W5-Who trumps what-where-when and why

In Belfast we have a wonderful science and discovery centre called W5, WhoWhatWhereWhenWhy – visit W5.  My sons aged 7 and 4 absolutely love it and we visit a few times each year.

What?

What should I do?  What do you want me to do?  What did you do?

What is the best approach to this project?  What hope do I have of making that work?

What should I spend money on? What should I eat? What type of x y and z should I have?

What subjects? What career? What company?

What is it made of? What does it need in order to work?

What am I going to do with you?

What have I done?  What have you done with my Son?

Where?

Where should we live? Where should we go to church?

Where should we holiday? Where can I find one?

Where is the best place to find peace and quiet?

Where did I lose that ticket?

Where can we go from His presence?

When?

When will that delivery arrive?

When can I go out to play?

When will I feel better?  When will things get better?

When will I learn?

When will you learn?

When will I earn enough money?

When will people realise how talented I am?

When will God answer?

Why?

Why me?

Why do I need to do that?

Why did that happen to you?

Why should I?

Why not?

Why, just stinkin’ why?

Why would anyone do that for me?

Why don’t we? Why wouldn’t we?

Why does it matter?

 Who?

Who said that?

Who knows best?

Who’s the daddy?

Who needs this most?

Who should I listen to?

Who can I help?

Who can I turn to for help?

Who can I depend on?  Who can depend on me?

Who is there?

Who loves ya baby?

Who’s left?

“Who do people say that I am?”   Who do I say that He is?

Who is a God like you?

You forgive those who are guilty of sin; you don’t look at the sins of your people who are left alive.

You will not stay angry forever, because you enjoy being kind.   Micah 7:18

You should read this great post on Coffee with Noelle for more on this verse.

Image  Some rights reserved by jonny goldstein

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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

How is God known?

Another 1

God is known

One day at a time
One week at a time
One coffee at a time
One sorry at a time
One dance at a time
One gift at a time
One laugh at a time
One lunch at a time
One Sabbath at a time
One broken heart at a time
One broken loaf at a time
One glass of wine at a time
One outpouring at a time
 
He said, “look, you look like you’d like to eat”
I said, “a glass of coke and a hotdog, fine”
He said “how ’bout some bread and a glass of wine”
I said “lead me on. lead me on where you’ goin”
Larry Norman
 
Image some rights reserved by Mrs Logic

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

Epiphany

EpiphanyFB

On Jan 6th I asked “What does Epiphany mean to you?”

As you can see I got a couple of interesting replies on Facebook.

I think the second comment is a particularly insightful response in relation to Epiphany.

In Stories for the Christian Year, poet and author Luci Shaw recounts a wonderful story introducing Epiphany.  For weeks her daily, hour long journey past the foothills of the Cascade Mountains can be in thick drizzle and haze.

The mountains are clearly marked on the map, but they might as well not exist, lost as they are in clouds, obscured by drizzle, fog, haze.  Then, some morning, unexpectedly, a strong air from the sea will lick away the fog and allow the sun to shine cleanly.  And Mt. Baker, towering magnificantly beyond the foothills, unbelievably high above the other mountains, is seen to be what it has been all along – immense, serene, unmovable, its dazzling, snow-draped profile cut clear against a sky of jewel blue”

Mountain Epiphany

The Epiphany in the Christian calender is that day, early in the year when we celebrate the revelation of the God-man Jesus.  This was not the creation of Christ, it was an unveiling.  A transformation yes, because He who was not human became human.

It is a celebration of the day when the Saviour was revealed as ‘not made up’.  The day when the plan to piece together a broken world was revealed in a human face for the first time.

Epiphany is humanity’s first ‘face to face’ encounter with the unwavering lover of mankind. The ever present, oft hidden Saviour stepped into the light, into the experience of his fallen creation.

The nature of Epiphany is that it does indeed confirm that like Mt Baker behind a thick blanket of cloud, God is indeed ‘all made up’ to those to whom He has not revealed Himself.

A prayer: Father do not hide yourself from those of us who need your presence.

 

Image by Sarai Rachel used under license

What did you expect?

What did you expect?

“The closer our expectations are confined to God, the higher our expectations may be raised”

Matthew Henry: from The Treasury of David, notes on Psalm 125

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him (Psalm 62:5)

  • What are my expectations for the day, week, month, year ahead?
  • How much do I rely on the love of God?
  • How many of my hopes for the future are based on what I can do or what others can do for me?
  • If faith is of more worth than gold how rich am I in faith?
  • Where is my hope?
  • Am I filled with vain daydreams or are my expectations confined to the all-powerful, all loving, all-knowing, ever-present God?
  • Am I prepared to wait in silence for God to reveal Himself?

Image by Cretog8 used under license

Worthy of the call – Solzhenitsyn August 1914

Worthy of the Call

“But Sukhomlinov had become Chief of the General Staff, and with the ignorant rashness that looked so much like decisiveness had ‘reconciled’ the rival plans: Russia would attack on both fronts at once! ……… (his successor) had gone so far as to give the French a firm understanding that Russia would move against Germany as well as Austria………How long would France remember Russia’s sacrifice, her blood tribute? Knowing all this, you must still show yourself worthy of your calling”*

*from August 1914 (Red Wheel) – A very short but insightful review of the book can be read here

This excerpt from the first of Solzhenitsyn’s Red Wheel series shares the thoughts of Colonel Vorotyntsev as he travels from Army General HQ to the field HQs and beyond to the front line to visit with the commanders in the field. He takes it upon himself to speak with the field commanders directly, taking personal responsibility for the success of the campaign in Prussia.

Vorotyntsev knowing all the errors of judgement made at Army GHQ, can see first-hand the failed communication network which ensures the Russian Army have no idea where their individual battalions are never mind where the Germans might be.  In the midst of total confusion and conflicting egotistical officers Vorotyntsev knows one thing to be true. He must still show himself worthy of his calling.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”    Ephesians 4:1

I am a firm believer that every action we take can only be a response to the actions of God.  God is the initiator.  God is source.  The earth and everything in it was not only created at his word but is also held together by the imperishable Word of God.

That being said I am also a believer that our actions count!  What we do affects the world around us.  We are urged by Paul to live up to the calling we have received.

Paul urges the church ‘to walk’, to act, to move forward in this world.  Our calling is a heavenly one.  A heavenly calling is a calling that comes from heaven.  It is also a calling towards heaven, but it is a calling that is received and responded to on earth.  God has not called us to wait for heaven, he has called us to walk towards heaven in a manner worthy of the call.

For another blog post approaching Ephesians 4:1 from a different perspective try Unhinged

2012 in review

Review of 2012

There are many ways we can review 2012 including;

Quantitatively.

  • What is my bank balance?
  • How many sales did I make?
  • How many pupils passed exams?
  • How much is my house worth compared to last year?
  • How many members in church?
  • How many chapters did I write?
  • How close am I to achieving specified goals?
  • How many miles have I run/cycled/cartwheeled?

Qualitatively

  • How close am I to my kids?
  • What is the condition of my heart?
  • How is my marriage?
  • How are my friendships?
  • How is my health and the health of those I care for?
  • What memories/stories have I created for myself and those around me?

ALL of these reflections have genuine merit.

A few weeks ago I woke up repeating a phrase over and over in my head.  The phrase was “1 Corinthians 2:11”  When I finally gained consciousness proper I went to my Bible to find out what 1 Cor 2:11 actually says.

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

I wonder how God would review 2012.  His love has not changed, His mercies have been new every morning.  He is ever worthy of praise.  His compassion is boundless, His loving kindness knows no limit.

In 2012 He has shared the hopes, dreams, failures and successes of everyone and has remained unchanged, not unmoved, not uncaring but always giving, always caring, always true. Just like 2011 and 1062 and the year His gave His Son to save me.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 1 Cor 2:12

My prayer for 2013?

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give [me] the Spirit  of wisdom and revelation, so that [I] may know him better. Ephesians 1:17

Now to make 2013 as Spirit filled and simple as possible

Image by Rachael_H,  used under license

A Magic Hour

Magic HourI am going to give you an hour.  A magic hour, an hour when the world stops just for you.  An hour that you can just get stuff done. It’s going to happen next Tuesday so start planning what you are going to do with this magical extra hour.  If you use it wisely I will give you another magic hour the following week.

Here’s a few things that I think we would all like (add as many more as you like):

  • To make our wife/husband/partner happy
  • To help our friends and families enjoy life and be fulfilled
  • To be less stressed
  • To help people in our communities that don’t have anyone to help them.
  • To learn a new skill

I am sure you can think of loads more things in your life that you would like to see.  Here is a challenge for you.  Write down one thing that you could achieve in the magic hour next Tuesday that would help towards just one of those goals……

Now forget the magic hour, your real challenge is to just do that one thing this week.  Find an hour, one way or another find that hour and get it done.

You didn’t know you were magic did you?