I gaze anxiously at the bucket of ashes until I see my beauty rising before me

Still reflecting on the words from the weekend and a picture I drew in a time of reflection with God.  My picture showed a mountain with a staircase coming down from heaven, at the top of the staircase was a heart, resembling God’s love.  Along the way was a broken chain and a broken heart.  I have been reflecting on this more and have written this to show how I interpret this scene.

MY INVITATION

Come run to the higher place, I will go to the mountain top, I see a secret staircase lowered for me, step by step I defy time as I rise towards the heavens, every step a victory over all the enemy threw at me, every step symbolic of my rise from obscurity, I can see the banner waving in the distance and as I peer ahead I make out my name emblazoned on the sign, my heart aligns with yours, I realise that you, the Lord have called me personally to share of your table, invited to the banquet as if I were a celebrity or someone famous, walking the red carpet I finally believe in my worth, I hear the trumpets heralding my arrival, you give me your arm to escort me in, I am soaring on wings like an eagle, Queenlike, regal, floating on a cloud as I allow you to take me to the place reserved for me, I step over the broken chains, the vials of tears, I gaze anxiously at the bucket of ashes until I see my beauty rising before me, I accept the robe of righteousness you wrap around me, you place a scroll in my hand, I unfurl it carefully and tears of joy fall down my cheeks as I read the words before me, “Adopted into God’s Family”, you pull the chair out for me, as I take my place my heart is racing for surely this is the “Amazing Grace” I’ve sung about, how precious does that Grace appear now that I am seated here.

Do you shrug your shoulders and say, “nothing to do with me”

It doesn’t matter who you are, you have sinned.  God tells us clearly in his word that we are all sinners, all have fallen short.  The great news is that we are justified freely if we want to be.  We need to recognise our sin and desire to change.  Granted, we won’t always change immediately but if we have the intention to repent and move forward with God he gives us the grace to complete that work and serve him.

Romans 3:23-24 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

WITHOUT SIN 

Look me in the eye and tell me you are without sin, search deep within, what hurts, what bitterness, what anger, is there a danger that you may be more sinful than you let on, it’s not all about the big sins, breaking the commandments, it’s as much about what you think as what you do, or just maybe it could be about what you don’t do, your lack of humility, lack of love, do you turn your back on humanity when all that’s needed is a hug, do you shrug your shoulders and say, “nothing to do with me” when you see on the TV pictures of war and depravity, hunger and bankruptcy, is life all about you, happy selfies, making earthly memories, thrill seeking extremities, sparkling accessories, t-shirts emblazoned “it’s all about me”, let’s talk about the vulgarity of wasting our prosperity whilst around us others live in poverty, is God calling you to sincerely search your heart, God who will set you apart when you look up from your self-centred life, recognise his awesome sacrifice was because of your sin, no such thing as sinless unless of course you include Jesus, not one of us is worthy to be on this journey of discovery with God, yet he has found it in his heart to forgive us our sins, let him in now, admit you’re a sinner, repent of your innermost thoughts that don’t honour our Lord, for all fall short of his glory yet God forgives us freely, just as I am I kneel at his feet, he takes my sin, he makes me complete.

A true and loving Father who does not look back in anger.

Got to admit to getting angry this morning, not my best moment which then led to my being intolerant with a customer (although I’m not sure they noticed, the intolerance was mostly in my head) and letting off steam as I shouted idiot towards the door that they had just closed!

Felt terrible but then I gave it to God, asked his forgiveness and spent some time praying to him about the cause of my anger.

Isaiah 44:22 – I will sweep your sins away as if they were a cloud.  I will blow them away as if they were the morning mist. Return to me.  Then I will set you free.”

God tells us that he sweeps away our sins as if they were a cloud, I can just imagine his hand pushing the cloud out of sight.  He blows them away as if they were the morning mist, not even a vast breath required by God but a gentle breeze, and then he tells us that he will set us free.

So often we sin and hold on to it, like I’ve got to feel bad for the rest of the day because I have sinned, but God says no, I set you free.  I claim that for myself today, he died to bring me freedom 😊

Jonah 2:2 – He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help and you listened to my cry.

BLOWN AWAY

In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me, OK so distress may be a gross exaggeration in this particular situation, but you get the gist, I was lost in a mist of anger, a danger to myself, the cloud of sin closing me in yet as I started to regret my behaviour, I called to my Saviour and he listened to my cry, he heard me calling and answered me, see this is what our God is like, no grudges and he always gives us second chances, he understands our fallen nature and his nature is to take a deep breath and blow the sins away as if they were a morning mist, a cloud dissolved in the blink of an eye, no need to keep looking up to the sky to confirm the cloud had gone, when God forgives it’s permanent, no ifs or buts, no fuss or bother, he is a true and loving Father who does not look back in anger.

No darkness, nowhere to hide, no secrets, no lies

The eve of my brother’s funeral and it just feels to me like I’m going to a very dark place.  Yet this morning I was reminded that in God there is no darkness at all.  I was also reminded yesterday not to judge or second guess.  Whilst outwardly my brother professed no faith, inwardly who knows what conversations he had with God, who knows what happened to him in his final days so I must remain open minded.  I also know that it is important for me once and for all to forgive my brother for things that happened in our childhood.  I am finding this probably the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, God calls us to forgive and I thought I had achieved that, but my brother’s death has brought it home that maybe I hadn’t forgiven him.  I certainly hadn’t made my peace with him and I feel like maybe this is my last chance to put things right.  I need God’s strength and grace more than ever to work this through.

1 John 1:5 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

NO DARKNESS

No darkness, nowhere to hide, no secrets, no lies, God’s light illuminating my heart, shining into the recesses of my mind to find those things that need addressing, the things that are continually messing with my head, things that should be dead to me now I have found the Lord, the scars that I cling to dearly, that I “nearly” handed to God but I found it a little too hard to truly hand over, he knows the pain, he collected every tear in his bottle, and now he calls on me to have the bottle to let it be, these memories did not create my identity, I am in Christ, a new creation, my frustration no longer relevant, I should not be hesitant in praying the Lords own prayer, forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me, once and for all my forgiveness releases me.

God’s laws have been hurled as far as eat from west

I know that before I gave my life to Jesus I had a stronghold in my life that I hadn’t handed to him.  My sexuality was the overriding issue, a stronghold of the enemy that he was not wanting to give up without a fight. The simple question in a sermon, “Have you opened every door of your heart to Jesus” blew this wide open.  I now know the quote from A. W Tozer –

“You can’t truly rest until every area in your life rests in God”

How very true, it wasn’t until I handed that area to God and repented that I could even start to find the peace that I feel today.

How awesome to know that I have that rest and I am reminded of how special that is when I read this verse in Psalm 27.

Psalm 27:4 – One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

ASHES TO BEAUTY

No rest, mind in turmoil, like a coiled spring, nothing going out and nothing coming in, sin weighing heavy on my mind, difficulty finding my way, not wanting to say to God that this sin was hard to give up, this was me, my identity, my sexuality and I had difficulty recognising that I wasn’t born to be this way, I wasn’t born gay, I am a product of a fallen world, a sinful world where God’s laws have been hurled as far as eat from west, man thinks that he knows best, he laughs, he scoffs, he pays the cost, I was lost but Jesus found me, I was heading down the path of sin and shame but Jesus never pointed the finger of blame, his love for me incredibly gentle, he understood the fragility of my mental state, he offered me escape, with Grace he forgave me, with strength he made me capable of turning my life around, I have that promised rest and I ask one more thing of the Lord that I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, I praise him that I am alive and I can gaze on his beauty, truly I know that I am blessed, what I had then was nothing less than the lies of the enemy who sought to keep me chained and bound, yes I was lost but now I’m found, freedom from the ruler of the heavenly Kingdom, through the ashes I have come.

Forgiveness is healing, revealing

I used to think I could never forgive people who I felt had wronged me in the past.  When I first became a Christian I knew God called us to forgive but still found it incredibly hard, after all they had hurt me, shaped me and made me feel bad about myself, how could I forgive?  But God is incredible and by his grace he changes us, he really does renew us and give us a whole new view on life.  So now I can stand and say that I forgive others and I seek to always do this quickly now if I feel wronged or aggrieved.  Talking it through with God helps too.  Take this verse from Mark 11:25-26 –

And when you stand praying, forgive anyone you have anything against. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your sins.”

It’s a no brainer, forgive and you will receive so much freedom in your soul, a weight will be lifted from your shoulders and you will find an incredible peace.

FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness, a choice, an expression of love, for love keeps no record of wrongs, forgiveness belongs in your heart, sets you apart it doesn’t diminish justice it just entrusts it to God. Forgiveness is healing, revealing a new side of me, I let it go, I grow, I can’t change the past but I can change the future, don’t be a loser, be victorious, receive God’s glorious love in all its splendour, surrender the hurt, tender it to God, give him the nod and he will take it away, a glorious new day dawns where bitterness and anger are no longer, free the soul, make peace with your broken pieces as God releases you, forgives you your sins, opens the door and beckons you in.

Come running now Prodigal, all will be forgiven

I was reading the parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son (Luke 15) and thinking about “Prodigals”, people like me who grew up in church to Christian parents but who somehow got lost along the way.  Something seemed more important, more exciting, more attractive than the Christian faith or something came along that seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle to them continuing in their faith.  For me it was my sexuality, something that at the time I thought I could never speak to God about and something that I thought I could never address.  But here I am now 35 years on and back with God, and this parable speaks to me in two ways.

  1. How much I personally mean to Jesus how he celebrated when I gave my life to him, how he was filled with compassion for me as I struggled through life yet he never yielded, never gave up on me, never compromised his word yet gave me the strength and the desire to obey him and turn to him.
  2. That there is absolutely nothing that can separate us permanently from God, whatever our story, wherever we have gone with our lives he is ready to forgive us and help us move forward in him, never feel that you are too far gone or too far from God, there is absolutely nothing that he will not forgive 
  • Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Luke 15:20: – But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
  • Luke 15:32 – But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

 MERCY & GRACE

“Mercy”, a second chance, “Grace” when God turns his face and celebrates your return, never mind what you’ve done, just come home, your God has been protecting you while you are lost, you’re not alone, he’s calling you home, no matter how far you’ve wandered, scattered to the ends of the earth your Father will meet you with open arms, come running now Prodigal, all will be forgiven and God will give you the strength to move on, to leave the past where it belongs, to cast off your coat of shame, call out his name, the name above all names, Jesus claimed you long before the earth began, it doesn’t matter that you ran just that you see he wants you back, will kill the fatted calf, celebrate on your behalf when you return to his fold, no matter how young or how old you are now he restores the years eaten away, make today your day, a day of jubilation, make this the day you kick out the past and become God’s new creation.