Tag Archives: life

What am I being redeemed to?

0184136a84ba06f329f247d635c265d92966f6adf1God’s creation of us was good and with the whole of creation, very good. If my goodness is my heart intention or my will, then to be truly human is to have right heart intention: a good will- a will able to choose, free and sovereign, and acting within God’s will and reflecting God’s will. As humans, we are able to reason and act apart from instinct and, I believe, to know and be known fully in our human spirit by God. In God’s creation of us, God blesses us with a good will, able to reason and decide, and with our spirit alive in him. For me this is what it is to be alive; this is what we are redeemed to in Christ.

To say we are redeemed to a moral perfection rather than our original blessing isn’t true. A moral choice is one made by judging what is good and what is evil and choosing the good. So far so good, but we do this out of duty rather because, having judged something as wrong, we must do the good. We have set up a law within ourselves, act on our evaluation and seek to live by this law which we are free to choose to do. But where is the redemption- we can do this as we are. Our separation from God is as a result of our being able to make these choices, the scriptures teach- this is the root of sin and death. We are created to be alive in God not to slavishly follow laws. You can live a moral life without God- that’s the problem. You can choose to lead a moral life to your own harm and loss. You can choose to live a moral life to avoid the consequences of not doing so.

God I believe acts to redeem us from living by law to living under our original grace. Grace is God’s free gift given because of our faith in him not faith in our own moral choices. We are redeemed to that place of innocence that comes out of a higher relationship of faith in God and in Christ who saves us from law and makes us alive in our original life. Christ renews our hearts- redeems our wills- so that we are empowered to dwell in eternity with God. As we go deeper into faith our inclination is to do good because in Christ sin and the consequences of sin are dealt with- we are made good. Our lives in Christ perfect us in this as we live our lives in grace, knowing we are forgiven our sin through faith in the redemption of Christ.

Redemption in Christ is the gift of a life freed from the endless toil of being subject to the laws of our own devising- by command, culture and upbringing. In Christ we are freed to be virtuous because of faith. Our turning away from the inclinations of our own hearts to the principal of faith in God restores us to our original blessing and frees us to live the life of one made in the image of God. God created us to be in Christ.

The challenge of the doctrine of original sin

Some are challenged by the doctrine of original sin, most live their lives in the mystery of the truth of their salvation in Christ. A doctrine is a statement of belief. It is the summing up of the evidence in Scripture based on faith- it is like a scientific theory which becomes orthodox with use and accumulated evidence gathered by deepening study of the text in the light of faith. Some will also allow the evidence of nature.

Orthodox Christian faith is that everything is created by God, One person, Lord of all, and that humanity is created in God’s image. All humanity is sinful and is subject to the futility of a creation compromised by sin. This came about because of the choice of an individual, Adam, the first human male. Adam was fully human. If he was around today he could drive a bus or, if he worked hard, gain a PhD in Astro Physics. The consequence of his sin, it is believed, is that people suffer death and live separated from God. Earth has been separated from Heaven, the dwelling place of God. The Garden of Eden was the place where God and Adam walked together, where Heaven and Earth intersected.

I believe that the Christian Bible is literal, except where it is clear from the context it is not meant to be taken as literal. Your world view will dictate the extent to which you consider parts of it not to be literal. Orthodox Christian tradition tends to the position that there was a literal Adam and that Adam was the first human. From the point of God breathing humanity into him he was made the whole of humanity.

Genesis is history, prophecy, law and parable. Its author is almost certainly mostly Moses. It tells the story in many layers of meaning of how God came to call out a people for himself through Moses. In Genesis we see from the beginning there is Law, the parable of the number and symbol for ten and a story of the history of mankind in the first ten generations.

When Jesus and the early Christians taught, the context was the culture of the religion that grew up around this story and the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Some accepted prophets, histories and wisdom literature as part of this body of scripture and the early Christians taught from a Greek version that included apocryphal stories.

I don’t believe that fact of the Adam of the story is contradicted by science. I think nature would conclude that from Adam came the first Eve. We can argue about the details of how.

In Genesis we are given a message of hope we could not know except through faith in its message – all was created good, in fact, very good. It prophecies that creation is fecund and perfectible; to be subdued and stewarded for its Creator by humanity. In the text we are acquainted with the rationality of the Creation because of the personhood of God who from the beginning broods and delights, creating through time, orders creation and fills it. God spoke and it came to be and Creator God speaks to and walks with humanity in a relationship which Adam enjoys, revealing God’s holiness and parent heart. There is so much to contemplate and draw hope from in this biblical revelation.

But, in the story, darkness is also presented; disconnection from God, inhumanity, greed and lust enter the story with death and disease. Genesis explores the origins of this state of sin. Whatever our doctrine of original sin or not, the mystery revealed in Genesis is that the gift of free will given to Adam was used to disobey God and choose death. Our first ancestor chose to rebel and chose the path of independence from God and of sin and death. Christian faith says that all choose to be in Adam and all may choose to be in Christ and be redeemed and reformed. This is because, from the beginning all are made in the image of God and his light shines in all hearts. Being bought back and even recreated is possible because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It’s all about Jesus, Son of God. In him we get and become his holiness, just as in Adam we suffered the consequences of Adam’s rebellion.

Being “in Adam” or “in Christ” now describes our nature; our source of being. The early hearers would have known what the Christian writers meant. Being in Adam signals our being in a state of rebellion and being in Christ signals our being in a state of grace, our sins forgiven.

You can argue whether we are born in Adam or not; whether by nature we are born in Adam, full stop. That will be your doctrine of original sin or not, but, the fact is that according to the Bible we are all in Adam when it comes to the choice to sin. Creation is compromised by our sin. We are all sinners and need to be saved – being in Christ is the means and guarantee of salvation. The Bible only allows for this being our condition before God. Being in Christ is the means of salvation.

Be bold and pray this through in the confidence that God will speak peace and comfort to you. I think your reassurance will come in a word you cannot speak and certainly some will reject you as you confess your salvation.

Being in Christ is pure grace, not dependent on time or geography. The early Christian writers knew that the means of salvation, the way of answering the call of the light within, was a mystery. The good news was that the way back into Eden is the man Jesus; he is the ladder to heaven. By an accident of time or Geography we can know this, but this mystery was so from the beginning; we are doubly blessed as we see the revelation and we are able to worship God as He is, Father, Son and Spirit. It’s not our knowledge of the historical Jesus that saves us but the indwelling of the transcendent Jesus that shines a light into each person’s heart. God is a just and the whole of creation is birthed around the pouring out of love in the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit.

Where love is, the pursuit of the light within and the knowledge of grace for repentance there is salvation. This knowledge is there for every person to know, however dimly it sometimes shines. Where the name of Jesus is known there is right worship and restoration of the dwelling place of God in the midst of his people.

I am reassured that nothing in science and nature contradicts what I have written and if it does, and at some stage I understand differently or have misunderstood, then God still loves me and the Bible is still true. The Bible is true whatever my faulty opinions or fragile understanding of the truth it reveals. My faith is that, communicated to ordinary humanity, the Christian Bible is the actual word of God and its progressive revelation was a sufficient and complete revelation of the message and means of salvation at the time it was spoken. There was never a time in history when God had not made plain what was necessary for salvation.

We live in times where so much damage has been done in the name of Christianity and around us we see the results of the abuses of the church, sometimes the reality of the gospel as set out in the Christian Bible is obscured, the advantage seemingly lost, but to the praise of Christ’s glorious name he is merciful and just. It’s our choices that sear our consciences, not accidents of history or experience.

I am convinced that salvation is not in the gift of men; their systems or words. Salvation is assured by the indwelling of the Spirit, bringing a knowledge of the holiness of God and our call by grace to be holy as he is holy. This call is in the hearts of all people and is not dependent on time or geography. The revelation of this mystery in Christ is the foundation of true worship. As Christians we are assured of this worship in spirit and truth as an ever flowing reality, knowing adoption into the family of God where the fullness of the flowing love between Father, Son and Spirit flows to us in Christ.

This is the gospel from the beginning, the good news: within you something humbly cries out for righteousness; hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is meek and knows poverty of spirit, mourns, is merciful, is pure and seeks peace – pursue it, trust it and you are blessed and rewarded in heaven. Here your identity in God is revealed, the mystery displayed: you are in Christ. Living in this light and becoming its bearer may bring persecution but we are to rejoice gladly and worship Jesus in spirit and truth, our only hope and the way to the Father. The man Jesus is the way, the truth and the life of this cosmic gospel not a well worded doctrine, however helpful it may be.

 

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.

Intentional

Having visited Lee Abbey for a holiday on a number of occasions now, I have become aware of the appeal of an intentional community. Becoming the body of Christ, each member valued, is purposeful.

How though can being a body be achieved when people are gathered to communities that are so apart? People rarely engage with one another and certainly, in the church I am part of, small communities are secondary to the vision of the whole church and a main meeting.

This suits a lot of people and they are very blessed by it. They are able to be effective in their settings and carry an energy that certainly appears to be fulfilling. Church communities are formed around ministries, such as leadership, worship, social enterprise or youth. The momentum is through the task or sometimes a particular type of meeting. But this is not what I want.

Some people are able to function by networking within their work place where Christians gather. Others find involvement in a hobby, sports club or Gym satisfies. Interests such as running, cycling or bird watching have a draw as does support for a sports team. Surprisingly, need or disaffection can be a seed for community. This again is not what I want.

Deep down I have a need to grow spiritually and to be active in society as a whole. In my heart I need a source for being that starts with God but ends up blessing my neighbour. At Takeley Chapel I have seen the beginnings of how this might be achieved. I hope and pray that one day I might see it fulfilled. Currently we meet for breakfast and prayer on a Sunday morning; I would like to see the Sunday evening cafe meeting flourish and a monthly Friday evening community supper added.

The spiritual aspect I will come to, but practically what we could have is a menu of activities based around sharing meal times. These are natural breaks; breakfast sets us up for the day, coffee for the evening and Friday supper ends a work week. All these meetings should have an all age focus where children are able to participate and there are no restrictions on who might participate; all learning styles should be encompassed. There should not be a burden of preparation only inspiration

Children can be involved with adults in craft activities without a great need to organise anything special. In fact there should be room for people to be outdoors or even break out in to other spaces. The purpose is to be friends and families together.

Time should be flexible with people being able to leave when they are ready. Of course where there are activities then people need to know when these are happening but they should not be at the start of any meeting, to allow for people to arrive when they are able and still be a part.

What I am envisioning is threefold:

  • A Sunday morning prayer group arranged around the materials provide by lyfe.org.uk; the pattern is to reflect on a spiritual discipline through a bible verse and various materials. Through prayer, reflection and as a result of the teaching, participants agree to explore spiritual challenges for the week. These challenges might result in poetry or song, art or craft which can be shared the next week so that each meeting is organic. People may then go home, go on to attend other church meetings or decide to engage in some kind of recreational activity.
  • During the week participants would also follow the New Daylight materials provided by brf.org.uk, journaling, sharing their insights when they can over refreshments on a Sunday evening. The benefits of this would be to have a sense that on each day, not only are we pursuing the weekly exercise from Sunday morning and growing in our Spiritual knowledge, but each of us is on a shared prayer journey based on scripture. The resource is convenient as each day has a printed version of the scripture, a comment and a reflection or prayer and an audio version is available.
  • Each month, on the first Friday, early in the evening, a simple supper could be shared where people bring contributions and there may be sung worship. Those who are gifted may be invited to preach; those with insight may share what they they believe God is showing them. Communion will be shared and after prayer ministry, any business could be discussed that needs to be decided ending with refreshments and recreational activities. The source of this inspiration would be intimate groups of two or three, maybe organised around the renovare resources or other ministries that participants felt met their needs, meeting weekly.

It is hoped that as  result of this intentional life together, members would be effective employees, engage in other communities and serve the society they are part of, effectively, from a heart grounded in God.

It would only take two or three people to commit to this community to make it work. From it we may renew the communities we are part of and revive the gospel witness in Takeley.

Authentic

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Matthew 7:12-27

Jesus calls us to judge ourselves and others by what we do and not by what we say. Even more, he teaches that he does not judge by what is done through us by God; Father, Son and Spirit who we worship as One – God is concerned with our authenticity. It is not our kingdom works but who we are that brings us in to the kingdom; in to his ever-flowing presence where heaven, the dwelling place of God, and earth are made one.

It is a mystery that in Jesus Christ, the kingdom is so present that it is revealed with a word. Many works of the Spirit may be performed, but the speaker who does not do the will of the Father is guilty of lawlessness. The question is; is our identity in speaking authentic? What is it based on?

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Putting grace to the test

Hatfield Heath

Hatfield Heath

 

Roman’s 12:2 says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Now what does this mean? In the context of the scripture and because of what Paul has just spoken of about grace; that’s what the “therefore…” is there for; it’s speaking of grace transforming our lives by transforming our minds, and this being tested.

We are to be active in this, doing what is right and not being conformed, or moulded by and formed by the world’s ways, but by grace. The goal is knowing what is good, acceptable and perfect.

Can we make it also mean that we are to believe what God has done in our lives, ignore the evidence to the contrary, and wait for the reality in our lives to catch up with the reality of what God has done? No. Not in morality, not in health and not in wealth. This is empty headed, over-spiritualizing intellectualism that ignores the visceral reality of the scripture. We are called to live right (Ephesians 4:17-24). Associating this scripture with the process of healing diminishes its power.

The scripture is talking about the realities of living in the world. It’s talking about doing the right thing despite the pressures around us to do otherwise; despite what we think. That is, not gossiping, not slandering, not telling lies, not getting angry, not being bitter, not being proud… things that start in our minds and destroy the work of grace.

Romans 12 to 15 let us know what we are to do as a result of receiving grace. Not if we like, or as the Spirit leads: we are to allow grace to transform our minds so that the realities of the life in Christ we live are pure. Romans 12:2 is not an excuse to wait for our minds to be transformed before we do right. It’s not an encouragement to believe in a healing that has not happened.

Paul’s call for us to renew our minds in Romans 12 prefaces 3 chapters of dos and don’ts. It’s an invitation to the hard work of living by grace, actively casting off and putting on, because we are founded in grace. Grace takes us to painful places and much of the battle is in our minds which need to go through the pain of transformation through testing.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
(Hebrews 12:11-10 ESV)

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.

Provocations

Kierkegaard made an art of writing short provocative parables designed to shake us out of our comfort zone. He is often quoted, but not much read. To download a book for free visit Plough Books. From him you will gain the insight that,

There are people who handle the ideas they pick up from oth­ers so frivolously and disgracefully that they ought to be pros­ecuted for illegal exchange in lost and found property.

And so in the fear of prosecution I will share the words of others on two of Jesus’ parables; the treasure found in the field, reburied, everything sold, and the field scurrilously bought to obtain the treasure and the pearl of great price, which the merchant sold everything to obtain. (Matthew 13:44-46)

Nouwen notes in The Inner Voice of Love that having found the treasure and experienced its value you have to leave it and sell everything to obtain it;

You can only seek God when you have already found God. The desire for God’s unconditional love is the fruit of having been touched by that love.

Bonhoffer writes,

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.

Ortiz in his book Disciple combines this teaching with Matthew 16:24-25 to teach that we get to keep everything but now it is radically under the ownership of Christ.

Rollins in the Orthodox Heretic says that Kierkegaart reflected that if you have sold everything to obtain the treasure you now have nothing, as the pearl only has value if you sell it, the one thing you are bound not to do. Having obtained the pearl you are now materially destitute whilst possessing something really precious.

Sometimes we run away from simple meaning and construct a wall between us and the message…

Whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Kierkegaard writes;

All our Bible learning has become nothing but a fortress of excuses and escapes. When it comes to existence, to obedience there is always something else we have to first take care of. We live under the illusion that we must first have the interpretation right or the
belief in perfect form before we can begin to live – that is, we never get around to doing what the Word says.

The first week of spring?

It looked promising on the Monday and we had coffee at the garden centre. H joined us and we drank one coffee, one chocolate and one hot water; by the time I had been served all the good conversation had happened and the world’s problems had been solved. The walk around was not too interesting as I didn”t really want to buy anything and got quite tired so I spent some time in the car park. Home for tea without a cooker or hob but the microwave a nd steamer came into their own with steamed fissh and microwaved chips.

And then to Tuesday and another coffee house and medium cappuccino, americano and chocolate. Conspicuous consumption but at least no one was making love in the corner or describing curviture of the spine.

Wednesday and eight hours later we had a hob cut into the kitchen surface and the dishwasher and washing machine swapped round. Evening at Pizza Express with O and C.

F back Thursday. However first things first up to Sandy, Beds for lunch at the Queens Head and a spot of bird watching with the sister and family. I’m a novelty and feel exhausted by the walk. As predicted most of the birds were at the teashop bird table. Where have all the trees gone? Heathland for sheep.

Friday and now really am exhausted. This doesn’t look good but have booked tickets for Mand D and sent student finace form for the second time. S out tonight. I wonder what I will do?