Finished Work and an Empty Tomb

12:06 am and I’m having a feast – of Easter egg.  I start my Easter egg-eating a couple of days early, as I don’t like hot cross buns.  Some traditions can be fun!  Don’t invent them for yourself if they’re not.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1.

Anyway, back to Easter eggs.  I unwrap my egg, take out that first big piece of chocolate (doesn’t it smell so good?) and suddenly where the chocolate was, there’s emptiness.  I heard someone talk earlier this week about how when you crack open an Easter egg there’s nothing inside, and it reminded me of the empty tomb – the tomb where once Jesus’ body had been.  An angel rolled away the stone that first Easter Day – for us, not for Him.  In His new, resurrected body, Jesus could come to His followers through locked doors.  He could have broken out of that tomb with the stone still at the entrance, but Peter, John and the women couldn’t have gone in.  They saw the sheet His body was wrapped in as just an empty shell, and the burial cloth from His head folded in such a way as to say:  “It is finished.”

Remember the cross this weekend.  Remember the work that Jesus has finished.  God loved and wanted to be with us so much that He sent Jesus to do everything needed to make us acceptable to Him.  And when you crack an Easter egg to see the hollow inside that first piece of chocolate reveals, remember the empty tomb – Jesus, alive again … and have a happy Easter.

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Compassion Goals 2

Welcome to the second in my “Compassion Goals” series.  You can read part 1 here, and if you click the link in that post, you’ll notice Alexis has been sponsored!  Thanks to whoever sponsored him, and thank you especially if it was one of you reading this blog.

Actually, it was reading that put this next goal into my mind.  I read a book called “Kisses from Katie”.  Have you heard of it?  Katie Davis flew out to Uganda for the first time as a teenager, really grew to love those she came into contact with, and it wasn’t long before she went back to live there permanently.  She pours her life into serving that country and is certainly someone who commands respect.  Well, you would, wouldn’t you – if you were under 25 and had 13 girls calling you ‘Mommy’?  She’s a powerful speaker, and through this book, she really brought home to me the need in Uganda.

Katie runs an organisation herself, Amazima Ministries (Amazima means ‘Truth’ in Luganda – the most spoken language where Katie lives).  They have a child-sponsorship programme, and every so often their sponsors receive letters from a child in the programme, but they don’t link every sponsor to a particular child the way Compassion do.  I can see the sense in this.  Perhaps you want to clothe a child and give them an education, but don’t have the time or the inclination to write letters.  And if your financial circumstances changed, you could stop sponsoring without feeling you had let a specific child down.  For me though, letter-writing and the possibility of getting to know my child were what drew me to sponsorship, so having seen the need, I’d like to sponsor a Compassion-child in Uganda one day.

What about you; do you favour Compassion’s more personal approach, or would you rather do it Amazima’s way?  I hope at least one person reading this feels a stirring in their heart to sponsor in Uganda.  I searched Compassion’s site and had lots of Ugandan children to choose from, but if I’m picking one, it would be Erinora.  I just love the name – sort of like Erin and Nora combined.  It’s a funny name, but really, really sweet.  Would you consider sponsoring Erinora?  At the moment she’s a 5-year-old who doesn’t go to school.  Imagine what impact your sponsorship could have on a life like hers.

The Devil is not Defeated

Maybe this sounds a strange title for a post, especially this week when people everywhere are remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross to destroy the works of the devil, but the message of the post is simple:  If we don’t act on that, the devil is not defeated.

In the Bible, James 4:7 tells us:  “Submit yourselves then to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  When Jesus died and the Holy Spirit was sent to live in His followers, that same Spirit gave us the power to resist; but unless we resist, the devil is not defeated.

Does that sound harsh?  Are you a follower of Jesus who feels you’re being sucked back into slavery?  I’m not writing this in anger.  I write because your friends (the ones who love you) are deeply, gut-wrenchingly sad when they think about the pain you’re in.  You know the Bible-verse that talks about the Holy Spirit praying with groans that words can’t express?

Please, please, resist.  Don’t let the devil destroy your life; let Jesus destroy him.

* * *

If this hits home for anybody reading, will you do something about it?  Jesus loves you and wants to help you; please, let Him.  “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength” – Isaiah 40:31.

Static

At church on Sunday, our pastor talked about radios; about tuning in to God, hearing His signal, and how sometimes it can be drowned by the noise/the static of life.  I want to tell you about a time God challenged me to get some of the ‘Static’ out of my life.

It was 2005 and I had gone on holiday with my parents.  We were going to spend half the week doing things together, and they would spend the other half doing more of their coastal path walking while I relaxed in the cottage with some books and my laptop.  It was the most wonderful cottage I’ve ever stayed in.  The bedrooms had doors leading to the patio, and just over the wall was the coastal path, and then the sea.  Hearing the power of those waves really gave me a sense of the awesomeness of God.

On Sunday, they set off in the car and I was left to do church as best you can on your own.  I sang along with some CDs and then took one of the books I’d brought out onto the patio.  I hardly remember anything about the book, except that it quoted some verses from the Bible I’d never noticed before – 1 John 2:15-17:  “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” …  As I read, God pinpointed something and I just knew:  I loved Formula One too much.  I had wondered whether I was getting too obsessed with it, but had pushed this thought away and never done anything about it, but that day I knew I had to.  So when the Grand Prix came on at lunchtime, I wasn’t watching, and I didn’t watch for quite a few years after that.

God is a God of joy, but when something gets in the way of your relationship with Him, it needs dealing with.  The Bible clearly says the fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience.  I was fairly patient … but if I was getting a lift home from church and they were chattering and the Grand Prix was starting, that patience would go out the window.  Inside, in the heart where it matters, I would be wanting to get in front of the TV – now.  I even enjoyed watching the races more than being at church, and when you can put a race that lasts 2 hours maximum above that special time in the week of focusing on God, there’s something wrong.

It was a struggle at first to be at home and keep the TV off, but it really did me good.  I remember once having an idea for a song, sitting down with my Bible and writing it.  I don’t have a TV anymore, but I do have the radio, and in about 2011 I started listening again to the races.  You can be sure I prayed hard before doing this.  I heard of a pastor called David Wilkerson who gave up television.  When after a while he went back to it, he felt God say he wouldn’t experience the fullness of what God wanted to give him if he had a TV.  It was obviously still a no-go area for him, but I didn’t feel God say that to me about Formula One.  I really enjoyed the Australian Grand Prix last weekend.  The first race of the season is always a bit special, but I don’t feel compelled to hear every interview and not miss a moment.  I like that I can enjoy it and yet it’s in perspective, but I really want it to stay that way.

So here’s a challenge:  Not so much for the readers of this blog who don’t know me, but more for family and friends.  If you see Formula One, or anything, becoming ‘Static’ (getting between me and my God), please tell me.  Because He means a lot to me, and when I’m encouraged to draw aside and be with God, I want to be free to drop everything and do that.

Compassion Goals 1

I’m very honoured to be a Compassion-sponsor.  I have children in the Philippines and Haiti, but I don’t see child-sponsorship as something that will stop as soon as these children leave their centres.  Reading about the experiences and aspirations of other sponsors has made me think:  What are my own Compassion goals?  Over the next 4 weeks I’ll write about some of them, and I’d love to hear yours too.

So here they are, in no particular order.  First, I’d love to sponsor an orphan.  God has a special place in His heart for orphans.  We’re told in the Bible that helping orphans in their time of need is one of the things that makes religion (James 1:27), but it’s not just that.  I was privileged to grow up in a caring family.  My parents loved me and did their best, and I want to show love and care to someone who doesn’t have parents in their life who can.  If you feel the same, here’s just one orphan you could sponsor today.  It’s yet another Alexis!  Last time I wanted to feature a child on this blog, a boy called Alexis jumped out at me.  Well, today’s Alexis lives in Rwanda.  I find this hard to comprehend, but he’s 17 and still in primary school.  Will you help him in his time of need?  Will you give him the opportunity to grow and develop – to live the life he was made to live?

Part of the Plan

Holley asked us to write this week about what brings us joy, particularly relating to our God-sized dream.  Of course, if they’re related to a God-sized dream, they’ll be Godly things – not things that contradict His Word.  I had one of the most joyful days on Monday, as I sat in a café for 2 hours, having lunch and talking with one of my most treasured friends.  Some of you reading this may think:  That brings happiness, not joy, but I’d argue the opposite.  You see, spending quality time with this friend twice in a month is something I could only have dreamed of a few years ago.  It’s precious, and I’m super-grateful to God for it.

Holley says if we look at the things that bring us most joy, that’s a clue to God’s call on our life.  God uses what we already have.  You see that with Moses in Exodus 2:11-17:  He had a passion to bring about justice, and he didn’t always get it right.  Look at when he killed that Egyptian, but nevertheless it was there.  As my pastor said, it was there as much when he couldn’t stand by and let those shepherds stop his future wife from watering her flocks, as when he went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him to let the Israelites go.  You see it with Peter too:  He basically had a big mouth!  One minute he’d be all-out for God, the next he’d be trying to side-track Jesus, but the Lord eventually used Peter’s words to save 3,000 people in a day.  And I see it in my own life:  I love singing, I love writing; I feel God’s called me to do both.

So if spending time with family and friends is what brings me joy, maybe people will always be part of God’s call on my life.  Maybe I’ll never be like one of those missionaries who travel to foreign nations on their own to spread the gospel, and maybe that’s ok, because it’s not how God made me.

What things bring you joy?  Do you see them as part of God’s plan for your life?

Godsends in our Hospitals

On Saturday, just before midnight, I had the radio on.  I heard an interview with a man whose 12-year-old boy was killed in the Warrington bombings.  Whether it’s been 2 years or 20, talking about your son’s death must be an ordeal and he handled it so well; I’m sure I wasn’t the only one touched by it, but one thing I noticed that wasn’t commented on was the role of hospital chaplaincy.

 

He spoke of the surgeon who told them:  “Your son may not survive the night.  Now if you’ll excuse me …” and left them alone in the room.  Then the next day, after the chaplain gave them coffee and biscuits, he went to see Tim.  The contrast really hit me:  A surgeon – so busy with other duties that he didn’t have time to talk, and a chaplain – prepared to have coffee with the parents of a wounded child, and come alongside them in their grief.

 

The NHS talk about cutting hospital chaplains, but this to me is proof that they shouldn’t.  I’m thankful for the way the hospital chaplain and his team helped one of my friends when she was in hospital back last year, and I’m sure that patients and their relatives need the emotional and spiritual support as much as the medical care.

When you Want to Listen

Well, I was going to get up at 6 for the qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, but woke up half an hour late.  That was ok, as there had been heavy rain and the start was delayed, so didn’t really miss anything.  They split it into 3 parts and the first part was exciting, then more rain; more delay.  Then they say:  “We’ll switch to 5 Live Sports Extra.”  I’ve managed this in the past, but this morning, could I find the ‘Listen live’ link on the website?

I went back to 5 Live, hoping I’d at least find out there who was on pole, and 5 Live wasn’t working either.  So, deleted my browsing history and got it going again, but still no success with Sports Extra.  I finally typed “Listen” “5 Live Sports Extra” into my search engine and found another site that got me directly to it.  Part 2 of the qualifying hadn’t yet started; phew!  Again, didn’t miss anything.  Then they say:  “Q2 and Q3 will take place at 11 o’clock Sunday morning” (that’s midnight in the UK, and the race is 6 hours later)!

I don’t mind F1 changing the time of the qualifying; drivers’ safety is very important, but I do wish the BBC would make their sites easier to use for people with screen-readers, and wouldn’t cram them full of so much information.  If you’re blind and have speech software on your computer, do you find the BBC website difficult, or is it just me?  On the flip side, I have been enjoying some of the comments about the session on Twitter.

Friend Friday: The man on the Platform

One of my friends blogged yesterday about how he’d reached ‘Platform 65’.  I love thinking what to do for people’s birthdays; some things happen, others just stay as ideas.  Well, one of my plans for this year didn’t quite work.  After reading one of Sharon Jaynes’ posts last month, I wanted to write down 65 things I appreciated about my friend ready for his birthday, but I only got to 47.  Don’t worry; I won’t list them all here, but I can do a few:

 

First, he loves Jesus and lives for His glory.  Of course, there are many things in our lives:  We’ve all got to eat; we’ve all got to fill our days with something … but if you can glorify God in it all, that’s what makes a person.

 

Second, well two things really, he makes me smile and he’s fun.  The church I go to now isn’t a posh church:  People just come wearing whatever they feel comfortable in.  Well, last weekend, I was out for lunch with the family afterwards and there wasn’t time for me to go home and change, so I wore a dress instead of the trousers I’d normally wear.  When my friend turned up to give me a lift, he said:  “Why have you got your legs out?”  It made me laugh, and Mum too when I told her later.

 

30 December 2004 was a very special day; it was when I started recording my first album.  Although I’d met my friend briefly before then, I’d never worked or spent time with him, but I was looking to make a CD, and on his website he wrote:  I’m born again, water-baptised, Spirit-filled, and God-anointed to work in music.  I’m not sure it says that any more, but I got so excited and thought:  “Hey!  What else do you need?”

 

One of my songs had a verse about how Jesus’ mother would have felt when He died on the cross.  My friend put a staccato viola into the song, but it made me giggle, and I didn’t want to sing ‘A sword will pierce your own soul’ to music that sounded so cheerful!  So I told him and he changed it.  When we got to the backing-vocals stage and I said it didn’t need any, he said:  “Are you sure?  We can always mute it if it sounds too joyful.”

 

And a final two things?  He inspires me/gives me courage I wouldn’t have had on my own.  It was him who said:  “Why don’t you start blogging?”  I hadn’t read many blogs then and my first posts were more like essays!  But now, thanks to other bloggers, I’ve learnt to keep them to 700 words at most.  As the Bible says, one friend sharpens another, and I’m so grateful for the times my friend has stepped in and helped me in my Christian life.  Yes; we need to love God first and with all our hearts, but we also need each other.

 

So, my birthday tribute to ‘The man on the Platform’.  He started his ‘Platform’ posts at 60; I very much hope to still be there at platform 90, and maybe by then I’ll have 90 points down on my list!