the board of truth

Back in the day, when we younger, thinner, and less wrinkled, Rich made me a little book: The Book of Truth.

It was filled from cover-to-cover with bible verses which all proclaimed my identity in Christ. I needed my thinking to be reconfigured with God’s truth, and filling my mind with those bible verses was one way that helped to recalibrate my thinking in line with God’s. That’s the simple command that Paul gives in Romans 12 when he tells the church to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Of course the journey continues forever, this side of eternity. There are new aspects of God, and my identity in Him, that I need to re-engage with, or learn afresh, on a regular basis. There are some days where living in God’s truth feels a lot harder than others. I’m guessing maybe you feel the same.

I’ve been thinking about how we are helping our kids to walk in their true identity as God’s kids. We aim to read the bible every evening with our kids. This usually happens. But at the end of a long day, when everyone is feeling a bit cream-crackered, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a ticking-the-box thing, or a passing-on-information-thing. There is definitely some value in this, and the kids are picking up foundational truths. But I know from my own life that if the word isn’t applied, and if it doesn’t take root in my heart, it doesn’t really make any lasting difference: it just remains as head-knowledge.

We want the Holy Spirit to speak to our kids as they read the word, and we want to help equip them to apply God’s truth in their real, everyday, normal life. Because that’s where it has power to bring about transformation.

So a little bit similar to the Book of Truth, we have now developed the Board of Truth.  Just outside their room they have a chalkboard – with each of their names written on it. We have been writing little messages next to each name, which has a simple key truth they are currently reading through, or thinking about it in the bible, and how it applies to them right now.

I do not have nice, neat writing, so you probably can’t read very well what I’ve written in the picture below… but this gives the general idea. Esther actually re-worded her “truth” on this one, as she didn’t feel what I’d initially written accurately represented her key truth ( 🙂 )

board of truth

My hope is that this will help them absorb, and live out more fully what they are learning, rather than forget about it, and move on. It also helps us grown-ups to think more consciously about whether or not we are helping them to apply truth.

It’s just one very simple idea

How about you? – I’d love to hear any creative ways you have as you disciple your kids – we might “borrow” a few of them!

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The Great Exchange

Good Friday always used to baffle me as a kid.

‘Is there actually anything good about Good Friday?’, I used to wonder.

Last week I was helping a bunch of five-year-olds write about the story of Easter. Seeing it through their eyes I realised just how unique a story it is.

For many of those five-year-olds it was probably the first time they’d heard the real Easter story. And they, just as I used to be, were somewhat baffled.

Today is Good Friday. But where’s the Good?

On Good Friday, with thorns on his head and nails in his hands, Jesus stretched out his arms and uttered those words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

image Good Friday takes us right back to the heart of the gospel. Jesus received punishment in our place: we are forgiven. And we are to forgive, as we’ve been forgiven.

It’s good news because I’m forgiven. But it also means that those who’ve hurt me are offered that same forgiveness. It’s easy to get caught in wanting mercy for ourselves and wanting others to receive full punishment for their sins against us.

But that’s not the way of the Cross. No one, not one single person, is excluded from the forgiveness offered through the Cross.

That’s the scandal of grace: we receive forgiveness not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

And it’s offensive to our earn-your-grace mentality. And it confronts our “I’m right and you’re wrong” mindset. In the shadow of the cross we’re all wrong. And we can all receive His grace.

On Good Friday the Great Exchange took place:

His wounds, my healing

His blood, my peace.

His pain, my freedom;

His death, my life.

I didn’t earn it. There’s nothing I could do to earn it. It’s His free gift of grace.

And as we receive that grace He calls us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. Sometimes there’s no harder way to pick up our cross than by offering forgiveness to others.

We want justice. We want to be proved right. We want things to be fair.

I know, because I want those things for myself.

But the way of the Cross, the Good-Friday-Way is forgiveness. When we forgive, we wave our “right” for justice and put it in the hands of God. When we forgive, we set others free as we release them from our judgement. And when we forgive we also set ourselves free:

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

So, today, this Good Friday, where righteousness and peace kiss each other, it’s time to receive that forgiveness afresh for ourselves.

And it’s time to lay our weapons down. It’s time to lay down our hurtful words, our poisonous thoughts, our bitterness and our anger. It’s time to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us.

It’s time to offer grace and forgiveness befitting the bride of Christ.

That’s the way of the cross. It cost Him everything. And it will cost us too. But as one young disciple said “Following God is always worth the sacrifice.”

on “guilt-free” creativity…

This weekend my creative soul emerged from hibernation. I tinkered with my camera and took some fun shots. I enjoyed scouring though photography blogs, surfing my way through pinterest and picking up ideas. And I spent some time thinking though a few creative projects for the home.

It was a lot of fun. 

 

I felt like a small part of me was restored, and re-awakened. Amidst busy schedules, small children, visitors in and out of the home, I’d got stuck on a treadmill of monotony. Engaging in creativity, or even just admiring creativity in others, brings me alive. And I’d forgotten that.

But even more significantly there was a missing emotion for me after wiling away my hours in creativity. Guilt.  Creativity often feels like a luxury, something that could always be replaced by a more important task or relationship.

Subconsciously I’ve always seen creativity as something that replaces something else, something more important. If I’m being creative,  then I’m not spending time with God. And that’s always more important.  Seeing this written in black & white, I see both the absurdity and intensity of the lie. And though I like to think I don’t separate into “secular” and “sacred”, I clearly do to some degree.

When I look back at that weekend of creativity, as I sat in the stillness, whilst kids played happily in their rooms, I was just enjoying my own thoughts and interjections from God as he spoke to me in and through what I was doing. A life lived with Jesus doesn’t need to be about kneeling by my bed in prayer. Which is a good job as you won’t often find me there.

No wonder I’ve never fully enjoyed being creative; there’s been too much guilt entangled in it all.  I’d removed “the essence of faith from the particulars of daily human life and relocated it in special times, places, and states of mind”*

Our God is a creative God. He creates. He is the Creator. He loves creation, and I think He loves it when I’m being creative. He is with me as much in the creative and the mundane moments as He is in a “prayer meeting”.

I guess the crux of it is this: Does my whole life give glory to God? I’ve been trying to approach each day much more from this perspective, choosing to see life as a whole rather than in two camps.

Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.

Tozer, The pursuit of God

 

 

 

* Dallas Willard,  The Spirit of the Disciplines

 

 

One thing I (sometimes) forget about Jesus

I love Holy Week.

I love the opportunity to take a fresh look at the journey Jesus took as he headed towards the cross. I know this may sound a bit silly, but because Jesus was fully God, I sometimes forget that He was also fully human. It’s a hard mystery for us mortals to get our heads round – that Jesus was both fully God and fully human.

But when I look at his time in the Garden of Gethsemane I am struck more than anything by His humanity.

He wants His family – His disciples – to stay awake with Him. But all they can do is fall asleep.

And He prays that prayer. It’s a prayer that says “If there’s another way – if there’s another way to get your children back, then please take this suffering away from me.” The agonising reality of what is to come hits Him in full force – all the punishment will be laid upon Him, and He’ll be separated from the Father.

It’s agonising.

And yet He then utters some of His most powerful words: “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 

your will not mine

 

Your will, not mine.

“This isn’t about my immediate pain, my immediate reality, what I’m experiencing right now. I’m trusting you Father, and whatever you say I will do.”

“Whatever you say I will do.”

I can’t imagine those words would have rolled off His tongue. These were weighty, measured, full-on words: “Whatever you say I will do.” The words in the New Living Translation say “He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” These weren’t roll-off-the-tongue-kind-of-words.

But when I read the account in Luke 22, I’m amazed to see that as He uttered those words “an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.”

In that moment, where Jesus fully embraced the reality of what was to come, the Father sent an angel. I wonder how the angel strengthened Him. Some commentaries suggest it was  physical strengthening because His body had become so weakened with sorrow –  He needed strengthening  so that He was physically able to go to the cross.  I don’t know. One day I’ll ask the Father and I’ll know, for sure.

But I love the fact that this fully human Son of God was given strength to continue in obedience.

None of us will ever face anything like this. But if we’re following Jesus there will certainly be time where we too will utter those words “”I want your will to be done, not mine. Whatever you say I will do.”

But as we utter those words we will also be given what we need by the Father to continue in that path of obedience, the  path that takes us towards the cross. There’s always a channel of grace offered to us as we walk in obedience.

We may receive a scripture, an encouragement from another, an increase in joy, maybe even an angel…. whatever it is, it doesn’t really matter. Because it will be enough.  It will be enough to physically, emotionally or spiritually strengthen us, to keep us going on the path He calls us to walk. That’s the kind of Father He is.

 “I want your will to be done, not mine.”

 

41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him.44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Luke 22 (New Living Translation)

“He knew it was time for him to die. They had planned it long ago, he and his Father. Jesus was going to take the punishment for all the wrong things anybody had ever done, or ever would do.

‘Papa! Father!’ Jesus cried. And he fell to the ground. ‘Is there any other way to get your children back? To heal their hearts? To get rid of the poison?’

But Jesus knew – there was no other way. All the poison of sin was going to have to go into hs own heart.

God was going to pour into Jesus’ heart all the sadness and brokeness in people’s hearts. He was going to pour into Jesus’ body all the sickness in people’s bodies. God was going to have to blame his son for everything that had gone wrong. It would crush Jesus.

But there was something else, something even more horrible. When people ran way from God, they lost God – it was what happened when they ran away. Not being closes to God was like a punishment. Jesus was going to take that punishment.

Jesus knew what that meant. He was going to lose his father – and that, Jesus knew, would break his heart in two.

Violent sobs shook Jesus’ whole body.

Then Jesus was quiet. Like a lamb. ‘I trust you, Papa,’ he said. Whatever you say I will do.’ ”

A Dark Night in the Garden, The Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Is your life successful?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if we had a new definition of success?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our definition of success was not determined by what others thought of us, by what we owned, produced or amassed,  by our popularity, or any other external factor?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if our view of success was in line with our Father’s view of success.

Wouldn’t that be liberating?

I wonder what the Father really thinks is successful.

I look at the topsy-turvy nature of the Kingdom and I wonder.

I look at the life and journey of Jesus as he headed towards the cross. I look at the punctuated moments of “success”  – the popularity, the crowds, the healings. And then I look at the many other moments of apparent “failure”. Born in a stable amongst cows and sheep and mess, Jesus was despised, mocked, whipped and suffered death on the cross.  Betrayal, rejection, humiliation – He experienced them all.

I wonder what success looks like through the eyes of the cross. I wonder how the Father views success in the light of what we see lived by his very own Son, Jesus.

Maybe He doesn’t define success in quite the same way that we do. 

Of course, we know the other side of the cross – Easter Sunday  – with death defeated and sin overcome.  But without the obedience of Jesus there would be no death on the cross. And then there would be no resurrection, no death defeated, no sin forgiven and no freedom purchased.

I wonder how Jesus could keep going on that path towards the cross when the path of obedience was SO costly to Him. I think some of the answer lies in the fact that He knew His Father, and He knew who He was. He knew He was the son – the one whom the Father loved.  And so obedience to the Him, though it came at immense personal cost, was a love response, as He trusted in the Father.

Obedience through gritted teeth only gets us so far. But when obedience is an expression of who we are –  kids of  the most trust-worthy heavenly Dad  –  well, then we’re prepared to lose our lives for the one we love. And in doing that we’ll actually find our lives. This kind of love-response is what we see in the life of Jesus.

obedience pic

 

Maybe success doesn’t necessarily look like a well-paid influential job, academically-flourishing-children or a large congregation. Maybe success isn’t actually about results.

Maybe success is actually quite simple.

What if we took the Jesus-view of success?

What if success was merely about obedience to what the Father asks?

Then success would actually be about obedience to what He’s asked me to do. The end result would then be in His hands – not mine.

Wouldn’t it be liberating to live in that way?

Wouldn’t it be liberating if I lived the life the Father had asked me to live, rather than feeling inadequate because my life doesn’t look like yours. Or yours.

What if we stopped caring about what made us look successful? What if success wasn’t based on our exterior?  What if we didn’t allow success to be measured by other people? What if we turned down those voices a little, and turned up His a little bit more?

what if...

 

What if money, clothes, appearance, jobs, houses, congregations, family, marriage – none of those things were the hallmarks of success?

What if we bought into something bigger than we can see in our lifetime? What if we chose to sow into the next generation, and the one after that and the one after that?

Maybe like those heroes in Hebrews we won’t even see what’s been promised.

Those people, were glad just to see these things from far away.. they agreed they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth..they were looking forward to a better home in heaven….

(Hebrews 11)

If we know who we belong to, and if we know what He’s asking us to do then whether or not we get the credit, whether or not we get to see the end results, doesn’t really matter.

The thing that matters is whether or not we’ve done what He’s asked us to do.

Sometimes you’ll look at my life, and  it might seem hugely successful. Sometimes I might look at yours and think the same. Sometimes I’ll be understood and sometimes I won’t. The same is true for you. Sometimes in the seemingly successful moments we’re not actually doing the thing that the Father has asked us to do. And the same is true in reverse. In the hidden moments, the seemingly insignificant moments, the moments of despair – sometimes in those moments we’re doing exactly the thing that the Father has asked of us. It just won’t always appear successful.

I want my life to be defined by living two sides of the same coin – continuously asking the Father “What have you said to me?” and “Am I living that out?”

 

That’s the kind of successful life I want to live.