The Human Heart

God is for you. God isn’t against you. He grieves the things that have hurt us, the people who did despicable things to us. He fights for us so to breathe truth into our lives where others may have spoken evil things over us. There is so much suffering in this world and man in his finite mind thinks if he were God he or she could fix the world in an instant. Heal all those sick children, strike down those who murdered. Man? What would you do? Would you be as just to your relatives as you would be to a stranger who committed the same crime? If it were all in your hands, would your world be fair? Would you heal the sick child of someone who had taken the life of yours? And how would you deal with your own wickedness? Every thought you had to steal or a flash of wanting someone else’s home, possessions, spouse? Every time you’d lied or used someone’s else’s body for selfish pleasure and discarded them like rubbish or your relentless thoughts of revenge. The times you tossed a coin in a cup but didn’t bother to even look at the person holding it or like me even crossed the road to avoid them. All the times you did the very opposite of lift up and encourage friends, colleagues, strangers or loved ones. Our disputes with neighbours, keying someone’s car, wishing someone dead. So are the depths of evil in our hearts and we haven’t even got to the crimes that break earthly laws.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

You talk of how God, in all his power would make it a perfect world. We, mankind, are so far gone, in every way. Our hearts are evil beyond repair. Even the very ‘best’ (aka sinning in ways that don’t seem as bad or obvious as others’ sin) of us fall short of a Holy standard.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

So God looks at the world he made and the people in it, he sees the sin and darkness in our hearts and He comes, the Word made flesh. The only one, perfectly sinless, who could take the sins of the world. And this he does in his death at the cross; stripped, beaten and bloodied by men and it didn’t stop there, worse still, the unthinkable, God’s wrath against our sin violently came down on Him. Jesus is plunged into darkness, God’s love taken away from him, absolute spiritual torture and agony and all so that through him he makes the only way for us to be right with God. He lovingly gives us a choice to accept salvation, the free gift of life in him so we never have to remain in eternal darkness with God’s face turned against us. All the sins of all people, everything we ever did, thought and said and will do, think and say, all our deserved punishment came down on Jesus. Because God is a god of justice, sin is dealt with, it’s not ignored or covered up.

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Acts 2:24

And God raises him because death has no power over him and only in him and through him we walk freely and free into new life with him, where our sins have been exposed by his light, the light of the world. No longer slaves to sin, no longer ruled by guilt, shackled by shame, harassed by anxious thoughts and all the ways sin permeates and wreaks havoc in our bodies, minds and spirits – ultimately ending in eternal death, both physical and spiritual, an eternity in the absence of God’s love, holiness, gentleness, truth, justice, peace, life, light, mercy, grace, hope, healing, comfort, kindness, joy.

“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 3:20-21

When God’s holy, wondrous light blazed over me, it was the first time I saw myself as I am. Not the good or kind person that I thought I was but his light exposed the very depths of my nature and in an instant I saw that I was the worst of the worst. I understood I was wicked to the core but also God’s perfect love was pouring over me, his amazing grace poured over a wretch like me! Sinner that I am I was loved and because of the cross nothing can ever stand in the way of his love for me. “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12 and he has made me new “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We no longer scurry about in the darkness, oppressed and in bondage by sin but are born again. We are given new hearts, hearts that are able and desire to do the will of God, hearts that have tasted and are filled with the goodness of God and so grow day by day repulsed by doing, thinking, saying anything not of God. Jesus went through the hardest unimaginable journey so we could easily come home to him. This is the love of God, this is how much he loves every single person on this planet. This is love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

I love the Church – One Spirit

Last Spring we had a weekend away celebrating a friend’s birthday. On the Sunday I woke early and having looked up some churches, by googling “Jesus in…” and scrutinising the “welcome”, “about” and “what we believe pages” to make sure they lined up with scripture, I narrowed it down to two. Three of my children came with me.

By the time I’d found a parking space and got the children out of the car, the service had already begun. I peered in through the door at the back. The room was full. Everyone was standing and all I could see was a sea of silver hair. It was quiet, too quiet. “Oh no” I thought, I’ve made a mistake this isn’t going to be toddler/child friendly. A few years back I’d taken three age three and under to a service at a beautiful medieval church with spectacular decorations and heady Christmas scents. We were the only young family in sight and as we shuffled along the pew an older lady looked at us and leaned into her friend and said “well this should be interesting”.

Well, I wasn’t sticking around at this church, I turned around and signalled to the children to head back out the main door, maybe we could make it to the other church. But as I walked out the Holy Spirit turned me one eighty degrees and led me in. I tentatively walked back to the entrance of the room, the people were still standing and this time instead of looking and listening, I saw and heard. I saw that the people were stood up in prayer, and members of the congregation were, in turn, praying out loud. They were praying in the spirit. It was the most beautiful sight and sound.

We walked towards four empty seats at the back and sat down. A lady in the row infront turned and gave us a warm smile. As we stood to sing, another lady produced some baby musical toys, a flag and a tambourine and gave them to my children. We sang “Your Presence is Heaven to Me”, fifty or so voices, one guitar, all for Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound more beautiful.

We were then invited to the children’s room were there was an array of crafts, toys, activities, drawing and colouring materials and snacks. The children happily played while I sat nearby and caught the sermon, which happened to be on Expectancy. Physically surprising but spiritually unsurprising my home Church was also to preach on Expectancy in the weeks after.

After the service my children ran up and down and weaved in and out of the rows of seats while I chatted to a couple of people. I was invited to stay and have lunch. While tables were being laid I learnt that this church hadn’t had any young families in for years, the only other child I had spotted was someone’s grandchild. All their children had grown and left the area and they were praying for young people to come. Now it made sense how joyfilled they were to see my children squealing, jumping and twirling all over the place.

They hadn’t had children in in years but they were ready, ready with the box of instruments, crafts, colours, stories and snacks. This was expectancy. This was Amen. I was so moved by the faith I saw in this small church in a little old building in the off season of a seaside town. We sat and enjoyed the most delicious ploughman’s together and I was greatly encouraged from conversations with a lady and a couple.

As the children and I returned back to the cottage to join my friends and rest of my family, I marvelled at all I’d seen. I love the church, I was home even though I was away from home. I am born again, born of the spirit and born into a whole new worldwide family in Christ. We walk this life with the faith we have been given and these faith filled spiritual prayers are not earthly prayers, they are powerful, fruitful and unfailing.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Hebrews 11:1-2

I Love the Church – Blazing Light

The end of Summer came too soon last year and the main reason for this was the incredible beach mission we went to every day for two weeks. There were events for all the family and holiday clubs for children aged 0-18. My daughters happily skipped to their groups; sang songs, learnt dance routines, did crafts. There were parties, water fights, family fun nights, children’s choir performances and so much more. One fortnight, over ninety volunteers, a hundred and forty hours of free activities and hundreds of children attended.

At one of the afternoon events a volunteer, who had been involved with the mission for three decades, stood and spoke to all about the love of God in Jesus Christ. We were all outside and it was a beautiful summer’s afternoon. My son was running around at the back and as I was trying to keep up with him, I looked up and the big tree in the middle of the grounds was ablaze and all I could think was “this fire can be seen for miles around”, God’s love blazing in communities through the church.

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11