The woman at the well typed #metoo

I’ve watched my Facebook feed, social and news media lately with interest. Or do I mean concern? A little perhaps but let’s go with observed.   I’m  talking about the #metoo campaign. Aimed at breaking the silence that comes with experiencing verbal  harassment or physical abuse of a sexual nature, people are identifying themselves in the growing number of people drawing attention to such treatment of women and men.  Although I realise that it’s very important, creating a tipping point even so that this is noticed, my concern is that #metoo doesn’t go far enough. Yet.

 I’ve noticed how some women are taking the opportunity to thank the men in their life that are brilliant role models. Others have felt able to tell their story and how they overcame it.  Some tweet their still present pain. It’s the single ones of the simple #metoo that stands alone with no other comment that concerns me.  You see although 6 character typed behind a keyboard is a huge step for some women, who notices that and responds? What changes for them now that their silence has been broken?

My thoughts took me to Scripture. If Facebook was about in the new testament how many women in those accounts would have had a #metoo hash tag?  Regular readers will know I’m going straight to John 4 on this one.   Here is a women going about her  daily routine isolated and alone. The culture at the time meant women collected water for cooking, washing, cleaning, drinking and watering animals in the cool of the early morning. But it’s noon, the height of the sun is beating down and she’s alone. Why?  The conversation starts with a need for a drink. A tired and weary Jesus needing refreshment. Almost instantly though it moves on to the women’s thirst. It’s obvious to me that Jesus isn’t there to take from her but wants to refresh her. As the conversation unfolds Jesus asks her to go call her husband and the response opens a doorway for Jesus to let her know He’s aware of her situation: 5 husbands and the one she is living with is not a husband. This women knew what it was to be weary, tired, thirsty for acceptance, love and  belonging.  Although I’ve heard so many sermons or thoughts on how this women is promiscuous with a questionable past: an adulterous women. Jesus wasn’t  exposing her sexual history surely?  This simply can’t be the case. She’d have a #metoo hash tag for sure.

The culture of the time would have been had she been adulterous she’d have been stoned. She can’t have got away with that 5 times. Maybe she was widowed 5 times. More likely is she was given a certificate of divorce by her husbands.  A parchment declaring, ‘I no longer love you, want you around. You are no longer of purpose to me.’ Used and passed on to the next one.  The one she lives with now doesn’t even want to marry her. Perhaps all the blessings of a wife without the commitment or responsibility of caring and nurturing her.

Jesus wasn’t exposing her sin or sexual history, he revealed her pain. A pain that was wrapped up tightly in shame and guilt, with a big dirty bow of isolation and abandonment stuck on the top. Men using her for they own pleasure and then rejecting her. A women whose community did not notice her situation,  but who left her alone to deal with it.   Am I making a big jump? Is it easier to say this was the women’s fault, she asked for it, she must have been unbearable to live with. She was just a women and didn’t matter. A man could do what he wanted with her.

Let me be clear : my finger isn’t pointing at the men here in her life with a ‘it’s all your fault’ or at the community for not offering help to embrace her and still make her part of the community.  I’m acknowledging that if you experience sexual abuse of any level you develop a protective shell.  For many who have experienced sexual assault  it’s your innocence and vulnerability that was attractive that then got sexualised forcibly. So to have those healthy emotions in another setting is too dangerous to risk.  The nature of sexual assault penetrates to your core. you’ll do anything to avoid the same outcome. The guilty voice of, ‘you asked for that, it was your fault’ is quite persistent and loud.  Withdrawal works better. Isolate yourself and don’t show people who you are. Shut down those feelings of being connected to others or the honesty of being who you really are in case it gets you into trouble again. And certainly don’t talk about it to others.  Enter shame.

  • that’s the one that keep you silent.
  • Shame makes you unacceptable because if you knew where I’d been you’d reject me too.
  • Shame makes you a liar as you pull another layer of protection over yourself  so no one sees.
  • Shame says this is your fault and you carry it. all. by. your. self.

 Isn’t that what’s behind #metoo? Finally pulling those covers back and saying ‘ enough’ I’m in here and I need to be noticed, seen and truthful: breaking this bubble and risking vulnerability to move forward.  John 4 v17, ‘ I have no husband’ is this woman’s #metoo moment and Jesus’ response to her shows me that he wants to go much further with this that just a hashtag breakthrough.

He thanks her for her honesty. No judgement but a revealing that He knew already and still he spoke with her. In fact this isn’t just a chance conversation: Jesus has broken so many social barriers to engage in a conversation with her.  v9 Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. More so men didn’t talk to women in public either.  Yet deliberately doing so Jesus has already put a value on her that she’s worth more than her gender, or race. The lack of  condemnation of her circumstance portrays deeper again that he doesn’t disqualify her because of her sexual history either.  It’s the longest conversation recorded with anyone in the gospels which tells me significantly that Jesus has time for this women specifically. She’s important.

 He goes on to talk with her about Real relationship. One that is connected to God Himself. One that brings Life and meaning to all our dry and thirsty moments. A pure authentic relationship that tells you you’re loved, accepted and belong. In fact He longs for that connection expressed when He says, ‘if you knew the gift of God’ I hear the passion and longing of – if you only knew what is waiting for you, who it is that speaks with you and what I can offer you.’  He’s not looking to take anything away from her or devalue her flesh. He’s letting her know that He regards her flesh as sacred and holy. That’s why He wants to come and make His home in her. Live inside her as a Spring of Living water leaping up with Life and love and fulfilment.  He wants to commit all of Himself to her  in a life of love together not abandoned or isolated. God wants to occupy our body with His Holy Presence.  How much more worth could be put on us?

It’s probably obvious I’m a John 4 girl. Not because I’ve had 5 husbands but certainly because of my #metoo history.  The details aren’t important here, not because I can’t share them or have shame but simply because darkness does not drive out darkness only Light can do that. I want to tell you what Jesus did after I told him #metoo.  You see Jesus found me. He noticed me still trying to find water to drink that would refresh my inner being so that I could get past all my isolation and hiding away.  He persisted enough to get past the ‘I’m fine’ that shame teaches you to repeat over and over. Even when you know you’re not fooling anyone but your self!  I could tell you so many John 4 moments I’ve had of how He’s done that but this one is what’s on my heart today.

Sat in a hotel lobby lounge with my pastor/mentor/ friend the hostess comes offering more drinks and I ordered a water. A glass with ice and lemon soon appeared on the table before me with a bottle of water. As she left, my friend reached across and simply opened the bottle and began pouring me a drink. A thoughtful, courteous gesture perhaps by a gentleman but to me in that moment Father God fiercely impacted my spirit.  Suddenly I felt accepted and thought of. There was a respect there for me that I had never experienced before: a man that was a gentleman. Sure my husband brings me a cup of tea most mornings. He pours me wine at the dinner table. He’s romantic and loving. But this was so different because it’s a male being considerate to me for no other pay off than to bless me.  I sat for a moment trying to understand myself why I had even noticed it or found that so foreign yet lovely. And it hit me that it spoke of my value and showed respect, just for being me. Yes,  pouring me a glass of water did that for me. As I drove home I asked Father God again what exactly was I feeling. ‘Oh that’s dignity Sarah and it belongs to you.’  That was new and precious!  My friend didn’t just pour me a drink but Jesus had given me a drink!! The gift of dignity in a glass of water has long stayed with me as a milestone in the transformation that Jesus can bring. Don’t ever minimise what a simply moment can do for another person in communicating what they mean to you or who they are in themselves because God is always at work!

water

So when I read John 4 now and I hear Jesus saying, ‘ whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.’  I remember what that water tasted like. I remember I drank down love and acceptance with lots of dignity. I give thanks that I haven’t only got a glass of it to remember as a one off but that I’m connected to the source of the well that gives an endless supply of fresh , pulsating- with- Life supply of it. I have water that is Jesus  continually springing up . I have worth and value , an unconditional love that fills me and covers me in every situation. I have innocence, vulnerability and truth at my very core now because Christ is in me.

The woman in John 4 was utterly transformed from her #metoo moment and runs into the town to say, ‘come see a man who told me everything I have ever done’  That’s why Jesus is going further that the start of #metoo. Her shame is evaporated. It no longer exists in the new creation she is in Christ. No more hiding, everything she has ever done pails into insignificance to come and see a man.  She’s bold and confident and eager to connect with others to share the wonderful Person of Jesus with other.   By noticing her and calling forth the real woman under all her circumstance He has released in her a spring of living water that is already leaping up to refresh others.  I love how the story continues that the men in the town come and say to her, ‘ we no longer believe just because of what you said, now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man is the saviour of the world.’

Wow.

Wow.

In that testimony this woman  doesn’t have a past defining her anymore but a future. She has dignity as she has been restored to her community as one who has truth on her lips and who shared her knew found worth in pointing towards Jesus. She has led people to not drink her as water but to have a well inside them that means they drink of Jesus also.

#metoo changed her, the men and her community. All that’s available today in Jesus.

My prayer is that for all those woman who simply wrote #metoo will hear the invitation to ‘come see a man’, that they will ‘hear for themselves’ the love and acceptance that Jesus can bring.  May their lives  be utterly transformed from the parched, isolated, rejected, shame-filled hiding place into a new beginning with Jesus who changes everything from the inside out.

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Jesus the Author

My friend sent me a picture of a caterpillar he saw recently. It was to show my youngest daughter and get her to give it a name. I thought she’d love that as we’ve kept caterpillars before many times. She likes watching them grow fat, turn into a cocoon and wants to be there the moment the butterfly emerges all beautiful and transformed.  As this caterpillar was very different to the black ones we’ve had before I tried a quick Google search. My intention was to show her what this caterpillar would become to help her be creative in naming it. So I turn to Google to help identity this bug.

 caterpillar
 
He’s distinctive I thought and wouldn’t take long. However, the only thing I managed to achieve was confirm to my older children that I don’t know how to use Google!! They tell me all the time it’s there for more that just typing in ‘John 4’ or ‘Bread of Life’. They encourage me to ask more, any question, like where to park and Google will have an answer.  That may well be true and asking questions are good but your search is only as good as the question you ask, right? 
 
Turns out ‘red horny thing’ doesn’t help much with caterpillar identification. (yes I’m that ‘special’)  Shocked, undeterred though and eager to get on track I tried again to investigate the butterfly so we could name it. So with some help I discover said caterpillar isn’t a butterfly in waiting at all but a pale tussock moth.  It had plenty more to say for itself.
 
I started this year really challenged by ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfector of our faith‘ and I’ve been applying and learning to do that so so much as the months of 2017 tick by.  Fixing my eyes on Him not fixing everything so I know each step of the plan.  I’ve been practicing looking at Jesus solely and wholly instead of the distractions of what I can or cannot do. It’s a challenge that takes trust and surrender. I’ve found that when I want to fix lots I’m  actually saying I’m the author. You know, the story I would write or imagine that would happen. No scratch that, ‘should happen’  probably fits better: I assume I understand what God is doing and HOW He’ll do it. 
 
 But what about trusting Jesus to write the story He has in mind?  I’ve always taken, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established‘ as permission to ask God to bless what I’ve already decided to do. I’ve come up with a plan and as I’ve dedicated it to Him He’ll bless it and make it succeed. But I realise now that Fixing my eyes on Jesus, the Author transforms that prayer into,
 “Father,  Jesus is the Way and life flows out of Him . Christ is in me so this flesh is His Body. Order my steps so that Jesus can be where He wants, doing what He wants in and through me. Reveal Jesus.”
 
Enter the caterpillar and he served again as a reminder to me that a story is already written for me to partake in. The point was I’d presumed him a butterfly. My assumptions and questions lead me away from what was present rather that to the fullness of what I was looking at.  I wanted him to be her, a blue butterfly called Mayvis when actually he’s a grey moth. 
 
Whilst the game I was supposed to be playing was to give it a nickname, it turns out he already had one of those too.  These caterpillars like to eat hop leaves and were often found by the labourers whilst bringing in the harvest. So it’s a harvest moth or called ‘hop dog’ by the farmer’s children. 
 
I didn’t need to squeeze this caterpillar into my limited assumptions. My questions were distracting and unhelpful and my attempts at naming it was unnecessary.  Everything was already in place. He had His own story to tell without any additional help from me – I simply needed to let him tell it and receive what was already given.
 
 Can I do that with Jesus?   Can I stop assuming  from all my past experiences of Him that I know? Can I begin again simply looking to Jesus to host and author?
 
So this little caterpillar took me back to the Emmaus Road with the disciples trying to make sense of their story. But its His story and He tells it so very well. Our perspective, assumptions and questions lead only to flesh. The flesh counts for nothing as Jesus words are Life. By listening more, along with the best question to ask Him to stay restores our sight of the greatest story. That invite meant He hosted the meal and suddenly they recognise Jesus. 
 
 The challenge I wrote in January still stands
 
The only challenge is to move from only looking but actually seeing is :-

  • to stop  fitting Him into our ideas and fixing our eyes on Him instead
  • to cease reasoning the information and receive the Person
  • to block our incessant need for judgments of right and wrong and jump into the mystery of God
  • to refrain from analysing our thoughts and accept His actions
 We need to untangle ourselves from the stories we have been telling ourselves and let Him tell the story of who He is – however unconventional or unexpected that may be.
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Begin Again

I was incredibly moved recently when a friend shared the exciting news that she had changed her name. Having been taken in by a family when she was 14 she knew for the first time what being loved as part of a family meant. Now 30+ years later she finds herself beginning again and entering a new chapter of her life. Part of marking that new beginning was changing her surname to the family one. It’s a testimony of faithfulness , love and adoption but also one of an ownership of her identity as one who is loved and belongs. Although it’s a new beginning it’s also true to say the journey has  come full circle and brought a completeness that a full stop can give.
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Names are significant aren’t they? So as I pondered John 21 again this week the question arose once more for me – why did Jesus say, ‘Simon Son of John do you love me?’
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We first meet Simon in Luke 5 when he is fishing and Jesus helps him catch a huge haul but he calls him out of that to be a fisher of men. At this time Jesus gives him a new name to mark the beginning of a new journey as a disciple. He calls him Cephas which means Peter. Yet here we are after the death and resurrection of Jesus and Jesus is calling him Simon.
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My first thought is that Peter has been behaving in his old identity – so call him by his old name then. He’s been journeying with Jesus, heard amazing teaching and seen incredible miracles. He witnessed the death of Jesus but when it came to really identifying with Jesus and being associated with him, fear set in and he had denied knowing Him 3 times. Even after the resurrection morning Peter is still confused: perhaps unsure which direction his life is taking now that Jesus was no longer with them and in the absence of any other plan to move forward, he returns to his old job of fishing. All night they work with no success until a man at the shore suggests casting the nets on the other side. As the men reel in another huge catch, one of them whispers,’it is the lord’ and Simon, ever the impulsive one, dives into the water to get to Jesus quickly.
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As they breakfast on the beach Jesus’ heart to restore Peter is huge. It reveals such kindness to give Peter a ‘do over’. In a wonderful redemptive act Jesus gives him 3 opportunities to confess his love for Him. 3 times Peter had denied Him but now 3 times He declares his love. A wonderful restoring.  Yet the question remains why call him Simon? If Jesus is restoring him why didn’t He call him Peter and reinforce the new identity He had given him as a fisher of men?
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 Jesus was coming full circle but also beginning again. In what can only be another ‘do over’ Jesus is also taking Simon back to the beginning when they first met. Jesus is taking him back to the foundations of that first meeting and gently reminding him of that fresh encounter. He wants him to hear again the voice that called him and begin again.  I can imagine all the thoughts going through Simon’s head: how when he first heard his name being called he lived up to the meaning of that name. Simon means ‘he has heard’ . Jesus wants him to hear again like the first time. He wants him to remember that in the state he was as a simple fisherman Jesus noticed him and called him and Simon followed. Nothing’s changed from Jesus’ side even though Simon denied him. Nothing’s changed about Simon’s destiny.  In fact in the ‘begin again’ moment there is also a fullness.
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Jesus not only says ‘Simon Son of John’ but he repeatedly asks ‘Do you love me?’ Bit needy of Jesus?  Self centred?   No chance! This is where I remind myself of Jesus’ heart to always give.  By asking Simon this question He is revealing what is in Simon’s heart not because Jesus needs to know, but because Simon needs to know. As Simon points out as a reply to the third time of asking, ‘You know all things, you know that I love you.’  Jesus knew but He wanted Simon to know and realise the depth of love He did have.
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 Oswald Chambers puts it like this,  ‘There was no room for passionate utterance, no room for exhilaration or sentiment.  It was a revelation to him to realize how much he did love the Lord. Peter began to see how much he did love Jesus; but he did not say – “Look at this or that to confirm it.” Peter was beginning to discover for himself how much he did love the Lord, that there was no one in heaven above or upon earth beneath beside Jesus Christ’
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Simon has always been a bit implusive.
  • He’s the one when realising Jesus’ is serious about washing his feet replies with gushing exuberance of yes and do more as well ‘do all of me over and over’ .
  • Simon was the one who wanted to show his commitment to defend Jesus by cutting off the soldiers ear when they came to arrest Jesus. 
  • He’s the one who wants to prove his faith in Jesus by walking on the water 
  • He’s the one who can’t wait for the boat to moor at the shore but dives in to swim so he’s the first one to greet Jesus.
Jesus is beckoning Simon to begin again afresh realising that he can add no enthusiasm or outward gesture of commitment other than his heart attitude of love. The full circle is to bring Simon back to his truest identity and that is to be lived in a life of love with Jesus. It’s about:
  • abiding in that love
  • receiving that love
  • responding to that love
  • living all of our life and activity from that love.  

 

Using Simon son of John was Jesus’ way of bring Simon back to being Peter.  Jesus had renamed him Peter meaning rock. This was when Simon had the revelation that Jesus is the Christ recorded in John 1 . It is on that rock of revelation that the future is built. That was this disciple’s future: His identity  was wrapped up in Christ being the Messiah. His whole future was to be lived dwelling in Jesus love.

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So I’m encouraged to begin again – start over afresh. By no means disregarding or leaving behind the journey thus far, but arriving at the place of hearing Jesus afresh and marvelling at the voice I first heard calling me again.   A time for a gentle, loving reminder of what being a disciple of Jesus is all about without all the needless efforts of my own extravagant demonstrations of faith or commitment but humbly loving and responding to Jesus. It a time for a fullness and  a complete circle bringing us back to the start to step into our truest identity that is focused solely and wholly around Jesus.
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T S Elliot sums it up: ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’
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Jesus is the Well

Did anyone else see the story coming out of China this week? Last Saturday a 12 year old girl was flying her kite and whilst her focus was in the sky she stumbled and fell into a well. Having established her head was above water the emergency services  were called. A fireman descended down into the well but could not complete the rescue after 3 attempts. It took them 8 hours to systematically unearth the ground around the well and take away brick by brick  the structure so that they could successfully get to the child and release her.  The structure was unimportant compared to the person inside it and resulted in a happy outcome for a playtime gone wrong. You can read about it here.

As I read it I couldn’t help but think about the woman at the well in John 4.

When you think about a well do you conjure up the imagine of the stones housing the pulley system that holds the bucket, with a little thatched roof? You know like a wishing well? I do. The focus is on the structure of the well rather than the water that is inside it: the container not the contents.

As the conversation between the woman and Jesus unfolds He’s continually drawing her attention away from outside structure and formats to actually reveal His very Presence to her as a spring inside her. Jesus had given this woman a promise: ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   Straight away Jesus isn’t on the container but He’s explaining about the contents. He’s not talking about a well  outside but a spring of water inside her bringing Life.

What I notice is during the conversation Jesus is busy digging around all her structures of places she thinks she will get ‘water’ to refresh her. He wants to reveal that it is Himself, not the well, that is important. He wants to reveal Himself to her as a spring.

So what structures does she, and us, try before we see Jesus for who He is?

  • Relationships -He asks her to go call her husband and it’s a question that reveals her broken attempts at finding the refreshment of acceptance in another  human person. This woman is thirsty for love.  This woman hoped in the institute of marriage as a container to meet her needs but clearly, for whatever reason, the contents of those relationship failed her. Drawing her attention to the inadequate experiences she has had makes her vulnerable. It also shows us that our relationships, better or worse than hers, are just one place that we go to meet our needs. Another relationship, however, intimate, isn’t going to meet our deepest need. We’re busy using a water pot trying to draw out what we need the whole time. It leaves us thirsty.
  • Religion -The woman tries to deflect the question and brings up religion. Is it this mountain or that which is the right place?  Are we to please God in this location or that one? If I do it this way will He bless me? Will I be out of His will if I go that way?  Always with the right and the wrong. This fits that doesn’t. Its the rule keeping and the works of earning His love and pleasure. We do the same. Even when you hear great grace teaching we still fall into making it about how much we prayed, gave, fasted, believed or applied His teachings. Our focus becomes what we need to create to contain the goodness of God in our life.  Still using the water pot to draw out what we think we need to ‘do.’ This leaves us frustrated and thirsty too.
  • Reverence -Jesus leads her on that rule keeping religion needs to make way for worship.  He points out that people are worshiping what they do not know. People at that time went to the temple to make an offering or sacrifice. Here Jesus explains about worshiping in Spirit and truth.  To worship God involves every part of our lives given over to a deep respect to hold Him in the highest regard in all that we do.  How can you worship like that if you don’t know Him?  That’s a life style not a visit!  Fast forward to today and we can fall into worship being singing songs of adoration. Be honest, we’ve all walked away from a church service and commented at least once, ‘ well the worship didn’t do it for me, the singers were a bit off’ or ‘ the music was way to loud and I couldn’t connect with God.’   Of course instruments and melody add to our worship immensely but again we are trying to fill up our water pot to refresh us for a limited time of singing – leaving us thirsty again for more.

Jesus is busy taking away brick by brick any places of a ‘well’ that she has tried to go to to draw refreshment and fulfillment from, so that He can get to the important Person.  Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” He reveals Himself. The well or meeting place isn’t important. The outside structure isn’t important: it’s the Person of Jesus – I AM – that is the refreshment and fulfillment of all that we need. He is the living water – Jesus is the well of water. He is the inner spring that bubbles up into Life. It’s our union with Him alone that refreshes us so we are no longer thirsty, ever again. Jesus is the well because it’s not the container but the substance of who He is and that He gives Himself to us that matters. 

Having grasped the truth of this the woman leaves her water pot. Very symbolic that she is no longer going to need to draw from any well because she has the Spring -Jesus Himself – in her. I love that as she goes into the village and the invitation she offers isn’t ‘come to the well’ She’s says ‘Come, see a man’  She’s got it straight away that it’s not about the how to, or the location: it’s about the Person.  I’ve heard lots about Christ in me the hope of glory but this woman just gets it by revelation!

Imagine for a moment: have you ever been with someone who is in a new relationship or getting married soon? They talk about their partner a lot. Understandably. This woman’s been married 5 times and living with someone else. She has bound to have spoken to lots of people over the years about the men she’s met and the impact and expectations of that relationship. The village have heard her before and could have easily been predicted to ignore her going off on one about the latest man she’d met. But this time there must have been something different about her for them to pay enough attention to go and see Jesus. Christ in her the hope of Glory was already shining out of her. Jesus Himself in her drawing others to come see and experience Him for themselves. Jesus Himself, the living waters inside her were already bubbling up into life for her and others. Incredible!

I read lately that we are ‘not in the day of church but in the day of Jesus.’ What I understand from that is we have to be aware not to make religion and the organisation of a  relevant church meeting most important. The focus becomes the well as  a  structure to draw refreshment from in being connected to others and practicing our faith projects whilst singing songs. The day of Jesus keeps our focus solely and wholly on who He is and we live our lives abiding whilst He springs up as Life to us, in us, and through us.

Jesus is the well because Jesus is the Spring. We are the container, His Body, that has the Spring, the Person, who is offering the living water inside us.  When we meet people we can give them a drink! It’s our union and connection to Him that is Life. It’s His faithfulness to us that is the foundation of our faith in Him. It’s our reverence to put Him first that means we worship all day everyday so that His life shows out in all we do.

I’ll finish with a story that happened this week that illustrated this all to me. I had a busy day on Wednesday and drove My husband and daughter to the airport. On the way home I stopped at the supermarket only to finally get home and realise I had forgotten all the important items I actually needed. So back I go to the supermarket. At the till the lady in front of me is taking her time. She’s clearly having a bad day and had lost her car keys so walked, was busy changing her mind about items she did or didn’t want. Then when it’s time to pay she can’t find her card and has to void the whole thing. I thought for a moment to bless her by paying for the shopping (so we could all get on really!) and God whispers, ‘ take her home and chat’ She’s relieved at the offer and gets in my car.  During the 5 mile round trip She’s busy chatting away about her situation and why she’s frazzled. Recently separated in her marriage she’s disappointed to be starting again.She gets her shopping and I’m happy to drive her home again. All the time I can hear Jesus saying,’ just listen.’  As we pull up outside her home, she turns to me and suddenly says,’ you’re a vicar aren’t you and spiritual will you pray with me as I need to get my life on track!’  I’m loving that this wasn’t structured or about where or how we met but Jesus was drawing this woman and wanted to reveal Himself. I explain I’m not religious but I do know Jesus and He makes the difference, the only difference. As I prayed I asked that Jesus would make Himself real to her and promised to pop in and see her again.

That’s Jesus Himself springing up to bring life! That’s the Well doing His work.

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Look – See

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I was walking in a local park recently when a couple approached. As we passed each other I just heard one of them say,’ I’m going to have a look see when I get home.’

How true is that? Only that morning I’d asked my daughter to get something for me and as she opened the fridge the reply came, ‘we haven’t got any.’  When it was there right in front of her on the shelf!  We look put we don’t always see something do we? It’s hidden in plain sight!!

In the context of my last blog, ‘fix your eyes on Jesus’ this seems so relevant.  We look, but do we see Him?

John 9 recounts the story of the man born blind from birth. It’s the Sabbath when Jesus spits on the ground then covers his eyes with mud made from the saliva.  Unconventional to say the least.  He asks the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  Whatever caused this man to be obedient to the request, he goes and comes back seeing. The man can see for the first time in his life but a lot of other unseen things surface too.  Rather than rejoice with the man at this miracle, the reactions that follow reveal people’s hearts. Doubts and questions surface over:-

  • the truth of the man’s original condition (v 8 is this the man who used to sit and beg?)
  • the timing of Jesus to work on the Sabbath and therefore not respecting the traditions and culture of their religion (v 16 This man is not from God for he does not keep the Sabbath)
  • the testimony of his parents (v 18 They called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them)
  • the theology of God using a ‘sinner’ like Jesus who couldn’t possibly work from their understanding of God. (v 24 we know this man is a sinner – v 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from)

The people raising this question, twice, were Pharisees: men who were upholding and set apart to instruct others on who God was. They spent their lives looking for God and yet when He turned up in plain sight they could not see Him. They looked but couldn’t see.  We really are blind aren’t we if we think we can see without Jesus?

It’s not the only time it happened either. Having been in the wilderness for 40 days Jesus ‘returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee,‘He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and picks up the scroll and reads Isaiah 61. Luke 4  v 20 says, ‘and eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.’ They’re looking but do they see?. This starts off promising as they ‘marvel at the gracious words’ but soon the limitations appear again as they react to His:-

  • parentage –  (is this Joseph’s son? rather than the Son of God)
  • the promise of prophecy fulfillment (the declaration of Isaiah 61 being  fulfilled and present in their midst caused such a reaction they took Jesus to the edge of the cliff to throw Him over!)

They, like the other Pharisees are offended by Jesus. The realities of the church and cultural traditions are challenged by the realities of the kingdom being present. So rather than looking and seeing what is in plain sight they reject it. They reject Him.  Karla McClurg puts it like this, ‘Jesus has barely begun his public ministry, and people begin already to make conjectures as to who he is, what his motivation is, whether or not he will live up to the rumours they have heard that he is the longed for Messiah. Their own hopes and longings get tangled in their desire for him to be for them what they long for him to be. Will they leave space for him just to be who he is?

If we are honest we can do this so often too. We look for Him, searching to find evidence of Him working or of His presence with us. We look to Him to answer our prayers and situations. But what about just looking at Him and allowing Him to be who He is not what we want to make him in our limited head knowledge?

You see, ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith’ is more of a challenge than we perhaps realise. It is so easy to become entangled by the weight of distractions that blind us.

 There is no profound revelation to draw out of these scriptures I’ve mentioned. The only challenge to move from only looking but actually seeing is :-

  • to stop  fitting Him into our ideas and fixing our eyes on Him instead
  • to cease reasoning the information and receive the Person
  • to block our incessant need for judgments of right and wrong and jump into the mystery of God
  • to refrain from analyzing our thoughts and accept His actions

 We need to untangle ourselves from the stories we have been telling ourselves and let Him tell the story of who He is – however unconventional or unexpected that may be. If we can let go our limited knowledge to actually, ‘know this love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,‘ so that we’may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’ (Eph 3 v 19)

That’s a wonderful promise isn’t it that Christ is far beyond anything we can imagine or gain knowledge about. He wants us to surpass our looking and go further still to see , know and experience the fullness of who He is. We’re not meant to look in black and white but see in full colour!

 We can stop searching as it’s really is as simple as seeing what is already given in the Person of Jesus.  Karal Mcclurg goes on to say, ‘ Maybe this is why he says to the curious, “Come and see.” Don’t try first to learn all about me as though that were possible. Just be with me. Watch me. Let me be myself as I become who I am becoming, and you just be yourself, too. We’ll let go of our preconceived ideas of who we “should” be and discover our true identities.’

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Fixing 2017

I hear lots of people saying they are glad to see the back of 2016 and so 2017 is here and with it my inbox and Facebook page flooded with good wishes for the new year, full of hopes, resolutions, anticipation and plans. Yet my year ahead look a bit like this.

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A blank page. Sure, I have plenty of things I need to pin down and arrange.  Lots of potential projects and meetings to firm up and people to see.  Yet , like many I ponder for a moment what I see for the year ahead. What do I need to do? What do I want to achieve? Then before I know it my focus is on the challenges that present of how to do it and when.  I’ve moved full throttle into ‘fix it’ mode.  Do is such a small word yet loaded with the clutter of distracting activity

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I’m relieved to catch myself wandering quickly and peace floods over me as I hear God whisper, ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of your faith.’ That’s exactly the simplicity that needs to fill up the pages of 2017. I don’t need to fix anything other than my eyes on Jesus and our relationship.

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  Jesus told us, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear,your whole body will be full of light. Matt 6 21 –22.  Where we fix our gaze and focus on will reflect what’s important to us. We get caught up doing and fixing life in our own strength and our treasure isn’t Jesus. He’s not the author then, we are.  As the new year begins we can start to reset the house again, tidying away all the clutter of decorations and finding homes for all the gifts and things we’re acquired. We can reflect on all the baggage that’s come from 2016 that still needs to be fixed or resolved and plan for 2017 with our hopes of a fresh start. We begin to reflect different treasures then in our doing and activity.  New year’s day seems to have that stamped in our thinking, faith or not, with so many of us trying to press the rest button: a fresh start to get back on track.; set new goals and resolutions to fix what we perceive needs doing. Perhaps the fixing is driven by:-

  • culture – everyone’s doing it this way so I’ll join in

  • tradition -we’ve always done it this way so I’ll just keep going

  • emotions – well this feels right so I will

  • reason – it seems like a good plan so I’ll go that route

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 But we don’t want the same old same old do we? We’ve not been this way before- this time stretched out before us is new and none of that allows Jesus to be the Author. You see author speaks to me of someone who creates something, the instigator. It begins with Him.  The Greek word is archegos  meaning founder of,  the cause, beginning or  basis of all the rest.   All of what lies ahead is securely held by the One who holds it all together. That’s why we’re encouraged to fix our eyes on Him then all of our life lights up with His life. Maybe encourage isn’t imperative enough, but fix is. When I looked up the word fix it means:-

  • to fasten something in position  attach, secure, connect, anchor, establish or position

  • to keep something or some one in sight to direct ones eyes mind and attention steadily and unwaveringly towards.  Focus, gaze, zero in on, be captivate by, absorbed

  • to continue to think about or remember. Keep constantly in mind.

  • to decide or settle on  

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 That’s the fix for 2017: Fixing our eyes on Jesus like that and allowing Jesus to write the story He wants to tell as the author.  As I reviewed 2016 I asked God want I had achieved and what were the highlights but He had a question for me instead. ‘What have I become to you and in you?’  This blog is more of a journal of my walk of faith and as I look at it for  the last year I started by writing (click on the links if you’re interested) about journeying with light then moved on to and yet  as God encouraged me to re frame my perspectives to allow more of His story, not mine, to be seen.  I spent several months thinking about practicing resurrection life as my understanding grew of what that common-union meant.  He’s encouraged me to be wholehearted and focus on who He is, not on what I’m not so that my life gets poured out and becomes one that is exposing God.   Hope’s home is always Christ in me the hope of glory and He can manifests in my life.  Yet Jesus wanted to go a little further as the year progressed from God with us to Christ in us to Christ is all. 

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So 2017 starts with all the goodness He has already revealed and building further on that. Christ is all and I choose to fix my eyes on Him  I want my heart to reveal the treasure that is Jesus so that the blank pages of my 2017 book gets JESUS written on it in big bold letters on every page.

So be blessed in 2017. Know it doesn’t need to be fixed by resolutions, plans or by all our ‘doing’ but simply and deliberately fixing our eyes on who He is and what He has become to us and in us. Jesus is more than enough. He’s the start middle and end!

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Jesus wants to go a little further (3)

With five children there is a lot to do with the preparations for Christmas. As they’ve got older my expectations were that it would get a little easier, simpler perhaps.  Not so much. Our children are incredibly close and  enjoy each others company at every opportunity and when it comes to Christmas they have lots of family traditions that still have to be observed.  It’s not solely the traditions in themselves but the fun we all have doing it together. Like digging up a fresh Christmas tree and  selecting just the right one so it can house seven stars on top: one for each of us. Then placing the ‘Riga rat’  ( long story) in the branches along with a handmade decoration saying ‘Jesus is the reason for the Season’

Despite all the ‘things’ we do, we have always tried to make Jesus central. The core message whilst raising them, was that this season wasn’t about family time or religious traditions but a celebration of Emmanuel – God with us.  This year though I just can’t get away from Jesus wanting to go a little further and He’s been challenging me again this week that God with us leads to Christ in us  but more that Christ is All in all.
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In the other two blogs on this I’ve been digesting that in all of our activity with and for Jesus He is going a little further to reveal that it’s Jesus that fulfils all our yearnings. Simply Jesus Himself. Whilst talking to Jesus about this He showed me just how far He went. Matthew 26 v 39  says,Going a little further, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed
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It’s from the account of Jesus, on the night before He died praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Looking at all the gospel accounts of that time I could see again the little further Jesus is opening up to us. Reading how Jesus had shared a Passover meal with His disciples, prayed with them and then gone to pray in the garden before being arrested showed me Jesus’ heart in beckoning us on.  He showed the way.
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God with us
Jesus is sharing a meal with His disciples.  He explains to them that He is with them now but will be going back to the father. They see Him as teacher and Lord, share communion and pray together.   He explained to them that although He was going away in a flesh sense, in Spirit He was not. He’s with them yet desiring to reveal to them the little further that the broken bread actually means. Partaking of Jesus Himself in this way moves us to:-
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Christ in us
In John 17 he shares with us the prayer Jesus uttered just before He went to the garden. Rather than unpack that as a Bible study read it yourself and let the Spirit impart Jesus heart for you to you. HERE  It’s enough here to say that Jesus’ heart expressed is interwoven with so much love for the Father and us. He says, ‘I desire…’ He wants us so much to grasp that having left heaven to be born as a babe in human flesh He still lived solely and wholly set apart for the Father’s will.  He sets out that although in the world, we are not of it- He’s declaring that although we are flesh we are to live in Spirit just like Him. He’s given us the glory which is Jesus himself IN us.
I’d been sharing this with some friends on Tuesday and Wednesday morning an email arrived with the title,’ The answer to Jesus prayer – it will manifest’ I loved the encouragement Jesus gave me that, yes I was hearing Him but this is on His heart. The email was all about John 17 and how Jesus desires that we know our oneness with Him. People are awakening to the truth of it and that as these wheels have been turning they are now going to be joined together as wheels within a wheel, that the cogs joined together will create forward movement: union in each person with Jesus but a harmony with each other as Christ is central. Which moves us a little further to :-
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Christ is All
The little further Jesus went was to lay prostrate on the ground to pray. He was utterly surrendered to God physically to face the cross but also in Spirit out of love- It was the joy of knowing that He would return to the Father and bring many others of us with Him. Yes, Jesus went on to pray ‘if there’s a way take this cup away’ but as Gibson points out, it wasn’t the weakness of Jesus’ flesh that this expressed but the purity of His spirit. He was just about to bear ALL our sickness and All our sin to end the separation we had with God. Yet He consecrated Himself so that we could be in the truth. He set Himself apart to do just the Father’s will, ‘  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us’
When He prayed He desired that we would be one with Him but also each other and that this relationship, not our activity, would be the witness to the world.  You see the glory of the relationship in Jesus leads to Him being ALL- nothing else is added,, or needed – it’s the relationship that is the witness not what we do because of it.  Jesus in us and ALL.
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As Paul puts it in Colossians 2 v 9-10, ‘in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him.’  If we are filled with all that Christ is then we lack nothing and have need for nothing or to do anything. He’s done it all! We have ALL in Jesus Himself.
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And then I’m back at the start – Emmanuel – God with us.  The night Jesus was born He was central, He brought together Mary and Joseph, He united the riches of the kings with the poorness of the shepherds to come and worship. Heaven was united with earth as the angels rejoiced. Jesus central and bringing all into unity around Himself. As we go into this season, not just Christmas but into 2017, rejoice at Christ being born but go the little further just like Jesus did. We can make room for Him, find a vacancy to accommodate Him. We can rejoice and make Him central but go the whole way: Jesus Himself is the way. Be utterly abandoned and wholeheartedly surrendered  to make Him all in all because what ever circumstance we are in Christ is all : Christ is my fullness; Christ is my supply; Christ is my peace; Christ is my rest; Christ is my meaning; Christ is my hope; Christ is Life “
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Jesus wants to go a little further (2)

As my husband is on a mission trip I get to eat all the things I enjoy and he doesn’t.  Of course I can eat them whilst he’s home but it’s a ‘treat yourself to your favourite’ vibe in his absence.  Beetroot and feta salad or a broad bean burger isn’t really a meal for a bloke is it? Besides it’s comfort food. It’s interesting why and how we do that isn’t it? Those choices remind me of someone and happy memories, so I enjoy the taste all the more. It feeds me on an emotional level as well as nourishment.

 

Humans seem to do that with activity too.  Carly Houselander puts it like this, ‘Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness of their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures…. They have no sense of being related to any abiding beauty, to any indestructible life: they are afraid to be alone with their unrelated hearts.’  We need to be connected to life and people in some way and filling it up with ‘doing’ can sometimes just fill the void for that moment – something extra is missing and we  yearn to be satisfied. All those temporary  foods, things or activity, however pleasant, don’t fill that yearning emptiness in a lasting way.

 

This follows on from my last blog on Cleophas walking on the road to Emmaus. He has been connected to Jesus. He’d been in the group called a disciple and he had lots of information and experiences of Jesus but knew something else was missing. Whilst talking it all through he didn’t regonise Jesus was there all the time with the answer. He  was connected and associated to Jesus but still missing that vital part of  engaging with the new life Jesus brings. That is until they break bread together and Jesus took them a little further to open their eyes to communion – Life in relationship to Him.

 

Food

 

My thoughts have taken me to John 6 and the large gathering of men who Jesus fed with the bread and fish the boy provided.  The people have enjoyed His teaching and the provision of their needs being met. It’s pretty incredible that so many people eat a meal that filled them all up and still there was some left over. That’s a lot of food Jesus made so understandably  they want Him to stick around. They come up with a plan to make him King .

  • This man can lead us and rule our kingdom.

  • He can be the one responsible for our well being and set the order we need.

  • He can provide for us in every way.  They’re on to a good idea until we notice the word ‘ by force’.  Those 7 letters change the intention completely. It suggests that they are not willing to submit to His ways but actually want to control Him instead.

  • They need Him for  a certain service but are not going to give Him a free hand. 

Perhaps it’s the comfort food vibe again of meeting their needs of being associated and connected to him and each other and having the blessings of signs that are so good and comforting. It certainly provides for their emotional and physical needs but it’s limited there.  With this type of king we can still be in control, not Jesus. I said it last time: there are so many who clearly seem to be steeped in Jesus’ Spirit,–it is evident from the way they live and love–but they haven’t yet, for whatever reasons, recognized who He is or how close He is to them.  We’re all like Cleophas and this group of 5000 men sometimes.  We go to church, are connected to Jesus, love the profound teaching, the signs that get shared in testimonies of how God provided our physical and spiritual needs, how He does miracles for us breaking out in our midst.  We’re connected to the body, the people  we are journeying with and the order and the  ‘food’ for us and to us that it provides. 

 

Further

And yet  Jesus ‘withdrew’ v 15 because He didn’t resonate with that. Not because He didn’t care for them, He’d demonstrated His heart towards them already, He’s not leaving them – He’s at it again going a little further to see who wants to come into the fullness. He’s beckoning us on to follow. He wants everyone to understand it’s not about the ‘food’ we eat, be it physical nourishment or activity that sustains us – it’s about ‘  true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world’  The little further  is to take them, and us, on into feasting on Jesus and the Life He offers in and of Himself, not the signs that are pointing to Him. He’s going a little further to explain it’s not about being a king ruling over a body of people, but about ‘His body’ only.

 

As Jesus begins to unpack what is going to satisfy our deepest longing He explains that they came because of the signs and the bread when really He wants us to understand we can feed on Him. What???!! what’s the difference?  Well it’s the jump from ‘the body’  to ‘His body’. Jesus brings it right back to Him being the living bread that gives Life.  He highlights that we don’t need to work for teaching, fellowship or signs but for the ‘true bread’ that endures with lasting satisfaction that completely nourishes and sustains us.  This food isn’t a comfort for a quick fix but the one that satisfies all the yearnings deep down in all of us. It’s Jesus Himself. He’s the food we need to consume.  If we really want to make Him king then Ephesians 1 v 23 explains, And God put everything under His feet and made Him head over everything for the church,which is His body,the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

 

It’s Christ actual body that  is the fullness, not the people, or gathering that are eating it that brings the fullness. Not ‘the body’ of people as the church but HIS body. His flesh that is all in all.  It’s Christ Himself. I’m not denying the benefits, blessing or function of the body being connected: I’m recognising that Jesus wants to make Himself central and then we get the rest anyway.

 

Friction

 

  It’s a hard one to understand  and we can identify with the people who

  • grumbled,  repeatedly  about it v 41 v 43 
  • dismiss and limit Jesus. Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? v 42 Jesus can’t meet my needs He’s just another man like me,   ( interesting that they feel they know Jesus’ father Joseph instead of the Father in Heaven who draws and teaches us everything)
  • said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  v 60 perhaps they want their ears to be tickled with nice comforting thoughts again not a challenge to press in.
  • decided to walk away. ‘ many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.  v 66 perhaps they are satisfied with what they have received and experienced so far and go home.

 

Feast

 

Jesus presses the point. The flesh with it’s desires are no use to us at all. What ever type of  ‘food  we eat’ it’s  temporary: the experiences of Jesus we have in teaching, fellowship and signs are just that- signs pointing us a little further to the fullness. It’s all pointing us to Jesus’ body in Spirit. The words He speaks to us are Spirit and Life. He is the word become flesh, all things were made through Him and for Him and to Him and that is what He gives us as the living Bread. He gives Himself, willingly. He doesn’t want to be king externally by focus, he wants an internal kingdom in us by speaking directly to us words of Spirit and life.  When we partake in this food we are in communion and feasting!

 

That’s the right kind of flesh we need to eat that’s His body. When we hear this in the spirit we are sustained in a totally fresh way. We  can receive Jesus and take the words and life He offers into our spirit and our very being is energised and built up. We are healthy and satisfied in a way that physical food or the body only imitates. When we consume Jesus we are being in his presence and conscious of His life nourishing us.  When we eat His body we are then consumed with His love and beauty and who He is to us and in us.  Then Life blossoms and bursts out everywhere, we have everything we need. Life.

 

So the invitation stands, who wants to come a little further?  Let’s eat the Bread He offers. Jesus Himself, and be like the disciples who said, ‘give us this bread always’ and echo the words of Peter, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’ 

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Jesus wants to go a little further….

It’s been a while since my last post. I wrote then about Jesus’ journey from meeting Nicodemus to the woman at the well and how through those two conversations He demonstrated the move from practicing religion to encountering the I AM.  This heart felt prayer of Hosea of ‘Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him’ resonates  with me that Jesus wants to take us much further in knowing and experiencing Him than we have yet understood. For myself and the people we meet with there is a yearning to encountering  the depths of I AM in a greater, fuller way. Jesus wants that too. Luke 24  v 29 says, ‘He made as though he would have gone further.It’s from the road to Emmaus with Cleophas and another disciple that I’ve seen the different ‘stages’ Jesus walks us through and the little further He wants to take us. 

Confusion and Conversation

 It’s actually the resurrection morning, as it’s the third day since Jesus died but I’m not clear why they would be returning home.  After all :-

  • They are disciples of Jesus so had been with Him during His life and listened to His teaching: saw His miracles and shared life together. 

  • They’ve been in Jerusalem and have witnessed His death, the events He told them about.

  • They’ve heard personal testimony from the woman who found the empty tomb and were ‘amazed’ by it ( v 22) 

  • They’ve heard from the other disciples who also found the empty tomb and  explained that they’d ‘even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.’ (V 23)

  • They expressed how they recognised Jesus as a ‘prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. ( v 19)

  • They profess they ‘hoped’ in Him ( V 21)

 So why, with all that history and evidence do they walk away? Why do they leave to go home?   It’s one Jesus wanted to know too. they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.  And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad Their eyes were still not quite open to Jesus’ presence with them despite how far they had come in their journey with Him.

  • Perhaps it’s because they didn’t actually go and see the empty tomb for themselves. 

  • Possibly it’s because they didn’t hear the angels declare to them personally about the living Jesus. 

  • Maybe it’s because they still referred to, and limited Him, in His flesh identity as Jesus of Nazareth and not yet understood Him to be the Son of God.  

  • Could it be they still think their interpretation of events is the only way to see things?  Why else do they ask Jesus. ‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?  (Very Ironic as the story revolved around the one they are speaking to! He wasn’t a ‘visitor’ to Jerusalem-  it was where He belonged as His place of destiny.)

 All of these played a part along with the perspective that the story had ended and not quite worked out as they had wished for. They’d come a long way, enjoyed it all while it lasted but now it was time to go home. Plenty of us have moments like that right? We’ve been with Jesus, saw Him at work. rejoiced and enjoyed. We’ve heard the testimonies and hoped and trusted, but like Cleophas and his friend we need our own personal encounter with the Living Jesus. There are so many who clearly seem to be steeped in Jesus’ Spirit,–it is evident from the way they live and love–but they haven’t yet, for whatever reasons, recognized who He is or how close He is to them.

Coaching through the Scriptures.

The compassion of Jesus to come along side them and listen to their external processing is lovely. How He takes the time  to remind them, again, of all the promises and plans of scripture- to open up the familiar words so it’s stirring their hearts again. He gently starts at the beginning and urges them on to the glory. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (v 27)  What a fabulous place to be having the scriptures explained. We’ve all loved it when we hear a good sermon that stirs our hearts up to ‘ wow – that’s good such insight!’  Jesus makes to go a ‘little further’ and the disciples urge Him to stay as the day has ended. Who wouldn’t want that ‘season’ to end right?  Such a great choice not to let Him walk on with out them though. A more significant invitation than they realised at the time to actually receive Jesus into their home. 

Communion.

And here is the  turning point: in their home they let Jesus host.  When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. v 30 That simple act opens us more than their realised at the time. Finally letting go of their agenda to be in charge of events and along with it their perspectives change. They have received Jesus and now receive from Him. In that moment sharing communion their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. They tasted and saw Life in a new way, finally recognising that Jesus was with them all the time. Finally they saw the complete, alive Jesus present with them.  The little further doesn’t stop with a meal though- It’s only just begun!

Conscious we are His Body

The two disciples made a response: they changed direction. They didn’t stay home but returned to Jerusalem leaving at once at night. Suddenly at night because staying put wasn’t an option now. It’s easy to say I’ll wait till morning when I’m refreshed and have the light to walk in and not  inconvenient. Perhaps it’s easy to be satisfied with conversation, teaching and fellowship.  They went forward, not back, to Jerusalem. Forward because it’s not the Jerusalem that they had left defeated and confused but the new Jerusalem where Jesus is alive. The bible says lots about the ‘new Jerusalem’ but it’s enough here to say it’s the place of a full manifestation of God’s goodness. It’s the completed work that Jesus has bought appearing. That’s what we get when we eat the Bread and eyes are opened to Jesus being alive. That’s the place Jesus wants to take us.  Jerusalem was where His ‘church’ was born. It’s where the new Life of His body came into being.

The wonderful thing I notice here is that as they finally understood whilst eating, Jesus vanished.  I struggled to understand that till I caught that as they eat the Bread it becomes part of them. Jesus Himself, the Bead of Life, becomes part of them. He’s not vanished but now  IN them. When we partake of Jesus we are eating resurrection too, swallowing it down, letting Him become us. We are being remade.  When they arrive in Jerusalem to tell the eleven disciples Jesus appears again because He travelled with them – in them.  Where they are, He is and where He is in Spirit, is where they are! He’s constant in the communion. The Lord, who often used visual signs around Him to make a truth become real to His followers now draws attention to His body,  He said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see.’  He’s showing His aliveness but they understand they are part of Him too.  They’ve ate the Bread of life, tasted it, they have seen it, (well not it but Him) and as their eyes wander to their own skin they know the Life is in them too. 

This is the place I see so many people at the moment. We’ve enjoyed time with Jesus, saw Him minister but it didn’t all quite work out the way we thought.  And we’re all a bit busy talking about it and having our conversations. Our faith rises as we raise our confession and beginning again looking at scripture and  enjoying great teaching. But none of that makes His Body. It’s in the conscious, constant communion with the source of Life that the Body manifests. Eat the Bread – partake of Jesus, Himself. Accept Jesus’ out stretched hand to go a little further. Let Him host you. Let Him write the story, not you. Lay down your expectations and the comfort of ‘home’ and enter into His story – because there is MORE.  There’s a change of direction for you  to though.

  • If you want to stay talking about Him and hearing other people’s testimonies- that’s ok Jesus is still with you …..but He’s going a little further….

  • If you want to hear lots of teaching and have your heart stirred up – that’s ok too- He’s still with you…..but He’s going a little further….

  • If you want to invite Him to stay have fellowship with you – that’s great as well- because He’s present…..But Jesus wants to go a little further….

He wants to manifest His Body and Life in you and through you in a much deeper way. He wants us to sense the unity of heaven and earth, – so our existence sings with the life that is Life.  He wants to display His body through the Bread of Life shared with us, through us and to others.  He wants us to eat the Bread then be the Bread for others. He wants us  to walk on into a full manifestation of His Body living out the Hope that is in us- Christ.

 Who wants to come a ‘little further’?

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When being a nobody with nothing is just right

I’ve been pondering more on ‘Christ in You: the hope of glory’ and my thoughts have taken me to John 3 and 4.

In John 3 Jesus is talking to a  ‘Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews‘ but shortly after in John 4 He is talking to an unnamed woman at a well in Samaria. The two  encounters seem very different.

  • It is night time when Nicodemus speaks with Jesus but in the heat of the day at noon for the woman
  • Nicodemus has a position and standing in the community as a ruler but the woman is isolated visiting the well alone instead of typically in the cool of the day with the other women. She’s doesn’t even have a position in a family, let alone the community.
  • A Pharisee would have lived strictly by a moral code and seen to do the right thing . The fact this woman had 5 previous husbands and living with a 6th reflected not just her different moral code but also the men who placed no value on her. 
  • At least Nicodemus sought out Jesus to ask questions.  The woman doesn’t know who Jesus is and simply encounters a stranger at the well.
  • the man responds to Jesus with rational, reasoned questions whilst the woman reacts  to the experience of truth.

Different, but still the same and if we are honest our experience is found in both of them too.

They are both hiding who they are from other people. Nicodemus perhaps couldn’t have asked those questions in public with his position of ruler. He would have been perceived as having all the answers already. The woman attends to her chores alone in the inconvenient heat. She too couldn’t be herself around the other women who knew all about her and her disgraced position in the community because of failed relationships. How many people can we actually be ourselves around?

 They both meet Jesus alone- a private moment of vulnerability. It’s this space that allows for the personal encounter with Jesus. You see both have questions, but it’s Jesus’ questions that opens them, and us, up. To Nicodemus he asks, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?‘ for the woman He says ‘go call your husband‘. Both these requests would have cut to the core issue. Nicodemus for all his study and observance of the law still had not found fulfillment for what he craved. For the woman she had sought to find meaning and worth in her status as a wife which offered her no answers either despite trying 5 times. The joy here is that Jesus doesn’t do that to belittle them or pass judgement but to truthfully expose the driest area in  their lives in order that Living Water flows to restore, revive and renew every place. When you meet Jesus you can open up and it’s not so you expose the real you to Him: it’s so He can reveal who you really are, to you!

 John Anderson, in his book, Jesus the Inner Spring’ puts it this way, ‘ We shall admit that our lives, with their relationships and their out workings, are dead. we shall say,’ I have nothing.’ That is preparing the way for the Inner Spring’

When we all see that we are a nobody with nothing, the Someone with everything is right there offering Himself. We’re born again into hope by water and spirit. Living water that becomes a well inside of us springing up into life. The well is Jesus Himself abiding with us.  Christ in you: the hope of glory.  Christ in us takes the nobody with nothing and puts the Someone inside us. The real you is revealed in all of who He is. 

John the baptist understood when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” It’s not about having or not having  a position or title. It’s not  about our efforts or lack of them. It is all about being a nobody in ourselves so we can reveal the Somebody that is Jesus.

We’ve actually moved from no-body to being His-body. Our significance and security is settled so that we understand how special we are because we are in union with Him.  

I can’t acknowledge this quote as I don’t know who wrote it but it’s profound:

“you carry the fountain of hope in you. The Kingdom’s way is you carrying the life of Christ, the Presence of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s NOT about you but it’s ALL about the One Living inside of you. When people encounter you nothing happens but when they encounter the Presence of God abiding in you,  the atmosphere shifts because of Him dwelling inside of us. HE is life! HE is light! HE is healing! HE is provision! He is wisdom! HE is love! In Him ALL things consist.”

 Nobodies with nothing is now just right: joined to the Someone with everything and the only think we can help with is step out the way long enough for Jesus to be Himself through us. Let’s be empty so He can fill and overflow!

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