Friday, 30 September 2011

Trees and Forests

One of my battles since becoming a christian 40 years ago has been all the apparent contradictions in scripture, as is made obvious by all the differences in theology and doctrines. And always new ones rearing their ugly heads!

Way back then I determined to get to the bottom of this, otherwise I could not say I had "integrity" as a christian. So I've always tried to view scriptures as part of scripture, always taking the step back from the trees to see the forest. I never realised what an amazing path it would be to try and keep that level of perspective! We are constantly bombarded with what the nearest tree looks like, and how many observers demand that all the trees are the same! And then they try to tell you what the forest looks like based on their view of one or two trees.

Whenever I have spoken out to question a tree's importance in the scheme of the whole forest, I get some interesting reactions, as if I'm suggesting that the tree is something other than what is staring us in the face! Many have spent most of their journey gathered around one tree, or wandering around a picturesque stand of pines, or a glade of willows, or a patch of thorns! And others venture on through the forest to find other trees searching for one that looks better and provides better shade, or lets in more sun, or good protection from invading hordes of nasties. Hopefully you get my drift!

What if we could rise above the trees and see the whole forest? What if God said only Jesus will lift you up high enough to see it all! What would the forest look like from such a great height? Would we see individual trees any more? - maybe some shapes and outlines as they merge into the big picture.

So how do we read the bible? Is it possible that we are so obsessed with being biblically correct and finding scriptures to fit our ideas that we can't see what all scripture really says? Maybe when Paul said all scripture is beneficial he meant "all", as in when you look at scripture in its entirety and not individual scriptures.

The big picture is of a God who wanted to share himself so much that he created creatures of free will that could love him without coercion, without seeing his glory, that would find him in the wonder of his creation and recognise that He IS love. Creatures that could choose to become one with Him in their own uniqueness. And He created this huge plan and set it in motion - a plan involving love, redemption, sacrifice, pain, loss, joy, all to bring us to a place of incredible peace and unity where we experience Love - who is God - who is Love. Jesus is the centre of the plan, all of the purpose of life in heaven and earth hinges on Him who was before the foundations of the earth and for all eternity. He who brought the fullness of love into his creation, his people, transformed them, and now lives in them. The fullness of ALL He is, all glory, power - the entirety of the triune God, in these fragile bodies. Made for this purpose. Made for this unity. Made for love.

This big picture is there staring us in the face, if we can step back enough to see it. If we can stop getting obsessed with doctrine after doctrine and embrace the simplicity of God's grace, the centrality of Jesus and his "too good to be true" love for us.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Grace 101

"Perhaps the best definition of grace is “God has done it.” 
The primary declaration of Christianity is not “this do," but "this happened.” The Gospel is not an announcement of something to do, but the good news of what has been done. Martin Luther says “The law says do this and never is it done. Grace says believe in this One and it is already done. We don’t do anything, we don’t give anything to God, but we receive and allow someone else to do all the work for us and in us and it’s God that does it”. God is the subject and we are the object. Of course it helps greatly to be a receptive and responsive object. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, not an announcement of what we are to do. What we are to do is to respond to what God has done. We respond by faith to God’s gracious provision for us." 
Mike Quarles via Steve McVey

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Fruit of Life

Age defies, grows and dies
Love, deep - a lake of longing
  Smooth, calm, drifting, sparkling
The heart's seasons ebb and flow
  Cycles of passing through realm to realm
Leaving and arriving
A violent sadness subsides
  Peace comes slowly, joy infuses its rest
    New growth brings new fruit
      Roots once deep seek new soil
        I can smell it, feel it...
How can pain and joy be friends?
  How can they lift a soul in hands of passion,
    Compassion, old hands, old friends
Does the fruit of life find its ripeness in eternity?
  Does life lost find its completion as it falls to the ground
    New shoots bringing forth a new species
      Tastes unknown, unthought, unbelieved
Age defies, dies and grows
Love draws His own to peace.

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Natural Christian

I've always battled with integrity.

I don't mean in the sense of "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values" so much as "the quality or state of being complete or undivided" (thanks Merriam-Webster). I want to live and "be", consistent, undivided, un-schizophrenic.

Since the day I met God and he turned me upside down I've been at odds to reconcile my heart and mind to my spirit. Now that's good christian terminology there - heart, mind, spirit, reconcile; I could use lots of words like that, but I think I need to elaborate so I can be a bit more "real". I'd read the bible and enjoy the wonders of this incredible God who offered new life, a new perspective, and eternity. But the church didn't match what the bible was saying - this was to a new christian who just read the scriptures, and wondered why they meant something different to the senior church type people who were supposed to understand these things. And then there was what happened inside me. My brain said "this is amazing" but another part of me said "so why isn't anything changing?". So there's three things battling against each other, scripture, the church and my mind.

Now I could pursue this line of thought in depth but I'll save that for another post. What I want to talk about is reconciling all this to create a life style of integrity that is natural and normal. What happens is I would adopt a religious attitude in my actions and relationships that satisfy the church side of things, and a formal relationship with God that tries to shape my thoughts and actions to fit what the church tells me is the correct way to, well. be in relationship, Then there's the part of me that just chats away to God most of the day. Now the strangest thing is these parts often don't come together. I totally devalue the bulk of the time Jesus and me talk about things through the day, and think the most important thing I can do is spend quality time praying and reading scripture and maybe worshipping. Then there's the whole range of expectations that I have to meet when talking to other christians, especially at meetings.

I desperately need to pull this all together to achieve a functional level of integrity! The mind, the struggles, the expectations, the scriptures, the spirit, relationships. So here's the thing; I realise that the bit where I chat away to God through the day is the most important bit. Kind of obvious really, but not with all the other stuff thrown in the mix. So according to the new covenant, that Jesus set up with his death and resurrection, I'm now one with him and he's one with me, my spirit has been remade sin free, and my battle is now to just renew my mind. This is so simple - why didn't someone tell me this 40 years ago!! I've discovered that I can just let go of all the expectations of the church (that includes other christians as well as the institution). I can let go of the perceived religious demands of quiet times, scripture reading, intercession, worship, all that stuff. What I've realised is the most natural relationship I have with God is also the only real relationship. All the others are worthless at best, a lie at least and destructive if the truth be known. So do I read the bible? Yes, when I feel like it. Do I pray? All the time. Do I have quiet times? Whenever I stop to gather my thoughts is really a quiet time, but I do love to go for walks where we can talk about things uninterrupted. What about disciplining myself to study and pray and listen for his voice? I discipline myself to be natural in my relationship with Him. To not listen to religion or the flesh, to allow his unconditional love to infuse every part of me so I can stand one with Jesus and Father, and Holy Spirit. To resist the lies that say "I must", I should", "I need to", and rest in the absolute peace and confidence that I have the entirety of the triune godhead in me now. To let everything that I am come from this place.

Here's some other things I can let go of. The need for waiting in his presence for the glory to come, the need to evangelise, the need to have communion, the need to be baptised, the need to fast and tithe, the need to learn Hebrew and research Jewish history, the need to learn Greek and buy lots of commentaries and concordances and set aside study times, the need to go the the latest greatest conferences, the need to worship and praise him. The need to do anything really. I only have to rest in Him and allow myself to become who he made me by the indwelling and union of his spirit. Then I'll just do whatever he recons would be the best thing to do. If that happens to be any of the above, then great. If not, I'll just soak up as much love as I can get until it just pours out of me so much I can't stop. And the best thing is I can trust him to do this. I can trust Holy Spirit in me to take me on this journey. He is totally trustworthy. He loves me more more than I could imagine.

Do I have scriptures to support all this? You bet! The whole of the New Covenant. I discovered its really easy to think the old covenant is still around and I have to mix it into the new. But the old is gone, Jesus fulfilled it and put it to rest. If I read anything in the new in a way that sounds like the old, I'm reading it wrong!

This is being a natural christian. This is integrity! Jesus plus nothing!!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I'll Wait


2 months down the line, and I think I can breath again, most of the time. My Minnie has gone to be with Him. And she got there before me - for some reason I thought I would be first. I always thought I was the waste of space, and she... she was the one with the wisdom, the heart, the insights, the giftings, the integrity.

No, Father didn't want it this way, I guess. So many unfinished dreams, that might not have come to light anyway. But they were there. Our heart for the broken, our love of music, worship, our hunger for truth, for love. Our struggles, battles, victories. He didn't want it this way, but it is, none the less, this way.

I could (will) write tributes. Her greatest heartbreak was for Jesse, that he would no longer have a mum, to hassle and nag him, and spoil him. You'll be OK, she told me, just get on with life, do all the things you always wanted. Yeah, I guess so...

But Father has been taking me on a different journey, showing me such awesome simple truths that...
I don't think I could have made it.

Healing. So many books, teachings, prayers. Healing. Our obsession. But I think I knew she would miss it. The journey was too hard, the simple truth of Jesus "in us" seemed elusive, and yet His love and passion for us kept growing. I knew it, and so did she, but the obsession got in the way. But to die is gain, and she is more healed than any earthly healing could give! And she is using all her wonderful gifts and talents for whatever eternity is offering.

There are so many empty words offered in prayer, so many vain words offered in prophesy, none that even come close to just holding a hand. So much well intentioned activity, from hearts that truly care. But the peace of God that passes all understanding, the resting, the all consuming love, the comfort - that's what matters. And if healing comes here and now, what more can we ask for!

So onwards and upwards, with a limp, and knowing that it will all make sense in the fullness of time!

Min's Funeral

Hi everyone!
Our families were chipping in to help with Min's funeral expenses, but circumstances have prevented the bulk of it from being covered. I'm still needing just over $5000.
This has left me in a very embarrassing position so I thought I'd put it out to all you people in the interwebs, if you feel to make a donation. No compulsion, and not tax deductible. Feel free to download her songs!
Donate button is just down on the right.