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?
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.
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 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:-
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 :-
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.’
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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’
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.
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.
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 ‘ 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.
It’s a hard one to understand and we can identify with the people who
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,
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.
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!
Home is a very powerful word to me.
Home is all those things but more. Home is an experience: it’s a feeling that you fit somewhere, with someone, and are wanted and belong. This last weekend it struck me afresh that I’m not looking for or creating a home, I am home. I don’t mean in four walls but I, myself, am a home. In Revelations 21 it says,
“God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God Himself will be with them.“
When Jesus was talking to His disciples (John 14) He promised there would be a day when we realised, “that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you… and we will come to (you) and make our home” God Himself chooses to make my skin and yours, His home. We are home to the Divine Life. God Himself feels my body is a place where He can be accepted and loved, comfortable and welcomed to be Himself. It’s a place he feels He belongs!
So because I am a home, I AM is home. As my body is the space He comes to dwell and live in, all that I AM is, becomes my home too. Who God is becomes my home where I live and move and have my being. We abide and live together and the relationship and union makes a home. Wonderful. Wonder-full and not just a truth but something to be experienced.
God wants us to realise we are home. In fact Paul tells us in Colossians, “ God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” God’s pleased to reveal the riches of this to us.
This home (Christ in us and us in Him) carries hope. So what’s hope?
Hope is the assurance of the Person of Jesus living in us- it’s the anchor that does not move us from home base. Cynthia Bourgeault puts it like this. “Hope’s home is at the innermost point in us, and in all things. It is a quality of aliveness. It does not come at the end, as the feeling that results from a happy outcome. Rather, it lies at the beginning, as a pulse of truth that sends us forth.” Hope is our assured foundation. We are not waiting to die to go home to glory – quite the opposite -it’s actually the starting point, that we are in union with Jesus who is at home living with us now.
This home (Christ being in us and us in Him) carrying the assurance of hope, adds glory. So what’s glory? Well it’s more of the riches of His Presence!
How incredible that we are the dwelling place of God – That He comes and makes a home with us! Incredible that we are not striving to obtain it but can turn our attention and become aware of what is already given to us . We need to give thanks and receive the Person. Welcome Him home then fling wide the doors of this place and as Russ Walden puts it, ” We are called upon to walk in glory:the manifest Presence of God. Someone on the inside of you is pressing to get out. when you walk into a room, learn to say in yourselves, ‘I release the glory here…”
We need to turn up with love in every situation and allow Jesus to be Himself. Maybe Julie Glover is right too, ” those who serve most potently work on levels of cosciousness that have to do with radiating love -God’s love. The basic premise is that you allow something, (Someone) to come through you… from somewhere deep inside.”