Finding rest in this season

“The thing about being stuck in the darkness, is that it’s not until your standing in the light that you can see that the shadows don’t have as much power as they once did. Crawl if you have to…”

Christmas, a great time for Christians to be reminded that God stepped into flesh to make himself known, and eventually for us to find rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. While this is true, many believers struggle at this time of the year. Past and present pain is intensified and for some, the bitterness they have carried for a long time somehow becomes heavier.

A week ago my wife found who she thought was my birth mother on Facebook, and after looking at her profile photo for 15 minutes I decided to write to her. I had only met her once briefly when I was pretty young so I was a little nervous. If this was her what would I say, and how would she react to a son who she gave up nearly 40 years earlier getting in touch with her. Anyway long story short it was her! Naturally at first she was in shock and when the dust settled she pushed me away. “Forget you ever found me on Facebook, I am your past”.

I was adopted when I was about 12 months old and was lucky enough to have grown up in a pretty awesome family. Even though I was provided for and loved I was far from stable. From an early age I remember being really frustrated, something was missing, and as I entered adulthood I found myself on a destructive path of bitterness. It raised it’s ugly head in many areas of my life, from addiction to the raging storms in my internal world. I know I’m not the only one who has or still is experiencing this kind of chaos. If you are carrying bitterness then you know how much damage this is causing you and others in your life.

My reaction to all of this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only did I anticipate that she may not welcome any kind of dialogue, but in the thick of it I held on to the thought that we all have a story, there is sometimes ugly stuff included and I don’t know this woman let alone what’s happened in her life. And I was ok with her request not to send any more messages. I also told her I had forgiven her. After becoming a Christian I was able to name a lot of things that were attached to the pain I was carrying, I sought out lots of professional help and continuously went to Jesus with all the pain that I had stored up. Seasons came and went but there was always a part of me wondering if I had really let go of that original rejection, and could Jesus really heal that part of my life that had caused me so much grief?

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. – Jesus Christ

Jesus promises to give us rest when we come to him and that we can learn from him. It’s easy to tell those who are struggling, this piece of scripture, but how do we actually experience the rest he is offering, and what can we actually learn from him in the end. Upon reflection of all the convesations i have had with my birth mother over the last week, I have realised  a couple of things. All that time in the darkness asking Jesus to make sense of what was going on he was there. Even when I was crawling and pleading for relief he was doing something that I could not see. And it wasn’t until I confidently forgave my birth mother and felt no anger or bitterness towards her, that I knew that I had been given complete rest. I also learnt something from Jesus, to forgive others who may not understand what they have done.

I am certain Jesus didn’t have in mind a once off visit when he said those words we see in the book of Matthew. For those of you desperate for rest from pain caused by others, and are feeling like giving up because of the weight, there is hope! So continue to come to him, even when you don’t feel like it, come as you are, even if it means crawling. It may take a day or longer to experience the fruit of his grace, but we can be sure that Jesus never stops loving us, and have confidence that the work that he is doing deep in our hearts and souls is ongoing. Even when we cannot see it.

Peace to you

 

Stop, imitate and listen…

What gets in the way of you being like Jesus to people who cross your path?

I believe this question needs to be asked daily. For some, we will need to pause and reflect on this in each moment as we interact with those around us. Out of all the questions that we hear being thrown around in Christian circles, I reckon this one should be taken fairly seriously.

Life gets busy, and before you know it we have spent more than half the day on auto, then all of a sudden weeks have passed and we stop and turn around and there is a trail of dead bodies behind us. People we have neglected. I know it sounds extreme, and your probably thinking I am being a bit to dramatic.

When I think about the question above, Ephesians 5;1-2 come to mind. We are to be imitators of God, walking in love, just as Christ loved. And with that word love I instantly think of the picture of kingdom love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

I would say I am a fairly patient person, especially when it comes to people. There is nothing I love more than catching up with people, engaging in conversation and growing in those relationships. But sometimes when I get task focused, I am like an arrow aiming straight for my target. I wont let anything or anyone get in the way of my destination. Recently I was on my way somewhere and I bumped into a friend who stopped to talk. I will be honest, for half the conversation I wasn’t present as I was thinking I need to go, I don’t have time for this and at what point can I keep on moving. I forced myself to stay in the moment and after he had left my wife said WOW, you did really good Dave. We both laughed, but it got me thinking about how driven I can be sometimes, so much that I neglect the thing that I say is really important to me.

In the gospels we see Jesus interacting with all kinds of people, and from all walks of life. Whether he was surrounded by crowds all wanting his attention,  individual’s seeking him out for one on one time or people who were outsiders desperate for help, one thing is for sure, Jesus lived and breathed that Corinthians love. From what we read,  people didn’t always walk away from him excited and I reckon he may have found some interactions challenging, but he never allowed anything to stop him reflecting God.

So what gets in the way of you loving others like Jesus does? For me its a lack of patience when people catch me in the middle of a mission to get somewhere. I promise, as we invest in answering this question honestly and practice being like Christ when interacting with others, we will not regret it.

Peace to you

 

 

There isn’t always a boat to step out of, but plenty of comfort zone to get your feet wet…

Christians don’t always ask to be called out like Peter did that early morning on the boat. And we shouldn’t wait to be invited to step out in faith

I have been challenged by the story in Matthew 14:22-31. The disciples had been out all night on the boat that Jesus had sent them on and it was nearly dawn. They started to freak out as they thought they saw a ghost walking on the water. Jesus tells them to relax, “it’s just me” he says. What happens next is pretty amazing! Peter, (who knows what was going on in his head) calls out and asks Jesus to invite him out on the water with him. Peter then starts to walk on the wet only to be spooked by the wind and starts to sink. He cries for help and he receives it.

It’s not the part where Peter deliberately asks Jesus to call him out, or even that he stops focusing on Christ which causes him to sink that has got me thinking. There is no boat but there is plenty of comfort zone, and I haven’t gone out of my way asking him to invite me out to the unknown, but the fact that I have chosen to take following Jesus seriously, means that he is continuously saying “come”. I have recently entered a new season in my life, one that I know is going to shake things up, challenge old scripts in my head and heart, and force me to dig deeper into the word. Even though I have experienced many different forks in the road during my faith journey, making the choice to step out of what I know (or what I think I know) has never been easy. Each new chapter has meant pain and celebration. Lets be honest, who intentionally likes to be spiritually stretched. But its part of the package, when Jesus calls us down from the tree (or wherever you were staying out of reach) we also have a new membership in his Gym.

If you have any desire to Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2), and have made daily choices to seek first the kingdom of God, then you know that during these times of self-examination, the holy spirit will make you aware of areas on your life that need to be exposed to the light, the stuff that gets in the way of you becoming more like Christ. Unfortunately  God doesn’t always directly say “that’s got to go”, which means we need to trust that Jesus is standing in the unknown waiting for us, and will reach out and grab us like he did with peter when he started to drown. Scary stuff!

I don’t have a 5 point plan to navigate through this new season I am walking through, but If  I remind myself of how God has provided for me over the years, and instead of being anxious, bring my prayers to him and continuously ask for wisdom,  God gives me fuel to keep moving and I have a new perspective. But of course this is only true for me;-)

So if you are in a similar situation, then I want to encourage you.  Its easier to stay in the same comfy space, and harder to get out of it later if you have made your home there. Don’t keep putting it off, make small choices to participate in the growing that God is doing in you. The fruit that is produced from this, will not only spur you on, it will also give others the strength to step out in faith as well.

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Losing sight so you can see

If you are a Christian, that is, if you have had a revelation of who Jesus Christ is and what he did and continues to do for you through his death and resurrection and believe it, then I’m sure during your faith journey you have heard more than once that you are a new creation. If you have never been told or read these words during your walk then now is the time.

It was Paul who wrote the words in 2 Corinthians “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here”. He is responsible for a lot of the new testament writings and was a pretty full on dude. Sometimes we (The Church) can throw around Christianese phrases so much that they can appear to be less powerful when spoken, so we end up rolling our eyes and switch off. But I believe this is one of those often quoted scriptures that cannot be walked away from and ignored, even if you have experienced over use of it.

It has been a long time since my last blog post, I have had a lot going on in my life, but whenever I have thought about blogging again this has been what I wanted to write about. I have spent years struggling with the idea and truth that as a Christian I have been given a new life. One of the hardest truths for some Christians to walk in while understanding what it means to follow Christ I reckon. I Sometimes catch my self in the act of thinking, speaking and acting in a way that doesn’t reflect new anything, and then I start to wonder how many followers of Christ actually believe they are new creations.

If you are reading this and already rolling your eyes then pay no more attention to me. Paul who wrote the words knew exactly what he was talking about. He was a super religious guy who hated Christians and wanted to put an end to this new movement-passionately. In the book of Acts (9:1-2) its says that he was breathing murderous threats against the disciples. Stop now and go and read it for yourself. This guy was old school and was going to put a stop to anything new. As he was on his way to get more authority to continue his rampage, he had the privilege of meeting Jesus. The rest is history.

I have come to realise that in order for me to mature in my faith,  grow where I need to,  and pursue understanding in areas such as my vocation, spiritual gifts and how I can contribute to both the kingdom of God and the world I live in, then the words of Paul, and the impact that Jesus has had on my life combined are things I need to get a hold of, understand the significance and meditate on continuously. If I leave these 2 behind and chase after all the other stuff I will have the missed the point and end up frustrated and ineffective. I am committed to not just understanding the truth that i am a new creation in Christ, but also letting go of the old so the new stuff can flourish! Sheesh,  it is not easy and there are days where its easy to think what’s the point, its all to hard. But then i think of Paul.

Firstly his name was Saul before it was Paul, and the interaction he had with Jesus left him blind! The bible says he was without sight for 3 days, but after that from what we read he was certainly a new creation. I have no doubt there were struggles while he came to understand all that was going on, but from the new testament we can clearly see a guy who understood what it was like to be a new creation and had to deal with the old stuff as well. A new name, new identity, new role to play and a new understanding of God. This is what i want.

We are new creations because of Jesus, nothing else. The old has gone and the new is here. Clearly we also have a role to play as Christians when we enter into the family of God. We must participate in these truths by not ignoring them and doing all we can to understand, think differently and apply. Can those around you see that you are new creation? Or do you continue to hold on to the old leaving no room for anything new? What steps will you take next to ensure that like Paul, after being given new sight, you start a new life.

Peace to you!

When Valium isn’t enough

I stood on the side of the street in my own little world and heard a loud angry voice coming my way. As I looked up from sending a text, my eyes met with the guy who was crashing through the crowd of people. He came to a sudden halt and shouted at me “Do you know what you have just done”? I had no idea what he was talking about but as he came closer to a big smile appeared on his face. “You are a #@$%-ing human valium”! I laughed at this but he went on to share with me that someone had hurt him and caused him to get anxious and extremely angry. He said he wanted to kill someone but while walking past as soon as he saw me all the anger vanished and he felt at peace. We spoke for 30 min about his life, struggles and what he hoped for. I have been called many things but never a human valium.

Valium is used for anxiety. Valium can also be used to treat trembling, states of confusion or anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal. It is also used to treat panic attacks. I can see why people would turn to valium to relieve things that are hard to manage in their lives. With the recent events that have taken place in the world and all the stuff we that don’t hear about the need for medication will no doubt be on the rise. More than ever Christians need to be available to be a sort of medication to a world that is full of chaos and pain.

From the book of Matthew chapter 5

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Jesus is saying we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Yep, sometimes people will need medication to get through the day, but what would happen if we took seriously what Jesus is saying here. How would it impact us and others who come into contact with us? As I continue to work out my salvation on a daily basis, I am realizing more and more that my faith journey is not just about my relationship with Christ and the benefits of my internal transformation, but how the renewing of my mind will impact others.  This is not some new profound thought and doesn’t just apply to me. I believe there are many who are part of the body of Christ who are neglecting this part of running the race. Whatever the reasons for this happening, its time to take hold of the truth that Jesus is speaking about.

Salt enhances the flavour of food and is used to de-ice sidewalks after its been snowing. Light replaces darkness and allows people to see more clearly. Salt and light are good things, but when its Jesus Christ telling us that is what we are then its not just salt and light, its God fuelled. When I take the time to have dialogue with God I often pray and ask that I will see people and situations from a kingdom perspective, that I will see what Jesus sees.  Its amazing what takes place when we see with our spiritual eyes and ears.  Its even more profound what others see when we have committed ourselves to being available.

Straight up, the world needs some good flavour, and those who are walking on unstable ground need something to help them move forward.  and you only have to take a glimpse at the news or look at your  feed on Facebook to see that darkness and shadows are very real in this world,  and a light that can pierce that darkness needs to be present.  Thank God it is, Jesus is very much alive and we, the body of Christ are his hands, feet, ears and tongues. The bible says we have the mind of Christ so connect with him to be used, to be that person who counter attacks anxiety and causes people to feel at peace.

If you want this, to see the world differently and to see people as Jesus sees them, and most of all be the salt and light that he says we are, be prepared. Sometimes you wont like what you see, you may even grieve, but those who are seeking truth will see him in you and will often be drawn to you. Read the word, be in constant dialogue with the trinity and place yourselves in the company of others who can encourage and support you to be this God fuelled salt and light.

Thanks for dropping by and reading

Starving depression and feeding life instead

Since the death of Robin williams I have been involved in many conversations about depression and suicide. I myself suffered from this monster for a number of years and the depression did lead to thoughts of taking my own life. But I am still here. Being a follower of Jesus Christ and living with this illness is controversial to some and to others it’s something very real.

I am a big believer in the supernatural when it comes to the Christian journey, the benefits of being part of a family where your father just happens to be the creator of the universe, but all to often when it comes to the subject of illness, especially mental health, it’s ignored or forgotten, that because of the fall, our brokenness and the bodies we live in, well we are not immune to all pain. Amen to having the mind of Christ and to being a new creation but then there’s the issue of our humanness

Everyone’s journey is different, but I believe if your part of the body of Christ, then are are certainly things that one can do to not just simply survive during depression, but actually live as well. So what I’m about to say is not the only way but after years of struggling and working out how to seperate myself from depression while finding my place in the kingdom, I think it’s important for all Christians, especially those who are suffering, to hold on to certain things.

Isolation is a killer, when the shit hits the fan many people will isolate themselves and doing this is asking for trouble. I don’t think Christians are meant to be alone so when we make a choice to cut ourselves off from friends,family or church it creates an opportunity for the father of lies to move in an ransack our spiritual and mental lives. Self examination is less likely to take place and hopelessness moves in

Christian or not hope is a very powerful thing. I’m sure we have all met people who either say they have lost hope or they don’t bother hoping anymore. But when we are the ones that forget what hope looks like, well it can feel like your the walking dead. It’s important and awesome to have hope in the grace of God and our new life in Christ, but that stuff is even more powerful when we can see how that is connected to our human lives, vocation and using our gifts to contribute to the world. 

I spent years suffering and choosing to suffer alone but after I became a Christian I was introduced to community, allowing others to speak Into my life and learnt that I must participate in the process of sanctification. These things changed my life and I received much healing from past chaos, depression and patterns that were doing me no good. I’m in no way perfect and of course we all have our bad days but I would say
that making a choice to no longer isolate ourselves, holding on to hope and putting ourselves in a space where other Christians can encourage us, challenge us and walk beside us is a powerful weapon to counter attacking depression.

God never works in any particular order when it comes to this stuff, and he is always working in our lives, but sometimes we need to starve the things in out lives that that want to kill us-Depression, and instead feed the things that that will transform and save us-Hope, Community and life giving Choices.

If your reading this and you are suffering from depression then I want to encourage you. It’s worth holding on, you will benefit from making yourself vulnerable by allowing good people into your life and your contribution to the world and the body of Christ is needed. God knew you before you were conceived and knows you now and your life is worth living.

A time to climb

A dude climbs a tree to get the attention of a guy he must see, and he does so because maybe it’s the only way he can be seen.

It is Jesus that is passing through town, and not only does he acknowledge the short guy in the branches but he then invites himself to zacchaeus’s house to hang out.

In Luke 19:1-10 we read about a man who is a tax collector, a profession that would have no doubt made him a very lonely man. Oh he would have had plenty of cash to throw around, but it’s safe to say that his family would have been the only ones who may have benefited. He may as well of been a traitor to his people as long as he worked for the Romans.

Jesus sees zacchaeus and tells him to get down from the tree, but the reason for this request is not so Jesus can tell him off in front of the crowd for his dodgy career choice. 
Luke 19:5 NIV
[5] When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Once again Jesus turns everything upside down and shows that grace has more power than the law. And it’s because of this interaction that Zacchaeus announces that not only will he give much of his wealth to the poor but he will repay anyone who he has ripped off..times 4. Wow, after all that I wonder how much this guy would have had left in his pockets?

What could we possibly learn from this story in the gospel?
•Sometimes we may have to go out of our way to see Christ
•Whether we recognize the darkness in ourselves or not, Jesus will still call out, but not to shame or rebuke our behavior
•Any experience had with Jesus will challenge the way we see things and will often leave us with a choice to do things differently

We may not be tax collectors but we certainly do, think and say things that are dodgy towards others and even ourselves. But Christ calls us like he did Zacchaeus, not because of who we are but because of who he is…and sometimes you will need to put yourself in a position where a dialogue can be had