The most important thing about me?

Our view of God shapes our lives. The more amazing He is to me the more it impacts my life and the way I live it.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”.

A W Tozer

When I read that this week it was like a lightning bolt had struck. I couldn’t move away from it. I felt all sorts of arguments rise up. That’s not true – the most important thing about me is that I’m saved, what if I’m just in a bad mood etc. The thing is that I couldn’t let that thought go. What did it mean? What Tozer meant of course is that our view of God shapes our lives.

It is no coincidence that this quote is in his book “The Knowledge of the Holy” which has twenty-three chapters describing the attributes of God. So far I have read about The Holy Trinity, The Self-Existence of God, The Self-Sufficiency of God, The Eternity of God, God’s Infinitude and God’s Immutability. Long words trying to capture the intrinsic nature of God and make the inaccessible accessible to us.

Working my way through these rich explanations I have noticed that I find myself increasingly aware not only of the Otherness of God but also of my own security because I am found in Him, this amazing Almighty God. The more amazing He is to me the more it impacts my life and the way I live it.

File_000 (23).pngAs I look at what God is like in terms of absolutes, (He is absolutely good etc) I realise the poverty of my own thinking. Why do I  make God smaller than He is? – simply because I don’t have the language to describe Him and so I fall back on descriptions out of my own experience. We all do that.

We can so easily put God in a box where He seems manageable to us. That god is really too small, we can even think that we can control him. A pocket-sized god that we keep for when we want or need him.

People, including the psalmists, describe God in terms of what He is not e.g. He is not like us, He is not unjust, He is not fickle, He doesn’t grow weary, He doesn’t faint. It’s because we don’t have anything adequate to compare Him with. Even words like amazing and awesome have been devalued by  their everyday use.

The Bible teaches that God is Other, that means He is not the same as us. We find it hard to grasp what God is really like but we see and experience glimpses of him. Sometimes we experience the grace of God in a very profound way and from that point on we have more understanding of His grace and may focus on it more than other aspects of God’s nature because we have some familiarity with it.

But what about those other attributes? For example what about Infinity? Infinity literally means limitlessness. This means that you can’t go “To Infinity and Beyond” because there is nothing beyond Infinity  and it has no end. Stay with me here. It’s difficult for us to understand limitlessness because we are limited, we are finite beings. God is different He is boundless, measureless in every respect. He is not bound by timebaby-2028307_1280, everything that comes from him is also infinite, so his grace, mercy etc is boundless too. There is no end to His goodness. Hallelujah!

Even if we feel like Winnie the Pooh who said “I am a bear with little brain and long words bother me” it is so worthwhile to take some time to ponder, to think about the greatness of God. It expands our understanding as we contemplate the mystery and wonder of who God is. It feeds our souls and helps us to have a right perspective of the King of the Universe. It leads me to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to gaze in wonder.

Having a right view of who God is and what He is like is also fundamental to our well-being:

If I think He is mean, I will live like a pauper trying to find scraps and crumbs.

If I think He is generous I will live like a prince enjoying His blessing on my life.

If I think He is a taskmaster I will live like a slave

If I think He is my Father I will live like a son or daughter.

If I think He is powerless (or disinterested), I will not pray, I will have no hope

If I think His all-powerful (omnipotent) and caring, I will pray with faith and see miracles in my life (and so on)

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So why not dust off the dictionary, look up the attributes of God, and engage in a journey which will never end, a journey filled with wonder, a journey of discovery of how great God truly is.

Christine

Related Blogs:

Absolutely Superlative

What’s in the box

Photo Credits

“What comes into our minds” and “Omnipotent”created using wordswag

Winnie the Pooh, pixabay

Dictionary is my own photo, please do not use without permission

Absolutely Super(lative)!

Thinking about the perfection of God.

Following on from my blog on Biblical Meditation (here) I have been thinking about the phrase Great is the Lord (Ps. 48:1). There is so much in that word “Great” that I haven’t got beyond that.

In the English language great can simply mean above average but as we know that God is perfect in all He is and does, He is not simply above average but the Greatest. This is not in the sense that Mohammed Ali thought he was the greatest – he was only great at boxing. God is the greatest in everything He does and everything He is.

Apologies for the grammar lesson  but what we have  here is a superlative – “the form of an adjective or adverb that expresses that the thing or person being described has more of the particular quality than anything or anyone else of the same type.” (Cambridge dictionary)

file_000-19This means that whatever way I choose to refer to or describe God, He is simply the best example of it. The writers of the Psalms understood this when they referred to God as Lord of Lords, and King of Kings they are using superlatives. We can’t say king-est or lord-est so we say king of kings and lord of Lords. There is no better, more powerful, more resourceful, more wise, more knowledgeable etc, king or lord.

Just to remind myself that God is the best helps me to see God as he truly is, to give wider perspective to my view of Him. Let’s just look at a few of the names and attributes of God and see how this widens our view of God.

  1. Father. God is not just a Father, He is the Father. He is the best Father there ever was and ever will be. This means that there can never be anything lacking in his care for me as his child. It means that He truly will never let me down because it is against his  perfect nature to do so. In the spiritual sense I can never have a deprived childhood because I am a son or daughter of the best and perfect Father. He always knows best for me and is always good towards me. He never turns his face away, never leaves me.
  2. Friend of sinners. Again not just any old friend but the best friend. There can be no better friend. Even if I think I have no friends, I have the best friend in Jesus who always has my back, will always be there for me, always praying for me. I can be confident when I introduce people to Jesus that he really is the best friend they will ever have too. As I have meditated on this I have thought about how I can relate to God friend-to-friend. How I can share all of me with him and enjoy his company (presence) more. I can easily get locked into relating to God in the same way e.g as a child to a father but there is always more to experience of my relationship with him in all its different facets. How can I know Him more as my friend?
  3. Warrior (Jer. 20:11) The Lord is the greatest warrior. No one can conquer Him because He is all-powerful. He is invincible. He has destroyed the works of the enemy and taken captivity captive. He has defeated the last enemy – death. We have this warrior championing our cause. He is our shield and protector. There is no enemy that He cannot defeat.

In my last blog I said words were labels  for things and concepts but they can’t describe them fully. We use  words because we must but God can’t be contained by them.So often the words we use to describe God are limited and we struggle to put into words all that He is but I think it is worth having a go.

Jonathan Edwards the American preacher said this “There is an infinite fulness of all possible good in God, a fulness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness.”* He understood that God is the superlative of all superlatives.file_000-18

I encourage you to write a list of the names, attributes, and qualities of God and to think about what each of them means as a superlative. Then think about what that means for you. As you think about this I am sure that your understanding of God will increase and you will be inspired to worship Him more. Let me know how you get on.

 

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*Jonathan Edwards, Concerning the End for which God created the word. Dissertation published in 1765″ available on Kindle here

 

 

What’s in the box?

Learning to meditate on God’s word

As someone who majored in ancient languages at University I know that words are important. We use words everyday without consciously thinking about them. They are something we use to make communication easier. Words are actually labels for things or concepts. It may be helpful to imagine a box with a label on it. The label does not tell us everything that is inside the box but it does give us the basic idea.12360416_10153151277605800_711565324340775819_n For example it may say “DECORATIONS” but it won’t tell us that in the box there are baubles, tinsel, fairy lights and the first Christmas Star my son made when he started school.

Likewise if I say the word TABLE you will have a general idea about what I am talking about but you won’t know if it is large or small, has three legs or four, is a dining table or a coffee table. Do you get the idea?

Why are you telling me this, you may ask? It’s because we all use words to talk about God. We read words in the Bible about God and we use theological words such as salvation, righteous, atonement etc. Words can be in such common usage that we feel we know what they mean but aren’t actually able to articulate that meaning. Over-familiarity with them can actually hide meaning from us and we can miss out on the richness of truth and how it applies to us.

We can unearth those riches by meditating on the word of God. This is not something many value in the 21st Century but it has been part of Christian worship and tradition over millennia. Today we like the sound bite, the daily bible verse text, the thought for today – anything that is easy and accessible. I would like to suggest to you that meditation is as easy as just thinking about the words in a bit more depth.

So where do I start? Take any verse or passage of the Bible preferably one that is part of your regular reading and ask God to speak to you. Read it through slowly.  Look up the dictionary definition of any word that you can’t define yourself or any familiar word that you are drawn to. Ask yourself  what does it mean? What does it mean to you? Write out your own version of the verse in your own words. Spend a few moments thinking about the meaning of the individual words and and of the verse as a whole. Use your imagination to visualise the meaning, for example if you are thinking about the LOVE of God you could imagine yourself with Him and what it would be like to be with the one who loves you the best. hands-1373363_1280What is God saying to you?Note down any particular thoughts or feelings you have about the verse in a journal/notebook. Ask yourself what is the application? Note down any other verses you can remember that are relevant.Read it again drawing on all the new insights you have gained.

This whole process can take just a few minutes but it is so much more enriching than skimming over verses in an effort to get through a particular chunk of scripture. When we read the Bible we are looking for meaning and for God to speak to us not just going through the motions of “reading the Bible”.

Here is an example of my meditation on the phrase “ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2a)

  1. (Read it yourself slowly)
  2. What do the words mean? Conformed – to behave according to the usual standards of behaviour that are expected by a group or society (here – the world). Transformed – to change completely the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved . Renewal – Make new, to increase the life of or replace something old.
  3. What does it mean? Don’t meet the expectations of the world by behaving as they do even though that’s what is expected. No be completely different. How? By replacing the old way of thinking and replacing it with the new (the truth).
  4. Visualise (I’ve cheated a bit here because I know the Greek word! ) The Greek verb used for transform here  is μεταμορφομαι  (metamorphomai) – it’s where we get our word metamorphosis from. Imagine a caterpillar, how it just lives to eat and eat. caterpillar-562104_1280Then it spins a cocoon and after a while it emerges – TRANSFORMED into a butterfly. How did it do that. By feeding itself. I imagine myself feeding on the word of God and being transformed into someone no longer squeezed into the world’s mold but living free by the grace of God. Free to be the person God made me to be. Free from the constraints of peer pressure and worldly values.
  5. Notes/Application a)I so often wish I could change but don’t know how to. This verse teaches me that I can be transformed by reading and feeding on God’s word so that my thinking is renewed. As my thinking is changed so change in behaviour follows. God has provided his word to me as a means of growth and change. b)It is a command – be transformed. This is something I can do for myself.
  6. Other verses Ps 119:15-16, Matt.4:4, Col. 3:16, Heb 4:12

(There is more application in the second part of this verse – you may like to think about it yourself.)

As you learn to meditate on each verse you will find that you will more easily memorise scripture, you will build up your own commentary in your journal which we will be a source of encouragement to you as you reread it and you will know  God, your Father, more. You will be studying the Bible and it may lead you to more in depth study. You might even venture into a commentary to see what others have said!

Why not have a go and post what you learn in the comments?

 

Not a words person? Are you more visual? Then you might like Bible Journaling using art – my friends have an excellent blog here.

Photo Credits

Star: This is my own photo – please do not use without permission

Other images:  pixabay

 

 

A work in progress

I am not yet what I one day will become

Are you like me? Do you get impatient with yourself? rage-1015611_1920Wishing that you could change aspects of your character, frustrated with recurring failings. I am not someone who is always down on myself but there are things about me which I wish I could change and just don’t seem able to. Even after years of being a Christian I find myself still battling with the some of same stuff that I did when I was first saved.

I was in a meeting this week when someone read aloud the following C. S. Lewis quote. It was one of those moments when a truth hits you between the eyes.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship”*

You see we are not yet what we one day will become.  I think that is worth saying again. We are not yet what we one day will become.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as He is.” (I John 3:2).

This is what C S Lewis was getting at . One day we will be like Jesus! The theological term for it is glorification. We are being glorified! That sounds strange doesn’t it? Surely it’s God who is glorified.. Well yes but the Bible is very clear that we too will be glorified.

What does that even mean? We were created in the image of God. In fact  we are “partakers (sharers)  in the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). That image of God in us has been spoiled by sin but our glorification means that it  will be fully restored. That is why we will be like Him.

Isn’t this all a bit like pie in the sky stuff? No! This bit of theology gives me hope for today when I feel I am failing. God is at work in me. I won’t always be as I am now. I will change.

star-1553671_1280We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[b] For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

There’s that word again – transformed, we are being metamorphosed from something  dull and uninteresting (in CS Lewis words) to something Godlike. That is quite something to get my head around! It is a transcendent truth.

It also gives me hope for  tomorrow – one day I will not only be like Him but I will also see Him! I find I can get so caught up in the minutiae of my life that I forget to think about Heaven. I forget that this life is like the blink of an eye, it is transient, but Heaven is eternal.work-in-progress-24027_1280“Be patient with me, God’s not finished with me yet” is such a clichéd expression but maybe we should address it to ourselves. When we want to take back the words we didn’t mean, when we give other drivers “the look”, when we are over-sensitive to what others say or do, when we do that same old thing again. It is not ok to sin but we can cut ourselves some slack knowing that we can’t transform ourselves.It is God who does that and when he does, it is not by tiny unnoticeable increments. No He takes us as we are and is making  us like Him. How amazing is that?

* CS Lewis “The Weight of Glory”

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I am not yet …  created using wordswag
Other photos pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once, twice and three times blessed

This benediction is wonderful! I want to live in the good of it everyday.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)

This is Paul’s way of ending his second letter to the Corinthians. The words are familiar because many of us would have recited them at school or as part of our church liturgy. They are often used by the minister or priest at the end of the service as a benediction (blessing).

I have been thinking about the three elements of this blessing and how vital they are to us in our everyday lives.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of those phrases that encompasses so much. It is like a Tardis which you enter and find is so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. It is by grace that we are saved (Eph. 2:5). The word grace is used to explain all that Jesus has done for us at great cost to Him and none to us.  We become Christians through grace  but more than that we carry on living in that grace.

Grace means that I don’t have to strive to earn God’s favour because Jesus has already done that for me. This is why I need this blessing, not just in the past as a once and for all entry into God’s kingdom, but daily so that I don’t slip into working to earn my salvation. I can so easily fall into following rules – I have to do x, y or z to be acceptable or to be a good Christian (whatever that means). A daily reminder of the Grace of the Lord Jesus is a daily preventative against legalism and following a different gospel.

 

file_000-13It’s so hard to communicate in words just how wonderful grace is – I don’t and never could deserve it but IT’S MINE! Nothing can take it away from me. Jesus has died for me and because of that I am now clean and righteous in God’s eyes. WOW! Just meditating on grace fills me with wonder and thankfulness. I could NEVER achieve this for myself yet it has been given to me as a free gift. Even as I am writing this I feel joy rising in my heart. (You see meditation is not dull!)

There is not only grace for today but for tomorrow too. I am confident that all that God has already done for me will continue because it’s not about me but about Him. That is such a good thing! We get so easily ensnared by the thought that we can do something to earn our salvation. That is the gospel of me. Trust me, no one would want to rely on me for  their salvation. The good news is that we don’t have to because it is truly all about Jesus, our Wonderful Saviour. That is why I can trust that grace will still be there for me tomorrow because Jesus is the same, yesterday and tomorrow. He will not change, He will not leave me, He will always be faithful to me. Are you getting excited? This is such wonderful news and it is truly freeing. I love these lines from the song

In Him we have redemption
Through His blood through His blood
In Him we are forgiven
According to the riches of His grace
Which He freely lavish’d on us
Freely lavish’d on us
And bestow’d on us in the beloved*

Those are juicy, fat words – riches, freely, lavished – and all for us to enjoy deeply and fully everyday. You have riches not given begrudgingly but freely and not just a small amount, they are lavished on you!

If that is not enough, there is also The Love of GodI am loved by God. Little old me, warts and all. Despite my failings, my sin and all my shortcomings, God loves me! True God loves the whole world but he also loves the individual. file_000-12Parables show us that God is interested in the individual, he had 99 sheep but one was missing. What did He do? Did He say 99 will do? No he went after the one lost sheep. We are individually important to Him. He is a Father who welcomes home the lost and the Prodigal because He loves us.

Paul prays for us that we may be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17b) . Plants draw sustenance from their roots. Their roots anchor them. This is what God’s love is like  for us, it  sustains us every day, whether things are going well or not God always loves us. His love gives us security. Psalm 3 says that God is the lifter of our heads. We can lift our heads every day because we are loved by God with an everlasting love.

Finally there is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I can personally enjoy the presence of and communion with the Holy Spirit. The same Greek word koinonia is used to describe the fellowship of the believers and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The root of the Greek word is to something shared in common; the disciples shared life together, they shared what they had with one another. So too we can share our lives with the Holy Spirit. This is what fellowship is about – sharing ourselves, our days, our hopes, our dreams, our disappointments and His thoughts, direction, vision, comfort etc.file_002

The Holy Spirit was sent to be a helper to us. One who would be with us after Jesus had ascended to the Father. The Holy Spirit now shares His power with me as He fills me with His Spirit, He gives me boldness to speak, he gives me gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, and prophecy and he reveals the Father to me. What a gift He is to us! I can fellowship with Him whenever I want.

This benediction is wonderful,  I want to live in the good of it everyday and I pray that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Christine

 

 

*Song: In Him We Have Redemption by David Fellingham, Copyright© 1984 Thankyou Music
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Hearts created using wordswag

 

 

 

Do you have a good diet?

Food and water are the essential elements of a diet. It’s just the same in the spiritual realm, we need the food of the word of God and the water of the Holy Spirit everyday.

A month or so ago I reached my target weight loss of 2.5 stones (35 lb). In order to achieve this I changed my daily diet. I ate less of some foods and more of others. I frequently had to say “No” to foods offered to me at social occasions. Each week at our church breakfast I would look longingly at the cinnamon whirls and know that they were not for me if I was ever to keep losing weight. Now that I have reached my target I still need to make choices in order to maintain what I have achieved.

It was for health reasons that I decided to tackle my weight.  I did not want to jeopardise my health  by constantly being overweight. For me it meant joining a weight loss group because I know that I do best with the accountability this brings.Even after reaching my target weight I am still going to the group because it helps me to stay on track.

This week I was in a  meeting where we were asked “Where are you getting fed?”. This started me thinking about my attitude to my spiritual diet. Am I giving it the same attention as my physical diet? Our spiritual health is more important than our physical health but do we give it the same attention? If we are physically sick we normally go  to the doctor but if our spiritual health isn’t so good what do we do?

Often I think, we ignore our spiritual diet or put off doing something about it until we have more time. Adopting a better physical diet is all about making good choices every day and saying “No” to things that will hinder our progress; the same is true of our spiritual diet if we put this off we don’t make any change at all.

Food and water are the essential elements of a diet. It’s just the same in the spiritual realm, we need the food of the word of God and the water of the Holy Spirit everyday. I know that for many of us time is a key issue. We feel we don’t have enough time or we can’t find the right time and we settle for something that is hit and miss, or have a feast every once in a while.

Perhaps this is because we don’t have a target or goal in mind so there is no sense of aiming for something.

Recently I read Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Befophoto-1422919869950-5fdedb27cde8.jpgre about creating good habits and breaking bad habits. One of the so-called manifesto statements of the book is “What we do everyday matters more than what we do once in a while”
You see what we do everyday dictates the course and quality of our life. If I choose to eat doughnuts every day and salad once a quarter, which is going to affect my health more?

Spiritually there are things I need to eat more of, things I need to eat less of and things to say NO to if I am to have a good diet.The most important change that I can make is to feed on God’s word everyday. Of course grace means that I am not obliged to do this but grace also means that I am free to make good choices for my life.

There is so much to be gained from reading God’s word; it strengthens us, renews us and transforms us but so much more than that we get to know God our Father and to fellowship with Him in it. As we read His word and talk to him about it we develop our relationship with Him. We begin to understand His ways, who He is and what He is like. It feeds us and we grow in our faith (faith comes by hearing the word of God Rom.10:17)

We cannot survive without water.  In the Bible water is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled with Holy Spirit every day. “Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)” is a command – there is action to take – it is not automatic. I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me everyday because I need to receive life-giving water from Him. In the Old Testament there are many  pictures of deserts becoming  places of life, or  blossoming like roses.hills-960126_1280 That is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, as we receive His life-giving water we flourish, our dry and thirsty souls are replenished and we bear fruit.

Then there are things I need to eat less of –  things that are not good for me. What are those things for you? Is it too much TV, social media, video games, Netflix, crime novels, etc.These things aren’t bad in and of themselves but just like cream cakes they don’t make for a good diet. If the things that I do everyday are significant then I don’t want to fill my time with these.

Finally there are things that I need to say “NO” to. There are things that hinder my progress and I need to choose to say No to them. What do I do rather than read my Bible? What is that thing that entices me away and distracts me? For me  this can be something completely innocuous, just something that I feel I have to do first, and then there is something else and so on …. The answer is to say “No” and do it later.

One of the results of losing weight is that I feel so much better about myself. I knew I should have been doing something about it and I just couldn’t, but once I took control of myself and began to feel the benefit I began to positively enjoy my new regime. We can feel that we are failing or not good enough if we are not enjoying spending time in God’s word. We know we should but somehow we just never get around it. Once we begin to make changes, however, we begin to enjoy the benefits. We begin to look forward to our times in the word and in God’s presence. There is absolutely nothing like spending time with our Father.

Let me encourage you to make it your goal to feed on the word of God and to fellowship with the Holy Spirit everyday.

Do you have a good diet?

 

Photo credits:
Cakes & doughnuts Unsplash
Desert flowers Pixabay