Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


1 Comment

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)


1 Comment

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?


Leave a comment

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.

 


3 Comments

Paying the price

I wonder if, for too long, the Christian faith has been presented as an easy option?

Let me start by stating that Jesus has paid the price for our salvation, once and for all. We are saved by grace, not as a result of our own righteousness. In this way, the price that we simply cannot afford has already been paid, fully and unequivocally, and salvation is free. BUT…

However, it is not salvation that is at issue, so much as it is the life of a disciple.

To paraphrase Bill Hybels, if the Christian faith is only about salvation, why are we still breathing? Why is it that we are not, as soon as we believe, taken into heaven? What happens after salvation? It is after we are saved that God asks us to pay a price. We don’t have to pay it, but we are given the opportunity to do so over the rest of our life on Earth.

Richard Taylor, at #RMLC2014, talked about an aeroplane where the ones who are in first class are simply those who are willing to pay the price expected to upgrade from standard seating. All of the passengers are heading for their destination, but some have paid more and so find more on their journey. The difference between standard and first class is not where one travels, it is how one travels.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

These words of Jesus do not say that there is a cost to salvation. Anyone can hear the words of Jesus, comprehend the meaning and believe in the truth. Yet, there is a difference between those who believe and those who follow. Following Jesus costs more, but it means more too.

To follow Jesus we must give up our own preferences and life choices. We must choose to submit our future to him, living in a way that is consistent with his teaching, even if it is different to what we have always known. This might mean that we strain, or even lose, relationships with family and friends who do not agree with us or understand our faith. It might necessitate a change in our priorities of time and effort. Following Jesus will almost certainly mean that we have to sacrifice our need for control over our own destiny, choosing to live by faith instead of knowledge.

Following Jesus ALWAYS leads to change. We will change, our lives will change, our relationships will change and our view of the world that we live in will change.

The Cost of following Jesus is simply that we have to follow Jesus, wherever he leads us… even when it results in derision, persecution and, possibly, death.

Why? Because Jesus Christ is the only way for the people of the world to be reconciled to the God who created them. He is the only way to be forgiven from sin and the only path into the presence of the living God. Further, the people of this world NEED to see the truth that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It is through the lives of the disciples of Jesus that they will find the evidence of the truth of salvation by grace. We are the body of Christ!

To be saved does not mean that I need to be a disciple of Jesus. I don’t have to pay that price. But, because I am saved, how can I not follow? How can I not dive into God? The question is this… am I willing to pay the price so that my fellow men and women of the world might taste and see that Jesus is the way to full and wonderful life?

“Where else can I go? With you, Jesus, are the words of eternal life”

End Note – This blog is the result of my thoughts following the @RMChurches Leadership Conference in Norwich (#RMLC2014).


Leave a comment

The Parable of the Treasure (a retelling)

It has been a long time since my last Theoblog post, but now it is time to start posting again. If you like what you read, please share it around. There are also a great many posts in the archive so please take a peek. Comments are more than welcome as are retweets, shares, and the like.

I am going to start off this new era with my take on a parable of Jesus…

There was once a man who, whilst he was working in a field, found a treasure of immeasurable worth. From the moment he found it, he knew that this treasure was of greater value than anything else in the world. Greater than anything he had, would or could ever possess. So, he buried the treasure once more and went off with the firm intention of selling everything he had so that he could buy the field and gain the treasure for himself.

Whilst he was hurrying to do so a pretty young lady caught his eye and he stopped to talk to her. He thought, “I will sell everything later to buy the treasure” and took the pretty young lady for a drink. The man and the lady got talking, time passed and the man still firmly intended to sell everything and buy the field… later.

In time, the man and the lady married, found a house to share together and had a few children. He often thought about the treasure and, every time it came to mind, he firmly intended to sell all that he had to buy the field where he had found the treasure. He even went as far as to go to the auction house where he could sell everything, and was surprised when they offered him a job. The treasure would come a little later, he decided.

The man worked hard, smiled, was patted on the back, celebrated, enjoyed his children, house, pet dog, food, drink, holidays in the sun, sadness, fun and a cottage on the continent for dreamy days and family gatherings. All safe in the knowledge that the man knew where the treasure was.

When, eventually, as a much older man, he got around to being able to afford the time to be able to buy the field the old man handed over the money, took his spade and dug down to find that the treasure he had found all those years ago was still where he had left it. And he wept as he looked on its beauty and was overwhelmed once more at its immeasurable worth. He wept for all of the time he had lost without the greatest treasure in the world.

The man fell down dead and went to heaven, leaving the treasure in the field where he had first found it. Unused.

 


4 Comments

The temptation to ambivalence

This blog is not really a Bible study. It is more in the line of a reflection that comes out of where I find myself in recent months.

I used to watch people slip away from church and wonder how it could happen. I would believe that if they had a passion and faith like mine, then they would not be able to slip away.

In the last month or so, it has become very real to me that there is a temptation to simply fall out of church. I would call it, ‘the temptation to ambivalence’.

It is not that anyone has said anything, or that the church where I go is teaching heresy. It is most certainly not that I have lost my faith. I BELIEVE! It is simply that I am tempted to give up caring. There is something missing, either from me or the church, and I feel increasingly disjointed and utterly discouraged. The only word I can use to describe it? Meh.

I am a passionate man. I am not used to feeling ambivalent. I want to see things happen and I love to make stuff happen, yet… nothing is happening. I believe in the Gospel with a passionate zeal. Jesus is Lord! The world needs to know it! I love Jesus with all my heart and want nothing more than to see the people I love, and the people of the town where I live, come to know Him. I want to see the power of God move.

Yet I can understand how easy it is to simply fall away. Not deliberately. Not out of a fit of pique. Certainly not because I have lost my faith in Jesus. Simply, because… Meh!

It would be so easy to take a week off. And I know that the week would soon turn into a few. In the end, it would be easier to not go to church than to face the questions and the smiles where I to return. Without a doubt, my faith would suffer and before long I would have less faith in Jesus and… Devil’s job done. I would be taken out by the enemy. Not with violence… but with ambivalence.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

I will not slip away! I will hold on. Somehow, I will hold on.

So I pray! I pray for God to speak… where am I supposed to be? I pray for God to move in power… fill me Holy Spirit! I pray for my church, my family, my friends, my leaders, my colleagues… God’s will be done! I pray for encouragement.

There is nothing else for me to do. I hold on and pray!

Speak Lord, your servant is listening. And when God speaks… Boy will I jump to action!


Leave a comment

Happy Christmas! He is in it with us!

Christmas cogitation part 9

For me, one of the most important verses in the Bible is also the most important verse of the Christmas period.

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten Son who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV)

I like the translation in Message too;

“The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.” (John 1:14 MSG)

Jesus is the Word. He is the beginning and the end. It is this Word that is incarnated in the person of a human baby. He takes the form of a human being, just like us. Why? So that we can be rescued to be just like Him.

Human beings are separated from God by the sin of pride. It is our pride that leads us to conclude that we do not need God. That we can find our purpose and being in the world we live in by our own actions. This is simply not true.

Without God, there is no purpose or meaning for us. We are formed by God to walk with Him. Our purpose is to live in relationship with God and as long as we do not do so we will forever be disconnected and lost. When we walk alone we are simply not doing what we are supped to be doing. We are like a shoe that is being used as a doorstop. In some way the shoe is up to the task of keeping a door open, but this task is so much less that the purpose that the shoe was intended for.

In the midst of this beautiful, broken and suffering world, humanity is lost and alone. Struggling to create a place of meaning and significance, yet doomed to failure since our meaning and significance rests in God. We will only ever find eternal meaning and significance when we live the life we were created to live. When we walk with God.

God sends His son, Jesus, to be born, live, walk, suffer, die and rise in the same world that we live in. He literally moves in to the middle of the neighbourhood where we live, so that he can point us towards the Father. Jesus is in it with us.

That God would make and enact such a plan is the proof of His glory and the evidence of his commitment to the people that he created. Jesus directs us to the Father, evidence of His grace and the truth and that the only true purpose for human beings is found by being close to Him. We are adopted by God, as beloved children, as a result.

I simply love this concept. Jesus is in it with us! He has moved in to the same situation that we live in, for the profoundly simple reason that we need to be offered a way to come to God. We cannot do it for ourselves, so Jesus does it for us.

An idea and truth that is worth celebrating.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!