How long?

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?  Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.  Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.  The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.  Habakkuk 1

The old man sits uncomfortable.  As far as he can see it the town is going to hell in a hand cart.  Justice long forgotten.  Truth a tale from a forgotten time.  The man who wants,simply takes. End of story.

He remembers stories of a  sheriff, a marshall who stood for right and wrong.  A man above men who accepted consequences but would not accept violence to an innocent.  This man wrote the book on justice.  He apprehended the wrongdoer, he rescued the abused.

But in this time, in this place he remains a memory, an echo of truth.

Someone believed this man to be in a nearby town.  Somewhere within reach.  A message could be sent.  A plea for help, he will come, yes he will surely come. He will come with perfect timing to free us from our oppressors.  His arrival will reveal our enemies as the thieves we know them to be.

The message sent “RAPE!”, they have taken what did not belong to them.  They have laid us out, bound our wrists, we have no choice.  We are hemmed in.

Message dispatched, today we wait, perhaps we can avert our eyes from the injustice for a while. Nightfall, no answer.

Perhaps the answer is delayed, today we wait again.  If it really is him in the next town an answer will come.  He will hear our cry.

The days have been worse.  Brother rises against brother, no man can trust his friend.  Truth is, there are none who stand.  No man lifts another before himself.  There is a chance the message did not reach him.  He would listen.  His ear would not be deaf to our cries.  Worse, he would not hear and then ignore us.  He would not leave us without help.  He would not.  Perhaps it was not him.

 

Image rights reserved by ccampbell10

Advertisements

God’s ways are not your ways

still small voice

I regularly have to remind myself the Christian life is not a project to accomplish or a skill to practice.

This is increasingly important as today we are surrounded by headlines like:

Five steps to become an awesome Christian

7 mistakes the unsaved make when cutting grass

12 people who need to like you before you will achieve your God given purpose

Sometime I wonder if we have become like the Pharisees aiming for perfection, creating ‘rules’ to help us along the way.

TAKE ACTION – plan – don’t stop moving – people need to hear your voice today or they will forget you

But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.  Galatians 1:15-17

I am inspired by the fact that one of my heroes, Paul, when called by God did not run to the nearest successful ministry, nor did he seek out a 10 step plan for church planting, he didn’t even head to where he could learn from the experts.

He stopped, he listened, he was prepared for the slow revelation of Jesus Christ.  Prepared also for the possible obscurity that may follow.

The revelation of Jesus Christ is never hurried.  Even in His own teaching Jesus chose parables, stories thrown down before people that worked into their spirit.  I wonder today whether Jesus’ teaching would follow the ‘self-help’ industry standards of today or would he still be asking questions of us, breathing answers to those prepared to sit in the soil long enough to take root.

 

For some reason comments are not working on this post.  If you’d like to comment or just say hi, why not come over and say hi on G+ here

 

Love is not blind

Love is BlindThe Poet

Love to faults is always blind,
Always is to joy inclin’d,
Lawless, wing’d & unconfin’d,
And breaks all chains from every mind.

Deceit to secrecy confin’d,
Lawful, cautious & refin’d,
To every thing but interest blind,
And forges fetters for the mind.

William Blake

I have always loved the sentiment of these phrases from Blake, the powerful contrast of love, joy and freedom with deceit, self interest and captivity.  I do however wish the first line were different.   Perhaps we are blind to faults, but love really isn’t.

We sometimes shorten this to ‘Love is blind’ meaning  it doesn’t matter what someone looks like as long as you love them.  At first glance this may appear to be a great characteristic.  However I believe above all things love ‘sees’ what others don’t.

The Prophet

…saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”

to those who are in darkness, “Appear.”
Isaiah 49:9

I absolutely love this message ‘Appear, be seen, come out,’ this message of the power of the love of God in a human life.  It reminds me of God calling “Adam, where are you?”

God in His love calls out to us ‘Do not hide, I love you and have done everything necessary to clothe you and make you lovely’

It is this love of God that makes us lovable. (see Ephesians 5:25-27 to discover how Jesus’ love makes us whole)

God, in loving us sees us, really knows us yet loves us still.  A reminder that we are in fact the work of God’s hands, crafted not to be hidden or filled with shame but as a display of God’s greatness.

The Husband and Father (Me)

The Poet disturbs me into knowing that love ‘sees’.

The Prophet reminds me that in really ‘seeing us’, God also restores us

Personally I am not known for my public displays of affection but I am happy to know that I am loved.  I am married to a wonderful and beautiful woman who knows me, sees my faults but chooses to draw out my gifts and strengths.  Who encourages me to remain in the light sharing and not hiding.  (Thank you Heather, I love you very much)

I have two amazing sons who have taught me that really knowing someone only leads to greater love.  My heart is filled with the desire to love and inspire them to be great men who see clearly, are obsessively kind and love outrageously.

Takeaways for Valentines Day

1.  Are we guilty of failing to really ‘see’ the people whom we claim to love?

Do something about that TODAY!

2.  Spend some time with this hymn excerpt to help you not define or explain Gods love, but simply to receive and respond.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea

there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;

and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

F.W. Faber

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega
Have you ever tried writing a story?

If you have, you’ll know that it’s important to set out the beginning, the middle and the end.  Lose one of the three, and your story will suck.

Without a beginning a story has no explanation; people you don’t know are doing things you don’t understand in an unclear location and with no context whatsoever.  Without an end a story is pointless!  Characters may be introduced, relationships develop and the plot might thicken, but there’ll be no resolution, no closure, just dissatisfaction.

Imagine any trilogy you like without parts one and three. Pretty frustrating, right?  Well, that’s what life can sometimes feel like; we appear in the middle of a story and may very well die before it reaches a conclusion.  Death is more annoying than anything else, isn’t it?

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God. (Revelation 1:8a)

[Jesus said,] ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’ (Revelation 22:13)

The Bible tells us clearly that just as Alpha and Omega begin and end the Ancient Greek alphabet, the beginning and end of our story is God himself. Without God we have no context or explanation for life; naturalistic science may be able to hint towards how things happen, but have no hope for telling us why. But in Christ we have a cause and a reason for living; we understand why we’re here.

Without God we have no certainty about the future; we only need to look at the credit crunch to see that every other foundation we build our lives on is flawed, inconsistent and unpredictable.  But in Christ our future is secure.  An eternity of infinite joy and peace is guaranteed.

What if we thought, and acted, as if it were all about Jesus?

 

I hope you have enjoyed this guest post by Sam Isaacson.  Sam describes himself as “a normal Christian, writing a blog for normal Christians. I’m not a church leader or a conference speaker or anything like that, I’m just a normal Christian getting on with my normal life, just like a lot of other Christians.” You can connect (and encourage) Sam on twitter, google+ and by visiting his blog

Image used with permsission by jayneandd

Brilliant Dreamers

“Don’t stop believing…. unless your dreams are stupid”

My favourite moment in this fantastic video that went viral this week.  You will find this Journey(ish) quote just after the minute mark.

Are you a dreamer?  I am!  I can lose hours daydreaming quite easily.    There is much truth in this video, however there is I believe, a hint of a great truth.  In the first world today the preeminent message we receive is don’t stop believing, hold onto your dreams, never let anyone tell you that can’t do it.

Unfortunately as Christians we are tempted to believe that this positive, life affirming message is actually the good news.  We act like God has called us to be achievers, to be successful at whatever we do.  This is not the truth, at least not the whole truth.

Here’s how Jude put it

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. Jude 1:8

We have dreams of preaching to 1000’s, writing a best selling book, leading 20,000 in worship or travelling to the four corners to share the good news.  These great dreams can become what we rely on, the inspiration for our service, the thought that raises our hope.

The Truth

Your dreams are not big enough!

When God invites us to be a player in His story, do we dream up a story of our own?  God has called us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him.  He has called us to act as He would, to make disciples, to seek God.

I ask myself:

  • Do I choose brilliance before Christlikeness?
  • Is excellence or success my dream?
  • Do I choose humility and prayer over self promotion and ambition?
  • What do I believe will be the most significant thing I can do in serving Jesus?

In all this I find myself asking “What is my response to the gift of God in my life?”

My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace nor even blessing, but Himself my God     F Brook

Almighty, Our multi-coloured God

Almighty God - A day in the mountains

Heather, Micah, Jonny and Harrison

I asked my son Harrison (6) to describe me.  He said I am big, I have big feet, big ears, big hands, a blue shirt, brown hair….. and so on.  Then I pointed out that everything he described was physical, everything could be measured in some way.  I then asked if he could  describe what I was like and the conversation took a different tack.

How do we describe the indescribable?  When we meditate on the names of Christ it is tempting to analyse the names, to break them down into component parts.  The name Almighty literally means ‘ to hold all strength’.  This is not something we can understand, we cannot comprehend the strength of the ocean never mind the One who made it, the One who flung stars into space.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:8

Let me take a different approach.  I can tell you my wife’s name, I can tell you her height, weight, eye colour and age.  But you do not know her.  I can send you her CV (Resume).  You will then know her education and professional accomplishments.  But you do not know her, many others have equivalent CVs.  I can tell you stories about how we met, about her many adventures in childhood, I can tell you about music, books, places she loves, I could show you videos and photos or share things she has written.  All this will help you know about her and you might even FEEL like you know her, but you do not.  Even if I could share every memory I have with you , you still would not know her.  You will not know her until you become part of her story and she part of yours.  Then the journey to knowledge begins. 

We cannot know Jesus by definition, nor by reputation or history.  We might know what Jesus likes and dislikes.  We may know that He is infinite in time, in space, in power and in knowledge.  We might know that he is good, that he is kind, that he is merciful.  But still this is not knowing Jesus.

And for the good news (gospel).  Jesus left behind stories, not definitions.  He inspired people to keep telling the stories.  In these stories the person of Jesus starts to take shape.  We realise we want to know this Jesus, this water walking, storm stopping man who is God.   In the stories and lives of those around us and those who have gone before we find a multi-coloured picture of Jesus not a black and white dictionary definition.

All stories of Jesus, whether written, sung, prayed or lived have one purpose, to point you and I in His direction.  As we seek, we find ourselves invited to become part of His story as He is already part of ours.

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.  John 17:26

This post is part of a series on the Names of Christ  – the most recent posts in the series are found here

Hands up anyone?

Check out Proverbs 18:13

  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
  • It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.
  • Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish
  • Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.

Hands Up Anyone?I read this Proverb a couple of weeks back and shared it with Harrison (6) over breakfast.  Harrison’s response?  “There are people like that in my class.  They have their hands up before the teacher even asks the question!”  (spoken with more than a hint of ‘how foolish is that’)

I have to hold my hands up and say “Yep that’s me” , I speak before listening.  It is my foolishness and shame to have answers for people long before I listen to them.  Harrison’s words made me think though.  There are sometimes when we really should have our hands up, but they remain at our side.

  • In confession – ‘Yep that was me’
  • In worship – You alone are worthy O Lord
  • In response – Here I am, send me
  • In celebration – Think of when your team scored that last-minute goal

106054-barcelonas-supporters-celebrate-a-goal-by-their-team-in-central-barcel1

Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!  Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, Daughter Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.                                        Zephaniah 3: 14-17

Worth Celebrating?

A narrow path, just what we all need

A Narrow Path - Just what we all needIn September of ’92 I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Israel on a tour of  Jerusalem and Galilee. The tour was led by a George Bates from Randalstown along with 2 guides, a Jew and an Arab.  George was an absolute joy to listen to as he shared from the Bible everywhere from Solomon’s Colonnade, to Megiddo with En Gedi in between.

A moment I remember clearly was getting out of our air-conditioned coach  on a desert road. The oppressive heat had us all reaching for head-wear in a vain attempt to find relief from the sun.

As we stood in the desert looking at the barren terrain George pointed across the other side of the valley at a green path which split the steep hillside in two.  There must have been a spring high on the mountainside and the resulting stream had cut a single fertile pathway down the slope.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matt 7:14 NIV

George pointed out that a benefit of a narrow path is that it is easy to identify.  Standing in a wasteland where any direction was possible and roads seemed to dissolve into the terrain the one thing we could all easily identify was the ‘narrow path’

Speaking of the Bible, Soren Kierkegaard* wrote

“We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.”

Often I think when we are not sure what to do or what path to take it is because we do not want to follow the narrow path ahead of us.  Instead we are looking for a path that suits our ambition, ego, abilities or desires better.  We know the truth of Kierkegaard’s words, ‘our whole life will be ruined’ if we follow that path.

The fact remains that when in difficultly (and when at ease) there are things we understand clearly to be the narrow path; to humbly pray, to worship, to give generously, to speak truthfully, to act with kindness etc.

Chilly Chilton posted the above Kierkegaard quote in its broader context in a blog post called  Scholarship really worth reading, as is the full text of ‘Kill the Commentators’ found in Provocations which is available in various formats free from Plough publishing here

Sorry if you've read this post before, Had to bring it over from old blog manually

Overcomers

I am always right!

There have been three steps to this striking realization.

Firstly a friend said something along these lines “I cannot trust my judgement to be accurate because my mind is so committed to self-preservation”

The truth of this statement was instantly before me.  Our mind and will is always right because its goal is self-preservation.  I ought to deceive others if it protects me.  I ought to make every choice based on what provides the best outcome for me.  The ability of my mind to elevate and protect me in competition with others is surely right.  It is surely an advantage in this world to use every opportunity to secure advancement by using my influence, intelligence and resources.  Our judgement cannot be trusted to be accurate because it is designed to put me first in the same manner in which my hand will recoil from a flame.

With this thought lolling around inside I began to notice and recall situations and conversations in which people acted contrary to this new understanding of mine.  They have said things that are not natural, done things that provide no benefit to themselves.  Surely this is not right.  Something must have become dislodged  in their internal processing.

The third realisation is that these people who act without regard to their own advancement fall into two distinct categories.  Two diametrically opposite categories if such a thing is possible.  The first group of insane people seem to have some higher insight.  They see and recognise the choices that will lead to their betterment but choose instead to take a different path.  They appear to be following another.  They act in obedience and love.  Overcoming instinct, overcoming self rightness, overcoming defensiveness, overcoming self.  For ease lets call this group ‘Overcomers’ (I think someone may have coined that before me).

The other group who act without regard to their own advancement are very, very different.  They seem to make unusual choices.  They take paths that lead quite obviously to their detriment.  They choose companions that take from them, they spiral seemingly out of control, looking for a wall sturdy enough to break against.  And break they inevitably do.  These folks also seem to be following, but blindly, not knowing whom.

Both of these groups differ from ‘normal’ society in that they do not act rationally to defend and better themselves, instead they follow a different beat.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.      1 John 4:4-6

Unhinged

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Eph 3:20-21

UnhingedI find that dismantling these verses and putting them back together helps me greatly.

Firstly we establish with no real stretch of faith that God is able to do all that we ask. Then we widen to the realisation that God can do all that we ask or think (imagine).  I don’t know about you but I can imagine rather a lot.  I can imagine time travel, teleportation (my spell check tells me this isn’t even a word so lets Imagine that it is), my becoming a Jedi Master, visiting Perelandra. I could go on.  More seriously can you imagine an end to civil wars, hunger, betrayal, cancer etc.  How about the transformation of the most evil person into a compassionate father?  God can do all we ask or IMAGINE.

Now Paul not only says that God is able to do more than we can ask or think.  Not just more but far more abundantly or exceedingly abundantly more than all we ask or imagine.  You’re getting the picture right?

????? According to the power at work within us ????????  Now things really start to get interesting.  If we content ourselves to dwell only on the first half of this sentence we can view it as a description of the abilities of God.  However these words reveal the place in which these actions of God take place. Within us.  The power of the “able to do”

Then the finale “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.”

The glorification of God is not an event to be anticipated or hoped for.  It is the working of his power in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.  That means yesterday, today, tomorrow.

These verses create in me a picture of a solid oak door frame.  Enduring, powerful, unmoving.  Past, present and future.  So in the light of God’s power at work within us, glorifying Him in all generations, how come we so often seem unhinged?

Take a moment to consider the verses that immediately follow;

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.    Eph 4:1-3

Paul, in the light of God’s incredible power, urges us to walk in correct response to the call (word) of God.  The response? All humility and gentleness, patience and pursuit of unity.  I sometimes wonder if the reason we sometimes feel disconnected from the power of God in our lives is because we simply don’t understand what our response to God’s call ought to be.

If my people will humble themselves, and pray……. then I will