Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Poem: Where there is hope....

Where there is hope, seeds of restoration are sown.
Where there is hope, joy can begin.
Where there is hope, freedom find it's home.
Where there is hope, faith can arise.
Where there is hope, suffering can be borne.
Where there is hope love can begin again.
Where there is hope disappointment can die.
Where there is hope peace can reign again.
Where there is hope light will flood darkness.
Where there is hope The Savior brings peace.

Give us hope that we might live in abundance.
Give us hope that we might recognise our need of You.
Give us hope that we might be Your presence in a world of hopelessness.
Give us hope that we might know You more deeply.

We love You Lord Jesus even when hope is but a glimmer.
May hope bring our faith fully alive.
For faith is being sure of what we
hope for, certain of what we do not see.
As we step out in faith, may hope arise and
we truly see You as You are.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sitting on the fence of Church

I haven't written much recently. Time goes before you know it. Being busy stops you having to think too much. Perhaps if I'm honest I've had what they call a 'crisis of faith.' Not lost it but its been on the line, cried over, hashed over, raged over, grieved over, rejoiced over (not all at the same time). Sometimes circumstances bring you to places where you reassess your faith and why you believe what you believe. But in that dark place, seeds grow despite the shadows and faith rises again even if at times it feels so small, like a mustard seed.

One thing that I have been wondering about recently is the purpose of the Church community, why do we go to Church? What is it all about, what is it's purpose? I know the answers we are all supposed to give but when the rubber hits the road or we have had a faith crisis sometimes one asks these questions again.  These thoughts have come because I have moved to a different part of the country and am just looking around churches. Initially I didn't really go anywhere for church. Now I church hop a little as I find somewhere to hopefully settle. Often my temptation is to remain a hopper. In a lot of ways it would be easier.

If I am honest some of the most kind, authentic, generous and loving people aren't necessarily in the Church or Christians. I often get more out of my personal quiet-times/relationships with close friends outside the church. Furthermore I find witnessing to those around me more authentic in the pub or at work. Corporate worship I often find like sentimental slush without pauses or breaks and gain more from my personal worship raves in the car during work. Often I find myself switching off in sermons after 15 mins. Sometimes I find people in Churches socially awkward and just down right difficult to engage with (Just being honest).

Personally I think if you want to be entirely fed from Sunday church and have your needs met there you will never get that, and neither should you. Your relationship with God is a relationship, if you only hear from him on Sunday mornings something is wrong. Secondly no church is perfect. At some time or other something will annoy you, after all its made up of human beings who will get hurt and will hurt others.

I am still in transition mode, still have fears about committing to a Church though I have no problem committing to my faith in Jesus. Churches are full of people who can let us down and can be a place in which we are easily hurt. Churches are unfortunately not always the place where the Love of God resides most. That said, neither should I be tempted to hide myself away from Church like I could so easily do.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Love of God Part Four: Love Came Down....

I have been looking at the beginning of Luke's gospel and struck by the fact that Jesus birth was announced by kings and angelic beings yet He is born in the backwater, ordinary manger of all places. Why not on an impressive throne in a palace? Wouldn't that be a more suitable place for the King of the World? He deliberately came to relate to shepherds and kings. He does not distinguish with whom He comes too. He is power and humility personified in one. I am learning more of the breadth of His glory manifest on the cross this season. JESUS died not just for our sin but all our suffering too. I am reading the "Grace Outpouring" which describes a visitation of a woman to Ffald-y-brenin retreat centre who had been abused by a religious man. As she stood before the wooden cross at the retreat centre she started hitting it and sobbing and yelling at God. Then she felt God speak to her and  say that just as the staked wooden cross is immovable so is His love. He said to her, "you cannot move it, because its immovable. My love for you is immovable. I have been with you through your pain and through the abuse and I hate what you have been through. I am not for the abuse: I am for you. I am standing here so that you can pour out your anger, pain, hurt, and frustration onto me. I will carry it on the cross. My cross is immovable, just as my love is immovable. When you have poured all your anger and hatred on me I will just say to you that I love you." A similar experience is told of a man who comes to the retreat centre and stands before the wooden symbol and weeps out all his grief and anger for a wife he had tragically lost to cancer. Like the range of emotions expressed by Job and the Psalmist, Jesus can take any emotion and pain and pour out His love to heal. He loves like no other. Be real with Him and ask Him to show you more of the love He manifest to you by coming in His son to earth as a baby and dying on a cross for You (quote from the Grace Outpouring by Godwin and Roberts" 2008.)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The love of God Part Three: Agape

The word "agapao" or "agape" describes the Greek word for the love of God in the Bible. Passages that use this word - Rev 3:19, John 16v27, John 19:19, John 20:2. Agape love is self giving, it is not a love of the worthy, and it is not a love that desires to possess. On the contrary, it is a love given quite irrespective of merit, and it is a love that seeks to give (Romans 5:10, 5:8, 4:10, Matt 5:44-45). What is the difference between this love and other loves? In the Bible there are other Greek words that use love - "Philia" (deep friendship love e.g. 1 Sam 18:1fff). Also related to this word are "Philadelphia" (brotherly love/love of the Brethren). Eros love (love of the attractive/sexual love) is not used for the Church in the Bible as its is described as a possessive and sexual love. Agape love is most effective in the believer when it underlies all other loves; storge, philia and eros. Without agape being our baseline, other loves cannot be made perfect in a individuals life. They may very well act on their own but can serve as bad masters. For example a sexual relationship which is selfish and only desires to please itself will not bring lasting joy in a marriage. A friendship that is purely for one's own benefit will not last and one will end up friendless. Real relationships which are selfless and not just one way will stand the test of time. They will put up with all sorts of things that come their way. I am blessed with such real friends that stick through thick and thin because of this love. Oh how we need to understand the agape love of God that perseveres through hardship in relationships of all kinds, which sees below the external and right to the heart, that loves the unlovely, the hurting, the sick and our enemies as much as we love those who are easy to love.

I am reading 1 Corin 13 nearly every day in the VOICE Bible translation (2012) at the moment until I absorb it in its entirety.The first three verses say this (and which we will come back to in this series in more detail):

1 Corinthians 13v1-3
"What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal. What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so I am nothing. I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts."

The key here is the motive i.e. "selfless acts". You can, believe it not, have all the gifts of the spirit, give all you have to the poor yet not understand this love. In this day and age we love pictures, words of knowledge and prophecy, we like quick fixes. I am guilty of this. But these are not the heart of the gospel unless they are motivated by a selfless love. According to the Bible these things will not last. Someone with an great  motivation of immense love for all those around them will do great things for the Kingdom. This is why I believe many unlikely heroes will be in heaven, heroes that have never entered the public pulpit, but in their small quiet way they will be great heroes in the kingdom.In Matthew 10:16 it says "the first will be last and the last will be first." If you have only the capacity to love the one in front of you and don't have a great ministry title, that's OK in the Kingdom of God in fact that is the basis of all that we do. How I want to know this Jesus.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The love of God Part Two: Compassion

I am learning lots about the love of God again and thought i would share my thoughts in a little series. I have been reminded of one of my favorite words in the bible! Its this wonderful Greek word. Its called "spangchizomai". It really does sound like a swear word! This was one of my favorite words in the Bible at bible college and I have been reminded of it recently. It is the Greek word for compassion. It literally means this: to be moved at the seat of ones inner being for the plight of others. Some versions say moved from ones gut or even bowels! It is a gut wrenching powerful compassion. It is a compassion for the sick, the lost, your enemy, your neighbor. It is selfless and not a love just for the beautiful or our friends. It is love for the hurting. Jesus is described as being moved in this way. Mark 1:41 uses this. Also the Samaritan story in Luke is an example of this too. I uses to get this sense with patients of mine that were deeply traumatized. what an awesome word. This is the heart of Jesus. This is the heart of his love. What a great God. I pray that the lord would help me know this level of compassion for each person I meet.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The love of God Part One: It is what remains........

I spoke to someone a few weeks ago who told me that there is even a theology for the love of God! Well I don't want just a theology anymore (without offending you academics!) I want to understand and know and feel the POWER of the Love of God afresh. I am doing loads of art and finding different ways to depict the love of God and Grace in picture form. If you have any ideas please comment!

I am discovering how I need to understand God's GRACE more and more. I am asking the Holy Spirit to help me understand more about the love of God and what that means in practice for my heart and mind those I relate to.

A few beautiful songs I think about often and bring tears to my eyes on the subject:

One thing remains

Amazing Grace

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

A love that cannot be quenched and which satisfies beyond anything else...

This week I have a week off and in my usual style I had loads of exciting ideas of things I would do... like go to the motorbike museum in B'ham, shopping at the Bullring mall for Christmas presents and as usual I find myself doing a lot less than planned!

I want to share with you a Bible study I did from my bed this morning as I rested in His presence. This is what His love is like:

God's love....
- endures forever (Jer 33:11, 1 Ch 16:34,  and many more in the Psalms!)
- it is totally unfailing (Ps 6:4, 13:5, 32:10, 36:7, 51:1....and many more)
- it is absolutely enormous (Ps 57:10, 86:13, 117:2)
- it is better than life itself (Ps 63:3)
- it is utterley comforting (Ps 119:76)
- it cannot be quenched, not even death cannot quench it (Ps 55 8:7, Romans 8)
- it is better to taste than wine (SS 1:2)
- it is like a massive banner that covers us (SS 55 2:4)
- it is a love that keeps being poured out to use despite our unfaithfulness (Hosea.. marrying an unfaithful woman)
- it is a love that quiets our fears  (Zeph 3:17 - picture of God singing over us!)
- it is a love that gives joy that nothing else can give (Philemon v7)
- it is a love that gives us understanding of what God has really done for us (Rom 5v8)
- it is a love that causes us to love others Matt 5v7 (quite irrationally from a human perpective! Only God's love in us can love people that hate us)

Who can recieve it?
- His love is for those who really seek and call on Him (Ps 86v5 - this is not a half-hearted calling on Him)
- His love is for those who really desire Him (1 Cor 14v1)
- His love is for those who hunger to obey Him and understand Him (Ps 119)

What should we do with his love?
- Remain in it or "rooted and established" in it like a tree (Eph 3v7)
- Sing about it! (Ps 59v11)
- Ask for more and more and more of it! (1 Thess 3v12)
- Chase after it like a man pursing a women in earnest (2 Tim 2v22)
- Walk in it (2 John 6)

What are the barriers to receiving it?
- anger (1 Corin 13v5) - I think anger is a big barrier to receiving God's love but I think it also has the capability to melt anger away like nothing else. Ask the spirit to receive God's love to melt away the anger that claws away at the heart.
-fear (1 John 4v18) - fear causes us to focus away from God and on us and our problems. However as with anger, God's love has the amazing ability to cast out fear.
- being an enemy to our brothers (especially those who know Christ) (John 15v12, 1 John 4v19- 20) - I remember being bitter, very bitter with a particularly group of people for ages and it quite literally stalled my ability to receive God's love.
-Other loves (1 h Tim 6v10, 1 John 12v15) - like money, things, people that are bigger than our love for God
- Disobedience (2 John 6) - deliberately choosing to turn away from God and so not be open to receiving His love.

The answer to overcoming those barriers to love?
- THE HOLY SPIRIT giving us an awareness of His love ( 1 John 4v13, Eph 3v16-21). The Holy Spirit overwhelming us with His love and giving us a deep, unchanging, unquenchable understanding of who God is.
-I must keep receiving His love, when it comes it astounds and satisfies more than words can say. Maybe like me, it has astounded you in the past, you just need a revelation of His love again today. Chase after Him and ask to receive His love again!