Happy Re-Birthday 11/11

11/11/84

I celebrate my ‘second’ birthday… why not, as a daughter of the King?

I remember that day – 11/11/84 – A day I’ll never forget.

I was so so scared! I see myself standing on the podium, with a glass lectern in front of me and a microphone and I see a huge crowd of people… I see two ex boyfriends in the crowd – one would also be baptised today, the other thought me as mad as a fish and had recently dumped me, because I had become so radical! I see my new boyfriend – a German Catholic from a large family in the North, looking bemused and lost, but there for me to witness my baptism – they all were – even my sister and her fella… but I had to give my testimony to all these… I had written it down, but as I stood there I was stuck, frozen, mute like in thick treacle… I could hardly see my script, or my hands, and I could not hear my voice… I don’t recall speaking, just standing terrified! And yet, I was so excited! Believe me, this was me being brave, being a witness to Christ in my life. How pathetic I felt too. This was me stepping out boldly, in faith, believing that God would give me the words to say. “Jesus take me as I am”, was my song that day.

I had such hope that day; real hope, despite my terrible nerves. For the first time ever, I knew, I believed, that I was truly born again. I was completely washed clean in that baptismal pool and forgiven on that day. I was born again by the Holy Spirit, even a born-again virgin! I had believed I was ‘saved’ long before that day, back in August 1977, but now I was certain. Theologically I may have been ‘born-again’ before my baptism, but that was the day I knew it for sure. I KNEW I was forgiven and clean of all guilt and all sin and all shame. This was a momentous, unforgettable day. I was a new creation, the old had gone and the new had come. I am so grateful to God for His mercy and love, but also grateful to the 19 year old me, who stood before the crowd, scared, courageous and excited that day.

I wondered why that day in 1984 was so different from the day for the 12 year old in 1977? But that little girl was so scared and damaged and so full of mistrust, that when she met Jesus, she gave Him her heart and she hid in Him. He was her safe place, her refuge, her comfort and her hiding place. He was her light, He was beautiful, gentle, kind, lovely and her heart’s desire was to be like Him. Her two songs were “Jesus, how lovely You are” and “To Be Like Jesus”. These were her songs and her prayer. She hid in Him over the next 7 difficult years, learning to trust Him, learning that He was not her fairy-godmother and things were not as black and white as she thought. Every week, she gave her heart afresh to Jesus and asked forgiveness, repenting of her many sins… Learning that we all had good, bad and ugly in us… I am so inexplicably grateful to Jesus for picking up that broken, scared little girl and holding her safe enough to begin to knit her back together… and I am grateful for that little girl, for the disappointed, frightened adolescent and the rebellious, heart-broken teenager – that she saw You, Jesus, held on to You and never lost sight of Your mercy.

Jesus never left me, though I was sporadic and unfaithful in my behaviour, before and after my baptism, but I never left Him either.

I learned to trust Him, as I grew up and learned to know Him more. I was a mess, but God is more powerful, more patient, more wise and more everything than I could ever have imagined. He didn’t lift me out of the mess, as I wanted, (though I suspect He saved me from more than I’ll ever know) but He did bring me faithfully through the mess and, true to God’s hallmark, my mess has become my message.

Those five loaves I gave Him have become over 12 baskets full of leftovers!

My Jesus wastes nothing!

Today I thank and honour my God who has been faithful and gracious to me, since before I ever knew Him, but I want to honour Him today for taking hold of me in 1977 and giving me a hiding place of safety and a light in my darkness. And I want to honour Him for protecting and nurturing me until I had courage to stand before that crowd and be publicly baptised in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. 36 years later, on this day I shall never forget, I want to honour Him for His continued mighty patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace and love, and for the gift of abundant, eternal life! All glory be to God.

His mercies are new every morning. ALL our sins can be forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. My life is a testament to His love and His saving grace.

If you, reading this today, do not KNOW that your sins are forgiven, please speak out to Jesus now. He is the son of God who died on the cross so that you can be forgiven and have abundant, eternal life – NOW. Don’t waste another day. Today is a day to remember. Make it your re-birthday.

Which is easier?

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

Which is easier? Which is more important?

These questions came to me in my heart this morning, when praying for the needs of loved ones and my various communities. The question took me back to the story of Jesus, saying this – “which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘get up and walk’?”

I was struck by how our attitudes and expectations in today’s world are so different now than for the people in Jesus’ day. I don’t see a great many physical healings in my own day-to-day life, but I do believe that Jesus still heals. But forgiveness – do we take forgiveness of sins for granted, maybe? Or do we know we are forgiven and other things become more important to us? How important is the forgiveness of my sins to me?

How important was it/ is it to Jesus? Is that not why He came and died on the cross?

In this account, Jesus had healed many people and had driven out evil spirits and that’s why He had attracted such a crowd, so that people had come from all over, to hear Him speak and to bring the sick to Him… and hence, these 4 friends had faith to bring their paralysed friend directly to Jesus and to lower him through the roof… They expected Him to heal the paralysed man – straight up – but what they didn’t expect, was what He said instead – “Friend, your sins are forgiven”. I wonder how I would have felt, if I’d gone to all that trouble and heard Jesus say that? I wonder how they felt? That wasn’t why they’d brought him to Jesus and the religious were shocked and indignant – “Nobody but God can forgive sins,” they complained… which is why He said it – so they would “know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins”!

Imagine yourself there in the story as you read it – become one of the friends, or one of the crowd!

Luke 5:17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.

19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?

23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.

26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Am I “amazed” and in “awe” of His forgiveness and do I still consider it more “remarkable” than miracles of healing?

We Christians know today that Jesus came to take away our sins, but I think that I largely take that for granted many days. I know it and am grateful, but the initial impact that forgiveness had, has worn off a bit – a bit like the “first love” feeling.

In the society that Jesus lived in the flesh, forgiveness was a cause for sacrifice, blood and ritual, but for me, it is not such a substantial much a part of my day to day or religious life, despite frequent celebration of Communion/Eucharist. Of course I am aware of my sinful nature, every day, and I ask for forgiveness at least daily, and keep “short accounts” with God – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

But the people in that place and time came to Jesus for physical healings, and for their material needs to be met, and for His teaching; and I think that more often than not, that is when I cry out to Jesus – when I or my friend is sick, when I need to see a miracle of provision for the hungry and the needy, or when I have questions and seek answers from the Word of Truth. My focus is often temporal.

“Which is easier?” You said.

I, of course, will die one day. The poor we will ‘always have with us’. Our sufferings are “light and momentary” in comparison with the joy of eternity. But I am here now and concerned with health and wealth, and the things of my humanity press on me on a daily basis; and You know this Lord, so when You lived among us in the flesh, You had compassion to ease some of these burdens. You healed, You fed and You loved and provided for those You met. And I long to see lots more of those temporal miracles in the world around me. You know what is important to me and You care about every tiny detail. Thank You.

Which is easier? To make sandwiches for the hungry in my community or to forgive my enemies; to forgive the one who abused me or my beloved? Which is easier? To feed and respect the dirty man in the doorway, or to throw him some change and pray for him? Which is easier? To come alongside and speak out for those without a voice, or to forgive the oppressor? He went on to expand this truth of forgiveness by describing the call of Levi, the tax-collector. Everybody hates tax-collectors, right? (Or maybe the corrupt politicians are today’s equivalent.) Where is the cross I am called to carry?

I am challenged by these questions and by Him who said of His murderers and mockers “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!”

Which is easier and Which is more important? You came to earth, not primarily to feed us and cure our diseases, but to forgive us and to offer us reconciliation with our heavenly Father and offer us everlasting life. Forgiveness was not easier for You. You paid the greatest price. You gave up everything to become as nothing – despised and rejected and crucified with the weight of the sin of mankind! That was not easy. I think the reality of what you did is largely beyond my comprehension. I am truly grateful, but the words I use, or my feelings, cannot do justice to the enormity of the reality. That was the greatest miracle of all time!!!

I ask that I will always have before me what is most important for You – the eternal – that forgiveness, reconciliation and Salvation of our eternal spirit, for which You gave Your all, is the most important thing on Your compassionate, merciful heart and plan. I ask that I will have the humility to accept my cross and to forgive those who most challenge me. May I work with You intentionally to promote not only good works, but though it, your Good News, for Your Glory.