumph of the next two thousand years? Did they see anything except Christ was gone? The Christ you and I know today came from their loss. Countless mourning hearts have since seen resurrection in the midst of their grief, and yet these sorrowing women watched at the beginning of this result and saw nothing. What they regarded as the end of life was actually the preparation for coronation, for Christ remained silent that He might live again with tenfold power. They did not see it. They mourned, wept, went away, and then came again to the sepulcher, driven by their broken hearts. And still it was only a tomb - unprophetic, voiceless and drab.

It is the same with us. Each of us sits "opposite the tomb" in our own garden and initially says, "This tragedy is irreparable. I see no benefit in it and will take no comfort in it." And yet right in the midst of our deepest and worst adversities, our Christ is often just lying there, waiting to be resurrected.Our Savior is where our death seems to be. At the end of our hope, we find the brightest beginning of fulfillment. Where darkness seems the deepest, the most radiant light is set to emerge. And once the experience is complete, we find our garden is not disfigured by the tomb. Our joys are made better when sorrow is in the midst of them. And our sorrows become bright through the joys God has planted around them. At first the flowers of the garden may not appear to be our favorites, but we will learn that they are the flowers of the heart. The flowers planted at the grave deep within the Christian heart are love, hope, faith, joy and peace.

'Twas by a path of sorrows drear Christ entered into rest, And shall I look for roses here or think that earth is blessed? Heaven's whitest lilies blow from earth's sharp crown of woe; Who hear his cross can meekly bear, Shall wear the kingly purple there.'

Streams in the Desert (updated version), April 25th

Sunday, 12 April 2009

The Best Evidence for the Resurrection

If you search online, you can find a whole host of interesting and not-so-interesting articles about the meaning of the Resurrection, what it means for believers and non-believers alike, from arcane theological debates to simple testimonies; but really, for me, the best evidence for the Resurrection 2000 years ago, is transformed lives and changed hearts now. Today, all over the planet, irrespective of the belief system they were born into, or the belief system they adopted for themselves, people are encountering the Living Christ and they are totally changed by the experience. Their best friends no longer recognise them. People who knew only how to live for themselves, selfish, self-absorbed, haters of God, are somehow transformed into people who put God and others first and themselves last. They live to selflessly serve others where before they couldn't have cared less for others, let alone have the slightest desire to serve them. What they previously hated, the things of God, they now love, and what they previously loved, the world of sin and self, they now hate. This is the most powerful and incontrovertible proof. Why? Well, anyone who has tried to change themselves, through self-development, meditation, this or that technology has to ultimately accept that that old self isn't for changing at all! Try as you might, it won't budge. Yes, you can corral it, suppress it, numb it with addicitons, but at the end of the day nothing in the natural will or can change it. Actually, even Christ can't change it - he has to exchange it, and what an exchange it becomes, first, your old self with all that that entails gets nailed to a cross with Jesus, co-crucified, and then in its place you receive the life of Christ, a new life, a born-again life, a brand new start!  "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.' - Galatians 2:20 ."This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them." - 2 Corinthians 5:15,17

Living for yourself there is no reward. It's only by serving others that life takes on a sense of meaning and purpose. But how can we serve others when our entire biology conspires against us to only want to serve self? Well, Jesus gave us the answer to that one: "Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" - Mark 8:34-37

Find out how Jesus appeared to and transformed an alcoholic, drug addicted, violent, gun-toting angry young man in an interview with former gangland hardman Davey Falcus:


More testimonials here: http://put-god-first.com/bornagain.html


You may never have done some of the crimes that Davey committed; however, have you ever lied, lusted, blasphemed, stolen something however small, worshiped an idol instead of God - your career, money, women, stuff? Then, you are just as guilty of  breaking God's law as Davey and God, because He is both a God of justice as well as a God of love is committed to punishing sin (if He didn't He's be an unjust God worthy of being judged Himself) unless you repent (ie turn away from it and turn to God). So you are free to choose: you can accept God's amnesty and acquittal won for you by Jesus who willingly allowed Himself to be punished instead of you on the cross and which he today graciously extends to you,  or you must yourself face the consequences of your sin and lawless behaviour when you have your day in court. So you have a stark choice: let your pride rule and face Jesus as your Judge on the day of Judgment or eat humble pie and face Jesus now as your Rescuer and Friend. May God grant you wisdom and grace as you make your choice. Think about it carefully friend, for the consequences of this choice will determine your eternal destiny: "Don't be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit." - Galatians 6:7


Thursday, 9 April 2009

There is a Green Hill Far Away

It was Joseph of Arimathaea who had the honor of taking the body of Jesus down from the cross. Think what it would be like to have to pull the cold and lifeless hands of the Son of God from the thick, barbed Roman nails. These were carpenter’s hands, which once held nails and wood, now being held by nails and wood. These were the hands that broke bread and fed multitudes, now being broken to feed multitudes. They once applied clay to a blind man’s eyes, touched lepers, healed the sick, washed the disciple’s feet, and took children in His arms. These were the hands that, more than once, loosed the cold hand of death, now held firmly by its icy grip. 

These were the fingers that wrote in the sand when the adulterous woman was cast at His feet, and for the love of God, fashioned a whip that purged His Father’s house. These were the same fingers that took bread and dipped it in a dish, and gave it to Judas as a gesture of deep love and friendship. Here was the Bread of Life itself, being dipped in the cup of suffering, as the ultimate gesture of God’s love for the evil world that Judas represented. Joseph’s shame, that he had been afraid to own the Savior, sickened him as he tore the blood-sodden feet from the six-inch cold steel spikes that fastened them to the cross. These were the "beautiful feet" of Him that preached the gospel of peace, that Mary washed with her hair, that walked upon the Sea of Galilee, now crimson with a sea of blood. 

As Joseph reached out his arms to get Him down from the cross, perhaps he stared for an instant at the inanimate face of the Son of God. His heart wrenched as he looked upon Him whom they had pierced. This face, which once radiated with the glory of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, which so many had looked upon with such veneration, was now blood-stained from the needle-sharp crown of thorns, deathly pale and twisted from unspeakable suffering as the sin of the world was laid upon Him. His eyes, which once sparkled with the life of God, now stared at nothingness, as He was brought into the dust of death. His lips, which spoke such gracious words and calmed the fears of so many, were swollen and bruised from the beating given to Him by the hardened fists of cruel soldiers. As it is written, "His visage was so marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14). 

Nicodemus may have reached up to help Joseph with the body. As the cold blood of the Lamb of God covered his hand he was reminded of the blood of the Passover lamb he had seen shed so many times. The death of each spotless animal had been so quick and merciful, but this death had been unspeakably cruel, vicious, inhumane, and brutal. It seemed that all the hatred that sin-loving humanity had for the Light formed itself into a dark and evil spear, and was thrust with cruel delight into the perfect Lamb of God. Perhaps as he carefully pried the crown from His head, looked at the gaping hole in His side, the deep mass of abrasions upon His back, and the mutilated wounds in His hands and feet, a sense of outrage engrossed him, that this could happen to such a Man as this. But the words of the prophet Isaiah rang within his heart: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . as a lamb to the slaughter . . . for the transgression of my people he was stricken . . . yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him . . .by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many" (Isaiah 53:5–11). Jesus of Nazareth was stripped of His robe, that we might be robed in pure righteousness. He suffered a deathly thirst, that our thirst for life might be quenched. He agonized under the curse of the Law, that we might relish the blessing of the gospel. He took upon Himself the hatred of the world, so that we could experience the love of God. Hell was let loose upon him so that heaven could be let loose upon us. Jesus of Nazareth tasted the bitterness of death, so that we might taste the sweetness of life everlasting. The Son of God willingly passed over His life, that death might freely pass over the sons and daughters of Adam. 

May Calvary’s cross be as real to us as it was to those who stood on its bloody soil on that terrible day. May we also gaze upon the face of the crucified Son of God, and may shame grip our hearts if ever the fear of man comes near our souls. May we identify with the apostle Paul, who could have gloried in his dramatic and miraculous experience on the road to Damascus. Instead, he whispered in awe of God’s great love: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14). (23:53 continued)

(From www.livingwaters.com)

To visit the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem online: http://www.gardentomb.com/gardentour.php