Faith, Doubt and Desire

Hi everyone. Rob here.

On Sunday we reflected on the story of Thomas and, in another group I belong to, we’re reflecting on the story of the raising of Lazarus. Both of these stories contain profound interaction between faith, doubt and desire.

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In the story of Lazarus we see this dynamic particularly in Martha. Look at the following dialogue that shows it at work.

 ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.

 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

 Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’

And then, a bit later on…

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’

Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’

Martha believed in the concept of Jesus. She accepted who he was but struggled to trust him in the moment. She questions his decisions while at the same time believing that he was Israel’s saviour. Does that sound familiar? Isn’t that how we often live our lives? It is faith in the moment that so often eludes us. Martha’s pragmatism and tendencies to control her environment act as an obstacle to faith in this situation. She believed that Jesus could have saved her brother, that God will do whatever he asks even now, and yet, in the moment, the fear of a bad smell gets in the way. I love Jesus’ gentleness with her. He knows her heart of faith and reminds her of it. he lets her know that she can see the glory of God right now. Right now Martha; just believe. Let go of your plans and agendas and let God have his way right now.

It is a similar dynamic with Thomas. We see this in John 20.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’

But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

He’s called ‘Doubting Thomas’ but I think ‘searching Thomas’ is better. His reaction is one borne out of the drama and trauma of the last few days. He’s a passionate individual. In the Lazarus story we see him say…

 ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Passion, right there. In the wake of what they have all just been through and in the fear they’re experiencing right now, Thomas will only give his heart away again if he can have a personal, tactile and embodied experience of the risen Jesus. Interestingly, he expected Jesus to have his scars. The scars would be a form of proof to Thomas that new life existed. Does that prompt you to think about your scars in a new way?

Again, Jesus is gentle but full of truth as he comes to Thomas.

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

Thomas’ response to Jesus is beyond anything proclaimed about Jesus to this point – “My Lord and my God.” His faith is deep. It was the doubt that was superficial. Martha was the same. I believe it is the same for us. When we came to faith in Jesus as Lord he planted himself in our hearts. He is not easily dislodged form there. It’s just that we struggle often to get in touch with our new and true hearts. So…

Believe that you believe

Have faith that you have faith

Trust that you trust Jesus with your life and…

Know that Jesus himself has faith in your faith, belief in your beliefs and trust in your trust in him. he knows that you are made for him and so he gently, firmly, truthfully and beautifully keeps leading us back to him. He is our heart’s desire and our heart’s true home.

Grace and peace everyone.

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Easter Is Just Beginning

Easter doesn’t end with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Jesus. Really. That may signal the end of the Easter holiday but, in reality, Easter is just beginning. It will culminate with the Ascension of Jesus to the Father’s right hand and then, 10 days later, Pentecost and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the earth and the church of Christ being born. Resurrection is the beginning of the new covenant in Christ being born. So how are you entering into this time? For the 40 days before Easter we have Lent that helps us to die to ourselves in anticipation of the reality of resurrection. But what about for the 50 days after Easter? How will you enter into Jesus’ resurrection, anticipating the hope of the coming Spirit?

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In Acts 1:3 we are told this about Jesus:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 

I find it fascinating that the priority for the Risen Christ wasn’t to appear to thousands of people offering proof of his victory over death, but instead, to teach his small band of disciples about the kingdom of God. Their lives, their teaching, their witness would be all the evidence needed that Jesus was Lord. As they learnt about how the kingdom of God worked they became transformed and all that Jesus had done and said started to make sense. This gives us an invitation for how we can spend the next 40-50 days…

Ask Jesus to speak to us about the kingdom of God.

For me this is about continually asking God for his help in aligning myself to his rule and his will. It’s asking for his help in showing me where I am trying to be in charge and repenting accordingly. It’s letting go of all the ways I expect God to follow the agenda I have for him instead of surrendering to his agenda. God’s answer is often this:

Look at Jesus and look to Jesus.

Jesus is perfect humanity in action. This is true after the resurrection as well. He is still perfectly human after conquering death. Every time I look at Jesus he isn’t serving his own reputation or status. He’s not at the mercy of crowds or leaders or his disciples. He lives in intimacy with his Father, and, led by the Spirit, he is always exactly where he needs to be, doing what he needs to be doing and revealing the kingdom, the rule, of God as he does so. Wouldn’t you love your life to be like that? I want to point people to God’s kingdom. I want them to die to every false kingdom they’ve ever pledged allegiance to. I want intimacy with God, a Spirit-led life and a friendship with Jesus that echoes through eternity.

So I commit myself to continuing the Easter journey. This next 40 days isn’t so much about dying, but about living. Living for, with and in the power of Jesus to the glory of God. Teach me Jesus. Lead me Spirit. Help me Father. And may you do the same for all my sisters and brothers reading this today.

May your Easter be blessed everyone.

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Lasting Victory

Hi everyone. Rob here.

We’re in Holy Week as we build towards the trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, our older brother, our Lord and King, our friend and rescuer. On Sunday we reflected on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey’s colt with the shouts of “Hosanna!” ringing in his ears. The crowd that gathered outside Jerusalem were an eclectic mob. Many were there because Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead. Others had followed Jesus for much longer, having experienced his miracles, teaching and authority back in Galilee. The point is that the crowd were not people from Jerusalem. They were outsiders cheering on their Messiah as he went into the epicentre of Jewish religion, politics and power.

Sea of Galilee at Sunset. Photographer: Rob Gray

The crowd had expectations of Jesus. Messiahs don’t enter Jerusalem as tourists and sightseers. They enter in order to overthrow corrupt forces, kick out foreigners and invaders and reclaim the city for God. In other words, Roman forces needed to go, corrupt leaders needed to go and the Messiah needed to sit on the Davidic throne as King. But Jesus didn’t ride on a white stallion. He rode in on a donkey’s colt, with no army, no elaborate entourage. He entered and this happened:

Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve (Mark 11:11).

Nothing happened, at least not initially. There was no welcoming party, no official reception, no perceived threat. Jesus entered Jerusalem and Jerusalem shrugged its shoulders and carried on with life. Jesus wandered out and went back over the hill to his friends.

That’s how the week starts, yet it ends with Jesus on a cross, crucified as an Enemy of the State. The outsiders hailed him as Messiah and the insiders had him killed. How did that happen? Well, Jesus did spend the week picking fights, challenging authority figures and drawing crowds to himself. He went back to Bethany and made a whip. In an act of prophetic theatre he drove the moneychangers from the temple and made himself a truckload of enemies. He took on religious leaders with none-too-subtle parables and authoritative teaching. Most of all he undermined the authority of the temple and the temple establishment when he predicted its demise. He also made clear that he was the temple that would be destroyed and would rise again.

So, let’s be clear. Jesus entered Jerusalem on a mission to speak the truth and suffer the consequences. This led him into direct conflict with the religious and political authorities and resulted in his shameful execution on a cross. He knew it would end that way. The crowd that called for his crucifixion was not the crowd that chanted ‘Hosanna’ and laid down palm branches for their Messiah. The outsiders called him Lord and the insiders wanted him dead. The powerless knew that he was their hope, but the powerful saw him as a threat.

Jesus’ crucifixion seems like a victory to the methods and mindset of the powerful and defeat for the hope and aspirations of the powerless. But the temple would be destroyed and then it would rise again. The seemingly powerful ones win temporary victories in this world but the real story is that the man on a donkey’s colt, the theatrical prophet, the teacher, the miracle worker, the crucified one is the victorious King. His kingdom, that welcomes in the sinners and the suffering, is the one that lasts forever. The thrones of the world don’t last. Everything dies. If that’s the case then I choose to align myself with the one who holds the power of resurrection in his hands. Jesus, I choose you.

This week may you enter into the suffering of Jesus, knowing that the powers of this world may rage, but they can never truly win.

Grace and peace.

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The Right Kind of Security

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Many of us would crave a sense of security right now I’m sure. The world remains in a perilous condition, and with the dramatisation that media and social media brings to life, it can feel more insecure than it really is. We often feel on edge and we can’t really explain why. Our hearts long for a secure environment. We sense that is a key to thriving.

But we need to seek the right kind of security. Here’s what I mean. There is a security that can bring freedom. A loving family environment for example. There is also a security that suppresses freedom. A prison is a very secure place. Another way to put this is to contrast external security and internal settledness. External security involves extra locks, bag searches, guys with guns and dogs, cameras and the like. They keep bad things from happening. Internal settledness means that when difficulty comes, when challenges arise or are accepted, when change and disruption occurs, you are secure in God’s love for you and your place in his kingdom. You still feel at home.

External security arises out of anxiety. It is sometimes the sensible thing to do, but it often does little to assuage people who are already filled with anxiety. Instead it can leave you more fearful and, therefore, more cautious, less willing to take risks and, as a result, living a smaller life. If you took external security to its logical conclusion you would not leave the house, the kids wouldn’t leave the house and, even then, you could not guarantee your safety. At some stage, in order to live a life worth living, you have to make peace with insecurity, with risk and the dangers of freedom. That is a journey of the heart and the mind.

I was thinking about this as I was doing some soul work today. I was thinking about the freedom of guilt I can now experience, even as I name in myself some things that I’m not happy about. I feel secure in the Father’s love for me and in the love of Jesus, the Son. The Spirit dwells in me, I am a beloved son and my soul is at peace more often than not. From this place of security and settledness I can allow the Spirit to “search my heart and know my inmost thoughts” without shame or blame. I can reject the accusations of the enemy because I know the truth of my belovedness. Not always I confess, but mostly.

I think a key to it is not making sin the focus of my confession. Instead I confess the love of God for me and the world, I confess my place in his kingdom as a son who is loved and I confess that I love him and worship him. From there I can confess where I have not lived up to who I truly am. I confess where I have not thought, acted or spoke like a son of my Father or as a brother and intimate ally of Jesus. His mercy comes, forgiveness comes and I ask what needs to change. He may change some thinking, correct a lie, remind me to love, open myself to someone else or tell me to take better care of my heart. From there I confess his love again, my place in his kingdom again and I am at peace.

Security in the love of God for us is the right kind of security to invest in. It is also good to invest in his goodness, in his joy and in his hope. He will renew all things. He is renewing all things. Even you and I right now. He is in charge and that is the security we are invited to take to heart.

Grace and peace.

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Measuring By The Decade

Hi everyone. Rob here.

10 years ago this week my friend David and I began this blog in order to give expression to the life of the heart in relation to Christian faith. I want to thank all of the readers who have stuck with us, joined us recently, read occasionally and given us feedback. David no longer writes here but I’m sure he joins me in gratitude toward you all.

When you look back 10 years, what has changed? A member of the Wild at Heart team, Morgan Snyder, suggests that “we live by the day and measure by the decade.” Have we become better people, more wholehearted, more Christlike and more loving in the last 10 years? If we haven’t then God wants to shift some things in us. If we have then God wants to continue the good work in us.

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10 years brings a lot of external change to our lives and that drives the need for internal growth as we seek the capacity to deal with and live well in our ever-changing world. For me that external change has seen:

A move from one house to another

Kids growing from pre-schoolers to High School and Middle School

Got ourselves a dog, but said goodbye to 2 cats

3 trips to America, 4 to Australia, 1 to Israel and the West Bank and 1 to Fiji.

3 life-changing Wild at Heart events

My mum dying from cancer

My job as church pastor coming to an end

Working part-time at a supermarket alongside writing and speaking commitments

Attending a new church

That seems like a lot but it hardly begins to cover the changes that have happened. Take the journey of parenting pre-schoolers to parenting high-schoolers and all that has to change there. Think about friendships lost, gained and transformed. There is also the challenge of consistently loving your spouse who is also changing. There are changes in your body. Think a bit further afield and you see a Digital Revolution, a pandemic, a reckoning on race and sex and gender and how power works, major political shifts, ongoing effects of climate change and so much more. You can see how we need to keep building our spiritual capacity if we’re going to reflect God’s love in a world like this.

I try and write weekly. I seek to embrace the present moment and ask myself, ‘what is God speaking to me about today?’ When I look back on my blogs I see the truth in Morgan’s statement. This collection of thoughts, prayers, hopes, reflections, laments and celebrations have created a memory bank and a record of change and growth. It also reflects the reality that growth isn’t linear. I would venture to define spiritual growth as:

…the increasing capacity to meet any and every moment with the love, wisdom and life of God in us.

As a follower of Jesus Christ that capacity, I believe, comes through my surrender to Jesus as Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, heart and mind. The one common factor of a decade of writing is the absolute need for us to give our lives over to Father, Son and Spirit constantly and consistently. This involves receiving the Father’s embrace of love, dying to ourselves at the cross of Christ, receiving new life through the empty tomb and coming alive to God through the Spirit working in us. Surrender is an intentional act. It is active cooperation with God’s work in the world. A decade on I see the need for this surrender even more. That is spiritual growth to me.

Thanks again for your love and support. As you reflect on the last decade may you see that God has been, still is and always will be with you, loving you and strengthening you. May you give yourself over and over and over to his love. And may your increased capacity for the life of God in you help to change and transform this world.

Grace and peace.

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The Beautiful Paradox

Greetings everyone. Rob here.

Following Jesus in this world is a bit like swimming against the tide with the wind at your back. I choose those contradictory and almost nonsensical images deliberately. There is an energy that comes from the Spirit as we give ourselves over to Jesus and the mission of God. But there is an energy that’s going in the opposite direction and it’s powerful. It wants to sweep us along and take us with it. The temptation is to knuckle down, swim harder, fight harder and there is a steadfastness and a determination that we need in this world. But if we rely on just determination it will wilt and falter eventually. I repeat, the forces flowing against our walk with Jesus are powerful. To make it requires the energy of God and all the resources of the kingdom of God. It requires the river of life that no tide can stop and no force can hold back.

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I’ve been thinking about these forces that work against us. I think of them as swirling forces trying to keep us stuck through confusion, contradiction and sensory overload. The one thing that they have in common is that they try and make you the centre of the story, not God. Think of the work story in today’s world. On the one hand there is the narrative that we just need to find and follow our passions and all will be well. The other narrative is that you should be passionate already and ready to do whatever it takes to succeed and help the organisation you’re working for succeed. Lying underneath those two stories is the one of mental and emotional health and how we need to take care of ourselves these days. The overall theme is one that says: You can have it all! Except you can’t. We were never meant to and trying to have it all creates a cost that cannot be paid. I’m reminded of Jesus.

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Mark 8:36)

The magazines, the ads, the TV shows all paint the same picture that we can have it all. The reality is we can’t all live by the ocean. We can’t all create picture perfect meals/gardens/interiors/relationships. We can’t simultaneously work really hard in our passions and have a lot of free time for all our other passions. Scripture tells us that if you want to have the world you will lose your soul. Jesus instead offers us something far different:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:35)

It’s not about you or me. It’s about Jesus and the good news (the gospel) of the kingdom of God. If you want that then you have to give your life over to him. He is your life and he has to become your life so we lose our life for his sake. That’s the beautiful paradox at the heart of the gospel. If you want life, die to it. If you want to find your passion, find out what God’s passion is. If you want success, significance, purpose and meaning, stop hustling and start surrendering. Bow the knee and God will raise you up.

I say all this as a matter of urgency. The swirling contradictions of the world, the flesh and the devil are extracting a high price. People are going down. They’re tired, stressed, depressed and anxious. The best witness to God’s love in a world like this people who are deeply immersed in it and living it out as surrendered followers of Jesus who have handed their lives over to him. I want that to be me. May iy be you also.

Grace and peace.

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Changing Your Perspective

Hi everyone. Rob here.

I wonder how your self-talk’s been this last week? What have you been telling yourself? I ask this because of the enormous power our self-talk wields over our lives. It has more power than facts, more influence than mentors and more impact on our souls than nearly every spiritual activity you can think of. Think of two people about to abseil down a cliff face. One says, “The rope’s got me, I trust my instructor and I can do this” compared to someone saying, “This is scary, what if disaster happens, I can’t do this.” Who is going to succeed in abseiling down the cliff face? Easy choice isn’t it? Two people can face the exact same challenge and will have two very different experiences because of self-talk.

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The challenge of faith is to have such a relationship with God that we are telling ourselves what he has already told us. We hear what he thinks about the challenges we face, decisions we need to make and so on and repeat what he says to ourselves. Our self-talk becomes God talking to us and our hearts and minds responding to that. We may want to say, “I am really busy.” But if we pause and ask God, “how do you see my life right now,” we may hear, “You’re not busy but you do have some priorities mixed up.” That can become a beautiful dialogue with God that creates change and a new freedom of heart that saying, “I am busy” can never create.

I have been needing to practice this because for the last few months I’ve been working in a supermarket. I was hoping my search for part-time work would lead to something more intellectually fulfilling, and, let’s face it, high paying and ego stimulating. In reality this work is great because I can leave it behind when I get home, there’s flexibility and cheaper groceries! But reality and self-talk don’t often match. My ego, to my surprise and horror, put up a fight and there were days when I just wanted out. During this time God’s Spirit has kept nudging me to lay my ego down and embrace the situation. I have been doing that and will need to keep doing that. My ‘self-talk’ has changed from “this situation sucks” to “do your job, play your part and let Spirit work.” It is infinitely more freeing and joyful.

It’s a reminder to be grateful for now. God has you where you are right now for a reason. That reason may be to learn some tough lessons. It may be to mature and grow character. It may be to experience something great or to give the best of who you are into a place that really needs it. “God, what have you got for here” is a good starting point for changing our self-talk. Because, let’s face it, the problem with self-talk is that it’s about self, right? We don’t have the best perspective on our life. That privilege belongs to God; our life-giver and source of meaning, purpose and unconditional love. It’s his perspective I want, his words of love I want and his Spirit to show me the steps I must take in order to follow Jesus in this world.

May your perspective be changed this week as the eyes of your heart are opened by God. May your self-talk be filled with the words of his grace, love and hope and may you know joy in the journey in Jesus’ name.

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Kingdom Partners

Hi everyone. Rob here again.

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. It also marked 10 years since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes that impacted our whole country to some degree. On a personal level, it was also 10 years since I flew out to Hawaii for my first Wild at Heart Bootcamp that kickstarted a decade of personal growth, great travel experiences and learning to embrace a wholehearted approach to life and faith. There were successes and failures, wins and losses, celebrations and griefs and now, a decade on, I want more. I want more faith, more growth, more intimacy and more of God in me, through me and around me. I’m still hungry and thirsty. But there’s a problem. To get to the more I also have to want less. Less cynicism, less ‘battle fatigue’, less self-relief measures, less ego and less distraction. I want more but do I want less? At a heart level the answer is yes. Now it’s a case of matching will to action, which, in a sense, is what this last decade has been all about.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

Matching will to action is where faith often gets confused. We’ve fallen into two lies. One is that it’s all up to us and the other is that it’s all up to God. This is ironic because we love to say that God has a relationship with us. Well, relationships are two-sided and so is our relationship with God. Of course, God is the senior partner in the relationship. Our action is always a response to his action, his love and his act of coming for his in Jesus. Our actions, if they are to be in any way Christlike, arise from God’s other initiative of sending his Spirit to dwell in us. But faith is only useful if it’s lived out. Faith and action are always partners. If I don’t respond to God’s initiatives then where is my faith?

Now, God’s invitations are not just to behave well or do good works or feel good about myself. They are invitations to partner with God in his redemptive activity in the world. It is to align myself with the coming of the kingdom of God. It is to always stand with God’s will and God’s rule and God’s love. It is to oppose the forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. It is internal action and external action. The internal action is to pray, set my mind and heart towards God and surrender my whole being to him and his kingdom. Externally it is to show love, kindness and grace to others. It is to stand with justice, hope and mercy. Our internal posture is to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ so that externally we can show the fruit of the Spirit, that, in turn, point towards the love and kingdom of God.

For me, right now, it’s the internal posture that needs help. I don’t need to over-complicate matters here. It’s a simple fact of not spending enough quality time with my Maker. I’m essentially speed-dating the Lover of my Soul and that never works. I’m also noticing that I’m feeling short of quality time in my other relationships as well. That tells me I need a new rhythm, new priorities and perhaps, a new way of connecting with God. But this blog isn’t about those details. It’s about the fact that we need to take our actions seriously and not just rely on the fact that we still ‘believe in God.’ What does that even mean without living for God as well? The invitation is for our internal and external to be in alignment with God’s love and God’s kingdom. Faith without action is dead James tells us. He’s right and that truth applies always.

May your faith and deeds align with God’s Spirit this week. Grace and peace.

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Beauty in Ashes

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Tomorrow is the start of Lent – the 6 weeks or so of preparing ourselves for the cross and resurrection of Jesus our Messiah. It’s a day known as Ash Wednesday. It’s a day to reflect on our mortality, our humanity and our need for God. The sprinkling of ashes is to remind us that we came from dust and to dust we will return. I encourage you to research Lent a bit more. Getting to know our church traditions that are centuries old has been a source of spiritual encouragement for me.

All this emphasis on our mortality, on repentance, on giving things up can seem depressing, sombre at best. Isn’t the Christian message about new life, resurrection and eternity? I mean, ashes for goodness sake! Shall we dress in sackcloth as well? Flagellate ourselves and eat locusts? Is this the image of being a Christian that we want to present to the world. Doesn’t it seem unhelpful and unhopeful?

And yet, if the goal is to present ourselves as shiny happy people to the world we have missed the point that Jesus himself seemed to make; that we are a fallen, fragile people desperately in need of the rescue that God offers us through Jesus. From dust we came and to dust we will return. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. Those are the two messages of Ash Wednesday, and indeed, of all of Lent. Face reality and get ready for the rescue. You’re not saving yourself. You’re not making yourself eternal. You are not God but God is calling to you through the eternity set in your heart. But here’s the paradox; you get to the eternity by coming to grips with your mortality. We get to God by embracing our humanity. We get to the rescue by repenting; to resurrection by dying.

So here’s our opportunity to get rid of our delusions of grandeur, our god-complexes, whatever it is that says to the world, look at me. Anything that says you are the centre of all things has to go. It may be your pride and it may also be your shame. You may say ‘I am great’ or you may say ‘I am no good’ or you may say both several times in one day but both those statements are about you and get in the way of embracing your humanity right now. True humanity embraces our need for God; our need to worship him, draw life from him, be led by him, fathered and mothered and brothered and sistered and friended and loved by him; and it all begins with, ‘from dust we came and to dust we will return.’

The prodigal son came to his senses in the pig sty; Moses encountered God cut off from his people in the desert; the angel visited Daniel in exile in Babylon; Jacob dreamt of his ladder with his head on a rock in the wilderness. God meets us when we are ready and we are ready when we’re weak and vulnerable and we can’t be weak and vulnerable when we’re trying to be replacements for God instead of children of God. 

The ash you will soon place or have placed on yourself is a symbol of something very powerful. You are from dust and to dust you will return. You are not God but you gladly receive the gifts of God; forgiveness, mercy, grace, life and love. We say no to pride and no to shame and no to a me-centred existence. We enter into Lent embracing our human vulnerability rejoicing in a God who chose to join us there. Is there any greater validation of our humanity than the humanity of Jesus? Is there any greater validation of our mortality than the fact that the Son of God also stopped breathing. We are all mortal and God meets us there.

It means we carry a hope for those we’ve lost and we acknowledge that mortality means loss and grief and pain. We’ve all lost someone. We will lose many but we don’t lose Jesus who also wept at the tomb of a friend. Receive your ashes, embrace your mortality, confess your need for your God and repent for the kingdom of God is near.

Grace and peace everyone.

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Attention and Engagement

Hi everyone. Rob here.

Kiley and I were chatting this morning about the amazing opportunity our 14 year old son has this year to go on a 5 week course, full of adventure and discovery, on an island renowned for its rugged beauty. Our hope was that our son would be two things: attentive and engaged. From there fun will flow, character will develop and the experience will be rich food for his soul. Be attentive and be engaged seem like good words for me right now and for most people I would think. They sound easy but we are very distracted creatures. In my own strength I struggle to be attentive and engaged, especially in our information and entertainment soaked world. I need God’s help to pay attention and be engaged, especially because HE is the one I want to be attentive to and engaged with the most.

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Jesus, I notice, was attentive to his Father, his followers, his community and his own heart. He was very engaged with life, with his mission and the people presented to him. He had perspective and wisdom that flowed from this attentiveness and engagement. He was focused but there was still a joy and a lightness to him that was attractive, especially to the poor and the oppressed. This observation reminds me that it’s the life of Jesus that I want. Christ in me is my hope of glory. He lives in me and his life is accessible. I can live my life how he would live it if he were me. But it’s the Spirit who helps us do that. It’s the Spirit who helps us pay attention to the life of Jesus in us. It’s the Spirit who then helps us engage with life as Jesus would.

So trying to do life while ignoring the Spirit seems like a really bad idea. But, like you probably, I seem to be able to do that quite often. I know when I’m ignoring the Spirit because I am, you guessed it, inattentive and unengaged. Just ask my wife! She knows when I’m living out of Christ in me because I have more energy, more focus and more love. When I’m weighed down by own thoughts, my own ego, then I tend to withdraw and shut down. What do you do? What are your warning signs? And what do you do when the warning signs appear?

For me, I have learnt that the warning signs don’t just mean spending more time with God. Sometimes it does, but often it means practicing being attentive and engaged. It’s a short prayer of surrender and asking for the Spirit’s help, and then just getting on with it. As I do what I want to be I start to become someone who lives how I and God want me to live. Kiley prefers it too! But if your weakness is too much action, blundering in without thought, being too busy and hyperactive then you probably do need to withdraw with God for silence and solitude. We often need to do the opposite of what we default to in order to reset the system. If you default to stepping away then practice stepping in and stepping up. If you default to busyness and control, then step down and step away. Walk with God. He will nudge you in the right direction.

Yesterday I had a very early shift, so by late in the afternoon I was almost asleep on the couch. A neighbour came over who is showing signs of becoming more open to us and to God. Instead of withdrawing and letting Kiley deal with it, under the guise of tiredness and self-care, I stepped in, gave him attention and engaged as best I could. The reward was simply feeling better about myself and being a better human. That, after all, is why Jesus came. He wants us to be better humans and he can teach us how. We just need to pay attention and engage.

Grace and peace.

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