Wednesday, 30 May 2012

What a waste of life....

I'm not talking about those tragedies where someone dies too young, too soon, or doing something reckless that shouldn't have turned out like this.  They do, indeed, seem like such an unnecessary waste of what could have been great, long and glorious lives.  But it's not what I mean.

I'm talking about the waste that's happened today.  In my life.  Possibly in yours too.  The time I've spent on things that didn't really matter, the thoughts I've let meander through my mind that have distracted me from what I should have been doing, the opportunities I didn't make space for because I reckoned I was too busy.  What an utter waste.

I happen to have been reading a little about the subject of 'truth' today, having come across it in someone's autobiography.  The author had studied philosophy, and his reading of Plato, Socrates and the like had led him to conclude that there is no thing as absolute truth.  Apply it to my own life, and then my 'evidence' of how I have wasted time become nothing more than one-sided opinions - my 'waste' is another man's 'gain', or some other platitude-nonsense-speak.  As a Christian, however, I can't accept that truth is only an abstract concept, to be wielded at one's peril.  Jesus said that He is the Truth.  He also said that He is the Way, and the Life.  The three are interlinked - like a three-cord rope, useless if one of the cords is missing.  And if I line up my life, the way I have chosen to spend my time, even just today's actions, with Jesus' Truth, there are some gaping holes.  And it feels like it.  I don't feel satisfied with the day, even though so much of it was good and fulfilling.  I'm left looking at the holes and, quite predictably, feeling rather empty.

That leaves two options - stay here, staring at the holes, or turn back to the One who sat one day by a well, telling a woman the Truth about her rather colourful life to date, and using that conversation to set her free.  Because Jesus never uses who He is to condemn, even though that is what this bear of little brain feels should be the logical response.  He uses it to set me free.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The truth shall make you fret....

No, you didn't read it wrongly - it's a quote from a Terry Pratchett book, when a team setting up a new printing press for daily newspaper are trying to find some appropriate platitude to frame the front page.  It changes regularly as they apparently struggle with their spelling, this is probably my favourite :)

John 8 hols the 'truth shall set you free' verse (v32) that most people will know.  'You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free'.  Whilst I have nothing but admiration for the great people who have taken time to translate the Bible into our language, there are occasions when we rely on their choice of words so much that we don't take the time to read a little deeper.  When we look at this verse in the context of the entire chapter, it comes clear that this 'truth' is not a simple noun, it is a proper noun - in other words, it should be written 'Truth'.  Jesus is talking about Himself:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know me, and I will set you free."

Three steps - live in a way that demonstrates you are obeying what I have taught you, and you will get to know me.  In all this, I will set you free.  And Jesus wonderfully, graciously, doesn't get specific on the freedom on offer.  You will simply be free.  Whatever it is that is binding you up, pulling you down, holding you back, there is freedom.  Jesus said so.

How often have we heard this phrase, said this phrase, and turned it into a simple platitude?  The problem with platitudes, is that they sound lovely but mean very little.  It's all a bit 'raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens' - fanciful and dreamy, but without any real significance.  And as a result, we miss the whole point.  Freedom is not something beyond our grasp, it's not a nice-to-have but probably unlikely this side of heaven.  It is part of God's original plan - the garden of Eden, a place of freedom if we accepted that what God said to us was the truth.  We didn't, and ended up with more ties and binds around ourselves than we could escape from. But this verse is a promise - we trust him, follow him, and he gives us freedom.  No tricks.  No deals.  We simply have to believe that he means what he says.

Today's declaration is simple:

I will hold onto Your teachings.  I will love You above all others.  And therefore I am expecting You to reveal more of Yourself to me today, so that I will walk in ever-increasing freedom.

Friday, 25 May 2012

All change.... or all stay the same?

I'm about to head into what may be eight of the craziest weeks of my life to date.  And with nearly 36 years of madness already behind me, that's saying a lot.

My first challenge is completing some studies which have been ongoing for the past five or more years.  Once finished, I get to put some extra letters after my name... whoop-dee-doo.  Oh, and my CV looks better.  Wow.  Yeah, you guessed it, I'm definitely not motivated to get this done - in fact, the only thing really motivating me right now is what it will cost me financially if I run over the current deadline.  Which is in three weeks.  4,000 words to go.  Three weeks.  Research still to be finished.  Oh hec, it's going to be busy.  Not much I can do than suck it up, because there's little point in the coulda-woulda-shoulda done it long ago talk...

Saying that, it will represent an end of an era.  It's been hanging around like a bad smell for so long now, and is an inheritance from a job I technically no longer do.  It begs the question, 'what next?'  And that's where the following few weeks after that come into play.  I'm off to music school - worship school, to be exact.  Three weeks in sunny California, staying with an awesome host family, and getting to worship and learn with people who are all in for God.  Most of the time I am utterly giddy with excitement about the whole thing.  And then there are times like now.  You see, I've put so much stock in this being a key time for me.  And I've had people speak over me that this is going to be a significant time for me, that it is going to propel me forwards in God and into my destiny.  Right now, that feels like a tall order.  And I'm scared.  Scared that I'll be disappointed.  Scared that when I get back, I'll have to pretend that I've been through this amazing mountain-top experience that we all dreamed I would have, and that life will never be the same again. But what if that's not the case?  One of my dearest friends said last night that it would be impossible for me to spend that much time with God and not come back changed.  I hope so.  But I think that hope is as much earthly hope as it is heavenly hope - probably more so right now.  Those who know me well will know I have had a history of depression and anxiety - and so I'm fearful that the intense emotions and pressure of finishing my studies and going to Bethel are going to trigger a bad time, not good.  And for once, I don't want to feel like I have a battle on my hands.  To have a continuous period of being well, and not feeling like it has to be a struggle.  

That's why, over the next few blogs, those who want to can join me on a journey of truth.  Today I read a quote from Jonathan Edwards (the theologian, not the athlete... I think...) that 'truth is the agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God'.  This is going to be my preparation for the time ahead.  Learning and declaring truth.  And for me, talking about it, typing it, sharing it - whether anyone else reads it or not - helps me to process and then to learn.  I do believe that one of the things that God is 'making good' out of my circumstances is my ability to care for others in a similar predicament - it's an answer to prayer from years ago, during one of my worst periods of illness, when I begged God to 'not let this be in vain, let it be used for good one day'.  

Today is day one on the walk of truth.  It's going to be my own version of Pilgrim's (very slow) Progress.  This declaration, funnily enough, comes from Bethel church, where I'm headed in just a few weeks time:

"I am powerful, and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare:
God is in a good mood.
He loves me all the time.
Nothing can separate me from His love.
Jesus' blood paid for everything.
I will tell nations of what He has done.
I am important.
How He made me is amazing.
I was designed for worship.
My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy.
Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone.
And...with God
Nothing is impossible!"

Read it out loud.  Go on.  I dare you.  And do it again tomorrow morning.  And tomorrow night, along with the next nugget of truth we share together.  Which means you'll then have more to say out loud.  Tell me how you get on.  Tell me what challenges you.  Let us encourage one another to keep going.  Because THAT is what the church is for.  Don't let anyone fool you into believing the statement that you don't have to go to church to be a Christian - it's true, church attendance has nothing to do with salvation, but the statement hides from a significant truth, that we NEED one another.  We need encouragement, challenging, those who rub the corners off our edges, those who hug us and tell us to hold on a little longer, because a new day is coming.  

Rant over.  Truth is here.  Truth is here to stay.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Make it so

I can't believe that I am about to write a blog linking prophesy to Star Trek.  I guess people have written worse analogies, but I'm not sure how many will forgive me for this one.  Think I shall dive headlong into it and see what happens....

I admit that I'm a bit of a Trekkie - definitely more so than Star Wars (seriously Mr Lucas, the first three you did were enough, you didn't need to do another three, and we won't even BEGIN to discuss some of the scripting in Anikin's first romantic scene - stick to the sci-fi mate).  I'm not exactly a dedicated fan, but I have always loved the Next Generation series more than any other.  I suspect that had something to do with having a bit of a crush not only on 'Number One', but also on Jean-Luc Picard, he of the 'Engage' and 'Make it so' fame.    It's the 'make it so' phrase that I'm thinking about at the moment, and how good it is at expressing the degree of faith we should have when making prophetic declarations.

If you don't know what I mean by a prophetic declaration, all I mean is saying things out loud with a certainty that they are going to happen.  It's like speaking things that currently aren't yet there into life.  The Bible is littered with examples of this - Matthew 16:18 is a prime one.  "Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not overcome it."  This was Jesus speaking to Simon Peter, the man who would later swear that he would be the last man standing next to Jesus if it came to it, and then rapidly found three people who he could swear blind at that he hadn't the first clue who Jesus was. The man who was about to hear the shocking words 'get behind me satan', because his best intentions were actually being used as a tool to try and tempt Jesus from His chosen course.   This was Jesus speaking to a man who would utterly let down his Master, and who would do nothing to redeem himself yet in terms of words and deeds, except to stick around once Jesus returned.  A man who, at that time and in the weeks to come, could not have been seen to deserve such faith and promise from God.  Yet Jesus knew what Simon Peter, and any observers, did not - Simon Peter's future.  Jesus was speaking out a prophetic declaration, calling this man's future into being.  Demonstrating faith in what He was certain was to come, even though there was no evidence as yet.

Here's the Star Trek link.  When Picard said 'make it so', it was often at the end of a discussion with his team, when they had considered all the options, and come to their conclusions. He would then walk out of the room, expecting his team to do exactly as he had asked - it never occurred to him that the would do anything else.  That's what a true prophetic declaration should be like - 'make it so'.  When Jesus spoke over Simon Peter's life and future, He was effectively saying 'make it so' - 'I have faith that this is what will happen next'.  We have all authority under Heaven and on Earth to make such declarations - as long as they are in line with the Word and the Spirit, of course.  But they need to be delivered with the right mindset and intention - with the faith that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or dream of, and with the sole purpose that glory is given to God and not us.

And why have prophetic declarations been on my mind?  Because Glasgow has been on my mind.  Recently I heard a fab speaker, Dawna De Silva, talking about a spirit that has been sitting over Scotland, of an acceptance by the people that life simply was tough, was always going to be tough, and you just had to accept it and get on with it.  I've found myself wanting to make a prophetic declaration over Glasgow, which I am starting on from today.

Glasgow, you are a city of joy!  You are a city of freedom, of light and abundance.  You are a city of creativity, of restoration and hope.  You are a beacon city, illuminating Scotland with your brightness, and calling the creativity of this nation into being.  You are a rock that cannot be moved.  Yours is a well that will never run dry; the well has been stoppered up by a lack of faith and a reliance on human strength.  WAKE UP GLASGOW!!  The well is being opened, the stopper has been removed and the water has been rising in the passing years - the water is now ready to burst out, like a geyser.  It is going to water all of the city, and seeds of faith that have lain dormant for a long time are going to erupt into an overwhelming harvest.  You will reap a harvest that you did not plant, but that was planted for you by your ancestors.  They prayed over the seed, and trusted it to the Gardener, who is faithful, and never lets the garden go to complete ruin.  Glasgow - you have a new name, the City of Joy.