Category: Prayers


Chocolate v Jesus

Bob Goff commented today that ‘sometimes God lets us lose hope for a moment so we’ll retrace our steps and remember every place we saw it last.’

So much of our experience here is of frustration, toil and the oppressiveness of brokenness. The groaning our bodies, minds and souls feel echo the cry of all creation for healing. For redemption from bondage to decay.

And sometimes seasons of sadness set in. Precipitated by pain, the can shrink the vision of the soul down to the immediate, to the inward concerns of the self.

In those moments, those seasons, it is remarkable how quickly the heart abandons its convictions and seeks out comfort in the tangible. In the immediate. It goes looking for nourishment, comfort, and satisfaction in things that aren’t meant to be the basis of our happiness. Things like the attention or affection of people. Things like chocolate.

Tonight, a friend posted, ‘Your mood will be determined by what you value. Value Christ above all.’ Now, I think there’s room for nuance in that. Things like mental illness obviously change that. Things like traumatic events, or physical impairment, will affect your mood, even when you do not value health/stability above all.

But there is definitely something to be said for using that pain to remind yourself that Here is not Home and that Now is not All, to channel your focus towards the Day when all that is broken will be restored and we will be made whole. To remind us that history is not circular, but all things are linear, heading towards the end-point in this story that God is weaving with our lives and the lives of all humanity: the Day when all things are brought under the complete Lordship of Jesus.

There is no greater comfort than that hope.

And when it comes back to how we can wait well for the realisation of the things we hope for, when the pain of this world’s decay sets in, I think we are to set our hope not on the gratification of immediate desires, or their comfort. But we are to set our hope fully on the grace to be revealed in us, to be brought to us, when Jesus Christ is revealed on that Day. When that pain sets in, we need to be vigilant, alert and on guard against slipping into the patterns of comfort-seeking that we sought out when we lived in ignorance of the hope secured by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

On guard against the cheap and quick mood-lifters that don’t satisfy and distract us from setting our hope on the revelation of the Lordship of Jesus and the healing He will bring by reconciling all things to the Father.

Pain is a reminder that we are not home here. Pain is a reminder that hope is not found in the things of thing world, whether chocolate or romantic relationship… Hope is found is Jesus Christ alone.

So, let us wait for Him patiently, expectantly, and with great joy and faithfulness.

8 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Coffee

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103.1-5)

It’s a significant social currency of my friendships; the medium of relational engagement for nearly all uni students; the salvation of all 8am law lecture attendees; and one of the most beautiful artistic creations the senses can delight in.

Coffee.

Part and parcel of spending four years at a university in the inner city of Sydney is the way the coffee culture seeps into you, pretty much by osmosis. It also comes with having a coffee snob for a brother. But no complaints in the latter respect; he makes me coffee for free! As much as I’d love to digress about it (actually, I’m super tired so I wouldn’t like to), the point is this: my skim flat white is a part of my everyday life that I am pretty significantly dependent upon. I don’t get physical withdrawal symptoms (emotionally, though, is a different matter…), but I do find it very difficult not to buy a coffee every day. It’s a habit.

Which is why for the past month and a bit since the season of Lent started, I chose to cut coffee out of my life. Not because God is impressed with my (very weak) exercise of self-control; not because He thinks of me as a better follower or loves me more dearly (it’s coffee, for goodness’ sake); not because it gives me greater intimacy with Him. No! None of that is true in the slightest. The one true living God is adamant that He wants nothing to do with our religious externalities:

‘Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me.’ (Isaiah 1.13)

This fasting from coffee isn’t about any of that. There’s nothing I can do to earn a closer standing with God; no amount of ‘moral’ living, church-going, religious-talk, prayer, fasting, whatever. None of it cuts it. The SOLE reason I can know God is because when Jesus’ flesh was beaten and whipped and crucified, he took on Himself everything in me that obstructed my relationship with God. He transferred into my heart His perfect relationship with God.

This is nothing I have done.

If you read through Isaiah 58, it is unequivocally clear that God is painfully frustrated when people fast and pray and do all the stuff that we associate with religion without the kind of heart renovation, the fruit of which sees our desires aligned with His: justice and healing for the oppressed. If whilst I am preoccupied with my personal spirituality I’m ignoring the plight of those who are hungry, poor, refugees, oppressed – then how can I claim to be in a living relationship with the God? There is a colossal disconnect.

But I don’t think Lent is a bad thing. It can be an effective mechanism to stop spending disposable income on unnecessary luxuries, on MYSELF, and think more seriously about keeping track of my money. It’s an easy way to identify a chunk of money that I allocate to myself monthly (around $80!), and confront myself about whether when I talk about wanting to disregard comfort and consider others better than myself, I actually mean it. Do I mean it when it’s halfway through admin law early on Thursday morning, and all I want is a coffee hit? Or does my resolve cave as soon as it’s hard? It’s not that this is a massive deal; I think it’s just that it’s more of a litmus test for my heart. Is loving the poor just about when I have time, when I have energy, when I feel like it? Or do I become my first priority when I am tired and busy? That the answer to this disconcerts me is an understatement.

“Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Lent from the Book of Common Prayer

In some reflections on this prayer, this blog writes:
We have chosen serving ourselves over serving those in need around us, and in so doing we have chosen ourselves over the God we claim to love. Our self-service has blinded us to the needs of others, and we have failed to do our part in revealing God’s love and kindness to a world in deep, deep need. All around the world, humanity languishes in poverty, disease, and hopelessness, and yet we have turned a blind eye to them. How can we call ourselves children of God if our behavior toward suffering is so different from his own?

I realise that this post is getting too cluttered, but there are so many thoughts zooming around my head that I need to get at least some of them down in order to make sense of the chaos in my brain.

So. This coffee-abstinence isn’t about external activities that I think make me a more pious and impressive believer; instead, it’s a way to give myself a physical reminder to spend this season being switched on about the things that I treasure more than Jesus, the things that consume my attention and affections more than the One my heart was made for. When I say ‘physical reminder’, all I mean is that every time I would typically have a coffee, I pause and reflect on why it is I’m saying no.

In this season so far, I think God’s started quite a substantial amount of heart renovation. I’ve realised afresh how much I prioritise myself and my own comfort. I’ve realised that I’ve forgotten my desire to live an extravagent life in which I NEED God to come through for me. I’ve also realised that I have roving eyes that seek for other things to displace His place in my heart, the place of Most Highly Treasured. I’ve realised that repentance isn’t about trying harder to avoid breaking regulations, but about returning to a God who invites me to re-enter into relationship with Him, despite the countless times I’ve broken His heart.

And most recently, I’ve noticed in my heart a desire that has been troubling me. It is not a bad desire in itself; but it always makes me anxious and unsettled whenever it resurfaces. Maybe partly because I’m just afraid of other related “stuff”, but I think it’s also very likely that it is a desire that competes with Jesus for my attention and affections.

You see, whenever I go through a bout of this particular longing, it consumes so much of my energy, and distracts me from the things I would prefer to be doing. Suffice it to say that it disconcerts me enough that after a couple of weeks, I have been sufficiently terrified out of my longing, and have successfully shut it down. The problem with this is that by shutting it down, I’m not actually dealing with the issue – and so I’m not severing the unhealthy part of the longing (the part that consumes an inordinate amount of my attention, displacing God) from the healthy part of the longing.

The point I came to late last night was prompted by reading Psalm 103, above. I love – LOVE – that my Father satisfies my desires with good things. He knows what I need, before I even ask it. When I have a longing for something, I will often look to something which I think will satisfy that desire. On a physical level, if I have a longing for something sweet, I will look to, say, chocolate because I think it will satisfy that desire. On an infinitely more significant level, God doesn’t say that He will give me what I want, what I have determined will satisfy that longing. He says that He will satisfy my desires with good things. They’re not always the same. In my case, rarely. It’s kind of like I’ve eaten a Kit Kat, and found that it didn’t hit the spot at all, and I still have the craving. (OK, not my best analogy, haha)

If I have been looking to something which ISN’T good to shove down my heart to satiate that longing, it would hardly be in my best interests for Him to give me that! No; He knows my heart – he fashioned it Himself! (Ps 33) And so He knows that these longings, desires, can only be satisfied by certain things. And these things which will satisfy are good.

Here’s the thought: I think that I often look to the wrong things to satisfy the longing to be known; the desire for intimacy; for communion with another.

And I think that looking to these things for satisfaction of those desires is unhealthy because it is a longing that can only be fully satisfied in Jesus.

These other things (OK, I’ll stop being cryptic: romantic relationships) are good! But they weren’t intended to occupy the first place in my heart. I can’t look for my significance or worth in them. When I do, they will consume an unhealthy amount of my attention, and I will treasure them with such an intensity that they won’t be able to hold up under the weight of expectation I’ve pinned on them.

Relationships work best when they fall into a place in my heart which orbits around Jesus as the centre.

Because only in Him can I find the deep satisfaction my soul longs for. So, heart: taste and see that the Lord is good. You’re not being deprived.

I hope that this is a season in which you too can figure out what things you treasure above everything else. And maybe reflect on whether those things are treasures that can satisfy the longing that made you put it on that pedestal in the first place.

Helm’s Deep

The darkness in my heart is not a mere shadow. It is so strong and destructive that it killed a man.

But that man embodied a light that could never be overcome by even the deepest, toughest, most brutal and insidious darkness. He was stronger than it then, on that day when morning breached the hold of night and life breached the stronghold of death.

And He is stronger than that darkness still, even in this moment now. Whatever it is that has taken hold of your heart and seems to characterise your very self. I don’t care what it is. Pride, insecurity or niggling inadequacy, rash words, lust for approval, striving for affirmation of worth, depression or worthlessness, or whatever else. This isn’t about platitudes. It’s about freedom.

So come breach the walls in my heart. It’s Yours for the taking.

Holy Rage

Tonight, about 300 people came together to hear Shane Claiborne and a few others speak about ‘Prayer that changes the world’.

A few things that stuck:

When the disciples presented Jesus with the situation of thousands of hungry people, Jesus threw the implicit question back on the disciples. ‘You feed them!’ They bring what little resources they could muster (a few loaves of bread and a few fish), hand it over to Him, and then Jesus used that to do things that were disproportionate to their efforts. We need to put flesh on our prayers by being a people who not only ask for help, starting from a position of spiritual bankruptcy, and acknowledging that we can do nothing apart from Him – but a people who get up off our knees, and do something. Do something, muster whatever resources we can – and then present our efforts to Him, however meager, and ask Him to do something with them that is totally disproportionate to what we have done.

The best way to mobilise a community of believers to live lives of radical love is to live it out. It’s compelling, it’s fascinating – and it’s contagious. Rather than waiting for consensus to emerge in your church community about loving the marginalised and the needy, why not just start living that out with a small group?

I want to be fueled by grace, by His abounding and overflowing love, to live and love recklessly. Reckless to my own comfort and convenience and schedule and plans. I want to have an unceasing holy rage that is never OK with just sitting by and watching.

Praying like Hezekiah

I don’t remember what it feels like to be well. I don’t say that in a tone of self-pity at all –  it’s just really odd. There have only been about 4 or 5 times over the past 6 years that my body has remembered in a very physical sense that the way it is isn’t normal. My muscle memory has faded. That’s to say that my body’s got used to doing life like this. That it’s forgotten what it feel like to move without seizing up. That it’s forgotten what it feels like to be well.

The most recent time it remembered was last Tuesday.

I meet with about eight girls each Tuesday night at the house of an old friend. We drink tea, eat chocolate, laugh about life and talk about God as He’s revealed Himself through the Bible. We share our lives and we share what the God who made us is teaching us about Himself and ourselves. This week we were looking at a part of the Bible written by a guy called Isaiah (legit name, hey). At the uni Christian group I go to, we dug into this book, and it BLEW MY MIND. It truly is an unexplored mountain range in scripture, and having Rowan unpack the historical significance of the events helped me enormously in understanding what God reveals about Himself in this part of redemptive history. You can listen to the podcasts here.

ANYWAY. This week we were looking at Isaiah 37. At this point in the narrative, Sennacherib (Sen – ack- ar – rib), the King of Assyria (the merciless, expansionist superpower of the region) has just threatened God’s people, effectively saying that unless they align themselves with Assyria, they will be the target of the wrath of the Assyrian armies. The field commander who delivers this message mocks Hezekiah, the king of God’s people, for saying that ‘The Lord will deliver us’. “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (Is 36.18)

Those to whom this message had been delivered came to Hezekiah and recounted what had been said to them. And it’s Hezekiah’s response that astonishes me.

He tears his clothes, and goes to the temple of the Lord.

One of the girls commented on the apparent absurdity of this; how could the King run away like this, when his people were afraid and needed strong leadership? The conclusions we came to were these:

That desperate circumstances reveal the true disposition of your heart. And that seeking God in prayer is far from a passive option of last-resort. It is the most proactive course of action a leader can take.

The Lord tells Hezekiah through Isaiah that he is not to be afraid of ‘those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me’. (At this juncture, I persisted in sabotaging helpful discussion by bringing up how much the field commander reminded me of Sauron’s mouth in Lord of the Rings, who tries to intimidate and throw Aragon’s army into fear and disarray.) But Sennacherib sends another intimidating message to Hezekiah, alikening their fate to that of nations that had been brutally torn to pieces by the Assyrian war machine, unless they allied themselves with Assyria.

Again, Hezekiah’s response is actually beautiful. When he reads the letter from Sennacherib, he makes a beeline for the temple, where he spreads out the letter before the Lord. This is what he prays:

‘O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You made heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.

It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, O Lord, our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.’

Hezekiah starts by reorienting his perspective of who God is; He is thoroughly God-centric. He acknowledges how REAL and scary the threat is, but He doesn’t prescribe to God any solutions.He just lifts the situation to God and asks for help, for deliverance. His cry to God is filled with confidence because he has a right vision of who God is.

But then, read how God RESPONDS! It is actually insane.

BECAUSE you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, THIS IS THE WORD THE LORD HAS SPOKEN AGAINST HIM (37.21-22)

There is direct causality here. Because Hezekiah spread this situation out before God, He responded by pledging to decimate Sennacherib. And then an angel of the Lord kills 185 000 Assyrian men who were camped out and ready to destroy God’s people.

Prayer is effective. Because instead of charging on with our own plans, resources, and capacities, it turns to a God who is infinitely more able. Imagine if Hezekiah had just concocted his own scheme to engage the Assyrians. God may well have given them strength to fight, and they may have won a battle that they were severely outnumbered to win – but instead, all they do is SLEEP and God fights for them, meaning that there is no way of construing this to attribute the victory to the might of anyone but God Himself.

There was a quiet pause after we read this part of the passage.

“185 000. Hectic.”

“Mmm.”

“Are you guys OK with that?”

“With what?”

“With God killing 185 000 men in a night.”

This launched a discussion that meandered into whether it would be different if they had fought, man on man, and that number had died. Whether it made a difference that the Assyrians were probably bloodthirsty brutes. Whether it made it OK that it was either the Assyrians or the people of God. Whether God could have changed the heart of Sennacherib to rescue them instead. And on and on we went. I interjected with another unhelpful analogy from Lord of the Rings: when the Dead Men of Dunharrow sweep through thousands of orcs and bring death with their passage. Ultimately, though, we decided that although it didn’t set well with us, that it was clear that if we were sitting in a city, terrified of the brute strengths of an army of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians about to crush us and tear us apart, that we would be celebrating that God had rescued us, not getting into philosophical labyrinths about the morality of war.

What does this have to do with ANYTHING, let alone my illness?

We spent a time praying after we’d discussed this passage. And during it I felt the presence of God in a way that I very rarely feel. My dear friend Anthea, who has been chronically ill with mysterious crippling headaches for about 4 years now, prayed words that lifted our hearts to a right vision of who God is – that He is the God who spoke and universes came into being. This is the God to whom we spread out our lives. And this reminded me that when I have a right vision of who God is, when I recognise that He is the one who is capable to change even the most impossible circumstances, and that in light of that, prayer is actually a proactive course of action, not a passive one – well, I ought to spread out my circumstances before Him in weakness. Not pretending that the situation isn’t hard, that I don’t hate being sick – but not prescribing to Him how He should answer my prayers. Being open to His purposes. Like in Gethsemane, I lift my situation to Him and honestly express my preferences, but surrender my will to His purposes, in confidence that they are good. Like the believers’ prayer in Acts 4, I acknowledge that God is powerful beyond what I can understand, and that He has decided beforehand what should happen.

Too often I limit God’s capacity to bring a breakhthrough in my physical condition. Those friends who have known me for a while will know that I just can’t get past this barrier in my mind. The barrier is that whilst I know that God is able to heal, I find it hard to get from that KNOWLEDGE to BELIEF that He is able to heal, that He wants to heal, that He will heal, that it is in His will to heal. The train of thought deviates to places where I consider that the good He has promised He is always working for, is my being refined into the image of Jesus – and, well, to be honest, nothing else in my life has shaped my character as much as this. But then the other part of me wonders if this means that I am ignoring a root of unbelief in my heart, a lack of faith.

And here’s where I come to.

I want to live a life that abides in deep faith, in heavy dependence, in His faithfulness. In quietness and trust, I want to spread out my illness before Him, daily, and knock on the door until my knuckles bleed. I want to wait on the Lord in a way that brings my heart to a place of utter abandonment and unreserved faith. I don’t want to not pray for healing because it’s safer that way; because that way I won’t feel let down, rejected, or deficient or undeserving of His healing if He doesn’t answer my prayer in the way I want. No.

I want to spread out my situation before Him. Not proscribing how He should deal with it. But praying big prayers and pleading with Him for deliverance.

As I drove home that night, I felt a twinge in my muscle memory of what it was to move normally. And I felt, physically, that the way I was was not normal. And realising that I couldn’t manufacture it for myself, I asked Him for the faith to pray Hezekiah prayers of deep-seated faith.

I’ve left this for about a week now, in the hope that it would crystallise more coherently in my mind and heart. But tonight, after being broken down about the things we treasure more than Jesus, my family at my home church sang with deafening earnest about the freedom purchased for us in brutal fullness by the death of Jesus.

And in a moment of fleeting clarity, this same thought resonated in a chamber of myself which I often can’t feel. So I thought that maybe it was time to just write it out, regardless of how much sense it makes. So please be patient with me!

When I’m at the gym, I often listen to people explain parts of the Bible rather than listen to music. And a couple of weeks ago, I listened to Tim Keller speak about how the glory of God. It impacted me so much I listened to it again as I walked through the city to meet a friend. Here’s the gist:

If to you God is something that fits into your pre-existing ideological framework, then that isn’t God. It’s a concept that you’ve created. As Eckhart Tolle says, that’s man making God in his own image! The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ means ‘WEIGHT’. When God enters your life, He shakes your paradigmatic framework up and displaces the way you used to think about just about everything!

In speaking about this, Keller uses the illustration of a displacement, and quakes. He essentially says that when something heavier than water is dropped into the water, the water quakes – it gives way, it is displaced. The object has more ‘glory’ than the water. Similarly, when God drops into your life, because He is ultimate reality, He has more weight, more GLORY than I or my ideological framework do. I experience a God-quake, a self-quake, and a WORLD-quake.

‘God as a concept is lighter than you. You shape it. It fits in around your categories and ideas. A God concept can’t change your beliefs. It fits in with your existing beliefs. We don’t believe in him in such a way that he changes our beliefs. In NYC people are always saying “I can’t believe in this or that in the Bible because it’s regressive.” Our beliefs come from our cultural moment and our great-grand kids will be embarrassed by them just like we’re embarrassed by many of the beliefs of our grandparents. In other words, we don’t have a real God, we just have a concept. Doesn’t change our agendas, our plans, our goals. People get religious because they want help in meeting their goals. They fit God into their existing belief because God as a concept is lighter than you, but God as a reality is heavier than you. When the real God comes into our life, things give way to his glory. Instead of God being fit into your agenda he becomes your agenda. He radically changes your priorities. Our agenda apart from God is to have a very safe, tidy little life. God says “sacrifice your individual needs for me and my glory!”’

The self-quake we experience comes from this encounter with the living God. Because as soon as we acknowledge that we are a sinner and cry to God for help, He explodes into our life, deconstructing and reconstructing our self image dramatically. No longer is our self worth tied up in the trivialities it was before; we are freed from the horrible lens of self-preoccupation and into the spaciousness that is the humility that comes from an experience of radical beauty. You are freed to be caught up in something so much bigger than you are.

And the world-quake means that instead of you trying to use God, you recognise that HE is the one making the heavens and the earth new – and you can lay yourself before Him and ask Him to use you in His purposes. The world quake means you are available to God, and you are expectant about what He will do through you because you are confident that His purposes aren’t dependent on YOU! What freedom!

Read the notes someone took on this sermon for more on this topic, but the reason I unpacked that was so that I could explain something else.

This idea of a quake came to mind when the traumatic events in Japan unfolded. The torrents that ripped through those towns were ferocious. I have never seen anything of its kind in my life.

As I was watching a Youtube clip with my Dad, who had been in the village that was being ripped apart before our eyes, I think the Spirit brought to mind the reality that when the Spirit entered my heart, His glory, His weight, quaked my very self – and a torrent of mercy coursed through me, cleansing me.
And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6.11)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3.4-7)

But I had always imagined this as a gentle affair; a bit of asplash in a kiddie pool, a cheeky dip in a lake. But I realised at this point that all the clutter, all the structures of rebellion I have set up in my heart, all the cesspools of darkness – they demand more than that! God is passionate for those He loves, and His love is jealous – He is grieved over our infidelity to Him, because He knows the damage we do to ourselves when we treasure things more than Him; He made us for Himself!

The stream of mercy that He washes us with is like a ferocious torrent, that shows no mercy on anything in our hearts that keeps us from Him. It rips it out, and sweeps it away. I’m hesitant to say this, but I think that is a violent affair; a painful affair. But not unloving! No, it is beautiful mercy. Unlike the raging torrents of the Japanese tsunami, the torrent from God is a stream of mercy.

For this is what the LORD says:
“I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you.”

(Isaiah 66.11-13)

This passage was in a vastly different context (directed at the Israelites in a very specific – and complicated! – set of historical circumstances), but I think it illustrates the image of a flood of mercy. And this is what I felt physically, whilst singing the ‘My Chains are Gone’ version of Amazing Grace tonight. That I am caught in the torrent of God’s scandalous mercy, and that I have been cleansed, made new, and my identity is secure in Christ. And the Spirit let that freedom wash over me.

I pray that the radical mercy would course through your life, that you would experience God as reality, not as concept. And that your very self would quake with His presence, and the torrents of the flood of His mercy would deconstruct everything.

Because only when you have been washed can the way be made clear for the healing, restoration and reconstruction of His beautiful Spirit begin. That is regeneration!! That is new life!!

My heart is broken.

Some of the people I love and care for most dearly in this world do not know Jesus. They know things vicariously ABOUT him; but they have never met him, and they do not know the joy and the love and the hope and the LIFE that is found IN him.

There comes a point in any discussion about the things of spirituality that the two parties no longer see eye to eye. It’s a fundamental dislocation in the way each sees the world, perceives reality.

Sometimes this tension explodes into antagonism; other times it just simmers as mutual frustration. The frustration is often most acutely felt in a friendship of mutual affection.

I was talking with a dear friend tonight.

He concluded that at the end of it, his decision about Jesus came down to not only the evidence, but his gut instinct. And his gut told him, ‘No. This is not true’.

I felt something inside me shift, almost violently. Something reacting against what he had just said, much like the feeling you get when you smell the odour or see the traces or imprints of something. Something bad that has been meddling in the place that you are observing.

And it reminded me of something I was reading last night. About how the fundamental disconnect, or hostility, between those who know Jesus and those who don’t, is more than a matter of mere morality; the real cause lies deeper.

‘There are two spirits abroad in the earth: the spirit that works in the children of disobedience and the Spirit of God. These two can never be reconciled in time or in eternity. The spirit that dwells in the once-born is forever opposed to the Spirit that inhabits the heart of the twice-born.’
(Tozer, A.W. ‘Man: The Dwelling Place of God’, p. 14)

When my dear, dear friend’s gut told him that the promises of Jesus were not true, I felt in my spirit the resounding recognition that he had been lied to by the deceiver. I’ve always been really wary of over-spiritualising things, but more and more these days, I think God has been answering my prayers to ‘Open my eyes to the things unseen’. Increasingly, things like this make sense of my everyday interactions with people:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
(Ephesians 2.1-3)

This breaks my heart.

There is no other way to say it.

My friend asked, indignantly, how one could suggest that otherwise good people who don’t subscribe to a particular understanding of deity are evil and condemned. And after a discussion about what constituted ‘goodness’, and where the line dividing good and evil lay, I said that it IS unfair. It is SCANDALOUS that ANYONE should escape the condemnation of God’s just wrath. And that is what is so scandalous about grace; none of us deserve redemption. But God, rich in mercy, and abounding in love, chooses to lavish it on some.

I do not enjoy the reality that some people that I think are beautiful will not abide in Jesus for eternity. I hate it. It tears my heart in two. I write this with tears. People who have been saved by Jesus do not, or ought not, to consider themselves superior to those who do not know Jesus yet. The whole point is that it isn’t ABOUT them and what they have done in this life. They can’t work their way to God’s Kingdom. The only path to safety is via the bloodied planks on which the Prince of Glory died.

A friend messaged me at 2 in the morning today, agonised. She desperately wants Jesus to just come and reconcile all things to Himself now. But she also desperately wants him to continue to be patient and merciful in holding out salvation to those who are yet to seek Him. And her heart was torn, her chest aching, and her head swimming and unable to sleep, from holding both in tension with one another.

Oh Lord Jesus. Please reclaim the hearts of this generation.

Show yourself to them as real, and the most worthy of their adoration.

I am a river flowing from God’s sea
Through devious ways. He mapped my course for me;
I cannot change it; mine alone the toil
To keep the waters free from grime and soil.
The winding river ends where it began;
And when my life has compassed its brief span
I must return to that mysterious source.
So let me gather daily on my course
The perfume from the blossoms as I pass,
Balm from the pines, and healing from the grass,
And carry down my current as I go
Not common stones but precious gems to show;
And tears (the holy water from sad eyes)
Back to God’s sea, from which all rivers rise.
Let me convey, not blood from wounded hearts,
Nor poison which the upas tree imparts.
When over flowery vales I leap with joy,
Let me not devastate them, nor destroy,
But rather leave them fairer to the sight;
Mine be the lot to comfort and delight.
And if down awful chasms I needs must leap
Let me not murmur at my lot, but sweep
On bravely to the end without one fear,
Knowing that He who planned my ways stands near.
Love sent me forth, to Love I go again,
For Love is all, and over all. Amen.

Poems of Power by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago : W. B. Conkey, 1902.

Our Maker, God, and Lord of all things,

You are worthy to receive the pure praise of all the works of your hands. And so, Lord, the One who is set apart, holy, whose ways are so far above our own, and whose intimate concern with the fine details of our hearts and lives and world is a scandalous mercy, Lord, we come before you as a people will nothing to offer. We come before you utterly poor in spirit, bankrupt spiritually according to our own resources, for we have offended you times without number, we are guilty of pride and unbelief, of neglect to seek and honour you in our daily lives – and we have provoked injured love in the God by whom and for whom we exist. God, even when we are not sorry, give us a deeper repentence, and a horror of this rebellion, and a dread of sin’s creeping approach in our lives.

So, Lord, Holy God, we come to the foot of the Cross, with empty hands, and a cry for help. And Lord, we thank and praise you that we can rest securely in the knowledge that because the accusations and guilt of all who trust in your gospel have been laid on Jesus, that none of them will stand against us when we give our account before Your Throne.

Help us to flee all that is not pleasing to you, and to jealously resolve that our hearts shall be Yours alone. Give us a deeper trust, that we might lose ourselves to find ourselves in You, the ground of our rest, the spring of our being, the one in whom alone our souls were made to delight in. Merciful Father, give us a deeper knowledge of Yourself. Give us deeper holiness in speech, thought, action and let us not seek moral virtue apart from You.

Plough deep into us, great Lord, that our beings may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until You and You alone are seen in us, Your beauty golden like summer harvest, Your fruitfulness as autumn penty.

Cleanse, renew and change our hearts that we would have no Master but you, not law but your will, no delight but yourself, no wealth but that you give, no good but that you bless us with, no peace but that you bestow; let us be aware every moment of every day that we have nothing but that we receive from you, that we are nothing but that you make us, that we can be nothing but that grace adorns us. Quarry deep into us, dear Lord, and then fill us to overflowing with living water.

God of peace and tenderness, today we pray for those in need, for those who suffer under the burden of depression and anxiety. Comfort, sustain and encourage them. Give them understanding family members, and wise and faithful friends, and courage for the road ahead. Bless those who work with and care for them, and all who are ill. Show us how to love all, and give us your love for our broken world. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Weariness

“A lot of us are tired. Because a lot of us are trying to earn what was freely given. And we’re trying to fix our spouse and fix our children and we’re trying to do all these things. Lord, I ask that you’ll give us the weariness to finally lay it all down at your feet. We need you. In your mercy, show us our inadequacy, and instead of being beat up about that, let us finally be able to celebrate that where we are weak, you are our strength. May you overcome our foolishness and our fears.”

Matt Chandler