‘In my own voice’

Selwyn has written an excellent summary to this issue: “Trust that God has given you a role that highlights not only your special talents and individuality but, more importantly, the way in which divine grace is at work in your life.

Just to be part of God’s great epic, to be caught up in the narrative He is telling, is one of the highest privileges afforded any human being. …

How different life is when we realise that through all that happens to us a divine story, a bigger story, is being written. Drop your anchor into the depths of this reassuring and encouraging revelation. In the strongest currents of life it will, I promise, help to hold you fast.”

Many people. I feel, think that their life is not significant enough for God to use them in His divine story – this is simply not true. Each, one of us, was purchased by God’s own blood – His blood is priceless, and through His blood, we will be able to walk in peace with Him, forever. Consequently, through Jesus’ death on the cross – and, if we believe – we have been given eternal significance – we are a member of His royal nation – we, do have a role to play, that includes every moment of our lives, and not just for an hour on Sundays. Do you agree?

How do I get in? (How do I follow Jesus?)

The verses set for today’s reading and meditation (John 3:1-15), are very well known to the followers of Jesus – from the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, verses 1 to 21, New Living Translation –  I’ve added additional verses, up to and including verse 21, for obvious reasons):

“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

This blog now, gets a number of hits from people asking the question: ‘How do I follow Jesus?’ The journey starts with being born again – as described by the above verses.  Just as an aside – note the words: “the Son of Man has come down from heaven’, it’s important to understand that Jesus is not talking as a messenger from God – that is, only as a human being or an angel or some other form of created being. He is the one and only, God – and therefore His words are life – there is no other way to be saved.

As Selwyn writes in today’s study: “I pose this question: How do I enter into a relationship with God and become part of His eternal epic? You enter into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus by being what the Bible calls ‘born again’. … If you have not been born again, I invite you now to open your heart to God and His Son Jesus Christ. Say the following prayer, (with an open and accepting heart):

Heavenly Father, I want to be part of Your story. I come to You now to be born again. I surrender everything to You – my whole life, my heart … everything. Accept me and make me Your child. In Jesus’ name I pray.”

A transcendent drama

I’ll repeat here the main element of today’s study – mainly, because I’ve also been impressed by what Joni has written.

Selwyn writes: “Whenever I have listened to Joni Eareckson Tada tell her story, I hear nothing that comes anywhere close to tragedy, comedy or irony. There is something inspiring, something of God, about her story. She talks about the events that made her a quadriplegic not in terms of tragedy but in terms of a transcendent drama. One has only to listen to her to be aware of the grace of God that shines out from her personality.

She has the attention and admiration of millions because she speaks out of suffering – suffering that has been redeemed. She admits, of course, that there was a time of complaint in her life – a time when she shook her fist in God’s face – but she has worked through that now and has come to recognise that in allowing her accident to take place, God had a purpose for her life that has touched the lives of millions.”

If you have not heard much about Joni before – then I can recommended her books; a good one is: “Glorious Intruder – God’s Presence in Life’s Chaos”.

Joni’s website has a lot more information – it’s main role is: ” … to communicate the gospel and equip Christ-honoring churches worldwide to evangelize and disciple people affected by disabilities.”

The verses, set for reading and meditation are worth thinking about – another example of a person’s response to suffering – Isaiah 38:15-20, part of Hezekiah’s Poem of Praise (NLT):

” … But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt.

Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins.

For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness.

Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next.

Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord.”

What did you get out of today’s study?

Don’t sigh – sing!

Selwyn asks us, all a question – and, it’s an appropriate question to ask as we near the end of this issue.

“Are you aware at the moment of something going on in your life that is bigger than your personal agenda – that you are being caught up in a bigger story?”

Now and then, we need to take – what’s called a ‘helicopter view’ of our situation. That is, to rise above our own personal viewpoint and to look at the bigger picture – to see where we are, in relationship to other people, and the wider environment.  We are approaching the end of Selwyn’s examination of the amazing truth that we are all part of God’s story. If we remain focused on ourselves and our own agenda the risk is that we will remain blind to our role in His story – a role that’s in progress – every day of our lives. 

We should be aware, that before Jesus created time, He had you and me in mind. He carefully planned, when you would be born and when you will die – He prepared good works for you to do. He has purposefully bought the paths of you and other people, together, at specific points in time. He has written a script and even if we don’t know it – all our steps, all our twists and turns – are known by Jesus – nothing, is a surprise to God. Consequently, we should live each day, full of the expectation that what we do for anyone; or, what we write or say, has a purpose that was defined, before time began.

I feel that we will be given many opportunities to serve God and to bring Him glory. Sadly, we will miss some of these opportunities – often, because we are so inwardly focused on our own agenda; our own self-interests. However, His purposes will not go unfulfilled because these good works will be handed to others, these arrangements were put in place a long, time ago. Yet, we will have to admit, when we are called to provide an account of our lives – that we failed to ‘perform our given roles’; because of our self-inflicted blindness.

What’s your answer to Selwyn’s question?

More about poetry

Selwyn’s study is interesting but I find it hard to comment because I like both chess and poetry – so what does that make me?

I liked the following: “When faced with the mystery of God’s story in our lives we have two choices: either we respond by trying to figure out God’s ways and seek to introduce some ‘editorial deletions’, or we respond by floating on the waves of His purposes … “ and, trusting in the goodness of God.

The first choice, attempting to rationalise God’s ways – will always lead to a view that God is smaller than He is – because it’s a view that has as its foundation the belief that we have the intellect to understand God’s mind. A tiny mite, on an ant has a much better chance of understanding my actions than I do, of understanding God’s ways. Or, put another way; from Scripture we may see as if looking through a dark glass, a small part of God – enough to get us safely home. Equate that to distance, we may see a few millimeters of God’s nature, but His nature stretches from here to the edge of our universe, billions of kilometers away. If we keep the scale of these comparison firmly in the forefront of our mind, we may then begin to realise just how foolish it is to try and understand the reasons behind God’s ways.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 11:28-36 (NLT): “Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. Now they are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy. For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?

And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”

Paul has made the same point much better than I – yet, there are many who never let go of the quest to find the reasons behind God’s actions – what a great waste of their time. Do you agree?

Rejoice in mystery

I liked the bit that Selwyn wrote about poetry: “Poetry is the product of passion. It has something volcanic about it, surging up in the poet’s soul like molten lava and spilling over in strangely moving language.”

If I could use the above words in a slightly different way: “Our love for God should be a product of passon – it should have something volcanic about it, surging up in our hearts like molten lava and to spill over and set on fire the hearts of our friends and neighbours – so they too, may seek and receive God’s passionate love and rejoice in it.

Entering into mystery

Selwyn moves onto another ‘thing we must do as participants in God’s big story is to enter into mystery and celebrate it’.

He starts today’s study with: “What do I mean when I say we must enter into mystery? Let me put it like this: most of us, when we are faced with mystery, instead of entering into it and rejoicing that God knows more than we do, attempt to resolve the mystery by reducing it to manageable proportions. Mystery erodes our sense of competence so we struggle to explain it, to rationalise it.

… God allows things to happen to us that have no apparent explanation, so we accept and deal with whatever God is doing with absolute trust.”  

God is all powerful and always good, holy and just.

The hardest statement for a young intellectual of today, to say, is: “I don’t know”. There is a prevalent form of scientific rationalism which promotes the view that although we may not know all the facts at the present moment, further research will eventually lead to a full explanation. In regard to accidents, the only answer to be given by such a view is that there is no reason, as to why it happened – call it ‘fate’ – call it ‘destiny’ – say that it was, simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Whatever, you call it – never look towards God for an answer! This attitude is very common in my ‘western’ culture.

Our life is one continuous story of our interaction with the one, and only, all-powerful God; Jesus is calling us into an eternal relationship with Him.  The things that happen to us, the people we meet and the things we do; are all interconnected to the single, core theme of God’s story: that is, how we respond to God’s love as shown to us by Jesus on His cross. Our response, illustrates to ourselves, the nature of our relationship with Jesus. This relationships determines our eternal future.