Hearts lit up

I can do it by myself. Mummy I know. Actually I knew that already. Don’t help me. I was about to say that. Yeh I knooooow. 

I just needed to find myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. I need to take time for me. It’s just not working for me anymore. 

The words of the self assured, independent longing 6 year old is not so different from the teen or adult desperate for self expression. 

We’ve all heard these words. We’ve all been the ones to say them. That self defensive assertion that we know, that we didn’t need another to clarify, to help, to suggest. From the child-led learning in the classroom to the gap years of self discovery, the films of proud independence and coming of age to the celebration of singleness as a time to redefine, focus on and attend to me and my needs…. we love a good journey of self discovery and self reflection.

As a teacher I have seen the impact of child led learning has in the classroom, as a friend the significance of that gap year, or time of singleness. None of these things are bad in themselves, but we use them, consume them to know, to discover ourselves, and we end up lonely and lost, alone in self affirming or self condemning introspection. 

As a Christian I believe wholeheartedly in self discovery: That we are made to know ourselves, to find out who we are and our true purposes in life. 

I believe wholeheartedly in self reflection, that we are called to examine our hearts, thoughts and lives, to reflect on our ways and consider our paths. 

However, as Christians, we want to lead people not to themselves but to the welcoming merciful refuge of God, to find satisfaction, purpose in Him alone. How then can we justify self awareness, self examination if the goal is Christ? 

The world is hungry and crying out for self discovery, for finding and fulfilling the deep desires of hearts, seeking connection and contemplation. A world resembling a classroom full of children all individualistically exploring their own learning, carving out their own ideas, but in isolated fragmented discovery as any conflict, any conversation over different viewpoints or methods are crushed under the weight of pluralism and its demand for quiet, shallow, hushed tolerance.  

We are coming up to advent, that time we come in wonder and awe and behold our transcendent God, our Creator who came down. God become man as the only one, as God-Man, who alone could bring man to God. In God’s giving of Himself to humanity, in humbling himself to the likeness of human flesh, he came  that we might truly know ourselves in the only way we can, in light of who God is. The light of the world has come and flooded the world with his grace, his redemptive works, and his outrageous mercy in drawing fallen sinful self into full, reconciled relationship and eternal union with the perfect holy God. 

God the Son became Christ Incarnate to flood his light into our lives and very selves, to the depths of our hearts, thoughts, desires and fears. His light exposed, came in truth and people reacted in awe, fear, anger, and worship. His light was so blinding and exposing that it allowed for no neutrality in its response, no room for the pluralism of its day. 
The light of the world has come shining His truth, His Father’s truth in the power of the Spirit, so that we can truly and honestly self discover and self reflect on the basis of truth. Without Jesus, our only accountability is ourselves and our self discovery and self reflection will certainly be self affirming, our methods in our learning will always be the best to us. How can they not be when there is no accountability?

In this light, by his Spirit working in us now and reminding us always of the words the Word of God came to speak to us, our God Immanuel keeps us self reflecting, keeps us self aware, keeps us growing, in joyful, free, loving fellowship and belonging with Him and with one another as His bride the church. This is true freedom, true self discovery, true purposeful living. Life lived to the full with our Lord who came not only for our salvation, but for our eternal secure belonging with God as Father, Son and Spirit, forever to worship, enjoy and delight in our reconciled relationship with our Creator and God. 

We cannot know ourselves in isolation. Life is not meant to be lived in a spiral and endless cycle of self discovery beginning and ending with self. Such a cyle will torpedo through relationships, using and abusing for self gain, shipwrecking all within our path that doesn’t fulfil our subjective desire of the moment, one that will change tomorrow. No, instead, we are made for relationship with one another and with God to love him and others. That is true freedom. That is true Spirit led spirituality. 

In the kingdom of God self discovery comes through self forgetting, abandoning self for the sake of others. Self discovery means surrender to Jesus as Lord, to the Word made flesh who came to proclaim the grace and hope that is found in Him alone. Self examination is the bringing of our hearts and our lives to the power of the word of God, to its words of encouragement, hope, blessing, judgment and conviction on our hearts. 

In our culture of self discovery, god is a tool to be used to satisfy criteria, meet demands, fulfill latest wishes like Aladdin’s genie in a lamp. The world says god is there to serve according to man’s criteria, a commodity to consume along with all others paths to self fulfillment and self discovery. 

But God is our Lord and Saviour who gave himself, revealed himself, who came down to reconcile us to Him, who alone and always acts for the redemption of his children who so helplessly cannot know what they want and need. Our God is a God who came to serve, who came to give His very self. God and man reconciled in the person of Jesus, fully God and fully man, the servant King restoring in us our true selves as we were created to be, children of God with lives lived to the full in joyful eternal fellowship with our God. 

In the world, self growth is offered through selfish pursuit of goals and desires, in our careers, relationship choices, use of time and money. In the kingdom of God, self growth comes from self control and self restraint as we allow the Lord Jesus to reign in our hearts, teach and guide and form us by his Spirit and word in delightful surrender. Dying to self as we give to others. Growth in gentleness comes with restraint of anger, growth in kindness comes in self control over possessiveness over our time as we love and serve those around us, our growth in joy comes in self abandon to the will of the Lord trusting in his good and wise fathering of us, rather than selfishly storing up temporary transient fleeting ‘pleasures’, in pursuit of true everlasting joy.  

In the world, the pursuit of self ends at shallow self, an endless spiral of introspective shallowness, fragile in its dependence on our fleeting and subjective emotions and needs, as we pass through relationships and leave them when they no longer fulfill, as we exchange experience and possessions for others when they no longer satisfy. The cycle of self can be lonely, exhausting and desperately empty. 

As we approach advent, let’s lift our hearts to our God who came down for us in all our helplessness and inability to do a thing to save find or know ourselves truly.

In the incarnation, we encounter an act of pure grace, our transcendent Lord who so loved the world he came to unite himself to us, bind himself to us and fulfill, satisfy every longing, to enrich and fill our lives to a fullness we can only imagine in part this side of heaven.

So, by this grace, let’s examine our hearts and reflect on all that the light of his truth and the word of God exposes there, knowing we do so as redeemed, loved, children in the presence of God our Father, in the name of Christ our elder brother, our advocate, and in the power of the Holy Spirit who is working always to keep us shining brighter and brighter like stars. 

Battle to be heard?

Our world is noisy.

It is loud in its declarations and proud in its boasting, so sure in its blaming, so seemingly gentle in its whisperings.

It doesn’t matter what the topic is, acceptance of others, acceptance of self, fight for right or gentle murmurings of apathy….. It is constant in its babbling.

It jostles and shoves others out of the way in the fight for the microphone, for centrestage.

Words working their way into unguarded minds, penetrating deep and unfiltered to the depths of hearts. 

Mouths quick to speak and minds ears and hearts so unguarded in their listening. Tuning in occasionally and latching onto the cries for ‘peace’, ‘hope’, even ‘reform’ that spill out from our podcasts, televisions and newspapers. Nodding in assent when our distracted ears pick up familiar language. 

Words spoken with such boldness and received with so little attention. Spoken with intention, meaning and purpose, these words flood our world, and we go through our days inundated with the thoughts and opinions of others. 

I love words. I believe wholeheartedly in their power. I believe in the power of words to transform and shape life, in their ability to renew and strengthen, and I know their power to devastate and inflict pain.

Even now I’m writing, and I write for purpose:

The forming of thoughts to words

My heart on a page, on a screen

Spirit joining head and heart, back to head, and spilling out into written surrender, vulnerability, release. 

Release, focus and articulation

Writing is reassembling and reforming, recreating

A meagre offering to be used, shared, cherished, discussed, refashioned and remolded. 

Telling of a story

Writing is a stream of consciousness, a spirit inspired letter of the heart, a thought, a list, a plea, a moment in time, a commitment, a testament an invitation, a gift to be shared, an experience to be enjoyed and given, a uniting of hearts and minds from writer to reader, delight and exploration of words and structure, a tumbling and spilling out, an overflow of heart and mind. 

I believe in words. I believe in their power. 

I believe wholeheartedly as Christians that we are a people of The Word. 

The Word of the Lord which came to his people through the inspiration of his Spirit, through the writers and prophets of Scripture. The Word of the Lord which came to his people as Incarnate Son of God, Christ, the Word of God, clothed in human flesh. The very word of God spoken by the very Word of God. As our ears endure the barrage of this noisy world, with its many words, Jesus assures us that as his sheep, we hear His voice, the voice of our loving Shepherd guiding us, speaking to us. 

These are the purposes of the Lord’s words:

The revelation of His character, his heart.

His word as perfect representation of who He is

Self disclosure of our Heavenly Father to us his children 

Self disclosure without weakness, without self deception, without malice

Self disclosure with full purpose and intent

To reveal all glory and honour and power belong to Him alone

To reveal that He alone is the Creator of all, fully sufficient in Himself and all else is created and dependent on Him. 

As the defender of our hearts, the revealing of ourselves and the hope of our souls

To be pure truth, and sweet taste to our broken hearts

To be the convictor of our disbelief

To be the light to expose the darkness of our sin

Our delight and joy; our hope and wonder; our conviction and our commands. 

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”Isaiah 55v11

There are so many voices, words spoken, muttered, heard and half heard in our days. It can be overwhelming and cause us to tune out, turn off the news, switch the podcast when we don’t hear something we like, tune in and out as we please. Our listening impacts our speaking. So we cut off one another in sentences in our jostling and fight for the microphone and we incessantly make our speeches to prove our points. Our mouths speak from the abundance of our hearts. Or maybe we parrot and mimick, take in words and speak them straight back, unfiltered, unprocessed, with no time to chew and ponder and question. 

The world is a noisy and loud place. It jostles and fights for that centrestage platform, bellowing messages into the microphone. 

But we are a people of The Word. 

God has created and intended our lives for fellowship, for relationship, full of speech and rich in words. Our words are for the building of relationship with God and one another, not for a time to shine on stage. He gives us his Word to be savoured, enjoyed, received and spoken, whispered, sung, and proclaimed. The Word of God passed on through the generations, accomplishing its purpose of bringing hearts to repentance and new life in Him, accomplishing its purpose of revealing the Saviour of the World, accomplishing its purpose of all glory honour and power given to the Lord our God. 

Rippling effects, always running through the onslaught of the noise of the world around, holding fast, breaking through, triumphing over every lie and false claim, every hopeless cry and transient message of the day, breaking down every opposition, scooping up and bearing repentant, broken hearts, giving the people of God new hearts, new language to be spoken, new words of life proclaimed. It does not need to jostle, its truths are steadfast. It does not need to fight, it is already victorious. It does not need to contend, for the Lord who speaks his Word will always accomplish his purpose. 

While shallow substitutes flood the language of our world, while written words of empty vain ‘promises’ line our bookshelves, and speak to us from our television screens, let us speak a better language. Let’s gift the world with the Word of God. The Word which God has called us not to mindlessly receive and parrot back, but to savour, pray, chew over, to ingest so that it fills and fuels all we do. The Word which we thoughtfully, attentively take in and allow to flood every part of us, embed deep within our hearts and build up a treasure trove of precious promises there, so that the word is truly near to us, to our lips and hearts. 
We are a people of the Word. So let us speak, for God’s Word will always triumph and fulfill its purpose. 

There are many words in the name of peace, but the Prince of Peace has come, clothed himself in human flesh. The Word of God, the Word Incarnate has come to reign in true Peace between God and man. 

There are many words in the name of comfort. Advice about relationship choice, magazines about home decor, podcasts on personal style and image, programmes and magazines proclaiming food is our comfort. But we have the one true Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who accompanies God’s word to pierce the darkness of our hearts and bring light and revelation of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

There  is an onslaught of words offering advice and guidance, through TED talks, steps to success conferences, youtube motivational channels, but there’s only one true Lord, Soveriegn of all, our God and Father who alone is Creator, who alone knows our hearts, plans our ways and steps and whose paths are always steadfast love and faithfulness. 
His mercy, grace and power go before us, his goodness follows us and love embraces us every moment of the day as we navigate our way through this loud, outspoken, noisy and desperately weak and needy world. 

The world is crying out. We hear voices on all sides, words refashioned, reformed, misunderstood and misapplied. 

But we have a Shepherd who promises his sheep will hear his voice. 

We have heard it straight from his lips, the Word Incarnate. 

The world is a noisy barrage of shallow fighting substitutes. Voices come and go with the seasons. The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of the Lord endures forever. 

We are a people of The Word. 

Timely questions

As I scan my eyes around my living room, I can trace a history of our family life through the smiles and candid shots captured in frames. 

Photographs tell a story. They capture memories and they allow us to recall precious times. The looks of the moment held forever. 

The past brought to the present; Our present taken to the past. 

We love to look back, to linger in the past, to reminisce and reflect:

Whether it’s holding on to those children who seem to be growing so fast, willing time to pause and stand still, even go back;

Sweetly remembering the days you had time in your marriage to sit and talk for hours uninterrupted;

Lightening the mood by sharing memories of family holidays;

Reminiscing of life that felt and seemed far less complicated.

Life last week, last month, last year. 

There seems much comfort in this. Much joy to be gained, memories to be poured over and shared, but the lingering in the past can turn to longing to be back there and before we know it we can feel hard done by in our present situation. The candid shots, the captured smiles, the beauty of those framed moments around our house also miss out so much. We don’t tend to frame the times of pain, of illness, of despair, marital strife and nights of tears. Even if they happen to have been caught on camera, they tend to be stored away, kept out of sight, deleted from the files. We don’t reminisce on pain. Our telling of the past and our lingering there can be selective and it can rob us of the joy and purpose of the present. 

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”For it is not from wisdom that you ask this

Ecclesiastes 7v10

How often are we hearing this and saying this at the moment! Lockdown 2.0 of 2020 is upon us, and we are pining and craving for the pre-Covid days.

But as we ask this, we do not do so from a heart of wisdom. Is your heart like mine?

Does this question we ask come not from wisdom but from pride? 

Pride as I frustratingly wonder why my strategies for covid coping and lockdown living are not working better and serving me better

This questions comes not from wisdom but from fear.

Fear and worry about my comfort in this world, rather than my secure eternal hope in Christ

This question comes not from wisdom but from unbelief.

Unbelief in the sufficiency of God’s grace, doubting his providence, his sovereignty, his tender care and goodness through this all. 

This question comes from my lazy heart.

Not striving to pursue godliness and righteousness in these more difficult days. 

This question comes from my apathetic heart.

Forgetting that in suffering, in trials, God promises to refine our faith, deepen our desire for Him and renew us in the image of His Son. 

What is the family history we want to create in these days, as God’s people, His church? What moments do we want to capture? What are the questions of wisdom that the Lord is asking us to bring before Him during these times, this day, this moment?

Those questions that come from wisdom and I have heard spoken from the hearts and lips of beautiful godly saints in my life:

How can I serve you today Lord?

How can I taste and see your goodness now in this moment?

What are your plans and purposes for me here and now heavenly Father?

What is your will in this situation?

How can I walk in your ways and fear you instead of man, instead of this situation?

This is a time of seeking wisdom that comes from above that we might ask of this moment the questions that come from wisdom with hearts that are firm trusting in the givenness of this day from our good, all loving, all powerful and all wise God. 

This day, this very one, is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.