Turn around and face God

I was taking the service in our local rest home the other day, and as I spoke the words of the Confession, it struck me, as it had before, that it was a bit odd to urge these frail elderly folk to turn from their sins. After all, I didn’t think any of them had been out robbing banks, or murdering people. They were all too old to commit these sorts of sins. But after reading the Gospel from Mark 1 about John the Baptist, I saw repentance in a different way, and spoke to our people about what it can mean for them. Repentance means turning away. Turning away from the past, from hurts, from regrets, from things that hold us back from floating in God’s presence and His love. That’s what my elderly friends needed to hear – they weren’t being accused of being badly behaved, just invited in the confession time to let God shine the light into their hearts, into their consciences, and deal with the old hurts.

And do you know what was so gratifying after bringing this short message to the elderly people – they all seemed to be more at ease, more peaceful, after the service.

May you too embrace the message of repentance, not seeing it as a stick to beat you up, but rather a chance to place all the niggles and annoyances at the cross.

Advertisements

Rubber gloves

During yesterday’s service I was struck afresh by the words “May God strengthen you in all goodness.” So often these are taken to mean, may God help us avoid evil, or may we listen to our conscience. But I think that we are constantly challenged by the world we live in the step up in our goodness. Not only by not doing wrong, but by deliberately doing something that is good, that shows God’s goodness to those God loves.

You see, it’s easy to live this life with rubber gloves on. I didn’t used to use gloves for doing the dishes, or for gardening, but recently I have been trying them out, to see if it makes a difference. Well, yes, the chores are quicker, and I get no dirt under my nails, and my nail polish doesn’t chip as quickly.

But today I was pricking out tiny Kohl Rabi seedlings, and I needed the sensitivity of fingertips, so that I didn’t break the tiny roots. I worked without gloves, and yes there is now soil under my nails. But what I discovered afresh was that I love the feeling of the soil on my hands, its living potential. I love to be so connected with the plants that I can feel the roots coming out of the ground, and I can snug them into their new home like tucking in a  litlte baby!

What would it feel like to minister to our world without gloves on, I wondered? Would I get dirt under my nails, and scratches and scars? If we are going to be really sensitive to the needs of others, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be used up almost. We need to ask God to strengthen us in all goodness, so that our own desires for self-,preservation  are not limiting our ministry.

If I am brave enough, I could tackle a problem in our street, with a family who are not doing well. I could talk to them about how they swear at the little kids, and risk getting sworn at too. I could challenge them on their drinking, and risk getting an empty bottle thrown at me. But if God is strengthening me in all goodness, and if it is God’s idea that I get to be involved in this family, God will be with me, and I can leave the rubber gloves at home, and risk breaking a fingernail!

Jabez re-written

1 Chronicles 4:10-“O that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!”

This is known as the Prayer of Jabez, and some years ago it was very popular. I came across it again recently when a visiting preacher spoke – Dr Charly Tom from Mercy Mission in India. He was very interesting, and brought up this idea of praying that God would enlarge our borders.

I started thinking about this – it’s easy to ask for God to enlarge our borders, but are we prepared for what may follow? Dr Charly has been running an oprhanage and school for many years, and is constantly relying on God’s provision to support his work.

But if we are really asking God to enlarge our borders – maybe for more ministry, or more to do to usher in the kingdom, we must not forget the next bit -“and  that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” If we are prepared to ask God for more ministry, we must also ask God for the support we need to back that up. God’s hand with us – that will open doors and provide our needs. Keeping us from hurt and harm is physical safety, but also spiritual protection.

If we only ask for God to enlarge our borders – or stretch the pegs of our tent, as another version has it- without asking for God’s provision and protection, we will be like bread dough, which we are trying to fit across the pizza pan. If we stretch it without first kneading it properly, it tears and gaps form, which let the sauce seep through. The pizza will stick to the pan and burn. We can be like that too – if we let ourselves be stretched without God’s provision, we too can break apart and burn out.

Perhaps we could reverse Jabez’ prayer – “God, let your hand be upon me, and keep me from hurt and harm, so that when you bless me and enlarge my borders I can work for your kingdom in the world.”

Broad Beans and Ministry

When I was a girl, occasionally Mum would put something weird on our dinner plates. Oval-shaped things, about an inch long, greyish and a bit wrinkly, like they’d been in water too long, which when you bit them were bitter and rubbery on the outside, and floury on the middle. Yuk! You’ve guessed it – broad beans, or fava beans.

When I was trying to improve the clay soil here, I discovered you could plant broad beans to fix in the nitrogen, so I bought some, and planted them, thinking that they would work as green manure but we wouldn’t have to eat them. As the plants grew, I realised that they were doing really well – fast-growing, bushy, healthy plants, with lots of flowers, and very soon, hundreds of bean pods. I looked up how to use them in one of those gardening/recipe books, held my heart in my mouth, and made a decision.

If they were so easy to grow, I would decide that I was going to like them. Gulp! I picked them small, blanched them and popped the bright green seeds out of the grey, bitter jackets, and added them to salads, and, actually, discovered that they were really quite good! (The kids are still not with me on this one.)

What’s this got to do with ministry? If you find yourself in a  ministry you didn’t think you would like, make a decision to like it anyway. Be open to finding the revelation, the good, sweet centre.

God always makes things easier if we step out in faith, trusting him for the way ahead. God will surely bless those ministries!

When I was picking my broad beans, I could smell a wonderful perfume, and looked closer at the homely plants. Under the leaves were the most gorgeous flowers, black-and-white, very decorative, with a fantastic, heady scent, which wafted across the garden.God was blessing me with these unexpected treasures, all because I had decided to embrace something new, that had the power to grow and nourish me.

1Cor 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”