Monday, June 24, 2019

Evil often comes cloaked as Righteousness

“The terrifying thing about evil is that it so often believes that it is righteous.” –Amanda McClendon. Don’t we just live in a horror day, where those who most often wear the royal garb are most often found projecting righteousness from a belly full of evil.
This is nothing new. Jesus encountered the Pharisees and the scribes, those first century do-gooders, who completely missed the plot, who completely missed the mark, and who completely missed their Saviour. These were so busy finding a legalistic structure for every known practice, they completely missed God and the kingdom that God was, is, and will be creating.
Instead of serving the vulnerable they decided to place a burden on their backs.
Instead of granting full access to the courts of the Lord, the Lord set about removing all barriers.
Instead of seeing God in Jesus they saw the power of Beelzebub in him.
Instead of them seeing God at work in a new man in a new way they saw blasphemous treason.
These spirits of evil cloaked in righteousness are at work in our day. And we must be discerning. Just as the Pharisees did, anyone can use God’s name in vain, simply by accusing others of doing that very thing. The difference is the spirit of control that subverts every empowerment of humanity to bring the Kingdom to earth as it is in heaven, by God’s power—for God’s glory—for the notion of a sovereignty from this world. This spirit of control is nasty; it feels nasty, it tastes nasty, it sounds nasty—it is nasty.
Darkness tries to hide itself in light, and it denies it most vehemently.
It puts itself forth as the hope of the world, deceiving many comers and would be faith-doers, as it sets out an agenda, in a word, to ‘lobby’ over a chosen, select set of ethical issues, ignoring other ethical issues that would be just as important to God, and doing so abusively.
This darkness thinks nothing of using its privilege with which to gain leverage and advantage. It cries foul when ordinary people cry foul about what the privileged set are trying to get away with. It hides behind a ‘freedom of speech’ argument, lobbying to win the masses, and yet the masses are far smarter than the lobbyists have imagined. The masses can smell something’s off from a long way off.
The world, thank God, has moved on in many ways, and there is a compassion sweeping the globe, to God’s glory and praise. Finally, there is some hope that those that have been oppressed will get their day in court. Finally, it is the religious elite with the case to answer.
Think for a moment, the phrase ‘religious elite’ is an abhorrent oxymoron.
It should never be. And yet this is precisely how evil has always deceived us. It cloaks itself as righteousness, trusting always in the ideal that it will fool the common believer. See how spiritually barbaric privilege is? See how arrogant it is that it believes it can pull the wool over our eyes? It is even a more pervasive evil that believes it is doing the right thing when the vulnerable are being crushed under foot without a care in the world from them, when they seem to be the cause.
Jesus never hid himself in privilege, and always chose to model the servant’s role. If Jesus criticised only those replete with privilege, and always advised the taking of the humblest seat, and said that those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted, we can know all by their fruit.
The one you can trust is the one not trying to manipulate you for any reason. They don’t have something to gain from you. They are there to gain nothing from you and to give you something you cannot lose. These are there to bless you if you will be blessed. Their love is compelling, because it is trustworthy.
POSTSCRIPT: there are people who will read this and see that my views are the views of evil cloaked in righteousness, or even that my views are misguided. All I can say is I feel it’s the Holy Spirit’s conviction to write what I’ve written. The fact is, our views may be more similar than what we think. I just think the way we deploy our passions is important. We cannot honour God and abuse people (or people groups) at the same time. We cannot deliver God’s message and hurt God’s message at the same time, and worse, by believing we’re doing a good thing. And yet I recognise that there are people who may see I’ve done this here. God have mercy.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Friday, June 21, 2019

Today… is the opportunity

It doesn’t take much to inspire me. If you relate, you may detect it’s the fruit of the Holy Spirit that causes us to ascend. It’s what God nurtures within when we devote ourselves to God. What I’m about to say is nothing about some happiness, name-it-claim-it mumbo-jumbo.
The spiritual experience in Christ is about depths unfathomable and imperceptible. We never can gaze into heaven’s courts without having had some direct knowledge and experience dealing with the heat in hell’s kitchen. The deeper we go there with Christ at our side, the higher we go with him in his kingdom.
Today is the opportunity, just as tomorrow is tomorrow’s opportunity, just as yesterday we either took or did not take our opportunities.
God is faithful and just and continues to give us opportunities, and especially where we don’t take them immediately, he gives us second chances. Until our time is up.
None of us know when our time is up, which is why our opportunity awaits just for today.
Today is the opportunity to learn. As human beings we’re geared to learn. It has been set in our nature. It’s the way we are stimulated. Learning brings us to life. Life is the learning ground. When we learn, we grow.
Today is the opportunity to grow. We can grow as much as we want to, knowing that life is a choice to grow or to recede. Plateau is recession, and growth is survival, and those who grow certainly thrive. But God has ordained a pace with which to grow, and that we must accept.
Today is the opportunity to accept. To accept others, to the degree that we honour their lives, in and who they are, in their very being. This is a major undertaking, and certainly much harder than the following task of change, even if it seems easier. The first job we have is to live harmoniously, at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on us, despite how they choose to live, trusting God has their lives in his hand as he has our lives in his hand. It is hard to accept when people do things against us, but it is easier to accept this when it happens, when we understand we cannot change people. They can only change themselves through God’s power. If we have the power to accept things we cannot change, we also have power to change the things we can.
Today is the opportunity to change. Nobody can do the change apart from us. And this presumes that change is about what we need to change; nobody else. We can change no other human being, and we never ought to covet the changing of another human being. That would be manipulation, and there is far too much of that goes on in God’s name. Yet the God imperative in our lives is to go and be God’s disciple, to be holy and set apart for the Jesus purpose alone. We’re called to take responsibility for our lives and our lives alone. Acceptance and change are grand, but the difference between the two is not always easy to discern. Wisdom is in the discernment.
Today is the opportunity to discern. Never more relevant is this opportunity before us; the key to living the wise life. Our affections are constantly being held to ransom, and our biases and vices and prejudices, where we don’t acknowledge and rectify them, will cause us to sin. Every time we align ourselves with anything but God, we ought to be aware of what we’re doing. But be aware of this: be especially careful of aligning yourself with things in the name of God that truly don’t represent God’s interests. We’re pawns. The more we can see the world clawing at our affections, the better chance we have of doing the will of God.
We must discern the will of God before we can do the will of God.
Today is the opportunity to be at peace with the past, to take the present as it is, and to trust God for the future. In this trifold state, we may quickly realise it is a humbling reality to live life truthfully. It will never be easy, but it will perennially be worth it.

Image by Darren Deloach on Unsplash

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Teachers, Theologians and Trolls

Readers will have differing views on whether patriarchy and complementarian theology are linked with abuse and violence against women or not. I certainly see a link, and I do not think it is a long grasp from one to the other.
Take a look at the quote featured: how on earth can it be read in any other way but derisive to women? Thankfully, what men could get away with 50, 30 or even 20 years ago, fewer and fewer men will get away with these days. We simply cannot let these attitudes propagate, because derisiveness with women is the disrespect which is the antecedent of violence.
I look at the profiled quote and I think of the author not as a theologian or teacher—for what they purport to be—but as a troll. Surely, he must be stirring up trouble. That must be his aim; to goad those with counter views into vigorous debate, and preferably to the point where they cause offence, so the goader can then say, “There you go! Look at how disrespectful THEY are!” I know it runs both ways. Nobody provoking a reaction should get away with it. But surely those vouching for equality as God in Jesus would espouse are simply putting forward a just case.
Look at how contemptuous the profiled attitude is! Surely it is nothing like the attitude of Jesus, who, for gospel history’s sake, had a high view of women, even by today’s standard, and given that he was a first century man, it is all the more remarkable that Jesus esteemed women as he did. You can’t read the four gospels and deduce it any other way.
When men treat women as second-class citizens and major on the concept of submission in marriage, particularly where Paul talks directly about mutual submission also in the very same chapter of Ephesians 5, what are these men saying about their mothers and daughters and sisters? What are they saying about half of the population made in the image of God? What are they saying to themselves, these who were born XY and not XX by pure ‘fortune’ completely beyond their will? How can they bend scripture, to the point of a few isolated verses, to their advantage, only to miss their own sin? Why is it that power must be foisted over women to the degree of insolence? Can they not see that such attitudes propel such behaviours as violence born of a disrespect hardly conscionable of a caring human being?
The profiled quote will infuriate many a reader for the authoritative nature of the aggression set before them. Very few women will read these words comfortably, because the woman and the man of gentle sense will read something in these words that incites the soul to division. To insinuate that women’s problems are due to their own stubbornness, and that they create their own problems to the ends of needing biochemical therapy is insane! This sort of ‘wisdom’ weaponises words against wives by abusive husbands.
These are the words of a troll—someone whose role it is to rile and to goad and to annoy; to draw some negative reaction, and then to, at some point, hold one’s hands in the air as if to say, “I’ve done nothing!” These are hardly the actions of a mature man.
But the far more serious issue is the intent of the message, which downgrades women, and out of a public superiority, ascents itself above all humanity that is not masculinity. I imagine there are men who would publicly or privately agree with the author of this quote, and surprisingly, there would be some women in this camp too.
Be rest assured, that such attitudes of gender superiority are at the roots of a power base that asserts itself above others, to the ends where power disequities will surely occur to the ends of abuse. The world is, and has always been, far too patriarchal, and the common problem with patriarchy is inequity, and inequity amongst common humanity is about power, control and abuse.
When will men come back to God, and instead of bowing to the idol of misogyny, bow only to the one and only true living God, Jesus.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Stillness at the Foot of the Cross

Photo: mine, taken at Boshack camp, Western Australia.
Running hard all our lives in our own efforts produces nothing, and yet we need to lose it all to realise that nothing starts before we sit, broken, at the foot of the cross, and contemplate what has been done for us, that we could never do for ourselves.
Do you ever sit or kneel at the foot of the cross? Do you ever sit or kneel there and let God’s grace wash over you? What I mean is, can you sit there, adding nothing to the cross, and accept this grace-gift, or even begin to comprehend it?
The grace that the Father gave combined with obedience of the Son is both unconscionable and incomprehensible.
Many people in this hurried, manic life so seriously want stillness as an elixir for the dis-ease of anxiety and stress. We will run after many different ‘antidotes’, quick fixes, snake oil recipes, work, work, more work, substances and mountains of pleasure and achievement, and we still won’t find the peace of God.
The peace of God is not found in doing things.
Just as we cannot add anything to the finished work of the cross, we cannot add anything to establish the peace of God. The peace of God was established at the cross. From there it’s all academic. From the cross life gets simple. It’s all upside.
Nothing left to earn.
Nothing left to prove.
Nothing left to do.
Nothing left to be added.
We take Christ’s finished work and we cannot make it more by our own impressiveness, which is such a shame given that we have the internal wiring to do things which we equate to God’s requirement of us.
Actually, no, I think deep down inside we know that God doesn’t require this of us. But we require it of ourselves! We are the cruel taskmasters.
Somehow, we find ourselves undeserving of grace; as if we know better. We judge ourselves far more harshly than it works out that God does. How can it be that God has let us off the hook? How can God do that, when we, mere mortals whose best interest is served in letting ourselves off the hook, can’t do that?
Well, God has done that. It is finished. And when we find ourselves in a place where we can finally accept this, we are blown away by it, which comes completely unexpectedly.
Suddenly we are awash in a flood of praise. Suddenly there is an emotional connection that never was there beforehand. Suddenly, deep down inside of us, a stream begins to flow; a stream of righteousness, of integrity, of humility; a stream that keeps flowing; a stream that wells up with power for good works.
The works we might do for God
are as filthy rags if they aren’t done for God.
Many of our works, if we were to truly analyse them, might as well be done for our own gain, because we have done them so well that we hardly needed God in the first place. But these works in our own strength are pitiful, and certainly nothing more than a waste of time.
But good works are different; from the God core, with his heart, we do them, and when we do we do them out of rest.
God desires to bring us to stillness; to the foot of the cross; where we have no answer; where all about us is a flurry of wonder.
If we can stay at the cross,
we can stay in stillness.
We’ve tried everything else and
we’ve also mastered trying too hard.
It’s time to stop trying.
It’s time to start trusting.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Walking Patiently in Counsel WITH the Mourner

From the moment that loss blindsides us, there are needs that abound. But the confusing reality is those needs are not always easy to discern. Of course, we will feel completely out of our depth whether we suffer loss or whether we’re helping someone mourning. Such is the nature of loss.
The truth is, even when needs are identified and met, there is still so much more that is needed; but the meeting of needs that can be met is much more of an answered prayer than any of us could imagine.
Such is the nature of loss that no matter how much we endeavour to make meaning from the epicentre of the event, we are destined to fall short. As we walk patiently with the mourner, it is very important to recognise this.
It is with deep disappointment that we find that feeling out of our depth is part of the territory.
Yet, giving the person who is mourning permission to feel what they feel without needing to feel guilty or ashamed is probably the best gift any person could give. Most people feel they cannot escape troubling feelings—especially guilt—in loss, which makes the situation all the more saddening.
But, whether we agree or not, these feelings cannot be judged, nor can they be affected by mindfulness or any other human strategy, but at least mindfulness and other techniques can alleviate anxiety and panic attacks to a certain point.
It isn’t until we are grieving ourselves that we come to understand how much loss is such an overwhelming phenomenon. Nothing really can explain how life-ending loss feels. It takes us into a land of experience we find unconscionable. This is why working with the mourning requires a personal countenance that mirrors the mourning. This is why many people avoid people who are grieving; we need to mirror their state of grieving in order to be helpful, and not everyone is prepared to do that.
As we walk with the mourning, we ought to take comfort when we feel out of our depth. This is the most counterintuitive of human experiences; to be satisfied in the discomfort of being completely out of our depth, willing to be vulnerable, and surrendered to all our capacities of care without being surrendered to our emotions.
It isn’t about being strong in the sense that we hold everything together, but it is being strong in the sense that they are held and contained, whatever that takes.
As we walk with the mourning, we listen in to the Spirit, and this is an example where we are acting apart from ourselves. Being completely reliant on listening into the circumstances, discerning the needs, we walk by faith in stepping into the unknown, trusting that both our action and inaction are appropriate for the person’s moment who is before us.
As we walk with the mourning, we think in terms of practical needs, because any spiritual and emotional needs that can be met will only be recognised as having being met through retrospect, and usually through the meeting of those practical needs that people who suffer loss seriously crave.
It is a great glory and great blessing to walk in the footsteps of the mourning. It is eternal and sacred ground. There will be no more important work we will ever do.
When we experience loss we suddenly come to understand this.
Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Mounting the Right Defence on the Occasion of Attack

It comes out of nowhere. It locks and it lands. And it leaves me defenceless at times, overwhelmed in varietals of confusion, dread, exhaustion, frustration, or despair, or a combination thereof.
Who really knows how to describe the flurry of the emotions that go on within the motion of spiritual attack? I’m often left flummoxed for a response in the moment of spiritual disarray. I can hear reason, and I may even be able to rally, and I know it’s not a thing of disobedience, because it is too overwhelming to overcome, as it sweeps through manipulating my countenance.
Usually, for me at least, the day after is a resurrection day. Many of us, however, have also had times where attacks occurred over a season, and we just were not able to recover. But clear of the pain of the day before, able again to see logically, I simply praise God that the storm has passed.
The most serious thing about attack is how nonchalantly it arrives on the doorstep, and how blindsided we are, having not anticipated it, let alone not having the wherewithal to diagnose and treat the situation at hand.
We are weak and we’re weary and we’re wary also. With defences down, any mounting of a defence is usually thwarted by the enemy, because he sees us coming, or we simply mount a defence out of our own pitiful strength, unaware of its futility.
Why is it that we trust our strength most when we are weakest?
At the time we should least trust our strength, when wisdom should kick in and say, “No, rest!” we don’t.
It always seems easy to arrange a defence against attack from hindsight. We may see how it approached. We may see the folly in our responding action—our reaction. We may see what would’ve been a more advised strategy in countering the attack.
But we ought not to judge ourselves harshly. How were we to know? With some of the Kingdom roles we play, why are we surprised that attack comes in the first place? We have placed our heads above the parapet wall. We are a target for the enemy. We therefore ought to see that attack is part of the scene we’re in. That it goes with the territory.
But then there are times when we face incessant attack for little or no reason that we can surmise for the enemy’s interest. There are many who have conditions who are targeted without mercy. These are the bravest of all. Especially when they look with sheer faith toward the skies of the God who made them for their purpose.
A right defence at the time of the attack is the silence of solitude of soul, which neither denies nor regales against the stormy, foaming seas of the struggle. Of course, this is easier conceived than performed.
So many times, I’ve failed to rest in a rest that feels like defeat but is actually a victory that the enemy cannot touch. But God is patient and kind and promises to help us when we seek a help we cannot of ourselves manufacture.
A right defence at the time of the attack is nothing we can manage on our own. Yet surprisingly, as we get out of our own way, as we acknowledge we’re at the end of our own strength, God is allowed to come through in the divine strength of the ages.
A right defence at the time of attack is about hearing God’s affirming and positive voice and taking no account of negative humans. But it is also listening to God’s voice in humans who have on account of God wisdom of the season.
The beauty in humanity within the trial of spiritual attack is the compassionate heart that swings by and simply listens to the groans that bear no resemblance to reason. They don’t need to, much as Paul put it in Romans 8.
The Presence of God is arrayed beautifully in speech that is unintelligible, in order to thwart the wise of this world, where fools for Christ wait patiently in expectation for the Spirit to arrive, within an afflicted person to heal them.
They know they heal not by their own hands, but by the compassion of the Spirit who works in them and through them.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Sudden Departures into Journeys Unknown

Picture of Family assembled at our house June 2, 2014.

This day five years ago was serene. 29 days later, obliteration. Sarah was 15-weeks pregnant, and then 19-weeks. And at 15-weeks, we had no idea what was about to hit us.
It was the hundredth anniversary of my grandma’s birth, and it was a great opportunity to get the entire extended family together. Grandma had left us 1990. As we gathered, we all pondered the possibilities with Sarah pregnant and all our lives in some kind of normality. Well, the mirage of normalcy anyway.
We really didn’t have a clue. The previous year we were given a child, a ministry, and a home. Fast forward one year, and we were about to lose all three in the space of months. From safety we plunged into an abyss of chaos that we pretended was okay. What else do you do when inwardly you’re screaming?
This article is about the only matter that counts—the loss of our child—and the fact that within life there is always the clear and present danger of a sudden departure into a journey unknown. Not that that is always bad—it is just cataclysmically different.
The journey unknown that we were about to suddenly depart into commenced in a doctor’s office. Likewise, your sudden departure into a journey unknown possibly had its genesis in the innocent transition from the nonchalant living of life, completely unaware of what was about to take place, to that place of your spirit becoming hypervigilant about everything.
This is what loss does. And seasons of loss never involve simply one solitary loss. There is always a myriad of loss, a layering of losses.
It completely reconfigures our perception, because the lens we look through has an indelible taint about it. And we cannot escape it no matter how hard we try.
We know it in the moment we wake up—“oh, not this again!”
We carry it about with us and this enigmatic presence of dread cannot be shaken.
Fast forward 29 days from this wonderful family get-together, and we found ourselves forlorn of options. All our hopes are dashed in an instant. Of course, it’s not the reality, not everything is crushed, but when you face loss, because you’re out of control, it feels like the sky has caved in. I wondered whether if I could tell that earlier version of myself that things were about to change, would it have made a difference? I am not even sure of such a question is relevant.
But it bears considering, what is just around the corner?
None of us should truly want to know if it is a trial or a struggle or a hardship we dare not contemplate. We know the reality; such a situation will find us; and we don’t need to worry it into existence. It is futile to either worry about it or to ignore its possibility value.
So many things changed about our lives in an instant on that July 1 day in 2014. We didn’t really know at that point how much change would enter our lives, and we certainly didn’t know how much God would show up, and how incredibly present he would be, but we did know we could only live in the moment.
To live each moment is enough. There is something that life at its depths teaches us that we could not learn otherwise.
Such realities that spend us beyond our own ability to cope transfer us to coping mechanisms we were previously not connected to or weren’t desperate enough to try.
It’s only when you’re at a depth darker than ever that you’re prepared to look for the flashlight you never had but now find you do have. You find that God has already provided what you need, and if only you ask for it, that it is given to you.
This is faith; to trust that you have enough.
Sudden departures into journeys unknown seem to be hellish, but in fact it is heaven that awaits, because we don’t truly know the God of the cross until the cross of God has emerged before us.
It is inconceivably counterintuitive to imagine sudden departures into journeys unknown as a good thing. It may seem unconscionable to think in these ways at the time. Yet we need such a hope to get us all the way through the collapsing despair of it.
There may be sweet whisper, the Presence of God to be found in the quietest voice, that trickle of hope amid the torrent of despair. We must cling to the hope as if it were fact. Then we find that such a hope is fact, and this is the most marvellous news!
Whilst life is well, and all is good, and gratitude is easy, and happiness is available, we ought to more wisely consider that everything that is good and well and easy and available could disappear, and this should cause us to be even more grateful, and to accept that things are forever changing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

There are no heroes, only survivors

In Beyond Thunderdome, Tina Turner bellowed, “We don’t need another hero, we just need to know the way home…” Just such truth right there!
This truth was echoed recently when Amanda N, who said this:
“God have mercy.
There are no heroes.
Except for the survivors.”
Since the #MeToo movement began only a few years ago, a litany of public corpses—heroes of millions and of milieus—have been rolled out from the red carpet and onto the street to be savaged for their sins. People from Harvey Weinstein to Bill Hybels to Kevin Spacey to [now] Martin Luther King. We’re coming to time when there will be no more trust left for the ‘champion’ in a public space; notwithstanding the brilliance of their performances or rhetoric. There will only be trust reserved for the genuinely servant hearted as it should be.
Of course, the fantasy that plays out in society is representative of this great truth: there are no heroes, only survivors, and indeed the survivor is the only trustworthy hero.
When redemption is woven into the very fabric of society’s psyche, we readily see, no matter who we are, that the ones who deserve our honour and our praise are those who have paid the price, who have sacrificed, who have suffered, and who have won their way through.
These are the heroes. Not somebody who has all the right rhetoric, but the person who has silently gone about their business, and have endured their hard and hurried life.
And please don’t ever hail me or anyone else who speaks the truth a hero. I and we are all such fallen creatures. Just because we create with words or pictures or have certain gifts is no credit to any of us.
There’s such a fine line
between loyalty, admiration and respect,
and the reverence and awe
we should save for God alone.
Let’s not nudge that line.
Think about your heroes. Who are they? Sports heroes. Heroes of the faith. Movie stars. Pulpit heroes. Singers and songwriters. Great authors.  TED speakers. Do you know categorically that they’re worth the weight of esteem you give them? How can we really know?
A good way of checking this would be to imagine anyone you adore being revealed as the sinner they are. Do we elevate anyone above their rightful standing? We do all the time. People can only disappoint us if we hold them above where they should be.
This is why I thank God for the #MeToo and #ChurchToo era. Any and all of us only need to be a little introspective; think about what God knows about us; the deeper thoughts that are unbecoming, the quietly lustful,  covertly greedy, hideously prideful yearnings, the secret acts we’ve all engaged in.
There are parts of us all that we’d never want broadcast over the front page of a national or even local paper, even if we aren’t a Weinstein or a Cosby or a Rolf Harris.
Let me do just one for-instance. I would never rape any woman (or man) but have I had inappropriate sexual thoughts? Yes, of course I have! Lust is just one such example. Doing a Step 4 rigorous moral inventory as part of the Twelve Step Program 15 years ago highlighted to me just how immoral I can be—I see it when I’m honest.
Fortunately these days I have Spirit-led-and-empowered strategies (provided I continue to nurture honesty), and a modicum of moral wisdom that helps me acknowledge my limited capacity, that hold me a little further from temptation. But the temptations never vanish.
The point is this: the true hero is the one who has suffered without fault or cause—the survivor of trauma! Having been a reviewer of an Australian version of the Bible recently, in reviewing Galatians through Hebrews, Paul states this numerous times; blessed is the one who suffers persecution amicably without causing others to stumble.
That’s the real hero; someone who’s suffered yet hasn’t caused others to suffer. The suffering stopped with them. And perhaps we can extend our admiration to those who, like this, have suffered, but have also committed their lives to the practice of advocacy so that others don’t suffer what they themselves suffered. That the cycle of trauma ends with them as far as it depends on them.
It reminds me of the only person who ever did that to perfection: Jesus.
Here’s a fact: the more we live fully focused on the Lord, the less our admiration of others gets out of hand.
There are no heroes
other than those
who have survived suffering
and haven’t used their suffering
as a means of making others suffer.
Just one final word. You probably know this already, but sometimes, and indeed often, the most skilled, the most gifted, the most charismatic of people, are the least trustworthy, for they have learned that they’re self-sufficient. Those who don’t need God can be most dangerous of all.

Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash

Saturday, May 25, 2019

You are connected all the more to God through loss

Depression, anxiety, loneliness, abuse, trauma, mental and emotional instability, spiritual attack, and the list runs on. There are so many forms of loss. Let’s leave it at that as a concept—even as I proofread a section of God’s Holy Word; Philippians 3:7-11:
The Apostle Paul (I capitalise ‘Apostle’ because Paul was a true apostle) states in the preceding verses that he had every privilege this life could afford him. Yet, it’s nothing to him. He considers it all ‘dung’! That he may gain Christ.
We experience loss in life and it converts our understanding to this: there is no possession in this life that comes even close to knowing God and to having Him present in our lives through the Holy Spirit. And how does God achieve this in us? Through loss. 
Through loss, all the gifts of His compassionate grace are bequeathed to us.
Through depression all is stripped away, yet the refined remains, in accordance with our surrender and seeking of Him who can and will help. At our depths we learn so very much. As we skate along the surface we miss the mysteries of grace that are ever for the picking. Our depression is a gateway to the glories on high when we are lowest. As we hold on in our anguish, pray for reconnaissance of memory, that one day you will call back to this harsh and brutal time, and thank God He got you through it! I can tell you right now, this is a prophetic word that has been true in my life and in so many lives of those I know. Trust it.
Through anxiety we no longer trust our mind to comfort, and being assailed in the body, we commend our soul to Him who alone can rescue us. We do not stop searching for a way we can be healed, and as we approach that healing, and as we experience it, we laud the One who is coming for us!
Through loneliness, we reach out and up to the only One who will never leave us nor forsake us; who knows even more acutely as we know Him all the more firmly. One moment in the gifting of His Presence will be security of His pleasure for the rest of our time. One moment, when this God makes Himself real and known to us, and we will never ever believe He doesn’t exist ever again.
Through the abuse we survived, we have a Pursuer, who does pursue justice for us, and healing for our trauma. As we hold out hope that God is reforming His church, He is preparing hearts to hear what we have to say. We will have our justice in this life or in the life to come.
Through mental and emotional instability, through the alienation of those who would malign us, we’re granted possession of a grace of compassion that they do not possess.
Through all forms of loss, the greatest comfort is the door to faith has been opened wider, all the more, in compensation. In loss, God has come close. In loss, His invitation has been too compelling to discount. In loss, we have found all that matters. And in loss, finally, when all is lost, and when we’re lost to the world, all will be found in an eternity that is waiting for every single one.
In loss is true gain.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Heart is the Miracle Behind Behaviour Change

I’ve often been mystified as to what it is that underlies change—true, life-giving, sustained change.
We change because we desperately want to change, because we see that we can no longer bear not to change, or because changing seems the only way—where to survive is to thrive.
It’s like the idea that a person who is challenged against their will is of their original opinion still. Things don’t change unless they change.
And change must come from the heart.
Last night I wrote about the issue of apology, and that if there were no action, i.e. sustained behaviour change, that the apology was null and void.
But that article begged a more fundamental question: how do people change? I know when I’ve changed, when I’ve been convicted that I had to change, there was a groundswell from within; I could no longer be who I was.
Like when I committed to bodybuilding to firm up a soft body as a twenty-year-old transformed in a year. Or, when I gave up smoking. Or, when I became a teetotaller. Or, when I became truly Christian after playing the game for more than a dozen years to my own peril. And, most virulently, when I decided I would no longer, not ever again, live a lie. I was convinced that the former life held no attraction for me. It was as if it repulsed me. I had to leave it. That life had to leave me.
Each time it happened, my heart changed. God had done open-heart surgery.
The very best of these times in any of our lives is when we’re so convicted and convinced our way was wrong that we want never ever again to live for ourselves. That we were ready to live for God, sold out to His purposes, and were entirely ready for Him who is all to replace that heart of stone we had with a heart of flesh that could only come from Him.
Such a miracle took place in and from within us.
We changed. And anyone who reads these words who doubts, I pray that this change that springs upon us like a thief in the night would happen to you, too, to make you a believer; that God alone, who stirs the stars into cycle, brightens hope at His merest suggestion.
Change must come from the heart. As someone looks at us having had our hearts changed, they stand as witnesses that the old is gone and that the new has come. And only God could do it. Only God does it!
So, if someone is to apologise from their heart, in all sincerity, to be able to change themselves even as they’re changed, they probably need to be intersected by God.
The heart is the nerve centre of the human being and no change is sustained without it starting it, having been convinced it was the only way.
What is it that brings change? It is a change of heart. Nothing is behind repentance other than a change of mind that is sustained by a change of heart.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Languishing in the Waiting Room of Life?

In your suffering now, there are those doing life easy. It can seem so unfair. But over the years, life has a way of evening the score. In your suffering, rather than rage at the injustice, rest, and resolve to be equipped to help others who will be blindsided by grief in the future.
But how does one acceptably rest?
I love what Jodie L Alexander-Platt writes in comparing suffering to being in a waiting room in an emergency department of a hospital:
“We can wrestle with our suffering, be impatiently disgruntled that others are being attended to before us, or we can take the time to tune our heart to God’s good grace. In grace we rest. In His rest we have peace.”
Isn’t that eloquent? And true.
The worst days of our lives are punctuated by pain that seems so untenable that we cannot rationalise it as being within the realm of living experience.
Days such as these we have moments that hardly seem real for the pain we bear. And yet moments as these are surreal for how painful they are. We look with complete disconnection to others’ realities that seem normal and so far away from our reality.
Those who endure pain that very few humans bear, for that time, endure what is completely unreal, because it’s an experience of life they barely believe is happening, just as it’s an experience that nobody else can connect with. It is out of this world, and only God can comprehend it.
It’s what is so often termed being in liminal space. It’s an in-between time where we hardly feel alive, and may very well feel completely dead to all hope and reason and life. It feels as if our lives are over and it feels as if no hope remains. And it’s confusing, for every moment seems so unpredictable.
And then we flux into a sense of living in grief that at least can resent the reality for the fact of others enjoying life when we aren’t.
Tuning our hearts to God’s good grace, we choose to rest in this grace that we must begin to believe actually exists. Why? Because of the testimony of others, we know it must exist. So we choose to be open to it. We rest in this grace; to acknowledge that what we may not feel or experience is real, for others have experienced it as their truth, and we too know that there must be something more to this experience of suffering; that a good God would not leave us nor forsake us in this. And in that is peace.
If you find yourself in this way-station of life that feels like death, it won’t always be that way.

Photo by Kleiton Silva on Unsplash