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new year new me

Some thoughts from John 1 and Isaiah 59.

Have you made any new year’s resolutions yet? A few years ago, I decided to be a little ambitious and made 21. Including to eat more vegetables and to read lots of books so I could sound clever, and finally, to be less ambitious. A few stuck – one was to take a picture everyday which I kept up until at least June. But mostly they all fell by the wayside, because actually, 1st January is just another date in the diary, there is nothing special and nothing magical about it. And as Christians filled with the Holy Spirit, we already have all we need.

Look – the one who takes away the sin of the world

Firstly, John is baptising great crowds on the banks of the river Jordan. He’s a bit of a maverick figure, and the religious leaders have already sent envoys out to find out what he is doing and why. He spots Jesus he very next day and says – “Look, this is it – this is the man I meant!”. He points to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

This is quite interesting, because at this point Jesus hasn’t done any ministry and no one has really heard any of his teaching. And it’s still early days so there is no hint of the coming crucifixion which will take place at the same time as the Passover slaughtering of lambs. John is being prophetic about Jesus and stating an important truth – Jesus is the Lamb of God.

But what does this even mean? The Passover lambs were the ones who died and their blood was spread on the lintels of the houses, so that the Angel of Death passed over and the Israelite slaves did not have their first born sons killed. The lambs quite literally died so that the people didn’t have to. It is also playing with the imagery of God as shepherd and the people of Israel as sheep – but they were the sheep who wandered away.  And throughout the Old Testament, the sacrificial system worked around people bringing animals to sacrifice as they came to worship – mostly lambs unless you couldn’t afford it. The lambs had to be perfect and spotless, and they symbolised taking away the sins of the people. Jesus has come as the perfect lamb, the one who is at the same time God and human, and he alone can take away the sins of the whole world.

Everyone knew that something else was going to happen – that the Old Testament sacrifice system was only a symbol of cleansing because, quite simply, a lamb was never going to be completely perfect. So John points to Jesus as the real life person, not the symbol. Through Jesus we can all know forgiveness and be made new.

It’s through the power of the Holy Spirit that John can see who Jesus is. In fact, he says that the whole reason that John came to baptise people was so that Jesus can be revealed to the world. He came to help people looking for forgiveness, he came to point to the real deal, to the one who can make all things new. It would have been so easy for John to have pointed to his own powerful ministry that was bringing about huge change – so much so that it even had those religious leaders worried about what was happening!

When we share our faith with others, or even just as we talk to others, how eager are we to point to what God is doing in our lives? How much do we prefer to talk about ourselves and to make things all about us?

When we do that, we are, quite simply, just missing the point. We owe everything to Jesus – and he deserves all our praise and worship. It’s not about us! My first resolution for next year is to not have everything all about me – to make my life point to the one who came before me, and who has so greatly surpassed me!

Water vs Spirit

There’s quite a big difference between John and Jesus – John is all about water, about cleansing, about repentance. In fact, Christians today baptise with water – it’s a powerful symbol of us rising from death to life, dying to our old selves and becoming new creations. But that’s where it ends – it’s a symbol. Jesus here is described as baptised in the Spirit – the Spirit has come down from heaven in the form of a dove and remained on him. It’s interesting that a dove is one of the animals which could be sacrificed if you couldn’t afford a lamb, and so represents purity, lowliness and humility. John’s baptism was something any of us can do – but Jesus’ baptism was different and special.

Being baptised in the Holy spirit is something some Christians debate the exact meaning of today – for some there is a definite tangible moment when the gifts of the spirit are poured out, but this doesn’t seem to be what this passage is talking about at all. In fact, this passage links the Spirit to Jesus in a way that suggests once you know Jesus you also can be baptised in the Holy Spirit. And that the Holy Spirit is God with us.

Ultimately, water baptism, the one I imagine we’ve all had, is a symbol. It might be a special day, it might be a special moment, but it is just a marker that we have decided to turn to Jesus. But an encounter with the Holy Spirit is something which will change our lives forever. It doesn’t have to be weird and wacky, but it will be what softens us and makes all things possible in and through us. Knowing God’s Holy Spirit at work in our lives is the difference between trying to keep our new year’s resolutions by ourselves, and having the creator of the universe working inside of us to make all things new and make us into a better person. It may or may not involve eating more vegetables, but it will help us to be the people we are called to be – the way that God created us to be. The Holy Spirit allows us to fulfil our potential as people.

So my second New year’s resolution is to allow God to work inside of me. Again, to not be hugely ambitious, but to allow the Holy Spirit to work, to make me into the person God has made me to be 

Always and forever

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of making resolutions and then land back to earth again with a bump. It’s equally easy to forget God’s goodness in our lives that goes on and on and on – and then we end up faltering at the first hurdle. John tells us that the Spirit came down to Jesus and remained upon him. And Isaiah mentioned in the first reading we had that “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever”. The Spirit has come – and he’s not going anywhere. We’re not abandoned or alone. And there is nothing we can do to stop the fact that the Spirit is poured out into the world.

It might be that not everyone is living by the power of the Holy Spirit – especially those who do not recognise Jesus for who he really is as the Lamb of God and why that might be so significant for them. But it is like a floodgate that has been opened that keeps on flowing through. There’s no going back. We’re in this for good, for the long haul. Sometimes it might even feel like the days of the Spirit working in power in our lives and even in our church are long behind us. But this promise holds firm – the glory days are still here and still ahead of us – because God’s spirit is remaining with us – he will not depart from our mouths forever.

My third resolution is going to be to try to remember this. Even when it feels like I’m on my own in the world battling against sin, the world and the devil, I’m going to try to remember that that isn’t true. That I have the God of the universe fighting alongside me. That those who are with us are so much greater that those who are against. And that the Spirit is here for good. Always and forever.

So those are the resolutions I’m planning to live by in the next year. Feel free to ask in July how I’m doing! I may decide eating more vegetables is a good idea, but somehow, I’m not sure that will change anything in my life. Firstly, everything isn’t about me – I want my life to point to Jesus, secondly to allow God to work inside of me with the Holy Spirit, making me the person he designed all along, and thirdly, not to get despondent but to remember that this is a promise forever. That God’s spirit is here, and is here forever. And I want to invite you to join me in this.

Tree TripletsA couple of weeks ago, I landed the lucky task of preaching on Mark 1:29-45. Healing ministry is something that I have personally struggled with a fair amount – especially the idea that some people have their prayers answered and some don’t, and some don’t even have people around them to pray. But a few people said that this had been helpful for them, so I thought I might post it, and try and improve my recent average of one post a year…


Changing Lanes video clip Dodgy Steering

Do you ever feel like there is something lacking? Like there is something wrong with the world? Like things aren’t as they should be? Do you every sense there’s something more or long for something better?

This is the beginning of an episode of a course we have been participating in at our youth group called Changing Lanes – it’s all about what it means to be a Christian, it’s a bit like Alpha. This session is all about sin in the world and the fact that things aren’t as God planned them to be. We’re going to be talking about Jesus’ response to the world around him – the way that he dealt with the problems immediately facing him. We’re going to see his power and his compassion in helping those in such great need, and also his total reliance on prayer to fuel his actions throughout. Is there something lacking in your world at the moment? Is there an area that needs God’s healing touch? How will you respond when that healing comes?

Is there something lacking, something needing healing for you? I remember once when I was at school, the teacher who ran the Christian Union decided to invite the whole CU over to his house for a BBQ  but failed to ask his wife first. Needless to say, the event did not happen! Simon and Andrew had invited Jesus and James and John for lunch after they had been to the synagogue together earlier in the day. I imagine in might have been a last minute invitation that may well have created some tension when they arrived to find Simon’s mother-in-law in bed with a fever. But this was no problem for Jesus who helped her out of bed, healing her in the process. Her immediate response is one of gratitude, and lunch is served after all. I’m sure it helped Simon’s relationship with his mother in law no end!

But this healing sparks off the crowds – something new and exciting is happening here. People want to know more, and they want solutions and help for all their own brokenness. The whole town gathered at Simon’s house in hope of healing and of deliverance.

Early in the morning, Jesus slips off alone to pray and escape the crowds in the process. The disciples find him and they decide to go through lots of Galilean villages to cast out more demons, to preach and to heal. One particular incident is described – that of a man with leprosy. He asks Jesus if he is willing to make him clean – to help him to be rehabilitated in a society that was terrified of the infection of wasting skin disease. Of course Jesus is willing – he is even willing enough to touch him and the man becomes clean – almost like a positive infection of cleanliness from Jesus. Jesus sends him on to the proper channels – probably so that people could know that he was really healed as otherwise they wouldn’t go near him. But instead the man tells everyone who Jesus is and what he had done for him, and so everyone wanted a bit of the action – everyone wanted something healed, something changed. For everyone, there was something lacking. Then the crowds became a problem, as they surrounded Jesus. There was no more privacy to be had! The full flow of Jesus’ ministry had begun.

Let’s take a quick look at what healing is and involves here. Jesus simply touches the man, having reached out his hand. Literally, it seems like the healing flows from Jesus into the man, allowing him to be clean or healed. (Leprosy was a defiling skin disease, not only making sufferers ill but also making them unclean. Ultimately it was a killer, and inspired great fear – not unlike ebola today.)

Healing is an awkward topic because, quite honestly, we’re working in the dark. We know that some people are healed in fantastic and marvellous ways, and quite frankly, some aren’t. We’ve all heard the stories of cancerous tumours receding, or broken backs being mended, and even in some cases, of the dead coming back to life. But then we all know people who haven’t been healed, and every funeral marks an unanswered prayer. There often isn’t any rhyme or reason to it either – sometimes it seems that the worst things happen to the best people.

Sometimes healing can be dramatic and almost theatrical, sometimes it happens through the skill of medical professionals. There is absolutely no reason why an all powerful God can’t do either and both. And it’s in passages like these ones where we see God’s heart for healing. We see the compassion Jesus has for those in need – healing even when he is himself exhausted and is seeking peace and quiet. We even see his indignation – some versions of the original even say that Jesus was angry here. It’s likely that people copying the original manuscripts changed the word because they didn’t want to think Jesus could be angry. But he was angry at the brokenness displayed in front of him. He was angry that people suffer from illnesses such as leprosy. He was angry because there was something lacking.

Some of the people Jesus touched had been suffering from demons. Now, this is quite hard to explain, because when we think of demons, often the first thought to come to mind is of a little cartoon devil, complete with pitchfork and horns. We probably don’t have many of them living inside of us. Or alternatively something rather like a lot of weird creatures living in us and feasting on us.  Another common assumption is that the language of demons is a way to express mental health issues, which people two thousand years ago did not properly understand. Although there are some elements of that, I’m not sure that that is the full story. I believe that a better explanation lies in the fact that there are forces of darkness in this world, and those forces have had an impact on many of us in negative ways, leaving behind them marks. Those marks are the “demons” we have to face. Some of them might scream louder than others and affect us more or less. Some of them may well manifest through mental struggles and difficulties. But the most important thing to remember is that the battle has already been won – and not by those forces of darkness. When we welcome Jesus into our hearts, he starts the process of transformation, gradually putting to death each of our demons.

I don’t know if anyone saw Newsnight the other night, where Katherine Welby-Roberts, the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about mental illness and the affect it has had on her life? She also mentioned how the church can be behind on these issues and in offering support for anyone affected. She said that we are quick to point to verses and demon possession, and we’re slow to walk alongside people as they recover. I found an online blog – an article about World Mental Health Day written by someone called Helen. She starts with a tweet:

“‘My name is Helen. I have PTSD & struggle with depression. I am not a freak and I am not demon possessed. #WorldMentalHealthDay #EndTheStigma’ Why? Because I am not a freak. And because my experience over the years has been of being told if I just prayed more, had more faith, or trusted God then I would not struggle with depression, or the issues surrounding the PTSD. I’ve been told many times that I have demons. I’ve been told I am demon possessed. I’ve been told if I honoured God more/was more in love with Him then He would ‘take away’ the blackness. I’ve been told by a Pastor that if I was truly a Christian my story would be erased from my mind, and I would not suffer because of it, therefor depression should not be a part of my life. I’ve been told by another one that I was too much for him, their church, and probably God because the ‘Devil’ really had hold of me. I’ve been told many things. And we wonder why people fear being open and honest about mental health issues they face. We wonder why the last place a person would think about going when in mental health distress is a church. And we wonder why people end up more hurt and damaged by the responses of people, who not only misunderstand but who are often wilfully ignorant of the wider issues.”

Let’s not be a church like that.

Some healing happens fast, some happens slow, and we, as the church, as the Body of Christ, really should be ready to walk alongside people and help them through their struggles, whether improvement happens fast or slow. But what about you? Is there something in your life that needs to see God’s healing touch? Is there a part of your life that needs mending? That feels damaged and abused and hidden away? Why not bring it before God today in prayer.

It goes without saying that someone who offers healing becomes immensely popular, and Jesus certainly was no exception there. Crowds followed him everywhere and it seems that they invaded his personal space. And the same happens here – we know that ministries offering healing to the world are immensely popular, even if people are only going along because in their minds they don’t really quite believe it can really happen. But inside of people there is a desperation, a need to see thing put right in the world and in our lives. Because we can all see that there is something lacking, and something wrong with the way things are at the moment.

There is something wrong though, when people are only interested in Jesus because of his healing power – because as he says himself, he has come to preach a message of hope to the people. Healing physical ailments is only a small part of that message of hope, which encompasses every aspect of our lives in the past, the present and the future. Because when people are attracted to Jesus only because of the healing he has given them, there is something lacking – they are missing out on the bigger picture.

Part of this can be linked with some issues and difficulties with healing ministry in itself. Firstly, however dramatic the healing, ultimately even Lazarus died again. Physical healing in this world is only temporary. Secondly, if we struggle with the decay and ageing symptoms of our bodies, we start struggling with the identity of a whole cross section of our society – what are we saying about the elderly, if everyone’s health has to be perfect all the time? Finally, what about those whose ailment is an intrinsic part of them? I know a young girl with Asperger’s syndrome, which makes her less aware of others and their sensibilities – but that is part of who she is. Can she be healed from that?

Healing is a foreshadowing of the kingdom of God – it is temporary hope of a permanent reality. It isn’t the be all and end all, but it is an amazing gift when it happens – and God works in many fantastic ways and brings healing in places we can only imagine.

How will you respond? Something is lacking but there is great hope. In this passage, we see two different responses to that great hope – firstly Simon’s mother-in-law gets up and waits on Jesus and his disciples. Her response is to give all she can in that instant in worship. She is overwhelmingly grateful for what has happened. And Jesus and the disciples get a free lunch.

The man who Jesus cures of leprosy is a bit different. Jesus told him to go through the proper channels of healing and cleansing in the Temple, part of which involved offering a sacrifice, saying thanks to God for the healing and marking the fact that God had done this. But instead, the man tells everyone that Jesus healed him. In some ways, it is perfectly understandable – it is rather exciting, and I know that I’m not exactly good at keeping secrets myself. His response is excited , but there is something lacking – his response doesn’t especially honour God.

Throughout this passage, we have seen contrasts between light and darkness, public and private and hiddenness and openness. It underlines the brokenness of the world and the hope of the Light of the World coming in Jesus to mend things, to cast out the demons and to announce the message of hope.

Which response will you choose to the healing Jesus has done in your life? Will you give him the honour and glory or does that get a bit lost in all the excitement? Do you immediately seek to worship in a public way, or does everything remain hidden?

Light shining through the darkness is what transforms us. Where is the transformation happening in your life? Light shining into the darkness that sin leaves behind brings healing and makes us new, casting out the demons our past may have left behind.

Of course Jesus is willing to bring healing and transformation. But are we willing to come to him and seek it? Are we willing to be vulnerable and bring the darker parts of our lives into the light? It may not be easy, and it might take work and prayer. But it will always be worth it.

And we know that many things in our world are totally broken. That there is something wrong and something missing. Something lacking. There are hundreds and hundreds of children who will never grow up because of hunger and disease. There are hundreds and hundreds of girls who will be forced into prostitution. There are women who are subject to domestic abuse. There are people who genuinely believe that they have to send their partner pictures of themselves naked because otherwise their partner will look at porn. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There are long queues at the food banks. The world is suffering from ebola. There are wars. The list goes on.

But what are we going to do about it? We worship a God who brings healing into a broken world, and we know that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. When we know that those are true, we know that the world is waiting for us to stir into action – to do something to try to help. We might not be able to change much, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to change something. To what part of God’s creation is he calling us to do those good works? What change can we seek to bring about in his power? It might be physical healing or it might be some other part of the hope we have in Christ.

Fuelling healing by prayer We heard how Jesus spent lots of time by himself in prayer. He withdrew to spend time with his Heavenly Father, even when it was still dark. He spent time being fuelled and re-fuelled through prayer, building up his relationship with God.

Needless to say, that any healing we seek after, whether in doing or having it done to us should be totally wrapped up in prayer. Because the only one to bring healing is God – we are merely his instruments. Nothing happens without prayer.

And that is why we offer prayer ministry support here. We offer people to pray with, whether about something specific or something that remains completely private. We offer people who can prayerfully take your concerns to our Heavenly Father, just as Jesus did. We offer people who can walk alongside throughout the whole journey of being healed in body, mind and spirit. And I think that that sounds like a great offer which can sometimes be a bit underused really!

So if there is anything, big or small, ingrowing toenail or world shattering reality (and I did once hear a testimony about how God healed someone’s veruccas) come and have some prayer. Nothing is to large or too small. It’s an open invitation, so come!

Conclusion Jesus is the answer to all that is lacking in our world. As the guy in the video was saying earlier, it might feel sometimes that there is something wrong, something broken and something lacking. But Jesus makes up for it and shines his light into the darkness and binds up the brokenhearted. Don’t you just want some of that in your life?

But is that all we want? Let’s not miss out on the bigger picture – the one that mends not only our physical reality but also all our inner brokenness, and the permanent reality of the world with no more sadness, no more death and no more tears. Lets not miss who Jesus is in our enthusiasm for the healing he brings. And lets respond to him with service, and with worship. And around all of that, let’s be fuelled by prayer, without which we are nothing at all.

Deuteronomy 30:11-20, John 8:1-11.

Choose Life


Father God, we thank you for giving us your word. We pray that we might be faithful to it as we listen to your voice. May our thoughts and desires be pleasing to you. Amen.


Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that?

I’m sure you have heard that before, at least in part, from the film Trainspotting – an iconic film, which actually I have never seen.  But like all good students, I have a healthy reliance on Wikipedia to bring me swiftly up to speed with all the necessary facts.

Tonight we are going to look closely at both the passages we heard read to us, from Deuteronomy and John and find out about the life and hope that God offers to us through Jesus. We’ll look first about the matter of life and death, then how Jesus offers us a new way and finally what that might mean for us and for our lives.

A Matter of Life or Death

Somehow, a film about drug addicts in 1980s Edinburgh is very similar to tonight’s passage from Deuteronomy, where God speaks through Moses to the Israelites, telling them that they have a choice between death and destruction or life and prosperity. They have the freedom to choose for themselves which way to take. One way leads to destruction, curses and death, the other to prosperity, blessings, and life. Seems like a no brainer to me really, when you put it like that, doesn’t it?


Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career.

But is it actually that simple? What does choosing life involve? If it was that easy, surely everyone would be a Christian, wouldn’t they? Equally, if it was that simple, no one would be a drug addict either. Everyone would live to a ripe old age and be rich and happy. And that doesn’t happen, does it?

What’s more, the commandment we heard was to ‘Love God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.’ There were 613 commandments spread across Torah, the first five books of the Bible. That’s quite a lot of rules to obey, about what you wear, what you eat, how you work and how you pray. In seems a bit of a death sentence, doesn’t it?

And that is why Israel failed to keep up. Other ways of life appeared so much more attractive to them. They chased the gods of the surrounding nations. They trusted in those nations to protect them from invasion, rather than relying on God. And the prophet Amos tells us how the people were abusing the poor and how they couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could get back to their dodgy dealing and corrupt trading. Ultimately Israel was divided into two countries and each was invaded before eventually being scattered for rebelling against the Romans. They were headed for destruction.

But God intervened, despite all of this, through Jesus. Thankfully, we do not have to worry about not preventing a third-generation Egyptian convert from marrying into the Jewish people, not cooking meat and milk together or not eating fruit from a tree less than 3 years old, because, through Jesus, God has offered us a new covenant; a new way of living with all the sins of our past paid for.

A New Way

This comes out in our story from John’s Gospel about a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Imagine the scene. It was early in the morning, but the quiet hum of Jesus teaching in the temple was disturbed by the shouts of accusation, a dishevelled woman facing the consequences of her actions, and the expectation that Jesus would be shocked and horrified and instantly call for her execution, in accordance with the law of Moses. It is a three-way trap for Jesus, caught between the demands of Torah, the popular support for his ministry from the masses who would welcome compassion and the potential wrath of the Roman authorities for advocating stoning someone. It may also be a trap for the woman, as there is no mention of any man being punished. And it takes two to have an affair.

But instead the scene plays out very differently. Jesus ignores the accusers, and is apparently captivated in writing something in the sand. The tension of the scene mounts until he says “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”.

He doesn’t look any one in the eye. He doesn’t need to. Everyone knows that they have done things wrong. These Pharisees and teachers of the law know that they haven’t always kept to the commandments all the time. We know that we do things that displease God and go against his standards. Sin is a reality.

People slip away, gradually, one by one, until it is only Jesus and the woman left. No one has condemned her. She is given a fresh chance at life, and the opportunity to make things right. Jesus does call her to leave her life of sin though. He isn’t condoning her behaviour and letting her continue in the hurtful pattern of the path of adultery. But he doesn’t condemn her, and he gives her the opportunity to leave her sin behind.

Choose life. Choose obedience. Choose a new way.

And Jesus does the same for us. We can be free from the things that we do wrong, because Jesus died on our behalf. The book of Romans tells us that “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”


I’m sure most people here have seen the new film of Les Mis? Jean Valjean is set free from a certain death sentence of being unable to find work and shelter as a convict. He meets a Bishop who invites him into his house for the night. Valjean succumbs to temptation and steals from him. Caught by the police the Bishop lies on his behalf and says the stolen candlesticks were a gift. He even gives Valjean more valuables to take and sell, and give himself a new start in life. And as a result of this grace, Valjean changes the lives of many others.


Choose life. Choose forgiveness. Choose grace.

So What?

As Christians today, we don’t keep to the Mosiac Commandments. We no longer have a set of laws to guide our ethics, morals and choices. Instead, we have the example of Jesus. We choose to live as his disciples, and follow his teaching. He calls us to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

It means that when I woke up grumpy the other morning and took it out on someone I live with, that was bad. It means that when I chose to get distracted in worship a few days ago, it was bad. When I thought unpleasant thoughts…or whatever. Even when I thought nasty things about the taxi driver who cut me up the other day.

But I don’t try to obey Jesus because I have to. I obey and try to let him transform me because I want to. The life and hope he has given me through his grace has totally and utterly changed my life. I have been forgiven much. I try to love Jesus with all that I am because without him, quite frankly, I was headed for death and destruction.

As a teenager I found life very difficult. I wasn’t at all happy with the way that I looked. I came from a broken home and didn’t want to become anything like my parents. I struggled to find friends who liked the same things as me. I started to withdraw from others, and had problems with eating. Then I began to turn even more on myself and started to cut myself to try to feel better. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I spiralled deeper down into a dark hole where I was in danger of throwing my life away along with everything I had hoped and dreamed for. A friend helped me see that that wasn’t the only way and that Jesus gives us life, hope and a future, whoever we are and whatever we have done. It hasn’t been an easy path, but it is definitely worth it.

Life is shorter than we expect. As you get older, the years go faster and faster. Someone told me the other day that now I have reached 28, I am now at the age I will always feel inside, even when I’m ninety and can’t get out of a chair. Even in my group of friends recently we had a stark reminder of the brevity of life as my friend was diagnosed with and eventually succumbed to bowel cancer. At her funeral, there was no doubt that even in her short life, she had embraced everything to the full. We will never be the same again.

Choose life. Choose hope. Choose freedom. Choose before it is too late.

The life that Jesus gives us is eternal. It is a life of fullness and joy. It is full of God’s peace, expressed in the Old Testament by the word shalom, meaning wholeness and an inherent peacefulness and prosperity. It isn’t a financial prosperity but something more than that.

Our Deuteronomy passage is open ended. We don’t know that the Israelites thought when they heard it. But that also leaves it open as an invitation for us, made even more urgent through the repetition of “today”.

What might it mean for you to choose life today? Maybe you want to find out more about the life that Jesus can offer us all. Or maybe you have been following Jesus for years and it all feels like a bit of a chore. Maybe some patterns of behaviour seem so tempting or so easy and they have been taking you away from the life Jesus offers. Or maybe everything just feels very dark at the moment.

Sometimes it might mean making a choice each day to walk in the path Jesus has set us. I know someone who has told me that they remind themselves each day as they reach out to turn on the shower that their life is a gift from God and that they are choosing to give their life to him each day anew. Someone else told me that every time they are driving and see an overhead gantry on the motorway saying there is a jam ahead, they treat it as a reminder to pray for others. Others I know have people they talk to and pray with for accountability for the old patterns and habits of sinful behaviour so they don’t keep on falling into the same traps. Ask God what he wants you to do, and how you can live in response to the life he offers.

Wherever you stand, God knows and understands. Like the woman caught in adultery, we can know life and freedom, even from things that, as humans, we might find hard to forgive. Why would anyone want to choose life? Because grace changes everything. When we choose life, God shines a light even into the darkest places inside us. That’s why we want to choose life.

Choose friends. Choose a family. Choose a future. Choose life.