Crossroads

This is not an easy post to write.  In fact I have spent the last week struggling more and more over the subject of this post.  I find myself at a crossroads with regards to having started this blog, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, praying, crying, wondering, arguing and generally getting quite worked up!  I’m still not 100% sure I want to share this but… here goes.

One night at the start of the week a number of circumstances combined in such a way that I found myself very vulnerable – mentally, emotionally and therefore spiritually.  I have hinted in my “About” page of the dramatic change that recently came about in myself and, well, suffice to say there was a bit of a battle going on over some old thoughts and attitudes.  In the midst of this angst I wrote the following note on my iPad which I share here, edited only to remove the anger/tear driven typos….

“A late night post. Not such a good idea.  Many reasons why it isn’t a good idea but I can’t share them with you.

You see, that’s the point. I can’t share.

I am at the moment totally captivated by Beauty beyond Bones.  My spirit – in tune with His Spirit – is completely overwhelmed with her beauty.  Her courage.  Her strength. The things that she shares are life giving to so many. Those lost in the mire of an eating disorder, as well as others caught in depression or addiction. Such a powerful ministry.

But you know what? She has chosen to remain anonymous for now and I don’t blame her. The sad, sad, SAD truth is that we judge.  Us humans.  Even us Christians. Maybe especially us Christians.

We who have been forgiven so much.  Who have “got it”.  Who have come to understand what we have been redeemed from.  We who have met our Saviour.  Fallen at His feet. Received forgiveness.

Still we judge.

Many years ago, decades ago, at another church, we met a man out on life parole. Saved whilst in jail.  He who had taken a life had received eternal life and forgiveness for ALL his sin.  Do you know something? We were one of the few in that church who truly welcomed him. Yes most said the right things.  Chatted to him.  Prayed with him. But not many offered him unconditional friendship as we did.  He house sat for us when we went on holiday. He even babysat for us. Others were shocked! How could we trust him?!  Didn’t we know what he’d done?!  Although he had become a Christian, didn’t we think it was a little naive to be so trusting?

Er. Hello? Saved? Forgiven? Redeemed? Justified? Sound familiar?

I might not have killed someone directly by my actions, but I’ve wished someone dead. My actions have actually been part of someone “dying” emotionally too. Jesus said that if I think it, it is the same as doing it in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). So who am I to judge?

Really, truthfully, we humans just can’t get our heads around the fact that all have fallen short (Romans 3:23). That it doesn’t matter how,  just the fact that we are unrighteous. We have no right to stand before God on our own merit.

Even the most “goodly” among us. The “saints”. The ones documentaries are made of. The ones whose stories we share on social media.

Not even them. They are hell bent without God. Unrighteous.

Only by God’s grace and accepting our redemption through Christ can we stand before Him (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  Any of us.  All of us.

Why am I writing this?  Because it occurs to me tonight that I could write of struggles and battles that I have had, and am having, that could help others.  In fact, I know that part of God working all things together for my good is to allow Him to use those experiences to feed my mercy heart, to allow me to stand in empathy, to bring encouragement and direction to others walking a similar road.

But I’m not.  Because I’m scared. Because I have linked this blog to who I am in the “real” world.  Because people who know me, whom I see every Sunday, may read it. And they may judge. They may never look at me the same if I share. If they know. If I am that open.

How sad is that? Scared how my fellow Christians may react to me if they “only knew”?

I need to think and pray over this more. I need to decide who I am wanting to please and what my purpose is in writing this blog.”

You see the dilemma?  This morning in my quiet time I argued again with God about putting this up.  I really wanted to know if this is what He wants me to do.  For Him, I am willing to sacrifice and to bare all (how could I not?) but for no other reason because, frankly, I know it could hurt and none of us intentionally cause ourselves pain.

An analogy came to me that has led me to to the decision to put this post up after all.

An amputee goes for physio to learn how to function with a prosthesis, or maybe how to function without one.  The physio is always “able bodied”.  We accept that.  There is a place for that (in this comparison, this is the Bible teacher we may follow who has a strength we don’t have, a position we can’t share, but one that can nevertheless bless us and bring us somewhere new).

However, if that amputee needs support, encouragement, understanding, inspiration, the programme or help group that will probably be the most beneficial is one made up of other amputees.  Yes they may sit there and think “huh, what do YOU know, you only lost ONE arm I lost TWO” but generally speaking, in their heart, they know and acknowledge the right of the person to speak into their life and say “it isn’t over, you CAN do this” because they are on the same journey – just a little further down the road.

A support group for people who have suffer a miscarriage is no use if run by someone who hasn’t been there.  Unless you have known the battle with an ED then you could never even come close to understanding and supporting someone else who is.  A cancer survivor offers more hope and inspiration to the newly diagnosed that any doctor, friend or family member can who hasn’t faced it.

So, basically, here it is.  I have decided to be as open and as honest as God calls me to be about my past, and about any present struggles, in order to encourage and support any out there facing the same.  I love to write.  I have been writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose since I was first able to write.  Writing for me comes straight from my heart so if I am to write, I need to be free to do just that.

I hope that my readers are ok with that..

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No Longer A Slave

The relationship between a dog and its owner is often used to exemplify devotion – to the extreme, the whipped dog that still comes back. However sitting here of a morning watching owners walking their dogs, I get a different story.

Owners walk across the sands when the tide is out, throwing a ball for their dog to catch.  Often their dog enthusiastically chases after the ball, time and time again.  But I also see the dogs that start to run off – then stop, either bored, tired or distracted by something more interesting.  I see dogs that will happily go into the waves to fetch a ball – but also others who stop at the edge, looking back at their master (who sometimes, to my amusement, end up taking off socks and shoes to wade in and retrieve the ball, watched by their dog…!)

Most often the word Scripture uses that we translate “servant” actually means slave.  The slave/master relationship is one that makes us uncomfortable in our modern lives.  But really and truly it is the right one to fit our relationship with God. We were, after all, bought with a price. Redeemed. Our debt paid for. Owned.  Representative of a relationship you can’t just walk away from.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It shouldn’t! It should make you rejoice!

“For he who is called in the Lord while a servant is the Lord’s freeman. Likewise, he who is called while free is Christ’s servant. You were bought at a price. Do not be the servants of men”. (1 Corinthians 7:22-23 MEV)

It doesn’t matter who we were or where we were when we found Christ. Only in Him are we truly  free.  Free from the slavery of this world.  No longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), to the vagaries of the crowd, free from the snares around us  (Psalm 124:7).

Instead we owe it all, our freedom, our life, to Christ.

Maybe if we could get our Westernised, sanitised, modern heads around this we would behave differently.  I would behave differently.  God gave me free will and I chose to give my life to Him. I volunteered to be a slave! I accepted His offer to purchase me!

Frankly it doesn’t take very long meditating on this to realise I have got a bargain.

I have known God all my life but I haven’t walked in His ways for all those years. I have sinned. I have fallen WAY short. I know what I’ve done. I know what the consequences should be.  I know what He has paid for. I know the punishment that is rightly mine.  I am very aware what I have been saved from.  Grace is the largest Truth in my life as I did not come as a repentant sinner to the cross, but, as I often put it, I did all my sinning as a Christian. Willfully, knowingly, guiltily – AFTER I had accepted His payment for my sins.

I don’t think I’d treat a slave who behaved like that as well as He treats me!

What a redeemer! He may have bought me but, even if we get past the incredible price He paid, look how He now treats me now – not as a slave but as a SON.

 “Now a slave does not remain in the house forever, but a son remains forever” (John 8:35 MEV)

“So when we were children, we were in bondage to the elements of he world. But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:3-7 MEV)

WOW!

So, purchased and a bond servant – my debt paid, my life His, owned, bought, indebted. But wait, even now my free will remains! More so, because I am now living free from the debt, free from penalty, but now I am no longer a slave in any sense because He now adopts me.

That is a whole new relationship. In His House, part of His family, not treated as a slave but as a son.

Wait – there’s more:  I’m now an heir!  Not only in this life do I enjoy the benefits of being in His family (all the promises to Abraham being mine) but eternally – I inherit His kingdom. A co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).  Not like Biblical earthly families where only the firstborn inherited, not like our modern families where a Will can leave the inheritance to anyone (or anything) on a whim, disowning blood relatives.  No, we are equal heirs with Christ (may I encourage you to take the time to read this excellent sermon from C H Spurgeon on this specific point – the “will and testament” of God as it were).

You see as Christians we all “know” this, but it is only when you approach it right, when you start from the position of a relationship  where we were as slaves to this world (and by default, to the ruler of this age, the devil) that you can feel the real impact of the Truth of our redemption and adoption.

[It is something I’m pondering much at the moment – how our modern view dulls us to the riches and truths of Scripture. We spend so much time bringing the Word “up to date” that we are in danger of missing the point. Yes of course the analogies of the day are historical, yes we need that context, but I fear we most often throw the baby out with the bath water as it were and in our pursuit of modern translations and interpretations, we lose the impact of many of the Scriptures.  For every Scripture I read in “The Message” or Passion translation that opens my eyes in a new way, there are verses that I miss the depths of precisely because I don’t read the original, historical analogies.]

Ponder today with me, on your relationship with God.

Dog and master?  Servant and master? Slave and owner? Adopted? Family?

I encourage you to think on those various analogies, to truly seek to grasp the depths and breadth of what He has done for us, and to celebrate the freedom and riches that we now have as heirs with Christ.

 

Totally Covered

I was meditating afresh this morning about the mind-blowing truth that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see my sin.  How?! How can that be?

“as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12 MEV)

As I was thinking about this, I was in my usual quiet time spot looking out to sea.  When the tide is out there is a wide area of exposed rocks where seagulls feed, children go rock pooling, and foodies harvest seaweed.

IMG_2175 When the tide is in, the water comes right up to the promenade. You would never know those rocks are there.

When you look at the surface of the sea, or look at flood water (think of those images of flooded towns) you can’t see anything other than the surface.  However when you are in it, your experience is different.  You know how shallow it is, the bumps and the lumps underneath.

In the shallows, the swirling water catches up the sand and makes the water muddy.

Praise God that His sea of grace covers all our sin – totally and absolutely! He sees only that surface of grace.  Everything else is hidden.  We need to grasp His perspective of us, rather than our I-know-what’s-under-here attitude because until we do, we are effectively cheapening and dismissing His mighty work of grace – the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

There is a song that has grabbed my heart at the moment – “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel Music – the lyrics speaking to the recent change in me and where I am now with Him.  The words speak of the waves of God’s love – great music to have on when watching the sea!

There is a line in there that is my closing prayer on today’s meditation:

“So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore into Your Grace”

Holy Spirit, help us to go deeper into You so we can experience life lived  in line with the Truth that You see – no sin, no unrighteousness, but sanctified by Grace.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1 MEV)