Hearers Only

People who talk incessantly, yet never act are some of the most frustrating people on the planet. They seem to promise so much – up to date with everything, yet it makes little difference to their lives. Not just in a personal sense, but within their organisations and families and every other sphere of their lives.

And I was very recently in conversation, and I discovered something new about these sorts of people. Where there is a culture of such inaction, the next generation suffers. People become fed up of discussions that lead nowhere, and lectures that build expectations only to see them flounder without development. And the next generation inherits the mess – people who are unwilling to entertain new ideas and discuss different approaches.

And here I am, a young man desiring beyond desire to try something fresh, and yet people seem scundered with even just the discussion.

Christ have mercy upon me, for all the times I have been a hearer only. I did not know the implications for the generations to follow.

Busy

What is my life?  A speck upon this earth!  A grand non-event that will drift by and be forgotten!  And yet I am so consumed by the distractions and continual stuff of life that I find myself busy!  Too busy even to remember my Creator in the days of my youth?

How true is the preacher’s words: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 12:4)

How do I need to be reminded of the Truth!  How I need to look to the Father every day of my life – to seek His strength and guidance for every day of my life; but more than that: to look ahead to my inevitable finiteness, and to live in the light of a short and unpredictable lifespan!

How do I need to put away those things that are meaningless sources of busyness; and how I need to spend my life in the incredible privilege of prayer – being in connection with the Almighty God through His indwelling Spirit who will give me every necessary resource for my days of service here below.  How can I squander the opportunity that I have to spend my life for Jesus Christ, my King, who will reign forever!

Words

I blog; infrequently, but nevertheless!  Therefore, I obviously believe in the power of words.  If I did not, why on earth would publish my ignorance for all the world to see?

Words are incredibly powerful; with them we proclaim love and hate, we build up and tear down, we create worlds and demolish arguments.  And yet we live in a world that is full of brokenness.  Sometimes we can be blinded to the brokenness because we live in a society that is “more progressive”.  But we need only look at the words to see the utter ruin of our society.  We hear the lies and deception, the broken promises and shattered oaths, the gossip and malicious words, the vileness and innuendo.  We live in a broken world.

But there are still words spoken into our brokenness and sin that come from another world.  There are words of life being proclaimed into the darkness and misery of our society.  The gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is still being heralded forth!  The wisdom of God still cries out in the marketplace.  The promises of God are yet reiterated!

We may be faithless, but God is faithful!  We may be broken, but He heals.  We may stumble and fall, but all His ways are holy and pure, and He will not give up on us.  And He enables us to hold fast, and more than that – to hold out to others the very same words of life that He has spoken to us, and to invite others to come to Him and to find healing in Him.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10.19-23

Grind

Life has gotten busy.  And yet there are free hours – plenty of opportunities to do more!  Yet I don’t.  Is this laziness, apathy, carelessness or folly?  Perhaps – certainly there are elements of those.  But more than this: it’s simply being tired.  Routines haven’t been formed, patterns have been interrupted.  And my mind is just tired!

I think this is what people must be referring to when they talk about the daily grind.  And yet I’m loving what I do, and I’m not complaining!  And again the quote comes to me: “Don’t question in the dark what God showed you in the light.” – V. Raymond Edman

And so I joyfully continue!  God has been very gracious to me these past couple of weeks, and I have so much to be thankful for!  I refuse to be downhearted – how can I be with God so evidently for me?  I refuse to be defeatist, if I were I would deny the power of God in my life!  I refuse to give in to the lies of the world, the deceptions of Satan or the sheer idiocy of the flesh – I will fight with all of Christ’s strength in me.  And in this struggle, as paradoxical as it may seem, I know I will have true peace.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Philippians 3:7-16 (emphasis added)

Known

There is a world of variation in knowledge.  We use the same word to express some very different concepts!  We sometimes try to distinguish between knowing about/of someone and knowing them personally.  6 months I could have said that I knew my girlfriend, but when I now speak of knowing her I mean something far deeper.

And our constraints of language often allow us to misunderstand not only depth of knowledge but also disposition towards a person.  I have (too often) said “yes, I know Mr(s) X.”  with an undertone of regret and a deep desire to change the topic of conversation.

All this means that we must be careful when we think & speak about God’s knowledge.  For some, God knowing them is an intensely uncomfortable idea; a breach of personal boundaries and a source of guilt.  For others, God knowing them is a distant & impersonal concept;  He knows one as an employer knows the skills & CVs of his workers (just give him a minute to refresh his memory by reading your file…).

But as I was drawn to Psalm 139, I was again reminded about the truth:  God knows me, not partially but intimately and completely!  He is (a long-dead saint has penned) nearer than my very soul.  And that is a fearful thought, because I’m a wretched man whose ways are unholy!  He knows every unclean thought.  Every muttered word.  Every secret act.  I ought to run from such knowledge!

But I cannot; He has constrained my heart & captured my affections!  He has pursued me & initiated a kindly siege for me!

He loved me before my conception; and formed my body within the womb.  He knows every sinful act, word & thought (a great sum already accumulated over my life; and I’m sadly sure many yet to come!).  But He loves me.  Knowing me utterly – an ingrate, a rebel, unlovely & without beauty – He gave His Son, who gladly came & died, to adopt me; He has poured out His grace upon me; and He will keep me to the end.

I am still learning to love Him as He deserves; and not until I see Jesus will I fully know Him (1 Cor 13.12).  But until then I am utterly secure in His knowing me & loving me – and I can only ask, do you know Him? He has revealed Himself to us through Jesus, and perhaps you need to find out more.

And if you do know Him – with whom are you sharing this incredible good news? We live in a world where loneliness is in epidemic proportions and where mental health seems terrifyingly fragile. And yet God is healing through His Word; and we as His representatives have the incredible privilege of showing people the way to Him.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139

Time to Go

Apologies for my delay this week – life has gotten very busy this past few days.  On top of that, I’ve been holding off on today’s post because I wanted to tell you all a little about what I’m doing with my life and some of this information is pretty fresh.

Today is a good day for me, and this post is a joyous one for me to write.  I have been asked to move to Northern Ireland to work with the Faith Mission.  This is no real surprise (I’ve been studying at their Bible College for the past three years), but it’s a significant step forward for me.  The Mission does mainly rural evangelism, so most of my time will be spend in series of outreach meetings, as well as the preparatory work for these series.

I move in less than a week, I’m excited to get stuck in (and a little apprehensive), and I would really value your prayers.  I am going to have the immense privilege of getting up each morning, knowing that my only purpose to the day is to somehow reach out to those around with the incredible gospel (the good news that Jesus Christ came to rescue humanity from their rebellion and evil).  But this is something that I cannot do – at least not in my own strength.  So I would love for you (if you know Jesus) to pray for me: to ask Him to use me as an instrument in His hand; to ask Him to keep me from burn out or procrastination; and to ask Him to bear fruit even in my life and in the lives of those around.

In all this I am sure that He has not called me to do this because of any qualities that I possessed – but purely because I had no qualities and so no-one will ever be able to say, “look at what Tim has done.”  In truth, if any good has came of my life – and if any good is to come of my ministry – it is God’s grace alone that has done it!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so near-sighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1

Waiting

Impatience is a virtue; patience is weakness – this is the world that we live in.  Everything is required now, asap, yesterday, or urgently.  The selling point of almost everything new is in it’s convenience; and to this idol we have sacrificed almost everything.  We are overcome by the tyranny of the urgent, and is it any wonder that we are weighted down by stress, worry, anxiety and depression?

I am in a time of waiting.  I have been for four weeks.  And in this short season I have seen something of the measure of myself – and it’s not something that I enjoy being confronted with.

I am not wise, or diligent, or prudent;  and this is easily hidden in busy schedules and bits of work.  But come the waiting period, with no boss and no deadline.  And suddenly all can be revealed.  Nor am I God – I not sovereign, even in my own life and affairs!  I am subject to circumstances.  My plans are able to be disrupted and destroyed.  I am not omnipotent (all powerful).

And yet, there is a God who is.  He is bringing this time of waiting to an end – a new chapter of my life is about to begin.  There is a new sentence to come after the full stop.  So I’m going to take a deep breath, enjoy the pause, and prepare myself to walk into the next portion of my life.

“I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
Your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told!

Psalm 40

Wisdom

Every man, woman and child (in the developed world) has access to more information and knowledge than ever before.  Yet folly is held high in every aspect of our culture.  We have strove after philosophy, but there is no wisdom in it.  Ecclesiastes has been proven true through the Enlightenment and all the progress of the twentieth century.  Everything is vanity, a chasing after wind.

When we find wisdom we do not see it in the textbooks, nor in the lectures, of our Universities.  No, we read it in the Bible.  We hear it in churches around the country (not all, but many).  We see it lived out in the lives of those who love Jesus and who follow Him.

Wisdom is berated by the knowledgeable.  It is scorned among the wealthy.  It is mocked by the entertainers of our day.  But ever it has been the same.  Yet what does the knowledgeable gain for all their knowledge, or the wealthy for all their wealth?  Does one of them add a day to their life?  Can any of them stretch out their years?

What of the celebrities of yesteryear who made their names in mockery and derision?  They are dust, swept away by the passing years and heard no more.

Yet the Word of the Lord, He is eternal.  The wisdom of God still cries out, it still offers life to any who would turn from their madness and folly.

It cries aloud:  “Come.”

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.

Isaiah 55

What is your life built upon?  Wisdom, or something else?

Folly

Wisdom is a rare thing; it is endangered – having been hounded from our culture & hunted to the brink of extinction.

We have made idols to knowledge & data: we spend our youth being filled with information – and we sacrifice our young to learn more.

But we are fools.  We long for information but reject wisdom! We search diligently for data; but we ignore & drive away the wisdom that is near to us.  We are educated & erudite, our rhetoric is powerful and our debating is impressive.

But folly is ours, not wisdom.  Perhaps you wonder what right I have to weigh society & declare it wanting. Perhaps you are offended that I have slighted your character.  I can offer neither apology nor credibility.

But I can offer the cure.  Not my own wisdom or intelligence; and not some dead man’s vain advice;  No!

Wisdom donned human flesh and walked the earth.  He lived a perfect life, wisdom personified.  He taught what is right and what is good.  But instead of honouring Him, we killed Him.  And yet He lives.  We could not silence wisdom!  For He came back from death, and is alive forevermore.

Wisdom is a person: Jesus Christ.  So now the choice is ours:  Do we accept Him, and become wise?  Or do we reject Him, and remain fools?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10)