Category Archives: gospel

Good news

When all is said and done,

We spoiled it,

But He made it all okay again.

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Step into the Light

When does one actually step into the light?

I mean, its not like I hadn’t already realised that becoming a Christian was a process and especially in Western Europe where most people are now growing up in secularism.  Even my own ‘conversion’ feels less like an experience than a growing into – and that is in the Northern Irish Evangelical context where sinner’s prayers are flung left right and centre.

So for example, a guy starts coming along to bible study – he buys a bible and excitedly shares that every time he picks it up he learns something new.  He explains how he’s started praying every night before going to sleep.  During the group he prays out loud to thank God for drawing him closer to knowing Him and asks Him to help in the path.

Alongside this, he talks about not really believing in eternal life.  Or he claims to have bought a book about angels as well as having bought a bible.

I guess ultimately I believe that only God really knows whether there’s a specific moment in someone’s life where they enter ‘the light’.  But also that (she typed, thinking ‘out loud’), perhaps starting to walk in the light is less a lightswitch (as the Calvinists might claim?) and more a chosen direction.  So, if I turn away from my own way and start walking towards God, then I’m walking in the direction of the Light and the path is therefore lit, whereas before I was walking away from the light and was therefore in darkness, you know?

So this friend of mine seems to be walking in the direction of the Light and that’s exciting.  He could change his mind at some point and dander off the other way, as could I.

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It’ll be all right in the end

It could be the wine, but, you know what?  I think everything is going to be okay.

(I’m not going to admit how many times I had to use the ‘delete’ button for that sentence… yowzers – time for some coffee…)

Seriously, though.  I think it might turn out all right.

A while ago I wrote about a tiny miracle as to how I found this apartment and here I am on the balcony (LOGGIA actually, but more about that in a minute.), looking out on a storm that’s been brewing for several hours :

I’ve cosied up with wine, salad, cheese, my journal and Eva Cassidy and now I’m on the chocolate and coffee.  I’ve been listing reasons I’m thankful – a much better pursuit than the intended rant and self-pity sesh.  And here’s why I think it might all just be okay…

God knows better than I do what the desires of my heart are.

It was the small fact that the apartment I accidentally ended up renting has a loggia rather than a balcony that excited this epiphany.  I had spent some time expostulating about how I’d REALLY like an apartment with a balcony, please, Lord.  And I thought he’d found me one.  But no.  He found me one with a Loggia.

You see a balcony, according to Wiki, is “a platform projecting from the wall of a building, supported by columns or console brackets, and enclosed with a balustrade.” and therefore might look like this :

Whereas a loggia, according to Wiki, is “mostly described as a recessed portico, or an internal room, with pierced walls and open to the elements.” and might, for example, look something like this :

The crucial difference being that is has a roof and sides.  Therefore I can sit quite comfortably with my Mac and coffee while the rain pours down outside.  Now, who’d have thought to pray for that???

“Now to Him who is able to do more than we ask or imagine…to Him be glory…!”

I figure that if God cares about that, then he might care about the other stuff I care about and have asked him for.  He seems to know more about what I really want than I do, so I reckon it all might just be ok.

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Filed under beauty, France/French, God, gospel, happiness is

Apology

Four friends in a prayer square – all linked in different capacities and depths, but linked all the same.  One trusted the others because of the others.

They were beautiful, these four girls – beautiful with a vulnerability that came and went as they struggled with fear, inadequacy, guilt, desire…  Thoughts and feelings both expected and unexpected in women.  Beautiful with a depth of honesty not many shared and they shared with few others.  Beautiful.

And I was one of them.  Valued and loved, heard and known, seen and unseen.  I don’t think its arrogance to say we were beautiful – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I hold them in my ‘I’.

Its been a while since these four met – or at least since this one met with those three.  Much has happened, continues to happen, while I – removed from them – have happenings of my own that wrap me up in myself.  Not so pretty.

Guilt and I are not friends – I will not have coffee with him, nor will I lie with him, not even hold hands.  Though sometimes we bump into each other – a fleeting glance that makes me sad.  Sorrowful until I remember my true friend Forgiveness, also known as Love, Truth, Jesus.

Forgive me, friends, for what I have left unknown, unacknowledged, unheard, unmet, unheld…and come, there are many days to tell, much dreaming to do, old demons to face and new life to meet.

(December 2008)

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Was it meant to be dynamite?

I’ve heard a lot of Christian talks in my lifetime.  It seems that in a fair number of those talks, the idea that the bible and that the gospel are explosive (or could be so) featured so heavily as to have been engrained in my head.

I’m just wondering… Is the bible meant to be ‘dynamite’?  Is the gospel?

Its just… well, when I think about it, the idea of the bible of the gospel exploding in a great big BANG doesn’t seem to fit.  There is something slow and steady about scripture, something growing, something expanding.  Like sunrise or sunset – where you can’t quite tell the moment where they begin and end.

The whole smell of the Jewish culture in the Old Testament, the simplicity with which churches met and began to grow in the New Testament… Yes, there are moments of great drama and ‘explosion’, but is it not mostly the simple bread and wine of daily life under a new King?

We are exhorted and exhort people with the message that the power of scripture and the gospel are incredible.  Which of course is true.  But do we do more harm than good when we light a fire under people and tell ’em to go and use dynamite to change the world?

Dynamite is powerful and impressive – you certainly can’t go hiding your dynamite under a bushel.  Dynamite is effective, speedy and the results are immediately discernible – not just by the one who lit the fuse.

So what happens when our use of the ‘dynamite’ is more of a fizzle than a bang?  What happens when our use of the ‘dynamite’ brings no visible results and certainly not speedily or even effectively?  What does it say about our lives when they are… frankly… normal?  No wham-bam-pizazz here.

Too many times people (especially young people) are being told to go and shine, go and change the world, go and… blow up the bastards!!!

That may be paraphrasing a little.

What does that mean for the kid who is shy?  What does that mean for mother of two small children who barely sees the outside world never mind have time to light a fuse?  What effect does that have on the capable, dynamic young person who has grown up in a quiet country church with very few outlets for ministry?  What does that look like for a new church-plant in secularist Western Europe whose members are not yet on spiritual meat?

Running around talking about chucking dynamite seems like it could leave people feeling useless, stressed, arrogant and dissatisfied…

It seems to me (tonight as I think ‘out loud’ onto this blog) that everything about the way Jesus came was on the small-scale.  A town no-one wanted to go to, a young girl no-one would know of, a birthplace less than immaculate… A carpenter from a town no-one thought of, from a people who’d been crushed and despised for centuries, hanging around with a bunch of nobodies…  New life coming to prostitutes, tax collectors, undesirables.  A criminal’s death.  Angels witnessing to ‘little women’, powerful preaching from unschooled fishermen, centres of learning for tradesmen and non-scholars …

Yes, all of it had an incredibly life-changing, profound effect on the cosmos but yet happened in such ‘ordinary’ circumstances

If we’re talking about ways to ‘get people’ with the gospel, dynamite is a pretty messy way to do it – I’d think its much more along the lines of putting the frog in the cold water and heating him up…!

How would it affect us if we thought of what the church is doing as a heating up rather than a blowing up?

We’d be less concerned with being impressive.  Fewer ‘slick’ youth programs and polished worship bands, more real relationships and genuine engagement with truth.  Depth rather than height.

We’d be less concerned with efficiency.  Fewer 12 step-plans to greater holiness, more stickability when the going gets so tough it seems to be going nowhere.   Faithfulness rather than results.

We’d be less concerned with seeing results, fast.  Fewer unrealistic expectations of what it takes to know God, more actual living with and knowing God. Endurance rather than ‘success’.

The power at hand is indeed incredible, but does that mean we wrap it up in red, light a fuse and stand back to watch the explosion?

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Rambling (but not so random) reflections on the way things might be

Darkness is the absence of light.  Evil is the absence of good – or rather of God.

In giving his creatures love, creator God gave his creatures the choice of not-love.  In plucking that fruit from that tree, the creatures sought Me-ness which is, indeed, not-love.  In the way that love is light, not-love is the absence of that light and in the way that love leads to light, to the Light, not-love leads to darkness, to not-light.

Where there is light, there is no room for darkness; where there is love, there can ultimately be no not-love.

Creator God promises to one day reveal the fullness of Light to those who choose Love.  Not only will those who chose not-love not be able to support that Light, neither will that light be able to support its darkness – there will simply be no room.  Darkness is nothingness, light is fullness.  Where there is fullness there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.

For those who live in Love, who live in Light, they will no longer know not-love or not-light.  Where there is fullness, there can be no nothingness, no not-fullness.  If not-love and not-light are allowed entry, there is not fullness – Love and Light are not full.

One day not-love, not-light and not-fullness will be put away and Love and Light will reign in all His fullness.  And we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

(Oh yeah, oh yeaaahhh)

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The theatre of dreams

Everything in me wants church to be perfect.

Now, I don’t mean that I want church to perfectly reflect Jesus (although I don’t mean that I don’t mean that) – I mean I want a church service to run perfectly.  For me its one of those things that has both good points and bad points.

I feel quite strongly that when we ‘do’ a church service – worship, prayer,sermon, communion… – we are creating something, if you will.  We are acting and enacting the beauty of the gospel – a sort of drama ‘in the round’ into which we invite people to participate and go away changed.  For that, then, it is important, essential even, that there is a certain ‘slick’ to what is done in order that people can enter into the story without being distracted by clumsy direction or drunken players (metaphorically speaking!).

The danger is that it all becomes something like this…

Nice, huh??

When I studied theatre at University (ha ha – that sounds great, doesn’t it?  It was 2 modules out of 18!) I discovered the term ‘suspension of disbelief‘ which is a principle that the audience in the theatre will willingly overlook the limits of the medium in order to enjoy and follow the show.  For example – the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet – Juliet’s balcony is at best made out of wood or fibreglass and is just one wall rather than a whole building; those realities would somewhat spoil the romance of the scene.  Or the final scene in ‘Juno and the Paycock‘ where Johnny get shot – they are not likely to actually shoot the actor nor even have real guns on stage – but if someone were to point that out, the tragedy would be somewhat compromised.  See?

But in church, we’re not suspending disbelief, we’re engaging belief, we’re enacting belief, we’re revelling in what we believe.  Part of what we believe is that we are NOT perfect and that is why the gospel is good – because it is God who is working in us to will and to act according to his good purpose (Phil 2:13b).  It is for this reason then, that church cannot and should not be “perfect” and in fact, if there is no room for us in our human imperfection, there is no room for the gospel and no room for God and therefore is not church at all, but rather just a play.

What do we do then?  How do we console those who cringe at lengthy, garbled announcements?  How do we heal those who go mad at out of tune music or non-responsive singing?  How do we encourage those who would rather send their friends who are curious about church to the bigger, slicker ‘cooler’ church in the city?

Speaking of wanting to invite friends who are interested in church to our own church…  What is our obsession with wanting ‘church’ to be cool?  Let’s be honest, the music could be perfect, the sermon spot-on in terms of relevant, the people might even be the most welcoming people on earth but the essence of what church is is just weird!  We can’t hide it!  We’re completely counter-cultural – in a good way to us if we’re reflecting Jesus at all, but probably just plain weird to your average Joe on the street.  How do we know that the very flaws in our church won’t be the very thing God uses to open our friends heart to Him?!

A question : How do we best honour God in re-enacting his story through church without pushing him out of it?

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