Because it's Friday ... here is my favourite thing this week.
Sermon: Grace: The Gifts of the Spirit
Scripture:1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Date: 13 October 2013.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
We all know inspiration comes in many forms. Laundry, the ordinary old washing, has reduced me to tears, and made me laugh at myself. Taking time to be moved by the ordinary is a gift.
I wear hoodies, I know, I'm nearly 40 and it's probably a little sad. I'm not trying to appear younger than I am, I've tired to move over to the more age appropriate cardy's. I do wear cardy's every now and then, but 99% of the time I wear hoodies, I just like them. In years passed I have proven they are somewhat dangerous to wear when your very young children leave you sleep deprived and absent minded. Over the course of 2007 I washed 3 mobile phones in my hoody pouch pockets, a lesson in checking pockets.
The other day I spent the day busy with life, jobs and things, taking myself ever so seriously. As the temperature rose, I pealed off the hoody layer; hold t-shirt down, get arms out, all off except over the head, which I have to work my way over my glasses because I'm too lazy to take them off, even though that would be way easier. Pull it off, only to find a sock balled up in the hood. I'd been wearing it all day, in public, even to the shops and visiting friends. I could only laugh at myself. That sneaky little sock stowed away in my hood, waiting to teach me to laugh at myself when I get too serious about life. A lesson I need often.
This other lesson, you will have all experienced, unless you are at the utmost quadrant of particular with your washing, I am not, I'm in the utmost quadrant of lazy with my washing. Having said that there is always one top you never wish to end up in a dodgy wash cycle. You take great care that this top never goes in with a towel, a rogue rag or even a sneaky face cloth. Yet it is always the top that ends up in the wash with the dreaded tissue.
We line dry where I live, the dryer is only for extreme weather conditions, so out I go this particular morning to hang out the load, which I have already noticed has succumbed to a dreaded tissue, I hang New Zealand merino's (small plug for NZ wool), little jeans, medium jeans and tall jeans, socks and shirts shaking as I go. There it is, the special black, anything and everything clings to top. I shake, and shake and shake, and resign myself to hours of picking off bits of tissue when it is dry. Then I notice the ground, the grass is covered in tiny white shreds, the contrast of white tissue on green is the closest I'll get to snow covering the ground in my back yard. It really is quite beautiful.
The beauty in the annoying, it's not devastating, it really is just annoying, but even in this, there is beauty. I'm not going to over work this, I'm sure you get the idea. Time to pull out my Gratitude Journal and record my thankfulness to the gifts of beauty.
Learning to laugh at your serious self. Finding beauty in the annoying.
That old saying the 'Lord works in mysterious ways', well if he works through laundry, then I'd say they nailed it with that saying.
The Lord works in the ordinary too, if only we pause long enough to see and hear. Take time today, check your schedule and work in some time to ponder the mysteries God is teaching you through the ordinary.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
Our first holiday in a very long time happened this past weekend. We piled into the car and drove with excitement and expectation and we were not disappointed. What an utter privilege it was to hang out with some of our dearest friends who live a winding road, 5 hours drive away.
Over the 4 nights we got to stay with 3 different families, it was a little whirlwind, but it was really nice. The first friends we stayed with are so special to us. Growing up I was really close friends with the husband, James. I moved away, got married and when I moved back, we had our first wee baby boy and James was getting married to a girl we didn't really know at all. After another move for a few years, we returned and I got to know his wife, and as much as I love James, his wife, Amanda, quickly became one of my closest friends. For purely selfish reasons, I am so glad they got married. They were our first stop this holiday, together we shared, coffee, stories, knowing looks, jokes, wine, the kitchen, coffee, shopping, conversations, sickness, more coffee and lots of love.
I was doing the Beth Moore David study last term, one days homework was on the study on David and Jonathan's friendship. David nutted off at Jonathan at one point, questioning his loyalty, David was scared and pretty much took it out on Jonathan. Do you have someone in your life that can ask you the hard questions in love and you listen and respond without offence? This got me thinking, David and Jonathan's relationship was spiritual, they were both devoted to God, and their friendship was based on a promise. I remember one incident when I was freaking out spiritually, I called my dear friend Amanda and told her what was on my heart, and the challenging and confusing conversations I had with another friend. I ended up crying, Amanda got righteously angry, she challenged me, in love. Some people understand you, really understand you, those kind of friends are priceless. I have had the pleasure of a deep spiritual friendship with Amanda for 7 years.
The next stop was with a long time friendship. Tania and I have been friends for about 25 years. Arh, we are old. She is one of those friends you love, but you certainly keep alert. She is very bright and has a memory like an elephant. Our history consist of her doing and saying the funniest, stupidist things, yet I can never remember them. She on the other hand remembers ever single stupid thing I have ever said or done. Over more than 20 years, it's safe to say we have understood the pain of each others lives. We have seen each other change by our circumstances, in good ways and sad ways. The wonderful thing is our husbands love each other, they may not admit it, but they do, they would probably word it a little differently, but it boils down to man love. Tania and I pick up where we left off, we don't need to phone each other, our husbands have stop freaking about that, they call each other, we don't need to, we know that we will pick up exactly where we left off, just like last time.
Sadly for this get together, we arrived in time for sickness to projectile from our youngest, so it wasn't entirely a beautiful experience. But after the men cooked dinner, and we put the kids to bed, we convinced them to go out on a date, they don't get the opportunity to get babysitters much. What a blessing, giving a couple some time.
While there I read this on their fridge and had to share.
Our plan was to head home, to avoid being a giver with germs. But we couldn't help ourselves, we had one 'quick stop' at another dear friend of mine of 15 years. We became friends after praying together after a youth service, only lifting our heads when we heard the vacuum cleaner at our feet. Greer and I have shared a house, as well as those intensely important, coming of age moments; getting engaged, getting married, announcing a pregnancy, having first babies, moving countries, having last babies, hard roads, long roads. They know things about us that others don't know, we know things about them that others don't know. This friendship has stood the test of hardships, time, so many laughs and way too many treats.
Once we arrived we struggled to leave, despite our wee boy initially being unwell, he perked up, and we all watched the clock tick by enjoying every moment, holding my breath until my husband would stand and say we were leaving. The time ticked by, after much umming and arhing, we all celebrated when he said, we might as well stay the night. So we settled in and hoped the germs didn't spread. Still hoping.
It was a time of sweet communion; sharing life, sharing histories, and sharing love. What a treasure we have in friendships.
Thursday, 3 October 2013
There will have been times in your life when sin has had a strong grip on you, through some desire, compulsion or even some addiction that has got hold of you. I know this because you have to be alive to be reading this and if you are alive, you will be having ongoing struggles with sin! In my own life I can think of one such stronghold that I still struggle with at times, as well as one stronghold that I have only recently started facing up to. Sin is a dirty, rotten, foul smelling tyrant! Sin has a pungent stink to it. Before we admit to its lurking presence and face up to it, we often try to spray air freshener to disguise the smell, but let’s be honest, it doesn't really mask it, but only adds to the stench and makes it smell even fruitier.
Sin feels like the never ending plague, a flood of selfishness that spoils all that is good. One day there will be no more sin. I am really looking forward to that day, aren’t you? That hugely exciting time is possible only because one day someone dealt with sin, once and for all. God in human form took our punishment for sin. Jesus did the unthinkable for all people. He came down to our level to save us from the punishment for our sins. He took what we deserved. How amazing is that? None of the other so called gods claim to have done that. No other god loves like Jesus loves. No other god has mercy like the Father God has mercy. No other god dwells within a repentant believer like the Holy Spirit does. Sin has lost its sting, thanks to Jesus only. He has taken the punishment you deserved for the things you have done. Jesus only requires one thing from us. Repent and believe!! Don't forget, not just believe. REPENT and believe. Repentance is where we say, I am sorry for ... I really am.
At this point you need to ask yourself the question “Do I really want to follow Jesus and die to self?” If you really do, then you must refuse to settle for the bondage of sin. Jesus died to set you free from that bondage, beginning here and now in this life.
Why do we struggle to let go of some sins? Is it because we enjoy them or do they make us feel important? There are a whole host of reasons as to why we choose to cultivate our natural bias towards sin. So then, how do we deal with the pull of sin in our daily lives? Once we have repented, how do we stop repeating that sin which can so easily entangle us? David Platt suggests we approach it in one of two ways. Firstly "the more common yet most unsuccessful answer is to try to conquer sin by working hard to change our actions. Much like superficial religion, we often seek to tame our desires with a list of dos and don'ts." I've gone down the “just try harder” track, but no matter how determined I am, I eventually fail. God doesn't need another “try hard”. So what's the other option, "we can conquer sin by trusting Christ to change our affections...by letting Christ overcome us with the power of his satisfaction." What I would like to know is what does the “roll your sleeves up and get your hands dirty” version of that look like for me personally. David Platt sums it up by saying "We know, believe and trust that Jesus is better and we refuse to give in to that sin because we have found greater gratification in our Saviour."
When the Holy Spirit works in your heart in this area of your life, you are standing on the verge of a choice to sin or not. Try this. Place both hands in front of you (metaphorically or physically, whatever works for you) and ask yourself the question; What do I want the most? On the one hand to follow Christ Jesus, or on the other hand to give in to my sinful desires? If we face sin this way, then we have a dependence on the Holy Spirit to convict, to strengthen and to give us a way out. Trying harder just doesn't work.
The fruit of our life will be a genuine testimony to those around us who have not started to follow Christ yet. In one sense sin is the fruit of our humanity, because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. There is however another wonderful option. Our fruit can be the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.
said "Most of us settle for aspiring to, rather than living in the fruit of the gospel." Don't
settle for a life bound by sin. Instead continually choose to follow Jesus
through the power of the Spirit. Not just say the sinner’s prayer and aspire or
try to do better, but to pray for the strength to actually follow Jesus with
your whole life. Don't settle for less. Respond to the Holy Spirit’s
conviction. Hold out your hands. Make a choice between following Jesus or
following your own desires. Paterson