He stood on the dusty pathway. In his hand his only possession. It was a hand carved crutch, fashioned years ago by his father. Besides, it being his lone property it held fond memories. Over the long years of constant use, it had worn smooth and fit his calloused hand perfectly. There in the ever-growing distance went the strange and wonderful man and his entourage. The words of the peculiar man with the loving eyes and compassionate touch, still rang in his ears “Throw aside your crutch and walk in newness!” There he stood, frozen in a dilemma. All that was familiar and comfortable was at stake. Could he really toss it all aside for a ‘walk in newness’?
As I leave behind my story of the man on the dusty pathway, I realise that he is me, and perhaps you. Here on the final day of the year, I feel the Messiah’s call to lay aside my crutches. These things may even have served me in the past. They are familiar but they are now impediments to a ‘walk in newness.’
I am not overly fond of resolutions, but I have come to see the immense value of repentance. Repentance and renunciation are the necessary response to be prepared for newness. All too often I crave the newness that Jesus alone can give but while I long for that, I do not want change. This silly oxymoronic attitude leaves me stuck!
What may have once served a purpose for us needs to be examined afresh. Does my habit or attitude serve God’s purposes today? When my honest answer is no, I then must ask the Lord’s help to let it go, in order that I might take hold of the fresh blessings he offers.
Like a child whose hand is stuck in a cookie jar, I need to let go in order to go forward with God! Such is my determination this New Year.
I pray you too will know what it is to ‘walk in newness’ this year. Happy New Year!
We are beginning 2022 by moving Monday – Wednesday Bible Study to Threshold House. Over the last two years this study has been online, and I do not want to lose all the loyal participants who have been taking part. Our solution is that I will record the first 10 minutes or so of the study and say goodbye to that audience, then we will engage in ‘in person’ conversation and prayer with the residents of Threshold House. As you know we have two residents, and we have another application in process. It is a delight to once again be involved in face-to-face discipleship.
Sometimes the best lessons are those learned at the School of Hard Knocks. Of those hard lessons our favourites are the ones we learn second hand. Such are the examples of my fictional Great Uncle Floyd.
Through his hard experiences I have come to appreciate the value of patient persistence. He is known by the title “Great Uncle Floyd the Almost Inventor.” If he had only persisted Great Uncle Floyd would be world renowned. He had many ‘almost inventions’ but stopped before success. He created WD- 1 through 39 before he left the lab to his now wealthy assistant. He invented cleansers Formula 1 through 408 and stopped. Formula 409 went on to make millions. He wrote a script for “100 Dalmatians”.
You get the idea. Great Uncle Floyd stopped just short of success. Each failure brought him that much closer to his goal had he only persisted.
Too often we can be tempted like Floyd to look at our failures solely as failures and not the pathway to the ultimate achievement.
The scriptures are replete with examples of colossal failures. The shorn Sampson, Peter weeping outside while Jesus was scourged or Peter sinking beneath the storm-tossed waves, Moses as he struck down the Egyptian, slippery Jacob as he conned his way through life, Abraham as he lied about his marriage to Sarah, Noah in his drunkenness, these all were pictures of humiliating failure. Yet each persisted! Each failed forward. Though each failed they were not failures like Uncle Floyd.
I am determined to follow their example and avoid the fate of Uncle Floyd. Patience is a Fruit of the Spirit. God produces this fruit in the lives of the willing. We each have a bit of Floyd in us but through faith we can persist and become more than conquerors through Him who loves us.
There have been many times over the last few years when I was ready to ‘admit defeat.’ Had I done so we would not be celebrating our first Christmas as Christian Community at Threshold House. Persistence and patience combined with much prayer works. God is Good!
Thank you to all who walk this journey with me. Better days lie ahead for those who endure.
Over years ministry, I have learned one thing “Keep doing the next thing and trust God.” Sometimes it feels like a slog and other times a head-long race downhill. Sometimes it feels like exhilarating success and others humbling failure. Yet all I can do is ‘the next thing.’
In Romans 8 Paul writes that we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Most times I do not so much feel this but instead know it. In Revelation we read of those who “overcome” (conqueror) and are given the secret of their success. They overcome “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.” The secret is a trust in the overcoming power of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He has accomplished all necessary for us to live lives of overcoming.
Our part is actually quite small. It is by our ‘testimony.’ Too often we think of testimony as a verbal recitation of our story of salvation, but if you were called in court to be a character witness for a friend you would need to say more than simply how you met! You would need to share your friend’s attributes and how you have experienced them. To be a good witness though you would need more. Your testimony would have to stand up against cross examination. Your whole relationship would have tremendous bearing on your testimony.
It is important to remember who the testimony is about. While it might be my story to tell it is about Jesus and His faithfulness. I think it is a good disciple to sit down periodically and craft a testimony. If I have difficulty it will point to a coolness in my relationship and afford me the opportunity to correct the course of this vital relationship.
But if the “word” of my testimony is to be effectual it must ring true to those who hear. My life and choices are as much a part of my ‘word of testimony’ as my words by themselves.
We live in difficult times. Overcoming is most challenging. If I rely on the dint of my own effort I will certainly fail. Trusting God and living for him are my ticket! It may not feel like ‘over coming’ but God’s ways are not our ways. So, through slog or head-long rush I want to choose the next thing and do it with all my heart, soul, and strength.
On another note, our first resident moved into Threshold House last Saturday and on Sunday our Night-time Pastor, moved in. We are thrilled that the long slog toward this day has ended. Already we are realizing that the impact of this “Year of the Lord’s Favour” is on families and not just individuals. We are already seeing some lovely developments in family lives. We look forward to welcoming more men in the months ahead. We had some sizable bills come in this month and we are trusting God to supply all our needs. Please pray for us.
I have been thinking of home a lot lately. What got me started, oddly enough, was a conversation about scars. I have more than a few scars. The visible ones dot my body from head to toe. I bear several on my face, the biggest of which is a puckered scat forming an arc from the corner of my lip to the middle of my chin. Visible scars are but a fraction of the scars we carry. Childhood taunts and disappointment leave invisible scars, as do adult betrayals and failures. No one gets out of life unscarred!
In the midst of the “scar” conversation, I had a thought. “There will only be one set of scars in Heaven.!” All my painfully earned stripes will be forever gone, only “those wounds yet visible above” as the hymn say will remain. These scars become a badge of honour adorning our glorified Saviour. Those of us who have come to believe on His Name, will be totally and finally healed by those stripes. This thought made me yearn for home, the home He has prepared for me!
During his earthly sojourn, Jesus though He ‘pitched his tent’ or ‘tabernacled with us’ or ‘dwelt among us’, seldom had a home here. His first bed was borrowed from cattle. His early years He lived as refugee in Egypt. His earthly remains rested in a borrowed tomb. Between the manger and the grave, he said “Foxes have their holes, birds have their nest, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
The other night, at our Prayer Meeting, we were discussing the plague of homelessness we are seeing in Saint John. We were able to take our concerns to the One who knew homelessness so well.
This type of homelessness ought to move us to action as well as prayer, not just at this time of year but throughout the year.
I find myself sometimes languishing with ‘home sickness’ for Heaven. One day my scars, both those inside as well as out, will be gone and I will be truly home for Christmas. The love of Christ constrains us to share the Good News to the poor and homeless that this, though unfair, is a temporary state and a home is being prepared for all who call on the Name of the Lord. This season provides us with a cultural opportunity to do just that. Let us take the challenge and the opportunity to share the Good News, “By His stripes you are healed.”