Tag Archive: Jesus


The stars have dimmed

The stars have dimmed.

 

The keepers of the house,

formerly formidable in dexterity

and deft in independence,

now tremble.

Bested by silver spoons and forks.

 

The stonemasons and grinders

are troubled by spelt bread and marmalade;

The watchmen at the windows

find the familiar now foreign and indiscernible.

The maids eavesdropping at the door

are frustrated, forced to lip-read instead.

 

The stars have dimmed.

But they still twinkle.

Twinkling with the knowledge

of that which is to come.

Of he who is to come.

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3.11

We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15.51-52

If I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. Love never fails. But where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1 Corinthians 13.2

Advertisements

This is a response to a guy’s blog from earlier in the year. It’s pretty much what I think about justice, and is heavily derived from the writings of NT Wright, Tim Keller, Frederick Buechner and the thoughts of my dear friend, Ed Springer. I still find it hard to live this. But in His gracious mercy to me, may His Spirit continue to teach me to love as He has loved.

It’s the hope of the new creation that propels us headlong into the darkest of places. Because this hope was secured by a love from which we will never be severed, the joy that springs from it is resilient. It can withstand the buffets of pain and frustration, at least in part because its source is not our own love for these people. When I burn out or feel weighed down by the brokenness of it all, it’s often because I have been looking to my own resources.

A dear friend once unpacked the beautitudes as resting on the foundation of ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’. From that posture of spiritual bankruptcy, we come to the foot of the Cross and cry for help. Not just for salvation; everything. Including the fight for justice.

When we cry to Him in anguish over the corruption of the world, I think He responds by energising us with two things:

First, the assurance that the in-breaking of His Kingdom has already begun, and there is a Day fast approaching when all things will be restored. Justice and healing are His purposes; and His purposes will prevail.

Second, the love with which to fuel the fight. Not our own limited resource we approximately call ‘love’. His love for people. And with that love flowing through us, to them, from Him, we are free to love – without fear, and without self-regard.

As Buechner says, ‘He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world.’

It was offensive to respectable society.

It wasn’t just that Jesus the Nazarene carried incidental conversation with them out of politeness; he sought them out at his initiative and engaged in the social norm which was an expression of the closest social acceptance – table-fellowship.

‘They’ were the hamartōloi, the resha’im… the wicked. Although there was a degree of factionalism involved in the use of the word (‘if you don’t subscribe to my interpretation of the law (and accordingly, breach it), then you are a sinner!’), there was a considerable degree of commonality in the use of the term. It was derogatory, to say the least; these were not the kind of people that respectable people would trust with their kids.

It was offensive to respectable society in first century Palestine that Jesus associated with them so closely. And it is offensive still today.

My thought yesterday was approximately this: the fact that those who follow Jesus are often ‘worse’ people than those who do not grates with a lot of people. To an extent, this is attributable to people affiliating themselves with Jesus who aren’t in a relationship with Him, yes; to and extent, this is a smokescreen complaint for someone who wants to keep the claims of Jesus at arm’s length, yes; and particularly, to an extent, this is just the inconsistency of those who follow Jesus but are still plagued by their daily disobedience. Yes.

But what I was reflecting on yesterday in the car was that Jesus associated with those who respectable people didn’t think were kosher. Similarly, although respectable society today looks different (pluralistic, tolerant, PC, etc..), it remains offended by the people Jesus chooses to draw to Himself. It deems them inappropriate candidates for who God would want to be in relationship with. It assumes that because these people are flawed, broken, and inconsistent, that the One they say they worship must not be God. The only real difference between now and then, is the qualities that we associated with ‘the wicked’ have changed. Whereas it was once ‘tax collector, prostitute, thief, liar’, it is now ‘arrogant, narrow-minded, rigid’. Respectable society is hugely resistant to the idea that these people would ever be acceptable to God.

The crucial point is exactly this: those who are otherwise unable to be acceptable to God are approved by Him on the account of Jesus’ blood.

Jesus dined with those who people didn’t like, and didn’t think should ever be able to get a hearing with God, let alone share table-fellowship with Him.

Granted, of course, I’ll be the first to fall to my knees and cry out to God about the way Christians treat other people; our lovelessness and selfishness isn’t normative! It’s residual of who we were when we met Jesus, not a fruit of our relationship with Him. And there is more of a lesson in Jesus’ dining with ‘sinners’ for those who claim to know God, yet exclude those with whom Jesus appeared to be closest.

But this is so important to understand: the fact is that awful people are just the people who Jesus sought out then, and they are just the people He seeks out now. Why? Well, because when by His grace they are transformed into better, truer, fuller, more whole, versions of themselves, it will not be attributable to them ‘just being a nice guy/gal’; JESUS will get the glory.

It’s not to give them a licence to stay in the clothing of their old self; far from it. Jesus’ practise of dining with sinners was not acquiescence to their ways, but a practical parable of his message that the kingdom of God was breaking in, and that it was a free gift to any and all who would accept it through repentance. Repentance required a change of mind about God, about themselves, and about other people. Jesus’ contact with them over a meal triggered that repentance, which in turn brought them into a relationship which would gradually transform their external behaviours.

I’m not sure if this makes sense. Or if I am propagating a total heresy. Indeed, I am so so grieved by the loveless contempt displayed by many who profess Jesus as Lord. I think that they often represent the religious elite against whom Jesus reacted vehemently. And, to be honest, there is more to be said for an analogy of the church as Pharisees than as the ‘sinners’ with whom Jesus associated (maybe they are both?). But that is matched by the contempt of those who react against their sin (lovelessness) and their designation that these people are beyond redemption.

Jesus tells us that no one is beyond redemption. Even the most despicable and contemptible among us.

Because His grace goes deeper still.

Today, I felt that there was an analogy between long-distance relationships and the way that the bride of Christ waits for Him to return. This is how I felt the thought could be expressed:

While you are away,

I while away my moments thinking about how

(while you are away)

I while away my moments thinking about you.

 

 

I wish the same were true of the way I waited for Him. Times a million.

 

Because while He is away,

His thoughts of me outnumber the grains of sand in the sea.

Because while He is away (and into all eternity),

He bears scars in His hands and feet.

Not a single moment goes by that He isn’t thinking of me (I’m feeling uncomfortable now).

For, if He were to cease those thoughts,

I would cease.

For, in Him, all things hold together.

 

 

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

(12th Chapter of the Gospel according to the apostle John)

I did physics for a while. I quite enjoyed it, truth be told. I wasn’t very good, though. Why? Well. I sat next to the smartest guys in the class at the back of the room. You would think that would be conducive to effective learning/leeching. Unfortunately, these guys were the UBER nerd type, who could afford to not be focused the whole time. They were also pretty much the funniest guys in the world. The result was that I spent most of my physics classes laughing hysterically at the jokes the boys would mutter back and forth. A brilliant time. Unfortunately, it meant that I didn’t take class that seriously. I also rarely did my homework. Not deliberately. I just never seemed to get around to it.

In any case, the point of this diatribe is to say that the only thing of use I’ve extracted from that time (apart from a lot of fun, laughter, and the foundation for enduring friendships), was a vague memory of Newton’s Laws of Physics.

Namely, the third one: That every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

I have tutoring in 4 minutes, so to cut straight to the chase:

It makes no sense to be lukewarm about the gracious expression of love and mercy God has shown us through Jesus Christ.

If grace enters a heart, surely it can’t help but cause a reaction that is proportionate to the weight of the grace that has entered the heart and displaced what once resided there? How does it make sense to be calculating and measured about how much grace or love or mercy I show others?

Mary’s actions were not financially sensible. They were, however, an extravagant reaction to an extravagant action. I think that if someone raised my brother from the dead, I wouldn’t be cautious or calculating in expressing my thanks and joy and delight. The reality is that we ourselves have been raised from death; we who were dead in sin, unresponsive to God, and far away, have been given new hearts, regenerated hearts that are responsive to God, and a new life, characterised by the living hope secured by Jesus’ resurrection.

When we have been shown extravagant love, the grace of that experience enters our hearts, brings us to life, transforms us, and overflows into a desire to love back. And not just to love back with a sense of duty or sensible, measured frugality. To love back with extravagance.

 

 

 

[Subsequent Edit/Qualifications/Elaborations]

It’s not a matter of ‘should’; it’s not that grace obliges you to act proportionately. Because that’s not grace, right? That’s still you working to earn what was already freely given to you. No. It is the natural effect of grace. It’s the fruit of grace. Just as the healthy function of an apple tree is to produce apples (it’s not obliged to; it just DOES), so too the healthy and natural function of a heart regenerated by grace to follow Jesus is to produce the fruit of grace.

Those who follow Jesus do things that look like Jesus. It’s not that followers of Jesus ought to. It’s more that, if they don’t, then aren’t they detouring from the path that Jesus took? Like Dallas Willard said, it’s the things you DO that reveal what you actually believe, not the things you say you believe.

To qualify: for sure – EVERY follower of Jesus is inconsistent. Unequivocally. We will bear fruit that looks nothing like Him, sometimes. But that is evidence of an unhealthy tree.

Furthermore, the fuel for bearing fruit isn’t your own effort. You don’t look more like Jesus by trying harder to live like Him. It’s impossible, and will only leave you frustrated, and in bitter self-condemnation. You become more like Jesus when His Spirit reclaims more and more of your heart, and grace takes hold. That is not passive. You have to lean into what He is doing, you have to yoke yourself to Him, you have to abide in Jesus. But He is the one who grows the fruit.

So when I talk about how God’s action of grace towards us “needs” to produce an “equally” extravagant reaction, let me make two clarifications. Firstly, it’s not so much a mandate or a prescription, as a description. God’s action of grace WILL produce a reaction in us. It’s not about you trying harder to manufacture an appropriate reaction. It’s about His Spirit working the reaction in you, and you leaning into that work. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. Secondly, our reaction can never be “equally” proportionate to what He has done for us. But’s that OK. It’s not like grace is a debt we’ve incurred and need to pay back through our reaction. Maybe what I mean to say is that it’s not about quantity, as it is about quality. A reaction to extravagant grace ought to be stamped with the character of extravagance; extravagance derived not from obligation or our own resources, but extravagance which is derived from the GRACE which gave birth to it. It is stamped with the DNA of radical love, it has a quality of recklessness and self-disregard. This will look different in different people’s lives; different people have different capacities. I need to be careful when comparing my reaction to Jesus with other people’s. Yes, there needs to be a degree of commonality; the Scriptures say what the fruit of the Spirit look like. Jesus tells us what following Him will look like, in part;  loving God, loving people, denying self, suffering for His sake, not chasing after the things of this world… But there’s a difference between “fruit inspecting” and being condescending.

I feel that there is a danger in circles of Christians who are on fire for social justice to be condescending towards other Christians who aren’t on fire for social justice. To think that they aren’t being radical disciples. I know because, shamefully, I am often one of them. Maybe there is some truth in thinking that if they’re not on board with God’s purposes to bring restoration to all creation, then they’re missing something. But, hey; we’re all missing something when it comes to God, aren’t we? I know I’m missing several things. But if they’re not missing Jesus, they can still be faithfully, if inconsistently, following Jesus. “But they don’t get what He was on about!!”

Neither did the disciples, and they shared life with Jesus every day for three years. They didn’t get what the “Kingdom of God”/ “reign of God” was about, probably not until the Spirit illuminated their hearts.

What I’m trying to say, in a very longwinded manner, is that we cannot look down on our brothers and sisters who are not zealous for the same things we are. It is only by God’s grace that we have had this reaction stirred up in us to fight against injustice. There is no room for condescension. More than that, we are to in humility consider them BETTER than ourselves! (Phil 2:3)

This is massive for me. I struggle with it hardcore. But I trust that when I fall to my knees, lift my prideful heart to Him and cry for help, that He will move into action. And that his work of renovation in my heart will cause a reaction in my life that will not just enable me to be extravagant in the way I live, but it will enable me to be extravagant in the way I love, particularly those who don’t get the things that I am passionate about.

Mountains, Gandalf, Mountains

I should be sleeping.

It’s past midnight, I’ve been driving for over 5 hours, and my body is kind of shutting down without my consent. But in these last moments of consciousness, I have such a brimming sense of joy and satisfaction that I feel an urgent compulsion to scrawl some derivative of this feeling down.

My eyes are crusty with the bleariness of wind-exposure followed by hours of wide-eyed observance of the road. Every inch of my legs are (nigh) incapacitated with a screaming ache. My feet are mottled with blisters and my ankle swollen from a bit of a scuffle with a mountain. And I cannot explain to you how much I am loving life right now.

Hiking in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney is beautiful. Well, it can be. When there is impenetrable fog and constant rain, it’s less beautiful and more extreme; the drenched rocks and leaf matter conspire against you getting anything resembling traction at every footfall.

But, my goodness, it is so much more of a character-revealing experience.  The relentless rain removed the incentives of the normally stunning vistas of the vast wilderness, clouding visibility to virtually nothing, but exposing more about our hearts than we had expected.

As we sat huddled in the girls’ tent on the first night, we laughed, exchanged stories, and laughed some more. We also spent a beautifully uncontrived time listening to the Scriptures and praying. Sitting in the darkness, we lifted our gaze out of our circumstances to remind our stupidly forgetful selves who it is that we exist for, and who it is that the world, every tree and every rock, every person and every situation, exists to magnify the worth of.

Getting outside into the bush clears my head and reminds me in a very physical way who is God and who is not. When scrambling across a sheer, and very (frighteningly) slippery side of a mountain that is being pummeled by waves of rain and gusts of icy wind, instantly everything that had been clouding my awareness of the power and majesty of God strangely evaporated and His enormity was in my face every precarious step.

Every moment, we have to decide who we are going to be. I’m not suggesting that we have the power to instantly recreate our self with every passing breath; that’s silly. I mean that we have to choose from the reservoir within our personality how to react.

On a practical level, there are decisions like: Will we climb this mountain as night is falling, or will we camp here, far away from where we expected to be by this time? Will we risk climbing the staples in this rock face which are slippery in the rain, or will we take the slippery traverse around the side that we are unfamiliar with? Will I charge at this hill and push through the pain barrier, or will I fall behind by 10m?

On a deeper level, the questions we are faced with, whether we are on a mountain ridge or in our office or at home, are ones like this:

Will we choose to love another at our expense, or prioritise our comfort? Will we take a risk and be forced to lean heavily (more than we might like) on God and His faithful provision, or will we veer off into the safety of convenience? Will we choose to foster gratitude or bitter complaint? Will I choose to throw off everything that hinders me from running after Jesus, from burrowing into deeper depths of intimacy with Him, or will I tolerate them as though they weren’t robbing my affections for Him?

I think being on a mountain brings the consequences of these decisions into sharp relief. As the season of Lent wrapped up on Easter Sunday, being away from the world gave me much-needed clarity about and reprieve from the clutter in my head and heart: What do I treasure more than Jesus? What is displacing Him from the first place in my heart? What hampers a growing affection for and intimacy with Him? What manifestations of my traits do I justify to myself so that I don’t have to root it up out of my heart?

To be honest, the reason that I think it’s a problem to have anything apart from Jesus occupying that place in my heart is that those things were not designed to withstand that pressure. If I look for wholeness in a particular relationship, then not only am I going to be let down (I don’t believe we can be fully satisfied in romantic relationship, however great and beautiful), but I am going to pin that person down under the weight of expectation to be the X factor that will make me whole. And I don’t think any person can bear the weight of that. It’s destructive to them, it’s destructive to me, and it’s destructive to our relationship. Don’t mistake me; relationships ARE good! But they work best when they orbit around a relationship that is already fully-satisfying, so that you do not stake your wholeness on a person, who, for all their beauty and value, cannot make you whole. When you, a broken person, look to other broken people to make you whole, it is not going to end well. If, on the other hand, you anchor your self in a relationship that CAN make you whole, you are free to relate to others in a way that doesn’t expect them to be something they cannot be. That’s why I don’t shut up about wanting Jesus being the first place in my heart; because all of life works BETTER that way.

I don’t suffer from the pretence that I’m there yet. I constantly displace Jesus from that place in my heart with other things. But I want Him to override those other things, so that I can love others more fully – not with a power-playing game of leveraging and self-preservation (whoever cares least in a relationship has the most power, right?), but with a reckless abandon, disregard for self, and a genuine desire to prioritise the interests of the other person above my own. Because when that part of your heart is already filled up to the overflow, and is fully satisfied, whole, you can afford to love people dangerously.

I want that.

I am so thankful for Caitlin, Tim, Mim and Jez for their company in the mountains. Thanks for your graciousness, your love, your ridiculousness, your metaphysical discussions about fog, your vivid imaginations and recreational mythologising about emerald seas and ships captained by talking bears, (your apparent descent into insanity), your sincere pursuit of God and His purposes, and just generally for being fun people who are up for killing themselves impaling their bodies on unkind mountain ridges on their holiday. TBC indeed.

Grace and peace 🙂

PS. Another great thing about hiking is the people you meet on the track. We met an hilarious troupe of 5 men in a hiking club at the top of Narrowneck. They were on the fifth day of their treck, and were on the final leg of it. They appeared a very unassuming lot for a 5 day hike: some wearing volleys, others in boardies. We soon realised why.

“Where’ve you come from?”

“We started on the other side of the Falls.”

“Oh! How the heck did you get here? What track did you take?”

“We swam across the dam.”

“… Sorry, you what?”

“We swam across the dam. Well, actually, we went across on lilos and pool ponies.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. The image of these tough-looking guys frolicking across a kilometre of icy water, very much illegally (the fine, had they been caught, was $1000s per person), was utterly fantastic. We exchanged stories and bantered back and forth for a while, as it progressively dawned on us just how extreme these guys were. We hope the Park Rangers weren’t waiting for them at the end of the walk!

Jez and Caitlin. Narrowneck ascent.

Tarros Ladder. We lowered our bags using a very sophisticated pulley system... (Also known as fanging them down with a rope).

The Sauna. Dubbed thus after spending time on the other side of this cliff face, which was bearing the brunt of the wind; this side was practically a sauna comparatively. As Tim said, 'Bring on the pina coladas! Hola chicas!' Discussions about why on earth none of us thought to bring a hipflask of whisky ensued.

The first of the lilo gang (to the far right).

Caity and Me. Incredibly thankful to have made it to the top of Narrowneck intact.

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.