Lean on me

I was listening to the radio this week on the way home from work, and they were playing Bill Withers ‘Lean On Me.’

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the song, but it occurred to me that I’d never actually listened to the lyrics before, just letting the song wash over me.

The chorus is fantastic of course:

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.”

Everybody at some point in their lives needs somebody to lean on, someone they trust, who will hold them up and support them, who will brighten their day in dark times, who will not criticise, never disappoint, will hold confidences, sympathise and wrap you in warmth and comfort.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it!

A shoulder that is reliable, constantly there if we need it, and yet we do not have to rely on physical shoulders.  There is a massive amount of comfort to be held in spiritual support, and there’s only one thing we need to do to receive it, open our hearts to God, pray through Jesus and release the Holy Spirit that resides within us all.  Pray as often as we can and read the bible.  There’s a huge amount of support to be found in scripture, but you won’t find it if you don’t know that it’s there.  The Gideon NT, and most Bibles these days have references to scripture for various times of life; Pinterest is full of them.

I thank God that I can lean on Him whenever I struggle with life.  I disappoint myself that I sometimes forget to do this, but in times of reflection (usually after the fact), I recognise that I should be putting God first in situations, asking for His guidance and support beforehand, and not afterwards.

I thank God that when other people lean on us, He helps us support them, whatever weight we place on Him He provides support, we cannot fall; if we do it is through our negligence, but God is always there to pick us up.

We will always have Jesus by our side to lean on because when others lean on anyone who has given their heart to Christ, they too are leaning on Him, whether they know it or not.

People need others to lean on.  When they are walking through dark times, through the shadows of doubt, fear, sickness and sorrow, but out of the pit of darkness, we all provide the support and strength that others are lacking as they walk this part of their path.  Everyone can provide a light to brighten the path; we help hold them up when they are falling, He helps us all do that; we are their comfort in their sorrow, and we rejoice as much as they do when they can.

People lean on us, so it is important that we lean on God so that they also lean on Him, we do so through the words and life of Jesus, through recognising and accepting His gifts within us, and by utilising the Holy Spirit to bring Gods will upon this earth into fruition.

Advertisements

Not a number

This may be finished, it may be not,
I’ve yet to get past the wording clot
so in the meantime enjoy my rhyme
and I will be writing another time…

Oh, my Lord, He loves us all,
I beg thee see the truth
and answer to Gods open call
to live with love and youth.
He grants us life, to do His will
upon this Earth so bleak.
I wonder while I tread this mill
if I am seen as meek?

To walk the path of good is hard,
it’s often less well travelled.
So many temptations, be on your guard
or else be cruelly unravelled.
Wear Gods armour, pray each day
and turn yourself from evil,
for the devil and his hunters prey
upon the soul primaeval.

I pity those who wake, to die,
and envy those who will
sleep peacefully, as a baby, aye
so calm, and very still.
I lie here till my Lord doth come
to wake me from my slumber
and on that day rejoice, it’s done,
I am no more a number.

This is my ‘verse of today’ 🙂

Father, God in Heaven,
we thank you from the bottom of our hearts
for everything that is good in our lives.
Thank you for allowing us to share in your love,
for being a vessel to share that love with others,
and granting us the opportunity
to see the joy that it brings to others.
We often do not spend enough time with you,
but are thankful that you are always here with us,
despite our inadequacies,
Help us to become better disciples,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who resides with you, and intercedes on our behalf.

Amen

Pilgrim IV: Belief in the Holy Spirit

I enjoy talking about the Holy Spirit at church, there are many varied experiences and views of how it has had an effect on people and influences our lives.  Before looking at the well-known passage below, we were all encouraged to share how or when we have experienced the presence of God in our lives.

This section of the Pilgrim course focused on Acts 2:1-4

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 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[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Footnotes:

  1. Acts 2:4 Or languages; also in verse 11

Reflection included:

  • What comes to mind when you hear the words Holy  Spirit?
  • Why do you think it was so important to early Christians?
  • Do you experience the presence of God today? Would you call on the Holy Spirit?

This, of course, is not the first time we’ve looked at the Holy Spirit during Bite Nites, and certainly not the first time we’ve looked at what happened during Pentecost in relation to it.

To put it into context, we’re in the middle of one of the largest celebrations (if not one of the longest running festivals of all time).  People are arriving from many different places and countries, and there are many different languages and dialects being spoken among the people. in situations like that, we’re all too aware that misunderstandings are easy to arise.  It is not only the language but also the cultural differences, expression, slang, mannerisms among others that cause us problems when we communicate.

The marvellous event to follow, happened to all of the disciples gathered in the room; not just a chosen few. Imagine their delight when they realised that what they were saying was being understood by people who previously could not understand them.  There must have been so many problems communicating before this, taking a long time for understanding to be communicated and at times missed altogether.

Now that they were able to communicate across the language barrier with ease, that everything they’d had difficulty in expressing in other languages can suddenly be expressed simply because the person hearing them can understand them, must have been an exhilarating experience.  You can almost sense the joy and happiness radiating from their very core.  It’s no wonder some of the onlookers thought they were drunk; they would have been under the influence of extreme happiness with not a drop of alcohol in sight.

There were other opinions too, people who refused to believe their eyes or their ears, and those who thought it was magic at work, or a trick to deceive them; but for those who trust in what they were seeing, and in what they were hearing this is truly miraculous and will have changed their lives forever.  Imagine being there, witnessing this for yourself; how could you refuse to believe in the love of God, His word, His son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

I have to admit that I have admiration for anyone who is multilingual.  I am attempting to learn a few languages myself and I can appreciate how much effort you will have put into learning to be fluent in more than one language.  I was enormously pleased with being able to use the Hebrew phrase Ze Beseder in work today; one of my colleagues told me he’d had some ginger biscuits from the tin on my desk; I believe it was an appropriate way of saying it’s ok and it made me pleased too as he told me I said it correctly (despite my pause to mentally rehearse saying it).

It’s good to talk 🙂

Dear Father, God in Heaven,
We thank you for providing us with skills,
with an ability to communicate
and with patience to learn.
Assist us in using those skills
to cross the walls we surround ourselves with.
Help us to break down all our barriers,
to use your gifts so that we too can share your word
and demonstrate your work among us.
Grant us a bridge over our cultural differences,
that we might find peace in all our lives
and make all that is built by mankind good in your eyes.
Let us see past the limits that we put on ourselves,
and help us to recognise your Holy Spirit residing within each of us
and truly see the gifts you bestow on us all;
that we may serve you faithfully,
in truth, with all our heart,
with all our mind
and with all our body.
This we pray, guided by your Holy Spirit
and in the name of Jesus Christ,
your son, 
our saviour and Lord

Amen

Pilgrim III: Belief in Jesus

This session of the Pilgrim course looks at Mark 1:4-11.

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with[a] water, but he will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Footnotes:

  1. Mark 1:8 Or in
  2. Mark 1:8 Or in

This is all about looking more closely at who Jesus is, in particular, our views as we were asked to write a tweet (original size) about who Jesus is.   I think I wrote something along the lines of “Jesus is my friend, my brother, my past, my present and my future”; symbolising that he is always with me and the close relationship I have regained.

There’s also a trend to these pilgrim sessions, they all relate to the part of the baptism and confirmation services where we declare (or is declared on our behalf when you’re a baby) our Profession of Faith.

  • Do you believe and trust in God the Father?
  • Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ?
  • Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?

Can you guess what Pilgrim IV is going to be about?

After reading the passage above, we were asked what we think might have surprised and challenged the people at the time or for ourselves.

I like the fact that even though John declared he was not worthy to serve Jesus, Jesus still came to John and asked him for baptism. Jesus, who has no sin, is asking John, who baptised people for repentance of sin, to baptise him.

Surprised? You should be, John was!

He was well aware of who Jesus was, and that his baptism by water was no match for Jesus baptising people with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus did not need to be baptised, but this simple act sets the scene for how Jesus relates to the rest of humanity, taking the sin of our human nature and delivering us from it,

I always find it fascinating that we are often surprised by how God does things.  It is a challenge, in ourselves, to accept how some things are done.  In the same way, the people of Israel had enough time to create many preconceived ideas of what their messiah would be like, what he would achieve, how he would drive the Romans out of Israel at the head of the army, and so on.

I think they got a massive surprise!

Note: Jesus did eventually conquer the Romans; just not in the way that was expected of him at the time.

He did not apply brute force, Jesus did not lead an army, he did not wield a sword. He did it all with the word of God, by showing us all how to be righteous in the eyes of God, by freeing us all from sin and allowing us all to share in Gods glory.

He did all of this through his life, death and resurrection. For me, for you, your family, your friends, your neighbours, your co-workers, the strangers that cross your path.

Lord God,
thank you for sending us your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our saviour.
Thank you for allowing us to build our relationship with you through Jesus,
He is our light in our darkness, our ship on our endless sea,
the calm in the storms of life, the peace in our tranquillity,
and, through his most precious sacrifice, the forgiveness of our sins.

Amen

Pilgrim II: Belief in God the Father

Our second session of the pilgrim course focused on Hosea 11:1-4

God’s Love for Israel

11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
    the more they went away from me.[a]
They sacrificed to the Baals
    and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
    taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
    it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
    with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
    a little child to the cheek,
    and I bent down to feed them.

Footnotes:

  1. Hosea 11:2 Septuagint; Hebrew them

We were asked to reflect on three things:

  1. A time when we felt deeply loved.
  2. What kind of images come to mind when you hear God described as being a father.
  3. Anything we find confusing about the image of God as a father.

People recounted times when they were being cared for by family and by friends, in sickness, acceptance in social events, when we acknowledge our love for each other, and reciprocation of love.  There are many times when we feel deeply loved, but I suspect we have a tendency, as humans, to take it as granted that we are loved and often don’t spend enough time returning that love; which is also a reflection of our relationship with God.  We don’t spend enough time on our relationships because of other factors, especially when we put our own desires before those of others.

In terms of God the Father, I see kindness, strength, firmness (when required), guidance, nurturing and other typical fatherly traits,  The classic imagery brought to mind within the verse above is that of a father holding the arms of an infant to prevent them from falling whilst they are learning to walk for themselves.

This can seem at odds with the image of a vengeful or angry God and especially some of the imagery in the Old Testament, for instance, the plagues visited upon the land of Egypt or the destruction wrought in His name (e.g. removal of kingdoms).  It can also be at odds with our vision of God sitting on a throne.  Our initial thoughts about Kings are not usually of them acting like fathers, but of conquerors and aloof, separate from their people.  My counter here is that kings have heirs to their kingdom, princes and princesses, and those heirs will learn a lot from their king (and his trusty advisors). God is our Father, our Lord, Jesus our King, we are all heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven, with that knowledge in our hearts we must also learn what little we can from God so that we may be suitable heirs.

Romans 8:17

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I think it’s important to remember that God is all of the imagery above.  Whose father would not go out of their way to do as much as they can for their children?

Trust in God, believe in Him, and you can take comfort in His fatherly love for you.

Lord God,
thank you for the love you have of all things,
bless us so that we can grow our relationship with you
Guide us, teach us, rebuke us when you have to,
plant within us the seed of your word
so that it will grow strong in us

Amen

Love The Lord Your God

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV