Many say that christianity is a religion but I disagree. Others say it is a way of life, a preference, a practise, a faith or an outlook. I disagree with this in one sense whilst agreeing with it in another. Let me explain.
The Oxford dictionary defines religion like this;
The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially personal God or gods.
A particular system of faith and worship
A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance
Christianity might touch on all of the above, however is not any of the above. Christianity definitely concerns a Way, a Life, a Preference, a Faith and an Outlook. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Paul states that this life we now live in the flesh we live by the Faith of The Son of God (Galatians 2:20). God spoke of Jesus saying “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5). Christianity definitely concerns a belief, and worship of a personal God and it definitely concerns a pursuit of supreme importance. But, even the sum of all these things is still not Christianity.
Christianity is a Person. Christianity is Christ Jesus. That’s why the early believers were labelled Christians by those around them, because they were all about Christ, a Person. And there’s no comparison between Jesus Christ and Buddha, Muhammad, Allah, the universe or a ‘god of your own understanding‘ which these days can be anything or anyone. None of these but Jesus Christ can love you! He doesn’t compare with any of them or with any other thing. He is of supreme importance indeed because He is Supreme over all! He reigns supreme over all things, all realms! He is incomparable. There is nothing that equals Him. Nothing in heaven or earth, past, present or future.
So when people ask me what religion I follow, I say I’don’t follow any religion, I follow Jesus Christ. I’m a Christ follower. I am a Christian yes. But I don’t follow any religion.
Below is an exerpt from one of T. Austin Sparks’ messages. I could never say it better than him, so enjoy 🙂
The time is coming, yes, and has already come, when true worshippers will worship in spirit and in reality. Indeed, the Father looks for men who will worship Him like that. (John 4:23 Phillips)
Jesus said to the woman, “the hour cometh, and now is.” Then He dismissed the whole system that had existed up to that time. It was the whole system of Judaism according to the Old Testament. In one sentence, He dismissed the whole dispensation. And He introduced an altogether new order of things.
What did He mean? Because when He said the hour cometh, and now is, He did not mean literally just an hour and so many minutes. He meant that it was the first hour of the new day. With this hour an altogether new day has come. What is the new day? If you would have asked Jesus to put it into a short sentence, He would have said, “Well, I am here.” The hour is not just a matter of time but a matter of PERSON. The new dispensation is the dispensation of Jesus Christ. Christ is the new dispensation. “I am here,” He said. You go through that Gospel of John. He is centering everything in Himself. “I am the Way; I am the Truth; I am the Life; I am the Shepherd; I am the Vine; I am the Resurrection.” It is a Person. It is that which lies behind everything. Christianity is Christ. Christ is Christianity. That is where it all begins and it never departs from HIM. The development of the Christian life is only the development of Jesus Christ in the life.
By T. Austin-Sparks from: “That They May All Be One, Even As We Are One” – Meeting 7
This email is from the Austin-Sparks.Net Daily Open Windows message list. Open Windows messages have been selected from the works of T. Austin-Sparks. In some cases they appear in abridged form. The introductory verse and its associated Bible version have been selected by the website editors and did not always appear within the original message. We encourage you to print, share, and forward (by clicking on the link below) this message with others. In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.
I thought I might re-post a few of my favourite posts from time to time. Sometimes it’s just worth reminding ourselves of lessons learned, huh.
So here’s my first flash back from 2016. 🙂
Song of Songs 7:4 Watchman Nee
Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus…
“The nose has not been spoken of until now. The faculty of smell is found only with the mature ones. In spiritual matters, many have bright eyes and sensitive ears. But not many have a nose that can smell. This sense does not come from spoken words or visible things; it is an inward ability that reaches beyond senses and words, which enables a person to differentiate good and bad smells. This is a kind of spiritual intuition that enables a person to identify the things that are of God. It is not by reason or logic, but by a spontaneous and inwardly accurate feeling, which enables a person to discern spiritual matters. At the same time, this olfactory sense enables a person to identify bad smells as well. Many teachings cannot be considered wrong, and many people have nothing that others can find fault with, yet you sense that something is off. This sense is what the nose is all about. “Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.” This speaks of its height and sharpness. Today there are too many Christians with a flat nose.” (End Watchman Nee)
Dogs have got really good noses. They use their noses to detect whether or not something is good or not. I’m often amazed at how their sense of smell is so acute. In observing our dogs the other day I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between their sense of smell and our spiritual sense of smell in learning discernment.
Our dogs really make me laugh. Rocky is almost 8 years old. Buddy (who belongs to my mother) is about 3. Their age difference really shows in their different behaviours.
Rocky is all about smooches, one-on-one time, even if playing with the ball he’d prefer it was just him and me playing. You might say he has two love languages – quality time and physical affection 🙂
Buddy is all about activity! If it looks like a smooch, it’s really a wrestle. If it looks like one-on-one time, it’s really just to get to play ball. Perhaps his love language is …acts of service! – or maybe quality time aswell.
Typical of the age difference, when Buddy came along he was completely ready to attach to Rocky and pal up with him. But Rocky was stand-offish and preferred to observe from a distance, lol. But now, after a few years together, they’re really good mates. Looking at their differences as a pup and an adult dog, just prompted me the other day in seeing how we grow and mature in the Lord.
For example, I picked up a mandarin and the two dogs were looking at me with great interest. Rocky cries a lot to communicate all sorts of things and Buddy just follows and copies Rocky a lot. So, although they were standing at the door to go out, I figured they were now side tracked with the interest of the mandarin. So I lowered it in my hand to their level for them to check it out and realise that it wasn’t really a food they would be interested in since it had a tough skin all over it.
Typical of Rocky as the older dog, he gave it a little sniff and then looked away. This meant “Ok, nuh, not interested, you can have it back now”. But not Buddy! He took one look at it and wrapped his mouth around it to grab and chew it – clearly thinking it was a ball! After a few teeth squeezes and squeals from me, he backed off but then came back for another go. It took him a few tries before he realised “Ok, it’s really not a ball? Really??” Then I said “Go! Go and get your ball!” And off he went, and grabbed the real ball.
This made me think of us as God’s family. We start off as pups just like Buddy in the way that we don’t often test things. We kind of take whatever is offered us as young or immature Christians (regardless of age) and just assume it’s good for us and what we want and that it’ll be just totally awesome. Mostly, because we trust the person who’s handing it to us. Selah. Even after a few goes, even when it doesn’t feel quite right to us, we’ll still just blindly assume that it’s just still gotta be totally awesome and we’ll put up with it or persist with it until hopefully, we finally get the message that it really isn’t as it appears.
I’ve seen this in my own life. Critical thinking was something I was afraid of once. In the culture I was brought up in, one doesn’t question, does one? So I blindly took on many things that really weren’t truth, or complete truth, without question. But get this….even if they didn’t feel quite right. So there’s the Spirit of God residing in me, encouraging and enabling me to test all things, but the paradigm of my culture would squash Him down and ignore Him, assuming blindly in my spiritual immaturity that because someone I look up to ‘said’, or because it looks similar to something else, that it just simply has to be totally awesome. And it wasn’t always.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
So then there’s Rocky. Dear old Rocky. Wise and learned, been there, done that. He just took his time, sniffed that mandarin (mind you, it only took one sniff, not a dozen) and knew instinctively that it was not a ball and not anything he was going to have success with or be interested in. This reminded me of the more mature believer. God’s word says to test all things, test the spirit behind them. We’re called to be wise and discerning, in Christ. Paul says we are not ignorant to the enemy’s schemes – one of them of-course, being deception.
…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11)
Rocky didn’t argue, he didn’t have to think about it twice. So there’s the picture of the Holy Spirit in us again. The more we mature in the Lord (and the maturing is the work of the Spirit in us, we can’t mature ourselves), the quicker we are able to discern the spirit behind a thing. Subsequently, having done so, if we find it is a deception, not what it appeared to be at first glance, we easily walk away. We don’t even have to give it a second thought.
The other thing I liked about this little example, is the fact that the same tests are put before all believers, no matter the level of spiritual maturity. A more mature believer is not exempt from testing permitted or orchestrated by our sovereign Lord for our growing up deeper into Him, nor is he or she exempt from being tempted by the devil. But a mature believer will weigh up all things.
So, that’s my lesson today from the lives of dogs. Here’s a little video clip just to share a giggle.:-)
Our worst case scenario is God’s best case scenario.
When Caleb saw the giants in the land promised to them, he said this;
“Only rebel not against Jehovah, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is removed from over them, and Jehovah is with us: fear them not.” (Numbers 14:9 ASV)
The way through the cross is by embracing it.
We fear because we are trying to avoid suffering.
If we are walking in the Spirit (abiding in Christ), if we are in God’s will and our circumstances are looking grim, instead of driving ourselves into a helpless place by our efforts to make things work out in our favour, we can remember this; he who holds onto his life will lose it and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:39). We have been crucified with Christ, we are dead. Christ is the one living now in us.
The helpless situation we are in is a gift to us from our loving God to form Christ in us. So instead of driving ourselves into a nervous breakdown by trying to avoid the worst case scenario that is far beyond our ability to affect, we can accept it as a cross from the Lord who loves us, and trust Him implicitly to care for us in whatever comes our way. It is our opportunity to know Him and the power of His resurrection and to fellowship in His suffering. It is a precious and dear gift to us in going deeper with the Lord. We can say “Thank You Lord!”
We need to remember in these times when we have something good that is being threatened, we can do one of two things. We can go crazy trying to hold onto it or we can embrace the cross in the form of the threat of loss and let it continue to do a beautiful deep work of God in our lives.
One of the greatest tests and challenges to us is when we have something to lose. This is also part of God’s work in us. When we have given up everything material, relational and financial to follow Christ we have not much left to lose and it can be an easier existence. The trials change once He blesses us with success, material possessions and income, because then we have something to lose.
To have these things threatened is then an even deeper going down and into what the Lord has taught and wrought in us before. Where He has taken us in Him before, He takes us again deeper. Hence, we can praise God with a genuine heart of thanksgiving. And in doing so, find that the yoke He has given is easy and the burden He has blessed us with is light.
Derek and I have been asking the Lord to help us get creative in the way that we are discovering Him and expressing Him to one another. Recently we were listening to a message on getting to know Jesus more intimately as a friend. In it we were encouraged to read the gospels as though Jesus was reading them to us, in the first person. So I decided to do this the very next day in my own private time with the Lord. Starting with Matthew chapter 1, I set out to swap the words “he” and ‘him” for ”I” and ”Me” as I read aloud. But just before I opened my mouth, the funniest thing happened.
I realised that in every movie I have ever seen that portrays Jesus, the actor always speaks english with either an American or an English accent. As an english speaking person in an english speaking country, I have grown up in church and amongst friends and family where I have only ever listened to the scriptures being read with an Australian, American or English accent (except for my dear South African sisters and brothers). I started wondering, what about people that are brought up in Scotland? or Ireland? If they were english speaking, they would have only heard the scriptures read aloud with Scottish or Irish accents. I had the thought that if a Scottish production company produced a film on the gospels, their Jesus would speak with a Scottish accent. The thought didn’t even seem ridiculous to me, it just seemed logical. And so, to mix it up and get a bit more creative, I decided to read the gospel of Matthew aloud to myself as Jesus telling me His own story as an english speaking Scotsman!
Now, if you’re not laughing, I would be surprised! I laughed too! A lot! I laughed aloud at the thought of it and I thought of how many people close to me would laugh if they could hear me doing this! But in all honesty, I felt there was really something in this. I really felt it was the Lord leading me to do this, to discover Him afresh and I sensed Him really having fun with me. This wasn’t silly, this was fresh! This was new! And ultimately, this was a genuine exercise (given by the Lord Himself I am convinced) in getting to know Jesus more intimately as my very real friend. And what do friends do together? They enjoy one another, don’t they. They share their lives with each other and have fun together. And that’s just what we were about to do.
So I started reading with a Scottish accent. Yep, I actually did it. Despite how I seemed to go in and out of a mix of Scottish, Irish and even Indian at times, (still with an unmistakable Aussie twang) it was captivating. Oh, how the scriptures came alive to me! It was as though I’d never heard them before! It was truly as though Jesus was sitting next to me on the couch, just telling me His story. He was telling me of His adventures with all the colour and delightful expression that our Scottish brothers and sisters are blessed with. And it was delightful indeed. I heard things in His story I’d never heard before. I saw Jesus in a way I’d never seen Him. I saw a whole new part of His personality through hearing different inflections, different emphasis and I heard His perspective differently. It was a fascinating and very moving tale that even moved me to tears at times when I heard my Lord’s story in a whole new light. I heard his heart ache for John the Baptist. I heard His repulsion over the acts of the Pharisees. I heard His patience and kindness towards His disciples. I saw His identity as the Son of God come as son of Man and how the two were intermingled. I saw His trust and security in His Father. I heard His compassionate heart for the lost. I heard His sense of deep rest. I couldn’t get enough so I pressed on for many chapters until I got tired.
Guys, this was so grand! It was a wonderful experience and I touched Jesus in a whole new way. I got to experience afresh the Lord’s sense of humour, creativity, His sense of adventure, His willingness to be with me and share Himself with me.
If you’re looking for a fresh way of touching Jesus as your friend through scripture reading, I thoroughly recommend giving this a go. Do as suggested and read the gospels in Jesus own words about Himself as outlined in my first paragraph above. And throw off religious restraints by throwing in an accent. If you are Scottish (my apologies for my poor reflection of your beautiful language and accent) try an Italian or Russian accent. Go crazy! You know, for me it just shook all the religion out of my bible reading. It threw it all off and I was in story time with Jesus.
I’m going to give you a taste with a few chapters that will hopefully make you smile, (and not laugh too hysterically) and see your Lord in a whole new light also. I encourage you to get your cup of tea or coffee, cast off the religious restraints, hit the play button and close your eyes as you listen. And let’s have fun with Jesus. He’s not religious at all, He is wonderful! I hope you enjoy Him in these recordings of Matthew Chapter 2 – 11 from the NIV.
Recommended reading – There is a book called Jesus in His Own Words by Robert Mounce. I have never read it but I would very much like to. It looks like it’s near impossible to get a hold of it but even just clicking on this link will give you a little taste of it which might be enough to open up your creative juices into a new way of discovering Christ in the scriptures.
For the longest time I’ve wanted to sing this song to all of you out there loud and strong, clearly and powerfully. The recording is posted below. My voice won’t do it justice but that doesn’t matter. The Spirit of God is able to speak through a donkey so He is able to use my voice :-).
This song is three things.
1. This song is a call to all saints to truly enter into Christ our Promised Land, through the gathering of believers under His Headship
It is a call for saints all over the world to leave, deny and forsake their natural lives and even geographical locations if necessary (i.e. comforts of this world system, home and religious practises) to come in to a true local expression of Christ in, and as Head of, His Body. Let the deciding factor of where we live geographically no longer be based on employment, preference of weather, family, friends, schools, our children’s needs and so on but be based on where the Lord wants us and where He has a local expression among our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s cast off the religious trappings that bind us and the comforts of our flesh that prevent the living Christ from having full reign and expression (there’s more of Him folks, always more!). From wherever we have been spiritually, scattered to this wind of doctrine and that, let’s come home to Jesus Christ as Head of His church.
…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.…(Eph 4:14)
Let’s take up our cross, give Him first place in all things. Let’s take up our pilgrimage back to the Ancient Pathways, back to the Beginning, who is Christ. Back to the One by whom, through whom and to whom all things have been created. Back to the headship of the One whom God the Father calls His beloved Son and says ‘Listen to Him’. Back to the One whom God has given all things, the One in whom The Fullness dwells. The One who has the preeminence in all things. He who is the Beginning and the End. He who IS the Church. He in whom God will sum up all things in the fullness of time.
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.…(Colossians 1:19)
There is so much noise out there today. Our world has become so small – as in, we are informed and exposed to things that are going on around the globe that wouldn’t ordinarily affect our daily lives. The chaos that is taking place in other nations has entered many other nations via social media and the television. Of-course we’ve now got a global pandemic and almost all of humanity alive is aware of its impact across the world.
In the midst of fear and turmoil, rebellion, anarchy, hatred, violence, protests, confusion, pain, suffering, rising power, the overthrowing of power and deep fractures there are nations crying out to protect and save their own ideals and cling on to yesteryear. And God knows, there are multitudes of christians getting swept up in the fray and losing sight of our True King and Country.
Saints! Christ is our King! Christ is our Nation! Christ is our Country! He is our Promised Land! He is the Promise of God that God has brought us into. We have been brought out from captivity just like the Israelites were delivered out from Egypt. Let’s not be like those Israelites who set up camp in the wilderness, who got comfortable in alien lands and idol worship of various kinds, and find that we cannot enter in! Did you know that we can indeed set up the country we live in/were born in to be an idol? Did you know that we can make our version of politics an idol? Social justice and causes can also easily become idols or distractions that can take that place in our thoughts & focus that belongs to Christ!
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, WHO IS YOUR LIFE, appears, then you also will appear with Him. (Colossians 3:4).
2. This song is a shout out to all God’s people living in America and Australia right now in 2020
Here in Australia we are privy to a great deal of the goings on in America but are also influenced by that. Many ‘Australian’ christians are caught up in American politics and cultural happenings, way beyond just being informed.
For this song, I have borrowed Neil Diamond’s song called “America” and have re-written the lyrics to express what is in my heart and spirit. Neil Diamond wrote his song as a tale of Jews being called from all over the globe to freedom found in the United States. Just a shadow, folks! Just a shadow! Just a shadow of THE REALITY! Forget the ‘great American dream’ and pursue God’s dream! Yes, God has a dream and His dream is His Son, the living Christ, the Son of God. And to see Him expressed, magnified and glorified in His people, the church LOCAL. (Please click on this link to read more on this).
Beloved, let me just say, the United States are not united. That is not the nation of freedom. Neither is Australia the ‘lucky country’ or ‘God’s country’ as it is so often called. No, Christ is God’s country! Christ is our Fortune! Christ is our Freedom and Promise, and when we His people, are united IN HIM, when we gather together UNDER CHRIST, when we forsake allegiance to earthly country to take up allegiance to the KINGDOM OF GOD, we find TRUE LIBERTY! Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
So, as the Holy Spirit says;
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways’. So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.””
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said;
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion”
Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:7-29, NIV)
…so long as it is called Today! Christ is the New Day and Christ IS Today.
3. This song is the call of the Ekklessia (assembly of Christ’s body members) to her embrace
We’ve been travelling far
Towards His home
Towards His Morning Star
He wants us to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to His dream
In the cars and on the planes
We’re coming to the Promised Land
Never looking back again
We’ve come into the Promised Land
Home, doesn’t seem so far away
He’s our living Light Today
He’s the eye of the storm
He’s the eye of the storm
Home, it is a new and shiny place
He lays His Head and pours out His grace
Freedom’s Light burning warm
Freedom’s Light burning warm
Everywhere around the world
They’re coming to the Promised Land
Everywhere His flag’s unfurled
They’ve come into the Promised Land
Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to the Promised Land
Got a dream they’ve come to share
They’ve come into the Promised Land
We’ve come into the Promised Land
We’ve come into the Promised Land
We’ve come into the Promised Land
We’ve come into the Promised Land
Today, Today, Today, Today, Today
Our country ’tis of Thee
Sweet Land of liberty
Of Thee we sing
of Thee we sing
Can you see them coming? Can you see the saints leaving the world behind and making their pilgrimage once and for all back to their Homeland? Back to the Headship and Life of Christ? Can you see the multitudes? Can you see them in their gatherings all over the world? Can you see their faces radiant with the Light of Christ shining out of them? If you aren’t already, will you be among them?
* The original song was written and recorded by Neil Diamond. These above lyrics have been made up to reflect the message of my post and my heart. I claim no ownership to the song and will not be professionally recording my version 😄
My mum has dementia – alzheimers. As part of her condition she also suffers from sundowner syndrome. If you know anything about these conditions you’ll know they’re pretty awful. They’re distressing for the patient and distressing for their loved ones and carers.
Derek and I had been married only two years before moving into the garage of my mum and dad’s house in 2010. Two years later in 2012 dad passed away and Derek and I moved with my mum to another house. The three of us lived together from early 2013 to December of 2016 while I became her full time carer. Since then she has been living in a cabin where my sister is now her full time carer.
Initially she wasn’t too bad. She was only showing signs of cognitive impairment. You know, forgetting where her wardrobe was for a few days before getting used to a new house and getting a surprise every time she saw she had ice cream in her freezer, not recollecting how it got there. That was in the beginning. By early to mid 2016 she was repeating her stories, asking the same question over again, was weepy and emotionally fragile any time of the day, couldn’t remember how to use the microwave or how to turn on the oven. But she could still feed her dog, make a cup of tea, tidy her room, do cross-words, read magazines and play free-cell on the computer.
I found it very hard living with her, not only because of her condition but because I just didn’t want to be living with my mum. But mum’s worsening conditions made it very hard and I would get very frustrated with having to deal with it. I would often be in tears and feeling like I was losing my own mind! When I look back, I was more frustrated and burdened because I was resisting it. Mum’s deterioration as difficult and sad as it was, wasn’t really the major problem for me. The major problem was my resistance to my circumstances. And it was God who put me in those circumstances. Anyway, as you know, we moved away for 3 years and have recently returned. Now that we’re back in NSW , I get to visit mum every week. She’s much worse of-course but I am so grateful the Lord has mercifully allowed me to be in her life again before He should take her home.
Living in Perth, WA, I was blessed to be part of body life with a certain sister called Elsa. Elsa worked with the elderly and was familiar with alzheimers, dementia and various other conditions that the elderly can suffer from so she was very helpful to me in coming to terms with my mother’s changing ways. Elsa had a way of seeing people that was different to mine. What I would see as frustrating, irritating, sad, distressing, annoying, disappointing, worth complaining about, Elsa would see as sweet, loving, joyous, light hearted, worth celebrating and/or in a positive light that just didn’t come naturally to me. Sometimes I was almost frustrated because I would want her to just join me in my complaining! But that wasn’t Elsa. She always had a positive spin that she would share with a thrill in her voice and a smile on her face! Best of all, this was genuine. It was just Elsa.
Elsa also became a grandmother during the time I was there, even though she seems like a very young grandmother at that! I observed her arrange a beautiful baby shower for her daughter and smother her daughter with so much love and grace, spoiling her and nurturing her and rallying support around her. I watched her welcome her little grandson into their lives and love him with as much love as anyone could. Elsa also got a kick out of making pretty settings for the sisters – warmly surrounding us with welcoming table settings and an atmosphere that would just embrace you with the warmest hug. I spent just under three years doing body life with Elsa and then God called us back to NSW and back into my mother’s life.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have my mum come and stay with us for two nights. It was going to be a risk as far as disorienting her and potentially causing a whole bunch of confusion for her whilst staying with us and then also when going back to her house. But I was keen to have her come and stay for a couple of reasons. One was so that we could trial run giving my sister some much needed respite. (Of-course, I can empathise with her since she is now mum’s full time carer). The second reason was because I just simply wanted to have my mum come and visit. I was actually so excited to have her come and stay.
I had made up a spare room for her. I’d bought her a new doona cover and brought in some of her own familiar furniture, made it all pretty and pink and set up a little computer for Netflix. That meant she would be able to watch her favourite detective shows which would normalise things. She wouldn’t know how to use a different TV remote anyway, so it didn’t matter that we didn’t have a spare TV, the computer did the trick. I cleaned the house and made it all lovely and cosy for her. I cooked dinner both nights and we all ate at the table together. I even cooked a slice. I made her breakfast in bed and cups of tea, I took her dog Buddy for walks and enjoyed watching him play with our little bloke, Rocky. I made sure she took her pills and I continued to reassure her throughout the day and nights where she was and that she was just visiting and reminded her where she lived and so on. I gave her hugs and cuddles and told her I loved her, I affirmed her as my mum and as a woman and as a Christian. I had resigned myself to the likely fact that I would get no sleep at all on both nights because of her late night confusion and wanderings due to sundowners and so prepared by setting myself up on the couch at night so that Derek could hopefully get undisturbed sleep locked away in our bedroom.
I was thrilled to have her. I was so full of love for her. I wanted to serve her, care for her, make her feel special, be kind and gentle with her and I felt truly honoured to love her this way. Nothing was too much trouble. Nothing was annoying or grating on me. I wasn’t frustrated or rolling my eyes when she wasn’t looking or talking under my breath. All things I had done in the past. I even found her sarcastic tones and digs that come out at night time due to her condition to be quite amusing. Not in a derogatory way but in a light hearted and tender way. I found her inoffensive and I felt nothing but compassion for her even when I had to speak to her sternly the night that she unlocked the front door and let her dog out into the unfenced yard on the street, telling her to get to bed and stay there. I found myself seeing her as Christ sees her. Dear and precious, dependent, helpless and of great worth.
This wasn’t me. I’m a complainer you see, by nature (even genetically perhaps?). God had been showing me over recent years just how much of a complainer I am in my old man, my flesh. So what was going on? Why was I so different to how I’d been in the past? In the midst of these three days with my mum, something became apparent to me. Something surprising, amazing and beautiful. I felt like Elsa.
I was behaving like I’d observed Elsa behave. I wasn’t even putting it on. I wasn’t pretending or trying, it was genuine. I wasn’t even thinking of Elsa. It was coming out from inside of me. It was clearly the love of God for my mum, which is so beautiful. It is beautiful to feel His love for her. Once I realised this, all I could think of was Elsa. In my thoughts I could see her smiling and laughing and making light of things that would ordinarily have driven me crazy but now didn’t. And you know what else? I wasn’t feeling burdened in any way. The Lord sustained me through the days without sleep, or lack of. He kept my heart filled with love. Oh, I was tired for sure but it was OK. He kept me going. His burden is indeed light, and His yoke indeed is easy.
There’s allot to be said for acceptance. Resistance is painful and burdensome, endless and only deepens the angst of a situation. But acceptance is light, much easier and we can breathe, adjust and carry on.
Elsa had rubbed off on me. Or should I say that Christ in Elsa, had rubbed off on me. That portion of Christ that is uniquely expressed in her had gotten in to me by osmosis. The definition of the word osmosis is quite complicated for one who isn’t a good science student and so I have my own understanding of what it means (I don’t know if you’re allowed to have your own version of what a word means but I do??) However, I did find one definition to fit my understanding.
To me, osmosis is when something is unconsciously changed to the likeness of something else as a result of being in the company of that something else over a long period of time. In my experience this osmosis type process occurs in authentic body life. And that ‘something else’ is Christ in another brother or sister. Just take a look at this beautiful image of the butterflies.
The two butterflies (which are actually twins apparently) reflect one another. They are both living from the same Vine – a picture of us living from Christ together. They are facing one another -i.e. face-to-face community. They are both transparent with one another and the Light of the world is shining through them to one another.
Knowing Elsa, in her humility I’m sure she would be quick to point out her flaws and weaknesses, she would be the first to say that she’s not perfect (though in Christ, she is perfect). The point is, that Christ in Elsa, had gotten in to me without anyone trying or being aware of it. And isn’t that just how body life is supposed to work? Each member in the body of Christ supplying the other members? What a perfect instrument the Lord has created in His body. His body absolutely carries His life to its members. Here are a few different translations of Ephesians 4:16 that explain this fascinating and beautiful process in the body of Christ.
He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (NLT)
from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (NAS)
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (KJV)
The members of the Lord’s body supply one another in a variety of ways of course. It might be through their testimony, something they share at a church meeting, a sighting of the Lord or in a song. It might be in their hospitality for weekly dinners or get togethers, their humility, their gentle spirit. Or through their encouragements and exhortation. It may occur practically through financial giving, practical helps in community life. Even through offering godly sound counsel or correction, as the Spirit leads. Some of these things will be obvious in the moment but other things are by osmosis as in my example of beautiful Elsa.
An important point to highlight here is that this authentic body life in which the life of Christ can supply each member as described in Ephesians 4:16, can’t happen one day a week for a couple of hours. We are called to body life, not body meetings. And its within the context of body life (community/family/being in one another’s lives) that we are changed. There is the ebb and flow of Christ’s life among the saints, as their lives are shared openly with one another. In that environment, as it says in the Ephesians verse, the whole body grows up healthy and full of love. In other words, the whole body becomes a larger expression of our Lord in our geographical locality. This is a reflection or expression of the community of the Godhead. As each member of the Godhead supplies one another, God (three in one) builds Himself up in love, because He is love! And it’s out of His love that we the church have come into existence.
The Lord’s life is eternal. Therefore, it makes sense that even though I now live 5,000 kms away from the saints there in Perth, the portion of the Lord that has been expressed through one or each saint that I have been built with over 3 years, lives on. His life is a continual flow. I can’t predict how I will be next time I have my mum come visit, though I do know I’m looking forward to it again. I do pray that the Lord is doing a deep and permanent work in me in this regard for His sake, for her sake and for mine. It feels that way so far. All I know is that it’s not my life, its His life in me, that is loving her. And that has been imparted to me through body life. And this experience has become life to me and subsequently for my mum. My mum has been loved by Christ all the way from Perth without her ever knowing. God is so gracious and merciful.
On a practical level, sure, I’m not living with mum full time. It’s definitely easier to cope with her deterioration when I only see her once a week or for a short stay. I’m certain that if she was living with us full time I would be most tempted to return to complaining and grumbling and to resistance. Though I hope not. I would rather like to imagine that though I would find it hard no doubt, I would have been so changed by Christ that I would find a place of rest and acceptance. However, where and what the future looks like concerning me and my mum isn’t the point of this post. My failings and weaknesses also aren’t the point of this post or we’d be here all week, but rather the amazing surprises that come from authentic body life.
There is indeed a Life that is living in the body of the Lord that changes us, that lives on and reaches out beyond ourselves to touch others around us. It is the life of Christ in His body. It is His characteristics. It is Him. He is in His saints. In each and very member. A face-to-face community of believers learning to live together by His indwelling life is a hot house for His life to be released to the world as well as to one another. I’m sure He loves it when we finally see what He’s been up to, like me seeing Him revealed in Elsa, in having my mum visit.
Be blessed saints, God is working in ways we don’t always see at the time. And if you’re in an authentic community of believers learning to live together by Christ’s life indwelling you, you are blessed beyond measure. And I encourage and exhort you to continue to bear the cross with one another, continue to give your lives for one another, lay down your preferences and opinions, open your hearts, lives and homes to one another and hold fast The Head at all times. He is in His body.
And if you’re not in such a community can I encourage you to seek the Lord on whether or not to relocate if need be, to be part of one if there’s not one where you live. You can contact the guys over at 3rdrace.org at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out where there are communities of saints living out true authentic body life in the United States and other countries including the two existing ones we know of in Australia.
When I was a kid there was an ad on television advertising some frozen seafood – fish fingers or something of that nature. It involved a man dressed in a chef’s uniform, frantically swimming around in a large fish tank holding out in front of him a frying pan of fish, whilst being followed by a shark. The idea was that the fish in the pan was so fresh that the shark was wanting it. I’ve tried looking for the ad on the web but unfortunately couldn’t find it. It was quite funny really. Well years later in my early adult life my sister and I met this man who was a stuntman and he told us a funny story about the film shoot. His name is Claude.
Apparently, the TV crew had to do a great number of takes to get the ad just right. He recalled to us how cold it was and that he was in the fish tank almost the whole day. He wasn’t allowed to wear oxygen tanks for the sake of authenticity. Each time they had to do another shoot he would have to start swimming around in one direction in his chef’s uniform in the hope of getting in front of the shark. The timing of this was imperative to capture the image for the commercial and to keep him alive without tanks! One can only imagine how many takes it must have taken to get this timing right. Obviously the shark wasn’t a danger to him – I think?
However, they kept running into a specific problem. This problem was a giant female manta ray who took a liking to Claude! Each time he would start on his swim around the tank she would glide over and gradually lower herself onto him, pinning him to the bottom of the tank! A diver would have to jump in and lift her large wing to get some oxygen to Claude who would be almost flattened under her weight, eventually lift her off and get him out of there. And then they’d have to start again. This went on all day until they finally got it right. Wow. How bizarre. She was apparently quite smitten with him!
Now, I hadn’t thought of that story for, I reckon about over 20 years atleast. But the strangest thing happened to me in September last year, 9 months ago. I was in a car accident. A bad one at that. Our car was written off. It wasn’t my fault and the other driver didn’t sustain any injuries. I got a fractured thumb, sore wrist, bruising, a lump on my head, concussion and some post traumatic stress which I am still getting through by God’s grace. It happened on the way to work the very day I was going to resign in order to return to NSW from our time in WA, on the word of the Lord to our hearts. The timing was uncanny (yet not, if you know what I mean). The car! We needed that car to drive nearly 5,000 kms back across the desert, across the country! Ouch. She was trashed.
Backtracking just a little…as I was sitting at the lights at the intersection before the accident and waiting for the green right arrow, I switched on some music and started listening to an old Chuck Girard song called “Slow Down”. Here are the words;
In the midst of my confusion
In the time of desperate need
When I am thinking not too clearly
A gentle voice does intercede
Slow down, slow down, be still
Be still and wait, on the Spirit of….the Lord
Slow down and hear His voice
And know that He….is….God
In the time of tribulation
When I’m feeling so unsure
When things are pressing in about me
Comes a gentle voice so still, so pure
Slow down, slow down, be still
Be still and wait, on the Spirit of the Lord
Slow down and hear His voice
And know that He………is God
And know that He….is…God
I think the track was into the second line of the first chorus “Be still and wait..” when the car hit. Crash. A 90 km an hour hit on my side of the car. As I spun 360 degrees, repeatedly banging my head on the drivers’ window until eventually it shattered… “…on the Spirit of the Lord, Slow down and hear His voice and know that He is God…In the time of tribulation…” and so on. It was quite surreal. I called out loudly on the name of Jesus over and over as I spun and although not conscious of it at the time, was clearly being ministered to by the Lord through this song, deep, deep into my spirit in a very supernatural way.
When I lay in the ambulance at the scene all I could think of was that manta ray. All I could feel was that I had this big, gigantic warm blanket of the presence of God that had pressed me down and held me, covered, protected, shielded me. All I could feel was love. So much love. So much peace. Again, it was most surreal. I just lay there thanking God for this incredible experience. My heart was filled with peace and a deep, deep joy. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced such peace. Even now as I recollect, I can sense it again.
The ambulance officer told me I was a very lucky lady. Looking at the car wreck it was obvious that had I been just one second faster, the impact would have been directly into my door and I don’t think I’d be here today. Certainly not without serious injury. Perhaps those words ‘slow down’ reached much deeper than just my ears at the time that I drove forward on the green arrow. I’m certain of it.
There were many times driving across the country 3 months later that I was afraid and experiencing traumatic images etc as we passed road train after road train. However, from time to time we would pass an RV and notice it’s brand was none other than “Manta Ray”, with a small picture of a manta ray as part of it’s logo. As Derek would drive past the RV in our left hand lane, I would gaze out the passenger’s window at the picture and words as they went right by my eye level. In that quiet moment between the Lord and I, I would be reminded of that moment of immense peace of God that absolutely surpassed all understanding. He was always gently reminding me of His big love on that road trip. His big, giant manta ray Love.
Who would think that the Spirit of God would sing ‘Slow Down’ to me while I waited at the lights and continue to sing to me as I spun a 360. Who would think He would connect His grace, mercy, protection and love to a story of a stuntman in a chef’s uniform being held down by an infatuated manta ray whilst filming a commercial for fish almost 35-40 years ago! Can God use anything? You bet He can.
Our God is an extraordinary God folks. He never ceases to amaze me.
Psalm 91 reads;
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge[b]— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
Recently Derek and I re-watched the 2005 movie Walk The Line – starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon in the true story of Johnny Cash and June Carter. It’s an old favourite of ours and full of wonderful songs that we love.
In the story of the movie, Johnny was besotted with June from the second he laid eyes on her. After then, he only had eyes for her and he continually pursued her. He was never going to give up until she finally said yes to marrying him. Johnny Cash’ life was messy and the romance between the two was also messy to start with before they finally got it together and the rest is a pleasant history.
The morning after watching the movie, my darling husband had woken with one of the songs they sang together in his heart. The song is called “It Ain’t Me, Babe” although Derek had a sense of new words for the song. In the movie Derek had ‘seen’ that despite all the portrayed mess and brokenness of Johnny Cash’ life and his relationship with June, there was a beautiful love story and through it the Lord was revealing His very own relentless love and pursuit of His own Bride, the Church. My darling man was deeply touched by this shadow/type of the Lord’s love for His Church. (Isn’t that just like the Lord, to make something beautiful out of something broken?)
So we sat down together and changed some of the words to reflect the Reality, the Truest Lover pursuing His Beloved. After doing this, we noticed that the words now reflected in some small way, the call of the Lord to the Church found in The Song of Songs where the King calls His lover to come out from behind the lattice, to go with Him, that He is the One she is looking for. He even brings her flowers.
“Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills! My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice. My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along…The flowers have already appeared in the land….the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land…Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!…(Song of Songs 2:8-13)
I must arise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares I must seek him who my soul loves….Have you seen him whom my soul loves?…I held on to him and would not let him go…(Song of Songs 3:2-4)
I searched for him but I did not find him, I called him but he did not answer me…I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, as to what you will tell him: For I am lovesick”..(Song of songs 5:6b-8)
We decided to record ourselves singing these new words to a backing track we found on the web, to send it to some saints and well, I feel to post it here along with the lyrics the Lord gave us. There is no image on the music player so you can read the lyrics while listening.
” It Is Me Church”
It Ain’t Me Babe (original Song Title)
Johnny Cash and June Carter
(Written and first recorded by Bob Dylan)
Come away from your window.
Leave it with all due speed
I am the one you want, babe
I am the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you and defend you
Who will never do you wrong
Someone to open each and every door
Yes it is You, Lord
Yes, yes, yes it is You, Lord
It is You were looking’ for, Lord
Come lightly from the ledge, Love.
Go lightly on the ground
I am the one you want, Love
I’ll never let you down
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
To pick you up each time you fall
To gather flowers constantly
And to come each time you call
And will love you for your life forever more
Well it is Me, Love
Yes, yes, yes it is Me, Love
It is Me you’re lookin’ for, Love
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’ll promise to never part
Someone to gaze your eyes upon
Someone to share His heart
Someone to die for you forever more
Yes it is Me, Church
Yes, yes, yes it is Me, Church
I’m the Life you’re lookin’ for, Church
One of the schemes of the devil is to make us believe that the weight of evil, opposition, trial that we are feeling is so heavy that God can’t lift it. The devil makes us feel that way and therefore we can end up thinking and believing that way. The devil is all about deceit and his deceit is multilayered – it is deceit within deceit within deceit. Sometimes we find ourselves so bogged down under the weight of what he has dumped on us, as if stuck in a thick muddy bog, that the pull of it seems far too great in comparison to the pull of the free air above us. But this is deceit. It’s simply not true.
The air has life in it but the thick muddy bog has no life in it, it is dead. And we know that Jesus’ life has conquered death, therefore Life is greater than death!
Remember, when the weight of evil is present in whatever form it presents itself, e.g. depression, suppression, illness, pain, suffering, opposition, confusion and so on, it is not and cannot be weightier than the Life of Jesus Christ. By faith given to you in Christ Jesus, believe in the conquering of His Life over death in all circumstances and do not let yourself be deceived. Turn to Jesus and take Him as your life in every situation.
Jesus is the Resurrection and The Life. He has overcome death. We walk by faith and not by sight.