This last weekend (11th/12th Feb) has seen a world obsessed with celebrity stunned by the news of Whitney Houston’s premature death. Like many celebrities Whitney appeared to be someone who had everything going for her: talent, fame, and wealth. Yet it is apparent that deep within her spirit she was a woman who was greatly troubled.
In a candid interview in 2002, Diane Sawyer listed a number of drugs and asked Houston which one was “the biggest devil” for her. Houston’s response? “That would be me. It’s my deciding. It’s my heart. It’s what I want and what I don’t want. Nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do. It’s my decision. The biggest devil is me.”
Whitney’s answer echoes a statement made by Paul in his letter to the Romans “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” What both these statements highlight is the universal experience that we all struggle with an internal battle to live consistently by our own inbuilt benchmark of what is right and wrong. Regardless of any outward measures of morality, if we are truly honest with ourselves none of us has managed to live up to our own standard.
The realisation that we are powerless to even live up to this standard by ourselves would be depressing were it not for the promise that for those who are in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation. Jesus offers to set us free not just from our self-condemnation, but from every condemnation that could ever be thrown at us. This is the wonderful truth of the gospel: Christians are no better than anyone else but they are forgiven! It is only when we truly receive Christ’s forgiveness that we can begin to forgive ourselves and conquer the devils that lurk in each of us.
This blog post featured in the March 2012 edition of Hook Focus
The cross is one of the most recognizable images worldwide. Worn as jewellery, even by those with no faith at all, and forming the basis of art and decoration in church buildings, the cross is remarkable because an instrument of tortuous execution has become a symbol of religious importance. The cross itself is no more than a couple of blood stained rough timbers but what it represents: the death and resurrection of Jesus is quite literally the crux of history itself. The message of the cross reaches out to us across 2,000 years and is as significant today as it was that first Easter. These two books help us recapture the wonder and power of these historical events.
‘Living the Cross Centred Life’ by CJ Mahaney is radical in its impact. CJ’s stock answer to the greeting ‘How are you’ is ‘better than I deserve!’ Yet this response is not a clever platitude but a humble recognition that Christ’s death and resurrection has utterly transformed everything. CJ takes us to the centre of God’s plan to save his own enemies. He leads us through profound truth and helps us to see how that affects us day to day.
Buy Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing from Amazon UK
Buy Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing from Amazon US
Nestling between the book of Judges and 1 Samuel is the iconic tale of Ruth. At 4 chapters long it is one of the shortest books in the Old Testament, yet it provides a compelling narrative of apparently ordinary people as they face the ebbs and flows of life. The story contains tragedy and hope, romance and pathos, a hero and a heroine – it would form a good basis for a film synopsis. However, as we shall see through March as we study this book in more detail, there is much more to it than meets the eye.
The background for the story is the ‘time when the Judges ruled’, a time when ‘there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’. Against this backdrop of ungodliness it is perhaps not surprising to see Elimelech attempt to save his family by fleeing the famine in Bethlehem in order to seek a better life away from God’s people in Moab. Sadly, far from improving, their situation actually gets worse and the womenfolk are left widowed, childless and destitute. Despite this chilling reminder that God brings judgement on those who wilfully disobey, we see hope for those who return humbly to him. We see God’s providential care for those who trust him. We see God’s care and interest for those who are weak and vulnerable: the widows, the homeless and the foreigners. We see a framework for society that catches God’s heart for the poor. We see bold faith being exercised by Naomi and Ruth. We see Boaz act with great dignity and compassion. This story is no primitive chick lit, or mere slushy romance but a powerful example of the difference between walking faithfully in God’s ways and doing things our own way.
Who will you identify with, Elimelech or Boaz? Naomi or Ruth? Primarily written to demonstrate God’s providential care for those in desperation, yet there is a twist in the tale that reverberates down to us 3,000 years later and means that you and I are part of this ancient but on-going narrative. Make time to read the whole book through before each meeting and allow God to change and shape your life as you trace the Road to Redemption.
This blog post featured in the March 2012 edition of Lifelines