Until I know more

“Mum, I dont know where this goes!”
My kids were cleaning up the living room, what a state it was in! My youngest was picking things up and trying to find a home for them.
“Why don’t you just put away the things that you already know where to put?” I said, “and leave the other things for me or your older siblings, they know where they go.”
Thinking that sounded like a reasonable idea, he decided to just find all the toy cars and put them in the car box. He knew where those were supposed to go.
There are quite a few things in the bible that are hard to understand. I don’t always know where they fit with everything else, or what they meant in the original language, or how to interpret them. But, if I’m honest, there is plenty in there that I do understand, and is pretty clear.
A friend of mine recently shared this quote: “When reading the Bible, it seems we find it easier to debate the things we don’t understand than to obey the things we do.” So true. 
Just like my youngest child putting the toys away, I’m trying to just obey what I already do know, and not get overwhelmed with (or distracted by) the things I don’t. Hopefully one day I’ll know more, and then I can obey that too.

Baking Bread

When I was living in my husband’s rural home in China, I was amazed at how much they could do in the kitchen with so few tools! Pretty much everything was done with either chopsticks, a wok, a knife, or a stirring utensil. Need to whisk eggs? Chopsticks. Need to peel potatoes? A knife…but wow, they got a lot done, and made some amazing food! In our Western kitchens, we have a gadget for everything! Apple corer, cheese slicer, whisk, cake mixer, electric beater, dishwasher, egg slicer, 100 different sized measuring cups and spoons… so convenient.

Sometimes I wonder if this has crept into our Western “Churchianity” (to quote Ben Taylor). We now have fancy sound sets, lighting, buildings, a course for everything (can't be a proper Christian without the ____ Course!), and lots of teaching videos, spotify playlists, and media which, well… let's be honest, some of us may have become a bit dependent on. I guess there's nothing wrong with these in and of themselves, but have we forgotten the simple things of reading the Word, prayerful meditation, and simply obeying Jesus, no matter the cost? Without the fancy sound equipment, polished worship, big buildings, and church programs to tick the boxes and give us all the right feel-goods, do we still know how to hear from God, seek His will, and be obedient to what He tells us to do? 

I love this quote from Brother Yun, a man greatly used by God in times of revival and the persecuted underground Church in China:

“When I'm in the West I see all the mighty church buildings and all the expensive equipment, plush carpets and state-of-the-art sound systems. I can assure the Western church with absolute certainty that you don't need any more church buildings. Just because you have a church building does not necessarily mean Jesus is with you. He is not welcome in many churches today […] God's Word is missing. Sure there are many preachers and thousands of tapes and videos of Bible teaching, but so little contains the sharp truth of God's Word. Not only is knowledge of God's Word missing, but obedience to that Word.
When revival came to believers in China, the result was thousands of evangelists being sent out to all corners of the nation, carrying fire from the altar of God with them. When God moves in the West, it seems you want to stop and enjoy His presence and blessings too long, and build an altar to your experiences.”
― Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man

This was the great commission Jesus sent us on: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Quite simple really. Not easy or convenient, but not complicated, and certainly not fancy. And He didn't leave us on our own to do it, in our own way. He said He would be with us, and He is! 

The early Christians, empowered by the Spirit, saw amazing things happen. Each one of them took their place in the Church (not the building, the body of Christ), and learned to walk in obedience to Jesus, meeting together regularly, serving and learning from one another.  It was pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. Simple tools, simple “skills”. Similar things are happening in places all over the world, but not much of it seems to be happening in the West. As we examine these movements of the Spirit (in Iran, Africa, Thailand, China, India, Indonesia, and many, many more) we see that it's much like what was happening in the times of the early Christians in the Book of Acts. The believers are passionate about Jesus, obedient to the Word, filled with the Spirit, fulfilling the great commission, and not distracted by fancy stuff!

I love this passage from the bible, and the quote after it from Brother Yun:

1 Kings 19: 11-12: “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice…”

“So many Christians seem impossibly distracted from hearing God's voice. Instead of listening to that still, small voice that brings true peace and joy, they blindly follow the voices of mainstream religion.”
― Brother Yun, Living Water

So interesting… how easily distracted we are by all the loud and fancy tools of “mainstream religion”, or what I now like to call, Churchianity (thanks Ben Taylor!). But in it all, a lot of us have forgotten the simple things that Jesus asked us to do. Not all, but a lot.

Going back to the kitchen analogy, if the great commission was something like being asked to simply bake bread to feed the hungry, and we're always spending time in a fancy kitchen full of tools that can make cheesecakes, creme brulee, and black forest gateau, how easy it would be to get distracted from the simple task of baking bread.

How many fancy tools do we really need in the kitchen? The rural Chinese would probably answer that… “none”! Why? Because they have skills. How did they get the skills? Lots of practice. I’ve seen a Chinese lady cut potatoes into perfect, identical thin slices at 100 miles per hour with just a simple kitchen knife! Can we also let go of some of the fancy stuff and really learn how to pray, listen, disciple, and obey? I think we will find so much joy (and power!) in Him when we do.

Let's get back to the simple skills and tools that Jesus has given us, and let him do the fancy work of changing lives… the most meaningful work of all.

Nothing too small for God

My 5-second memory had once again let me down… I had a mental list
of things I needed from the supermarket, and it only had 2 things on
it! I could remember one… but couldn’t remember the other one. Try
as I might, my mind went blank.

Then the thought came to me… “Why don’t I pray and ask Jesus to
remind me what it was? He knows!”.

So I did.

Immediately after praying, the words “floor cleaner” came to my mind.

Jesus, You are awesome…

How Flexible Are You?

Sue’s Views
How flexible are you? If plans change suddenly ….. does it throw you? If your routine is disrupted ….. can you adapt? Some of us are more task focussed than people focussed …..   and see people as interruptions to our ‘to do’ list. Others are so ‘go with the flow’ that nothing gets done! It helps to commit each day to God. He alone know the plans He has for us. If His ‘to do’ list is ticked ….. that’s a day well spent!

To Mothers

To the mother who battles guilt every day, who wonders if you said enough, or said too much, or said it the right way…

To the mother who battles loneliness, wishing she was surrounded by a community of other mothers to share the load with, mothers that could walk in on the stress and mess and say “let me help”…

To the mother who is giving her kid the same thing for lunch again when everyone else’s lunchboxes look so Instagram-worthy…

To the mother who’s doing parenthood alone, and wonders why…

To the mother who feels misunderstood, wondering if she’s accepted, if she measures up, if other people think she talks too much, or says weird stuff, or shouts at her kids too much…

To the mother who fights doubt, wondering if her kids really know how much she loves them…

To the mother who fights fear, who watches the news stories and wonders if her kids will be ok…

To the mother who watches Bluey and tears up because, well, her house isn’t always that fun and creative…

To the mother who feels she’s always saying “no, we can’t afford that”…

To the mother who feels there’s never enough time…

To the mother battling tantrums, sleepless nights, work deadlines, dishes, mess, hormones, depression…

To the one who longs to be a mother, or lost a precious child…

To the mother who fears she’s never enough… never good enough, kind enough, patient enough, involved enough, determined enough, successful enough…

God sees you. He knows. He cares… He wants in.

Let Him in and watch what He does… it will be greater than you ever imagined.

Rest a while!

Sue’s View

If the soil needs a rest ….. how much more do we? We tend to live lives jam packed with activity and information ….. and fall asleep at the end of the day with our heads still buzzing! Our bodies and minds were not designed for so much stress continually. So how about giving yourself some time to recover and replenish ….. before you burn out.

Not My Will

Sue’s Views
The Cross was a brutal and excruciating way to die. Jesus knew exactly what He was about to face. He spent an evening in anguish ….. wrestling with the prospect ….. and yet knowing what He had to do. So He yielded His will to His Father’s will. The thing that enabled Him to move forward was seeing you and me being set free from sin and reconciled to God. That gave Him joy! It was the most loving and selfless gift anyone has ever given. There are times when we may have to make decisions we don’t want to make. Things that will cost us ….. and cause us pain emotionally or physically. In times like that ….. remember the words of Jesus in Gethsemane:
 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” Luke 22:42

How’s Your Marriage?

Sue’s Views
How’s your marriage? Yes! It can feel like you are two very different species at times. And ….. yes ….. there are times when it seems like you’re not on the same track. But God, in His wisdom, brings along someone to complete us ….. not someone who matches us! Each has something the other lacks. Marriage is the perfect training ground for maturity! There’s no room for selfishness ….. or pride! The most important phrases we must learn if we want a happy marriage are ‘I’m sorry’ ….. ‘I forgive you’ ….. ‘I love you’!

Radical Thinking

Sue’s Views
We saw this tree being torn down branch by branch the other day. No doubt due to concerns based on our recent bad weather incidents. But I’m guessing the whole tree will have to come down. I learned this morning that the word ‘radical’ means ‘dealing with the roots.’ We often associate it with a person or idea that is revolutionary or extreme in a negative context ….. but so many of our ways of thinking are based on traditions we’ve either been taught or have picked up along the way. Jesus was one of the most radical thinkers I know! He challenged the strongest religious and political minds by dealing with roots of tradition and self importance. We won’t change by lopping off a few branches. We must examine our roots and take an axe to them! Now that’s a radical idea!

Packaged

I quite like aeroplane food… I know most people don't. It's not necessarily about the taste, but the fact that it is all so cutely packaged and neatly compartmentalised! There aren't usually many choices about what you can have, which also makes for an uncomplicated decision… chicken, or beef!

But as I think about that packaged food on that aeroplane, I also can't imagine it being further away from it's natural environment…

Isn't packaging so great?! It's so tidy, sterile, and you can make life so convenient with it! Something about it just screams “easy!”, especially when it's food. Little time, no mess, and certainly no growing or cultivating required! How appealing.

I wonder if we do the same thing with life sometimes… I wonder if we “package” things and give “easy answers” when, sometimes, there aren't any. Perhaps life is more like a messy garden, with dirt and weeds and worms… and real life happening. I also wonder if we “package” the Bible sometimes too… somehow things are much easier when we take a piece of scripture and package it, sterilising it from its intended context and making it seem so… convenient and easy. “Three easy steps to a great prayer life”, “just have enough faith and they will be healed”, “God will always protect you, so therefore nothing bad will happen to you”… but looking at the life of other faithful followers of Jesus, and Jesus's own life, that certainly doesn't seem to be the case. Things seem… messier. But real things are growing. 

In John's account of his time with Jesus, he recalled a time when Jesus told a large group of followers some things that were difficult to understand. He didn't even package what He had to say very nicely, or even explain what He meant. Most of them walked away from Him. To the rest of His disciples, He turned and asked “You don't want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67). Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope]”.

When I went through some hard times that I didn't understand, I was looking for answers too… but there didn't seem to be any. God seemed to have gone quiet. I was angry, and was tempted to walk away. Nothing made sense. Life seemed to have fallen apart, and I wanted to blame God. But as time went by, He showed me that I don't always need to know why, I just needed to know who He is, how much He loves me, and that He is all I need. That's what Peter knew, because He'd been with the One who gave true life, and there was no turning back after that.

More and more, I love these parables Jesus told about the Kingdom of Heaven:

Matthew 13:44-46  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Everything… it was worth giving up everything. That hidden treasure, that pearl of great value, that Kingdom, was worth giving up everything else. That's what Peter knew too. And in the end, all of those who had been with Jesus knew it too. He's all we need.

Although it's still a journey I'm on, I think I trust Him more now that I know life is more like a (very!) messy garden, and I won't always know what's going on. But in the “garden” with Him, there is true life…

Ecclesiastes 3:11  “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This is one of my favourite songs, that encapsulates this so perfectly:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrxe0Sf3H6A