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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A Psalm of Nigel

This Psalm has already been published on my friends Facebook group, “Write a Psalm a Day”, but I wanted it to be on my blog too. I have become more and more interested in writing short stories and psalms as a method of expressing things to God and so I hope that this might speak to you too.

 

I wait impatiently for the Lord.

He hears my cry, but still I moan.

He sets my feet upon a rock and still I complain.

I cry and weep as time goes by far slower than I would like.

Even though I am certain that He hears me, I say the same things time and again.

I rail against the constraints that he has put on me and I complain often.

 

Yet, my God is patient with me.

He listens, again and again.

My God is patient with me,

even when I am impatient with Him.

He knows me and still He loves me.

He knows me and still He calls me.

And slowly I learn.

There is no one like my God.

 

I know the truth.

God is perfect.

His timing is flawless.

His knowledge is complete.

His actions are matchless.

Even if I have to wait forever,

God’s will WILL be done,

God’s glory WILL be seen.

God’s word WILL go forth.

 

The God I serve is beyond compare.

Nothing in this life even comes close to Him.

He speaks to me with words of comfort and patience.

My Father is always encouraging.

I am his child and He loves me.

 

Who is there like you, O Lord my God?

There is nothing and no one I would rather serve.

I submit to your ways, even if I don’t understand.

Still, I wait impatiently for the Lord… yet, still I wait.

Without His word I will not move a single step.

 

When the prison door opens I will dance into the light!


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Jesus who? – Another Christmas cogitation

My children have a wide range of skills and gifts, and I am very proud of them. Not all of them, however, are as positive as I might hope. One of their remarkable skills, that in this case I can only hope they grow out of, could be best described as ‘selective blindness’.

Let me give you an example.

One of my sons will want to wear his favorite sweater. He will ask where it is and my wife or I will tell him that the sweater he requires is in his bedroom, in his sweater drawer. My son will then race off to look, only to return 20 seconds later to say that his sweater is not in his sweater drawer. We will assure him that his sweater is, in fact, in his sweater drawer and send him off to look once more. A mere 25 seconds later, our son will stand before us, speaking with great vehemence, to tell us that the sweater is not in the drawer. We will tell him once again where the sweater is (in the drawer) and he will have. what can only be described as, a ‘strop’, shouting that we are wrong and flinging his foot towards the floor with a passion that can only be felt by a child insistent that his parents are ‘wrong’ and ‘being unfair’.

Any parent will know what happens next. We go with him into his room, to the drawer in question, and find, sitting on top of the pile of clothing inside his drawer, the very sweater that was required. He will then insist that it was not there only a few moments before.

This exchange contains an everyday miracle. The miracle is not that we have found the sweater which our son insists mystically appeared in between his searches. The miracle, as far as I am concerned, is that my son did not find the sweater that was on top of his clothes, in plain sight, in exactly the place we said it would be!

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

Where is God? In a beautiful world that is wracked with pain, loss, disaster, disease and more, the cry goes out. Where is God? Why does God ignore us? We are told that there is a God, yet we cannot see Him.

The accusations follow.

There is no God. We have looked and He is not there! We have been lied to. If God is there, why can’t we see Him?

The truth is simple, yet profound. God is with us. He is in the midst of this beautiful, suffering, struggling, dark and painful world. Born in a stable, to live and die and rise again. He is right out in the open where all can see him… yet so many people miss him. It seems that the majority of the world suffers from ‘selective blindness’.

We may stamp our feet and shout our frustration, because we cannot see the presence of God in the world, yet… there he is. Right out in plain sight. Just where he has been declared to be for the whole of our lives. Jesus is God’s presence and rescue for a lost world. God is right there in plain sight for all to see, yet so many simply do not see him.

The miracle is not that God is in the world. The miracle is that we fail to see him! He is right there in plain sight.

It is for this reason that those of us who are Christians and can see God’s presence in the world right in front of us, must not get frustrated with the people who cannot see Jesus. Just as it is a waste of time and energy shouting at our children when they cannot see a jumper that is in plain sight, neither should we scream our frustration at the world’s selective blindness in their faces. Accusing the world of willful ignorance is a waste of energy and in no way displays the love for the world that Jesus exemplifies and calls us to. It might well be that Jesus is right in front of them in plain sight, but they genuinely cannot seem to see him.

What we have to do is simply walk alongside them and show them Jesus. Point to him, right out in plain sight, and hope that next time they will see him for themselves. Because, once a person sees Jesus for themselves, they simply cannot fathom how they were able to miss him for all the time that passed before.

Simple, yet profound. Do not get angry that others cannot see Jesus when he is right there in front of them. Rather, walk with them and show them where he is. Perhaps next time they will see Him for themselves.


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Burned out on Religion

In my work as a funeral celebrant, the phrase that I hear most regularly is, “we are not religious”. In fact, almost all of the funerals I officiate at are understood, at least by the families whom I serve, to be non-religious. Yet they request prayers, Bible readings, a brief message of hope in the grace of God, and a hymn with words that give honour and glory to God.

When families tell me that they are “not really very religious”, they do so with a sense of apologetic determination. As if they are saying, “we are not really very religious and we are not going to be persuaded otherwise”. As I dig a little deeper during our discussions, I find that people have often been put off of the church, by their experience as children or by a kind of assumed cynicism. They may not be ‘religious’ but they have a suspicion of faith in God.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

As I sit with them, I tell them the truth. I am not very religious either.

I believe that religion sucks the life out of faith in Jesus. To be religious is as helpful to faith as making formal rules for the conduct of love. As if a love affair can only be a ‘real’ love affair if one uses specific words, visits particular venues and involves only prescribed movements to acceptable pieces of music.

We all know that pretty much every love affair involves certain elements: words that declare love, dates where couples hold hands, sofas where they canoodle, physical touches that send shivers down the spine, all done to a soundtrack that, when one hears it years later, engenders sharp memories of a time of sweetly sharp love. Love affairs do not need to be formalized and controlled, they need to be given space and minimal boundaries.

Religion is rubbish! It is the codification of our relationship with God. Religion turns our relationship with God, that would otherwise be a love affair, into a stuffy meeting over afternoon tea. It takes all of the vibrant reality out of faith in Jesus, telling us that it is only the prescribed methods of spending time with Him that are unacceptable. Religion makes the love of God into something that it should not be… a contract.

Faith in God is supposed to be unfettered, unrestricted, and wonderfully real. We should not dread and avoid our encounters with Him. We should be excited to be early, so that we waste none of the time we spend in His company as possible. Our desire to be with God should be a reflection of the overflow of a forgiven soul. We are the recipients of His grace, welcomed into union with Him by His open arms, desperate to squeeze every moment out of our joyous time together.

Going to church, praying, singing, reading God’s word; none of these should be a bind or a chore. They should be a wonderful overflowing pleasure. And it is almost impossible to make them so, unless one has a very specific taste, through codification and formalization. My time with my beloved wife is not characterized by our prescribed words of devotion and strictly timed liaisons, but by our sheer pleasure in simple having opportunities to sit, laugh, talk, touch and love.

That is not to say that there are not boundaries in both love and faith. The boundaries of a love affair have to do with restricting the expression of passion so that it does not become destructive to ourselves and those who are witnesses to our love. The boundaries of faith expression are similar, having less to do with what we practice and more to do with what might be destructive.

I am not Religious. I am deeply, passionately, breathlessly, sincerely, seriously, amazingly, desperately in love with Jesus who, when I was lost in destructive sin and far away from my Father Creator, paid the price so that I could be reconciled and reunited with Him. I love Him. And I want to tell Him that I love Him. I want to be with Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and close to my Father. I don’t need prescribed words and movements to do that, although there are times when it is a little help, I need space and opportunity and desire. I WANT to spend time with God, so that is what I do. Freely and lightly, as an overflow of my very forgiven, renewed soul.


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Whose side is HE on?

I don’t know about you, but there is something odd about the number of times that we assume that God is on our side. Isn’t it suspicious, how often God agrees with us? I think that often we assume that we are doing the right thing and, therefore, God must be on our side. It is also interesting, at least to me, how often we find ourselves doing things that are other than that which the Bible teaches, whilst still adamantly assuming that God agrees with us.

The truth is, most of us do not set out to move in the wrong direction and so we assume that we are moving in God’s direction. It is not that, when we stop and assess the things we are doing, we think that God agrees with us. It is simply that we assume that we are right and rarely take the time to truly assess what God says or might be saying.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’

‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. (Josh. 5:13-15)

This passage surprised me and spoke to me afresh when I read it this week.

Joshua and the people of God are moving away from the River Jordon, having crossed the river in flood and committed themselves to taking the Promised Land. As they march towards Jericho’s walls, they meet a powerful warrior who stands in the way of their huge army. He must have been powerful, since standing alone he makes so much impression that Joshua, the leader, confronts him.

‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ (Josh. 5:13)

The man’s reply would not be strange or surprising if he is just a man out for a walk with his sword. It might be expected that he would want to remain neutral in that case. Yet, he is not a man out for a walk. This warrior is the commander of the heavenly army of God.

‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ (Josh 5:14)

What surprises me in his reply is that Joshua and the people of God were themselves acting on the instructions of God. They are seeking to invade and take the promised land as a result of God’s command. Yet, the Warrior says he is neither on the side of the People of Israel nor the People of Canaan. Instead, he asserts that he is in the army of the Lord and, by implication, that he is on the Lord’s side.

I think that there is a really important issue at play here. Joshua asks whether the warrior is on the side of the People of Israel or of their enemies. The warrior’s reply is that neither party leads him or defines his actions. Instead, he is on the Lord’s side and the actions of the army of the Lord will be decided wholly according to the will of God for the glory of God, not by any group of people.

The truth is that Joshua’s question places the people of Israel at the heart of the situation, when it is God who is ALWAYS at the heart of ANY situation. Everything in Creation is created solely for the Glory of God. Therefore, if the will of God leads to another 40 years in the wilderness or defeat at Jericho, that is up to God. The people who claim to be God’s people must simply walk the path that He lays out for them knowing that whatever happens, God is Lord of All.

Joshua realises his error and falls down in front of the warrior. He understands that here is a commander who really knows what it is to follow God rather than people and politics.

Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so. (Josh. 5:14-15)

Joshua immediately understands that the key issue in the journey of the people of Israel into possession of the promised land is not the comfort of the people of Israel. It is the glory and honour of God. God was Lord whilst Abram lived in Ur and Jacob looked after his uncle’s sheep. God was Lord whist the people were in Egypt and whilst they wondered in the wilderness. He will be Lord whether the Promised Land is populated by Canaanites, Philistines or Israelites. God is Lord! The key issue is always God. It is all about Him. So Joshua bows down and worships.

The warrior then places God at the centre by saying, “take off your shoes and remember that you are on Holy Land.” Why? Because the people of God are ALWAYS on holy land whilst they are walking with God. They walk with God so He is present.

The question that every one of us who are disciples need to ask is NOT, “is God on my side?” but, “am I walking with the Lord? Am I on God’s side?”

If we follow God’s will for our life, it does not matter if we win a battle or lose a battle, nor if we are in the wilderness or the land of promise. God is with us and that is all that really matters.

All that matter is that we walk with God. I commit myself again to follow God.

Father, I choose to follow you wherever you lead. If it is where I prefer or fear, I will follow. If it leads to pain or pleasure, I will follow. If it leads to prosperity or suffering, I will follow. If you lead to the wilderness or the promise, I will follow. Jesus, I am your man. Tell me where to walk and I will follow. Where else can I go? With you are the words of eternal life. I will follow. Amen. (My prayer)


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Obviously Transformed

How is it that we can tell if a person is close to God?

In my recent times with the Bible reading about Moses, I have found myself drawn, time and again, to the passages where he and the people of Israel encounter God. It blows my mind to think that every day of their journey through the wilderness, these men and women were able to see and experience the presence of God.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.

When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29-35)

In this passage, we see Moses returning from the presence of God with the second set of stone tablets with the words of the law. There are a few remarkable things that I would like to point out.

  • Moses’ face was radiant. This is not to say that he had a particularly effective skincare regime. Moses’ actual face shone with the actual radiance of God’s glory and presence. He was reflecting God’s presence in such a way that it showed.
  • People noticed. The leaders and the people were frightened to come near to Moses, because of the radiance of his face. They recognise in him something overwhelming of the holiness and presence of God. The reality of the glory of God that showed in Moses’ face struck fear into them.
  • The radiance in Moses’ face was the evidence that he had been speaking to God. This was a physical and obvious manifestation of God’s reality. Moses did not need to tell the people where he had been… it was clear and obvious. God’s glory was shining from Moses face. His words had authority because Moses was displaying God.
  • Moses had to cover his face so that the people could function. The veil was not for the benefit of Moses, but for the people. Those who were far from the presence of God were simply unable to cope with the proof and evidence of God’s presence. Had Moses not have covered his face, he never would have got anything done.
  • Moses uncovered his face to prove his words. Moses was shining with the presence of God whether people wanted to see it or not. It is the presence of God that is important, not what people want to see. But when Moses wanted to tell the people about God’s will he ensured that the proof of the effect of God’s presence was plain for all to see.

As I think and pray, it seems to me that it is VITAL that the people who speak to us about the word of God need to display the presence of God. If I am to speak God’s Word, I must display God’s presence.

I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to come into the presence of God and not be changed by it. Therefore, the evidence of time spent in the presence of God should be clear in the lives of the people of God. If we do not display the glory of God’s presence then we are not going into His presence. We need to get into God’s presence.

This has some uncomfortable implications for Christians and their leaders. Does our time in the presence of God show in us?

Two things seem clear to me…

  1. As a Christian, I need to get into the presence of God.
  2. I need to be willing to let God confront me and change me

Huge implications for the way in which we approach prayer, scripture, fellowship and worship.


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Keep your distance

In Exodus, we see that under the leadership of Moses the people of God witness some incredible things. Each of which shows them that God is on their side and WANTING to rescue and nurture them.

  • The plagues of Egypt. Miraculous disasters aimed at their enemies, which led to their freedom from slavery.
  • The guidance of God by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
  • Protection from the armies of Pharaoh by fire and water.
  • A miraculous escape route through the depths of the Red Sea, walking on dry land between walls of water.
  • The utter defeat of the mightiest army in the world when Pharaoh and all of his chariots are overwhelmed by the Red Sea that opened to let the people escape.
  • Food was given to them on a miraculous and massive scale. Manna and Quail.
  • Water purified by a stick and, later, gushing from a rock.
  • A pyrotechnic display on Mount Sinai that results in tablets of stone and the law of God.

God gives them event after event as evidence and help, amply showing His favor and grace for the tribes of Israel. God systematically removes the limitations that stand between the people of Israel and the presence of God. He leads them to a place where their sin is no longer a barrier and they can hear his voice… and what happens?

“They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:18-19)

The people believe a lie. “Do not have God speak to us or we will die”. After all of the evidence that they have witnessed, they seem to believe that God has literally moved heaven and earth so that they can be destroyed.

Even though Moses has told them that, by the commandments of God, the people can be enabled to draw close to God, they simply will not step out in faith and into God’s presence.

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning” (Exodus 20:20)

Moses assures the people that they have no need to be afraid. God has turned up, in person, to instigate a relationship with them. He tells them that their sin ordinarily makes it impossible for them to know God’s presence, so God has offered them a way to get past their sin and know Him. By the law, God is opening the door to His presence and their faith is under test… but still they keep their distance.

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21)

As I read this passage I am struck by the simple matter that the people’s fear is what stops them from knowing the presence of God. It is not their faith.

They believe that God is God and that Moses is His man. That the words of Moses are trustworthy and that they need to follow them, yet, they pass the opportunity to hear the voice of god for themselves because they a fearful. It is, after all, a very dark cloud!

I wonder how many of us have passed up the possibility of drawing closer to God for fear of what might happen?

Here is a question – Does God love us?

For me, the answer is a resounding “YES!” and yet I find that I quiver in fear in case I fail time and again. God is my Father and He loves me. First, he would not set me up for failure. Second, even if I did fail, he would not let me hurt myself or His plan.

I guess I am wondering around in order to ask a simple question of myself and others. Do I believe the voice of my fear MORE than I believe the Word or God? We do what we believe… what does my action say about what I believe?

More cogitation needed, I feel. Any thoughts would be appreciated…