Grateful because…

Because I sat in church today

And in front of me were song lyrics celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection

His victory over death.

 

Because I sat in church today

And to the left of me were my son and daughter-in-law

A blessing from God.

 

Because I sat in church today

And to the right of me were my daughter and son-in-law

Both following Jesus.

 

Because I sat in church today

And behind me was my wife, playing with my granddaughter

Both made me smile.

 

Because whichever way I turned

Gift upon gift upon gift upon gift

That's why.

 

Easter Sunday 2016

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Be a more fruitful Christian: It’s not about trying harder

I came across this article on crosswalk.com that spoke exactly to the place I find myself. It's based on a book called Pursuing More of Jesus and has 13 sections. Below is the one that's spoken to me most strongly so far. I've yet to consider the others properly. What struck me most, and comforted me, was this phrase:

…you don’t have to try harder, pray more, or claim greater territory in service.

Anyway, here's that whole section. It'll certainly be uppermost in my mind and prayers today.

Pursue more of His fruit in your service. If your service for God lacks the fruit of changed lives, you don’t have to try harder, pray more, or claim greater territory in service. Instead, you should examine your personal relationship with Jesus to see how closely you’re connected to Him. It’s the quality of your connection to Jesus that will determine whether or not you’ll have the power to bear good fruit for His kingdom. The fruit you bear isn’t produced through your own efforts; it’s produced by the Holy Spirit through you as you consistently rely on God. Jesus is the Vine and you are the branches. God may sometimes choose to prune you to bear good fruit by cutting out of your life everything you depend on – except your relationship with Jesus. When you’re forced to pay attention to your relationship with Jesus because that’s all you have, your connection to the Vine gets bigger, empowering you to produce more fruit. Trust God when He prunes the branches of your life; He knows what’s best to help you grow. Pray for greater fruitfulness in your service, asking God to conform you more closely to the image of Jesus, use you to make others want to know Him better, give you opportunities to share His Gospel and give you the fruit of changed lives as a result, draw others to Himself through a Bible study you lead, or give you one person to share His love with today.

 

Things You Didn’t Know About Jesus: The universe would collapse without Him

It being the fourth day of Christmas I guess what I ought to be doing is figuring out where I can buy four calling birds to give to my true love. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling she’s not over-enamoured with the French hens and the turtle doves flapping about in the utility room (the feathers and…other stuff get everywhere) and the pear tree in the lounge is just not working…

What I’m actually doing is sitting in my dressing gown and a Santa hat (yes I know that sounds weird but it keeps one warm when sitting under a draughty ventilator – another story for another time – and it’s the only time of year one can get away with it, OK?) having just read, and been greatly enamoured by, Colossians 1:15-24.

At Christmas there tends to be an understandable focus on baby Jesus. ‘Tis important, the incarnation of the divine Son of God, an’ all – but what’s also mind-blowing is to be reminded of just who this child is / was / will be. And one of the things He’s always been and always will be, to the proverbial end of time, is the sustainer of the entire universe (need to resist the temptation to add an evil laugh at that point – y’know, lots of echo and “mwah-ha-ha-haaaaa!” – as that would be completely inappropriate). So, yeah, without Jesus Christ your world, and mine, would collapse, implode, cease to be, end in a cataclysm of literally Earth-shattering proportions, dwarfing the best of Dr Who, Star Trek or {insert favourite sci-fi here}.

How do I know? ‘Cos it says so here:

Colossians 1:16-17

for through him God created everything

in the heavenly realms and on earth.

He made the things we can see

and the things we can’t see—

such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.

Everything was created through him and for him.

He existed before anything else,

and he holds all creation together.

There you go. When it comes to universe-sustaining, Jesus Christ is, as they say, the man. (And, in this unique case, the God.)

Time to check out H. Samuel for five gold rings…

Learning to Obey What Jesus Tells Me

We're always keen to point out that being a Christian isn't about a set of rules, regulations, do's and dont's, etcetera. It's a relationship with God though faith in Christ. Yes, yes. It's about the Holy Spirit changing us and enabling us to serve God – not about religious observance or legalism. Indeed.

However, the expectation that a Christian will obey God is plain in scripture. Logically, I can't obey someone if they haven't instructed me to do something. (Or to not do something, as the case may be.) Parents instruct their kids all the time, and not for fun; they expect the child to obey. It doesn't mean the child's standing in the family, or the parent's love for the child, are conditional on obedience. It just means the parent knows best and wants to show the child what's expected of them and how to live and look after themselves and how to live with other people, and all the rest. In other words, commandments and obedience are a part of love, even on a human level. So too with our relationship with God.

Our church has had teaching on holiness for many months. It's foundational, fundamental and very much includes doing what you're told. No, I can't get saved by obedience. No, God doesn't love me according to how obedient I am. Yes, I'm talking about a Spirit-filled, born-again believer saved by faith in Jesus Christ. But doing what God tells us is nevertheless a key facet of living life as God intends. Freedom in Christ means freedom not to do wrong and freedom to do what He wants.

Point made.

Here's just one verse about obedience:

“If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

This came up in Day 1 of my Bible app's reading plan on the theme of – you guessed it – obedience. I stopped and asked myself the natural question: Just what are Jesus' commandments? I could think of one or two, but my Bible app obliged with a list of fifty:

I clicked through to the first one. It talks about letting my light shine before people so that they'll see the good stuff I do and praise my Father in heaven. Well that one's got me thinking and praying because I'm pretty sure most of the time people see me they may think I'm a decent chap but I'm not so sure it leads to them praising God. Any thoughts?

After I've got that one sussed there's just another 49 to go. Then I'll be perfect 🙂

 

The Tyranny of the To-Do List

I love my lists. With lists, I am organised. I keep track of stuff. I get reminders to follow stuff up. With lists, I prioritise, categorise, annotate and schedule. I also remember what to buy when I go shopping.

I have electronic lists in Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Project and an iPad app called Errands. I have paper lists on the fridge and on the rather nifty notice board made from wine corks just underneath the spice rack.

Lists are good.

On the other hand, lists are bad.

On weekday (more specifically, workday) evenings, my list calls to me softly: “You have things to doooooooo…”. Frequently, however, on said evenings I have little inclination to do much of anything at all; I’ve always been that way and can’t blame my age. My list contains a variety of things domestic, church things, worthy things, ncessary things and even things trivial. Yet no matter how high I set the priority or how noble the task may be, there are (many) times when I simply cannot face doing a job or undertaking a task.

And so I fret. I compare myself to others who, it seems, have an immense amount of energy and a baffling capacity for working all the hours God sends and being constantly, annoyingly, productive. This, dear reader, is not me. And I need to get over it and throw off the tyranny of the to-do list, jettison the guilt, do what I can in the capacity God gives me and just quit fussin’ over what don’t get done.

Sure, there’s no excuse for laziness, and I do need to remember that I’m serving Christ in a lost world and that helping bring His kingdom in and serving His purposes is rather important. But if I spend the time whittling and not actually being fruitful I may as well not be fruitful and enjoy it and relax instead. Tomorrow is a new day and I will, no doubt, work for my employer then return home and see what the evening brings. What it should not bring, however, is mental anguish over how much I’m doing or what’s still not ticked off on “the list”.

In the Bible Jesus says that the burden he wants his followers to carry is “light”. I don’t for a moment think that means every day will be a bundle of laughs and that no hard work is required. He did say, though, that what He asks of me is in stark contrast to being “weary and heavy laden”. So when I’m both heavy laden and weary it’s time to get on my knees, tell Him all about my list and see what He tells me to do – if anything.

This is how much Jesus loves you…

“To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony—to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that “passeth knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.”

Charles Spurgeon

Have a wonderful Easter.