A Reward for the Fisherman and the Shepherd

Let’s think about the final event the apostle John wrote in his story of Jesus. It’s interesting that he used a similar scene to the one he described near the beginning of his gospel.

The first was on the beach when Jesus called Simon Peter to follow him. The last was when the discouraged Peter had gone fishing again and Jesus appeared with his final call: ‘Follow me’. On the earlier occasion, Jesus told Peter (the natural fisherman) that he would make him a fisher of men. At the last one, on another beach, he commanded him to be a shepherd.

Between these ‘bookends’, Peter walked with Jesus. We have many examples of the larger-than-life Peter! He often showed his love and dedication to his Master, but missed it at important times and needed to be rebuked, straightened out, and forgiven.

Some people have made a big thing about the number of fish in the last story. Maybe there’s nothing special in the figure 153, but after those three-and-a-half years, John still remembered how many there were! In the earlier event, he mightn’t have been able to count them because the nets were beginning to break. But this time, the net held. Perhaps Jesus was reminding them, and us, that he wants to keep all the fish whom his Father has given him; he loves each one. After all, he’d once said to his Father,

‘I didn’t lose one of those you gave me…’  ~ See John 17: 12, 13 and 18:8, 9

After the meal on the beach, Jesus had a chat with Peter. He reminded him that it would be because of his love for his Master that he’d be able to fulfil his calling.

And so it is with us: our calling depends on our love – not primarily the love we have for God’s children, but our love for him.

Here’s a song I wrote about this story from the 21st chapter of John’s Gospel. (Sorry, friends, no music, but I did sing it once at Communion as I played the piano!)

He’s Prepared a Miracle

A group went out to catch some fish; they toiled all night for naught.

Their net was limp, their bodies tired, their hearts with sadness fraught.

They didn’t know their Lord was near, or guess what He had done:

He’d prepared a miracle to feed them in the dawn.

*

The sun came up and Jesus stood beside the water’s edge.

They did not know it was their friend, ’til – ‘It’s the Lord!’ John said.

They hadn’t known that He was near, or guessed what He had done:

He’d prepared a miracle to feed them in the dawn.

                                                                             *

Jesus gave to them a catch that far outweighed their net.

But ev’ry fish was counted in: one-fifty-three – all kept!

Remembering the other time, they knew what He had done:

Wondrous was that miracle, He fed them – every one!

                                                                          *

He’d lit a fire and cooked some fish; a loaf He had right there!

‘Bring some of yours’, He said to them, ‘we’ll have enough to share’.

They saw His hands around the food: the broken fish and bread,

Like the time before he’d gone to suffer in their stead.

                                                                          *

Afterwards they gathered round to hear what He would say.

‘Oh Simon, do you love Me more than these ones standing by?’

‘I do, my Lord. You know I do’. ‘Then feed My lambs and sheep.

One day you’ll not be free,

but led unwillingly;

follow Me’.

                                                                          *

‘You’ll always know that I am near. I’ll show you what I’ve done:

I’ve prepared a miracle to greet you in the dawn!’

 Lyn Thiele

 

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Rain on the Roof

Babies suck their thumbs, or carry a favourite blanket until it’s a mere scrap. Food is a comfort for some people, while others enjoy a warm drink for relief. Many go shopping to boost their contentment-levels. 

As a child, I loved to hear the rain on the roof when I was home in bed with a cough while the rest of the children were at school in the wet weather. Only a couple of nights ago, when I heard the patter of rain on our roof, I was immediately blessed with feelings of solace and security.

Familiar things: a comfortable chair, a well-worn garment, or a tidy home, can provide the same relief and contentment. I find pleasure in looking at a garden bed that an hour earlier was full of weeds, but now makes me feel as if I’ve given it some love. We all seem to have our comfort zone that we rely on. Do you have a go-to person for comfort in times of stress or when you need to share a blessing? Your spouse, a friend, or a carer? 

As I’ve pondered on this, I couldn’t help but think of the other Comforter – the perfect one whom Jesus promised would come and take his place when he’d gone back to heaven. I saw how Jesus was saying to his friends, ‘I’ve been with you and comforted you; now someone else will provide all that’. What ways did he comfort them? Well, just knowing he was there for them; being aware of his great power, and his amazing love in spite of their failings – all these must have been an enormous relief for the disciples. The serenity of Jesus in the storm on the lake when they thought they were going to perish; his firm hope in his Father’s provision when all they had to offer a large crowd of people was a boy’s lunch of a few rolls and two fish. And the great wisdom he brought to all the situations they experienced together. 

In the language of the 1830s, Charles Dickins used the word ‘comforter’ to describe what we in Australia would now call a scarf – something to wind around our neck in the winter as protection against the cold. It was a covering, and that’s what Jesus had been for his disciples. Today they’d say, ‘I’ve got your back!’ And now Jesus was telling them that it was time for their covering to be removed. Imagine their dismay! However, he’d never let them down before. And he surely sent them another comforter! 

When many people had turned away from him, he’d asked his faithful few, And will you also go away?’ Peter replied, ‘To whom, Lord, shall we turn? You have the words of eternal life! ~ John 6:67-68.

Comfort speaks of security. Where do we look when we need it – even a tiny scrap of security from Jesus was worth more than anyone else could provide. So when he said he’d ask his Father to send another Comforter to stay with them forever, and called him ‘The Holy Spirit’, it fulfilled their longing for the same security that Jesus was to them in those years when they walked with him. 

More than ‘rain on the roof’, the comfort of a baby’s thumb, or even a satisfying trip to the shops, the Holy Spirit will answer our call with an abundance of comfort. And that’s not all he does – he’s our guide, our advocate, our helper, and more! Why do we wait to ask him for it all when that’s what he willingly came to do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

I’ve often felt sorry for Hope. It’s up there with the best, but rarely gets a mention in sermons. Faith, yes. And Love? Well, it’s the best! But Hope… it seems like a second cousin to Faith, as if it were not quite as spiritual, and wouldn’t ‘work’ as effectively as faith; and ‘why do we need them both?’

That’s been my perception; others could think differently. People say, ‘I hope so’, when asked for a definite answer to a question, but I have a lot of affection for Hope. I even like Hope as a Christian name, as a young boy in our church is called. 

How many of us have been wishing that horrible pandemic would go away? Who has fervently hoped that their ‘normal’ life would soon return. Some people have even promised it would be over quickly, but then heavier restrictions have come in. People can’t be blamed for thinking it would be better not to have their hopes raised at all. I’ve often recalled the proverb that King Solomon wrote:  

Hope deferred makes the heart sick… ~ Proverbs 13:12 (Authorised Version)

I knew it was in the Bible, but I checked so I could include it here. I was only half-quoting it! That would have been embarrassing, wouldn’t it? Those of you who are more familiar with this verse will notice a bit missing there. Can you quote the rest? For many years, although I’d often read it, I must have only memorised half of it in the days when my brain was sharper, or perhaps I only ever heard it quoted that way, as happens with many proverbs! Well, here’s the whole thing, but in a different translation:

When hope is crushed, the heart is crushed, but a wish come true fills you with joy ~ Good News version.

Here’s how it’s expressed in The Message Bible: Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around.

They all give the same idea, but I really like the Good News. It is good news, isn’t it? There’s something about joy that’s hard to beat, especially in the difficult days we’ve been experiencing this year. How wonderful to finally rejoice when the news we’ve been waiting on for months – but never seemed to happen – turns up, and hallelujah, we’ve really got it! 

I think hope is knowing that God’s hanging in there with us until the good times arrive. He knows what it’s like to wait. He always knows when it’s going to happen, but when he promised that he’d send someone to save the world from the power of sin, it seemed a long time before Jesus arrived, but he did. And he completed his glorious victory.

Here’s J.B. Phillips’ translation of Romans 5: 2-5: let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us

Hope now!!

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Seeing Past the Brick Wall

In my 2015 post, A Brick Wall by the Family Tree, I lamented a lack of information about my husband’s maternal aunt, Irene May Hampton. Her line stopped at her 1926 marriage to Ernest Joseph Sheppard, a bachelor, we’re told. If only I’d been interested in family history when my father-in-law and his second wife went to England in the early 1960s! They probably visited the relatives of Maurie’s deceased mother. Now here’s an update.

I was thrilled when the great-granddaughter of Ernest Sheppard contacted me via Ancestry.com. What a story she had! At first I thought we weren’t connected. When her Ernest married Rene, he’d already been married in 1915 to someone else – and fathered a child with her – because the ‘widow’ declared that her husband had died in the war in France! But when the man returned, she went back to him, taking her young daughter, and leaving Ernest alone. Had he told Rene all this?

We’d presumed his first marriage was annulled, but to sort it out, we purchased Ernest’s birth certificate, and his first marriage certificate. When I saw his details, it was plain that the 1915-marriage-Ernest, was the same person who’d wed Maurie’s Aunty Rene!

But what about her? On the 1939 Register of England and Wales I found Irene working as a book-keeping clerk in a steel construction company. She and Ernest were living in Essex, but no children were listed.

Later I discovered another marriage record for her: in fact two – in 1945! One gave her surname as Hampton, and on the other, it was Sheppard! I wondered if she’d learned about Ernest’s child, and if that had caused friction between them. His great-granddaughter had supplied me with a photo of him and his daughter in what looked like her debut portrait, where he looked very proud.

So we bought Rene’s second marriage certificate, and found that she’d informed the Registry officer of her divorce from Ernest, hence the two surnames as a note on the one certificate. Her new husband was George Harcourt Johnson. This was during the Second World War.

Sadly, Rene died eight years later, aged 54, and George died in 1972. I could fritter away hours searching online for more, but the most important question for me is this: Did they know Jesus as their Saviour? I hope we’ll see them in heaven, and Ernest too, who died in 1965.

Merely living on earth and leaving a trail of dates isn’t enough. There’s a holy purpose for our lives. God has a plan for each one of us, and if we don’t allow him to fulfil it, it’s a complete waste. I know of two famous men who were not married, had no children of their own, and were not materially rich. But their births, the events of their lives, their dramatic deaths, and the amazing blessings they bequeathed to mankind, are all recorded. Their mothers were cousins: Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, were both women of great faith in God.

We could all wonder – what will people remember about us after we’re gone? But as CT Studd, the famous cricketer and missionary, wrote:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Jesus Christ said no-one was as great as John the Baptist. And John declared that Jesus was the long-awaited one who would take away the sins of the world! What legacies they left! And we can be sure they both have a place in God’s Kingdom! What great gatherings we’ll enjoy there when we’ve made sure that heaven’s our eternal destination.

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How are you, Nanni?

‘How are you, Nanni?’

I watched our dear little great-grandson talking to his paternal grandmother, and although she was far away from him, he could hear her and even see her as she waved to him from her hospital bed.

Again James asked, ‘Nanni, are you feeling well?’ He even prompted her: ‘You say, “Yes” or “No”’, and hinted – ‘Yes?’  There was hope in his eager suggestions for her reply!

I was also far away, but observing this touching exchange from my home. I had the Tinybeans site open on my computer at the daily-update my granddaughter faithfully sends me every evening. I love to get it!

James was able to recognise his grandmother because he was familiar with her voice. He knew she loved him, and although he couldn’t see her in person to give her a hug, he had no trouble believing she was real!

So why, I wondered, when we want to hear the voice of God, do we sometimes feel he’s too far away, or it’s impossible to really hear him speaking to us? Perhaps we wonder if he can hear our voice? We know that Jesus spoke to his heavenly father all the time, and he said we must come to God naturally, like a little child. How it must give the same heavenly father a thrill when we want to talk to him! God loves to know what we’re thinking and doing. He wants to be a big part of our lives. He wants to talk to us any time we’ll listen, just like James’s Nanni.

The technological systems that allow us to keep in touch with each other are not new to God. He created the airwaves, and the skills of the people who’ve used them to design communication systems. He placed talents in the minds of those who tap into the amazing resources available nowadays. These f0rms of communication are important. They should be used to pass on our feelings, our enjoyment in each other, and our love, just like we can do in our conversations with God.

Jesus loved little children. He called them to himself even when others sought to shoo them away. I often ponder on the words of the song by Jemima Luke that I used to sing as a child.

I think when I read that sweet story of old

When Jesus was here among men,

How he called little children as lambs to his fold,

I should like to have been with them then.

I wish that his hands had been placed on my head,

That his arms had been thrown around me,

And that I might have seen his kind look when he said,

‘Let the little ones come unto me’.

Yet still to his footstool in prayer I may go;

And ask for a share in his love;

And if I now earnestly seek him below,

I shall see him and hear him above.

But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,

Never hear of that heavenly home;

I wish they could know there is room for them all,

And that Jesus has bid them to come.


So as I continued to watch and listen to the short video on my screen, James, with his thumb in his mouth, mumbled,  ‘I hope you feel better soon, Nanni’. But then, with his thumb out again, he added words that I’m sure his grandmother will always treasure: ‘I love you’.

And that’s what God imparts when we tell him how much he means to us ‘I love you’, he says. What a wonderful father he is!

 

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The Danger of Acting on Incomplete Information

I was reading an interesting article on the website ‘Desiring God’ when some of the text suddenly became jumbled and unintelligible like this?

It’s happened several times on my computer lately. In the first instance, I was typing an email to my daughter. I deleted it because I had no idea what else to do! But that night, I wondered. Maybe the strange text wasn’t as innocuous as I thought? Was it pointing to a dangerous event I’d been warned about? Should I have taken the doctor’s advice, and immediately called an ambulance to take me to a hospital in case I was having a Transient Ischemic Attack – a T.I.A, or mini-stroke? The medical people weren’t sure if the two similar incidents I’d already experienced, were mini-strokes. I’ve read that even experienced neurologists find them difficult to diagnose. But with this latest incident, it was now too late to check my brain! Nothing shows on a CT scan if it’s not done soon.

So I looked for other reasons, and asked some family members if this corrupted text might be a problem with another ‘brain’ – my computer’s inner workings! Yes, it could. Fortunately, I hadn’t jumped to conclusions when I didn’t have all the facts. Since then, I’ve had a few more text-corruptions on a variety of websites, including the one above. I knew I couldn’t fix the problem myself, and with our city in lockdown, nobody could come and do it for me. So please allow me to segue to this blog post about it!

I often find myself thinking of Jesus in these situations. He designed the human brain, but in the times of the Roman Empire, he hadn’t yet introduced the second-best copy to mankind – computers were still waiting in the wings. But the word ‘corrupted’ grabbed my mind in relation to the incorruptible man who walked the streets of Jerusalem twenty centuries ago. Everything he said was true. Everything he did was perfect. His life was holy; his message clear. Everyone could ‘read’ him. But whenever the Jewish leaders wanted to trap him with their questions, they reverted to their corrupt habits, even setting up false witnesses to get their way. But Jesus never flinched. He knew his purpose – and the plan of his Father in heaven – to show us all what God is like. And he succeeded in his mission. His message was never corrupted, and neither was he. 

King David prophesied about Jesus centuries before he ever lived in Israel, saying that God would not allow his holy one to see corruption ~ Psalm 16:10. Even though Jesus would die, his body wouldn’t decay; he would rise from the dead!

And Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, quoted David, explaining that the Messiah would not be abandoned in the world of the dead; his body would not rot in the grave ~ Acts 2: 31.

The apostle Paul also quoted that psalm where David wrote about Jesus: You will not allow your faithful servant to rot in the grave ~ Acts 13: 35. Corruption was never in God’s plan for Jesus. 

So we need to be careful not to act on incomplete information. As my daughter said, ‘Mum, if you’d been reading an ordinary book, rather than using the computer, you would have known the difference with that text’.  But novice that I am, I could have been fooled when I saw the corruption on the computer screen. 

Many people believe that Jesus lived. But do they also believe he was resurrected? If they accept the complete story, all of it, they won’t be fooled by corrupted words! Will you be among them?

 

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Common Sense and Other Essentials

We’ve often heard the following advice from our Victorian State Premier, ‘Commonsense is what should guide everybody’. It’s made me ask these questions: Is that always the only approach in every situation? Can everyone use gumption well? And do we usually possess all the information to help us make a wise decision?

I found a few definitions. One applies to my first question. ‘Common sense is the ability to see beyond the rules and apply intelligence to a situation. It might be about knowing when to break rules for the purpose of complying with more important outcomes’. We’ve been told to ‘stay home’ during this lockdown, but in an emergency, like the storm that hit various suburbs here last week, people can choose to leave home to get help. In a compassionate society, that’s common sense!

During our overnight curfew, a man told the roadblock police that he was ‘taking rice to his children’. Maybe the $12,000 cash, or the illegal drugs in his car, are now called ‘rice’? That answers my second query, and fits this definition: ‘Commonsense is developed by being more aware, and reflecting on situations before making a decision’. Surely he knew he’d be caught in the quiet streets in the middle of the night. No commonsense.

Another is, ‘Commonsense is based on human compassion and respect for yourself and others.’  It reminds me of a young autistic man I heard talking about interaction between neurotypicals and people who have Aspergers Syndrome. He said, ‘Just be kind’. How wise. That’s also in the list of fruit that the apostle Paul said the Holy Spirit will give to us (Galatians 5: 22). 

The Premier’s statement was made in the context of Victorians deciding how to obey the rules that the government had put in place to protect us all from the spread of the coronavirus. He cited the couple who made a 200-kilometre round-trip to ‘do exercise’, instead of staying closer to home, as instructed. People like them had caused us all to be limited to exercising only in a five-kilometre range from our homes. Did they think about the consequences of their actions?  No commonsense. 

I remember my father helping me with my maths homework. He wasn’t well-educated, but he was clever. He couldn’t understand why the teachers wouldn’t accept the ‘obvious short-cut’ he’d taught me, unless I’d shown how I’d arrived at the answer. He was a man full of common sense; what teachers might consider cheating never appealed to him. 

A while ago, our grandson was struggling with a face mask, until he discovered he was eligible for an exemption. A permit from his doctor was all he needed. That applies to my third question.

I believe the person who has commonsense is observant. They pick up tips to carry in their mind like valuable treasure, and bring them out when needed. They don’t ignore good advice. 

The opposite of commonsense is foolishness. Jesus told a story showing his opinion of stupid people. In Matthew 7 we have a series of his wise teachings. You may remember the final one about the wise and foolish men. The sensible person built his home on the rock. But what sticks in our minds is the graphic picture of the foolish man who erected his house on the sand. All that hard work, and what a mess after the floods!

Jesus finished by saying, Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock – Matthew 7:24.

Will we use commonsense and choose to obey what Jesus said?

 

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Falling but not Failing

Can you imagine David, King of Israel, as an old man? Perhaps he’s sitting with his grandchildren gathered around him, plus his favourite servants, his old soldier-friends, and close family. He’s reciting Psalm 37; maybe singing it. He wants them to know the way to live well. 

Songs are such a valuable way to remember important truths. This week I was repeating verse 23 of that same psalm. I’d learnt it as a song many years ago, and it came back to me exactly when I desperately needed its words of encouragement:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his ways…’.

That sentence gave me strength. In fact the whole verse made me think about many things.

When Eugene Peterson translated Psalm 37:23 into The Message Bible, he didn’t use the words ‘good man’. The single word he chose isn’t in common use these days, but I really like stalwart. Its synonyms are strong: staunch, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated. Dependable, reliable, loyal, stable, and hard-working. They describe a person whom David admired. And so does God.

In my mind, I see ‘good man’ standing tall. His name is Stalwart. David personalised his examples, not only as Wicked and Stingy, but Righteous, Generous, and Good – or Stalwart. That last one gives us plenty of virtues from which to choose if we want to be good. Which one would you select? I want to be all of them!

The next part of the verse says, ‘… though he fall, he shall not be cast down…’

Now that’s hard when you’re going along at a brisk pace, and before you know it, down you go, with a concrete path coming up to meet your falling body faster than you expected. That was me last week.

As I lay there for a mini-second, I wondered, ‘Is this going to be like it was six years ago when I fell and broke my hip, and couldn’t get up? I knew I had to try this time, so, like a toddler, I scrabbled up onto all fours, and managed to rise. There was no-one in sight, so I put one foot forward, and with lots of praise to God for his promise in the rest of that Bible verse, I proceeded to complete the other half of my daily walk. My ribs were a bit sore, but I was upright. 

Now, do you know what those last inspiring words are? They’re a wonderful reassurance that says: … for the Lord upholds him with his hand. 

Over that last kilometre, I kept going, longing to reach home so I could tend to any injuries. On the way, I wondered if I should see a doctor, but decided I couldn’t possibly have any broken bones because here I was, walking. All the way home!

Then it was time to begin preparing our hot dinner, so I set to and did it. I stayed up all day, but by evening I was feeling shaky. I think God was suggesting a good rest would be in order. He believes in rest, but not on a lonely path way out beyond the electricity pylons! 

That was last Thursday. I’m sporting some bruises, one grazed knee, sore ribs that are healing, and a song I can’t get out of my head. Here’s The Message Bible version:

Stalwart walks in step with God;
    his path blazed by God, he’s happy.
If he stumbles, he’s not down for long;
    God has a grip on his hand.

I’m sure you’d like to read the whole psalm and enjoy God’s hand around yours. 

   

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Numbers or Words

Learning the twelve-times-table as a child in fourth grade, I wasn’t only discovering about a dozen eggs, a quarter being three, and half being six, I was imbibing a truth that God put in place for us to learn about himself.

When I learnt the piano, I didn’t realise how much of God’s personality was involved in the music. What multiplication! Every melody has a pattern.

Right now in our State, we’re being inundated with numbers: how many new cases of COVID-19 have occurred since yesterday, and sadly, the total deaths, with the age of each deceased person. We can choose to hear God’s voice in all of this, or allow our lives to descend into chaos.

Take the game of cricket for instance. It’s full of statistics: how many runs in a short period of time, how many balls bowled, the number of overs. Followers of the game love them! The ABC sports writer, Geoff Lemon, wrote: ‘For all the apparent immutability of mathematics, words may yet explore places that numbers cannot’.

The Bible is full of lists. God had a reason for each of them, but I like to think the words are the most important! Moses wrote: God created the earth by what he said. And John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, said, In the beginning was The Word. He was talking about Jesus, who was present at creation, participating in it all.

I’ve always loved the 55th chapter of Isaiah. (Read it and enjoy it for yourself!) I especially hang onto these words about what God would do for his people:

So you’ll go out in joy,
    you’ll be led into a whole and complete life

~ Isaiah 55: 12 (The Message Bible)

In other translations that last phrase is ‘be led forth in peace’. That’s what peace is: a whole and complete life! In everything God does, there’s abundance and integrity! 

In our Bible, the dramas, the parables, the letters, the gospels all speak to us. That’s what words do for me. Perhaps it’s calculus that grabs you. I don’t get excited about numbers like I do about ideas, but I need to accept that God does speak to us through numbers. He has more than one way of communicating with us; he’s a speaker and a multiplier. We shouldn’t limit him. Depending on the way he’s made us to be like him, he reveals himself, his personality, his wonderful attributes, through his innate character. Whether he’s speaking through numbers or words, or any other way, he’s always in control, producing an amazing harmony in our lives.

Our part is to listen. Whenever we begin to comprehend that it’s his voice bringing good news, we need to turn from our busy activities, and wait. Whether they’re facts in the form of numbers, or coming to our inner ear by means of words, God is showing himself to us.

I’d like to finish with some more of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water! Are you penniless? Come anyway … everything’s free! …  listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. I’m making a lasting covenant commitment with you … sure, solid, enduring love… Seek God while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand …

I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work… the words that come out of my mouth (will) not come back empty-handed … they’ll complete the assignment I gave them …  

The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song’ … a living and lasting evidence of God.

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a unique name

As my father held our toddler on his lap, he referred to my mother as Grandma, but Mum swiftly reminded him, ‘I’m Mar Mar’, she said proudly. ‘That’s their special name for me’.

In later years, our son asked me if I would mind if he called me by my Christian name. I replied that it was a privilege to be able to call me ‘Mum’. He never asked again!

We like to think our name’s unique, but looking online for family and friends, it’s amazing how many ‘twins’ I’ve found. Some parents try to give their child’s name an original spelling, unknowingly burdening them with problems in the future! How many odd pronunciations have we heard from teachers who have never heard our name spoken?

I had a friend whose first job was as a receptionist in a funeral home. One day the director had to go out and he left her with specific instructions about a client who was expected to call in to view her deceased grandfather. When the young woman arrived, she showed her to the back room where he was laid out, and left her to mourn in private. My friend had barely returned to her desk when the girl came running out, ashen-faced and crying, ‘That’s not my Grandad!’ The man she’d seen had the same names as her grandfather, and had died on the same day! What a shock. My friend never forgot that experience.

As a teenager, I won a prize in a newspaper competition. The results came to my school, but another girl, who unknowingly shared my name (except the middle one), was called to receive it. She was honest enough to say she hadn’t entered the competition.

Recently, I was in the doctor’s waiting room and he came out and called my first name. I  followed him into his room and when he examined the papers on his desk, he exclaimed,  ‘Sorry! Wrong Lynette’. I returned to my seat while another lady was called in my place! I was next…after her!

These incidents show how unoriginal our names can be. In family history research, it’s handy if William or Mary is used repeatedly over the generations, but it’s also useful if you’re looking for a person with an unusual name.

Have you ever wondered about the name that Jesus promised to give his children? He said it will be a name we’ll recognise and will be written on a white stone, and he’ll hand it to us personally. This was what Jesus said the Spirit would say to the overcoming people in the churches:

I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name – Revelation 2: 17  (The Message Bible).

I’ve been studying these words lately and found a few historical theories about the meaning of that stone, but none seemed to fit. Of course, the apostle John’s ‘Revelation’ is full of symbols, and they can be interpreted from other parts of the Bible. I’m reminded of the fact that Jesus is our ‘bread’, or manna. We live, because he lives in us.

In the same way, our new, secret name shows us who we really are: to him, and to ourselves.  It’s a wonderful gift to be able to relax ‘in our own skin’, as they say, and be the person we’re meant to be.

And who are we? We own the life of Jesus in us: his love, his good standing with his Father, and more! What amazing potential is in our new name!

 

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