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Thoughts on walking and burning hearts

May 4, 2014

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road” (Luke 24.32). That made me think, when was the last time that my heart was really burning within me because of something I had read or heard? I thought and realised that it is not unusual for me to get really excited about something: A prayer or something new about God in Scripture. But that is nothing to how I remember my heart burning when I first became a Christian. I just couldn’t stop reading my Bible (I still have that battered Bible). I took it everywhere and then bought a pocket version (given away) to make it easier to carry. Any spare 5 minutes, and I would be reading away, finding out what came next. I can remember going on a walking holiday in the Lake District with some friends from University, and any quiet moment I would sit and read. It’s certainly atmospheric reading your Bible at the top of a mountain, atmospheric in more ways than one (if you don’t know, the Lake District is as famous for its rain as it is for its stunning scenery!).

 

 

I didn’t bother with Bible notes, I did what I always tell people not to do: I read the Bible like any other sort of book, starting at the beginning and reading through to the end. Genesis through to Revelation. There were a few more difficult days wading through long lists of names or Old Testament laws. But apart from that it was rarely dull, it was like a door opening into a new world. It was as though Jesus was walking along with me, and sitting beside me as I read.

 

 

I still get times like that, where I know, just know, the presence of God with me, but rarely for as long as it was back then, back in Liverpool in the mid 1980s. I know he is still with me but like a couple married for many years I often take that presence for granted now; I don’t always listen as I should; and certainly don’t always do as I’m told!

 

 

But the Spirit is in me all of the time. I would love to be able to take a walk with Jesus, perhaps get to show him some of my favourite places, perhaps to sit together and watch the fish swimming in the river or the bees buzzing around my bee hives. Perhaps discussing martial arts – did they have an early form of Krav Maga back then? I feel that burning in my heart when I get to do my martial arts training – through the Spirit Jesus is with me then, if I let him. But I need to remember that with the Spirit, Jesus is with me all of the time. Through the Spirit he is in me, walking with me, in my shoes, all of the time.

 

 

This is a wonderful fact of being a Christian, but strangely it doesn’t mean that I am happy all of the time. Even with God in me, I still am not all joyful and happy all of the time. I still feel the pain of loss and I still mess up. I think of a great minister in my team dying slowly of cancere and I still ask, “why?”. We pray for healing but God’s clear answer is ‘no’. For some reason God still lets these things get through to me. I still feel all the things that non-Christians feel. But now there is someone with me, helping me to make sense of it all.

It is just like those disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24.23-35) who were all sad and depressed when Jesus began to speak with them. I still feel sad but I am never alone in that sadness. I may not know the reason why bad or good things happen but I feel the sense that there is a benign purpose to it all. I have found that if I’m down I need to let Jesus walk with me. Then through the Spirit I know Jesus walking with me but that isn’t a magic wand making everything all right. Looking back I’ve found that by being open to Jesus walking with me, I slowly, often imperceptibly, begin to find meaning and hope. I may stay sad. It may be right to cry, after all, even Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died, but there is hope in the tears.

 

I know that I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again – it is also important that I turn to Jesus and ask him to walk with me when the world is good. When I’m having a great time, then too I need God with me, sharing it with me. In that way he walks with me through the bad and the good. That way the good times are made even better. It also means that I have learned to spend time with God in me; I have learned to appreciate walking with Jesus, so when times are hard it is easier to recognise his presence in the darkness.

 

So far, I have only talked about my personal, one-to-one, walk with Jesus. But looking again at that story of the walk to Emmaus I see something else. Jesus was recognised when he broke the bread. So, Jesus is also recognised and walks with us when we are together. He is here with us when we share bread and wine at the Communion. He is here with us when we come together as a fellowship, whether there are only two of us, as there were on that road to Emmaus, or 200, the same Jesus is here, the same Spirit is at work.

 

More than that we are to be here for each other. When one of us is suffering or struggling, the rest of us are to be Christ for them. You can be Christ to me, and I can be Christ to you, that is how it is supposed to work. So, whether together or alone, whether happy or sad, what ever life brings we are to share it with our God through the Holy Spirit living in us. In that way it is as though Jesus is walking with us as he did with those disciples on the road to Emmaus. So may your hearts burn within you as you walk with the risen Christ, now and always. Thanks for reading.

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