Go knows no impossibilities. (miracle series)

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Not all miracles are health related or even critical situations, sometimes God does things just to spoil us. It was that way with my first trip into China way back before the doors began to open. I had a fascination for China since at five years old I discovered it was on the other side of the globe and dug up my dad’s rose bed trying to dig there lol!

Some 40 years ago, having lived some years in Hong Kong (then a British colony) it was my dream to visit China. The situation was impossible as visas were given only by special invitation or to H K Chinese with relatives in China. I’d been praying for some time for a way when a Chinese friend told me he had relatives still in China. He took me to the China Travel Agency in Kowloon and pretended I was his sister in law.

To get some idea of this office imagine a run on the stock exchange, yelling, jostling, confusion. For him to get a visa stamp on my passport could be explained by this hubbub. The miracle was when he also submitted my husband’s British passport and obtained a visa on it too. Chinese are sharp and no matter the confusion would definitely get that with a British husband I couldn’t be his sister in law, but just, stamp, stamp and there it was the dream come true!

When we entered China, the officials couldn’t believe our visa, or figure how we could have gotten it lol! We were celebrities! Most mainland Chinese had never seen a foreigner before and definitely not our three blond, blue eyed children. If we stopped in the street we’d instantly be surrounded by a huge crowd and well-meaning people would just pick up one of the kids and run off with them to show their neighbours. My husband, who spoke more Cantonese, would be forever chasing after them. Then suddenly the crowd would melt away and we’d be left with one man – the government representative. It happened every time, so it was difficult to talk with anyone. They were always very concerned that we had three children when the old one child policy was in effect, asking how or earth we coped etc. Sadly, we only had funds for a short stay, but it showed me with God all things are possible and even the “bamboo curtain” was nothing to Him. A few years later the doors began to open and I, along with many others, got to spend four wonderful years there, the complete fulfilment of my childhood dream.

“Everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.”

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Long ago whist at college my daughter’s class was asked by an atheistic teacher.

“Whoever here believes in God, stand up.” Only she and a Muslim girl dared to stand.

“And why do you believe?” He continued. Their answers were very similar, they had both seen God work in their lives and miraculously answer prayer. Not to be put off he announced.

“Well you, pointing to my daughter, are Christian, but how come this girl is Muslim says the same thing?” She couldn’t answer and came home troubled. I had never considered the question and had to pray for the answer. It came instantly.

God loves all His children whoever they are and whatever faith they embrace. If someone prays with a pure and believing heart He will answer (even if they call Him by another name). My daughter was content with that answer. For me however it triggered other questions.

I’ve never believed that if someone hasn’t received Jesus they’ll burn in hell for eternity – though a common fundmentalist doctrine, that just doesn’t jive with all I’ve known of God. What about all those that never had a chance to hear? Rather I’ve found Him to be far more loving, more merciful, going to far greater extremes to redeme His children than I could envisage. I think not to know Jesus maybe means to miss out on the fulness of life He brings right here and now, the joy, the freedom, the healing, the solace.

It is my personal belief that, rather than God as a stern judge dealing out rewards and eternal punishment at death, we, in a sense, judge ourselves. When God is revealed in all His splendour we either run to embrace Him, cringe in guilt and shame begging for mercy, or run in fear or rebelion. To come before God drenched in sin is perhaps akin to someone drenched in gasoline confronting a fire. God is always loving, forgiving, but we can only come into His presence naked and humble (one cannot pretend with God) we cannot bear His presence with any taint of sin or subterfuge.

It says “God looks on the heart” we must be careful to do likewise. A self-righteous, holier than thou Christian may further from God than a big-hearted atheist. Perhaps some of the “saved” may find themselves raised, not to glory, but to “everlasting shame and contempt” for their lack of love toward humanity, and the shamed single mum who loved too ardently find,  she that loves much will be forgiven much. Perhaps that’s what it means about the last being first and the first last.

What is a church?

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Many of us associate the word church with a building, but the original meaning was a group of believers. While a church building may be old, beautiful, a remembrance, or a masterpiece of creativity, it is an empty shell without the congregation. A true church is the sum of its members, whether they meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, or simple home. Perhaps some of the strongest churches have met in forests, on mountains, even in cellars, during times of persecution (and still do in some parts of the world.)

A recent blog post set me thinking about churches. Probably the most diabolically clever move the enemy ever made was to make Christianity acceptable, safe. The ancient “church”, heartily relieved to no longer be hounded and persecuted, settled down to work in harmony with the prevailing worldly systems of its day. Sure, it had its revolutionaries, St. Francis, Luther, etc. But even Luther compromised when he saw where the truth of the scriptures was leading – the overthrow of the status quo. He sold out his followers and thousands died.

In every generation, and scattered throughout denominations one finds true Christians, always a minority. The proportion of these individuals in a church tends to decide how dead (going through the motions) or alive it is. A spirit filled pastor can sometimes bring a church to life, but the choice rests always on the congregation. It is not always shown by large numbers (think Noah and Jeremiah). In my experience small, personal churches tend to be more on fire, as they grow so do the problems. If you build something successful someone is sure to either try to destroy it or take it over – this happens!

The church I frequently attend is small, personal, accepting. They have all types and ages in their congregation, wealthy and privileged, to poor single mums from the counsel estate, 90 year olds to tiny tots (even teenagers). The pastors are sincere and loving. Testimonies, prophecy and prayer abound and are freely shared among the congregation both after and often during the service. It’s easy to see the love of Christ abounding. I notice how no one minds when a woman sings off key and two beats behind on every song, when several get up to help the one in a wheelchair, when someone breaks down in tears and the person next to them (not in any church position) puts an arm around them, when I see the free lunches offered to any that come (minus a sermon) and note the guy with a tattooed face I’d avoided sitting among them, greeted with a smile. While perhaps not as radical as my own beliefs (it still operates in conjunction with the “system”) I’d say it is an alive and growing church in the best meaning of the word.

 

The freedom of being a christian!

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Mark Batterson makes a statement at the beginning of his “Wild Goose Chase” series (if you haven’t heard it you really missed something!) He speaks of how a zoo just isn’t the same as seeing creatures in the wild. He ponders whether churches, well meaning, may shelter “caged Christians” safe, secure but no longer free. It’s a question to ponder.

In my own experience finding Christ was the ultimate in freedom. Free of worries for my needs or safety I could go anywhere, do anything! Being “born” outside the religious system I took His words quite literally when He said, “My God shall supply all your needs,” or “the angel of the Lord encamps about those that fear Him and delivers them,” etc. I lived on the promises and He met every one, wonderfully! In my innocence I knew no other way.

The verse, “He came that we may have life and have it more abundantly” does not (as it is often misapplied) mean we’ll get rich. It means when we receive His spirit in our hearts our new (spiritual) life begins, right then, overflowing with power, joy, and love. But even the life-giving spirit of Christ can be quenched if we bottle it up and turn off the faucet through fear.

I find it strange many non-believers view Christianity as restrictive. The opposite is true. Jesus sets us free, free from sin, from fear, even from convention. I suspect many might be surprised at my mental picture of Jesus – in action, overflowing with life, joy, love and power. My favourite Easter picture (above) shows Jesus racing from the tomb, full of power, eager to begin His future work. He often makes me laugh (usually at myself) and tells me I’m too serious – a worry wort lol! He really is a “free spirit” in every sense of the word.

I love that His first recorded miracle was to save a party by turning water to wine, that children loved Him. I love how he picked fishermen – even a tax collector – for His disciples. Even more I love that he roamed the land with no home, no job, no official stamp. He even had a notorious prostitute as a close follower! He must have gotten dirty, probably smelly, definitely not a member of “respectable society”, but love and power flowed from Him, healing, freeing, inspiring. That’s certainly not the image non-Christians have of the average church member.

Have we become caged, tame Christians, docile pets of the status quo? It’s a dangerous question to pose – it was the “status quo”, not the Romans that had Jesus killed – the Romans were just the tool they used. Being a real Christian is highly dangerous, but oh the thrill of adventure!

 

Quote from Cohen.

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“I’m very fond of Jesus Christ. He may be the most beautiful guy who walked the face of this earth. Any guy who says ‘Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek’ has got to be a figure of unparalleled generosity and insight and madness…A man who declared himself to stand among the thieves, the prostitutes and the homeless. His position cannot be comprehended. It is an inhuman generosity. A generosity that would overthrow the world if it was embraced because nothing would weather that compassion. I’m not trying to alter the Jewish view of Jesus Christ. But to me, in spite of what I know about the history of legal Christianity, the figure of the man has touched me.” (L.Cohen)

This says a lot about Cohen himself. I always loved his music, reading more about the man since his death I begin to understand why. Many folks had mentioned Jesus to me in my youth, but it wasn’t till someone mentioned that he’d whipped the exploitative money changers out of the temple that that got my attention!

“Where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty”

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It’s strange to me how many non believers view Christianity as restrictive, a repressive system of rules. One of its greatest attractions to me has always been its freedom.

This world’s systems of society, economics, politics etc. has always been the thing that seemed restrictive to me. I was always a rebel, but one for good. I hated hypocrisy, self righteousness and the status quo. Guess you could say I had a hippy philosophy even before there were hippies.

Sure God has “rules” but they are all based on love (“all the law is fulfilled in this” – love God and love others.) Simple but tough, so it’s good we get the grace, the spirit and lots of mercy and forgiveness to help us. The point is the things God wants I naturally want to do (though I blow it a lot of course lol!) and they bring me great joy. Love sets us free from hate, guilt, selfishness, envy etc. all of which imprison us and faith can even set us free from fear, sickness, financial problems, even death.

Why would anyone want to be bound when Christ came to set us free? I think it’s due to a misconception often tending towards the old testament rather than the new.

What’s With All This “End Time” Stuff?

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From November 2014. Seems once more sadly appropriate.

Song Bird Songs

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Gayle Irwin (one of my favourite people) when asked if he believed we were living in the “end time” replied something to the effect of “Do you see things in the world, socially and environmentally getter better or worse? The answer being obvious he added, “Guess we must be then.” (He said it much better but I can’t find the quote.)

Whatever field you look at today world peace, health, social, economic and environmental stability, things seem to be growing worse and worse. When I was young the great question on people’s minds was, “how best to turn things around,” now it seems more like “how long have we got?”

I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I can read the writing on the wall and it doesn’t look good. The very governments we should look to, to avert these catastrophes have been waylaid by the dollar bills of big corporations…

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