Sunday, November 26, 2017

Precious little moments, surreal little wonders

Adelaide Oval, 29 October 2017

“MUM, when I’m an adult I want to marry you,” I heard my son say to my wife as I washed dishes and she helped him brush his teeth for bed.
In that moment I wondered what her response would be. I was curious. Then I heard her say, “Sorry darling, but you can only be married to one person, and Mum is married to Dad.” Then I chimed in and said, “But you could marry someone like Mum.” The conversation continued for a few more moments, but we could tell these concepts were hard for him to absorb. But he was absorbed!
These are the precious moments of our lives. Like all parents, we want a record of these events of innocence, as they occur in all little children’s lives and ought to be celebrated.
Only minutes earlier my son wanted to help me make coffee and I fobbed him off, and even as he walked away dejected, I brought him back and said, “Sorry, Dad didn’t speak very kindly to you then, did he… can you help me make my coffee?” — a moment redeemed! Life is full of emotionally pregnant moments.
There are times when we watch our son playing in the backyard or at the park or in his play area and we marvel at his creativity. But if I’m honest, I’m usually preoccupied with the events and plans in my life and I miss most of these moments, even when I’m present. It’s those times where God reminds me to refocus and claim the moment, so I have less regret in the future.
It’s like the myriad precious moments in my girls’ lives as they grew through their childhoods. So many memories to cherish. So many memories of having simply been present. And so many missed moments.
The older I get the more I think that at some point I will have to leave all this behind; the people, the events, the memories, and the possessions, which pale in significance.
Our family is a precious gift we’re given, to hold and nurture and protect. Our children hold in their beings the precious genome of character we sow into them today, in this season, which is fleeting. Soon, all too soon, they will be the parents and grandparents. When our son will be married!

Life. Be present. Make the most of the precious little moments and surreal little wonders.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The biggest miracle ever

Photo by Liane Metzler on Unsplash

GRACE interrupts and realigns a life in the simplest, starkest and subtlest of ways. It makes the most massive difference, ever. By grace I mean, the sudden realisation that God has done it all — His love has smashed open and clears away every darkness this life seeks to condemn us with.
The biggest miracle happens on the smallest stage —
one person’s life at a time.
When God gets through, it is His glorious and marvellous work for all to see — for all those who can see how marvellous and glorious His work is… on His masterpiece.
Spiritual healing is far more important and significant, and therefore bigger in the scheme of a life, than physical or mental or emotional healing. For several reasons. Here are at least three. First, the physical, mental and emotional states are existential. They’re passing away. Only our spiritual state truly has eternal matter and matters eternally. Second, possibly the only way we receive holistic healing that covers the physical, mental and emotional states is through spiritual healing. Third, physical, mental and emotional healing all involve some aspect of knowable science, yet spiritual healing involves divine intervention through the intercession of faith. Spiritual healing is solely dependent on God, which is why faith is so important and significant in life.
Here is the key difference spiritual healing makes:
First, spiritual healing is evidenced via the insight a person has of truth as it resides in the reality of their life. Suddenly there is a capacity and a willingness to be honest. Humility becomes them. What others do or don’t do is now of much less consequence. There is a sincere, efficacious internal locus of control.
Second, spiritual healing is evidenced via love. A heart change has taken place and the person lives for others, not in a selfishly self-effacing way, but in a way where there is authentic spiritual joy in their service. They operate for Kingdom rewards and they begin to avoid and shun the rewards available in this life.
Third, spiritual healing is evidenced in faith emergent in a hope that this world cannot extinguish. It is the heralding magnificence of this spiritual capacity that the more crushed a spirit-filled person is, the more faithful God ultimately shows up in their life.[1]
All this from one ongoing miracle:
the acquisition of Grace that only comes
as God’s gift, for which we can take no credit.
As an assemblage, then, the subject experiencing the biggest miracle ever begins to repent continually — such is now their lifestyle — they cannot help turning back to God. Their relationships are buoyant, reconciliation occurs through apology and recommitment, because this one person is filled with light. Through this one person, the Holy Spirit begins to have dominion, within them, and also outwardly as others experience their unique divine light. And the glory is God’s alone.
When grace interrupts our lives, others begin to win, as we’re no longer a threat to them, and neither are they anymore a threat to us. When others begin to win, God wins, and that is how our victory is procured and assured.
In this we can know this is the biggest miracle ever: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) When a person grasps the reception of that truth, we see what no human being, corroded by sin, could ever do. God has saved us from a life of death unto a life abundant in life! Then we follow with passion, tenacity and commitment, the only one we were always meant to follow — Jesus.

[1] This quote highlights the gospel reverse-reality available as a ‘spiritual reality of being’ for the Christian:
“Yet those that be against us,
so far are they from thwarting us at all,
that even without their will
they become to us causes of crowns,
and procurers of countless blessings,
in that God’s wisdom turns their plots
unto our salvation and glory.
See how really no one is against us!
— John Chrysostom (349 – 407)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Replacing guilt with compassion

Photo by Rachel Walker on Unsplash

GUILT is a common emotional response in the family context — parents for children, siblings with each other, children for parents, etc.
The core of the issue relates to when we cannot influence or control others and where we feel responsible for them. Correcting both these errors is about accepting the limitedness of our influence, that control ought not to be our goal, and that we cannot ever be responsible for other people — no matter who they or we are.
They have their own will and they will make their own mistakes, and who is to say we’re right in our judgments? Oh, the myriad times we thought, in our data-poverty, we were so right, when we were actually dead wrong!
The tenet of this advice is to come back to what we, ourselves, are responsible for.
We feel guilty on the one hand when we feel responsible for others, when we fail them, yet on the other hand we judge them when they don’t meet our expectations. Neither they nor we can win, and the relationship has the eventual object of losing and loss. Such a dynamic can only propagate negative attributions and emotions, where feelings of betrayal and bitterness abound.
It would be better to free ourselves and the other person/s, acknowledging we’re not responsible for them, nor are they responsible for us.
When finally we’re free of this burden of discharging an impossible or an unlikely duty, we’re enabled to feel compassionate. The taint of guilt is gone, and the love is enhanced.
Healing deep family wounds is about replacing guilt with compassion by understanding what we’re responsible for as opposed to whom we’re responsible to.
Love offers those we love the opportunity to make mistakes with our permission and blessing of compassion.

Replace guilt with compassion so judgment and condemnation can make way for peace.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

8 situations where God speaks to me in unexpected ways

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

ENTERING a pedestrian crossing behind a woman, I hear her say, “Hey, thanks for stopping, buddy!” A person had just passed over the crossing and should have given way. For a moment I was as aggrieved as she was. Then God spoke to me.
God spoke to me how He usually speaks to me — in an unanticipated way.
He reminded me of the ways I think and live and judge situations wrongly.
Times when I notice:
1.                 a car not give way to me, I often hear God remind me that I’ve done that several times myself — usually without intending to. And so, His reminder of my hypocritical nature stops that judging thought in its tracks. I have more empathy for the humanness in people operating a motor vehicle.
2.                 another Weinstein-gate story hit the news, as I experience anger toward such men, God highlights my propensity to have my glance drawn toward attractive women. I may not act on my desires, but I do think inappropriate thoughts. Again, in my hypocrisy my Lord speaks. I’m slower to condemn the fallen.
3.                 someone being ridiculously harsh on themselves, a memory flashes before my eyes of my proclivity to do that. Sure, as a pastor I find it ridiculous how self-condemning people often are, yet so too do I struggle with that from time to time.
4.                 a person parading a faith-system different to mine, by way of attempting to convert me, God shows me how I think — ‘don’t they know I’m devoutly Christian — like, how dare they!’ Then, I’m shown how quickly I evangelise when given the opportunity. Is it my right to speak of my faith and not theirs?
5.                 someone doing something I would never do… He helps me remember the truth. Like Peter said he would never deny Jesus, I imagine myself never betraying the Lord; yet I am a Barabbas. And still the Father does not condemn me or them, He only loves us. I’m no better or worse than they are.
6.                 a person make a silly moral error, and not pick it up, God opens my eyes to the situational blindness that hampers many of my moments. He shows me how He speaks, and through the Holy Spirit’s direction, I confess and repent the best I can to make things right again. I begin to have compassion on my brother or sister. I pity them perceiving their fault, yet I know it is good for them to know the truth.
7.                 a troll on social media, and I begin to think how crude and evil the person is, before God shows me how rude my communications have occasionally been. He then shows me again, a fundamental truth, how hurt people hurt people. I can pray especially for the person who cannot see why they should be courteous and respectful. Remember Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
8.                 my wife’s impatience with me ticks me off, and, if I listen in carefully enough, the Holy Spirit shows me my own coarse dealings with her at times. It’s good to know how she might feel through knowing how I feel. God motivates me to be gentler.
It’s hard living the authentic Christian life when truth lands on the runway of our awareness. But that’s the dependable Voice of our faith counselling us through gentle though firm rebuke. We only grow when we listen with humility.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The grief integral to full faith allegiance in Christ

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
FALSE truths and half-faiths there are plenty of in the Christian walk; both as far as dogmas and lived-out varieties are concerned. John Stott was right when he said that heresy is the over-emphasis on some truth without allowing other truths to qualify and balance it. (And this article will no doubt feature such an imperfect mix of truth!)
One of Christianity’s operational heresies is a faith that negates the need to endure suffering well. It’s understandable. No human being gets ‘saved’ into a faith that is centrally about suffering well. Many conversions to Christ are done solely on a good news premise that neglects to mention the many warnings biblical writers recorded for us.
Little wonder we don’t know what hit us when an avalanche of spiritual problems beset us in the faith. And, then again, such mentions of warning are irrelevant until later when we actually experience them maybe for the first time. And yet, that’s when it’s hardest of all; to respond to crises meekly.
Faith is hardest of all when a crisis hits,
yet to endure it meekly is wisdom.
This is proof of faith.
The Bible isn’t just talking culturally — Old and New Testament times being hard for the people of God as they were — when it talks about enduring suffering well.
The need to endure trials is a life concept that applies to every era of history.
Here is one solid premise of the ‘set apart’ (holy) life of the children of God:
“If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.”
— 1 Peter 2:20 (NRSV)
This verse presupposes that we’re doing the right thing. Christians, as far as it depends on us, are supposed to be doing the right things. (I know, there are plenty of times when we’re in the wrong, too, and we also must concede we acknowledge we’re sinners.)
It also presupposes that even in doing the right thing we will suffer; but never in vain. We have God’s approval, which we necessarily need to remind ourselves is something we can only know by faith. Accepting that God applauds our endurance means our faith has power.
The result of suffering well, or enduring, when we do what is right, and keep doing it, is we experience a godly grief that has to wrestle, and come to peace, with being unjustly treated. It’s primary to our allegiance to Christ. We identify with the Lord and He identifies with us when we endure unjust treatment.
This means we will inevitably and regularly be wronged, betrayed, and violated, as well as experiencing disappointment, broken dreams, and unanswered prayers. Life will pulverise us at times. And only then, when we’re forlorn in lament, is there the opportunity for sanctification through grieving our losses. Grieving is for growth unto acceptance, knowing with zero doubt that God is good despite it all.
There is a key difference between Christians and those who don’t yet believe: suffering has purpose for the Christian. Such a concept is ludicrous to those without faith.
Smallness in the Christian life is such an important reality, because that’s what life is truly about. Mastering the little things.

Grief is a pivotal and transforming aspect of a Christian’s growing up in the faith of acceptance.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The hope enjoyed in simply being honest with one another

Photo by Cole Hutson on Unsplash
THERE seems to be two realities at play in life; experience oblivious to suffering, and its opposite — where we’re put in touch with suffering.
What can we do when life seems such an irretrievable struggle?
There are many answers to God questions we would like to give. But many just don’t hold up to truth one hundred percent of the time. How God works with genuine consistency, however, is through the Body ministry — through our willingness to spend time with one another being honest.
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
— Hebrews 10:24-25 (NRSV)
As we meet together, being real in our experience of suffering, hearing the other person out in theirs, allowing one other to share, free of judgment or advice, we encourage each other. We talk about what worked for us if we think it might help. Not what the other should do. We avoid contradictions of cliché. And we listen into the Voice of the Holy Spirit’s leading, being careful and diligent to surrender to the air many things we could say.
Meeting together has no benefit if we can’t be honest. And no truth that is experienced is wrong. Every perception of reality belongs. There is only encouragement when we can share our intimate and real experience.
We may be new creations in Christ, but we’re also still sinners living in a broken world. Christ gives us brothers and sisters in the faith for mutual encouragement.
When we can be honest in speaking of our struggles, within a listening environment free of judgment, encouragement and hope are ours.
Realistically, the only way through difficulties is the satisfaction of the search — to unearth resources that get us through the day. Our friends in the faith are a primary resource. There is verily no better sharpening:
“As iron sharpens iron,
so too can a friend sharpen the spirituality of a friend.”

— Proverbs 27:17 (my paraphrase)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blessings of acceptance for the pains of vulnerability

EXCHANGES are made all throughout life, and this rule is no exception. Through courage the vulnerable journey forward along the road to acceptance. Their faith sees them all the way there.
But vulnerability causes pain. Exposing our truest selves requires spiritual surrender on par with the ultimate trust — that is to trust God fully in a broken, scary world.
It can seem an impossible thing to conjure in our minds let alone do.
It is easier to do when we understand how it works.
The model above imagines, at the bottom-left corner, that there is no sense of trust. We perhaps do not start there, so we’re along that line until we reach the point of vulnerability. We know we’re there when we know we’re trusting, and that trust costs us. It requires of us, courage.
The wonderful thing regarding the currency of courage, however, is the cost is gain. As we apply our courage, we’re given increased and improved capacity to trust. Courage trusts.
Beyond the point of feeling safely vulnerable (which can sound like a contradiction), less courage is required of us, but more faith. Tenacity, perseverance and resilience become of more value, at this point, than the pure courage of risk in anxious circumstances.
Again, the wonderful thing about faith as a currency is the longer-term gains we receive for our sacrifice of the familiar. Trust now takes the proportions of acceptance, which can seem like a dizzy reality that simply doesn’t concern us. We accept the mystery, the dichotomy, the enigma now ever before us without question. Indeed, we have learned to let go, and to question again would be to backslide. Purity of acceptance is to not linger over a single tempting thought.
Acceptance in the reality of life is a Kingdom-of-God gift advanced to us for living faithfully.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Knowing that God, who is good, is good always

This amazing photograph by Felicity Warrington
was snapped on a smartphone.

DEJECTED one day, inspired the next. Has that ever happened to you? It can happen to me with occasional regularity. Certainly, our ‘fortunes’ in the faith tend to vacillate.
As I look at the amazing image above I’m reminded of just how creative and mysterious God is.
From the image:
·        I imagine that God knows what He’s up to, and that I am best accepting ‘He’s got this’.
·        I think that I can trust Him again, because I know He is trustworthy, and it makes no sense nor is it good for me and others I know for me not to trust Him.
·        I feel a sense that not being in control is okay — that life is centrally about that sense that I’m not in control of the big things that could happen anytime.
·        I can then do the things that will please Him, which are faith and justice and kindness and reason, et cetera.
There is no sense to life that leads to death — it’s a bondage that simply requires the choice to stay there. Equally easy is the choice to leave that mindset. Anytime, anywhere God can ‘show up’, which we equate to His goodness toward us in our lives.
Anytime, anywhere.
The opposite is certainly just as true — the bad can happen. But the difference is how we handle it. It’s okay if we’re floored, but with faith we ultimately make the climb of recovery. Recover and then we face hope, and hope leads us until the day His light shines brightly all over our lives again (in ways we feel blessed). Of course, His light shines over us perpetually.
We never know the good that God is up to, yet, we who know He is good can know, with intensifying faith, He is preparing goodness for those of us who love Him.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

God is for you and with you in your trial

Photo by Danka & Peter on Unsplash
UNDER spiritual attack, one of the first things we forget is that God is for us. Our Lord is present and powerful in all circumstances, especially when we’re weak, and that’s because we’re more likely to pray and to lean not on our own understanding when we’re being overpowered. Beware of this too:
Satan loves being ‘credited’ with creative acts, but creation is God’s sole domain.
If God has seen it fit to fit certain tough circumstances to our lives, for our learning, growth and development, the Lord wants us to know He gives us the spiritual wherewithal to get through them.
Indeed, if we’re tested, and we know we’re being tested, there is a holy delight available to us.
Such holy delight is the confident knowledge that God is with us, coaching us, step by tremulous step, in holy obedience through the light and revelation of His Holy Spirit.
Most incredibly, God gives us an extra sense for spiritual reflection as we obey His leading alone through trials. He shows us how we are to evade each snare by walking right through it. And even when we do get ensnared, our Lord shows us a way out, through the wise door of honest humility; a dignity that trusts in the belief we can be resilient.
So, there are the powers of spiritual revelation and spiritual grit that are made constantly available to us. As we will them into creative existence by prayerful petition. Praying only for God’s will in the test, and the power to carry His will out.
God doesn’t look at us the way we look at us. He looks at us and sees His Son. He who endured His own Son’s suffering is there for us in ours.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Harvey Weinstein and the Top-down Inquisition

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

ROLF Harris, Bill Cosby, Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and now Dustin Hoffman, among a growing list of others. The ‘crisis’ is rippling through Western societies as we live and breathe. Weinstein has even been chosen as the Edenbridge Bonfire effigy![1]
Bring it on. That’s my initial response. The more historical abuse is exposed in the upper echelons the better.
Culture is influenced maximally when crooked pillars of society are shaken straight.
It has its eventual impact on our personal worlds. What was once held within the reach of lips tightened by yet another abuse, is increasingly being liberated, as “justice rolls like the waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
And yet, if we allow, the Spirit is sifting each one of us; have I subjected anyone to a similar harassment currently indicting these megastars?
If the Spirit is home in us — and, it’s a ‘yes’ as believers — an honest spirit will meet and align with the sifting of God. And yet there are so many who have been transgressed in ways they would never perpetrate. It’s horrifying to think that around one-in-five people have suffered sexual harassment — and statistically, mostly women (over 80%), and most before they turned 20.
As we pray the prayer of Psalm 139:23-24[2] the Spirit adjudicates. Having had God deal with us, however ‘innocent’ we are, our glibness is also tempered. Added to our empathy for victims is our forgiveness of perpetrators. We forgive them as God, in Christ, forgave us. Forgiveness is not the same as mercy, however. We can forgive perpetrators and, as a society, still withhold the mercy that would relieve them of paying the consequences of their actions. Justice means paying restitution.
What is happening in our world at present is very, very good. Truths are being exposed. The stifled are gaining their voice. How much better if the guilty seek to make amends before their day in court. And how glorious is it when those who have transgressed can own their fault and attempt restitution. Our prayers find completion when the abused experience justice and eventual healing.
The Inquisition is coming, even as it rolls into locations near each of us via our global community.
The best thing for victims of sexual assault is the righting of injustice. The best thing would be if it had never happened.

[1] Edenbridge Bonfire Society gains exposure from burning their effigies, so they can do more fundraising for charities.
[2]Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NRSV)