Knowable

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“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
― A.W. Tozer

It really does matter what we think about God because it matters to God what we think about Him.

Our God, Yahweh, the Alpha and the Omega, the triune God who experiences perfect fellowship within the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, this God wants us to know Him.

Just read Jeremiah 31.33-34.

‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.’

Hear the excitement our God feels at the thought of this new covenant that would be ushered in at the cross.  He couldn’t wait for that veil to be torn.  He couldn’t wait for you and me to be welcomed into His family.  He couldn’t wait to be known.

Romans 1.20 tells us that God created a world where His invisible attributes are displayed by the things He has made.

Some of you will remember the old British tv show, Through the Keyhole, where a presenter would be filmed walking through a house, pointing out the pictures on the walls, the books in the bookshelf and the collectables that line the shelves.  The idea was to try and guess what celebrity the house belonged to from the clues.

Now imagine our God, speaking solar systems and planets into being, forming continents and mountain ranges and carefully designing everything so as to leave endless clues about His nature. Who made a world like this?

Our God did. He has shown Himself to be a God who creates complex beauty from nothing, who is infinitely creative and who cares about the smallest detail.  Every rose bloom and beetle, every sunset and seashell is a hallmark of God’s artistry, stamped on this world.

And He did it all just so that anyone who looks with an open heart can see what kind of God He is. 

God has also carefully and painstakingly revealed Himself in His Word. In the Bible, God makes clear His plan for the world, from the very beginning.  We see His ways as they weave through history.  God’s character is painted in technicolour with burning bushes and rainbow promises. His provision is demonstrated by feather-light manna and rams in thickets and a lunch that feeds a crowd.  Seas that are parted and blind eyes that are opened show us His unmatched power.  From cover to cover, the Bible shows us what matters to God and what He has done about it.

And, we see in John 17.25-26 that God sent Jesus to reveal more about what He is like.  This final, costly act insured not only that our sins were covered, but that God’s good and loving character was perfectly modelled to his beloved humanity.  Just in case we were to misunderstand God and see only His power and not His love, or if we were to imagine that we are just a small cog in some impersonal plan, Jesus’s life shows us just the opposite.  In Jesus, we see a God who does everything out of goodness We see kingship that looks like servanthood and instead of a religion, the life of Jesus invites us into a relationship.

We see God’s perfect love evident from the very moment of creation, but it is proven at the cross.

Our God is without rival.  He is the beginning and the end.  He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  And yet he chooses to use His power for redemption and restoration.  He chooses sacrifice.  He chooses love and He chooses us.

Don’t ever believe anything else.

Don’t even contemplate a God who is distant or harsh or unavailable.  He is present, He is a Father and His children can draw close and know Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January thoughts

 

 

In England, January can be pretty dreary.  These weeks, after the Christmas lights are boxed away, often feel particularly bare and bleak as festive jolliness is replaced with disappointing bank balances and diet programs.

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And yet, I have always liked January.  Maybe I am strange but I just love all the potential and possibilities that come with the start of a new year.  I also really love the quietness that January brings.  We don’t have any family birthdays or anniversaries until February and our usual church and social commitments are often pared down as everybody recovers and regroups after the craziness of Christmas.  So, I am usually able to keep the first few weeks of the year slow and uncommitted and to set it aside for thinking, planning and prayer.  I love it.

Seasons are good and January can offer us a unique perspective.  It can be a time when life, like a deciduous tree, is stripped down to just the skeleton of trunk and branches.  No tinsel or glitter, just the reality of who were are and what our life really consists of.

And, this can be good.  It allows us to see exactly what we’ve got.

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Outside my back door are the glazed pots that were overflowing with flowers as recently as October when family played in my garden and wedding rehearsal dinner drinks were shared with bride and groom-to-be.  Some of those pots are now completely empty, the bedding plants have served their short-term purpose of cheap summer colour for my patio.  Others look dead but they are secretly hiding the roots of perennial life.  And, so although the pot looks empty, I know it will spring into life when the days get warm again.

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And then there are my reliable evergreen shrubs.  They aren’t dazzling, but they keep my winter garden from being completely barren.  This the time of year I appreciate their faithful presence most when there are no flashy blooms for them to compete with.

Life is a lot like my winter garden and at this time of year, with pared-back schedules and quiet calendars, we can really assess and take stock of what we’ve got growing and what will need attention.

When I think of the evergreens in my garden, I think of the faithful presence in my life of a few people I can utterly rely on.  Along with my faith in God, these relationships form a support system that is irreplaceable in my life.  These precious ones don’t just say they will pray, they pray.  They get a word from God for me if I need one.  They encourage, love and speak life to me when I am ready to give up, which is more often then I would like to admit.  When circumstances are crushingly disappointing and grief overwhelms me, their number is the one I call.  I simply could not do life without them.

This January, with its fresh diary pages still empty, is the perfect time to make these relationships a top priority, not an afterthought.  Let’s remind ourselves before all the shiny new experiences and opportunities arrive, that life’s most precious gifts are dependable, loving friends and family and let’s decide to give them the time and appreciation they deserve.  Remember, our closest relationships still need the oxygen of love and appreciation to thrive so let’s give the best of ourselves, not just leftovers, to those who mean the most to us.

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And then there are those hidden perennials, the things in your life that have been beautiful and fruitful but lie dormant now. 

Perhaps there are areas of gifting or ministry where God used you but have now dried up.  Or maybe there are areas of victory that have succumbed again to the enemy.  Have you lost ground?  Have you seen a work of God seemingly die and you are left bewildered and bereft?  Winter is a time for exercising faith.  It is time to believe again that what God has started, He will finish.  It is time to pray again over those fallow places and to expect green shoots.  It is a time to believe in God’s ability and desire to do what He has said He will do.  

Winter is not for the fainthearted gardener.  When the ground is hard and cold and the colour has been sucked out of the garden, only those who understand how God works will keep their spirits up.  Only children of the King keep singing songs of deliverance when circumstances look lifeless.

But, we can use these short, grey days to revisit God’s promises.  We can remember words and verses that we have received and decide to believe again.  We can ask the Holy Spirit to stir up faith and hope and to restore our confident belief in a powerful God.

And then there are the dead, empty pots that were bursting with summer bedding only months ago. 

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These are the seasons of life and ministry that have finished.  It can be very painful to let these go.  Grown-up children and the looming empty nest is the vacant pot I am staring into and it is very hard.  I have overwhelmingly enjoyed raising a family and it has been my identity for 26 years.  An end to a good season can feel like grief.  It is painful and sad.

So, what can January offer these empty spaces in our lives where something good used to grow?

We are offered a chance to, with God’s grace, let them go.  We can choose acceptance and supernatural joy that surpasses all understanding.  We can pray over the newly vacant areas of our lives and dedicate them to the one who specializes in empty vessels.  He promises to fill and multiply and satisfy.  We can trust in His goodness to us and then we can dare to make space for something new.  We can start the new year with a heart of expectancy and eyes open to see what new things God is doing.

So, can I encourage you to embrace January?  Use it as a time to take stock, assess, survey what you have.  Put away the Christmas decorations and let life just be what it is.  What good things do you have in your life?  How can you tend and care for them more intentionally?  What needs weeding or pruning or feeding?   What have you neglected that matters?  What must you accept is over?

Then, shore up and consolidate what is valuable.  Tend to the relationships that mean the most.  Invest more time in knowing God.  Love your family.  Appreciate your friends.  Be there for someone who needs you.  Serve your church.  Care about those who are suffering.

And, believe again for good things from God.  Hold on to promises. Write them down.  Shun cynicism and cultivate child-like faith.  You can’t have both.  Believe God for the big and the impossible.  Pray audacious prayers.  Dream big and hang out with other God-dreamers.

And if it is time, let things go.  If you know God has shut a door, accept it.  If you need to cry, cry.  But, don’t look back.  Look up.  Set your heart on pilgrimage.  Keep going.  Keep serving.  Keep worshipping and keep walking.  Let God fill where you are empty and heal where you hurt.  Don’t let even a drop of bitterness or resentment find a home in your heart.  Not ever.  Keep your heart soft and your conscience clear.

This year, give Jesus permission to do something new, something incredible, something life-giving and beautiful in your life.  Give Him permission to do things differently than you have planned.  Give Him permission to surprise and overwhelm your life with Kingdom bounty.

And, if you dare, give Him permission to do whatever it takes for you to know and love Him more and to walk in every good work He has planned for you.  

 

 

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Choked and forgetful

 

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Deuteronomy 8.11 jumped off the page today.

Make sure you don’t forget God.

Whatever you do, don’t let this happen.  Prioritise your remembering.  Don’t forget who He is and who He made you to be.

But it is so easy to forget.

If life in 2018 is marked by anything, it is marked by distractions.

And, these distractions don’t wait in line like polite customers at the Post Office!  No, they crowd in like shoppers on a black Friday.  They jostle and pull and stampede. And yet often we don’t even notice.  That is why they are so dangerous.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus doesn’t pull any punches about distractions.  He says they actually choke good things God has planted.

Why doesn’t that scare me as much as it should?

It is possible, even probable, that I can miss opportunities from God just because I am busy with something else.  I can miss God’s voice because louder ones have my attention.  I can completely forget promises He has spoken to me.

I can forget Him.

Matt Chandler says, ‘”Find the things that stir your affections for Christ and saturate your life in them. Find the things that rob you of that affection and walk away from them. That’s the Christian life as easy as I can explain it for you.”

Maybe it really is that easy.

Maybe the grace that I extend to myself to watch what I want to watch or buy what I want to buy or do what I want to do is actually slowly, quietly stealing my passion for God.

Because, whether I want to believe it or not, my affection and my passion are not endless resources.  The are finite and they have to be spent very carefully.  

Jesus said that we can only follow one leader and that a life focused on earthly treasures has no energy left for heavenly ones.

Mary understood but Martha didn’t.  You can’t be two places at once, so choose wisely.

Jesus tried to teach the rich young ruler that you can’t follow God and obsessively love your stuff at the same time.  Our hearts just aren’t that big.

Jesus teaches us, again and again, in His parables and teachings, that what we chase is what we love the most and that loving God means choosing Him first.  

And choosing to put God first isn’t a spiritually vague concept.  It means deciding every day to minimise distractions and to give Him my very best, not my leftovers.

I know it is a battle.  Life is busy.  We have a wedding in less than three weeks and university application deadlines are looming.  My dishwasher just died and my hair needs to be coloured.

But I have the power to decide what I think about when I wake up and what I think about as I fall asleep. 

We all do.

Remember Jesus today.  Count your blessings and your answered prayers.  Turn worries into a conversation with the only one who can do anything about it.

Relax, He is in control. 

Believe, He is good.

Smile, you are adored.  

Remember, you are His.

 

 

 

Unattended thoughts

 

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There is a verse in the Bible I am in the daily habit of disregarding.

It is a very well-known verse.  Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will see it on bookmarks, coffee mugs and t-shirts.

Philippians 4.8 says, ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.’

How lovely and inspiring!  What a wonderful verse to write out and put on my fridge.

What an easy verse to completely ignore.

Because so often thoughts are like the mouse in my attic.

A few weeks ago I went up into our loft space to get our summer clothing down and I discovered to my horror that a mouse had been living up there, making a nest and eating my favourite handbag.  I didn’t know he was up there until it was too late.

Unattended lofts attract mice like unattended gardens welcome weeds.

Unattended minds are vulnerable to similar intruders.

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If I never listen to my own thoughts and question their truthfulness, I am probably making a home for ideas that are contrary to God’s truth and they will be destructive in my life.

I need to decide to set high standards for what I think about because my thoughts become my beliefs and my beliefs become my actions.  Like a burly bouncer standing outside a nightclub, I must be discerning about what I let into my mind each and every day.

Because lies always entangle and confuse us. Truth brings freedom and fruitfulness.

 

Whether we believe it or not our thought life is strongly influencing us.  It is affecting who we are and how we see everything and everyone around us.

Psalm 51.6 is a powerful verse.  In it, David writes that God wants truth in our innermost being.

One of the commentaries I read described this as being so full of truth we are incapable of self-deception.  I don’t know about you but I need a whole lot of this kind of truthfulness in my life.  I need God’s truth to reach every part of my soul.  I need it to touch my mind, my will and my emotions so that pesky vermin are caught, weeds are eliminated and the good stuff can grow.

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Because I know I am capable of believing lies and even lying to myself. 

I do it all the time.  Sometimes I lie to myself about why I don’t like someone.  I justify my feelings in all sorts of ways when the truth is I am offended or envious or just entertaining unforgiveness.

Sometimes when I really want to do something I decide it is God’s will before I have even prayed about it and then I take the happiness I feel as God’s confirming peace.

Sometimes I am dead wrong and I manage to convince myself that I am right.

Sometimes I accommodate doubt, fear, anxiety or judgementalism.  They come and go like lodgers with a key to my front door.  Before I know it they are sitting at my table and dictating the conversation.

Have you ever really listened to your thoughts?  Try it if you dare.  Pick a day when you are not working and set your phone alarm to go off every hour.  When it does, stop and listen to your thoughts.  What are you preoccupied with?  What keeps replaying over and over again?  What are you dwelling on?

Be honest, what is the soundtrack of your life?

Tune in.  Listen with an objective ear.  Be honest with yourself.

I tried this a few months ago and it has changed my life.  I discovered that my life, that was marked by anxiety, had a soundtrack of untruths.  Why was I surprised?

Do you know that anxiety, fear, anger, worry and bitterness all have something in common? They all start with a thought.

Something will happen in your life, something hurtful or scary or difficult and then a thought arrives and we either invite it in or send it packing.

Decide today that when it comes to your thoughts, you are not a pushover.  If it isn’t good or true or lovely or honest, it is not coming in.

It is your garden, your mind, your life and you decide what lives there.

 

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