Tag Archives: Love

Prayer – The “Aunty Nelly” factor…

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“You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.” Henri Nouwen

Aunty NellyMany years ago, as a young boy, I was dragged along by my parents to the Sunday afternoon tea ritual with my Aunty Nelly.  Numbed and damagedly bored by the conversation I would inwardly groan as the pointing finger of my Aunt rose in my direction.

“Why is he so big” she would say. Such a question simply opened up a black hole of despair in my vulnerable brain, but my Dad came to the rescue.

“He is big, because he eats lots of bread pudding…”

Arriving home after the ordeal, I looked up to my Dad and asked,

“Am I really big because of bread pudding?”

“No son,” he replied,

“The bread pudding was for your Aunty Nelly…You are big because I love you. It’s my loving that make’s you grow.”

With that he knelt down, gave me a hug and planted a big kiss on my forehead.

That lesson has stayed with me for decades. If you want to grow big, if you want to learn to pray, you must know that you are loved! It is not the “bread pudding” of quick fix, legalistic formulas and Christian jargon that will strengthen your spiritual muscle, but a simple surrendering to an intimate relation with your heavenly Father.

Jesus, at the very beginning of his ministry, models this prayer and life principle for us.

 “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22

When you pray, heaven opens and the Holy Spirit descends.Jesus being baptized

Prayer also begins a dialogue – it releases the voice of the Father carried on the wings of a dove. Hearing this voice is the basic essential for building a prayer life. Hear His voice speaking to you now, calming the storm of pain and suffering or invading the mundane monotony of yet another prayerless day.

“You are my son/daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

We all become heroes when we know we are loved.

Allow the kiss of the Holy Spirit to settle on your forehead, and let Him strengthen you for prayer. Don’t worry if you do not know what to pray in the beginning – such weakness is actually a great asset!

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26

Do you sometimes “groan” inwardly as you watch the news or see the madness of life around you? Do deep sighs nestle in your breast as you contemplate your own limits to living? Interpret the breath of God into such pain and find a prayer that even the greatest poet cannot pen.

Great groaners can become great prayers.

As you carry the longing up your own particular mountain of prayer, remember to hear the all sustaining voice that leads you upward.

In your pain and doubt you cry, “Do you love me, do you really love me?”

Choose to hear the “yes”

 

The Little River

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The little river said,little river

“I can become big river.”

It worked hard, but their was a big rock. The river said, “I’m going to get around this rock.” The little river pushed and pushed, and since it had a lot of strength, it got itself around the rock.

Soon the river faced a big wall, and the river kept pushing this wall. Eventually, the river made a canyon and carved a way through. The growing river said, “I can do it. I can push it. I am not going to give up for anything.”

Then there was an enormous forest. The river said, “I’ll go ahead anyway and just force these trees down.” And the river did.

The river, now powerful, stood on the edge of an enormous desert with the sun beating down. The river said, “I’m going to go through this desert.” But the hot sand soon began to soak up the whole river. The river said, “Oh, no. I’m going to do it. I’m going to get myself through this desert.” But the river soon drained into the sand until it was only a small mud pool.

Then the river heard a voice from above. “Just surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.” The river said,

“Here I am.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun then lifted up the river and made the river into a huge cloud. He carried the river right over the desert and let the cloud rain down and make the fields far away fruitful and rich.

There is a moment in our life when we stand before the desert and want to do it ourselves. But there is the voice that comes,

“Let go. Surrender. I will make you fruitful. Yes, trust me. Give yourself to me.

What counts in your life and mine is not successes but fruits. The fruits of your life you might not see yourself. The fruits of your life are born often in your pain and in your vulnerability and in your losses. The fruits of your life come only after the plow has carved through your land. God wants you to be fruitful.

The question is not, “How much can I still do in the years that are left to me?” The question is,

“How can I prepare myself for total surrender so my life can be fruitful?”

Our little lives are small, human lives. But in the eyes of the One who calls us the beloved, we are great-greater than the years we have. We will bear fruits, fruits that you and I will not see on this earth but in which we can trust.

Solitude, community ministry-these disciplines help us live a fruitful life. Remain in Jesus; he remains in you. You will bear many fruits, you will have great joy, and your joy will be complete.

Inspirational snippets from Henri Nouwen

Silence and Alliance…

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“In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”    Psalm 4:4

 Anger, frustration and agitation often find their source in inner wounds. Aristotle noted that:

“man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all”,

indicating the terrible potential we possess to inflict hurt on one another. Our words betray our inner scars as we justify in the subtlest of ways how we became a hero or victim; how we trampled on or were trampled over. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth so often speaks.

Anger, gossip and moaning are the most easily observable but even the most sophisticated theology can be tainted by inner pain and abuse. These feelings need to be released and we all need an ear or a platform. Strong emotions often bubble up like stew in a pressure cooker and we find ourselves waking up in the night with a head full of anxious thoughts ready to explode. This is when it is very easy and natural to sin! We can be so desperate to get some release that even wallowing in the mud with the pigs seems preferable to pain. The journey to addiction begins for many. How many works and churches have divided because the anger of the midnight hour was channeled into the criticism of a brother or sister, crucifying charity and embracing paranoid lies?

Don’t choose sin! Search your heart with your heavenly comforter. Persevere in silent communion with Jesus rather than opting for the cheap release that the abundance of words or activities brings.

In one line –

“Learn to meditate deeply on the healing word of the Lord.”

 Many of our problems find their source in an abandonment of the warm relation with God’s Holy Living Word. On a cold day in the north of France I love to come home and sit in front of our warm fire. It brings me peace and relaxation. In the same way the word of God is a fire to our cold hearts. We must learn to bask daily in its warmth. Practice silence and God’s Word rather than the noise of your own words and explanations for everything.

God calms us down with His love.

 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love,he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph 3:17

He heals us and brings us to the place of security and satisfaction.

 My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore. Psalm 131

God calms us down to speak His promises into our lives. His promise is more than just words. It is a covenant, an alliance based on an indestructible love relation. Jesus took the Jewish Passover cup and proclaimed:

“Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Drink deep from the covenant promises. This is a vast field of study but I’d like to simply encourage you to meditate on two “Alliance” words from Isaiah 54:10.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

 Hesed and Shalom.  Peace and love before John Lennon! Look up the wider meaning of these words if you can. Solidarity, loyalty and friendship. Nothing missing; nothing broken!

I’ll leave the last words to the erudite renditions of messieurs Henry and Gill.

 “but my kindness shall not depart from thee; the love of God to his people is an everlasting love; it always continues; it never did, nor never will depart, notwithstanding their fall in Adam, their depraved state by nature, their actual sins and transgressions, their many revoltings and backslidings; though the Lord may hide his face from them, and afflict them, still he loves them; whatever departs from them, his kindness shall not; though riches may flee away from them, friends stand aloof off from them, health may be taken away, and life itself, yet the love of God is always the same; and so, whatever providences may attend his church and interest in any period of time, he has the same paternal care for it, and kindness for his people, as ever:”    Gill

“Therefore the covenant is immovable and inviolable, because it is built not on our merit, which is a mutable uncertain thing, but on God’s mercy, which is from everlasting to everlasting.”  M. Henry

May you be blessed in the midst of your many revoltings!

 

Go now and leave your life of sin…

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Is it really possible to “love the sinner but hate the sin?” It was probably St Augustin who first coined this phrase when writing, in parenthesis, to a few nuns: “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which translates roughly to, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”

Is it possible to separate the actual person from their sin? In our righteous anger at sin, are we not in danger of becoming people haters as well?  D.H Lawrence in his short story, Daughters of the Vicar, gives a vivid description of a minister’s decline into such hatred.

“At last, passing from indignation to silent resentment, even, if he dared have acknowledged it, to conscious hatred of the majority of his flock, and unconscious hatred of himself, he confined his activities to a narrow round of cottages, and he had to submit. He had no particular character, having always depended on his position in society to give him position among men. Now he was so poor, he had no social standing even among the common vulgar tradespeople of the district, and he had not the nature nor the wish to make his society agreeable to them, nor the strength to impose himself where he would have liked to be recognised. He dragged on, pale and miserable and neutral.”

Perhaps one of the keys here lies in the “unconscious” self-hatred. The apostle Paul, writing in Romans 7, didn’t seem to see “sin” as a separate entity out there somewhere, but as an intimate indwelling part of his very make up.

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

He hated himself for it!

“For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Can we hear the cries to be rescued rising up within and around us?

You don’t throw a stone at a person who wants to be rescued. You throw a life line!

There are only two types of people in the world – man and woman, gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor, good and bad? No…the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 2:15:

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Those who are “being saved” from the sin and hate, and those who “are perishing.”

We desperately need a Saviour – and like St Paul we can cry, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The ultimate fragrance of salvation and forgiveness of sins was released from the crucified body of Christ as His blood paid the full price for all of mankind’s sin. God’s absolute hatred for sin fell on the sinless innocence of Christ.

We can be rescued by faith in Jesus!

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance(and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” 1Timothy 4:9-10

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The lifeline of Jesus is available to a perishing world.

There is a beautiful story of Jesus’ encounter in the gospel of John 8:1-11 with a woman caught in adultery.

The religious establishment is poised to stone the sin – and no doubt the woman along with it! Jesus exposes their own need to be free from sin, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” and the stones are quietly dropped.

He alone has the right to throw, but he extends stone less hands of embrace to the broken lady. She looks up with a brow used to habitual beatings from men and is astonished to meet the forgiving gaze of Christ’s love. “Neither do I condemn you.”

She feels his strong supporting hand pull her gently to her feet, a pure masculine touch that is all give and no take. For once in her life she finds acceptance and grace. She can learn to live again.

Having manifested the surpassing power of his love, He speaks the word of truth over her negative lifestyle.

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Having encountered Jesus, that must have been the one piece of advice she really wanted to take!

This is the position the church, the Body of Christ, must take up to reach out to the perishing and broken. Put your stones and hate on the back burner and liberate the perfume of Christ’s grace and forgiveness through the Gospel message.

And with all the love shed abroad, don’t forget the essential advice to turn away from sin and live close to Christ.

So, immensely love the sinner, and create a discipling context for the turning away from sin.

I’ve added a video to finish which is a bit of a mixture of many Biblical passages but which sums up the essence of Christ’s forgiveness.

 

Sonship, grace and destiny…

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 Mission and service do not begin with a verb! They begin with a relationship.

All too often we quote the word “Go!”, forgetting that,

When they saw him, they worshipped him;”

 The Father in the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21:28 also uses the verb “go.” However he precedes the verb with a relationship.

“Son, go and work today in the vineyard.”

It is no use going and getting on with it if we haven’t had a clear revelation of our preciousness as sons and daughters of a loving Father. This principle was manifested in Jesus’ own life. He went into the waters of baptism and,

“as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 This “Spirit baptism” brings a revelation of sonship. In the same way, we also need to be renewed in the revelation of God’s Fatherhood in order to fully accomplish the works which he has prepared in advance for us to do. Perhaps the first sign of being truly filled with the Holy Spirit is to do with “hearing” rather than speaking.

Do you hear the Father affirming you as a loved son or daughter?

Without this revelation our service can be full of fear and duty. The famous verses from Romans prove an effective remedy to such slavish toil.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.”

 The apostle Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed or fearful but to boldly suffer for the gospel,

by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

Grace and destiny, two pillars of strength for our Christian walk.

What is my destiny? A verb, a relation or a vocation? Try these two biblical destinies.

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

 “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…to the praise of his glorious grace.”

 We are called to be “grace in action” truly “charismatic”. And we need such active grace if we are to become like Jesus.

Paul’s missionary endeavours hung on his capacity to understand and receive grace. For him, grace was much more than a sort of “mess up, clean up” agent. It was his motivation and strength.

“…and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

 Have you learned the secret of the “yet not I, but the grace?”

Where were you before you were born ?

God says to the prophet Jeremiah:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

Before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

 Are you secure in God’s passionate prognosis ? His fantastic foreknowing.

I have forever existed in God’s intention which is now manifest in space and time. Faith in Christ and obedience to the Holy Spirit brings a fruitful collaboration with the divine intention.

Don’t get too focused on the problem of sin. We are not called to be under the yoke of condemnation, begging a few morsels of hope through our contrition but we,

“who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness”, are called to reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”

 Remember that,

“where sin increased, grace increased all the more…”

 My prayer is that through these few lines God will renew you in the fundamentals of adoption grace and destiny. Receive a fresh baptism in the Spirit and hear that you are His precious son or daughter.

You are not a failure, He is well pleased with you !

I’ll finish by encouraging you to meditate on Paul’s personal missionary testimony to the Galatians which is soaked in the security of destiny, inspired by grace and caressed with the revelation of sonship.

“But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…I went immediately…”