The Church

Who knows that terrible boredom in a church service? The type of boredom that makes you want to peel your skin off and the dread that rises as you realise that the sermon may actually never come to an end.

We walked into an old church a few months ago and the children had such fun playing in the pews, singing round the alter and reading from the pulpit. It was a lovely sight as only a few days previously I had been praying that I wanted my children to always feel at home in any church they entered. I was brought up very familiar with church environments and my children are not as we don’t go very often. This long season of my life has really taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Not to rely on tradition, religion, nostalgia; the smell of old hymn books, the creek of oak pews, soft light through the stained glass. All lovely and good but the church is not made from mortar and stone, it is made of people (1 Peter 2:5) Church is not an activity to be done each week but it is who we are. My place in this season is not within the physical walls but outside of those walls ready with the Good News. Good news which everyone is invited to receive, those inside nightclub walls, sat beside supermarket walls, hanging around sitting on walls, surrounded by marble walls, trapped behind prison walls, confined to religious walls, those who have built their own walls and everyone who is yet to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34.8) because through Jesus, God has smashed down the wall that kept us from him, the wall that blocked our hearing, took away our sight and darkened our hearts to Him. Once we receive His gift of salvation we are given a new heart, a new spirit, (Ezekiel 36:26) our hearing and sight is restored and His word is then welcomed balm for a softened heart and not painfully boring arrows rebounding off a hardened heart.

For a long time I thought Church was about weddings, funerals, Sundays, Christmas and Easter. But Church is every day, every second of the day; hallelujahs in the car, blessings in the street, forgiveness all round, lavishing love on enemies. Bringing healing to the hurting, grieving with those who grieve, worship in hospitals, singing praise in crematoriums. The church is one family that spans across continents and denominations, breathing in scriptures, speaking His word, living life spirit led and fully free, walking in power over all darkness. Hearts blazing in inextinguishable light. Our brokenness exposed. Shedding our old nature and walking in the new. Having everything in common with someone we just met because we have the same Heavenly Father. Praying for each other. Pouring out gifts that have been poured into and over us. Overflowing with immeasurable joy through all circumstances and always ready to give an account of the hope we have to anyone who asks. (1 Peter 3:15) Church is new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) , thankfulness for every blink and breath and fully resting in and reflecting His glory.

“ But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18

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Light in the Darkness

My daughter needed a Halloween themed costume for her ballet class, she described what I should make and said she wanted it to be really, really scary. Her costume was at an early stage where it could have gone two ways – light or darkness. She was adamant on darkness as it was more scary.

“You know….” I said “you know what is more terrifying than anything?”

“What?”

“Light shining in the darkness”

“Why?”

“Because when light shines in the darkness it exposes EVERYTHING and THAT is terrifying”

This simple conversation made it hit home to me the power and freedom we have been given in Christ; the incredible gift we have received that saves us from stumbling around in the bondage of utter darkness to walk free and fearless in everlasting light.

We are all born separated from God; spiritually dead. We live in total darkness, deafness and blindness. We go from having an inkling that something isn’t right within us to total brokenness and questioning about who we are. We wrestle with confusion, fear, guilt, shame. No coincidence that all these feelings are rooted in and only produced by lies. I’ve heard people talk of living with some or all of these crushing burdens and in some cases don’t even know why.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21

It’s no good measuring ourselves against people who have done worse in our eyes and concluding “well I’m a good person” because when we truly see ourselves in the full light of perfection Himself, God who is pure holiness, we ALL fall short. (Romans 3:23)

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

I spent a lot of my teenage years and twenties out clubbing. We’d spend ages listening to music and getting ready and drinking, making sure we didn’t cross that fine line that would result in a bouncer not allowing us in. Once inside, thumping deafening music would leave ears ringing for days and the only communication possible would be a signal to your friends that you were going to the bar. More drinks led to more loss in vision but then from across the room you see him. ‘Wow’ you think ‘who is this guy and why didn’t I notice him before!’

You stumble through the dry ice and blackness and shout into each others ears. Quickly breaking the pact you made with your friends, only an hour before about sticking with the girls, you spend the rest of the night dancing as if you and this man have suddenly been superglued together. Then the dj announces the last song of the night and as you admire the hottest human being you’ve ever seen standing in front of you, the lights come on. Now you see the truth and so does he!

Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but to free us, to rescue us from everlasting darkness and take us into everlasting light, bringing us from death to life. To free us from the bondage and punishment under the power of sin to having freedom and power over sin.

When we come to light himself, all our deeds are exposed, we see clearly who we are, who we have been, where we have been, who we were made for and where we are going. The truth shines so bright that all the lies are exposed. And because of what Jesus did for every single one of us at the cross we are not left terrified but met with loving open arms filled with grace. Amazing grace! And through the resurrection we are given new life, born again, not of flesh but of spirit. When we choose to receive this gift we are instantly sealed with the Holy Spirit, we have God Himself dwelling in us.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godchildren born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” John 1: 9-13

God always gives us the freedom to choose, love always does and God is love. We can go on in futile attempts to cover our sin ourselves, working to be a good person or we can receive God’s incredible gift to us and rest in full confidence, covered permanently by Jesus taking it all for us at the cross. Do we go on in darkness or do we turn to him?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I was Blind but now I See

  

Luke 24:13
Jesus walks along with two followers returning from Jerusalem but they are kept from recognising him. I love that he asks them what’s wrong because God’s humour really shines through here, it reminds me of the playful excitement of a parent when they’ve got you your dream gift but haven’t told you yet. The two friends are so sad, they can’t understand what has happened to the one who was to save them. They had heard the news “Jesus has risen” but it seemed like nonsense to them. I love the way Jesus pulls out their feelings by asking them questions. 

We have a loving father who doesn’t give up on us even when we have given up, who walks with us even when we are unaware that he does, who is here to listen and take our worries and problems and breathe on us the truth that overcomes the lies.

Jesus explains everything to them. When they arrive at their destination, Jesus goes to continue on. It’s only after they urge him to stay with them, inviting him in and Jesus breaks bread and gives it to them that “their eyes were opened and they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight”. Then it hits home that it had been Jesus all along -“Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us”. And even though it was late and they had wanted to get back home they couldn’t hold in their excitement and joy and immediately return to Jerusalem to share the good news with the others.

When you urge Jesus to stay with you, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour, he comes to live in you. Your ears and eyes are opened to him, he gives you the wisdom to understand his word and a new heart capable of doing his will.

In 2 Corinthians 3:16 we read
“But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed”. Just one encounter with the risen Christ will change your life for eternity. There are no special words, no special place to be, no special praying position, just a heart that says “yes” to receive God’s greatest gift. Jesus is walking right along side you now, waiting for you to invite him in, longing with such joy to give you eyes that see, to enjoy the beauty of his presence now and for ever.