Friday, 30 November 2012

A God of Details

I have been a Christian for a number of years now and at times in the past I admit some strange theology has bubbled to the surface in my life.  I’ve come to see it now as ‘pick and mix’ theology because it is based on things I want to excuse in my own life!  (Gasp – you heard right and I’m sure I’m not the only one). One of my big ones is thinking God is just a big picture God. He isn’t interested in the mundane of my life, where I live, what job I work at, who I marry, how many kids I have, how much I spend on toys, what I watch on TV, what I feel on the inside or how I hold onto hurt.

Recently the more I have thought about this, the more I have realised that right there is where something good has spoilt.  You know as well as I do that God is a big picture God, but I was in the habit of reducing Him to being an either/or kind of God.  He can’t be big picture and be interested in the tiny details at the same time can he?  I mean as Christians don’t we spend a lot of our brain’s energy on trying to fathom God? He’s Love and Justice, Peace and Righteousness, Holy and Jealous, over all and yet in all.  Okay, let’s give our brains a breather for today and rather than one or the other, let’s just enjoy all of these things about the character of our God.

A closer look into the character of God soon convinces us that he is interested in us.  We know he loves us, more than that, he is love. We know he’s our Creator because we live in His world.  So why is it we often feel like he’s not really that interested in what we do or who we are?  He wants us in His family, but the rest of what we do, well, he’s not really that bothered, as long as we try hard not to sin!! Right?

He’s bothered alright!  How can I be so sure? Did you know that God measured the earth when he created it?  He is speaking to Job in response to his questions “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earths foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off it’s dimensions?  Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:3-5.

In his book “Everything is Spiritual” Rob Bell talks about how precise the earth is:
It is 93 million miles from the sun. 92 million miles or 94 million miles and there would be no life on planet earth. The earth is made up of 21% Oxygen. If it were 22% or 23% there would be no life. The ocean is made up of 3.4% salt which is exactly the same percentage as our blood stream.  If it were 2.4% or 4.4% there would be no life. Hydrogen must convert 0.007 of its mass to helium to sustain life on earth. 0.008 or 0.006 and there is no life on earth. If we had no moon, there would be no life on earth.
 Does that sound precise to you?  Is that attention to detail or what?  Now read what the Bible has to say about God’s attention to detail;

God is giving instruction on building the ark of the covenant “Have them make a chest of acacia wood – two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high.” Exodus 25:10.

God is giving Noah the exact dimensions of the ark to carry the animals “This is how you are to build it; The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.” Genesis 6:15-16.

Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, to live inside us. How’s that for intimate!! No one has gotten more intimate with you than the Spirit of the Living God. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17.

God is interested in the detail of your life. 
·         He’s interested in your business because he cares if you are unable to pay your bills. 
·         He’s interested in your marriage and he doesn’t just want you to stay married, he wants you to have a marriage filled with love. 
·         He’s interested in your teenagers and he wants to bring you all through the excitement and upheavals that life brings.
·        He’s interested in your mental health and he wants you to depend on Him when the times are dark or when you feel it’s hopeless. 
·         He’s interested in your garden because he delights to bring you joy. 
·         He is interested in your friendships because he wants you to honour Him in them all.

God is our Lord and intimate friend, our daily guide in life. He longs for us to share our life with Him. Every aspect of our lives, not just the big picture stuff either. Our daily walk means, each step, in step with Him.  He delights in each step of our day. He delights in bringing abundance, joy, comfort, love and passion to our living. Allowing Him to intimately pour out His love into our spirits in every situation is life giving.   He’s overwhelmingly interested in the details of your life.  He is the God of every detail! 

Friday, 16 November 2012

On a journey

I'm a Gospel Coalition and Desiring God blog reader.  I'm not sure if that will give you some understanding of where I am on my journey, but I've hit a detour, and I am loving it.

Last year I tried to approach the discussion of 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit', which as my friend tells me, is an old fashioned term ... and is now called the filling of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever the name, the expereince is powerful and the evidence is speaking in other tongues.  I know this is like eating lemons for some folks and a staple diet for others.  Last year my mind was so confused, I shelved any thought of it.  I couldn't cope with the different views all using scripture to convince me.

This year, the journey began again, without me seeking to make the trip. As a family we have a desire to see God perform miracles in Africa. This may seem like a selfish reason to travel to Africa, but I know the motive is pure and the reason is based upon truth.  This idea has become the driving force for our family to actually think deeply about the implications of being spectators of the power and work of the Holy Spirit.  Who wants to be a spectator when you can actually be used by God? Exactly! Not me. I was raised in a conservative church, I did night church at an Assembly of God church during my teenage years, so was exposed to a more lively and Holy Spirit focused church, I was a spectator and sceptic if not a cynic. I have continually shelved any searching into the Biblical truth behind the filling of the Holy Spirit and other tongues.  I know it's not all about speaking in another tongue, but from what I have been reading, this is the evidence of this life changing communing with the Spirit of God in an over flowing kind of way.

After I started my search I realised that I have, for years, thought "Faith makes my life have purpose and it is good, but this can't be it, it can't be all there is to faith in God." Two weeks ago I finally verbalised this to a friend, and they seemed relieved to know someone else was thinking this way too.

What am I missing?  I belong to a fantastic church, the teaching is world class, expository and I love it.  I am getting so much knowledge and truth and it is amazing. However I am lacking the connection between head and heart.  My communing with God has a distinct feel of a student seeking knowledge from a lecturer. Life is not preparation for an exam. I have been approaching it all wrong, I'm never going to be graded on my faith, rewarded, perhaps  but only to return the reward to Him who actually deserves it.

I'm not here to become knowledgeable, I'm here to give glory to God.  I have disconnected my heart from my faith, and I am starting to see that one of the keys to connecting the head and heart is the Holy Spirit and the infilling and over pouring of His presence in my life.

I have just finished reading a fantastic book by John Sherrill (scroll down to last review here), which really gave me some great understanding and desire to not only know God but experience Him too.  The background I have come from did not cherish experience, sadly I think that's not the way to approach relationships.  Don't we enjoy doing things with our friends?  Don't we learn so much about them as we see them in different situations and we can appreciate them so much more because we have got to know them and experience them more.

I want to experience God.  The gospel is taught so well in my church, it's a really good thing, the gospel is pivotal to everything.  Yet to really get the gospel I need the Holy Spirit to touch me, deep within, then I will truly know and experience the gospel.

This may seem like a whole lot of ramblings - in a way it is.  It's like looking out of the window on a journey, things pass by quickly, and we only get a glimpse of the each scene. To write each whole scene would take me forever, and anyway John Sherrill has done a pretty good job of it from his perspective.  I'm still on the journey, so will keep you posted on the view.

Exciting times. Psalm 121.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Praying when you don't feel like it.

I often wonder why it is that when we most need to pray, we don’t.  Maybe we are so troubled we can’t or we forget to or we don’t know how or we don’t feel like it.  I have some good news. Well actually not me, David does in Psalm 5: 1-3 “Listen, Lord, as I pray! Pay attention when I groan.  You are my King and my God.  Answer my cry for help because I pray to you.  Each morning you listen to my prayer, as I bring my requests to you and wait for your reply.” (CEV) Do you get what I get out of these verses?  God understands our groans.  That’s a freeing thing to know. God hears our prayers even if all we can make are noises. He listens and He hears. 

A writer of songs wrote this; “You were worn out from working like slaves, and no-one came to help.  You were in serious trouble, but you prayed to the Lord, and he rescued you.  He brought you out of the deepest darkness and broke your chains.” Psalm 107: 12-14 (CEV).  Scholars often say that if the Bible says something 3 times, you were meant to sit up and listen.  Psalm 107 says “But you prayed to the Lord and he rescued you.”  Not 3 times, but 4!  Are you listening yet?  Verse 6, 13, 19 and 28.  Take a look for yourself.  When we pray, even in moans and groans, or tears, the Lord rescues us.  It’s all there in black and white.  What that rescue looks like and when that happens, well that is up to God.

In a Neta Jackson novel, one of her characters hits the nail on the head for many of us when she says “Stew about it first; pray later, when all else fails”.  I wonder if you are like that? Do you like to worry? It’s something we can control to begin with, then it tends to gets away on us and grows into a monster we can no longer handle!  I’m not making light of worry. It’s a hard thing for us women to work through.  I feel it too. Take a deep breath before you read this next quote because it could be hard to hear; “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.” (Francis Chan, Crazy Love).  Ouch, but that’s the truth.

Let’s take a look at Philippians 4:6. You can probably quote it by heart. Go on read it aloud (could be interesting if you’re in public. Do it anyway, whoever is near you may need to hear it more than you, or they’ll just think you’re odd), “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  He said, about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.  Which does not mean, (talking to myself here), anything except what’s going on at my child’s school, or everything, except my relationship with my husband.  Anything and everything, pretty much covers it all. There is no clause for me to choose what I worry about, God covers it all.

Isaiah 53:10 reminds us, “”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (NIV). The Lord, Creator of all, has compassion on you. He promises that His unfailing love will not be shaken.  God says that about you!  Joel 2: 13 says “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”  God loves you, He is compassionate toward you and abounding in love.  Have you ever felt like God is some old mean “Gandalf looking” type, just waiting for you to mess up so He can whack you with his golden sceptre?  No? That must have just been me then?  I say that in past tense, because I am learning that God adores you and me alike and that all He has done to save me is for no other reason than because it pleases Him to do so.  He loves us, He loves you.  You need to believe He is true to His word. 

God wants to hear from you, in good times and in bad.  God is big enough, He is powerful enough and He does love you enough.  You can trust Him on that.  God has given us His Spirit within us to work in and through us.  Romans 8:26 says “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.”  The Holy Spirit understands our groans and our tears.  When you do not know what to pray, know that the Spirit of God knows our heart and wants to commune with you. When words fail you, read aloud your own favourite psalm or verse, make it your prayer.  Pray it over and over and over until it becomes your very own. You can trust that you will be heard, that you will be held and that His love will abound in and through you. Thank you Jesus.