Years ago, when I was small and not nearly so foolish as I am now, I was loved by a very beautiful woman. In fact I was loved by many beautiful women, my mother being one of course, but this isn't who I'm thinking of now.
This lady, Gwen Bradbrook, is the mother of ten children and was a second mother to me. Thinking back across the years I remember her love, so real and such a forming influence on my life. When our families were together it was like we were one family, and her love is a big part of why I associate church as a place for family and a place of love.
I'm afraid to say that remembering all that, and wondering that this love was still so real a part of me, almost made me cry. And then it made me laugh, because she was (and still is I assume) a very mischievous woman.
So thank you Gwen, for all you were to me and to others. And thanks to all women who love. Your love builds something so real and precious. Thank you.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
I'll start by saying what most "bible believing" Christians dare not say: the bible is a highly problematic book. As a historical record of the (gradual) revelation of the nature of God to humanity it paints a pretty unflattering view of God at times - seen through the eyes of a fallen humanity. Yet I've found no better way into experiencing (in glorious intensity) and understanding life than the words and person of Christ. Quite a contradiction at times.
The bible was greatly redeemed in my eyes by reading "A Matter of Integrity" by Steve Chalke. I recommend it to everyone. Seen as the ongoing revelation of God to humanity, a revealing that didn't just stop 2000 years ago by the way, the bible again became something sacred and beautiful to me.
Despite being a "difficult" book, the nature of God and the way to the kingdom are hidden (or revealed - as you please) within the bible.
Below are some of my favourite passages (there are many more that I could have picked) that reveal God and the call to be his people. If all you knew of the bible were these passages you would have enough. More than enough.
1 John 4:7-8
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:19-20
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
1 Kings 19:11-12
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
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 came a still small voice.
Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
“This is the covenant I will make with my people
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
1 Samuel 16:7
Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
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.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (See be like a child.)
Galatians 5:13-14Plus pretty much all of James chapter 1 and the all important "Blessed are the cheesemakers"!
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself".
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
(This verse stands some explanation. The curtain in the temple was what separated the people from the holy of holies. Only a priest could enter the holy of holies and the people needed a priest to mediate God to them. At the moment of Jesus' death that curtain was torn and the separation between God and man was undone. Through Jesus, our righteousness and priest, and through his sacrifice, we can now enter into the presence of God. We are now the priests and need no human intermediary beyond Jesus. See the 1 Peter 2 passage below as well.)
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Verses quoted here are mostly from the NIV (Nearly Infallible Version) translation, courtesy of biblehub.