Tag Archives: belief

The sound of sheer silence

photoThis week gravitational waves were detected: a squashing of matter around the solidity of laser light. The reality described by deep mathematics and the intricate analysis of statistical probabilities yielded a truth of the cosmos.

In the same wonder, I have been wrestling ever so slightly with the idea of the Covenant of Redemption as being part of a Christian universe. It is saying that at the heart of who God is, the scripture reveals a redemptive covenant between the persons of God: Father, Son and Spirit. God in his foreknowledge of the fall of man, at his heart, in eternity, agrees to redeem mankind.

The consequence of having this faith is a reassurance that God isn’t reacting to a world gone wrong in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But in his mercy and grace, his very nature and purpose is to redeem mankind from sin and death through the cross. This makes creation an act of supreme love. This gives us the basis for trust that, in all the creative chaos of the outworking of God’s Word, love triumphs; in all the pain and suffering, tragedy and hurt, all is well. That is not an easy thing to say.

In accepting God: Father, Son and Spirit, as he is, faith reveals the “very good” of his joy in creation. He is not a cruel God, but God who in and through the community of creation freely pours himself out to redeem humanity. This is our experience as Christians.

The love that expresses God is a revelation that demands devotion and trust in God in the confusion of circumstances. We only skim the surface of the depths of God when we speak of eternity and foreknowledge. Eternity, the place of God’s being, and foreknowledge, reveal his being. Even saying this seems to put at a distance the nearness of his Breath, the reassurance of his Word and the love of the Father we know, and brings us to sheer silence.

Poems this year

I am not sure they really are poems, but they are certainly lines of prose gathered to express my heart. This year I have published four so far on http://therubberdinghy.blogspot.co.uk/ 

  • Prayer
  • Railing
  • Wide open spaces
  • Salvation

Wide open spaces was written whilst on a trip in the summer back to my parents in Cardigan, West Wales where I woke up with a feeling a walk confirmed. Salvation was written on the train back to Bishops Stortford. I’ve worked a little on both but feel my inadequacy.

Prayer and Railing were actually written in the previous summer and came out of a short time spent at Lee Abbey listening to a study of Job.

Out there.

Jesus teaches that it is better that he leaves the disciples, enabling the Holy Spirit to come (John 16: 4 – 15). He proclaims a time when worship will be true because it is in spirit and truth not in Jerusalem (John 4).

And this freedom came 50 days after Jesus’ death. His followers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:19 – 23). Jesus had prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit in his teaching and, after a time of revelation and healing, on the day of his ascension, he spoke to his friends, ordering them to wait for an immersion and washing in the Holy Spirit they had received (Acts 1). I believe, just as the baptism of John prepared the disciples for the ministry of Jesus, his ministry had been preparing them for this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The waiting ended on the morning of Pentecost.

Pentecost (Shavuot) is part of the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:10). They count up to it from Passover and eagerly anticipate the day, staying up all night to pray and study the scripture on its eve. Shavuot is the day Jews celebrate becoming a nation, a nation revealed to Abraham that would bless the nations, All night the friends of Jesus would have been studying the Law, but on the day, as the ritual waiting ended, the morning was lifted to a new level of fulfilment and the Holy Spirit came in power (Acts 2).  The significance and true meaning of Shavuot was revealed on that morning.

Is the message too simple? Christ is very near because of this momentous gift; God is present in each believer, no longer in one place at one time but wherever those who love and obey him are. Every person may die to self and rise in him, proclaiming the good news: in Christ we are saved, made right with God and are freed to become what he made each of us to be (John 1:9). By being together, Jesus is present and because of him we are enabled to live lives of virtue, drawing more people into this freedom.

The everflowing truth is that God is not over there, up above or down below, but so near, heaven touches the everyday of our lives; our hearts, lips and minds. In Christ, by the Holy Spirit, Heaven touches Earth through ordinary lives.

Together, we can move on, not locating God in movements, men and places but we may grasp the reality that through immersion in the Holy Spirit, God is as near to us as our breath and pours out of us like a gushing stream or a quietly bubbling spring, fresh and lively. This water, restores, revives and refreshes all who drink it and it never disappoints or ends.

God is near to us, not out there on a stage, an event, directed by the words of men and expectations of the crowd; not out there in the lives and successes of others but in our own brokenness and healing; our own stories of death to sin with him, rising again to new life and fulfilling the promise of lives made whole, which proclaim this good news.

The crowd at Pentecost received the same good news. The blessing came as each heard the news in their own languages. People then gathered frequently to hear the teaching of the apostles and shared their homes and their means to further the cause of their message.

From an abiding flow the growth comes in those who listen and obey, as promised by Jesus. From an outpouring of living water the thirst for good is quenched and each is nourished for the troubles of the day.

Don’t settle for Christ out there.Don’t shrink the Church to a weekly event. Don’t judge the Church by its events, buildings and institutions. Christ is amongst us as we gather in his name as twos or threes and Jesus is revealed by the love between us.

Straw Dogs; Thoughts on Humans and other Animals, by John Gray

Puppy

Our guide dog puppy Riley

The thesis of this book is that we are all suffering, cruel animals and humans are bent on destroying their environment with technology. Pretty gloomy stuff but very well written. To be honest, I am not qualified to critique the book but I did read it.

Gray presses home his argument with shocking examples of humans behaving badly. He really despises humanism’s hope that things are getting better, and sees secular humanism as an empty philosophy worse than Christianity, because it does not face up to the facts as he sees them. They, ‘…have given up an irrational belief in God for an irrational faith in mankind.’ (Gray, 2003, p.38) Morality does not exist, there is no self and he ventures that what distinguishes us from animals is we, ‘…have learnt to cling more abjectly to life.’ (Gray, 2003, p.131)

Strangely I found his shocking examples rather tame compared to the cruelty and depravity in the bible. Even his thesis is biblical, though he wouldn’t acknowledge it. He reads like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 ). Indeed Gray writes in the tradition of Wisdom Literature.

Gray’s assessment is unashamedly Godless. He espouses Buddhist awareness and reflection as the answer to human rapacity. Death is the release, and we are burdened by our awareness of time in waiting for it. He concludes,

‘ Other animals do not need a purpose in life. A contradiction to itself, the human animal cannot do without one. Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?’ (Gray, 2003, p.199)

I must admit I found this book made me laugh, as it was so earnest and self reflectively serious. The illustrations made me want to cry, but the bible had hardened me to the depravity of mankind and the destiny of creation. Gray’s whole argument makes sense; it has to, I offer, or faith would have no meaning. I wouldn’t put my trust in them though as someone clever will rip his ideas to shreds one day.

In the bible, God does not prove himself; argue for his own existence, he reveals himself. The sun, the moon and the whole realm of nature are as much bleak as they are inspirational. Nature is as cruel and chaotic as it is rational. God speaks into this.

Yes the bible supports the idea that we are all animals, but take Gray’s advice, look within. There you will find an inner land to explore; there God will reveal himself. Yes, to live is to suffer, but to see, to seek, is to find God and his Image in you.

I have deliberately not given detailed quotes to support my biblical insertions because I want you to read the scriptures and find out if I am right. I’m not sure what merit there is in reading this book, except that it lays bare secular humanists and updates you with examples of the depravity of man.

Reference

Gray, J. 2003 Straw Dogs. London: Granta Books 2003.

Should Christians buy Apple products?

Apple EEEK!

Now that’s a thought for the day. Stephen Foley writing in the i, (p.4, 14/02/2012) leads with, ‘Thousands of Chinese factory workers will be given the chance to detail the punishing conditions on assembly lines producing Apple iPads and iPhones…’ We also learn that workers typically earn 30p an hour, working 10 hour shifts with only one break. In 2010 in one factory there was a spate of 13 suicides or attempted suicides.

It’s a difficult one but, whatever you think, how has this made you feel? Threatened? It’s surprising how wedded we are to our technology. Dismissive? It’s not my problem and there are many other equally difficult questions to avoid each day, and I don’t need something else to feel guilty about. They work and they look good; what’s your problem? (Genesis 3:6)

Apple are incredibly brand aware. They ferociously protect their brand image and defend their product integrity. At present they are fighting to ban Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smart phone in the US because it looks and behaves like an iPhone. An illustration used recently at our church noted how Steve Jobs insisted that every part of an Apple product conformed to his design ideals, even the parts you couldn’t see. You can see the parallel aspiration in the life of the church.

What is the Christian brand and how far do we go to protect it?

Luke 4:17-22

If you get a chance read this comments on the i news story. The comments make fascinating reading. I have highlighted Apple but, it has to be said, they have owned up and are trying to do something about it.

Sovereign

One of my key beliefs is in the sovereignty of the human will (Genesis 1:27).

I believe in the sovereignty of God; he is all powerful and holds the whole creation together. God is good.

I see in the act of creation, the incarnation and salvation sovereign acts of self limitation (Philippians 2:1-11). I strongly feel that God has limited himself for the glory of his wonderful grace and that all our wills are created sovereign. This is one way I understand being made in the image of God.

God’s will is supremely free. His will is not bound. To exercise free will, our sovereign wills  bind to his sovereign will. Free will does not mean we exercise our will outside the will of God. Our will is only free, I believe, when the will of God is sovereignly our will. This is how I understand the mystery of God, creator and God made flesh.

The futility of sin is the fact that our wills are no longer free but bound by the slavery of selfishness and disobedience to the call of God. Our concept of self determination cloaks free will with the idea that we are free to sin. We are not free when we sin, we are made free in Christ so that we do not sin.

Jesus sets people free and commands them to go on their way and sin no more. While we are still sinners and bound by sin, we are forgiven and our experience of love and acceptance illuminates our life so that we have the hope of salvation. Sin no more, is a command to us based on the grace of forgiveness(1 John 3:1-10). But God does not take away the gift of our sovereign wills, we still need to turn to him.

Believing in Christ, we never lose the promise of salvation as we struggle with sin. Belief in Christ is a moment of peace and joy, an experience that sets us on the way to be imitators of Jesus; to be holy as he is holy. Believing in Christ is the creation of a new identity from which our sovereign identity grows. It is a decision to follow Christ, to be faithful to him (John 3:16-18). The battle begins as our character and circumstances are challenged and the gift is, our hearts are turned from stone to flesh. We hear the perpetual call, Go, and sin no more.

This is a simple command; go, and sin no more (John 8:11); be holy as I am holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). It is a call to imitation, to realise the divine image within all of us. Jesus’ teaching is easy and its outworking light.  Jesus says, love God with every fibre of your being and love everyone else (Mark12:30-31).

It is a true metaphor that speaks of arming ourselves for this life. Life is not easy but Jesus’ message is (Romans 13:12). We need every defence and weapon available, as, for some of us, we meet failure after failure and despair upon despair. Some struggle against circumstances and suffer. Others, if not all, struggle with the heavy burden of self. Our hurts and disappointments and the hidden world of our experience crowd in on the truth of who we are in Christ as we stumble and stumble again. For some of us, that one word of belief, that single word of freedom, is all we have in the struggle. But it is enough; it is the seed planted in good soil which is not strangled.

Our confidence is in God, as in Christ we are new creations hidden in him. As we set our hearts to forgive and be kind, yet feel nothing; as we seek to serve others and only feel failure, we know that, even so, in Christ we are saved. God may invade us with supernatural revelation but he will not take control and enslave us to it. He may reveal himself through miracles and supernatural encounters but he will not take away grace and bind us to the repeat of transient experiences. God limits his sovereignty for the glory of his wonderful grace so that we might freely bind ourselves to his will.

When everything else falls around our ears, the word of faith; the still, small, quiet voice, speaks, …My burden is easy and my yoke is light. He does not say pull yourself together and cheer up he says, …Come to me (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows your heart; it is his new creation and he will never let go (John 10:27-30).

This is love, that I am free to love. This is power that I am free to take up my cross and follow Christ. This is grace that I am freed to live in Christ.