Tag: easter

Jesus rises from the dead

Jesus rises from the dead

Luke 24:1-12

I’m so happy to say that the last blog post was not the LAST blog post. Luke doesn’t leave Jesus dead and in the grave – He has risen!

The stress, busy-ness and pressure has been gradually building in my household over the last month or two as work tasks have increased, hospital appointments have built up, ongoing jobs from the past year need tying up and we prepare for Christmas and the new year. There have been blood, sweat and tears physically and metaphorically! But those things are coming to end, nothing more can be done, and it’s time to stop and relax and ‘let the good times roll’!

Looking back at the chapter in Luke, Jesus has been in the grave, blood, sweat and tears have been present in an even bigger way than in my household, and now, it is time for Him to come alive again and bring smiles back to the faces of His loved ones. The stress, concern, sadness and disappointment was over. Their friend, son, brother and Saviour was back and all was well again!

I am sure I am not alone in letting the tasks that need to be done, and the stress they bring, overwhelm me. If you can relate, please take this as post as your sign to stop. Jesus is born and He has risen again to be your God and Redeemer. Nothing else matters now. Have fun, share the love of God with those around you and relax.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Jesus is crucified

Jesus is crucified

Luke 23:26-43

There have been a few posts recently that have been a bit sad rather than happy and joyful as you would expect and hope at this time of year. I’m afraid we are about to get stuck into just about the saddest passage in Luke now, just before Christmas – Jesus’ crucifiction. There is a reason we are reading this passage today though, and hopefully you will understand why by the end of the blog post…

It is important for us to remember that although we celebrate Jesus coming down to Earth as a baby at this time of year, He didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a teacher, friend, neighbour, prophet, brother, healer, carer and more, and ultimately, He became our rescuer, redeemer, forgiver and Messiah when He died on a cross, taking away our sins.

It isn’t nice to read about Jesus suffering and dying in pain and alone, especially at Christmas, but it is important to remember who Jesus was and what He was sent down to Earth for. He knew His purpose so well, and loved so strongly, that even on the cross, when the pain in His arms and feet was unbearable and His breathing difficult, He focused on the sinner beside Him. This man had done wrong in a big way, and did not deserve anything, instead of using His God given power to free Himself.

The next time you see a nativity scene, acknowledge the baby in the manger, but then look closer. Imagine the baby as a man. God sent to Earth in human form to teach the teachers, heal the sick and broken, change theology, share the good news of God, awaken the dead, calm the seas, feed the hungry, release demons and finally, die on the cross for us. He didn’t have to do it, He didn’t deserve it, but He chose to do it for us, because He loves us.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Luke 19:28-40

This is it, there is no denying it now. We are much into the traditional Easter story instead of the Christmas one now. This is where things get less pretty, and more intense, full on and emotional…

Christmas is an exciting, fun time for myself and many others, full of great food, presents, laughter, joy and love. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the reason we are even celebrating is because a baby was born. Not just any baby though, the Son of God!

This passage in Luke 19 reminds us that not only should we be remembering and celebrating the moment Jesus was born, but also the moments after that in which He went into Jerusalem, got arrested and died on a cross, knowing that it was required in order that we might be able to live with Him in eternity.

Death and pain are not things we like to think about at this time of year, but this one was special. He didn’t stay dead, He rose from the dead later on, proving who He was and what He was born to do.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, His followers shouted out, praising Him for what He had done, and even laying down their coats and leaves to make a path for Him (and the donkey He was on) to ride across. If you know the Easter story, you will know that these cries of Hosanna soon changed to be boos of hate.

It can be easy to love Jesus when things are going well and we are surrounded by happy people and good things but when things in life are challenging, Christmas is over and we go back into the ‘real’ world, are we still celebrating Jesus the King? Do we continue to worship Him when He is no longer a baby? Do we lift our voices or hands and give thanks to Him when the cross feels far too heavy for us and life isn’t all tinsel and bells and glitter?

I wonder how many of the people present on this day in Jerusalem, who seemed committed to worshipping and praising Jesus, continued supporting and loving Him when the crowds had to choose between Him and a murderer? How many of them still saw Him as their Lord and Saviour when He died on the cross? How and why would our God allow His Son to die a death like that? Surely it can’t really be Him!?

When Christmas is done, are you still going to be there beside Jesus when life is rough? Or are you only there for the good parts, the celebration? It’s a challenge for us all to make sure we don’t get life get in the way of recognising Jesus in everything and not giving up on Him when things don’t pan out the way we want.

Is it Easter or Christmas?

Is it Easter or Christmas?

‘While everyone was wondering about all that Jesus did, He said to His followers, “Don’t forget what I tell you now: The Son of Man will be handed over to people.” But the followers did not understand what this meant; the meaning was hidden from them so they could not understand. But they were afraid to ask Jesus about it.’ – Luke 9:43b-45

I am frequently puzzled by the contrast of all the wondrous things I read and hear about Jesus doing, both in the bible and in the world today, and the bad things and the seemingly, unanswered prayers. This must have been how the disciples felt too. They had seen and heard the amazing things that Jesus was doing, but they were held back by their doubts and by their confusion around the things He was saying with regards to His future, and what that meant for them.

I am very curious, and am known to ask more questions than the average 4 year old in a day (my parent are thankful for Alexa for this reason!). I struggle with the not-knowing but God is a God of mystery. Sometimes, because it’s best for us not to understand, sometimes, He uses the mystery to grow our faith, sometimes, we just have to wait and sometimes, it’s too big and complicated for us to understand.

Although we can feel confused and alone in working out what is happening around us, God hasn’t abandoned us, expecting us to struggle with our questions alone. Jesus knew the disciples wouldn’t fully be able to grasp what was about to happen, but He kept giving them clues along the way. To us, these clues can sound really obvious, but that’s only because of what we know. If the disciples had retrospect, I am sure they would understand it too, but that’s not how it works.

Sometimes I hear or read something, and it helps me make sense of a particular situation, or come to terms with not knowing why I can’t find the answer. I believe that this is where God is getting involved by sending clues my way. It’s down to me to accept that, just like the disciples, I might not understand right now but maybe one day, I will. Once Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to them, the disciples understood what had happened, but they had to wait for that day to come around.

When he was writing this book, Luke included some of the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples prior to His death and resurrection. These must have recalled by individuals after the event so they could be written down for us to read. I can just imagine Peter turning to Luke and saying, “Oh yeah, there was that time He said He was going to die and come back again, but at the time, I had no idea what He was going on about! Oops.”

It’s okay to be confused by everything that is happening – the good and the bad, and its okay to not know the answers. If you need to know more, ask God, and He will help you make sense of the things you need to know, and settle your mind on things you don’t need to know, at least for the time being. Maybe one day, like the disciples, you will look back and it will all make sense.

Chosen?

Chosen?

Luke 7:36-50

Did you know that Christ or Messiah means anointed one? Yes? Well did you know that ironically, unlike Levitical priests, Jesus was not anointed? However, just because He didn’t participate in a ceremony in which oil was poured over Him, like David did before he became King, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:6-7) and was chosen.

I don’t feel that my life has had a clear purpose. I have done things I have enjoyed, I have helped others where I could and pushed on doors that seemed to be opening in front of me to see where they led, but I haven’t ever felt that I had one main purpose in life that I should be preparing for. I don’t know what I have been anointed/ chosen for. Maybe that’s because I am still in the training phase of God’s plan for me, and will be given my mission when I am done, or maybe I have missed that anointing along the way in the busyness of life.

In the start of this passage from Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is visiting Simon, a Pharisee. I don’t know if Simon hadn’t had people over before (unlikely) or if he was just a bad host, but he had not greeted Jesus with a kiss or washed His feet, as was the custom at the time. The woman who entered the house afterwards was not to know this, yet she took it upon herself to kiss Jesus’ feet and wash them, not only with water and soap, but with her tears, her hair and an aromatic perfume!

There is some confusion about who the woman is that washes, kisses and pours perfume over Jesus’ feet. Some believe her to be a prostitute in the area, as in Luke’s account, she is described as a ‘sinful woman’, but in Matthew’s version of events, this woman is identified as Mary Magdalene who’s brother, Lazarus, is raised from the dead. Many people presume this woman to be a prostitute due to the wording used in Luke’s writing but ‘sinful’ is very unspecific. I am sinful, you are sinful, we all are sinful. Acknowledging that we don’t know, I am going to imagine in this instance that she is Mary Magdalene. Not because I want it to be her but she isn’t a one off ‘perfume pourer’. Later in the gospel, Mary is identified as the one of first people to see Jesus alive after His resurrection, and that is because she and some other women had taken spices and perfume to the grave. Although her name is not mentioned, it is quite possible that she was also involved in helping prepare Jesus’ body after His death. This process involved using various spices, oils and perfume to preserve the body.

I started out by explaining that though Jesus was chosen and anointed with the Holy Spirit, He was never officially anointed (i.e. with oil like a Priest) physically with oil, perfume or other substances. Looking at what we have read and found out in the last few paragraphs, I can see I was wrong. Jesus was anointed with a substance like a Priest, it just wasn’t done in a formal way by a recognised figure. Instead, it was carried out at the time Jesus was doing miracles and other parts of God’s work and at the moment He started the process of becoming more God like, the moment of His death on the cross.

With this in mind, I can recall a couple of occasions which people have spoken things over me which at the time sounded ridiculous, but that now, make total sense. I had been anointed by a Mary character but because it wasn’t God directly, I didn’t pay much notice.

Are there times in your life that you didn’t feel chosen or anointed at the time, but with the understanding that not all of us are formally anointed into a role or position, now you can see where God used others to anoint you into His plan? Take a short time to reflect on this properly. You never know what you might have missed that could take your life in a totally new, God planned, direction!

Finding comfort in the quiet

Finding comfort in the quiet

I had been thinking about what my next blog post would be about and then I got caught up in the chaos of Spring Harvest and the Easter weekend. The only day I had to stop and think was on Saturday just gone, also known as Holy or Easter Saturday. I had logged into my Twitter account (twitter.com/youbelong_2019) when it first struck me that Holy Saturday was one of the only days in the year that the Church didn’t have much to say about or speak into because on that day 2019 years ago, ‘the heavens went silent’ and what is the Church without God? Nothing. So instead, more often than not, churches don’t talk about it and instead they jump forward to Easter day and the excitement of Jesus’ resurrection.

I completely understand the desire to do this because we know what is coming and like children on their birthdays, we just want to run downstairs and open our presents of hope and eternal life. But on the very first Holy Saturday, Jesus was dead in the tomb, the disciples were all alone and they thought it was all over. The plans they had put in place had fallen apart, their best friend and teacher was gone and they couldn’t see a way out.

This feeling is very relatable for me and other members of the chronic illness community and no doubt, for many others who perhaps are grieving the loss of health, a job, a person, financial stability or a dream. Every morning I wake up tired and in pain and I know that tomorrow will likely be the same because that’s what being chronically ill means — it doesn’t just get better. This is difficult as someone who identifies as a Christian to be in because I believe Jesus died for me, I believe He rose and I believe He will come again and that I will ultimately be relieved of my pain and suffering but I don’t know when. It could be tomorrow or it could be in 70 years when I die on earth and enter into eternity in Heaven. My life has become a waiting game, a continous Holy Saturday. I know something better has been promised for me but the reality doesn’t seem to be pointing toward it.

So how do we live in a world where all hope seems lost, accept the suffering and find comfort in that yet be ready and willing to step forward and embrace a life without pain and suffering as and when the time comes?

My immediate thought is ‘I won’t look to the disciples for advice on this as they thought all hope was gone when Jesus died even though He told them to their faces that He would die and come back again and even when He was standing right in front of them, alive again, some of them doubted.

Whilst at Spring Harvest, I had the opportunity to hear Pete Grieg speak about his family’s time of suffering and waiting when his wife was ill with a brain tumour and the effects of that and how he knew she wasn’t going to die but the doctors had said there was a high chance that she might and to prepare for that. He said he couldn’t prepare for that because he wasn’t going to let God take away his wife and his children’s mother. This leads me to my first point — when we get to know the character of God, we can learn His will and desire for His people. God doesn’t His people to suffer so Pete knew that this was not of God and therefore, he could pray to God, according to His will, and God would be listening and doing His part. When we learn God’s will, we can pray into and against situations and if we pray believing God can do it, you will be surprised at just how often He acts in the way we want, because it is also what He wants.

Sometimes though, God doesn’t act in the way we want and I am sure that many of you, like myself, have prayed for your physical suffering to go away and it hasn’t and that isn’t because God wants you to suffer because He doesn’t. He loves you and cares for you and seeing you suffer hurts Him too. But sometimes, God has other plans for our life and healing our physical selves isn’t part of it — yet! I have prayed many times for healing and although there have been times it has lessened or temporarily improved, I still deal with pain and physical issues on a daily basis. So lesson two, remember God’s faithfulness even when He doesn’t act how or when you want. This can be a struggle but by remembering God has answered your prayer in the past, whether in relation to your health or something else entirely, can really help you to remember He can, and will, do it again. He is a faithful God. Even when Jesus had been dead for 3 days and the people thought it was all over, He came back to life. Jesus promised He would rise from the dead, and He did. He promises us He will heal us and comfort us, and He will. We just need to be trusting and believe He will be faithful like He promised.

Finally, finding the balance between being comfortable with the current situation but not so much that we aren’t open and ready for healing. This is a constant struggle for me. Some days I am so confident that God will heal me any day now and some days, I accept my situation and won’t be open to others praying for my healing because I am not ready for it. How can we be comfortable but also wait with anticipation for when God wants to act in our lives?

I don’t know the answer that will work for everyone but there are a few things that have really helped me that I hope might help you too:

Patience is a fruit of the spirit so it will not always come easily as it will take time and practice so don’t get angry or upset if you struggle with this — most people do

Learn to rest on God’s promises — remember all the things God has done for you whilst in this period of waiting and recollect the times when He has acted on His promises to remind you of His power, goodness and faithfulness.

Be still — it’s so easy to get frustrated or worried about our situations that we don’t sit back and listen to God but when we do this, we might just hear something that brings us closer to an answer to our prayer.

Be comfortable resting on God and waiting BUT always ready and willing to step forward should you feel God telling you to do so as it might just be the way that you will be healed and you don’t want to miss that!

I am not perfect and I still have times when I fight with the anxiety of not knowing, when, where, how will I be healed. Sometimes, I am too scared to act when I feel God is calling me as I am scared it won’t work or will be difficult, but I keep pushing on and trying to get closer to Him to understand His will and ways. I hope to always be ready and waiting for Him to act but also content just to be with my God and I hope these pointers can help you get to that point too.

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Here is my Palm Sunday 2019 experience, from the perspective of someone with chronic illness…

I walked into church, sat down and held my head. The music was loud, and every beat made it hurt more but taking medication for that now would mean less medication to be taken for potentially worse pains later and the side effects also needed to be considered as the fatigue was already bad and would be made by taking some pain relief. I was spaced out and dizzy and nauseous but I wanted so badly to be there. The start of Easter and my first chance to be back in church in many weeks.

After a few minutes, I decided I would need to take something to get me through the service but the medication takes a while to take affect so I continued to sit whilst I waited for the headache to fade. As I sat there and listened to the words of the songs being sung, tears filled my eyes. The people around me were fully immersed in worship and seemingly, whole-heartedly believing every word — ’cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day’. I didn’t feel strong at all. In fact I felt the complete opposite. I felt so weak. This sudden rush of emotions swept over me as I looked at people in their 70s and 80s stood up praising God with their voices, standing and raising their hands and yet here was I, a 26 year old woman, sat in a chair, lost in a crowd with my head in my hands, pain relief working its way through my system and wondering why I don’t feel God’s strength like they do. Just as I wiped the tears away, we were instructed that if we were able, to come to the front, collect a palm cross and follow the procession outside and around the church and back in again. This was just about too much for me as I watched the majority of the church collect a cross, follow the crowd and walk outside, singing and praising God. My first thought was, ‘Why God? Why can’t I do that? Why won’t you let me praise you like they do?!’ Then my mind went to the first Palm Sunday — Jesus entry into Jerusalem. I wonder what people like me did then?

The Triumphal Entry

(Mark 11:1–10)

11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 Off they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Additional revised verses: And those who could not see, could not hear and could not walk, sat at the road side, a great distant from the crowd and from Jesus, unaware of what was going on, unable to get too close and participate. They loved Jesus so much and knew He could do amazing things in their lives but those with able bodies blocked them from getting near enough or didn’t offer them a way to express their love for Him in a way that suited their needs.

Obviously, we don’t know what really happened on Palm Sunday for those people who were disabled or chronically ill but we do know from other passages in the bible that in Jesus’ time and society, lepers were outcast, the blind were forced to be beggars and the lame were considered useless as they could not earn money to provide for themselves or their families. Today should be different than it was 2000 years ago, and it is in many ways. We have laws that enforce a certain level of equality but there are certain things that mean that either have yet to be made better or simply cannot be accessible to every single person. But the Kingdom of God is.

With the big focus in the UK being on politics and specifically, Brexit, at the moment, this is particularly relevant. In Heaven, there are no nations, but one Kingdom, and one over-riding, almighty, powerful King — Jesus. We might not have the power to control our circumstances but Jesus does and that was my mistake at church. I thought that God had given up on me. I wanted to praise Him and be strong and stand with my church family to worship Him but when I found that I could not, I gave up and got angry at God for my situation.

We are told in Luke’s gospel that when the Pharisees asked the disciples to stop shouting their Hosannas and Hallelujahs to Jesus, He explained to them that if they didn’t shout out, the stones would. This tells us that there is a close connection between the natural world and redemption. Paul said the entire creation groans for redemption, and from the beginning we see how creation was twisted and thorns infested the ground because of sin and the same can be said of illness and suffering (although please do not misunderstand this as me saying your sickness or disability is due to your sin, but rather because we live in an imperfect, fallen world).

Whilst those around Him were praising Him, we read in verse 41 that Jesus, was crying! Jesus is probably the only person weeping in Jerusalem that day. Why does He weep when He is surrounded by a crowd that adores Him?

Jesus wept as He took in the faces of the crowds of people who were spiritually blind to the Son of God. God is with them but they don’t recognise Him so they crucify Him, thinking they have done right by God! Jesus weeps over lost souls, defeated lives, people in the chains of sin without hope.

Let us not let our ailments, problems, disappointments on earth affect where we spend eternity. We need to give our stony places to God and praise Him for who He is and not what He has (or has not) done in our lives. He may be the King, but He is also the suffering servant who understands our situation and one day, will free us of our pain and suffering. All we need to do until then is wait on Him and recognise Him as our strength giver, provider, healer, friend, Father, Saviour, King, and Holy Spirit who is always with us.

When we stop singing because we have lost hope, the only way we can go back is to start singing again. So even if you don’t feel like, start singing and shouting praises to God and He will show up! That’s a promise.