Tag Archives: Salvation

The Forgiven Girl: Part 3 in a Seven-Week Bible Study for Women

Welcome! I’m so glad you’re joining us for this seven-week Bible study based on Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s Heart. We’ll be studying the stories of seven incredible New Testament women. It’s the perfect way to journey through Lent together.

The Woman Caught in Sin: The Forgiven Girl

Read: John 8:2-11

The woman could not escape. Two men held her arms tightly as they pushed her in front of Jesus. “Jesus!’ the teachers of the law shouted. “Look at this woman. We caught her sinning. Our law says she should be stoned. What do YOU think?”

So begins the story of The Forgiven Girl, in Love Letters from God: Bible Stories for a Girl’s HeartIt’s hard to imagine the feelings of that poor woman, who was dragged and disgraced, not just in front of Jesus, but in front of an entire crowd.

And let’s not forget the significance of where this awful scene took place. This shame-filled act happens in the temple courts, instigated by the religious leaders. In other words, this woman was judged, and already condemned, in the church, (another name for which could be ‘sanctuary’) by the church-goers (another name for whom could be ‘Christians’) of the day. Shocking isn’t it? Surely nothing like this would happen in our church, by our Christian friends, would it?

Let’s find out…

Continue reading

What Happened at Church This Morning…

A few days ago, a young man stepped into my husband’s office. It’s not unusual. Our church stands on the edge of a city. Many people approach him for help. But this young man didn’t ask for money. He asked to be baptized.

He’s going to be baptized this Sunday, my husband told me excitedly.

We were so excited. Of course we were! We love baptisms! We love it when babies get baptized, and my husband carries them through the congregation to meet their new church family.

But as beautiful and special and meaningful as infant baptism is, it’s the parents who request that for their babies. When a grown man walks in off the street and requests that for himself, you simply know that God is at work in powerful ways.

But would he actually show up? I wondered if he would be brave enough to come, early on Sunday morning. Continue reading

When You See Your Book Published in Korean…

A wonderful surprise plopped onto my doorstep recently. It was four copies of Love Letters from God….in Korean.

Korean Love Letters

I tore away the packaging and eagerly opened the book. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word. But on the other hand, I knew everything it said.

My Korean translator is called JongRak Hong. He diligently pored over this book and spent hours translating it into his native language.

Last year, I got an email from him. It was very polite. It went like this:

May I ask you a question? Don’t worry. It’s a very simple question.

In Acknowledgments, you say thanks to your brother Trevor.

Is he your elder brother or younger brother?

Because In Korean, there are different words for calling elder/younger brother and sister.

His message made me smile. Here was I, thinking that a computer would be translating my book, when all the while, JongRak was poring over its pages, working diligently to make sure every single word was translated correctly.

Trevor is my older brother, I told him.  (The one who first saw the potential in the pages of this book, the one who is a wonderful writer himself….but I didn’t tell JongRak that.)

It was several months later when that amazing package arrived at my door. I tried to find the name of my brother, Trevor. It’s hard, but I know it’s somewhere near the top of this page:

2016-06-08 13.12.40

My name looks like this:

2016-06-08 13.04.18

And this is the name of God:

2016-06-08 13.05.02

And while I’m turning the pages in the USA, struggling to make sense of the words, I know there’s someone on the other side of the world, perhaps a mom, or a dad, or a grandma, or a grandpa, cuddling their little Korean child on their lap, who’s also turning these pages and smiling as they read God’s love letters to them.  And every word makes complete sense.

Go into all the world, Jesus told his disciples, and preach the good news to all nations. Wow…perhaps I’m a tiny part of that, and so is JongRak Hong.

To the Newly Ordained Pastors….Why I’m Afraid For You.

It truly was an amazing Ordination Service.

Hundreds of United Methodists, a great cloud of witnesses, gathered together to honor and celebrate those who had bravely stepped forward to answer God’s call on their lives and enter ordained ministry.

2016-06-14 10.47.00

It was such a powerful and moving service that I wouldn’t have been surprised if a white dove had descended from the ceiling. Because the Holy Spirit was surely present… hovering, and filling, and moving, and working. Everyone there could feel it.

In the Bishop’s hands as she knelt to wash the feet of those newly ordained, the Holy Spirit was there.

In the songs we sang. and the music we heard, the Holy Spirit was there.

In the babies and children who clapped their hands, the Holy Spirit was there.

In those who watched from the balcony, who heard God calling them into ministry too, and who made their way up to the altar in tears, the Holy Spirit was there.

It was the same Holy Spirit who hovered over the chaos of creation; the same Holy Spirit who came down upon Jesus 2000 years ago in the River Jordan; the same Holy Spirit who showed up powerfully thirty years ago, when my husband was ordained.

Do you believe that God has called you to the life and work of ordained ministry? the Bishop asked.

I do so believe came the unanimous response.

I do so believe that too.

I believe that God called each of you.

I believe that each of you who knelt before the Bishop have already knelt before God’s throne.

I believe that each of you who had hands laid upon you in prayer already have God’s own hand powerfully laid upon your life.

I believe that for every person who hugged and clapped and cried for you, there are already a thousand angels singing for joy for you.

Because I know that you, like my husband, have been called, and set apart and sent for God’s Holy work, and you entered the ministry because you have a yearning to mend broken hearts, and bind up the wounded, and try to make a difference in this hurting world. I know this.

But I’m afraid for you.

I’m afraid lest you become one of the wounded. I’m afraid that as you rise to your feet and leave that spirit-filled sanctuary behind, the world and (dare I say it) your churches might steal your joy, and cause you to question your call.

And if that day should come, I pray that you can find your sanctuary again, that you will remember that it is Almighty God who has called you, that you will still be able to feel God’s Holy Spirit strengthening and sustaining and upholding you, and that when you hear words that discourage and deter, the truth of God’s words to you will be louder in your ear and stronger in your heart….

you are my child whom I dearly love; I find happiness in you.

It was a privilege to see you ordained. May God bless you every day and fill you with the Holy Spirit as you seek to make disciples, preach the Word, and answer that wonderful call on your life.

You are brave.

And you will make a difference in the world.

2016-06-14 10.49.51

That Quiet Cave…

Jesus was dead.

Joseph and Nicodemus were sad. They carefully took his body down from the cross. They cleaned him. They made him smell nice. They wrapped his body in strips of white linen and carried him to a quiet cave on the hillside. They laid Jesus down inside the cave. Then they said goodbye. And before they left, they rolled a big stone over the entrance.

Jesus was dead.

Outside the cave, two guards kept watch. The big heavy stone was sealed in place. Around the cave, leaves fluttered silently in the wind. Above the cave, the skies were gray. Rain fell softly from heaven and pitter-pattered on the hillside. And for three whole days, all was still.

IMG_20160326_102124

But inside that quiet cave something was happening.

God was working.

God was doing a new thing.

If you tried to peep inside, you couldn’t see anything. No eye could see it.

If you stood outside and put your ear to the big stone, you couldn’t hear anything. No ear could hear it.

If you tried to imagine what was happening, you couldn’t. No mind could imagine it.

But inside, God was doing something new—something utterly amazing. Something only God could do.

Jesus waited.

And the world held its breath and waited with him.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

The Invitation

We welcomed new members today. Six people had decided to join our church.

They had faithfully attended the membership class a few weeks before, dutifully filled in the paper-work, learned about the holy sacraments we celebrate as United Methodists, and heard all about John Wesley, our founding father.

They were ready. Today was the day we would welcome them into membership.

My husband stood at the altar and called their names. They came forward, smiling. But before we welcomed them into our United Methodist family, my husband said these words…

Is there anyone else here today who feels like they would like to join our church this morning?

It was quiet. And still. Nobody moved. But he didn’t give up.

If God is moving in your heart, I invite you to come forward. We can deal with the red tape and paperwork later, he smiled. But if God is calling you, come and stand with us. 

And from behind him, a young woman came, followed by her husband, followed by an older lady who slowly made her way up to the altar, pushing her walker. It took her a long time. But she came. They came. They stood together. And suddenly, six became nine.

And you could just feel it, this whisper of the Holy Spirit, this mysterious murmur that happens when you let God work in the moment, in the quietness, in the heart.

And I’m sure it’s the same Holy Spirit who whispered in the wind on that Galilean beach so long ago, when Jesus said ‘follow me’ to four fishermen, who just dropped their nets and went. Because what could be more important than saying yes to Jesus?

And here’s the thing… I don’t think God cares if we’re ready. I don’t think God cares if our nets are mended or our classes are completed. No form-filling, no lesson-learning, no net-mending should ever come between us and God. God just wants us to say yes to the call, to walk up to the altar.

Because when we do, we invite God to be at work in powerful ways. The moment becomes God’s moment, and our church becomes that beach, where we can drop our nets in the sand, and let the ground become holy as we follow Jesus.

If God is calling you, come and stand with us. my husband said.

It’s the best invitation we could ever receive, the only invitation that truly offers us life.

Church

The Person Behind the Curtains

curtainsI never knew who was behind the flowered curtains. But I knew someone was there. I could tell by the way the material was twitching.

I hoped that whoever it was couldn’t see me. And just to make sure, I tried to make myself invisible by shrinking further down behind my dad’s legs. When that didn’t work, I simply hid behind my hymn book, and only lowered it when it was time to trudge to the next corner.

I was here under duress. Given the choice, I would much rather be climbing the laburnum trees that hung over our driveway, or bouncing around dangerously on my pogo stick, or lying on my bed reading my latest Schoolfriend comic. Yet here I was, standing on street corners, singing hymns with four of my seven siblings while my dad, in his loud preacher’s voice, invited all who would pass by, and all who would hide behind curtains, to come to our small village church.

My mum and dad and their eight children must have been an answer to prayer for that little congregation. We were a ready-made Sunday school, with a preacher, teacher, and evangelist rolled into one.

Not even the British rain could dampen my dad’s enthusiasm. Sunday after Sunday, he would drive around the neighborhood and load up our car with a rag-tag bunch of children who jostled on knees and hung out of windows until the doors burst open and kids spilled out into a tiny church to hear about a man called Jesus.

Day after day, my dad stepped out from the pages of the Book he believed in to become the person of the parable; the shepherd of the sheep, and the sower of the seed.

And this I learn: we are called to be people of the parable; shepherds of the sheep; sowers of the seed.

 

Because even though that tiny church will never open its doors again;

even though my dad now sits, unable to walk…

somewhere out there is someone who knows about Jesus because of what he did.

And somewhere out there in this big old world is someone who believes in God because they peeped through a flowered curtain to spy on a little singing band in the street.

And now, I’m proud that I was part of it.

When a Three Year Old Teaches you About Salvation

Love letter openIt was when we were sitting close on the sofa, the book open between us….

I look at his blonde head beneath mine. I watch his little fingers opening those lift-the-flap letters from God and I see him smile as we write his name on each one.

And I think – what greater blessing could there possibly be than to sit with your three year old grandson and read God’s great story together on a Thursday afternoon?

What could be more wonderful than to share the words of a book you were privileged to author? Words that flowed through your pen and came to life on the page; and when you read them over the next day, you wondered where on earth they came from? And then to realize of course that these life-giving words did not originate on earth at all, but could only possibly have been born in heaven.

My three year old joy laughs at the story of Jonah in The Very Smelly Belly; he smiles when he hears how Zacchaeus, The Tiny Tax Collector, found his very best friend; and he looks with interest at the marks on Jesus’ hands and feet when we read The Happy Ending.

And then he turns the page to see his very own invitation…..his chance to say yes to God; to say yes to being part of God’s wonderful family; to say yes to salvation; to say yes to joining Jesus’ team.

And I remember when I was writing the book, how I had pondered long about how to offer that salvation call to little ones, how to word it in such a way that their little minds might understand, and their little hearts be open to.

It took me a while, but one day in my mind I saw that Galilean beach so long ago, and those fishing boats pulled up on shore, and Jesus walking along the beach, leaving his footprints in the sand as he makes his way toward James and John. And Jesus simply says,

Follow me.

And there it was: the Invitation. The life-giving invitation to the most amazing adventure those brothers would ever know. Simple. Uncomplicated. No conditions. Just follow me.

And they do! Those first disciples drop their nets and said yes to Jesus. They just follow his sandy footsteps along the beach without saying ‘The Sinners’ Prayer’, or falling to their knees in repentance. All that would come later. For now, all they do is say yes.

Salvation is simple. It was never meant to be complex, or hard to understand. Salvation is a simple invitation to say yes to Jesus.

 

And so the little blonde on my lap turns the last page of the book, and he sees his invitation. He sees the last envelope attached to the page, with blank lines, ready for him to write his own letter to God; his own yes; in his own little way.

Invitation

What’s this Grandma?

Well, it’s your invitation honey, to join Jesus’ team, And this is a letter that you can write back to God one day.

But not right now I’m thinking…you’re too young. You’re only three. You don’t understand.

But he is insistent; he wants to write his reply now; and so hesitantly, I ask,

Well what do you want to say to God?

And then here it comes…

His immediate, perfect, three year old response.

It’s not supposed to be this way…this teaching thing. Grandmas are supposed to teach their three year old grandsons, not the other way around. But that’s when God steps in, right there, when you’re sitting on the sofa on a Thursday afternoon, that’s when God steps in, out of the blue, and lets you know He’s real.

I want to say I Love You.

My three year old grandson wants to tell God he loves Him. Perfect. And right now, at just three years of age, what more would God want to hear?

The book sits closed on my table now. My grandson is probably playing in his sand pit.

But when he comes here again, we will sit on the sofa, and take up the book. We will turn its pages, and open that letter, where those three little words scrawled In his three year old hand are waiting to remind me-

you are never too young for salvation;

you are never too young to say yes to God.

xander's letter