Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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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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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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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.


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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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Testimony to the light

There is a basic question in Philosophy which, when all is said and done, is pointless. “If  tree falls in a woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?”As far as I am concerned, if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, it does not matter unless there is an impact and a witness to that impact. Noise is irrelevant. It might be that the tree falls on a house when there is nobody to hear it. Then, the noise matters not a jot but the fact that a person witnesses the crushing of their home and the loss of their possessions is of huge importance. What matters is the effect of the tree.

What matters is the witness. If the tree falls, whether it makes a noise or not, and there is no witness to its effect, then it is does matter at all what happens. The fall of the tree is only given significance by the witness to it; it’s effect and impact. Without a witness, the whole world will be ignorant of the tree’s effect and life will go on as before.

“[John] himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light” (John 1:8)

Jesus is the light of the world. His effect on the world is incredible and has a huge impact. He came to illuminate the truth about the sin of humanity which stops us knowing God. To save us from our sins, so that we can be reunited with God our Father and have an inheritance of life instead of death. John too was saved by Jesus because he was subject to sin, and it is this that John witnesses to. The coming of the light of the world. The messiah and saviour of the whole human race appears and the world is changed forever.

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9)

John is a witness to the light of the world. Seeing who the light was, pointing to Him, encouraging others to follow Him. The impact of Jesus, the light of the world, is witnessed because it changes everything. Jesus leads people out of darkness and into light and truth. As Isaiah 9 says, the people of the world are walking in darkness. Yet with Jesus they see a great light. And those who do not see the light hear John, together with the apostles, the disciples, Christians, you and I, pointing to that light and crying out, “LOOK!”

“John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’” (John 1:15)

“John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”” (John 1:29)

If we do not point to the light of the world and exclaim His existence and work, there are huge numbers of people who will miss Him. Like a tree falling in the woods, they will carry on life regardless because they neither saw nor heard its impact. People NEED to hear about the light of the world. Why? Because they live in darkness. We need to shout and point to the light of the world. Why? Because we have seen the light.

The people of the world do not need to be told that they are lost in darkness. They need to be shown the light so that they can see the darkness.

(Christmas cogitation part 6)


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Sent by God

In the UK, there is no easier method of evangelism and outreach that carol singing at Christmas. Wrapped up warm, we can open our lungs and blast out all of the old favorites. Hark the Herald, In the bleak midwinter, Joy to the world and all the rest.

The sad, but interesting , thing is that many Christians seem to overlook the significance of the carols and the opportunity.

All of the Christian carols contain a clear gospel message about the rescue of the world by Jesus. The familiar songs declare the Lordship of God, the salvation of the Lord, the redemption of Creation and so much more. What other time of year will unbelieving members of society voluntarily declare and hear the truths of the gospel? At any other time in the UK, one would be met with, at best, ambivalence, and at worst, derision.

The message that we sing at Christmas is nothing new. It is, to put it very simply, the message of the gospel. Declaring salvation for the lost, rescue for the captives, life for the dead and so on and so forth. Our message for December 25th is no different from our message for 3rd April or 35th August. It is the message of the gospel.

“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John” (John 1:6)

When John the baptizer was preaching and dunking, his message was no different from the message of the Bible. It was the same as the word of Isaiah and the Psalms of David. “Prepare the way for the rescue of God! Confess to God and be made clean”. John declared the truth.

“He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (John 1:7-8)

John pointed unapologetically and definitely to Jesus, the Messiah. He was sent by God to declare the truth of God to a dark world. “Look to the light of God! Find salvation in the chosen one of God!” It was a message that any of the religious leaders of the time might have preached, yet it was only John who had the courage and faith to preach. He even preached it to the king of Judea who lived in a sinful relationship and had the power to kill him.

The message has not changed. It is as simple as it has always been, yet as hard to stand up and preach as it has always been. It takes REAL faith to stand and declare the coming saviour to a world that is lost in darkness. It takes enough faith to believe that it is more important and urgent to declare salvation in Jesus than it is to avoid the opposition and hatred of people who do not want to hear the truth.

We are the ones sent by God as witnesses to the light. At Christmas, but also at all other times. Sent to declare the gospel with courage in words, deeds, attitude and by the Spirit of God. My name is Nigel and I am sent from God. The question is this; do I have the courage, conviction and, most importantly, faith to declare the truth of light in a dark world. Is it important enough to me to declare the truth despite the dangers and darkness that will oppose the truth about the light of the world? Is the light more important to declare than not?

(Christmas cogitation part 5)


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The light is a mystery

Christmas cogitation part 4

We live in a fallen and suffering world. It is not God’s fault, but ours. The world was Created as a place of perfection, where the beings that God Created to share in his presence were able to walk side by side with Him. Yet, we have fallen. Sin ruined the world and we live with the results everyday.

One only has to turn on the news to see that the suffering in the world is central to experience of the vast majority of the human race. No matter how hard we try, it is simply not possible to prove that human nature is essentially good. Our choices and decisions have led us to where we are at. At the same time, there is the seed of eternity in the hearts of humanity that allows us to yearn and hope for a world that is perfect and fair. We desire and work for the world to be a better place.

Has anything worked? Is there any philosophy, politic, discovery, conception, invention or idea that has actually made the world a lastingly better place? Perhaps light comes for a time and for a small minority, but everything we do simply brings a new set of problems and a new darkness.

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:5)

We look for light and work for the good, yet all we achieve is a different quality of darkness. Alone, we are simply incapable of bringing light to the world, because we are not the light of the world.

The world was never meant to be illuminated by the human spirit. Our spirits are not sources of light, they are reflectors. All we can do as human beings is reflect that which we look towards for our life. If we spend our lives looking towards and following something that cannot give us light and life then we will simply reflect darkness and lifelessness through our lives. We can work as hard as we like to persuade ourselves that what we are doing is shining a light, but in time the evidence will simply prove that we make no lasting impression on the world. Even religion, which is humanities effort to create an alternative to the real presence of God, brings darkness to the world.

THE ONLY REAL LIGHT IS THE REAL PRESENCE OF OUR FATHER GOD! The only source of REAL light in the world is the Creator of light. God is light. Unless we look to God for our light and salvation, we will never reflect transforming light into the world. Only a different quality of darkness.

As human beings, we twist and turn and try to persuade ourselves that we are carriers of light, but it is ultimately a delusion. If we do not understand that Jesus is the light of the world then we simply do not understand the nature of light.

At Christmas, the light shines into the darkness. The REAL light comes into the world, born as a human child to open the door once more to the real presence of God so that light not only shines in the world, but floods the entire creation.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end… The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7)


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Before the beginning there was Jesus – Christmas cogitation part 2

Jesus was not a new idea. Whilst he was born into the world as a child, a new human being, he was not a stranger to this world. He was the Word that began creation and he was there when time and space began.

“He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:2)

Before the Creation came to its full maturity, God was. In relationship, in eternity, outside of the time, God existed. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not going to try and explain it here (partly because this is a blog and a full explanation would require several libraries and partly because I want to think about Christmas).

Jesus was with God, in God, part of God, God… right at the start.

Before humanity was formed and walked with God. Before the first sin of pride led to the expulsion of humanity from the garden and the destruction of the relationship that gave everyday intimacy as we walked with God. Before everything, God.

It is vital to believe, even if we find it hard to understand, that God was and is and is to come. He is not simply pre-existent, He transcends existence and time. It is the reason that the name of God is, I AM.

“In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1)

Were it not so, Christmas would be nothing. God is. Jesus is.

Christmas is not simply a party to celebrate humanity and niceness. Christmas is about a reconnection with the eternal God through the eternal Son by the power of the eternal Spirit.

Before the beginning of time and perception there is Jesus, who submitted to the limitations of mundane existence for the sake of the rescue of lost humanity. Christmas makes sense without this truth… but it has no real meaning.

It needs to be said and, by faith, accepted as true. Jesus is God. Christmas is about the birth of God into human experience in order to offer re-Creation to the human race.

Jesus was and is and is to come. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. And he was born.


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The Word – Christmas cogitation part 1

As we head toward Christmas there is more to consider than cards, gifts and food. As a Christian, Christmas is the festival that celebrates God interceding in the life of the world. The book of Genesis shows us the Creation of the world and the Christmas story shows us the beginning of the re-Creation of the world.

God Created the human race to live in relationship with him. The human race were blessed to walk in the perfect garden with the Creator of the universe, to name the animals and live in total freedom within that relationship. Yet humanity fell, when it chose the action and path of independence over dependence, and sought equality with God rather than unity with God.

This is the inconvenient truth that resides behind the Christmas story and makes Christmas necessary.

The Creation of the world began with a word.

“And God said, “Let there be light”” (Gen 1:3)

From the word of light came the context within which everything else could come into being. Without the light of the presence of God, nothing else makes sense.

The re-Creation of the world also begins with a word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Gen 1:1)

The Word, which is Jesus, is the instigation and beginning of the re-Creation of the fallen world.

The solution to the problems of the world cannot be found in politics or philosophy, which are simply ideas that find their root in the separation of humanity from God. It is in the Word of God that the world, and therefore the relationship between God and humanity, is re-Created. Without the Word there is no light to lead us back to intimate relationship with the Father, Creator God.

The person of Jesus is the only path to reconciliation with God. A Word from God is the only thing that can begin Creation and, therefore, the only thing that can begin re-Creation. Thus… the Word of God!

The birth of Jesus was the plan of God for the salvation of the world. It is through the Word that the world is re-Created. Let there be… LIFE.


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Faith in the promise of God

There are lots of cool things about studying the Bible, but amongst the coolest are those times when a passage that you have read time and again suddenly speaks to you in a fresh way.

In chapter 41 of Genesis, Joseph is standing in front of Pharaoh. He has been taken out of prison, cleaned up and asked to interpret a disturbing dream for the most powerful man in the world at that time. Joseph stands there by the recommendation of the Pharaoh’s own wine attendant, who he had interpreted a dream for two years earlier (see Genesis 40). Joseph makes it clear to Pharaoh that it is not he who has the power to interpret dreams, but that God is the one who interprets dreams and Joseph can only do what God leads him to do (Genesis 41:16).

Pharaoh tells Joseph about his dreams. The first involves 7 emaciated cows swallowing 7 fat cows. The second, 7 thin ears of corn devouring 7 healthy ears of corn. Pharaoh and all of his priests and magicians are stumped by them. It is what Joseph says next that blew me away.

“The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (Genesis 41:32)

It had never occurred to me before but, when Joseph utters these words about God repeating the dream in different forms because God has firmly decided upon it, he is also declaring his faith in another pair of dreams. (Genesis 37:5-9). As a young man, about 15 years earlier, Joseph had had two prophetic dreams of his own. The first about sheaves of corn and the second about the sun, moon and stars. Joseph himself had interpreted their meaning, much to the anger of his brothers, that he would come to rule over all of his family. In fact, it was as a direct result of these dreams that his brothers faked his death and sold him as a slave. Far from ruling, he now stands before Pharaoh as nothing more than a slave-prisoner.

Yet, Joseph declares with faith that Pharaoh’s dreams are true because he has had the same dream twice in different forms. He implies, therefore, that his own dreams were true for the same reason.

It is the steadfast faith of Joseph in the face of 15 years experience (that seems to prove beyond doubt that he would not rule over anyone, let alone his brothers) that blows me away. Even though it appears at that moment that there is no conceivable way for these dreams to ever become a reality for Joseph, he believes that God spoke the truth through those dreams.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)

At no point before the interpretation of Joseph’s dream does it seem likely that his situation will change, and yet he has faith in God’s word for him. Joseph believes that God will fulfill Pharaoh’s dream and that God will fulfill Joseph’s dream. He has heard the promises of God, taken them to heart and now stands on them everyday, whether they look possible or not.

The question is this… what are the promises of God for you and I? We need to listen to God, discern His promises and then stand on them by faith. Our world might not look as if the promises of God have any hope of being fulfilled, or are even real, but that is not the point. The point is faith. All that matters is that God has promised and that what God promises, He does.