13.11.22: Jesus

Context: The evening before writing this prayer, I realised I was developing a respiratory infection. Next morning, after a rather strange and feverish night, this little blog came to me before I had even started to pray. It was surprisingly hard to put into words. NB: The infection turned out to be covid

When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8; NIV). 

May my prayers be simple:
“Thank you, Jesus.”

“I love you, Jesus”:
May this be my praise.

May my words be plain:
“Forgive me, Jesus.”

May your Spirit
Set my heart ablaze.

May my prayer be:
“Jesus, I forgive them.”

May I do your will,
And serve your name.

May my conduct show
I follow you, Lord:

One with you in joy,
And grief, and pain.

The person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17; NLT).


Reading: Luke 11:2-4; NLT

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

16.10.22: It’s okay to stumble

Context: Yesterday I arranged my next hospital trip to London for further tests. As my health deteriorates, I’m slowly learning to be a bit easier on myself, especially in terms of writing and posting here.

I now understand why God has generously given me much more inspiration over the years than I needed at the time. This means I have a good store of pieces to bring up to date, and to share with you.

It has been clear to me for a long time that there would come a point where I wouldn’t be well enough to write new material every day. So having reached that point, this is the time to start dipping into all I have been given, and have prepared, in advance.

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand (Psalm 37:24; NLT). 

It’s okay to stumble,
And even to fall:
I’ll reach out and cling to Him –
Jesus is all.

It’s good to be nothing
But ashes and dust:
I’ll love Christ and follow Him –
Serve him, and trust.

It’s fine to feel empty,
Defeated, and small:
For Jesus is with me –
And he is my all.

Christ is all, and is in all (Colossians 3:11; NIV). 

Equality

Introduction 

Some Christians believe that women are, and should be, subordinate to men, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Having researched and reflected on this issue for many years, I want to examine it in some detail, beginning with a question:

Did Jesus ever teach, state, claim, suggest, imply, or show by his behaviour that he considered women to be subordinate to men?

Jesus’ attitude to women 

The Gospels illustrate how Jesus went out of his way to include and relate to women in ways which were revolutionary for a man in a highly patriarchal society. He talked with them, listened to them, taught them, touched them, healed them and ate with them. He had close women friends and cared about women’s spiritual development. He depended on his female followers’ financial backing, and received their emotional support to the very end of his life, when all his male disciples except John had fled. Women were also the first witnesses of his resurrection. 

Jesus’ male disciples were sometimes shocked  by how closely and equally he related to women, as seen when they found him talking to the woman at the well (John 4:26; NLT).

Perhaps most significantly of all, there is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus excluded women from becoming his disciples:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NLT). 

Saint Paul’s attitude to women 

So, given Jesus’ egalitarian example, where did the belief that Christian women should be subservient to men originate? Here I turn to the letters of Saint Paul. A tough, educated and opinionated man, Paul did not question the culture of his day with regard to the sexes:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (Colossians 3:18; NLT).

Going even further, he instructed churches to silence women members, regardless of their spiritual gifts:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (1 Colossians 14:34-5; NLT). 

In saying this, Paul presumably felt he was adhering to the Gospel, even though Jesus said nothing of the kind. 

It’s interesting to note that in his letter to the Galatians, Paul once stated the exact opposite of what he wrote to the Colossians. Experiencing a moment of sublime insight into the essential equality and oneness not just of the sexes, but of all people, he was able to write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). 

Historical context

I don’t know how Paul managed to square his contradictory views on women, but I take care to bear in mind how strongly his writing was influenced by his historical context. Although he was an extraordinary, sometimes inspired, speaker and writer, he was also a fallible man of his times, whose views were shaped by widely-held beliefs and prejudices, some of which unfortunately crept into his letters.

Unfortunately, these non-Gospel aspects of his teaching have continued to influence others ever since. Thus, when powerful men spent years arguing about which books should be included in the Biblical Canon, most of those by, for, and about women were ruthlessly excluded. The selections they made still influence Christian belief and practice over 2,000 years later.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand why Paul’s conventionally patriarchal attitude to women came to be so thoroughly embraced throughout history, whilst Jesus’ consistently loving, egalitarian approach has been largely ignored. Even as I write, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that Paul’s first-century beliefs about the roles and status of women and men continue to influence so many individuals, families, congregations and denominations right up to the present day.

Faith

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1; NLT).

The Apostles said to the Lord, “Give us faith” (Luke 17:5; WNT). 

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To talk with you both night and day,
To listen, learn, and grow like you,
By following your way.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To pray for others day and night,
And serve you in all humankind,
By walking in your light.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To worship you unceasingly,
To praise your name, and seek your face,
By trusting you implicitly.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; NIV).

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory (1 Peter 1:21; NLT). 

A step ahead

The Lord went ahead of them (Exodus 13:21; NLT). 

1. Lord,
You’re just a step ahead:
My hope, my strength, my wine, my bread;
I want to learn from all you said
And serve you.

2. Lord,
You’re always very near:
My help, when I am faced with fear;
I want to follow, thank, revere
And serve you.

3. Lord,
You’re just a breath away:
My light, my truth, my life, my way;
May I grow more like you each day
And serve you.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).


References

1. My hope is in you (Psalm 39:7; CSB). 

The sovereign Lord is my source of strength Habakkuk 3 10; NET).

He took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11:25; NLT). 

I am the living bread that came down from from heaven (John 6:51; NLT).

Learn from me (Matthew 11:29; NIV). 

Serve only the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 13:4. NLT). 

2. We give thanks because you are near, Lord (Psalm 75:1; NLT). 

God is my help (Psalm 54:4; NIV). 

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3; NIV). 

Follow me and be my disciple (Matthew 9:9; NLT).

Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV). 

Let all the people of the world revere him (Psalm 33:8; NIV).

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all (Mark 9:35; NIV).

3. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT).

I am the light of the world (John 8:12; NLT).

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; NLT).

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT). 

Serve the Lord with all your heart (1 Samuel 12:20; NIV). 

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

If you can’t imagine God

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine”
(Isaiah 55:8; NLT).

God’s voice is glorious in the thunder.
We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power
(Job 37:23; NLT).

1. If you can’t imagine God,
Picture Christ, alone.

2. If you can’t believe in God,
Trust in Christ, alone.

3. If you long to know the truth,
Learn from Christ, alone.

4. If you cannot find your way,
Follow Christ, alone.

5. If you’re walking in the dark,
Cling to Christ, alone.

6. If you thirst for inner peace,
Rest in Christ, alone.

7. If you feel unheard, unloved,
Pray to Christ, alone,

8. And if you want to live in God,
Unite with Christ, alone. 

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!
(John 14:9; NLT).


References

1. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3; NIV).

In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9; NIV).

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; NLT).

2. Trust also in me (John 14:1; NLT). 

3. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me (Matthew 11:29; NIV). 

4. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

5. Listen to his voice and cling to him (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT). 

6. Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30; NLT).

7. He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV). 

8. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-8; NIV). 

So you also are complete through your union with Christ (Colossians 2:10; NLT). 

More questions

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows
(John 16:33; NLT).

1. What makes life on earth worth living?

Loving people, and forgiving;
Prayer, rejoicing, and thanksgiving –
Letting Jesus in.

2. What makes faith in Christ worth choosing? 

Peace, despite the world’s abusing;
Gain, in spite of all we’re losing –
Following our King.

3. What makes trouble worth enduring?

Learning, growing, and maturing;
Meeting others, helping – turning
Minds and souls to Him.

4. What makes Jesus’ way worth taking?  

Service, though our hearts are breaking –
So, choose Christ, all else forsaking,
And unite with Him.

For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:9; NLT).


References 

1. My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God (Acts 20:24; NLT). 

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; RSV).

The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends (Revelation 3:20; NLT).

2. Choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15; NLT).

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; NLT).

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords (Revelation 19:16; NLT).

3. When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow (James 1:2-3; NLT).

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12; NLT).

Grow to maturity (2 Corinthians 13:11; NLT).

Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else (Mark 9:35; NLT).

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15; NLT). 

Each of you must repent and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

4. Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT). 

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34; NLT).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

You also are complete through your union with Christ (Colossians 2:10; NLT). 

Questions

1. Jesus,
How can I be healed
In flesh, mind, heart and soul?

Repent, and give your life to me,
For I will make you whole.

2. Jesus,
How can I be healed?
Please tell me what to do.

Accept forgiveness, be baptised,
Receive my Spirit, too. 

3. Jesus,
How can I be healed,
And where should I begin?

Forgive those who do wrong to you;
Hold fast to me within.

4. Jesus,
How can I be healed,
And worthy of your name?

Give up your greed and selfishness;
Love everyone the same.

5. Jesus,
How can I be healed?
Please help me, Lord, I pray.

Take up your cross, and follow me 
Your life, your truth, your way.

I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; NLT).


References 

1. Each of you must repent and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

Upon him was the punishment that made us whole (Isaiah 53:5; NRSV).

2. Be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

3. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13; NIV).

Hold fast (Deuteronomy 30:20; NIV).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

4. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41; NLT).

Turn from your selfish ways (Matthew 16:24; NLT).

Love your neighbour as yourself (James 2:8; NLT).

Love ye therefore the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; KJV).

You, too, must show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NIV).

5. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38; NIV).


 

Live in faith

Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

1. Live in faith,
And follow Christ.
Serve God’s people:
See his face.

2. Live in hope,
And worship Christ,
Greeting all
With his embrace.

3. Live in love,
And grow like Christ.
In every contact:
Share his grace.

🖤


References

1. I told Jews and Gentiles to turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:21; CEV). 

Follow me and be my disciple (Matthew 9:9; NLT).

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

2. I will live in hope (Acts 2:26; CEV). 

Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks you about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it (1 Peter 3:15; NLT). 

How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings (Luke 13:34; NLT). 

3. All who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24; NIV).

 


 

I lack the strength

I don’t have the strength to endure (Job 6:11; NLT).

1. I lack the strength to serve you, Lord,
To give back all that’s due,
So I can only show my love
In everything I do.

2. I lack the words to praise your name,
To honour you, or pray,
So I can only show my love
Through everything I say.

3. I lack the strength to bear my cross,
To follow as I ought,
So I can only show my love
By checking every thought.

4. I lack the words to worship you –
Lord, touch my soul, and heal,
Then I will show my love for you
Through everything I feel.

🖤

Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions,
than capturing a city (Proverbs 16:32; CSB).


References 

1. Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

2. We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

3. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart (Deuteronomy 15:9; ESV).

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

4. I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).