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.

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“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

The Marvelous in the Mundane

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it?

As I  was walking to work this week There was a thick white frost and a dense fog hanging over the landscape. It was so beautiful that I began to thank God for it, thanking Him for the beauty he had created that morning. Of course it wasn’t just for me but I enjoyed it all the same and stopped to take the photos used in this blog.

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it? I know I do.

God has already been incredibly merciful to us. He sent His son to die in our place so that we could walk free from sin. He adopted us into his family to become joint heirs with His son Jesus, so all that is His – is mine – including the love of the Father. I’ve come home to a place of rest where I am known and loved. I have been given all this freely. What new mercies can there possibly be?

Some blessings are so everyday that  we  take them for granted. They are so much part of our lives that we don’t even think about them.

First of all, there is life itself. Every breath we take is a mercy of God. Since recovering from cancer I am much more aware of how precious life is than I was before. Our lives are a gift from God for us to experience His blessings. God knitted us together in our mother’s womb, he gave us life and he has numbered our days. Each one is a gift from God. Each day is full of potential for experiencing the blessing of God, for living the adventure of faith and serving Him. Sometimes I think we miss the marvelous in the midst of the mundane. We do the same things in the same way not stopping to see what the Father is doing in and through the small things that shape our lives.

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We have been placed within God’s wonderful creation. Everyday we can enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Each morning as I walk to work I have been taking photos, many in the same places and of the same trees.File_000 (22).jpeg It has meant that I have taken time to notice all the changes taking place as the seasons come and go. If we take the time to notice we can find the wonder in the smallest flower and thank God for the incredible diversity in His creation which is for us to enjoy.

Ps 103:2 encourages us to “forget not all his benefits” It’s really good to take a little time to think not just about the big things that God has done but for the everyday mercies and blessings that come our way.

In one of the VeggieTales movies Madame Blueberry sings a song called “The Thankfulness Song”. which includes the line “a grateful heart is a happy heart”.Our boys used to watch this when they were small and I always remember that phrase. Being grateful leads to happiness. When we remember all that God has done and is doing for us it lifts our hearts.

What new mercies are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

 

Living under a shadow

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow.

As many;  of you know I was diagnosed and treated for Breast Cancer a couple of years ago. I now have annual checks to make sure that the cancer has not returned. For most of last year I didn’t give much thought to it but as December arrived I was conscious that I was anticipating the mammogram I would be having in January. It was most definitely on the radar!

In early January I had the routine scan and then the wait for results began.I had no reason to fear; my oncologist had told me that he didn’t expect to see me again  but I can tell you that I was looking to see if that letter was in the post everyday. When it came, it was good news.

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow. I have spoken to others who have had a cancer diagnosis and they all say that you are never the same once you have had cancer, it changes you – because you can’t go back to how it was before.

I suppose my nameless shadow was fear. The thing about fear is that it is irrational, you can’t reason yourself out of it. There is no reason why I should be  more fearful when I have tests  or less fearful when I haven’t – it doesn’t make sense. That’s just the point. Fear doesn’t make sense. It is a slippery thing.

I am sure there are many things that come into our lives that change us forever, things that are painful or difficult,  or leave us with a kind of shadow over us – it’s not just cancer. How do we all walk through it

I often recite to myself: “God loved me yesterday, He loves me today and He loves me tomorrow.” God does not change. Nothing will ever stop Him loving me. He will always be good towards me even when my circumstances are tough, He does not changeFile_000 (21).png

He is with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (see my blog here). He never leaves us or forsakes us. His perfect love helps us with our everyday fears.

We are not meant just to cope with difficult things; we are called to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us. That means that these truths are not just to help me cope with the fears surrounding cancer but I actually have the means to rise above it. It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever have cancer again but it does mean that I can live free from fear and the shadow. What does a more than conqueror look like? I think it is someone who although they experience fear, they take courage and press on and live lives to the full believing what their Father says about them. Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear. You can’t be courageous if there is nothing to fear. More than Conquerors are able to live through any difficulty and still experience joy. The promise is that Jesus strengthens us, we can’t do it ourselves but He will.

Just recently a friend of mine went to be with the Lord. She had been ill for several years and in pain for some time but she unfailingly had a smile on her face and she did not complain. She loved and served God with all her heart. She certainly was a More Than Conqueror.

I don’t always live like that, sometimes fear creeps up on me but it is where I am aiming for. I am going to lift my eyes to the hills where my help comes from, take courage in both hands and live the abundant life that my Father has promised me.

How about you? – I’d love to hear from you

 

Photo credits
Shadow landscape pixabay
Text created with wordswag

 

 

 

Hearts First

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy.

At the beginning of the year it is tempting to set goals, make plans and dive into the busyness of the new term (not that those are bad things). We tend to hit the ground running after the post-Christmas break as regular meetings start up again and new projects begin. This year as I was praying about our church’s two weeks of prayer which we hold every January I heard God speak two words to me, “Hearts first”.

Before we do anything God wants us to check our hearts. What kind of shape are they in? Are they filled up with the love of God?heartbeat-1892826_640

It is a reminder that first and foremost God, our Father, wants a relationship with us and what we do flows out of that. He created us in the first place for relationship as an expression of the outflow of love between the Trinity . He has always desired to have a people, to adopt us individually as sons and daughters into his family. We are now in Christ and enjoy the same love that the Father has for Jesus because we are “in Him”. It’s amazing! It’s overwhelming! It’s incredible!

In the story of the Prodigal Son the two sons both had a problem with understanding that their father loved them. The younger son felt guilty and unworthy of his father’s love and so he returned home to work as a servant or slave on his father’s estate. blue-1845901_640The older son thought that he earned the father’s love through working hard. Both could not be farther from the truth. The father was looking everyday for the return of the younger son because he loved him even though he had sinned. He was also alongside the older son everyday and all that He had was available to him because he was a dearly loved son.

Even if we’ve worked through these issues before it’s so easy to fall again into guilt and unworthiness, or performance. The new year is a great time for a personal inventory to ask ourselves do we really know that God loves us? or do we still know that God loves us? You see we will never give Him our hearts if we don’t understand this. We love because He first loved us.(1 John 4:19)

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy in our lives. It motivates us to love and serve others.

Before we launch off into the activity of a new year we need to be saturated with the love of God, to be captivated by him. It’s then that there is an overflow of love to others whether it’s in serving our churches, in evangelism, at work or wherever God has placed us. So before your life gets taken up with “doing” spend some time with your Father, receive His love for you and pour out your love to Him.

He wants our hearts in good condition – filled up with His love.

YOU ARE LOVED!

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Photo Credits
All images: pixabay

 

 

 

What If ……….?

At this time of year I like to review my prayer list, to see what answers to prayer there have been and those prayers that have not yet been answered.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

At this time of year I like to review my prayer list, to see what answers to prayer there have been and those prayers that have not yet been answered. I like to think about my Impossible List and to think about anything else I should add to it now that another year has passed.

Sometimes I don’t like the name Impossible List because, well, it just seems impossible and sounds impossible. I have just been reading a book where the chapter heading was What If? I was immediately captivated by the idea of a What If List? We all have dreams and ideas about what we would like God to do in us or what we would like to do for God, or what we would like God to do in our friends, workplace, city, nation, etc.

How about spending some time thinking and imagining what it would look like if God answered some of those items on your impossible list? For example I have been praying for members of my wider family to know Jesus for themselves and to move from being opposed to God and the gospel to loving God and enjoying the outworking of the gospel in their lives. If I ask myself What If they were saved? I can imagine them knowing the love of God in their lives, I can imagine them worshipping alongside me and praying with me. street-sign-141396_1280All of those things are absolutely impossible at the moment but I find if I use the What If method it lifts me out of praying the usual short prayer of” Lord please save them” to telling God all of my imaginings and asking God to make them reality. It makes praying for long-term requests exciting . If I have gone off the boil a bit in praying for particular things it re-energises my prayers.

During the Christmas season we had many events at our church which were absolutely packed with visitors. I have found myself imagining what it would be like if all those people who were crammed in waiting for concerts and carol services to begin and then rushing for seats were actually pressing in and rushing in to meet with God. What would that meeting look like?

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How would it affect our communities if hundreds were newly saved? How would it affect our city? I find myself thrilled with the prospect of this and I pour it out to God, telling him all about it and asking Him to bring it about.

Asking myself What If has really helped to lift my praying to another level. It has taken me from sometimes dull repetition of the same prayers to prayer times that are full of life.

In case you are wondering if this is Biblical, have a look at what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians

“Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!” (Eph. 3:20)

I like the Message version too:

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

God can do FAR more than we can imagine! 

What can you imagine? Start talking to God about it! He can do more than we can imagine.

Jesus said “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt.19:26)

What If ……………?

 

Photo Credits
Imagine  & Possible pixabay
Worshippers Unsplash

 

 

 

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.

 

All images created with wordswag
*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