Tag: love

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.

Peter says he doesn't know Jesus

Peter says he doesn't know Jesus

Luke 22:54-62

I am sure you will know this passage already so I am just going to give a quick summary before getting into the questions for today:

Jesus is arrested, Peter follows, people around question Peter about his connection with Jesus, he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times, then the roaster crows and Peter remembers that he told Jesus he would never deny him but Jesus told him he would do so three times before the roaster crowed….. and breathe!

  1. Why is Jesus taken straight to the high priest after being arrested?
  2. Why does Peter deny knowing Jesus?
  3. Why does Peter cry when he denies Jesus for the third time? What is he remembering?
  4. Previously, Jesus used the Greek word agape for love the first two times, while Peter used a different word, phileoAgape carries the meaning of intense, complete, devoted, sacrificial love, while phileo refers to love as in friendship. Why do you think they used different words?
  5. What can we learn from this and apply to our lives today?
The Richman and Lazarus

The Richman and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

When I am attempting to learn something new, I have to be physically involved. You could give me pictures or say the instructions step by step. I could even watch you do something and have a video recording of it to watch back, but if I don’t get the opportunity to be hands on, I won’t remember it nor will I be able to confidently carry out a task.

In the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, it seems the rich man was like me. He had teaching from Moses and the prophets, but he only paid attention and fully understood it when it was too late.

I know some people who take advice from others and put it straight into practice and others who ignore advice from anyone other than themselves. I am somewhere in the middle. I appreciate good advice when I need it, but will need to test it before taking it as solid truth. For example, if someone told me that something was hot, I would often have to hold my hand near it before believing them. – not on it though because I am not a risk taker!

With Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell, he suddenly realises that he is wrong but it is too late. Jesus explains that once you are in heaven or hell, you cannot switch over to the other. One belongs to the devil and the other belongs to God – no house shares allowed!

This is difficult to hear as Christians with friends who are not believers, but it is the way things work. Good and evil are separated and there can be no contamination otherwise Heaven could not be the perfect place we know it to be. We need to be sharing the Good News of Jesus with everyone we know and love to ensure they don’t end up in the fires of hell. However, we are lucky that in our time, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given another chance. Judgement day is God’s day for Him to ask us one more time if we believe in Him. Therefore, even if we decide to go against Him all our lives, we have another chance to spend eternity in Heaven.

Our God is a compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful God. He is the God who sent His only Son to earth to die for us – He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t care about us. God doesn’t want us to leave Him and spend eternity away from Him so He will always give us the best chance, but if you have the opportunity, say yes to God now – it will save time later.

Lost sheep, coin and son

Lost sheep, coin and son

Luke 15:1-32

Have you ever lost something or someone you loved? I am a very nostalgic person and love to keep as many items that relate to memories as I possibly can. I also treasure people, especially those that have kept in touch after I become ill so when I lose touch with someone, fall out of a relationship, or lose something special to me, it hits me hard!

In each these 3 parables, there is a lost item or person but the reaction to that is different in 1 than the others. In the first 2, the shepherd and the woman actively search for the sheep and coin, but in the third story, the father waits for his son to return home instead of searching for him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep but loses one of them. Then he will leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the open field and go out and look for the lost sheep until he finds it“. – Luke 15:4

“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins, but loses one. She will light a lamp, sweep the house, and look carefully for the coin until she finds it.” – Luke 15:8

“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:20b-24

The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (otherwise known as the prodigal son) are all stories told by Jesus to help the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ to understand His teaching. As I grew up in a Christian family and have never turned away from my faith, I had struggled to relate to these stories and apply them to my life. I am not a tax collector, but I am a sinner, as we all are, so this parable is for me too. Though I want to always be a perfect follower of Jesus, I am still just human so cannot be perfect, therefore, there are days or moments that I choose to do my thing and go my way rather than do the things that God would have me do, just like the prodigal son.

Without God’s grace and mercy, the first time I chose my earthly life over His Heavenly Kingdom would have been the last. Grace and mercy are for all. We can’t buy, we don’t deserve it, but God is a loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving Father, so if we turn back, God will greet us with open arms and welcome us back into His family.

The cost of being Jesus’ follower

The cost of being Jesus’ follower

‘Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even life—more than me, he cannot be my follower. Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow me cannot be my follower. If you want to build a tower, you first sit down and decide how much it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you might lay the foundation, but you would not be able to finish. Then all who would see it would make fun of you, saying, ‘This person began to build but was not able to finish.’ “If a king is going to fight another king, first he will sit down and plan. He will decide if he and his ten thousand soldiers can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. If he can’t, then while the other king is still far away, he will send some people to speak to him and ask for peace. In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower.‘ – Luke 14:25-33

Life has its challenges but overall, I love it! I love spending time with my family and seeing friends, reading books, watching films, walking the dogs, eating nice foods, good music, doing arts and crafts, playing guitar and singing, ice skating, and much more! When I wake up in the morning, even on a bad day, I look forward to what I am going to do. Sometimes, that is walking the dogs and seeing friends and sometimes it is reading and lots of sleep. Whatever it is, I do my best to have a good day and make it one for others too!

We have been given the gift of life to enjoy so it is not wrong to love life, but as Jesus says in Luke 14, it is wrong to love it above God. When we get so stuck into the things we love that we forget God and even idolise those activities, then we are living life the wrong way. “In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be my follower”. This doesn’t mean you can still love life and the things you enjoy, but it is important to recognise the reason we have these things is God’s gift of life, love and provision and without Him. When you are doing something you love, take a moment to remember the One who made it possible and thank Him for it.

Daring to Give

Daring to Give

“But I can’t do that thing,” said the lady as she waved her arms around. She meant sign language. I had asked her if I could sit beside her in a church service, and share her books for the songs and readings. This would help me follow and, in the case of the songs, leave my hands free to sign them.

It is a privilege to guest blog for this site. I was asked to pick out a key way the church has played a part in my journey, and the above story sprang immediately to mind. Because it’s a story of someone doing what she could, despite at first being concerned about what she couldn’t.

Since I was diagnosed with NF2*, and subsequently lost the ability to do various things, including hear, people doing what they can for me have been vital to my journey. People who pray for me. People who speak clearly for me to lipread them. People who carry my cup of tea for me (I have bad balance). People who welcome me. People who are patient. And much, much more.

On a family holiday in the Lake District last August, we decided to climb up to a waterfall. On balance (pardon the pun), it would have been sensible for me to stay behind. But my seven-year-old niece came to me and took my hand; “I’ll help you walk.” And she did. For as far as she was able, and then her mummy took over. My niece couldn’t physically help me over the really difficult parts, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t help. She went in front and told me when there were rocks to avoid tripping on. She did what she could. The lady at church, and my niece, looked beyond what they couldn’t do to what they could. Acknowledging the ‘can’t’, and embracing the ‘can’.

After the service – during which I did share the lady’s books – I thanked her for helping me. She took my hand and, putting ’genuine’ into the word genuine, she said, “It was my pleasure.” It was my pleasure. She really meant it, I could tell. Helping me – yes, me – had given her pleasure. She hadn’t found me a nuisance, or an embarrassment, or an inconvenience.

Often, I can be apologetic, thinking I’m making life difficult for people, hesitant to ask for help. But, if I hadn’t asked, that lady would have missed out on saying ‘it’s my pleasure’ and meaning it. If I hadn’t accepted my niece’s help, if I’d pushed her away, then yes, I’d have missed out on the waterfall. But more than that, I’d have rejected her gift to me. And potentially discouraged her from offering to give to me, or others, in future.

  • Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.” Acts 20:35b

By daring to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to admit our weaknesses, we offer people opportunity for blessing. Opportunity to give to us, and so receive what is better. And, in a glorious paradox, as we offer that opportunity, we, too, are giving. We, too, are blessed. We, too, do what is better. And we become more and more caught up in the body of Christ, of which each one of us is a part (cf 1 Corinthians 12). Growing together.

  • In Him (Christ Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.. Ephesians 2:21, 22

How good are we at allowing others to give?

Emily sometimes describes herself as a professional patient. She has spent a fair bit of her life in hospital and knows more medical jargon than she ever wished to. Thankfully for her, this is offset by an amazing medical team.
Emily is an author and speaker. Most of her books have been written, at least in part, from a hospital/recuperation bed and, she hopes, are more accessible than above mentioned jargon. For more information, please see the links below.

Emily’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Owen/e/B01EWPKC9W?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1569511001&sr=8-1
*More about NF2: https://nervetumours.org.uk/what-are-nerve-tumours/what-is-nf2
Emily’s website: http://www.emily-owen.co.uk/

The silent killer – loneliness

The silent killer – loneliness

When I was in my teens, I heard stories about the older generations who find themselves at home, alone, for the majority, if not all of the week, without ever seeing or speaking to anyone else. More recently, I read a statistic which stated that more teens and young adults have identified as ‘lonely’ than the older generations. Then, 5 years ago, I became part of another loneliness statistic – the chronically ill. As it is for many people, I wasn’t aware about this missing group of people for exactly that reason. Chronically ill people are mising from society. We are in too much pain or too tired or too symptomatic to be able to mix with society for too long, if at all, each week, and this makes for a lonely existence.

I am very thankful that when I became ill, my closest friends stayed with me and checked in on me and continue to do so, but when I am having a particularly bad week due to higher pain or fatigue levels than usual, I have been known to not leave my bed or house for days at a time. I am blessed to have my family who live with and help me but without them, my days would be very quiet and empty and even more lonely than they are otherwise and this is the case for many chronically ill people.

This extract from Premier Christianity reveals the seriousness of loneliness:
Social psychologist John Cacioppo, at the University of Chicago is a world leader in the biomedical effects of loneliness. In January this year he presented some of his latest research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting in San Diego.  His findings confirmed a growing body of science showing that loneliness is more damaging than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or being obese, or not taking exercise.  
(https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Chronic-feelings-of-loneliness-can-be-deadly.-Here-s-how-the-Church-can-help)

Did you know loneliness could kill people? It isn’t just a feeling we have when we spend more time alone than we would like – it affects us physically too which, when you are lonely predominantly due to a chronic illness, means you can end up in a catch 22 circle of pain.

We are made to be together, spending time with friends and family and being part of a bigger unit. As Christians, the Church should be a part of that, but very rarely is that the case. 1 in 5 people identify as being disabled yet a much smaller than that number of church congregations have a disability. Why is this? Well, I think there are many reasons but one of the major ones is that more churches are focusing on the number of people in their churches and not on how they look after those people. Sometimes, people cannot attend a church service for weeks on end and feel sad and frustrated that they have to do so but when they finally get back to church to find no one has missed them, or if they never show up again and don’t receive a phone call, letter or check in by a member of the pastoral team, the loneliness they felt from being out of church for so long is exasperated and they may feel inclined to leave as they don’t feel wanted or cared about. This in turn causes them to stop going to church, decreasing their social activities and increasing the amount of time they spend alone annd ultimately, their loneliness too.

In the first three centuries, the early Church was one known for its love and compassion. Justin Martyr described Christian love as, ‘We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.’

Can we honestly say today that we are more interested in the people in the centre and on the outskirts of the church, and even the wider community, more than increasing the number of people who come into the church? Are we genuinely more passionate about spending our money to help those who need it than bringing in and saving as much as we can for our own benefit? Would we be willing to go out of our way, miss out on catching up with friends, skip a party or record our favourite TV show to visit or call someone who has been unwell or has not been at church for a while and help them in someway? Having a visitor could be enough, or perhaps they need a few bits of shopping? A small thing can go a long way and as we know, anything that reduces or stops loneliness completely is a potential life saver!