Monday, 27 September 2010

Struggling with the Glory of God

A few months ago I listened to Paris Reidhead’s sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt”. Afterwards I was undone. As he talked about how humanism has infiltrated our thinking even in the church, I recognised how this was so true of me. As he talked about how our evangelistic efforts are man-centred – to save souls from hell for their sake – rather than God-focused – a bride for Christ for His sake – I realised I didn’t understand “Soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone be the glory) at all.

This was reinforced when a friend commented that she had told a family member that “if she is the only one in her family that God has chosen to display his transforming power and deliverance through, that He might gain a greater glory and effect righteousness in the dark places, then so be it”. I was undone again. Then I was reminded of God’s word given to Isaiah. Isaiah has just been given what has to be one of the most memorable visions of God’s glory in the whole Bible. He is then commissioned by God to preach to the people in order to “make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isa 6:10). Soli Deo Gloria.

I have the privilege of being friends with a lady whose husband was recently killed in a car crash leaving her alone to bring up their young daughter. She continues to put her trust and faith in the God she has known all her life, who has revealed His goodness to her, and who has given her a real Hope for the future. I am undone by her faith. I am reminded of Jesus who, on being told that his friend Lazarus is sick, replies “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). We may have to deal with death for now, but we have a hope that on that Blessed Day in the future the Resurrection will bring God the glory as He prepares the wedding feast for His bride. Soli Deo Gloria.

I read about my Christian brothers and sisters suffering persecution around the world and I am undone. Their ability to stand firm and not deny Christ in the face of severe pressure, sometimes at the cost of their lives, is truly testimony to the ability of the One who holds us in His hands to keep us, and not to allow anyone to snatch us out of His hands. I am reminded of the account of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who just before he died looked up to heaven and “saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55). Soli Deo Gloria.

I have to confess – I am wired up to see things from a human perspective. I listen to Paris Reidhead, and interact with my Christian friends and I can feel the gears clunking in my head as I try to shift from one view to another. I am distraught that God’s glory is not my natural automatic worldview. I am dismayed that after walking with God for so many years I still don’t “get it” naturally, and that I have to be dragged out of humanism to God-centredness.

This short video clip considers this same issue:

My only hope is that I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind as I continue to read God’s word which is “sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). I finish with a plea to my Christian friends – I need you to keep reminding me that God’s glory is all that matters.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgements, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever! Amen!” (Rom 11:33-36)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

I Miss You Lord

I miss You Lord, I really miss You, though today You spoke to me
Through the Word of God which judged my heart, but in Christ proclaims I’m free;
For I fight a constant battle with the sin I see inside,
Can’t rest or lay my armour down ‘til the day I’m glorified.

I miss You Lord, I really miss You, though I spoke with You today
Through the Spirit You sent into my heart to teach me how to pray;
There’s so much sorrow and suffering in this world corrupted by sin,
We need the King of Righteousness His reign to begin.

I miss You Lord, I really miss You, though today I fed on You
As I ate the bread and drank the wine in awed remembrance of You;
I’m a pilgrim in a foreign land, a stranger here on earth,
Speaking a different language, my heart set on True Worth.

So many reasons why I miss You Lord, but my hope in You is sure -
Whether I die or meet You in the clouds I’ll be with You forevermore.
But for now, oh Jesus, I’ll miss You, till my heart has no cause to groan –
When there’s no more sorrows, sin or death – with You in Your Home.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Thoughts and Wonderment on Psalm 48

“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise”. Indeed. His name reaches the ends of the earth, His praise reaches the ends of the earth, His right hand is filled with righteousness. Why this rejoicing? “Because of your judgements” (v11). What judgements has God made? To me, the one judgment that has been made which far exceeds all others is this:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5).
“Our God”. The psalmist uses this personal pronoun 3 times in Psalm 48. It is a truly humbling thing to be able to call God “my God” – when it was MY sin which put Jesus on the cross, it was MY punishment that he suffered in MY place. And it led Jesus to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Now, because of this sacrifice, I am a child of God and able to call Him “My Father.” Truly I will never cease to wonder at this mystery! “Died he for me who caused his pain? For me? who him to death pursued?” (And Can It Be lyrics).

I have very rarely been able to sing the song “My Jesus, my Saviour” without choking up on those 4 words. The wonder that I can call Him mine, when I am such a wretched sinner. The wonder that He would choose me for His own! It is being chosen “In Him” which helps put it into perspective for me – because the Father is pleased with Him, it gives Him pleasure to choose us in Him, that we might be for the praise of His glory! Not because of who I am, but because of who You are.

“As we have heard, so have we seen” (v8) – the central, pivotal cry of this psalm. God is not simply someone we have heard about, who acted long ago in the history of Israel – He is a God who acts today! He is a God we can experience today! He is a God I have just been praying and weeping to. Knowledge of God is not sufficient. By faith Christ dwells in our very hearts, the hearts of those who believe in His Name! “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Ps 42:2). Right here, right now, by faith!

The climax of the psalm: “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide, even to the end” (v14). This amazing, awesome God of righteousness, whose Name is beyond all names, whose praise reaches the ends of the earth, who brings rejoicing to all of creation - not only is He Our God – He has promised to be our God always...eternally...what blessed hope!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew 5:3

18 months ago, I led a bible study in our small group on this beatitude. As I spoke of my brokenness before God, it became apparent that there was a disconnect between me and my dear Christian friends. They seemed to be concerned for me and my low self esteem. I was even handed a book after the bible study on Christians and self esteem. I went home in tears, distressed that we seemed to be speaking a different language.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at the disconnection. After all, our pastor had at one time preached that we as a people have now moved beyond “worm theology” as he gently mocked the hymn lyrics of Isaac Watts (“Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I”), and that God doesn’t want us flat on our faces before Him - didn’t He tell Joshua to “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?” (Joshua 7:10).

The teaching in the church was on living a victorious Christian life. As a church we even went through Neil Anderson’s 7 Steps to Freedom in Christ so that we could live in victory. I went to work for the UK Director of the Freedom in Christ Ministry. I withered. Dark days.

Brokenness. When I became a Christian, I understood I had been forgiven my past sins through the death of Jesus on the cross. I now saw I had an opportunity to start afresh, to prove my love for God. Needless to say, I failed. Dark days. I recently looked back at a song I wrote during that time, and one lyric in particular stands out – “I can’t accept Your love when I have nothing to give”. Oh boy. I read that now and I can’t help but think was I saved then at all? I simply refused to believe that the love God had for me was on account of the love He has for His Son. I wanted God to love me because I deserved to be loved because of who I was. Proud, wicked heart! Thankfully God in His mercy took me and broke me. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). I can testify to the truth of this statement. I now see my absolute poverty of spirit, my moral bankruptcy before a holy God, and my absolute dependence on His mercy in Christ. Paradoxically, I have never felt more at rest in my soul than I do now. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).

Recently, through the internet, I have come across other Christians who speak this same language. I was amazed the first time I heard Chris Rosebrough on his "Fighting for the Faith" radio programme. I had never heard another broken Christian speaking what was on my heart before. I cannot begin to describe the joy it brings me to hear of others share their brokenness before God too, which stems from their understanding of His holiness. It is so edifying to my walk when I hear this same language which resonates so deeply within:

“I love the Apostle Peter so much. My Christian journey has been like his in some ways: starting out with a zeal for God but no knowledge, being refined, being foolish, learning and being refined more, more foolishness, and finally knowing at the end that HE is God and I am small, insignificant, sinful and wretched. And sometimes all I can do is say, Lord, despite all my wretchedness, my sin, my foolishness, search my heart...and know that I love you”Christine Blackerby Pack.

“The gospel only became "good news" after I first took a hard honest look at just how bad the bad news really was. Trust me, utter depravity is very bad news and substitutionary atonement is very good news.”Elizabeth DeBarros.

“Whenever I start thinking too much about this world and myself, I think of all that Christ has done for me and I'm back on my knees begging forgiveness, humbled before God, with how weak and lost I am without Him.”Ruth Szalapski Owen.

I thank God that He has brought me into contact with other saints who speak the same language as I do. I am truly edified, truly blessed, and so encouraged.
I need to finish with a song. I came across this Casting Crowns video last week, "Who Am I?" and it sums up completely the transformation in my views during my Christian journey:

"Not because of who I am but because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done but because of who You are...I am Yours."