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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Delighted Tree

apples on tree
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees transplanted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in season.

Psalm 1:1-3

The Question is This, What is Your Source of Advice?

We have two choices as Christians when we want help to make a decision. The first is to go to the experts in the world and seek their advice. That may seem wise, especially when it comes to such things as major financial investments or career choices. But why would we trust worldly people with such important matters. Surely they are the ones where we most need to know God's will. Whether we have a latte or an americano with our breakfast is unlikely to make an impact on our effectiveness for the Lord. Which house we buy may affect our fruitfulness.

God's word however, or His law as the psalmist puts it, has something to say about every aspect of our lives. While it may not deal directly with all contemporary issues, we can see principles which are able to help us see God's view on these things.

But, if we are to get a balanced view of what God deems to be right or important, we need to be thoroughly steeped in Scripture. We need to be transplanted from a place of worldly thinking to word thinking. It's no good just flicking through the pages of the Bible when we have a decision to make. We have to be reading and meditating on it in a systematic way so when the time comes we are already familiar with the ways of God.

The outcome of seeking God's will in this way is that, in God's timing, we will be productive for Him. We would like to see some kind of fruitfulness every day of our lives. The reality is that does not happen. It may not be because we are out of God's will or failing. It may simply be that it's not yet the season for us to be bearing fruit. In fact, it is often the autumn of our lives, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness to quote Shakespeare, where we bear the most fruit. This is because we have had time to assimilate the water of the word into our souls so that it permeates our being and results in an abundant crop.

Trees dying for lack of water do not produce a great crop. Vigorous trees are those who's water supply is plentiful.

Delight in the word of God and you will be able to make right decisions, the ones which will allow you to bear a bumper crop when your season comes.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Let Jesus Wash Your Feet

washed feetAfter that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him. John 13:5

Thanks to problems with our car this week, I have been getting to work using the wonderful West Midlands bus service and God's original transport system - my own two feet. Although my feet became hot and tired by the end of the day, at least I wasn't wearing sandals (with or without socks) and they weren't exposed to the dirt and grime of first century Palestine.

Getting Dirty 
Foot washing was a normal part of every day life in Jesus' world. It must have been wonderful to experience the cool water on your feet after being out in the heat all day but it was a dirty, menial task for the servant or slave who had to do the washing. That Jesus did this for His disciples is remarkable.

I haven't felt polluted by physical environment, but I have found myself feeling unclean after some exchanges with atheists on Twitter this week. I am more than willing to engage in rational debate with people asking serious questions. The problem is that some people don't like it when you have an answer to their objections. When they discover that you know what you're talking about and aren't cowed by their arguments, there are a few who resort to insults, bad language and personal attacks.

I am not offended; I know the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18). But if I engage with such people for too long I find myself slipping into their style of argument and failing to deal with them in love. There comes a point at which you have to shake the dust from your feet and move on. But I still find myself feeling in need of cleansing.

Being Cleansed 
The only place to go is to the presence of Jesus, submitting to His desire to pour His cleansing Spirit over our souls. There doesn't need to be any great effort of prayer or worship, just a willingness to let Him wash away the accumulated dust, grime and filth. In the words of songwriter Dougie Brown:

River, wash over me 
Cleanse me and make me new 
Bathe me, refresh me and fill me anew 
River wash over me

Spirit, watch over me 
Lead me to Jesus' feet 
Cause me to worship and fill me anew 
Spirit, watch over me

Jesus, rule over me 
Reign over all my heart 
Teach me to praise You and fill me anew 
Jesus, rule over me

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I Walked Out Of A Prayer Meeting

Woman's feetMaybe it's because I'm an introvert or perhaps I'm simply becoming a grumpy old woman, but I keep finding myself wondering if I'm on the same page as everyone else around me ... or even in the same book.

Today I walked out of a "prayer" event which will remain nameless.

It was partly because it was just too loud and was giving me a headache. Don't these people know that God is not deaf? Do we really need to whistle and whoop like a crowd at a pop concert? And someone really should tell the guy at the front that now he has a microphone in his hand everyone can hear him perfectly well without him shouting at the top of his voice. It physically made my ears hurt and I was half way back the auditorium.

And I really do have a problem with people singing words without thinking about what they're saying. Songs addressed to one another (worship his majesty), or to ourselves (bless the Lord o my soul), were sung with eyes closed and hands raised as though we were actually singing to God. It was a blessed relief to sing the old hymn, Crown Him with Many Crowns, which concludes:

All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For thou hast died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
Throughout eternity.
Please don't get me wrong, I love some of the modern hymns and choruses. My problem is with people who leave their brains at the church (or convention hall) door and lose themselves in the sickly morass which passes as worship in some of these places.

See what I mean about becoming a grumpy old woman?

But the thing which disturbed me the most was the expectation that in ten minutes we could confess our own sins and those of our nation and believe that would move Britain towards revival.

The place where we stood had seen revival in 1875 when Moody and Sankey visited Britain. Of all the revivals I have read about (in Scripture and elsewhere), none have happened without many hours, days, even years of saturating prayer. Revival only ever happens when Christians become powerfully convicted by the Holy Spirit of the awfulness of their sin. That doesn't happen in ten minutes, after a somewhat feeble time of worship.

The one glimmer of light from the day was a video message from a (sadly unnamed) pastor who reminded us of 2 Chronicles 7:14, a verse which has been on my heart recently and which, I believe, is the key to the revival for which I have been praying sporadically for the past 25 years:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

I left the event with my spirit groaning. There was no humbling of self, there was no seeking of God's face, no appeal to God's people to turn away from their sin. We are no closer to having the Lord heal our broken land.

It seemed to me to be a wasted opportunity and I am grieved and frustrated.

May God have mercy on us and show His church our spiritual poverty.
You can read more about 2 Chron 7:14 here.