Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:17-18
It began as a simple pruning exercise; the cutting back of the bottle brush in the side garden of our driveway. It’s graceful drooping branches were still flowering, the tufted clusters of red spikes that resemble a round brush adding a cheerful welcome to the home. But there were a few dead branches that stood in stark contrast to the surrounding colour, so I grabbed the pruning saw and started to trim.
One cut led to another and the more I cut, the more I realised the beautiful tree that graced our driveway was in fact alive but dead. The red flowers gave the impression the tree was fully living. The green foliage fooled me into thinking that everything was okay. But beneath the surface, there were white ants eating away the very life of the tree leaving the branches hollow and empty. It was only a matter of time before the whole tree revealed the truth of the tree’s condition; that it was dead at the core.
It seems that this period of enforced isolation has revealed the true nature of things for many people. The things to which we gravitate to add the colour of life – work, socialising, going out, extended family, church, activities – have been taken away by COVID-19 and left a few dead twigs in the process. The isolation has forced many to acknowledge the things that have been white-anting their lives and gradually eating away at their core. The more that has been trimmed or cut from their lives, the more they have realised the hollowness or emptiness that exists; that the foliage of life has masked the true condition of the heart.
Whatever is eating away at your core - frustration, disappointment, broken dreams, anger, bitterness pride. Whatever is making you feel hollow, empty or is sucking the colour out of your life making you feel dead on the inside, Jesus comes and puts his hand on you and says, ‘Don’t be afraid’. His death and resurrection for you brings with it the promise of life forever. It’s a grace that will add permanent colour to your life and beauty to your home. It’s a life that fills every empty and hollow place with overflowing love. It’s a love that adds foliage and contrast to every branch of your life and brings joy to all who stop to look at you. There’s no need to be alive but dead because Jesus takes what is dead and makes it truly alive. That’s what he wants to do for you too.
As for my garden bed…it also has been through a transformation that once more is full of life and a beauty that welcomes me home each day.
Lord Jesus, I need your life in me. Come and transform all the dead parts of my life with your life that lasts forever. Amen.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Over the past couple of months, we have been living through a kitchen renovation. As part of that renovation, doorways have been removed and the curved archways that date the home have been squared up and replastered ready for a coat of paint. A few weeks ago, I decided to prime the gyprock and repaint the walls using the leftover paint that was still stored in the garage from repair work that happened when the ceiling caved in during a storm (that’s another story)! I checked the colour. I looked at the label. Hogsbristle Half Strength. I was ready to go. I cut in the edges, rolled the walls where it was needed to blend into the existing paintwork and waited for the first coat to dry. An hour or so later, I went to admire my handiwork and discovered two different colours on the wall. The freshly painted walls were darker than the existing walls. I rechecked the label and it was definitely half strength. But a visit to my local paint centre confirmed that while the label said one thing, the contents of the tin were actually another - full strength Hogsbristle! A slight change in the measure of tint added to the paint made all the difference to how it looked on the wall. It was obvious to everyone who saw it.
It got me thinking about our lives as Christians. So often, we want to blend into the world around us. We don’t want to stand out, be noticed, or draw attention to ourselves. What often happens is that the contents of our lives are different from the label we bear. Christ wants the label and the contents to match. Rather than trying to blend in, Christ wants us to be different; to be part of his transforming work in the world. Just as adding tint to a tin of paint changes the whole colour, a life that is tinted with Christ, will be transformed. Christ in you, changes you. Christ in you colours you. Christ in you is noticeable! A tint of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ reduces the darkness of the world around you. A tint of his love in you, transforms the feel of every room you enter. A tint of his mercy and grace in you, poured out on the lives of others will be evident for the whole world to see. Christ wants what is on the label, his life in you, to bring a totally new look to every room and space that he uses you in. Christ in you, is the right measure of tint in every situation!
How has the tint of Christ transformed your life and how can you let it permeate more and more of your life?
Lord Jesus, more of you and less of me. Add the right measure of tint to my life that as you pour me out in the world, it may be visibly noticeable and bring light and life to every place. Amen.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
One of the blessings of the COVID-19 isolation time is that many people have found time to do projects around the home that have remained undone for a long time. For me, that was fixing the half-a dozen mowers/brushcutters given to me, that were taking up too much space up in my garage. I just hadn’t found the time needed to fix them and move them on.
Small engines can be temperamental at the best of times. When they haven’t been used in a while, they can be downright frustrating. You pull and pull and pull and it gives you nothing. Sometimes you might get a brief sign of life but then all you end up with is a sore arm. It doesn’t matter how many times you pull the start cord, berate or kick the machine, it will not roar into life. But on a lot of small engines, they have a little button called a primer bulb. When you press it down, usually three times, it draws fuel from the tank into the carburettor to give a bit extra petrol to enable combustion and kickstart the engine so that it can roar into life.
It’s this action of priming the engine that comes to mind as we try and get life kickstarted again. It was like Covid-19 suddenly starved the engine of our lives of fuel and we came to a sudden halt. Now after a couple of months of being stuck in the garage, we are ready to get out and get the engines running again. But kickstarting the engine can sometimes be hard. Maybe you have settled into a different routine with your time - working from home, curling up on the couch with a remote in the hand – and there is a reluctance to go back to the way things were? Perhaps, you are being cautious and the wisdom you share is simply because deep down you are afraid something might happen and you’ll get sick? Or that no sooner than you restart and build some momentum, that your life will shutdown again? Business’, charities, churches and individuals are facing those very issues all across the globe at this present time.
One of the mowers in my garage had been sitting for so long without use, that the fuel had caramelised in the carburettor bowl. It simply would not start. But a good clean out of the fuel system, new fuel and three pushes on the primer bulb, and the mower roared into life. Could God be using this time to prime the engine of your heart so that you are ready to serve and love in a new way? Could God be letting you rest for a while; transitioning and cleansing your life in order to launch you out into the world, where the lawn has grown long in this time of uncertainty? Get ready, for there is work to be done, a harvest to be reaped and there is no engine that God cannot fix and get going again. Your primer bulb may just about to be pushed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, your starter cord pulled, and your life about to ignite with a power that will get you moving. Are you ready? A brand new day is here, the garage door is lifting up, and God has chosen you to be a part of bringing new life to the world.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ignite my life with power and love that I may go and complete the work you have prepared for me to do. Amen.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:3-4
“Nation on fire”. “Fire…fire…fire…night of terror…” “Violence erupts…” “Global anger grows…” “Anger still burns on the ground…” These are the headlines that we have woken up to each day over the last week in response to the death of George Floyd in the U.S.A. The impact has been widespread and worldwide. We have witnessed both the refining and destructive properties of fire as we have seen people on fire for justice and reform on the one hand, but with retribution and violence on the other. We have heard words of healing and peace that unite and bring together and careless words that have opened wounds, inflicted hurt and caused division.
Globally, there is simmering tension between countries, nationally, there is a divide between States and Territories over how to navigate the Coronavirus pandemic and now on top of that we have a recession to deal with. We are living in a world that is full of deep and painful hurt, repressed and expressed anger, silent and voiced suffering.
Against this backdrop, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the first Pentecost takes on renewed significance. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church was filled with courage and boldness to speak truth into a world of hurt, anger and suffering. Aflame with the Holy Spirit, the disciples were pushed out of the confines of their four walls to do life with all cultures and proclaim the good news of a crucified Saviour who loves us equally and draws us together in unity. Empowered by the Spirit who gives wisdom and understanding, believers were able to present the Gospel in a way that the hearers could connect with and desire in their own lives. Fuelled by the Spirit, the early Christians came alongside and advocated for those marginalised, in need, and experiencing injustice, to reveal a God who cares, is present and acts with justice to restore and reconcile the world to himself. On fire with the Holy Spirit, the Church became a witness to the power of love that alone can transform the ugliness of the human heart into something that is beautiful and brings joy and delight to the world.
More than ever, the world needs a Church that is on fire with the Holy Spirit; aflame with passion, fuelled with love, and burning with conviction and a desire to proclaim the truth of a God who alone brings life and peace and gives hope and certainty. Will you let him set you on fire for the sake of the world he passionately loves?
Come Holy Spirit, set me on fire that I may move with passion for your Kingdom purposes and be a part of your transforming work that brings healing, reconciliation, peace, justice, truth, forgiveness and unity in this world. Amen.