A final message from the pastor

Augustus_Edwin_Mulready_Uncared_for_1871In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

I find this combination of text and painting almost overwhelming. Perhaps it is the similarity between this young boy and my own son Harrison that stopped me in my tracks.  The skin tone, hair colour even the physical size and presence are striking to me.

Final words from the pastor

These are the final words of Paul to the elders of the Ephesian Church before he sets sail, knowing he will never see them again.  After saying this they knelt and prayed before embracing each other with tears.

If you were asked to write a speech for Paul to the leaders of his church what would you write?  As their pastor what could Paul say that would have the most benefit in their walk with Jesus.

Paul’s message was ‘follow my example, I have not sought to be blessed by you but to bless you.  I have not sought to gain riches from you but to bring you riches.’  Paul instructed them that they MUST help the weak and as a result they themselves will be blessed.

Rewind to Micah

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?    Micah 6:8

The word translated ‘to love kindness’ (hesed) is also often translated ‘loving kindness’ or ‘steadfast love’.  This word appears 250 times in the Bible, mostly used to describe God, but 25% of the time it describes how we should respond to others.

Paul’s enduring message is that the church should be the source of enduring love

Our kindness must be steadfast and loyal.  Paul leaves no choice in whether or not we should be living sacrificially in order to show this kindness.

This instruction is possibly the perfect definition of Win/Win.  Living sacrificially in order to help we are blessed more than if we were receiving help. If you have ever been on the receiving end of help you will understand just how great this ‘greater blessing’ must be.

You can get a hi-res copy of the Augustus Edwin Mulready painting ‘Uncared for’ here

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Love is not blind

Love is BlindThe Poet

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin’d,
Lawless, wing’d & unconfin’d,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

Deceit to secrecy confin’d,
Lawful, cautious & refin’d,
To every thing but interest blind,
And forges fetters for the mind.

William Blake

I have always loved the sentiment of these phrases from Blake, the powerful contrast of love, joy and freedom with deceit, self interest and captivity.  I do however wish the first line were different.   Perhaps we are blind to faults, but love really isn’t.

We sometimes shorten this to ‘Love is blind’ meaning  it doesn’t matter what someone looks like as long as you love them.  At first glance this may appear to be a great characteristic.  However I believe above all things love ‘sees’ what others don’t.

The Prophet

…saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”

to those who are in darkness, “Appear.”
Isaiah 49:9

I absolutely love this message ‘Appear, be seen, come out,’ this message of the power of the love of God in a human life.  It reminds me of God calling “Adam, where are you?”

God in His love calls out to us ‘Do not hide, I love you and have done everything necessary to clothe you and make you lovely’

It is this love of God that makes us lovable. (see Ephesians 5:25-27 to discover how Jesus’ love makes us whole)

God, in loving us sees us, really knows us yet loves us still.  A reminder that we are in fact the work of God’s hands, crafted not to be hidden or filled with shame but as a display of God’s greatness.

The Husband and Father (Me)

The Poet disturbs me into knowing that love ‘sees’.

The Prophet reminds me that in really ‘seeing us’, God also restores us

Personally I am not known for my public displays of affection but I am happy to know that I am loved.  I am married to a wonderful and beautiful woman who knows me, sees my faults but chooses to draw out my gifts and strengths.  Who encourages me to remain in the light sharing and not hiding.  (Thank you Heather, I love you very much)

I have two amazing sons who have taught me that really knowing someone only leads to greater love.  My heart is filled with the desire to love and inspire them to be great men who see clearly, are obsessively kind and love outrageously.

Takeaways for Valentines Day

1.  Are we guilty of failing to really ‘see’ the people whom we claim to love?

Do something about that TODAY!

2.  Spend some time with this hymn excerpt to help you not define or explain Gods love, but simply to receive and respond.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea

there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;

and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

F.W. Faber

Go Figure!

“Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”  Jesus words in Matthew 9:13

I love the fact that Jesus isn’t often prescriptive in His instruction, but draws us in to think and grapple with his teaching.  This is no mindless faith.  “Go figure, I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.  Ok, lets have a crack, lets figure this out.  Mercy, not sacrifice?

I really don’t have grand thoughts on this.  Here is what I do have…..

Mercy is about people, sacrifice is about stuff.  Mercy is choosing others before yourself, being willing to be wrong, preferring other peoples’ reputation above your own.  Sacrifice is what we do, it’s giving up stuff or time.  It is possible to sacrifice in isolation.  It is not possible to ‘LOVE MERCY’ (Micah 6:8) in isolation.  The nature of mercy is relational.  It is about how we treat others, it is about our attitude towards each other.

A while later (Matthew 12:7) Jesus again quotes this passage from Hosea “..if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

Confirmation that knowing (or not knowing) what it means that God desires mercy rather than sacrifice will directly affect our actions and attitudes towards those around us.