Risen!

He is risen

Very early,

Sunday morn,

Grief rising up like a gathering storm.

Day-break,

Hearts ache,

As the weight of it all begins to dawn.

 

Thorns, nails,

Mournful wails,

Laid in a tomb that wasn’t His own,

Laden with spices,

We make our way,

Not even knowing who’ll roll back the stone.

 

Earth quake,

Guards shake,

Heavenly beings in dazzling white,

Our hearts pound with fear,

Too scared to draw near,

We bow to the ground at this dazzling sight!

 

“You needn’t fear!

He isn’t here!

“Why search for the Living among the dead?

Hurry, go!

Let everyone know –

That Jesus is risen, just as He said!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zacchaeus

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1

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So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a Sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way…Luke 19:4

 

The streets of the city were crowded that day,

The Teacher was coming – He was heading this way.

My heart leapt within at the sound of His Name,

This man who healed lepers, the blind and the lame.

 

But the crowds all around me were blocking my view,

And try as I might, I just couldn’t push through.

Not much to be said for my stature – it’s true,

So I ended up right at the back of the queue!

 

Then ahead of the crowds in the distance, I see,

Down the long dusty road,

There’s a Sycamore Tree,

I was desperate to see Him,

So it had to be done.

I kicked up the dust and I started to run!

 

My robes snagged on branches as I scrambled up high,

And I hoped, against hope, that He wouldn’t pass by,

Still my heart skipped a beat when He stopped by that tree,

And He peered through the leaves,

Looking straight up at me!

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What would He say to a man such as me?

What was I doing here?

How could it be?

That this wonderful stranger should call me by name?

In that moment, I knew, I would not be the same.

 

The people were outraged- He was going to eat,

At the home of *Zacchaeus, the swindler, the cheat!

But whenever He spoke, all my pride fell apart,

And something was changed in the depths of my heart.

The tears started falling, my heart overflowed.

I would pay it all back, every penny I owed.

I would give it all gladly,

I would do anything,

For this wonderful Man,

For this beautiful King!

 

The love that He showed me,

The grace that He gave,

Swept over my being, like wave after wave,

What joy filled my soul, and what gladness within,

When the Son of God cleansed me,

From all of my sin.

 

 

  • Amazed to discover today that the meaning of the Hebrew name Zacchaeus means, “Clean, pure!”

 

 

Gleanings From The Book of Ruth – Part One

“Priceless gems have often been found in unlikely places.  Many a choice flower has been found blooming in a rocky crevice.  Rainbow artistries have suddenly lit up the drabbest skies.  Beauty spots have charmed the traveller at surprise turns on the least promising road  It is even so with this superbly beautiful little idyl, the book of Ruth”

Sidlow Baxter, Explore The Book (Bible Commentary)

Imagine my delight, when I checked the Sunday School Rota a few weeks back, and discovered that I had to deliver a lesson to our 3-4 year olds – on the book of Ruth!

My thoughts whirred as I considered the complications of trying to explain to our wide-eyed pre-schoolers, what a ‘Kinsman Redeemer’ is!   It had been years since I’d read the book of Ruth, but I vaguely remembered something about sheaves of barley…and wasn’t there that part when Ruth laid down at the feet of Boaz, asking him to cover her with his cloak?  Hmmm.  There was no doubt about it…this was going to be one interesting Sunday School session!

Despite my initial reservations, things went really well! (three cheers for Pinterest for a whole host of craft ideas!)  I even managed to find a beautiful sheaf of dried wheat on Amazon, which the kids were fascinated by.   On-line shopping – what a life saver!

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Once the Sunday School was out of the way, however, I began to sense that there are absolutely no coincidences. God was drawing me into the book of Ruth.  There were delightful hidden treasures within the story that He wanted me to discover.  It was time for me to plumb the depths of the bible’s most quirky little love story.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book, here is the basic backdrop of the story:

  • The story begins when a Judean woman called Naomi, who has spent the last ten years residing in Moab to escape a famine in her homeland, is left destitute when her husband and two sons die.
  • Her two sons had been married to Moabite women – one called Orpah, and one called Ruth.  (This was an ungodly alliance, and was forbidden in Levitical law).
  • Naomi decides to return to her people, where she fairs the best chance of survival.
  • She means to set out alone, and urges her two daughters-in-law to remain in Moab, and go back to their childhood families.  Naomi has no other sons to be given in marriage to Orpah or Ruth.  Their best bet is to remain in Moab, where they have the best chance of finding new husbands.
  • The two young women have an agonising decision to make.  They have come to love Naomi, yet if they go with her, they will have to live in Judah as sojourners in a foreign land – this is a huge risk to take.
  • Justifiably, with much weeping, Orpah decides to stay in Moab, but Ruth ‘clings to her Mother-in-Law’, refusing to be parted with her.

“Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you, for where you go, I go, and where you lodge, I lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

So what becomes of the lovely, loyal Ruth?

Well, it just so happens that the two women arrive in Bethlehem at the beginning of the Barley Harvest.  Their arrival does not go unnoticed.  Everyone is curious.  What has become of Naomi?  Where is Elimelech, her husband?  And what of her two sons?  And who is this strange Moabite woman at her side?  I bet tongues were wagging!

One of Naomi’s relatives, a wealthy, upright man named Boaz, owns several Barley fields and employs teams of servants to harvest the barley.

The key to Ruth and Naomi’s survival can be found in a strange harvesting custom, found in Leviticus 19:9

“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  Nor shall you glean your vineyard nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard.  You shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger, I am the Lord Your God.”

Wow!  Isn’t that just like our God?  Always making provision for the needy and the stranger?

So Ruth becomes a “gleaner” in the fields of Boaz.  She follows behind the team of harvesters, gathering up the scraps that they accidentally drop.  She has to keep her distance.  Moab was known at the time as the ‘washbasin of Israel’ – basically, a foot basin for washing feet!  She is totally vulnerable, putting herself at the mercy of others, and showing herself to be utterly destitute.  She is therefore open to any kind of mistreatment.

But Boaz notices Ruth.  He makes enquiries about her.  And it seems he is deeply impressed by her loyalty to Naomi.  He speaks to Ruth, showing kindness to her in three ways:

  • He instructs her to glean only in his field
  • He commands his servants not to touch her
  • He invites her to drink from the water that his servants draw if she gets thirsty

It must have been fairly unusual for a foreigner to be treated with such kindness, as Ruth falls on her face, bowing down to the ground, saying: “Why have I found such favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

And here is Boaz’s response:

“All that you have done for your Mother-in-law, after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your Father and your Mother and the land of your birth and came to a people that you previously did not know.  May the Lord reward your work and your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”

Someone once said that you can find Jesus in every book of the bible.  Like a golden thread woven through the whole tapestry of scripture, is the overarching theme of Redemption.  Every now and then, if we examine the tapestry in the right light, we catch a glimmer of this glinting gold.  The book of Ruth is no different!  Boaz is a type of Christ.  And here we begin to get the first glimpses of a man that possesses amazing integrity, kindness and generosity.

It also may be worth noting here that godly men are drawn to godly character.  They are not merely impressed by the outward appearance, but by the inner qualities a woman displays by her conduct.  Boaz was deeply struck by Ruth’s courage and commitment.  He also recognised the evidence of her new found faith – By cleaving to Naomi, Ruth had ultimately chosen to put her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

God never turns away any that would seek Him.  The time of salvation for the Gentile had not yet come.  Yet God seems unable to resist showing compassion, grace and kindness towards this young, courageous Moabite woman, who has so selflessly thrown herself upon His mercy.

As the story unfolds, we get to see how sweetly Boaz and Ruth become increasingly drawn to one another.  And we begin to see more of God’s wonderful, extravagant heart towards the Gentile.

Part Two to follow soon…!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget-Me-Not

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There are so many things to remember these days!

“Have you got your key?”

“Mum, did you remember to pay for my school trip?”

“Did you remember there’s a meeting this evening?”

“Don’t forget your P.E. Kit!”

“I must remember to take those library books back on Tuesday.”

“Don’t forget your packed lunch bag!”

Sound familiar?

Just last week, I fell prey to absent-mindedness on a number of occasions!  On Monday I filled in some important forms for my daughter’s new school.  I put them by the front door so that I wouldn’t forget them the next day…and then on Tuesday, I managed to leave the house without them! On Wednesday, I popped into the shop and bought a few groceries…but came home without the milk.  On Friday, I took my car into the garage, walked all the way back home, only to discover that I’d forgotten to take my door key off the car key-ring.

You know that old saying:  “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on”…well, that pretty much sums me up!

And here we are again, heading towards November – the month of remembrance.  Soon we’ll be buying red poppies and taking part in two minute silences.  Lest we forget…

A few days ago, I stumbled across an interesting verse in the book of Judges:

The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of God, and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (Judges 3: 7)

Hang on a minute…back up the truck….I thought doing evil in the sight of God would entail murder or betrayal or deepest, darkest deception.  What did the sons of Israel do that was so offensive to God?  They forgot Him.

God has always wanted a people who will love Him and serve Him with wholehearted devotion.  And the truth is, He’s worthy of nothing less.

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind…”

But the Sons of Israel ‘forgot’ Him.  They forgot the God who had brought them up out of Egypt.  Split open the Red Sea so they could walk though on dry land.  Provided Manna from heaven and water from a rock.  Who knows what distractions may have lured their affections away?  But I would hazard a guess that it was a gradual slide.  Perhaps they gradually stopped talking about Him quite so often – stopped remembering the miracles.  Perhaps they stopped being thankful.  Perhaps they got too busy trying to pay the bills.  But somehow, their hearts drifted away from their first love.  And it wasn’t long before they were serving Baal and Asheroth – worshipping idols.  How tragic.

The word ‘remember’ comes from the Latin root ‘mem’, which means ‘call to mind’ or ‘be mindful of’. So many words that we use in our everyday language stem from this root:  Memento, memoir, memorandum, memorabilia.  All of these things are designed to prompt our memory.  They remind us of important things, or preserve special memories.  But what can we do to remind ourselves of the One who is more important than any other treasure?

David had the right idea – In Psalm 103, we see an example of him “calling to mind” the goodness of the Lord:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And  forget none of His benefits,

Who pardons all your iniquities,

Who heals all your diseases,

Who redeems your life from the pit,

Who crowns you with loving-kindness and compassion,

Who satisfies your years with good things,

So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

It seems to me that remembering the Lord is not some hit and miss thing, like it so often is with things like milk and car keys.  We must choose to remember.  We need to keep calling to mind the goodness of our God.  We need to constantly remind ourselves of His past mercies and all of His faithfulness.  It’s a deliberate thing.

Jesus made this clear to us on the night before he died.

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them saying: “this is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19).

If there’s only one truth that we choose to remember in this lifetime, surely it should be this one:  That Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God, laid down His life, so that we might live.  Let’s never forget.

Three Words That Changed My Life

It’s amazing how three little words can say so much. Take these three phrases for instance:

I love you.

I am sorry.

I forgive you.

All of these phrases are small – but they can change an awful lot can’t they?

But never, in all of history, were three words as meaningful as the last phrase uttered by a dying man, over two thousand years ago. They were three small words that changed my life forever. And they can change yours too.

They were the words of Jesus as He hung upon a cross, dying.

“It is finished!”

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I know what you’re thinking. What? I don’t see the connection. What could be so important about that little phrase?

When Jesus uttered those words moments before He died, it wasn’t a cry of relief that His suffering was about to come to an end. He didn’t merely mean: “Thank goodness this ordeal is over!”

It meant so much more.

You see, Jesus’ death was not just an unfortunate end to a good man’s life. There was something far deeper going on. The bible tells us that Jesus gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

He chose to go to the cross.

A ransom is a sum of money demanded for the release of a prisoner.

So who was the prisoner?

Me!

And you.

Okay, so let me just clear things up – I’ve never been to jail. This is a metaphoric image.

Before Jesus rescued me, the bible tells me that I was like a prisoner on death row, a slave, chained and bound by my sin. No matter how hard I tried to become a better person, I couldn’t get free.

So Jesus did the unthinkable. He paid my ransom. It meant that He had to die in my place. It meant that He had to take all of the sin off my back and bear it on His own. It meant that He had to be punished, beaten, bloodied and bruised instead of me.

And that’s exactly what was going on when Jesus hung on the cross.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bore the sins of the whole world upon His shoulders, on a cross, on a hill called Calvary, on a day that changed History forever.

Which brings me back to those three words: “It is finished!”

The same phrase has been found on bits of ancient papyri, written across tax receipts. It really means “PAID IN FULL”. Wow!

The price for our redemption, our ransom, was PAID IN FULL by Jesus’ death on the cross.

Perhaps you are familiar with the words from an old hymn: I pray they have new meaning for you today:

“Long my imprisoned Spirit lay, fast-bound in sin, and nature’s night,

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke the dungeon flamed with light!

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose went forth and followed Thee!”

All I had to do was say three little words in return. “I am sorry”.

And as Jesus arms were outstretched, nailed to that splintered cross beam, His answer was plain to see:

“IT IS FINISHED!”

“I FORGIVE YOU!”

“I LOVE YOU”!