Today I had a mini-revelation that has really blessed me through the day and I want to share it with you.
It came from reading from The Passion Translation (TPT) of the New Testament, in John’s gospel. I am reading it online where there is access to abundant notes peppered throughout the whole scriptures, enlightening my knowledge and understanding of both the linguistic meaning and the cultural/political meaning of words and phrases in the historical context. (It’s fascinating but also very slow going for me, as I’m too nosey to miss out any notes!)
The understanding is this:
1 – Moses brought the law to the people. Moses’ first miracle, as such, was turning water into blood… it was then also blood that spared the people from the angel of death. The people were released then from their slavery and bondage in Egypt…
2 – Jesus brought Grace to the people. His first public miracle was turning water into wine – celebration of life and abundance – and it was Jesus’ own blood that freed us from slavery and bondage and spared us from eternal death.
Moses brought the Law and with the Law comes judgment; Jesus brings Grace and with Grace comes LIFE.
You can read it here, in John Chapter 1:
“15 John announced the truth about him when he taught the people,
“He’s the One! He’s the One I’ve been telling you would come after me, even though he ranks far above me, because he existed before I was even born.”
16 And from the overflow of his fullness we received grace heaped upon more grace! (Or “one gracious gift after another.”)
17 Moses gave us the Law, but Jesus, the Anointed One, unveils truth wrapped in tender mercy.”*
(1:17 Moses was the lawgiver, Jesus is the grace-giver. In the first miracle of Moses, he turned water into blood, resulting in death. In the first miracle of grace, Jesus turned water into wine, resulting in life and celebration.)
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV)
Jesus said, “Why do you break the command of God, for the sake of your own tradition?”… and He proceeded to quote from Isaiah 29:13 – ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me… their teachings are but rules taught by men’.
These verses remind me how much we need the fresh, daily manna directly from God, how we need the grace, wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in all our affairs – especially in the way that we teach our children!
This week I was to teach our Sunday School class, following a prepared program thatinstructed me to teach the 2nd Commandment. Although the actual class would last no longer than 30 minutes, the lesson took me over six hours to prepare, plus many other hours praying over and discussing the questions I had myself. This may sound very inefficient (and perhaps would have to be different if I did it every week!), but the reality is that I learned so much myself during my preparations. I trust that the children also learned what they needed to learn too. But I want to share some of the questions and complexity with you.
Firstly, the 2nd Commandment, as found in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.”
I had photos and toy animals to discuss the inanimate nature of such things, obviously drawing out the foolishness of worshipping the creature, rather than the Creator… and how even more foolish to create our own image of a creature and to worship that – given it can’t talk, act or anything! Everything in all creation is to worship the Creator, not the other way around! Of course, everything that God made is good and it is so natural and easy to look at ‘all things bright and beautiful’ and in awe and wonder for our hearts to be lifted in praise to God. It is in fact much easier to appreciate what we can see and touch, than to appreciate the God and Creator that we cannot see and touch. This was all straight-forward and fun. We then looked at kneeling in front of a cross, an icon, a bible – objects which perhaps take a little more explanation… Am I worshipping the lump of stone or wood? Or am I kneeling before Jesus, who is no longer on that cross, but is risen and alive?
“Which is greater: the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?” Matt 23:17.
These images and festivals and traditions can help us to worship God, as long as we don’t end up worshipping the image or the tradition… We must be careful not to create God in our own image! I know that when I cherry-pick the parts of Scripture that I like, I am in danger of doing this.
I know that you know this. I knew this. But I had to put it into words in order to teach it faithfully and clearly. The key was the verse – “you shall not bow down to them or worship them”. So we spent a while thinking through what worship is…
What is worship? What is love? If I spend no time, effort, thought, money on something or someone – can I honestly claim to love or worship them? We have many resources at our disposal and arguably time is the most precious, but how much of it do we spend doing God’s will. How do we spend our resources of time, money, energy, patience and effort? I ask myself these questions. If I look at how I use the hours in a day, what does that tell me about what is important in my life?
I would have more than happy to leave the lesson there – with the significance of an image and the meaning of worship, but the commandment had a further clause, which caused me many questions and prayerful study (actually, although I did prepare the rest of this, the lesson itself did not require it on the day, so this was the lesson that God was wanting to teach me instead). We cannot cherry-pick with the Scriptures! There were three aspects of this commandment and all connected, whether I wanted to look at it or not. This was the notion that God is jealous and ‘punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation OF THOSE WHO HATE ME, BUT SHOWING LOVE TO THOUSANDS WHO LOVE ME AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.’ The bit I capitalised is what I had not noticed as I first wanted to reject this statement. But that notwithstanding, still I took it in prayer, to Jesus who I knew had said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19)
After asking God to explain this punishing the generations clause, later I picked up an old work-book, that I had begun to work through, taking me through the 12 Step Programme of AA, (hang on in, this is relevant) – and I had been instructed to draw a family-tree, to look at family issues of abuse, addiction, depression etc – through the family to my grand-parents – the third generation! And boy, they were a lot of issues that had been handed down… whether it was genetic or learned, nature or nurture, the patterns of issues (and sin) were very apparent. The people in Jesus time on earth understood this command literally and considered sickness and misfortune to be the punishment from God. It seems that part of Jesus’ ministry was to break that chain of inheritance. In John chapter 9, when Jesus meets the man ‘blind from birth’, the people asked whether it was because of his own sin or that of his parents? Jesus answered that it was neither, but that the people there may all learn of the power and glory of God. The reality is that there are consequences of sin and these we both inherit and learn – from our parents and teachers and from our institutions, traditions and from the structure of our society. We learn from what they do. We copy their example, for good and for bad. We mimic bad habits automatically. Often we are also injured, damaged, wounded by the behaviour of our elders, these are also consequences. This is why Jesus said.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2)
We are to do what God instructs us to do, in His word and by His Holy Spirit. It is not my place to judge others. Jesus made this quite clear. God alone is the judge and the teacher. We are to forgive, over and over, as Jesus does. I am to forgive all those who hurt me and whose sins and issues had consequences in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. Often these others are powerless over their actions and behaviour and need our mercy and patience. Often the people who irritate me, hurt me and annoy me are the people who have been already hurt and damaged by another. Hurt people hurt people. This, I believe, is part of the generational consequences of sin. My children are still affected by the consequences of my sins and failings, though I thank God that He has broken the power of sin over my life and broken that generational curse over my children. I pray that they will know Him for themselves and walk with Him in abundant life and blessing.
I pray this for you too – that you may know the power of the risen Jesus to break the chains that may be in your own life; that you may love Him with your whole heart, mind and strength; that you may have the grace to forgive those who have hurt you; that you may live in abundant life, directed by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God; that your children and children’s children will love God and keep His commandments and live in the blessings of His plans and purposes. Amen.
There’s huge resistance in me to write what I felt I should write – which is a post of praise and thanksgiving, for God’s faithfulness during another month (April) and of the peace that comes from casting all my cares upon Him. I said in March, that “God, in His mind-blowing love, not only takes these cares, concerns, fears and burdens upon Himself, but He exchanges them forHis perfect PEACE!”
I have continued being very specific about prayer requests and petitions, for people in my life and community, and over and above every divine shower of blessing received, I can testify to the peace that I have from my heavenly Father who hears all the prayers that we bring to Him. His Word promises this peace. We are not imposing on Him with our needs and concerns, He commands us to come to Him. I want to thank God for His Presence, Provision, Power and Peace to those who come to Him, through Jesus.
“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
And the PEACE of GOD, which transcends all understanding,
will GUARD your HEART and MIND in Christ Jesus.”
I want to thank my God, that specifically, during the month of April:-
L’s tumours have all gone.
S’s knees were healed overnight so he could resume his exercises the following day.
R’s tests revealed she does not have DVT.
J and family all healed and recovered.
A was well enough to come home to spend family time before round 2 of treatments.
That G and I-M are both getting much stronger.
Thank You for providing perfect respite care and support for M and M.
Thank You that our church could provide about 175 lunches for those in need in our community over half-term.
Thank You that our toddler group has reopened after over a year in lock-down and
that AA has reopened and all the brave and beautiful souls there have remained strong.
Thank You for encouraging S and meeting her needs.
Thank You for providing me ALL my needs this month and more.
Thank You for courage to face new challenges and do things differently.
Thank You for encouragement, guidanceand support in all my various writing projects this month.
I thank You heavenly Father that all the needs we bring before You are heard and that You are always working to bring to completion Your perfect plan and purposes for our lives. I thank You for the privilege of coming to You in prayer and for the promises and assurance of Your great love… for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… and if You gave us Your very self, how much more will You not give us the Holy Spirit and all we need to live a blessed life of service. Amen
On an everyday level, do you find yourself sometimes aware of and struggling with conflict? Are you a sensitive soul? I am! But I want to be strong and I want to stand and be victorious. Nobody wants to lose even an argument, let alone a war! A few weeks ago I realised that I have, since childhood, learned a reaction to conflict that is not healthy. I have lost many battles, because I use the wrong armour and the wrong weapons. In fact most times I am also fighting the wrong enemy!
Some of these conflicts have actual substance, but some are even imaginations born of vulnerability and fear. I thought about the conflicts and battles in my life and observed myself in both my home-made armour and my fearful tactics. My ‘belt’ was my stubborn determination that I was right. My ‘breastplate’ was my people-pleasing conformity to a self-righteous standard of behaviour that I believed was expected of me. My ‘helmet’ was my denial of secrets and of my own responsibility. My ‘feet were fitted’ with a readiness to run and hide if punishment was coming close. I had a defensive ‘shield’ of my identity as a victim, and lastly, a sword pointing and attacking the blame at anyone I felt was attacking me…
There are some weary days when I could easily believe that everyone – or at least someone – is out to get me, attack me, argue, criticise or try to trip me up… some days when it all feels like a battle and a struggle to come through it alive, never mind unscathed! Whatever the cause of the conflict, it always demands a response – How do we stand strong? Do we fight or not? How and who do we fight? What weapons do we use? What armour do we use?
The apostle Paul urges the church in Ephesus to be prepared for battle and to put on the full armour of God. He also reminds us who the enemy is! It is not flesh and blood. It is not the boss who just sacked you, or the driver that knocked off my wing-mirror… it’s not even the relative that sent the nasty letter criticising our religious or political affiliations… our real enemy is the spiritual enemy of God.
Ephesians 6: 10 – 18.
The Armour of God (NIV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is crucial for the helmet and the shield to stay in place and to keep the feet on the right path. The righteousness of Christ is His gift to us who are born again, and His truth I have to align with my own as I buckle my belt…
I have begun a practice of putting this armour on item by item, in my mind’s eye, every morning, and of praying for the grace to not fear, nor defend against, nor cast false blame, nor attack my fellow flesh and blood. I am praying for us foot soldiers throughout the world – for you, my brothers and sisters, who are fighting to stand strong. I am a work in progress. How about you? What is your armour?