I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Over the past couple of months, we have been living through a kitchen renovation. As part of that renovation, doorways have been removed and the curved archways that date the home have been squared up and replastered ready for a coat of paint. A few weeks ago, I decided to prime the gyprock and repaint the walls using the leftover paint that was still stored in the garage from repair work that happened when the ceiling caved in during a storm (that’s another story)! I checked the colour. I looked at the label. Hogsbristle Half Strength. I was ready to go. I cut in the edges, rolled the walls where it was needed to blend into the existing paintwork and waited for the first coat to dry. An hour or so later, I went to admire my handiwork and discovered two different colours on the wall. The freshly painted walls were darker than the existing walls. I rechecked the label and it was definitely half strength. But a visit to my local paint centre confirmed that while the label said one thing, the contents of the tin were actually another - full strength Hogsbristle! A slight change in the measure of tint added to the paint made all the difference to how it looked on the wall. It was obvious to everyone who saw it.
It got me thinking about our lives as Christians. So often, we want to blend into the world around us. We don’t want to stand out, be noticed, or draw attention to ourselves. What often happens is that the contents of our lives are different from the label we bear. Christ wants the label and the contents to match. Rather than trying to blend in, Christ wants us to be different; to be part of his transforming work in the world. Just as adding tint to a tin of paint changes the whole colour, a life that is tinted with Christ, will be transformed. Christ in you, changes you. Christ in you colours you. Christ in you is noticeable! A tint of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ reduces the darkness of the world around you. A tint of his love in you, transforms the feel of every room you enter. A tint of his mercy and grace in you, poured out on the lives of others will be evident for the whole world to see. Christ wants what is on the label, his life in you, to bring a totally new look to every room and space that he uses you in. Christ in you, is the right measure of tint in every situation!
How has the tint of Christ transformed your life and how can you let it permeate more and more of your life?
Lord Jesus, more of you and less of me. Add the right measure of tint to my life that as you pour me out in the world, it may be visibly noticeable and bring light and life to every place. Amen.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
One of the blessings of the COVID-19 isolation time is that many people have found time to do projects around the home that have remained undone for a long time. For me, that was fixing the half-a dozen mowers/brushcutters given to me, that were taking up too much space up in my garage. I just hadn’t found the time needed to fix them and move them on.
Small engines can be temperamental at the best of times. When they haven’t been used in a while, they can be downright frustrating. You pull and pull and pull and it gives you nothing. Sometimes you might get a brief sign of life but then all you end up with is a sore arm. It doesn’t matter how many times you pull the start cord, berate or kick the machine, it will not roar into life. But on a lot of small engines, they have a little button called a primer bulb. When you press it down, usually three times, it draws fuel from the tank into the carburettor to give a bit extra petrol to enable combustion and kickstart the engine so that it can roar into life.
It’s this action of priming the engine that comes to mind as we try and get life kickstarted again. It was like Covid-19 suddenly starved the engine of our lives of fuel and we came to a sudden halt. Now after a couple of months of being stuck in the garage, we are ready to get out and get the engines running again. But kickstarting the engine can sometimes be hard. Maybe you have settled into a different routine with your time - working from home, curling up on the couch with a remote in the hand – and there is a reluctance to go back to the way things were? Perhaps, you are being cautious and the wisdom you share is simply because deep down you are afraid something might happen and you’ll get sick? Or that no sooner than you restart and build some momentum, that your life will shutdown again? Business’, charities, churches and individuals are facing those very issues all across the globe at this present time.
One of the mowers in my garage had been sitting for so long without use, that the fuel had caramelised in the carburettor bowl. It simply would not start. But a good clean out of the fuel system, new fuel and three pushes on the primer bulb, and the mower roared into life. Could God be using this time to prime the engine of your heart so that you are ready to serve and love in a new way? Could God be letting you rest for a while; transitioning and cleansing your life in order to launch you out into the world, where the lawn has grown long in this time of uncertainty? Get ready, for there is work to be done, a harvest to be reaped and there is no engine that God cannot fix and get going again. Your primer bulb may just about to be pushed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, your starter cord pulled, and your life about to ignite with a power that will get you moving. Are you ready? A brand new day is here, the garage door is lifting up, and God has chosen you to be a part of bringing new life to the world.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ignite my life with power and love that I may go and complete the work you have prepared for me to do. Amen.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:3-4
“Nation on fire”. “Fire…fire…fire…night of terror…” “Violence erupts…” “Global anger grows…” “Anger still burns on the ground…” These are the headlines that we have woken up to each day over the last week in response to the death of George Floyd in the U.S.A. The impact has been widespread and worldwide. We have witnessed both the refining and destructive properties of fire as we have seen people on fire for justice and reform on the one hand, but with retribution and violence on the other. We have heard words of healing and peace that unite and bring together and careless words that have opened wounds, inflicted hurt and caused division.
Globally, there is simmering tension between countries, nationally, there is a divide between States and Territories over how to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic and now on top of that we have a recession to deal with. We are living in a world that is full of deep and painful hurt, repressed and expressed anger, silent and voiced suffering.
Against this backdrop, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the first Pentecost takes on renewed significance. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church was filled with courage and boldness to speak truth into a world of hurt, anger and suffering. Aflame with the Holy Spirit, the disciples were pushed out of the confines of their four walls to do life with all cultures and proclaim the good news of a crucified Saviour who loves us equally and draws us together in unity. Empowered by the Spirit who gives wisdom and understanding, believers were able to present the Gospel in a way that the hearers could connect with and desire in their own lives. Fuelled by the Spirit, the early Christians came alongside and advocated for those marginalised, in need, and experiencing injustice, to reveal a God who cares, is present and acts with justice to restore and reconcile the world to himself. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church became a witness to the power of love that alone can transform the ugliness of the human heart into something that is beautiful and brings joy and delight to the world.
More than ever, the world needs a Church that is on fire with the Holy Spirit; aflame with passion, fuelled with love, and burning with conviction and a desire to proclaim the truth of a God who alone brings life and peace and gives hope and certainty. Will you let him set you on fire for the sake of the world he passionately loves?
Come Holy Spirit, set me on fire that I may move with passion for your Kingdom purposes and be a part of your transforming work that brings healing, reconciliation, peace, justice, truth, forgiveness and unity in this world. Amen.
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17
What does it take to get some things through to you? A tragedy? A near miss? A stern word? A phone call out of the blue? How many times do you need to be told something before it sinks in? Those are the questions that I have been pondering this week as I stare at three sinks, stacked one on top of the other, on the floor of our half renovated kitchen.
It shouldn’t have been that hard. A sink was chosen, ordered and delivered. It’s just that the sink in the box didn’t match the sink depicted on the box. It was the same the second time. The third time around, you would have thought it would be checked and rechecked. Much to our dismay, the third sink with the dimensions of the sink clearly printed on the outside, could not have possibly fit in the size of box that it was delivered in. You can imagine the sinking feeling we experienced, when we opened the box to discover the wrong sink again, adding a two week delay to finishing the renovation. How many times do you need to tell people something before it sinks in?
How many times? Peter had that sinking feeling on a number of fronts when Jesus asked him the same question three times after the resurrection, “Do you love me?” How many times do you think Peter had kicked himself for his failure a few days before? How many times do you think he had relived the decision he made to deny Jesus beside that charcoal fire?’ Peter was hurt. The text tells us that. He was also hurting. Yet Jesus came to Peter and asked him three times, beside another charcoal fire, about the genuineness of his love. It wasn’t to shame him, but to reclaim him. To reaffirm his calling. To remind him of his purpose. Jesus wants Peter to grasp the reality of grace that renews, restores, revives and sends with a promise that it won’t ever give up on him, even in failure.
Do you need to be reminded of that today? Are you walking around with a sinking feeling in your gut because of guilt or shame? Are you down on yourself because of past or present failures? Are you struggling to let God’s love be absorbed in your heart? Then let this sink in. Jesus loves you and nothing you do will change that. The cross is a living demonstration of his commitment to you. His resurrection is proof that his grace will not give up on you - even when you fail, even when you mess up, even when your words don’t match your actions. Jesus will keep on declaring day after day his unfailing love for you, his ongoing delight in you, and his enduring calling and purpose for you until it sinks in. No matter how many times it takes to get through, no matter how much reminding you need, Jesus will not let up until it penetrates your mind, is absorbed into your heart and transforms the way you live day after day.
Lord Jesus, may the depth of your enduring love for me sink in and transform my life each day. Amen.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. Mark 6:50b-51a
It was a day I remember vividly. Sails up, sun shining, water smooth; a beautiful day on the water up at Nelson Bay. There is nothing more relaxing and energising. But that all changed in an instant. Clouds rolled in, blocking the sun and swallowing its rays of light. The wind picked up to push the smooth waters to choppy white caps, which morphed into mountains of angry waves. The mood on the yacht mirrored the darkened sky as the captain struggled to keep the trailer sailer upright; the wind spinning the vessel sideways into the crashing waves. I grabbed whatever rope I could hang on to with one hand, my other arm trying to embrace and protect my young son. Caught in a boat in the middle of a flash storm, there were more than a few anxious moments.
In many ways, the last six months of life have felt like that. From drought, to smoke and bushfires and now to COVID-19, it’s like we have been hit with one storm after another. Every individual and family is trying to work out how to navigate through the torrential deluge that is obscuring our vision and threatening to drown the world. But as an insightful piece on social media says, ‘We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be…We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.’
That’s so important to remember. We may all be in this together but that doesn’t mean we are going through the same thing. Some panicked when the clouds appeared, and battened down the hatches early. Some have been in boats large enough and stable enough to ride out the storm pretty well. There may have been some tense moments as people adjusted to living with others in confined spaces for extended periods, but generally they are doing okay. For others their fishing boat, which has brought in enough income to provide for their family, has suddenly lost an engine leaving them stranded and powerless and running adrift. It’s been an incredible frightening time as they are at the mercy of the waves and in danger of losing everything. Some have had to let go valued crew of their ship and it has weighed heavy on their heart. Others have had to take on extra duties like online schooling on top of trying to understand their position on the new navigational charts of employment. Still others were rowing through this storm in a double kayak but lost their partner overboard and have had to brave the elements by themselves. Some have hit the rocks. Others have capsized. Some are taking on water and sinking fast. We are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat.
Whatever boat you are trying to navigate this storm in, Jesus sees you straining. He knows your fear and his word to you is the same as it was to the disciples when they were caught in a sudden storm. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid. You are not alone in the storm. Jesus comes to you. He will step into the boat to be with you and remain with you in the storm. His presence will bring calm. For Jesus alone knows the full havoc storms create. He has not only witnessed it, he has endured the worst storms that life can bring and overcome them. He promises the same to you. The storms will pass, the sun will shine. His presence with you will remain.
Lord Jesus, reveal yourself to me again in this storm, that I may know the peace of your presence with me. Amen.
Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:17-18
It began as a simple pruning exercise; the cutting back of the bottle brush in the side garden of our driveway. It’s graceful drooping branches were still flowering, the tufted clusters of red spikes that resemble a round brush adding a cheerful welcome to the home. But there were a few dead branches that stood in stark contrast to the surrounding colour, so I grabbed the pruning saw and started to trim.
One cut led to another and the more I cut, the more I realised the beautiful tree that graced our driveway was in fact alive but dead. The red flowers gave the impression the tree was fully living. The green foliage fooled me into thinking that everything was okay. But beneath the surface, there were white ants eating away the very life of the tree leaving the branches hollow and empty. It was only a matter of time before the whole tree revealed the truth of the tree’s condition; that it was dead at the core.
It seems that this period of enforced isolation has revealed the true nature of things for many people. The things to which we gravitate to add the colour of life – work, socialising, going out, extended family, church, activities – have been taken away by COVID-19 and left a few dead twigs in the process. The isolation has forced many to acknowledge the things that have been white-anting their lives and gradually eating away at their core. The more that has been trimmed or cut from their lives, the more they have realised the hollowness or emptiness that exists; that the foliage of life has masked the true condition of the heart.
Whatever is eating away at your core - frustration, disappointment, broken dreams, anger, bitterness pride. Whatever is making you feel hollow, empty or is sucking the colour out of your life making you feel dead on the inside, Jesus comes and puts his hand on you and says, ‘Don’t be afraid’. His death and resurrection for you brings with it the promise of life forever. It’s a grace that will add permanent colour to your life and beauty to your home. It’s a life that fills every empty and hollow place with overflowing love. It’s a love that adds foliage and contrast to every branch of your life and brings joy to all who stop to look at you. There’s no need to be alive but dead because Jesus takes what is dead and makes it truly alive. That’s what he wants to do for you too.
As for my garden bed…it also has been through a transformation that once more is full of life and a beauty that welcomes me home each day.
Lord Jesus, I need your life in me. Come and transform all the dead parts of my life with your life that lasts forever. Amen.
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT)
The global upheaval caused by the Coronavirus crisis has been huge. Nations have been shut-down, airlines grounded, industries closed, job losses huge, panic widespread. Yet in the midst of this crisis and upheaval, we have seen an incredible outpouring of creativity and innovation. From the couple on the cruise ship who heated their hot cross buns with an iron, to hands-free door openers that can be 3D-printed, to face masks made out of air conditioning filters, we have seen companies and individuals pivot and adapt to the changing times with amazing ingenuity. Necessity is the mother of invention. It is also the mother of adaptation.
It’s been no different for the Church. Who would have thought that less than two months ago, nearly every Church would embrace technology to the degree they have in May 2020? Churches have been forced to innovate and adapt to pre-existing ways that were previously untested or untried, whether it is connecting through meeting apps, live streaming or pre-recorded services, or interactive Bible Studies online. But it is not just about finding a different medium to deliver the same content, it’s about exploring new ways to engage and interact with a group of people previously unknown. It’s been a challenging and exciting shift, and a missional opportunity which I have not encountered in 25 years of ministry.
Times like this remind me how amazing God is. His Word is living, dynamic and able to speak into and give clarity in every situation, especially times that are changing. Take these verses from Isaiah for example. They were written at a time when Judah was suffering under Babylonian exile. The people were wavering, discouraged and stuck in the past, pining for what they once had. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminds them of his great works in the past – when he made a way through the Red Sea for the people to cross through safely. He reminds them how he defeated the power of the Egyptians so that they could trust that he would do the same with the Babylonians. Then he says something extraordinary - forget all those things, it’s nothing compared to what I am going to do. Look forward people with expectation of the new thing that God is going to do. To top it off, he gives them a promise - between the past and the future, in times where you are in the wilderness of struggle, I will protect and guide you in the present journey and lead you to the new thing I am doing.
What an encouragement for us in these times. I wonder…can we use this time of suffering, struggle and isolation to dream and be creative like never before? To look around and see the ‘new thing’ that God is going to do? Our God who never changes, whose word we can trust, is at work in changing times. He is active behind the scenes to bring about new life in the midst of death, new beginnings in the midst of closed doors, new opportunities when we are pining for things to go back to normal. He is at work in his Church, through his people, finding creative ways to get the Word out there, inspiring imaginations to come up with innovative ways to use technology to connect and build community in amazing ways. But I wonder…is there more? Keep your eyes open and your hearts responsive to what God reveals in these days…for you may just be a part of a new thing he is doing.
Lord God, take and minds and think through them, take our imaginations and flow through them, take our dreaming and be creative through them that we may be a part of the new thing you are doing in and through your Church in these times. Amen.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4
From the moment we starting talking, I knew that this was a holy moment. Every word spoken was evidence of a life immersed in God’s grace and prayer. Every thought shared was testimony to a deep conviction and trust in her risen and reigning Lord. It was a moment that was different from the world; a set apart moment, a ‘holy’ moment where the light of God’s presence shined so beautifully and brightly in a world of uncertainty.
I wonder…are you in need of a ‘holy’ moment in your life at this present time. A moment of hope in this time of uncertainty? A moment of clarity in this world of confusion? A moment of courage in a culture of fear? It seems to me that we could all use that ‘holy’ moment right now. Let me share one with you today.
‘There’s no fear on this road.’ That was the ‘holy’ moment. She was sharing about the last weeks of life with her husband and how special that time was. Both of them knew that the time was coming. After a long battle with cancer, the body was starting to go into shutdown. Her husband would tell her that he couldn’t stop the shaking on the inside. ‘Why don’t you lie down on the bed, and I’ll hold you’ she would say to her lifelong companion. As she held him and rubbed his back, she would remind him ‘There’s no fear on this road.’
There’s no fear on this road. When you believe the certainty of the resurrection, there is no fear on the road of death. There’s no fear on the journey to your heavenly home for the worst that life can throw at you, will never be the ultimate word in your life. There’s no fear on this road, for with Jesus, our Good Shepherd, we never travel the road of this world alone. That’s why David can say, Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Even though I can’t see a way forward at the moment, even though I’m confused about how I am going to get through ______ (you fill in the blank), even though my journey is tough going in the present, there’s no fear on this road.
Maybe you are feeling a little anxious at the moment. Maybe you are shaking on the inside. Maybe your stomach is in a knot and filled with dread because everything in your life seems overwhelming. Then perhaps it is time to lie down for a while and let Jesus hold you. Perhaps it’s time for a holy moment as Jesus rubs your back and whispers in your ear: ‘There’s no fear on this road.’
Lord Jesus, thank you for the certainty that your resurrection gives me, no matter what the day or week or months ahead bring; that there’s no fear on your road, for you are right there with me. Amen.
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
After a long flight, there is nothing more soothing than a nice hot shower to reenergize the body. The only problem was there was no hot water. It was tepid at best. Not to worry, I showered, shaved and met together with the team to go out for a meal. The next morning I jumped into the shower, anticipating the day ahead and now the water was cold. Not lukewarm but stone cold. I mentioned it to the hotel staff on the way out that morning – they promised to look into it. But that night, nothing had changed. The water was still cold. It was so frustrating and I was annoyed.
But as I quickly washed off in the freezing water, I had a heart check moment. There was a part of me that wanted to storm down to the hotel reception and demand to move to another room where there was a hot shower. There was a part of me that wanted to complain because I was not getting what I had paid for or deserved. But maybe the cold water woke me up. Maybe the cold water was just what I needed to come to my senses. For while I didn’t have hot water, I had clean water to wash in. Millions in the world do not. While I could walk out into a clean hotel room, there are millions who have no place to call home and to rest safely.
How easy it is to develop an attitude of entitlement. To believe that we deserve privileges or special treatment, or that we have the right to something. This feeling or thought that, “I deserve better. I deserve more. I deserve it all. I’m entitled to more than I’m getting.”
Do you live with an entitlement attitude? Is it lurking in the shadows of your heart? Do you ever find yourself complaining about what you don’t have, rather than being thankful for what you do have? Do you feel discontent or disappointed with what life has served you? Do you ever compare yourself to others and what they have and become resentful? Do you ever doubt God’s provision in your life? These are just some of the ways that an attitude of entitlement shows up in our life.
When we notice that in ourselves, maybe it’s time to have a cold shower. To wake up and remind ourselves that we deserve nothing, but God in his grace gives us everything. We deserve punishment for our sin, God in Christ gives forgives our sin. We deserve eternal death, God in Christ gives us eternal life. Jesus, as truly God, was rightly entitled to everything. Yet as Paul reminds us, he chose to give up all he was entitled to, every divine privilege so we could experience everything his grace affords those who are not entitled to anything – a share in his glory.
As for my shower, it continued to be cold for four days before I experienced a drop of hot water. But I’m thankful for cold showers and how God used it to reveal more of himself to me and the life he desires to see in me.
TO PONDER: Where in your life have you developed a heart of entitlement rather than a heart of thankfulness and contentment?
Lord Jesus, you were willing to give up all your entitlements to give me everything. Give me a grateful, thankful heart for all you bless me with day after day. Amen