Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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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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Adoption

I was talking to friends of mine who are a lovely couple who, over 20 years ago, upon finding that they were unable to have children of their own, made the decision to adopt a child.

After all of the tests and paper work were complete, their new 5 year old daughter turned up their doorstep. She burst into the midst of their otherwise calm life together with all of the emotion and energy of any 5 year old. In her case, however, she had already been shaped and altered by the abuse and neglect of her life so far. Through no fault of her own she was, to say the least, a challenge. From that moment on, my friends committed their lives together to love and bless this little girl who was now their daughter.

I heard them share their testimony on Adoption Sunday in the UK, and they were so proud of their daughter. They showed some photos on the screen and talked about how she had come to faith, was baptized and later married. They shed tears of joy that she was grown up, happy and loved. Yet, the journey of parents and child had also been incredibly challenging.

Their daughter’s life before adoption had had some effects on her that were permanent. And the parts that were not permanent have taken years to heal, and will take more years yet. Even as I write this, however, I have a tear in my eye at the awesome love and sacrifice that my friends have given for the sake and good of their beloved daughter.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12)

As we were talking in their kitchen it dawned on me that their action was the same as that of God.

We talked about the fact that by the age of 5 years, the character and experience of a child are already mostly formed. That, in many ways, it is too late for their new parents to form them through nurture. Their adoptive parents might cover their new children in love and devotion, but there is no guarantee that their child will grow to maturity as a healed and balanced person. We talked a little about the parents and marriages that have been wrecked after adopting challenging, hurt children, lives left exposed and attacked by the challenges that come with loving the lost and broken.

My friends, together with so many adoptive parents, made the deliberate choice to lay their lives on the line for the sake of a child in need of love and care. They had none of the run-up of pregnancy to develop a bond. Their child exploded into their life with all of the hurts and pain of their previous life. Every vulnerability in their lives was exposed and all that they could do was trust in Jesus, everyday choosing to love and nurture their daughter simply because that was what she needed. There was no guarantee of a happy ending, only of the challenges and difficulty that would come with each day. That is not to say that there were not joys, only that the life of a parent is not all joy and sweetness and light.

But the price was worth paying. I will write that again, more clearly. THE PRICE WAS WORTH PAYING!

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-16)

The Bible tells us that those of us who believe in Jesus are children of God, adopted into His family. Men and women, accepted by the Father into the inheritance position of an elder son. Everything that is our Father’s is also ours.

God, our Father, adopts us. We turn up with all of the hurts and anguish, damage and disability, that result from the lives we lived before we come into His home. There is no guarantee to the Father that we will turn out alright, or that the unconditional love that he lavishes upon us will be accepted and bring us to healing and wholeness. The only thing that is guaranteed is that it will cost the Father all of his love.

Our Father loves us, because He chooses to do so. He is willing to deliberately pay the price for our adoption in effort, time, energy, love and, as necessary, in blood. Our growth as children is worth, to Him, His sacrifice of love and devotion.

This is a mind-blowing truth. Father offers us life as a child in His home. Not because we deserve it, but because He gives it to us. I am a child of God. I am a son of God, because he chose to love me.

Adoption is a sacrament. It is an imitation of our Father God who adopts us as his beloved children, despite all of our own issues and damages. He spends a lifetime nurturing us, leading us to healing and maturity. He sacrifices all, including the life of his true son, in order to restore us to wholeness as his beloved and blessed children. Thank you to all of you who adopt as my Father God has adopted me. How ever the situation might have turned out, wherever you and your child has ended up, you are a blessing and an inspiration. As an adopted son of God I bless you in the name of my Father who is also your Father.

“The Father bless you
and keep you; the Father make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Father turn his face towards you
and give you peace.” (my version of Numbers 6:24-26)


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Caleb – Man of Faith

In the last blog I spent some time thinking about Caleb’s faith and God’s response to it. My thoughts there lead me on to a line of thought about Caleb that is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, but is true by implication.

“Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord whole-heartedly” (Deut. 1:35-36)

Having believed the promise of God in regard to the Promised Land, as well as a further specific promise in regard to His own inheritance in the Promised Land, Caleb holds on for 40 years before he sees it become a reality.

Think about it.

Caleb is assured that he and Joshua would be the only men of fighting age to enter the Promised Land and see the inheritance that God had spoken of in Egypt. Every other man and women who had left Egypt as an adult would die in the wilderness. Apart from Caleb and Joshua, the only other people who would remember what it had been like to be slaves in Egypt, who would enter the Promised Land, would have been children at the time.

For 40 years, Caleb and Joshua wondered in the wilderness with the tribes (about a million people) waiting for God to speak the word to send them back to take the land.

  • Let’s estimate that there were 600000 adult men and women at the time when the spies entering the Promised Land.
  • There are 14610 days in 40 years (including leap years).
  • This means that for 40 years an average of 41 people died every day.

Everyday, Caleb and Joshua watched men and women who were their peers, as well as those who were those older than them, die in the wilderness. Every day that passed meant that Caleb and Joshua become more and more set apart.

  • Caleb was 40 years old when he was sent to spy on the land of Canaan and we can assume that Joshua was of a similar age.
  • The age of adulthood for a Jewish male is 12 years old.
  • This means that, by the time Caleb reached the Promised Land for the second time, he was 80 years old and the next oldest man other than Joshua would have been 52 years old.

Caleb’s faith in the word of God is awe-inspiring. With each death and each passing day, it must have seemed more and more unlikely that he would see the fulfillment of the promise of God. Yet, he held on for 40 years (14610 days). He continued to believe, even though it must have seemed as if nothing was happening. Caleb was a man of faith.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)

How often do we get impatient with God? He promises so much and we believe Him, but for how long? If God’s word has not become a reality after 6 months, what do we do? What about after 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? At what point do we throw our hands in the air and shout, “It wasn’t true!!” and move on? What about after 39 years? If we were holding on to the promise of God for 39 years without seeing it becoming a reality, would we keep going?

This is a very serious point. How steadfast is our faith in the word and promise of God?

Let me illustrate from my own situation in the hope that it might be helpful.

3½ years ago I heard the clear call of God to step out of church leadership for a time. At the same time God promised that I would return to church leadership in the future and see amazing things happen by the Spirit’s power to God’s glory. 3½ years ago… and it still hasn’t happened. 3½ years later I am still in the same position. What now? Was the word wrong? Have I missed it? Do I need to do something to make it happen?

The core issue is the steadfastness of my faith.

I firmly believe that, when the right time arrives, God will speak clearly and simply and things will change. That, unless I hear the voice of God, I simply have to hold on and keep going. Until that time, I must be patient and listen intently for the word of God. I must learn to use this time in the wilderness to grow and learn and listen whilst I mature as a disciple of Jesus.

It is really hard. Really hard. There is nothing I want more than to be living in the Promised Land. I am impatient to see things happen and bored of the endless sand and manna and quail of the wilderness. Yet until God say “NOW!” I simply have to walk the path in the wilderness he sets before me.

What about you? What has God said? How long can you hold on?

Let me encourage you. In the end, Caleb received what had been promised to him. God responded to his faith and he received everything that he had been promised.

In the end, whether I receive what I hold to be a promise of God or not is irrelevant. All that matters is that God is God, His love endures forever, and the ONLY place that is worth being in is the place where God wants me. Right now, I am wondering in the wilderness and I have no idea when I will cross over into the Promised Land. But God is in the wilderness. The tent of meeting is always here and I can go in any time I like. The other stuff is just not as important as being close to God.

I want to be like Caleb.


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Moses’ Corpse

Moses’ corpse

After Moses died, according to Jude, the devil and the archangel Michael had a ding-dong over who would get his remains.

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” (Jude: 9)

Evidently, the devil wanted to use Moses’ remains for his purposes, whilst Michael wanted to use them for the glory of God.

Arguments are like that. Different sides enter dispute, utterly conviction that their point of view is correct. They can so quickly and easily slide into slander and accusation, the original subject of dispute entirely forgotten in a blizzard of accusation and slander.

Let me give a simple illustration. Imagine if I were to argue with my sister over who would get the last biscuit. Before any time at all has passed, the biscuit lies forgotten on the plate whilst my beloved sibling and I fling accusations and past hurts at each other (Not that this sort of thing has ever happened, eh Debs?).

Jude tells us that Michael’s reply was the name of the Lord. We can be sure that this was the last thing on the devils lips, but Michael does something very interesting. He does not base his argument on the nature or value of Moses’ corpse. Instead, he simply gives the argument to God and allows the power of the Lord’s name to resolve the dispute.

I have to be honest and say that, most often, my disputes are not with the devil. I KNOW that the father of lies is wrong. Instead, my disputes tend to be with people I love. My children (often), my family, friends and other Christians. Further, ordinarily, these are not necessarily huge disputes. They almost never have to do with the bodies of dead prophets. It is almost always not worth losing relationship for the sake of the last biscuit on a plate. Biscuits are just not that important.

Sometimes, however, disputes are about matters of truth and theology. When there arises a dispute between the meaning of one prophet and who has the correct interpretation, both sides of a discussion might claim the metaphorical body of Moses as the evidence of their argument. Such a discussion can quickly slip into personal accusation and slander, causing a breakdown in relationship and, at worst, a split in the family.

It seems evident to me that ‘being right’ can, more often than not, lead to unnecessary division and hurt. At times it is necessary to agree to disagree and walk in separate directions… but not often. Most often it is necessary to guard unity because the root of our unity is not our ‘identicality’, but Jesus. In the end, it is the Lord’s name that will settle disputes and bring light to dark places. Accusation and slander NEVER bring peace and unity.

“All who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Phil 3:15-16)

Paul’s perspective is very interesting.

He was utterly convinced that he was right on matters of faith and he wrote and spoke about his theological understanding with passion and vehemence. He confronted others when he disagreed with them (even Simon Peter) and planted churches by teaching the Gospel, as he believed it. It was his belief that if a person was in Christ and mature in their faith they would simply agree with him.

Yet, his security in his faith was such that he didn’t need others to admit that he was right. Often, the issue with arguments is not that we want to be right so much as we want others to tell us that we are right. Paul was happy to let others disagree with him and was not in any way shaken in his faith if they did so. He believed that he was right and his faith was founded in Jesus, rather than in his own understanding.

Paul’s faith, therefore, was that the Holy Spirit would lead others to the truth and that it was his task only to speak the truth in love. The Spirit of God would lead the one who was wrong to a position where they could come around to the truth and if the person who was wrong was Paul himself, then so be it. Paul seems, in the context of Philippians, to be entirely focused on the truth of Jesus and so is willing to be submit anything that he has wrong in order simply to be in step with Jesus.

That is not to say that he allowed people who were opposed to his theology to prosper where they might be dangerous to the health of the people of God. He had not truck with Gnostics and was more than willing to let those who taught a different gospel to be put out of the church community. His primary task was to protect and build the flock, in line with the calling of all Elders. He did not, however, accuse them or condemn them. He simply had faith in God.

It is so easy for a disagreement to become divisive and to slide into accusation and slander in order to win an argument. Yet, if we have a mature faith, the truth is God’s and our responsibility is to speak the truth in love and leave the persuasion up to the Holy Spirit.


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I don’t want balance… I want Truth

It is always great to receive comments following a blog post. Keep them coming readers!

After a recent post, where I offered some suggestions about useful web resources for theology, I received a comment from a friend who offered me some alternative sites with some theological views that were different to the ones I had offered. I would summarise them by saying that they were less Reformed and more Post-evangelical. He suggested that they might offer some balance to the sites that I had suggested and give people some alternative ideas. This got me to thinking…

Do I want balance on this blog?

I did have a look at the sites and they were very interesting. But I did not particularly agree with the theological perspective from which they were written.

This is not, in itself, a problem. If a person is a mature Christian and interested in theology, then there is nothing to fear from reading ideas and opinions that are different from their own. In fact, it can be both healthy and educational.

When I was studying theology I looked at many ideas that were properly opposed to my own theology. I had severe concerns about the writings of Fredrik Schleiermacher, Rudolf Bultmann and John Spong, who were on my reading list. There are also whole swathes of the works of Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and Karl Barth that cause me some trouble. In honesty, even now, there are certain things that Mark Driscoll teaches (who I recommended in my previous blog) that I am not sure I agree with.

But that is OK. People do not need to agree with me to be saved. They need to believe in Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life. If it were up to me, Bolton Wanderers supporters would not get into heaven and anyone who thought computer games were a waste of time would be dancing on the edge of heresy.

One of the things that Mark Driscoll teaches, which I have found incredibly useful, is that idea of Closed and Open handed issues. Mark says that the closed handed issues of theology are those for which one would face death to uphold. Among these would be the divinity of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, the Sovereignty of God, the Trinity and so on. The open handed issues are those which, were an agent of evil to hold a gun to my head, claiming that they will pull the trigger if I did not back down, I would back down. One of these, for me, might be 6-day creation. I am in no doubt that God Created the heavens and the earth, but I am not really sure I would take a bullet over whether he did it in a literal 6 days or a metaphorical 6 days. (I am sorry if this offends you, dear reader).

As far as I am concerned, on the closed handed issues, I do not want balance, I want truth. On the open handed issues, I am open to discussion.

This Blog is my own work and my own ideas. I am concerned less with balance, and more with expression of what is bubbling up inside of me. There are aspects to it that people might not agree with and that is OK. If you believe that Jesus is Lord and have accepted Him as your saviour, then I am happy. You might be wrong on some things, but that is the most important one and the rest we can discuss (vigorously if necessary).

In our society, it is not acceptable to say that someone is wrong. It is believed by the majority of people that, as long as a person’s belief does not hurt anyone else, they have a right to hold that belief and that it is ‘true for them’. This is a travesty of truth. If a person is wrong, then they are wrong. There is nothing wrong in my pointing it out to them, or their pointing it out to me. It is what one does to that person when they are wrong that matters.

You might be wrong… but I promise not to burn you at the stake or hand you over to the inquisition. I hope that you will offer me the same respect. I don’t want balance, I want truth! But I don’t need to stone people when they disagree with me.

It comes down to this…

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

It is not about being right; it is about how we treat people when they are wrong.

I hope that this does not read as too much of a ramble and I would be fascinated to have people’s thoughts on this subject. I look forward to your replies.


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Burdens 2

I should not be surprised that I have a burden. Jesus tells us that, when we come to faith in him, we will have to pick up our burdensome cross in imitation of him and follow to the same place where he is going. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), and more, “whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

Having a burden to carry is an integral part of being a disciple of Jesus. If one does not have a burden then I would say there is something wrong with one’s discipleship. Further, when one has a calling to leadership or responsibility (and leadership can be of many different types other than church leadership) the sense of the burden one carries is only increased.

And so here I am… both carrying a burden and called to contentedness. They seem to be incompatible, yet the Bible tells me that both burden and content are a part of what it is to be a mature disciple of Jesus. The truth is this… burden and contentment are only really compatible when we are close to God.

I believe that it is true to say that my burden is either my own, someone else’s, or it is Gods. In whatever case, it should not be impossible to be content and burdened.

  • If my burden is my own, then I can be released from it by taking it to the Father in prayer and receive rest and healing. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28).
  • If my burden is someone else’s then there are two possibilities. First, for many reasons, I may not need to carry it at all and so I should lay it down. Second, I may be sharing in it out of brotherhood and love (Galatians 6:2) which means I can pass it on to Jesus in the same way as I pass on my own burden. This can also be the case when a burden is God’s and I adopt it as if it is my own (such as the success of a church or the healing of an individual).
  • If I am close to God, however, then I will sense God’s burden for the world. His burden is of love and compassion for a broken world that is overwhelmed by the sin of humanity (John 3:16-17). In this case, it is not my burden, it is His. I simply share in it. God does not really need my help to carry this burden, he allows me to share in it out of love and as a part of my discipleship.

Let me illustrate the final point above more clearly. I have a 4 year old son who loves to share my life with me. He wants to be with me and he imitates my actions (which can be very embarrassing when the actions that he imitates might, at times, be less than edifying). Recently, I was moving a heavy object in our house from one side of the room to the other and my son wanted to help me. I could easily have said “no”, since there is no doubt that it would have been easier for me to do it alone and that he would be no real help. Instead, I said “yes” and we moved it together. In truth, he was no real help at all. He did not have the strength or control to make a difference and he even got in the way a little, making it harder for me to shift the furniture accurately without hurting him. So, why did I let him assist me?

  1. I love my son and I appreciate his desire to be with me. If my son wants to be a part of my life then I need a really good reason to say no to him. Inconvenience is not a good reason.
  2. By doing the task together, I was able to teach him how to do the task for himself, maybe with his own son, when he is more grown up.
  3. He tasted a real sense of responsibility by helping his dad.
  4. When we have shifted the furniture there were high fives all around. It gave him a share in the achievement and it encouraged him.

These may seem like simple things, but they are profound for his training and belonging. My son, by participating in my burden, learnt how I carry it and what I do with it. Further, he shared in it and experienced it for himself.

Let’s be brutally hones with ourselves as Christians. Jesus does not need us to help him with the burden he carries. The truth is that we gave him the burden to begin with and, more often than not, we seem to get in the way rather than assist. I know that this can be hard to accept when we really, at the heart of things, hold the belief that Jesus needs us and cannot really grow the church or change the world without us. He does not. Jesus’ burden is to save the world and, truthfully, there is no way that I can even make a mark on that burden. Jesus knows it. I know it. We all know it. The burden is carried and the victory won wholly through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:4-5). Yet he shares his burden with us and invites us to follow him.

Why? Because, he loves us.
God is our Father and we are His children. He loves us and wants to be with us and wants to see us grow into mature imitators of Jesus.

If I am as close to the Father as I can be, then I will be both burdened and content. I will be burdened by the same things that reside in the heart of the Father. I will also be content because the Father is God and nothing is too difficult for him. The burden I carry is not my burden… it is His. He allows me to share in it because I am His child and he will allow me to share in his achievement for the same reason.

What happens if we still feel a weight and burden with little sense of contentment? I know that this is a state that I often find myself in. Burdened with little contentment. What is the answer that allows both contentment and burden?

First, we need to understand fully, right at the guts of our being, that the burden is not our own. There is nothing that we can do to save the world from sin and death. That burden and that task are God’s. Completely and utterly God’s. His is the burden, the mission, the answer, the power, the glory, the honour, the everything. It is ALL God’s.

We might still take the weight of the burden onto ourselves, feeling a yearning to find an answer and make a contribution, but it is a futile and pointless exercise. The burden is God’s and the solution can only come from God. He might let me share in His plan and to witness His solution, but as soon as I begin to think that I am God’s answer to any part of that burden I have lost the plot. ONLY GOD HAS THE ANSWER. The answer is always Jesus.

In Philippians 4, Paul had come to realise that wherever he was, in prison or in charge, the mission and the burden were in no way his. He was probably the most gifted, highest achieving church leader in the whole of the history of the Church. Yet he was content to spend 7 or more years chained to guards under house arrest with no real influence, power or position. Paul trusted that, whatever was to befall him and whatever situation he sat in, God would be the one who would accomplish the goal. He did not take God’s burden as his own, although he picked up his cross and followed on a daily basis.

The burden of the cross is not to take responsibility for the things that only God can accomplish, but to follow God wherever he leads. No amount of worry or effort on Paul’s part would help meet the needs of a lost world. It is ONLY through Jesus that the world can be saved. Jesus is the ONLY way, truth and life (John 14:6).

So Paul was content. Not necessarily in his situation as a prisoner, but in the Father’s love. His situation was entirely irrelevant to his sense of contentment, because his contentment was not dependent upon his ministry or position or situation. Paul’s contentment depended wholly upon his proximity to Jesus. As long as he was with Jesus the nature of his task was unimportant. And so Paul could write; “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21)

It is entirely incorrect to believe that the way to address a sense of burden, no matter how justified that sense might be, by focusing on the burden itself. It is tempting to see an issue or problem and seek to address it through ministry, programmes, service or counseling, but to do so is futile. The burden is not mine and the solution is not in my power. All I can do is look to the Father and follow where He leads. He carries the burden and offers the solution. So I share the burden and follow Him as my son shared my burden and followed me.

So what are the implications of our burden? Or to put it another way… Yes, but How?

I will have to write another blog… Burdens (Part 3)