Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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You found me

I have thought long and hard about whether I should put this Psalm on my blog. I really don’t want people to think that I am on the edge of depression or about to lose my mind. I am not. But, at the same time, I know that my thoughts can become quite bleak and melancholy.

I was recently asked a question – “How would your life would look if I had not met Jesus?” I cannot imagine that, without Jesus, I would lose myself to a life of drugs and debauchery, but I can imagine that, without Jesus, my life would be dark, introspective and deeply negative, philosophically and spiritually. Father God gives meaning and shape to my life. Without him, I would simply be purposeless and lost because, as I look around the world, watch the news and hear the stories of people’s lives, I find little hope or relief from the state of humanity. The poor and humble are stamped on for the good of the powerful and well off. Everything is the same as it has always been. For every hopeful moment of progress there seems to be the same or more injustice and pain for the vast majority of the human race. The only real hope for the world is in Jesus.

This Psalm is the result of my cogitation based on that question. Whilst it starts quite darkly (although this is severely edited from the original 4 pages), it is not dark… it is full of hope. Read the second half first if you like.

A Psalm about being known

Without you, I stand alone,

once hopeful life becomes a howling waste.

No consolation in my own importance,

no purpose in life,

overwhelmed by the brief instant of time.

I have been overcome as I realise that,

when the music fades and my life is overtaken by reality,

there is only me for the blink of an eternal eye.

Born to breathe…

Death my inevitable end…

Dust my destination.

Remembered for a generation if I am lucky.

Subject only to the selfish ramblings of others,

using my brief flame as a justification for my own significance.

In truth there is senseless transitory breath.

Each one of us is unique, making it sadder still when we pass away.

Each person is temporary… unrepeated, forever lost.

Life is dust to blow away on the wind.

 

But, you found me.

You found me.

You know my name.

You are my Father.

You found me.

You found me.

You know me by my name.

I am not lost.

 

Insignificant no longer.

Apart from the crowd.

Chosen, called, redeemed…

I am a child of God

Uniquely made,

uniquely saved.

I have a name.

I am my Father’s son.

 

You found me…

I see you.

I recognise you…

Father.

You give life meaning.

In you there is purpose.

In your hand I was formed from dust.

Made so much more… your child.

I don’t understand,

I don’t need to.

I lay down my right

to know and comprehend.

I cannot find meaning without you,

man made boundaries just wont do.

True value is in you.

Only you!

 

I stand in your presence,

breathing deeply,

breathless in the gale of your Spirit.

I am alive!

Holy Spirit blows,

filling my lungs,

tears springing from my eyes,

breathless exhilaration in life.

I am embraced

for no other reason than love.

I am loved!

You know my name.

 

My voice cries out,

no longer lost in the vastness of the universe.

I cry out to my Father,

greeted with raptured attention.

You hear my cry

and respond in love.

My desires are reformed,

My will re-made,

More like Jesus,

No longer just for me.

Illuminated by everlasting love

Shaped by sacrifice and grace.

 

I am alive!

I have a purpose!

I have a reason to breathe,

to speak,

to write,

to live.

No longer an empty universe.

I am loved.

I am cherished.

I am given a purpose.

I belong.

I am yours!

You are mine!

My Father, Mother, Saviour, Friend,

Peace, Grace, Truth, and life.

My everything.

 

You found me.

You found me.

You know my name.

I am your child.

 


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Grasshoppers

The Bible is very clear. It tells me, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1) So why don’t I live like a child of God? Why do I, so often, quail in fear? Why do I act so weakly and powerlessly when the Bible tells me that I am supposed to be a powerful, Spirit filled, inheriting child of the King of kings?

Identity.

I simply don’t live in the light of the truth that God speaks to me through His word. I am a child of God, with all of the rights, privileges and power that this identity gives me. In John 14, I am told that if I know Jesus, I know the Father. That Jesus is the epitome of the Father and that I am called to be his friend and imitate Him. That by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am equipped and enabled to live as Jesus lived. To be light in a dark world, pointing to the Father God.

Without wanting to go into every verse and proof here (it is a blog rather than a tome), I believe whole heartedly that I am called and empowered to live as a disciple of Jesus with the same power that Jesus has. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Yet, in reality, I do not.

I am full of fear and I believe so many lies about who I am and what I am unable to do. I look at the world around me, the state of others, my own weaknesses and insecurities, and I withdraw in fear. I cower from what I see Jesus do, justifying it as ‘real’ and ‘pragmatic’ to do so. I look around me and say, “I am weak and insecure, and that is how everyone else sees me.”

Yet, I can no longer claim to be honest and believe the lies I tell myself. The Bible tells me that I am more than a conqueror, I am a child of God, and ambassador of Christ. That, if I am full of the Holy Spirit, I will manifest the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, transforming the people around me by shining light into the dark world.

So what is going on?

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:33)

This short verse from the narrative of the spies who went into the Promised Land speaks to me quite clearly. Ten of the twelve who were sent out (the two were Caleb and Joshua) returned from their reconnaissance mission to the Promised Land with the words from Numbers 13:33. They had already shared with the rest of the people of Israel their observation that the fertility and fruit of the land were amazing… yet they did not think it was possible for the people of Israel to take possession of the land. They believed that the people who already lived in the land were simply too big and strong to be defeated by the grasshoppers of God.

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

I can relate to the fear of doing something new. The feeling of being overwhelmed by what I see standing between me and what the word of God promises.

Yet the spies had had a pretty incredible journey to get as far as the spying mission. They had heard the word of God spoken, promising their freedom from slavery that has lasted hundreds of years, seen the plagues of Egypt and been protected from them, been freed from slavery, taken incredible riches with them as they left Egypt, been protected from attack by the very presence of God in the fiery cloud, crossed the Red Sea with the waters piled either side of them and watched their enemies drowned. As if that were not enough; they had been guarded and led through a wilderness, day and night, by the presence of God, been miraculously provided with water and food despite the fact that there were close to a million people in their group, received the book of the law from God on the mountain where his presence was manifest in glory, witnessed the power of God first hand and reflected in the face of Moses… and the list could go on.

Then, these twelve men, are chosen as the best representatives, each from one of the twelve tribes of Israel, to scout out the land that the God Himself, who has been with them, literally and evidently every day, had promised would be theirs. They had seen the fertility of the land and carried some of fruit back to the people as evidence of their story… and here they are. “We are not big enough to take the land.”

Notice, they did not say… “Those people are huge and we are small.” They said, “Those people are really big and they must have thought we were small because we certainly felt like we were small.” The report that they give is not based on the truth of the word of God or evidence that they have gathered, it is based entirely upon their own image of themselves.

“We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, chose to believe the word of God. They said, something like, “it will be hard, BUT GOD HAS GIVEN THE LAND INTO OUR HANDS! Let’s go for it.”

What was the difference? Simply put… Joshua and Caleb believed God before they believed their own perception. They came to the conclusion that, whatever their own eyes saw and their hearts said to them, the promise of God was more powerful and important. They chose to believe the world of the Lord over their own misgivings, fears, perceptions, thoughts and everything else.

That is what I want… Father God, what you promise I choose to believe. Please help me live in the reality of the things you say. Let your Kingdom come!

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)


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The glass bridge

I saw a video on Facebook today which I wish I had saved at the time. It was of the longest glass bridge in the world, over a chasm in China. The bridge is as long as three football pitches, about 1000 feet above the floor of the valley and constructed entirely of glass and steel. It has been designed entirely for the purpose and its parts are all far stronger than traditional building materials such as concrete.

As people crossed the bridge, the acted in interesting ways. A few of the people seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, striding out over the drop with confidence. Most people on the bridge, however, were showing fear and trepidation of one kind or another. Some walked with their eyes closed, shuffling along whilst holding the hands of friends. Other crawled along, forcing themselves to move through their fear no matter how slowly they went. Still others were simply incapacitated with fear.

All of the people who walked onto the bridge were perfectly aware that it was a sound structure made from glass that is stronger than concrete and wires designed in such a way that not even the fiercest storm will destroy them… yet fear took its toll. Their imaginations ran wild and the evidence of their eyes altered their behaviour, their brains battling between logic and fear.

It dawns on me that the glass bridge is the perfect metaphor for me. It is how I feel when walking into a room of strangers. I know in my mind that everything will be OK, that I have a right to be in the room and that there is nothing to be afraid of… Yet, despite my knowledge, fear dominates me. I force myself to walk into the room and, more or less, talk to a few people, but, after not very long at all, I will be standing at the edge of the room watching everyone else and berating myself for the fact that I am too afraid to talk to them.

As for evangelism, think of the person who crawls onto the glass bridge as a sheer act of will. Inching themselves out, only seeing the chasm below despite the structure that holds them. In no time at all, the simple thought of going out onto the street incapacitates me. In reality, I know I am safe on the bridge of God’s love, but my mind closes my body down and I am simply unable to overcome my fear as an act of will.

My feelings then betray me, telling me that, “it’s better not to try the bridge. It’s only a pathway to terror and no good can come of it. All you will get is a bowel juddering sense of fear and an overwhelming dose of self-recrimination for your pathetic failure of courage.” I HATE THAT BRIDGE. I hate what it stands for, as the very image of the weakness of my faith and what it does to me. I HATE MY FEAR!

I hate the fact that the bridge exists and that I can, in reality, totally trust it to keep me safe from falling but that the truth of my actions tell me that I do not trust it at all. I hate the fact that even the thought of it makes my fear rise like vomit in my heart, paralysing me to inaction and making me feel awful in guilt and recrimination. I hate that I feel so guilty and stupid for trying in the first place; guilty and stupid for failing; guilty and stupid if I don’t try at all. I hate the feelings, I hate my actions and, inevitably, I come to hate myself. Mostly, I hate the devil for, over years and time after time, training my fear to be stronger than my faith so that now I find even the thought of going out fills me with fear.

I pray… “God does not give me a spirit of fear, but of love, compassion and a sound mind. PLEASE Father, let me live as if this is true!”


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Love

In recent times I have heard of a friend of mine who is suffering from rather advanced cancer. They did not have any hint that it might be there and simply found a lump one day. Within just a few weeks, they have found themselves in hospital, too ill even for chemo therapy. My heart breaks for them and their family.

This friend has many Christian friends who have been made aware of the situation and it has been wonderful, in a melancholy manner, to witness the outpouring for love and concern for my friend. Believers have been fasting and praying, committing themselves to pursue God for my friends healing and wholeness. I too have committed myself to fast and pray for my friend, in the hope that they will be healed and we will witness a true miracle of God.

The Bible reassures us that we will see healing in Jesus’ name and there also have been many words of prophecy and encouragement for our church and for Braintree, telling us that we will see an outpouring of healing in Jesus’ name and to Jesus glory. I believe. We believe. And we pursue God for the life and the healing of our friend, claiming the promises of God. “You have said… so please, we want to see it!”

Praise God for this move and passion for healing in our church and in Braintree, and for our friend who we hold before God. It is utterly correct to do so and the outpouring of love is brilliant and fantastic to witness. More, Lord, more.

Yet… it has raised a question in my heart that is an itch that I think too serious to overlook.

What about the stranger? What about the struggle of the person that I and my friends do not know personally? How do I feel when I hear of a stranger’s struggle, illness, hurt or pain? What is my response when I am not their friend and they are simply another stranger among thousands that I see every day? Does my heart break for them? Do I feel the motivation to fast and pray and fall to my knees before God on their behalf as I do for my friend?

No. I am sorry to say that I do not.

For my friend I am driven to my knees to pray and seek God on their behalf. For the stranger… I feel sorry for them, compassion for their struggle, but no heart break or desire to fall to my knees and pray! No drive to pursue God on their behalf with the intensity and passion as I do my friend.

What about God? Does God care more for my friend than for the stranger? No. I know that the answer to this questions is a simple and resounding NO! God loves them both. Equally, sacrificially, overwhelmingly, passionately; God loves them both so much that he sent Jesus to die in their place. My heavenly Father’s heart breaks at their struggles and his love is boundless for their circumstances. When my Father God hears of the cancer of my friend and the cancer of the stranger, I believe that my Father is moved to heal and transform.

Yet, I have to admit that I have far less passion to pray and pursue God’s healing for the stranger than I have for my friend. Oh yes, I want to them to be healed because I want to see a miracle… but I am not sure I want the stranger healed out of a sense of overwhelming love for them. Who will ask for their healing and weep for their circumstances and bang on God’s door for their rescue? If not me, who?

I am ashamed to say that it is unlikely to be me, because I simply do not beat with the heart beat of God for the lives of the people I do not know. My friends and family… easy. I love them and want to see God move with a passion that overwhelms me in prayer. For the stranger… I just don’t feel it. I am ashamed that I simply do not love them as my Father God loves them.

Jesus said in Luke 12:31, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all of the other things will be added to it.”

Somehow, I have to seek the heartbeat of God for His Kingdom. I have to know God and move to the beat of His heart. Loving the people he loves, whether I know them or not. I have to pray for my friend… but I also have to pray for the stranger with the same love, passion, intensity and commitment as I pray for my friend. How? That I am not sure of, other than to seek Father God with all my heart.

If I am honest, I find it hard to write such a confession of shortcoming. And it may be that my fellow believers pour scorn on my struggle and callous lack of love for others… but I am not alone. Where is the heart of God in the people of God? If we move so closely to the beat of the heart of God… where is our self-sacrificing, passionate, overwhelming love for the people that God loves. Even those who we do not know?

What are your thoughts?


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How can I be more fruitful?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

This verse has been speaking to me a great deal in the last week. It comes from Jesus wonderful metaphor of the vine and the branches.

Jesus is the vine, the source of nourishment and that which is rooted in the soul. We are the branches, attached to the vine for our flourishing. Without the vine we can do and produce nothing. God is the gardener, managing and caring for the vine so that it is a fruitful and productive as it can possibly be. He cuts off branches that do not bear fruit, so that they do not take valuable energy away from fruit giving branches. He prunes those branches that bear fruit, cutting them back so that they can become even more fruitful.

This passage in John 15 warrants plenty of time. It is one that, I have found, needs to ferment and mature in order for it to become more clear.

There are several things that are swilling around my brain.

First, the branch MUST be attached to the vine. No branch can produce fruit if it is not firmly and healthily attached to the vine. A branch can survive for a short time in a vase, but it will die. The place for a branch to be is attached to the vine, so that it can be fed and grow. Verse 5 is very clear. “Apart from me you can do nothing”. It is in our closeness and attachment to Jesus, the vine, that ALL of out ability to flourish as Christians depends. Without it we can do nothing. Without it we are nothing.

Second, fruitfulness is the natural result of being a healthy branch. Branches do not produce fruit if they are separate from the vine, but when they are healthily attached they cannot help but produce fruit. Fruitfulness comes from Jesus. It is a consequential response to real intimacy with God. ‘Apparent’ intimacy will not produce fruit. Fruitfulness is the purpose of the vine and the branches, it is what the gardener desires. So fruit should be our purpose, but only as a response to closeness to the vine.

Third, pruning bloody well hurts. I am sorry to put it so crudely, but it is what I have found. I do not like bits being cut off of me and, if anyone has witnessed an expert gardener pruning a plant, pruning is a violent and surgical activity. BUT, and this is really, really important, pruning works. It is the best and, as far as I know, only way to nurture a plant to greater and better fruitfulness. Pruning hurts, but it is worth it to increase the yield of good fruit.

Fourth, a good vine takes time. It is over seasons that the fruit multiplies. Only with time can the gardener train and nurture a plant to excellent fruitfulness. With time, the link between the branch and the vine becomes stronger and more effective to enable the branch to flourish and produce fruit.

Finally, we should not pray for more fruitful lives. We should pray for a closer relationship with Jesus. It is only and always our closeness to the vine that will increase the quality and quantity of our fruit. If we want to see more evidence of the presence and power of God, then we need to be in the presence of God.

If I want to be more fruitful as a disciple of Jesus, then I need to be more firmly and closely attached to the vine. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

 


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A lament of thanksgiving

I hate the door to my prison.

It stands, apparently immovable, between me and the outside.

It stubbornly refuses to move, to open or to fade away.

I remain here, in my prison.

 

Yet, this prison is a gift from you, O God.

A holy opportunity to spend time in your presence.

Your presence fills my cell and your voice is clear and fluent.

How wonderful it is to be with you.

 

My human nature rebels against the walls,

yet my spirit soars without limitation.

Time in your presence is never wasted.

True freedom resides in being where You want me to be.

 

I could kick down the door and run outside,

but all I would achieve would be to escape my freedom;

an escape from your presence;

an escape from your perfect will.

 

I will wait for you, O Lord my God.

I still yearn to see you open the door to my cell.

Because then I will be released

and together we will walk into the light.

 

Lord, come quickly.

Father, fulfil your promises.

Make real the visions of my youth and the promises you gave.

Lord, open the door for me to walk with you into the light.

 

I yearn to be free,

yet I will not walk out of my prison if you do not walk with me.

I no longer fear solitude,

because you are with me and closer to me than ever.

I am never alone,

because you are here with me, O my Lord and my God.

 

When the prison door is opened, I will dance into the light.

But,

until then,

I will dance in the dark.

 

I will dance because of your love and grace.

I will celebrate your mercy and open handedness.

I will cavort and spin and bounce and sway,

because you are God and I love you.

 

Be with me Lord.

Be with me, my Father.

I do not hate my prison cell.

I don not hate your presence.

 

I hate the sin that holds me here.

I begrudge the nature in me that needs to be changed.

I acknowledge this is the way by which you are changing me.

In truth, there is neither prison nor freedom, there is only your presence.

 

O my Lord and my God, do not wait forever.


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Submission and obedience

It was during a time of worship at the #RMLC14 that I felt God speak to me. It was simple yet profound.

As I was kneeling on the floor, lost in the presence of God, I was wrestling with Him. God has called me, for a time, to exist in a situation where my frustration is sometimes overwhelming. As I was saying, I was wrestling with God in prayer.

“Why me? Why must I go through this Lord? Why me”, I complained.

“Because I have asked you to”, God replied.

My reply was simple, “I will carry on because you have told me to”.

God spoke again, “No, I have asked you to. If I told you to keep going then it would require your obedience. I have asked you to keep going, because I want your submission”.

This conversation dropped into my head and I have been praying it through ever since. I WILL stay where God has asked me to be until, either, the situation is changed by God, or, He asks me and my family to move on to pastures new.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7)

Obedience is fine and good, but it is involuntary and so lacks love and honour for our Father. We can be obedient whilst still being rebellious in our heart. Submission, on the other hand, is the result of relationship, devotion and love.

Jesus saved us through his submission to the will of the Father (see Philippians 2). We are saved by grace. When we submit in response, then we are living in grace.

I think that there is more to say here, and I am sure that there are many, many more passages from the Bible that I could look into. But I don’t think I have finished cogitating on this idea yet and so I will leave it there for now. I would be interested to read you response and thoughts on the subject of submission over obedience.