“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
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
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.
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!