Posts Tagged With: faith

Masterpiece

“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Ephesians 2:10

Surely this truth has the potential to change our lives. Imagine what we would look like if at a deep, gut level, in our hearts, we knew the facts that the Bible repeatedly tells us: We are children of God, we were loving, fearfully, wonderfully created, God knew us before we were in our Mother’s wombs, He loves us so much that his one and only son was tortured and died for us. Would we still hang on that bit of feedback from our boss? Would we still need to incessantly compare ourselves to everyone around us? Would we still obsess over that text message? Would we still long for that reassurance, that pat on the back, that confirmation? This is surely the ultimate affirmation. The creator of the universe made us, knows every single fact about us, loves us more than we could ever love Him and has created us as His masterpiece.

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The outer man and the inner man

“Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:10.

I do not want to live a dual life, a life where I am busy doing things on the outside, and then periodically throughout the day feel like I have to ‘turn back’ to God in order to feel His presence. I think that most Christians desire to know the presence of God continually, they understand that relationship with Him is the driving force behind everything they do. There seems to be such a disconnect though with this desire for the presence of God and the reality of what our days really look like. Watchman Nee, in his masterpiece ‘The breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit’ argues that the work of a Christian is ultimately futile if the ‘outer man’ has not been broken as he can not properly exercise the ‘inner man’, his spirit.

The Holy Spirit dwells within us, the Bible repeatedly tells us this (1 Cor. 6:9). We, ourselves, are the greatest frustration to the work we want to do for God. The prayer I want to always be praying is that God, in his mercy, breaks, disciplines and changes all those earthly things that are in my mind and fill my emotions. He can then really have his way in my life.

I need to humble myself before God, to pray that His will, not mine be done.

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Disciple means servant

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15).

Many people know of the occasion when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. It has become a well known act of humility and service. What might be slightly less known is just how radical this act was when Jesus performed it at the Last Supper. For a teacher or host to wash to wash the feet of his guests would have been highly unusual in Jewish culture. This was a menial task which servants of the house performed. By washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus was teaching them just how radically they were to also serve others.

To truly serve someone means to put that person first, which may require sacrificing something on our part. This could be our reputation, our time, money, or even our lives. But this kind of sacrificial service is the key to really living. This brings about the most profound joy, bears the most fruit.

Being a disciple means being a servant.

 

 

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Christian or disciple?

I discovered recently that the word ‘Christian’ only appears in the Bible on three occasions. It was a term mostly used by people outside of the ‘Christian’ community to define all of these new, radical, Jesus followers that were springing up everywhere.

If I were to ask 20 people what word comes to mind when they hear the word ‘Christian’, then I would probably get 20 quite different responses. It is a term that is not biblically defined and so to some extent we can determine ourselves what it means.

The word that is much more frequently used by Jesus’ followers and the apostles to define their relationship with Jesus is ‘disciple’. But this word is a lot more frightening to start using as it is quite clearly defined – Jesus specifically teaches about what it means to follow and emulate Him.

In future posts I would like to try and elaborate on what it actually means to be a disciple of Jesus.

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Safe

The angel of the lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34v7

A friend asked me the other day if I thought that a guardian angel watched over my children. He pointed out the many times I wasn’t there to physically keep them from harm and the countless risks and threats that had been prevented in my absence. I did not have a ready answer for him but it got me thinking because as a parent the foremost thing on my mind is to keep my children secure.

But don’t we all need protecting? Don’t we seek out someone or something to keep us safe? We are fragile, we need to be protected. We take shelter from our raging environment. We hide or fight when an enemy invades. We cry out for support when hurt. I find the verb ‘encamp’ in the cited Bible verse to be so powerful and such a great image. It brings great comfort. And, importantly, it is not meant to be metaphorical.

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The Silence

Why do we fear solitude and silence?

We appear to be apprehensive about spending scarcely twenty minutes just sitting down, doing nothing, listening to nothing, thinking of nothing in particular, simply allowing ourselves to exist in the moment. Every technological advance, everything mass media and advertising throws at us is aimed at ensuring that we do not have to stop and contemplate, but instead move and do things quicker. A recent advertisement for a well-known mobile phone company recently summed up modern thinking very well when it half-jokingly claimed that impatience was a virtue. Such is the very real need for communication to be faster.

I would argue that we fear solitude because there is something at the very heart of ourselves that we fear. Shall we call it a soul? It is seemingly unknown. If we had the time and space to reflect then we may be forced to confront our own mortality, discover more about who we are and ask ourselves real, deeper questions, possibly disquieting questions. Everything modern society creates is therefore perfectly suited to combatting this fear and (thankfully) allows us neither the time nor the desire to have to find out.

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Spiritual workout

Assuming belief in the supernatural, if humans have a spirit, can it grow?
Christians would answer affirmatively, but maybe the real question is whether its’ development is something that they take an active part in. Physical training is undoubtedly vital for sportsmen and women, who live lives dedicated to getting the best out of their physical bodies and skills. They commit to following a monitored diet and fitness regime. They don’t expect to simply turn up and be able to perform and play to the best of their abilities. Similarly, I believe that if Christians are to take their faith seriously, then the same principle of training and commitment to a certain lifestyle needs to be applied. Whilst Christians are saved by God’s grace, and cannot earn their salvation, they are clearly responsible for their lives and how they live them. St. Paul says that “while physical exercise has some value, spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next” (1 Tim 4:8). In my view, the question of what this “spiritual exercise” looks like can best be answered by studying the spiritual disciplines such as solitude and fasting that have long been practiced throughout the ages and that were also central to Jesus Christ’s life – Christ was tempted by the devil whilst in the middle of a long period of fasting and before he was arrested to be crucified, He purposefully spent time alone in prayer.

See: Dallas Willard – ‘The Spirit of the Disciplines’.

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To be frank…

“The thing that keeps God out of our lives is not our sin. It is our compulsion to pretend, to cover up our nakedness with fig leaves, to climb sycamore trees in order to see without being seen”.
Pete Greig. God on Mute. Page 78.

I’ve been challenged recently to be constantly and habitually honest in prayer. I’ve realized that I actually find it a lot easier to be honest to those closest to me than to really be honest to God. I find in prayer that it is all too easy to follow the same old format, to repeat the same fixed expressions, true and meaningful though they are. Even after looking through the Psalms and seeing how brutally honest some of those laments are, even after reading and talking to others about how God responds to our honesty, how it unfazes Him and how he responds to it, this still hasn’t meant that I’m any closer to being honest with God on a daily basis when I shut the door and pray to Him.

Possible Solution: Pray for God’s help to be more honest!

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Crime against humanity

I have recently been encouraged by the published UN report which details the labour and prison camps currently being enforced by the North Korean dictatorial regime. The report compares the systematic human rights abuses that are being carried out to those of the Nazis and has already referred the matter to the International Criminal Court. Ever since I read Blaine Harden’s book ‘Escape from Camp 14’, which relates the account of one man’s escape from such a camp, I have had North Korea very much on my mind. The constantly changing political landscape and the instant, immediate way that the news is broadcast nowadays means that it is easy to adopt a passive indifference every time we hear of a new dictatorship that has emerged or a civil war that has sprung up, but I believe that the situation in North Korea has been going on for far too long for the West to continue to justify turning a blind eye to it. Prayer and action can make a difference!

Here is one of many petitions being run online to raise awareness. This one is being carried out by the British Government:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61060

Here is a video taken from a North Korean tour bus which gives a very brief glimpse into the hardships taking place:

Here is an insightful article about the UN report, taken from the UK’s Guardian newspaper:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/17/north-korea-human-rights-abuses-united-nationshttp://

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Prophetic

What is one to make of the approximate 2500 prophecies that exist in the Bible, at least 2000 of which have currently been carried out precisely as they were predicted? I have recently begun to think about the probability that so many prophecies have actually come to pass. Although some of the prophecies that apologists claim to have been fulfilled could be regarded as being a little vague or ambiguous, one cannot doubt that for the gospel writers, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies was a compelling reason for believing in Jesus’ Messianic claims. On this basis alone, one must also treat their realization with the upmost seriousness. Here are two prophecies that I find to be particularly noteworthy:  

Prophecy one: Shortly before his death, Jesus prophesied both the destruction of the entire Jewish temple and the city of Jerusalem.

Bible Verse: Matthew 24:1-2“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”

Fulfillment: This was carried out 40 years after Jesus’ death, when Rome destroyed the temple and Jerusalem.

 

Prophecy two: The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver. Prophesied in the book of Zechariah in approx. 586 B.C.

Bible Verse: Zechariah 11:12-13 – I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.”  So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.  And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter” – the handsome price at which they valued me!  So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

Fulfillment: “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?”  So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver.  From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” Matthew 26:14-16.

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