A quiet heart

Five removal men, one van, two days, approximately fifty boxes of books, three counties crossed, many a tearful goodbye and even more smiling welcomes with bottles of prosecco, champagne wine and all the in between, and we have finally unpacked our new home. City life has been officially swapped for seaside living. 


A lot has changed in the last week, and at times it has felt we have. But the truth is, times of transition don’t change us, at least not at first, but rather, have a way of bringing things out of us, out of our heart that have been lying dormant. 


Through the late nights, the lists of to dos and of course the boxes, there has been less energy to expend on keeping the heart quiet. My family have seen my heart and I have seen theirs. 
I wonder whether we have learned the secret of doing this pretty well. Keeping the nature of our hearts underwraps and quiet. Choosing what others see of our hearts.


The truth is God does long for our hearts to be quiet but in the best way, in the way that most glorifies him and is best for us. He longs for us to have quiet hearts. This is the secret God wants us to learn. Not the secret of covering up our hearts….as if we could anyway! It only takes a house move, a lockdown, a change of school, relationship or even a change of plans for the day for the heart to spill out and reveal itself in our words and actions.

The secret of ‘quieting’ our hearts in an attempt to cover up the inward storm of emotions will only lead to the thunder crashing out and lightning striking at those around us. 


The secret art of quieting our hearts that God would have us learn is the mystery of Christian contentment.  It is learning to quiet and comfort our hearts through all the heart shaking transitional moments of our lives. 


When the mouths of my children have spoken from the abundance of their hearts, I’m sorry to say that this last week I have tried to superficially smooth over the rough; to soothe their frustration with external distraction, rather than deal with the deep heart contentment. My temptation has been to see the struggles of children and placate them with ballerina cushions and cuddles. 


Jeremiah Burroughs has put this beautifully in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, ‘Contentment is a sweet, inward heart thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors……if the attainment of true contentment were as easy as keeping quiet outwardly, it would not need much learning. It is the business of the heart.’


Now of course, every girls’ bedroom is far from complete without fairy lights. There is joy in those shopping trips and shared delight in setting up their rooms. Cuddles and ballerina cushions are what I can offer, and prayers for the peace of God to fill their hearts. 


But I should not rest there in my desire for their, or my own, contentment. 
If we continually look to those external factors to keep our hearts superficially and temporarily quiet, the raging toddlers inside us will just spend our days demanding and looking for more distraction. 


As I feel like such a preschooler in this school of learning contentment, as I long to quiet the fears and tantrums of frustrated little hearts in front of me, as I realise transition reveals the areas of discontent in my own heart, I’m so thankful that as God calls us as his children to this learning of contentment, he gives us the gift of his grace continually as he himself teaches us. 


The grace that is the gift of God himself. The grace that allows us to demand more, to be disatisfied when things aren’t enough, but not in the way the world would teach us, not in the demanding grabbing for more external temporary superficial satisfaction, but the deep heart longing of a soul that will not be quietened with anything other than God himself. 


God gives us his benefits and we should not forget them. He gives us peace and we are called to pray for it. But we should not rest satisfied with the gift of peace. Our satisfaction should not be placated with the benefits received from God, but only by Him himself. 


As we’re praying for peace for our hearts during times of change and pain, we should be praying for the God of peace himself. 


Forget not his benefits. Of course.


But ensure we forget not him. 


In the school of Christian contentment, we can be bold to keep learning, to keep coming boldly to the throne of grace, saying it is not enough for me to have the peace you give me, Father, to have the peace of God, no, rather, I must have the God of peace. 


He overflows blessings of mercy, forgiveness, peace, hope into our hearts. Even more amazingly, from his grace, we receive him, the God of mercy, the God of forgiveness, the God of peace, the God of Hope.
Grace is the gift God to us, the gift of Himself. Only He can satisfy our hearts, can bring contentment during the house moves, through the growing emotions, during the pains and frustrations of lockdown. God himself is the contentment of our hearts.


So pray for peace. Pray for the God of peace. Pray for mercy. Pray for the God of mercy. 


In Burroughs words, ‘Enjoy the fountain as well as the stream, the cause as well as the effect.’

Powerful knowledge

‘You hold in your hands a dangerous weapon, loaded with the secrets of three women from Gilead. They are risking their lives for you. For all of us. Before you enter their world, you might want to arm yourself with these thoughts:

Knowledge is power and

History does not repeat itself but it rhymes’


From her opening lines of her latest feminist novel, The Testaments, Margaret Atwood lured me in. They weren’t even the opening lines thinking about it- they were the hook on the inside dust cover. Promises of secrets revealed. A tempting offer to the reader that they would have masterful perspective on all lives concerned, secrets revealed, knowledge and power.

Knowledge is power.

To be in the know is to be powerful. A friend with a secret, a teacher with the facts, a parent with perspective. To be kept in the dark feels uncomfortable. Secrets can feel isolating. Information purposefully with-held can make others feel controlled, manipulated, kept at a distance. That is the message that we are told over and over in our relationships, in books, on television. Everyone has a right to knowledge. Knowledge is freedom. Knowledge is power. Guarding information is manipulative, abusive, and sexist. That is the message of The Testaments. Knowledge belongs to the highest ranking, to the powerful, to the men.


“What my father was doing was said to be very important- the important things that men did, too important for females to meddle with because they had smaller brains that were incapable of thinking large thoughts… It would be like trying to teach a cat to crochet…. That would make us laugh. How ridiculous. Cats didn’t even have fingers!!”


Atwood has a point. That is the message of the world because that is the message we live out in our broken relationships. That is how we abuse and misuse the power that comes with our knowledge, and it is a far cry from the way God shows and shares his knowledge with us. The problem is we have seen the brokenness and pain that comes from secrecy and knowledge abuse in our human relationships and we have reimposed them back onto God. We then come to Scripture, and have to pause and re-read verses like the first part of Deuteronomy 29v29:

‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God….’.

‘That feels uncomfortable’ we think. Secrecy is a dirty word, a shameful word, and brings up all sorts of negative connotations. We then impose these things onto God and start believing he’s trying to control, to manipulate, to withhold, to spoil our pursuit of knowledge. After all, he specifically stopped Adam and Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He forbade. he denied. He prevented and controlled. He wanted the secret things all to himself.


The problem is this is exactly the distorted view Satan was aiming at sneaking into the minds and hearts of God’s children in the garden and he succeeded. In Atwood’s The Testaments, the ‘Aunts’ are entrusted with the raising of pure chaste girls in Gilead, free from the corruption of the world around them in an attempt to raise a new generation unstained by sin. In one teaching session, Aunt Vilda says this:

 ‘Forbidden things are open to the imagination. That was why Eve ate the Apple of Knowledge, said Aunt Vidal’s: too much imagination. So it was better not to know some things. Otherwise your petals would get scattered.’ 


Atwood has identified the message of the Satan in the garden, albeit associating the distorted view with the ‘godfearers’ of her novel. I wonder though, do we secretly allow these distorted images of God to settle in our hearts and minds. When we reach a limit in our understanding of a situation, when we despair and shout and rage at the unanswered whys, whens, and hows, are we screaming at a God who is unfair, who doesn’t understand, who is perversely and manipulatively messing with us and deliberately withholding information because he’s got a control issue, or are we unburdening and pouring out our despair and pain, our frustration and hurt to our heavenly Father who does know all things, to whom the secret things do belong, and before whom our understanding is painfully finite?


Holding on to God as our Father, as our perfect heavenly Father who only works for the good of his children re-orientates our thinking, and allows the truth to be stored up as treasure in our heart, rather than the lie to settle and fester, that God’s perfect knowledge is perfect power, his omniscience and his omnipotence beautifully perfectly joined and working together. The amazing doctrine of the simplicity of God means all that he, he is! He is is perfectly united, perfectly one. God cannot be separated into parts, and so all his attributes are gloriously beautifully united. His knowledge cannot be separated from his power, his love from his mercy, his justice from his goodness. 


Because of the simplicity of God, we can with full confidence say that his perfect knowledge is perfect power, his knowledge is good, his knowledge is loving, his knowledge is merciful, his knowledge is just, his knowledge is kind. The same is true for the way God reveals his knowledge. The same is true for the way he keeps some knowledge secret to himself, within his trusted fellowship as Father, Son and Spirit. When he decrees certain things as secret, as belonging to himself, and therefore not to us, he does so as our perfect heavenly Father, with perfect power, with perfect love and perfect goodness. 


Corrie ten Boom, in The Hiding Place shares a memory of her Father that beautifully captures this.

“And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexism?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

I have fought against God, tried to peer into the unknown, the secret things. I am about to move out of a house where I have screamed out on my knees questioning the whys of no more children, where I have received phone calls telling me of loved ones struggling in the fight of mental illness, where I have had playdates with friends who laugh at the gospel and can’t understand the life we choose as a family. I have yelled, I have choked on my tears, I have spent time in stubborn silence with God because of the unknown whys and whens and hows.

He has received all my heart as my loving Father. He has a knowledge about every one of those situations, a knowledge of my heart and those involved, a good, loving, gracious, wise, purpose for my life, for his kingdom, and for the hearts of others that far surpasses the information I had at the time. He is the perfect loving Father unwilling for his child to carry more than they can bear.

The time may never come to carry the suitcase of certain journeys. I may never know the whens hows whys in this life. But there is always a revealed knowledge amidst the secret things that belong to him. I will always know the who.

Through all the unknown, at every barrier my finite knowledge confronts me with, before every secret thing that belongs to God, I walk, run, rest with God. With my heavenly Father, who alone can carry the burden, the responsibility, the weight, the power that comes with perfect knowledge. He doesn’t promise me perfect knowledge. He promises me himself. 


Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go
.

Joshua 1v9

Made to know

What’s the capital of China? How do you add 16 and 9? Where is the longest river in the world? How do you say ‘hello’ in French? 


Our days are filled with questions. Breakfast, lunch and dinner conversation can feel more like a general knowledge quiz. Questions pouring from inquisitive little minds, inspiring learning and opening up conversation. Questions invite the sharing of minds and the practice of listening. They reveal a desire for knowledge. Knowledge inspires more knowledge and soon the conversation has progressed far beyond the original question.
One minute you’re answering ‘Bonjour’, the next you’ve signed your 6 year old up to Duolingo, planned the family holiday to France and imagining the year old your child will do as part of her joint honours degree! How did we get there?


We can trace the development of knowledge in our own lives though can’t we. A world of previously unknown areas of interest and hobbies opened up to us in conversations around the dinner table, then with our friends and in our classrooms at school. Before we know it, (or rather because we do!), these become the subjects of degrees, topics of Masters or phD dissertations. Our knowledge has reached a level of kudos. 


However, if we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes the thirst for knowledge can become so consuming, that the subject matter becomes irrelevant. The pursuit of our knowledge becomes knowledge itself. Soon, it’s not an area of interest that fuels a desire to study more, but the love of studying. The world of education knows this and has made a great profit from thirsty, minds. Knowledge becomes the goal itself, and feeds off pride and competition. Education knows this and advertises accordingly. At one end of the journey, the preschool posters show smiling children playing together in their ‘learning environment’, while adverts for university show the independent fearless student developing their own mind: me against the world. 


Anyone who knows me knows I’m the biggest advocate for education. Learning as part of living, and enjoying that learning is a key part of how God has created us. He created us to discover, to learn, to progress in understanding, to know. However, the knowledge he has planned for our hearts and minds is not a world of generalities, of knowledge for its own sake. We were created for a better knowledge. A knowledge that creates, builds and deepens relationships, rather than the knowledge that isolates, cuts off and domineers others. A knowledge that doesn’t get lost in itself, but remains fixed on its subject matter. Knowledge that no longer glories in itself but becomes a loving delight in glory. In the glory of God. 


Jonathan Edwards said, ‘The most excellent actual knowledge’ we can have ‘is the knowledge and love of God…. of his glory and excellence’And we can have this knowledge of God, because he himself gives it to us. All our knowledge of God, comes from him, even more beautifully, it comes from the knowledge that God has of himself. 


In C.S.Lewis’ The Magicican’s Nephew, Uncle Andrew is sharing with Diggory his burden of academia “Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules, just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours my boy is a high and lonely destiny.” He is the typical fool of the novel, the conceited puffed up scholar who is outwitted by children and witches. He has become so blinded by the love of knowledge itself that he has cut himself off from others and set himself arrogantly above the laws of the land.


I wonder if we can be guilty of considering God as a type of Uncle Andrew: the great all knowing. But really God must be lonely, needy, maybe a little bit arrogant and smug, and definitely not happy. 


The reality could not be more different. If our knowledge of God comes from God’s knowledge of himself, then he willingly, lovingly, powerfully choose to reveal himself to us. His knowledge is absolutely infinite and far surpasses the capacities of the greatest of human minds. God’s knowledge does require that there are secret things that belong to him alone. However, he is not the self deluded, self isolating Uncle Andrew type. He has gloriously chosen to reveal to us his character, who he is so that what he knows of himself, becomes our knowledge of Him. His revealed knowledge then belongs to us and to our children forever. This is the promise of Deuteronomy 29v29


The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever….


Consider the sun and the sun beams that we looked at a few blogs ago. Those rays of light that naturally come from the sun show us the nature of God to reveal himself, to share with us. Imagine those rays of light in this case as the knowledge God reveals of himself to us, coming from himself, communicated to us from his infinite knowledge of himself. All that God is as Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling in perfect unity, mutually glorifying, serving and loving one another. No hint of loneliness. No room for sadness. God is pure, perfect, joy, delight and satisfaction in himself. He knows this of himself and he reveals this to us. 
The knowledge of God truly shines and it shines in the face of Jesus Christ. 

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4v6


Knowledge of God does not deal in generalities but in particularities. Knowing God is not developing an idealogy, a proposition, a phenomena, playing around with ideas and forming vague arguments. Knowing God is a personal, relational, particular knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus. We don’t know God for the sake of accumulating more facts. We know God as our perfect loving heavenly Father through his Son, Jesus. We know God in real, day to day loving relationship with him, in personal, particular experience. We know him because he has made himself gloriously known to us. 

Prayer:

Lord help me prize and value the knowledge of you shining in the face of Jesus, every day, more and more. By your Holy Spirit, continue to reveal yourself to me in Jesus, as I meet him in the Scriptures, more and more.And let it be the desires of my heart that you God would give me deep knowledge of yourself in particular and reveal to me more and more your fatherly love in Jesus and Jesus’s sweet love to me. 

Where is our anchor?

Runs along the river Thames in Oxford at this time of year really do give a postcard perfect scene. Lines of houseboats moored to the riverbank showing off flower pots, vegetable patches, bicycles partly rusting. Curtains on the windows are pulled apart revealing people cooking, eating, sleeping all in complete safety. No fear of sinking, of drifting, of waking to find themselves away from the shore. All trust, complete confidence and perfect peace of the hearts of people in the boat is thanks to the anchor outside. 


As long as the anchor  remains outside and offboard, the boat is safe, kept steady and close to the shore. 

When the anchor remains inside the boat, it only serves to weigh the boat down, to add to the load. 


As long as our faith remains anchored in self, it only serves to drag and weigh down, to sink us under the pressure of pride, burden or despair. It is a sinking faith.

But we have an anchor for our souls, an anchor that bears the burden, that keeps us afloat even during stormy waters. We have a confidence and hope that comes not from inside but rather outside ourselves. A faith that saves rather than sinks.


“Hope that is seen is not hope; but glorious is the faith which sees him who is invisible and grasps the substance of the things not seen as yet.”

Spurgeon’s words point us to the beautiful wonder of faith: that it is both not a work at all and the best of works. It rests fully on Jesus, the unseen anchor of our souls, and it launches itself and grasps on. 


We all know those moments in a film when a boat is in trouble, usually on a stormy sea, and the sailors desperately throw cargo overboard to lighten the load and keep the boat afloat.

The Bible calls us to ‘cast all our fears and anxieties on Him for He cares for you.’

Faith demands that we launch, hurl, throw, cast overboard all pride and hope, all shame and despair, all desires and fears.  As an anchor is hurled overboard to take root and steady the boat, we launch ourselves, with all our heart, with complete surrender, fully offloading all the burden and weight onto Him who bears us up.


Take the anchor of faith in self from weighing down the boat onboard, and fling it overboard, hurl it into the sea, into the deep waters of God’s love for you, to take hold and grasp onto Christ alone. To avoid sinking, there is no other option but surrendering self to the true anchor of our souls, to hope in Christ alone. If the anchor remains onboard it is merely a sinking weight of faith in self.


Saving faith is anchoring our hearts, our hope, confidence and trust in Him alone, casting all hopes and desires overboard not to be lost at sea but to be surrendered to Jesus and anchored in Him. 


Saving faith is throwing ourselves onto our gracious merciful God, offloading to Him and confessing all our shame and sin, knowing that he casts our sin into the depths of the sea. This is our hope. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.


Micah 7v19: He casts all our sin into the depths of the sea

Hebrews 6v19: This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Sun Chaser

Komorebi: When sunlight shines through trees | AWA Tree Blog.
Picnics in the park, Pimms o’clock, barbecues with friends, trips to the seaside and ice creams all round. I love Summer.
Actually if I’m honest, what I love most about Summer is being warm. My family will tell you, I lose all sense of humour and inability to function when I’m cold. I’m a complete sun chaser. I’ll move my chairs incessantly around the garden and always place part of the picnic blanket in a patch of sunlight if others want the shade of a tree. I set up lockdown life to a tee: morning home school in the garden and afternoon outings once the sun disappeared behind next door’s roof.
I love being warm and so I seek out the sun. Oh how I am grateful for this particular creation of God that is so generous in shining out and giving of its heat and light in rays and beams. By its very nature, in the way God created it, the sun is disposed to shine out and as long as God sustains the world, the sun will have light and heat in itself to give out.
As with the sun, God cannot but shine out, as he communicates his very essence with his creation. God desires to be known. He delights in making us and his world more beautiful by sharing with us who He is. He has an infinite source of holiness, of beauty, of perfection, an infinite fullness of joy and happiness as Father, Son and Spirit. This, he spills out to us, communicating to us, even sharing with us, and beautifully shining upon us. He can do this with no lack to himself, losing nothing of who he is, depleting no store of his joy as he fills us with His, dwindling no supplies of knowledge as he shares with us.
And he does all this by nature of who He is as a generous, revealing, communicable God, who cannot contain his glory, but must reveal it. Like the sun that must shine out in beams, so God must radiate his glory and shine out who He is.
Although I love the Summer for the sun, it does continue through the seasons. I know this sounds obvious, but it always surprises me! Autumn is actually my favourite season, and the forest walks (obviously  embarked upon with at least 3 pairs of socks and 2 jumpers) are all the more beautiful on the days the sun is not obscured and its beams dart through the dancing leaves. All that the light shines upon is made more beautiful by its illumination. The sun’s nature is to share, not keeping its worth to itself, but sending out to brighten other things, to allow all that it falls on to benefit from all that makes the sun, the sun.
So it is with us as God shines on us, and we are made more beautiful, not by God shining on a beauty separate from and already existing besides Him, but as we receive and then radiate out to the world the beauty and glory of God.
Just as a sunny hot day in Summer leaves me craving more, as I chase the sun around my garden and Oxford because its heat and warmth has proved far more appealing than the cold and darkness, so too the more God’s divine communications increase in us, the more his light shines on us, our hearts are drawn nearer and nearer to God.
Having found and experienced God we pursue him further, and he shines the more brightly on us. We become beautiful reflectors of his light, of who He is, to the world.
So chase the sun this Summer, and when Autumn does come around, when the clouds obscure or the forest canopy gives you snatches, be assured the Sun never stops shining.
Receive all that our communicable God radiates onto us and bask in beholding the glory of God.
( Prompted by Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God created the World)

Giving the perfect present

EHM410
Every time I pick up my daughter from nursery, I brace myself for the haul of artwork, junk modelling, and craft launched at me. She staggers out with the stuff, her little face beaming with pride at the presents she’s made us all. Personally I think the clue is in the name when it comes to junk modelling, but one child’s craft is another mummy’s recycling task. Please don’t think I’m completely heartless. My kitchen actually looks like the Tate Modern; I have a ridiculous number of boxes dedicated to years of Mother’s day, birthday, valentine and ‘just because’ creations.
Even if gifts do sometimes require a tactful answer, or a practiced grateful look, we love receiving gifts. Even with the worst of Christmas jumpers, or the scantiest toddler scribble that really tests modern art’s taste for minimalism, the joy is in the receiving!
However, when it comes to the act of giving itself, it gets complicated. We find all sorts of ways to steal the joy and devalue the gift, not least when we give from guilt or from a felt debt we need to repay. Ah man, I am so guilty of this and distort my giving and my work for God. I need the words of Romans 11:35-36 in my life daily:
‘Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen’ 
When I have filled my heart with worry, shame or pride over my work and deeds, these words bring me to my knees and fill my heart with God’s grace. They tell me that God calls us to give, not as repayment, but as reflection.
A reflection of who God is as Trinity, and who God is as perfectly and fully self-sufficient. When I give in an attempt to repay it’s because I’ve lost sight of who God is.
God is not looking for repayment. For one thing, it’s not achievable. How could I ever repay the abundant generosity of God, the giving of his only Son? What would I give to him that he hasn’t first given me? Isn’t it so beautiful when children plan birthday presents for their parents and then go to the same parents to ask for money; they make craft out of resources provided for them by parents. What could I bring that could repay? Truly ‘from him’, from our abundantly generous God are all things.
These words clear my cloudy vision of God and tell me he doesn’t seek repayment because he doesn’t require it. He doesn’t look to be repaid by his children, but to be reflected in them.
Our giving, our living for him, our works for him and in his name serve as a reflection of who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally, beautifully loving, serving, delighting in one another. A God who is in essence, who has always been and forever will be, gloriously self sufficient.  He is satisfied completely, wonderfully within himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. This is just part of the beautiful, freeing doctrine of God’s self sufficiency. The wonder of his aseity.
Do you see the freedom in it? God doesn’t need us. He has no need from us, no lack to replenish, no loss to fill, no discontentment to cheer up. His perfect satisfaction within himself frees us from the weight of worry that we’ll never be or do enough. He does not need or expect us to supply any need of his because he has no need outside himself. He gives out of love, that we might receive, not that he might.
God gives out of his abundant goodness and love that he has within himself, and into this very same love, this very fellowship that he has as Father, Son, and Spirit, he bids us come. He welcomes us in, and loves us with the very same love. As we give to him, as we give our work, our time, our prayers, our helping of others, as we cook meals for others, as we do the food shop, change the nappies, do the church accounts, take workload away from a tired colleague unload the dishwasher, visit a friend who’s sick, write our blog posts, we are truly giving to God, for ‘to him are all things’. We do it all using the resources and gifts he has given us, ‘for from him…. are all things’. We do so but not out of burdensome duty to repay, but rather as reflection of who God is.
When I give in an attempt to repay, my vision of God has been distorted.
So also, when I give from a heart that is striving in competition, rather than from a heart that is at rest as a recipient, my vision of God is compromised.
As we behold God as Trinity, as we see the loving serving of the Son to the Father, of the Spirit to the Son. As we see the Father’s purpose in bringing glory to the Son, we see no trace of competition within the godhead. If we’re honest, much of our giving to others and to God is done with shame, fear, or pride because we constantly think of ourselves in comparison to others. Can’t we all relate to the child who cries because her sister’s card for Father’s Day is ‘better’ than hers?
We feel our Sunday School teaching isn’t as lively as the youthworker’s, or our prayers not as articulate as our friend’s; our secular work not as ‘holy’ as those employed at church, and yet we carry on giving, but with this nagging sense that it will never be as good as someone else’s. Soon it’s no longer the fear of repayment, no longer the fear that we’re not good enough for God, but the giving becomes about our quality versus someone else’s. We’ve soon lost sight of who the gift is for.
When we give to God, out of all he has given us, when we ‘do’ our righteous deeds, we are giving to our perfect heavenly Father. He doesn’t brace himself for the grateful look. He doesn’t sort into the special boxes, or the recycling bin according the quality of the deed. He doesn’t breathe a sigh of weariness, thinking, not another blog, not another worship song. He is our perfect loving heavenly Father who takes our junk modelling, our Father’s Day cards and rejoices over them, taking so much pleasure and delight in them and in us.
God’s aseity takes away my worry over not being good enough or not matching up. God doesn’t need me to think of fresh ways to honour him because he has no lack.
God’s aseity exposes my pride and humbles me in my offering. He is perfectly, wholly self sufficient. He doesn’t need me.
His aseity gives me grace to breathe.
He doesn’t need me but loves me and delights in me.
When I behold God, all fear and shame, all pride of comparison is taken away. There is no me versus them; my serving versus hers. There is no us versus them in the kingdom of God, because all are one in Christ Jesus.
All is from God, to God, and through God. “All our deeds are buried in Christ’s purity.”  These are such sweet words from Calvin. Our smudged scribbles to our heavenly Father are received with pure delight and joy, as he receives them in the name of his Son.
Imagine my younger daughter coming out of nursery with her arms laden, running, excited to meet me, but now clothed in her most beautiful Disney princess dress, heart full of love and excitement as she hands over her treasures. Or imagine her sweeping the floor after lunch, dressed in her royal Frozen robe.
This is us as we give to God. Not dressed in princess dressed, but clothed in the very righteousness of Christ. Our scribbled smudged crafts as it were received as pure, perfect and spotless, as actually righteous because they are given through Christ, buried in his purity, perfection and righteousness.
So work, do, give, live righteously not to repay but to reflect.
Give to God without fear, without shame, in complete freedom, breathing in the grace of his amazing aseity.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.