Be Still and Know
Day 13 - Issue 31

Day 13 - Issue 31

October 16, 2019

Galatians 2:20 NLT

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Years ago, I was involved in human rights/religious liberty issues. I worked with politicians and others in an unsuccessful attempt to move them away from legislating for human rights. It was easy to see that differing interests held differing views upon their particular human rights. There was little chance of achieving a consensus across religious, political and social divides. Best perhaps to leave negotiations to street level common sense and existing legal protections.

The challenge in asserting [itals]my[end itals] human rights is that I fall in step with society’s fascination with love of the individual. Then issues all revolve around ‘ME’, a bad starting point for any interpersonal negotiation. The gospel speaks of the importance of the Other. Indeed, my self-love is measured objectively by the love I exercise towards another, regardless of any differences in opinion. I can disagree and assert my perspective. Only tyranny imposes, where custom, law and common sense prevail.

For too many years my Christian faith was shaped by those who needed to establish ‘an enemy’. Such actions, while useful in monetising a faith-based set of values, critically reduced the power of Christians to build stable communities that revealed the love of God to all.

A God of love does not rule through diktat. Nor does such a God manage his citizens through fear. You are invited to take choices on your own behalf in response to God’s love and his desire to make sense of the kingdom to others through you.

QUESTION: Is your walk of faith lived out of fear or love?

PRAYER: As I journey with you to become more like the person you made me to be, I leave behind fake identities to discover who I am called to be and yet to become.

Day 12 - Issue 31

Day 12 - Issue 31

October 15, 2019

Deuteronomy 30:19-20a NLT

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God…

I’m currently reading Jordan Peterson’s [itals]Maps of Meaning[end itals], subtitled, [itals]The architecture of belief[end itals] (Routledge). It’s a well-expressed and fascinating exploration of the roots of both experiential and learned meaning. It seems that whatever age we are, insecurities, or at least uncertainties, about the meaning of our individual life haunt our minds.

Crudely, meaning was taught to me through the trio of experiences (and some would say values) of stability, achievement and success. I grew up within a stable family. It had its ups and downs but, like puppies learning to survive, these were mostly healthy experiences. Initially greatly underachieving at school, I started to flourish once I perceived my parents’ disappointment and was able to focus on subjects that interested me. Finally, having qualified from Oxford, I again deeply disappointed my parents by choosing Christian ministry over well-paid and ‘respectable’ employment.

I certainly found meaning in serving God, if not financial security. I was at peace with myself, but searching for significance by pursuing platforms, affirmation and financial independence.

If I’d read scripture more closely I would’ve discovered that meaning is found in God alone. We have no knowledge of the stability of Jesus’ upbringing – but we do see he separated himself from his parents in Jerusalem at Passover. He also identified family not in nuclear terms; and this in a family orientated culture.

None of us can become who God created us to be until and unless we resolve this issue of meaning. It pursues us from an early age. Recognising my meaning is all about being in God is the start of a disconcerting journey. Take time this week to identify the sources from which you draw down your sense of value.

QUESTION: Have you resolved the meaning of your presence on the earth?

PRAYER: Like St Augustine, I recognise that my heart is restless until it finds its rest in you. Lead me into all truth, I pray.

Day 11 - Issue 31

Day 11 - Issue 31

October 14, 2019

2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

When I chose to change the course of my life by choosing to follow Jesus, I had little idea of what that choice could involve. More challenging was the anxiety of my parents who wondered what would become of me. Their hopes for a meteoric rise to employment success and financial security were dashed once I chose to accept an invitation to work with Youth for Christ. I was excited; they were devastated.

While I thought I was in charge of my life, I had surrendered all control to God. I could take that control back, yet the price would be to delay my personal spiritual development. There were to be many such delays, born of fear, frustration and friendship with God’s enemies. However, God’s patience endured as I wrestled with my destiny.

Moving from one state to another is never easy. I think of the caterpillar changing into a butterfly, or the fertilised human egg into a baby and then ultimately an adult. There is both risk and pain, to both subject and those involved as apparent third parties. Mary changed from a child to an adult with the announcement of an angel; a mother whose heart was to be torn gazing on the crucified body of her adult son. Our human yearning to advance painlessly is a mythology. There is no growth until and unless we acknowledge the price such growth demands. Many Christian apologists misrepresent the gospel of salvation in failing to present its radical call to the path of change, a path that can never be freed from pain: physical, mental, and emotional.

QUESTION: What have been key staging posts in your growth in God?

PRAYER: Lead me on, God. I don’t want to stagnate in my faith, I want to be changed each day to more closely imitate your dear Son, Jesus.

Day 10 - Issue 31

Day 10 - Issue 31

October 11, 2019

Romans 10:14-15 NLT

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

The moment we respond to God’s salvation message we are commissioned a missionary. We now have a message of hope, which we need to communicate wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Just as we speak of favourite holidays, fine restaurants and fun films, we can equally gossip about God. There is a growing interest in spirituality given that there is a hole at the heart of our consumer culture. The challenge of making ends meet in an increasingly competitive working environment creates a hunger for something more than the harsh, repetitive grind that is life for so many.

Politicians have failed to find answers, while the media adds to our misery with horror tales of failing services, falling incomes, climate change and increasing threats to personal safety. If this is the world we are creating, then the time is right for a saviour. The alternative is to barricade ourselves as best we can against the tide of life, in an attempt to resist being swept away. Alienated, individuals feel alone and abandoned. Hence, the story of One who came in search of each one of us, for good and not for evil, is a story worth telling over and over.

The world that younger generations inherit will be the one we have shaped for them. We can choose to positively influence it or simply observe it disintegrate while we tut from the sideline.

QUESTION: What people and places might you face today when you can talk about God?

PRAYER: Give me courage and opportunities today to speak about and demonstrate your love in action.

Day 9 - Issue 31

Day 9 - Issue 31

October 10, 2019

Acts 9:13-15a NLT

“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” But the Lord said, “Go...”

We have a wonderful dog in the Oratory. He is a Chorkie, a Chihuahua and Yorkie cross. Dylan is small, but believes he is a Rottweiler! When walking he demonstrates a desire to take on all other dogs, especially large ones. I’ve kindly explained that he is in fact no more than a snack to them. Yet, he pays no heed to my constructive advice and retains his belligerence on every walk.

Like Dylan, Ananias from today’s scripture reading lacks perspective. However, he is the opposite and assumes he is the human equivalent of a Chorkie, settling to live within the limits nature has placed around him. Yet he discovers that in God natural boundaries are easily suspended. He has an inkling God wants him to go pray with Saul, the persecutor and assassin of Christians. Ananias has no desire to die anytime soon. But, in reluctant obedience, he responds, confirms Saul’s conversion and prepares him for the mission that will turn the world upside down. We never hear of Ananias again, but Paul’s missionary adventures are the result of his obedience and bravery.

Mission is allowing God to lead us beyond the limits we place upon ourselves. How I perceive myself is not how God sees me. I have an inkling and must choose to pursue it in case it is of God.

Once we seek God throughout our day, we can with confidence pursue those inklings and participate in his mission. We may not often receive feedback. We may never have our name in any future narrative. Yet, the purpose of God will have moved forward as a direct result of our obedience. It is a shame that the enemy’s first and often most potent weapon is fear; yet “perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18, NLT). Face down fear and fertilise the kingdom.

QUESTION: Does your perspective tend towards seeing yourself as a Chorkie or Rottweiler?

PRAYER: All-seeing God, give me your insight and perspective today. May I see challenges and opportunities through the eyes of faith and not fear.

Day 8 - Issue 31

Day 8 - Issue 31

October 9, 2019

Acts 1:8 NLT

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

For years I confused God’s power with my own. I realise that sounds arrogant or stupid or both! Yet, out of obedience I set about doing what I determined were the things that might please God. It was a struggle; I often felt I’d failed God and my good intention. A good heart goes a long way in serving him, but it can also obstruct the work of God from taking place.

Whatever we set our hand to do can reflect and reveal God’s reality, at least for those with eyes to see. Living is mission, for what purpose is there in any activity if not to worship and serve God? I love the story of Mary and Martha. There are numerous ways it challenges me. One is that these two women reflect two distinct aspects of my character. The one that wants to sit and gaze into the face of Jesus in continuous contemplation – that objects to the daily round of tasks that life demands. Here I see how I am invited to contemplate God in every task. There is no deeper encounter with God through stopping and gazing than there is through working and gazing. God is all and in all.

This insight has encouraged me to look to and for God in each moment of my day. It challenges ‘attitude slippage’, when I experience feelings of resentment or self-pity at the burdens I carry. I quickly recall that I am to look to Christ and discover that God is always present. As we discover Christ in every eventuality, this reveals the reality of our faith profession. It’s not a prescribed belief, but a living and transformative faith, practical as well as theoretical. Our lives become the visual aid that reveals the reality and the immediate presence of God in this world; this is the heart of mission.

QUESTION: What moan and groans do you have about your lot in life?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, be present in each moment of this and every day, and may your presence attract others to saving faith in you.

 

Day 7 - Issue 31

Day 7 - Issue 31

October 8, 2019

Matthew 9:37-38 NLT

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Our home is found in God alone. God is first thought and final end. There is nothing, no reality outside of him. Hence, what we so often mistake for reality is a distraction. Those things that draw our attention away from God and which, while appearing to offer security and satisfaction, in reality prove empty and worthless.

God opened my eyes and I heard God’s clear calling. I was to make God, Christian obedience and service my priority and leave the practicalities of life in his hands. Easier said than done; something I wrestle with to this day.

Only as my eyes were opened did I see the reality of the needs of the world. While I’d been engaged in evangelism since my own initial commitment, this was because of a sense that I was required to do something rather than out of any sense of calling. Now I understood that I enjoyed the ability to pray, encourage and welcome anyone and everyone to consider God for themselves.

Too often life’s twists and turns had raised doubts, or at least reservations, about God’s capacity to love. I only saw through the eyes of one who thought the avoidance of pain was God’s gift to humanity. I failed to appreciate that it was through Jesus’ sacrifice that salvation was secured, a salvation that included pain. Yet, God was within the pain and in following Jesus I might expect and experience pain. Here indeed was good news for all. The experiences of life may not be predicted and will prove demanding, yet God is present in every single one of them. Unless my own eyes have been opened, I have nothing to share but a statement of Truth. Once opened, I have a story to share and can empathise, while sharing the reality of God’s grace in providing for our very keenly felt needs.

QUESTION: Will you ask God to open your eyes to the plight of the world as he sees it?

PRAYER: Act, speak and work through me today, I ask. Give me grace to see people and problems with your loving eyes.

 

Day 6 - Issue 31

Day 6 - Issue 31

October 7, 2019

John 15:16 NLT

'You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.'

Each one of us is called to mission by Jesus, who chose us to follow him. We are only able to choose because we have first been enlightened by God. It feels as if it is our own choice, yet in truth it’s our response to his invitation. Herein lies the struggle for each of us. I so often sense what God invites me to embrace, yet I exercise my choice to do the opposite. For God’s invitation consistently requires that I stretch in my faith and reach beyond my comfort zone.

Mission is always beyond my comfort zone. For I am being sent (the meaning of the word “mission”) with a purpose. Mission embraces so much more than my words. It demands that I daily exercise choices so that there is a consistency in my life and time style that reflects the character and purpose of God. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stated that words are cheap, while action is costly. He also pointed out, “Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.” It is the quality of who I am that presents the clearest evidence as to the reality of God. When people approach me with their questions, I truly am able to engage in mission. If the fruit I desire in my life can never be harvested because its blossoms perish through the frost of disobedience, I offer no sustenance for those who seek the bread of life.

It’s easy to look at the mission field, those in need of Christ, without paying close attention to yourself. It is within you that the kingdom is manifest, but only to the degree you address those appetites that draw you away from God’s action in your own life.

QUESTION: Does fruitfulness in mission inoculate you from difficulty, pain and disappointment?

PRAYER: May the challenges I face become a testimony to God’s grace.

Day 5 - Issue 31

Day 5 - Issue 31

October 4, 2019

Philemon 1:6-7 NLT

And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

There are as many ways as one can possibly imagine to pray. Our problem is we easily get boxed in and then bogged down with rules and frameworks. These wear us down and remove joy from our encounter with God. Here Paul reminds Philemon of his natural instinct of generosity towards Onesimus, his slave, with whom Philemon may do whatsoever he chooses.

Our everyday reality is that we may know what to do. Our struggle is resisting temptation to do less than we know God asks of us. Mood, temperament, attitude – a host of factors work to distract us from behaving as God instructs us. So prayer helps us recall and implement God’s best when challenged by our preferred, and usually not such godly, responses. If we are effectively to represent God, we need to make prayer our daily touchstone.

Philemon will need to trust Paul’s word that Onesimus is a changed man and will now prove useful as a slave. It will also, I imagine, prove quite a testimony to the consistency of God if Philemon now regards Onesimus in the same way Paul describes him. In other words, Philemon needs to be the person God has made and called him to be.

No doubt Onesimus made this journey with a good deal of prayer of his own. After all, he was the property of Philemon and could expect nothing but the harshest of treatment upon his return. Yet, God’s grace is available and can cover a multitude of wrongdoing. So, when in doubt we are to pray. And when we are without doubt we are to pray, for prayer helps us find the best of ourselves and offers that to the best benefit of another.

QUESTION: Who or what does God want you to pray about or for?

PRAYER: Thank you that even if I lose the ability to move independently, I can still reach the furthest corners of the world through prayer.

Day 4 - Issue 31

Day 4 - Issue 31

October 3, 2019

Matthew 1:19-20 NLT

Joseph, to whom [Mary] was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

The incarnation is a remarkable event. I remember Jayne’s shock on receiving a phone call from her daughter, recently arrived at university. The call ran along the lines of: “Mummy, I have something to tell you. I think you’d better be sitting down.” At this point Jayne’s mind was computing a whole series of scenarios, none of them positive! “Keep calm,” she kept telling herself. Then she heard her daughter say, “I’ve bought myself a puppy.” All anxieties drained away and before she could help herself, Jayne said, “Oh! That’s all right.” Strategically managed, or simply the natural product of a need to communicate some information, we shall never know.

In more testing circumstances, Joseph has to face the reality that his fiancé is pregnant. He knows it is not by him. A respectable man, he does not want to embarrass Mary and create a fuss. So he plans quietly to disengage himself and move on with life. That is before the intervention of an angel. Now he has a decision to make.

Like Joseph, consider your circumstances and what God requires of you. This is your call and your walk of faith. Through following its path you’ll have a story to tell of the presence of God in your life, a story that will intrigue and entrance the very many people you meet along its many twists and turns.

QUESTION: To what extent do you think Jesus learned his meekness and mildness from Joseph?

PRAYER: May I hear and obey you, whether you guide me quietly or miraculously; through a still small inner voice, circumstance, scripture, the wisdom of godly friends or a noisy and dramatic intervention.