Monday, May 27, 2013

CP 209 From a bloke called George Herbert

CP 209 From a bloke called George Herbert

This week, flicking through a book, (see the end) which I’m going to read fully in the next few weeks, I came across a couple of poems that caught my eye. Poems rarely excite me but this was visual… I couldn’t miss it. The two poems are by the same bloke, an Englishman called George Herbert. He died at 40 in 1633, just over 100 years after the beginning of the Reformation. During his shortish life European nations had been endlessly and brutally at war. The man was a passionate Pastor, and he knew what life was about.

Here’s the first poem:

I bless thee Lord because I grow
Among thy trees, which in a row
To thee both fruit and order ow.

What open force, or hidden charm
Can blast my fruit or bring me harm,
While the enclosure is thine arm?

Enclose me still for fear start.
But to me rather sharp and tart,
Then let me want thy hand and art.

When thou dost greater judgements spare,
And with thy knife but prune and pare,
Ev’n fruitful trees more fruitful are.

Such sharpness shows the sweetest friend,
Such cuttings rather heal than rend,
And such beginnings touch their end.

And here’s the second poem:

My words and thoughts do both express the notion,
That Life hath with the sun a double motion.
The first Is straight and our diurnal friend,
The other     Hid and doth obliquely bend.
One life is wrapt  In flesh and tends to earth,
The other winds toward Him whose happy birth
Taught me to live here so,  That still one eye
Should aim and shoot at that which Is on high:
Quitting with daily labour all             My pleasure,
To gain at harvest an eternal                  Treasure.

Here’s what authors Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe had to say about Herbert’s writings:

“To read Herbert is to gain a sense of how poetry can help us understand our life with God as journey. So often we expect our books to state their positions and then proceed clearly. Herbert’s work is different. It moves between the obvious and the subtle – which reflects the way our very life progresses. Through his erratic poetic style Herbert portrays for us the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the heart-stopping advances and crushing defeats of the spiritual life. (Page 68)

And here’s what Fred thinks:

As I said, I don’t get poetry much. However the way Herbert put his poems together did catch my eye and got me to read them. There is a lovely message there. If I’ve wasted your time today, well, sorry. If you like this sort of thing, well, good for you.

And all of you, be blessed in HIM!

Longing for God. Seven paths of Christian Devotion Intervarsity Press 2009

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CP 208 Why should I be surprised?

CP 208 Should I be surprised?

This CrossPurposes blog is a response to a request put to me by one of you three weeks ago.

“Can you please blog on people who really want to serve and love God but are constantly struggling with sin. Made worse by more trials as they get more and more into God and truth. How on earth do we deal with these things? It seems to be less hurt when looking away from the Lord. Are we defeated? What if one doesn’t overcome or is a withered branch?”

So what can a middle-aged pastor answer to a heart-cry like that? I’ll do my best.

Straight off, you don’t have to be surprised that you have become more aware of your sinful nature. Put it this way. Scripture says that the law is a light to my way, a lamp to my path. (Psalm 119:105) Feisty old Paul says that this light of the law has great glory but that its real purpose is to reveal the sinful truths of our lives before the Lord. That’s how I first realised I needed a Saviour. But then he adds, with startling boldness, that the light of the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ makes it seem by comparison as though the law has no glory at all! (2 Cor 3:10-11, 4:4-6)

Now, imagine walking into a pitch-black room with a candle. Would you see? Of course you would. Might be gloomy but you’d pick out the basics in the room. But then imagine further that someone threw a switch and a hundred arc lights came on all at once. Would you see? Of course. There’d be nothing much hidden. The whole room would become sort of naked. Even every skerrick of dust would stand out like a horrible pimple. The entire truth of the room would be revealed. Whatever is there is exposed for what it is.

So here’s a truth for you. Nothing much stays hidden when you come to see what the Father has done for you in Christ the Son. Nothing at all remains hidden when you come to know the Son himself because He IS the glory of God! His being, and his coming, living, suffering, dying in sacrifice, being raised, being at the Father’s right hand, sending the Spirit… all of that, all of Him, well, THAT IS GLORY!

Now here’s the next truth. The stark revelation of loathsome personal sin and bondage only happens to those who have come to believe and trust that Jesus is Saviour and Lord. It only happens to those who know their sin, every possible skerrick of their sin, from conception to death, is forgiven. (Those who do not know Christ Jesus couldn’t handle such a revelation of their true state before the Father in heaven.) It never happens so he can condemn us. Remember this… He himself declares, “I will not remember their sins.” Ever! He’s not counting. He’s not keeping score. He is keeping a book but it can’t be a book of your failure. That got nailed to the Cross 2000 years ago. No, the only book that matters is the Book of Life and it has your name written in it, all because, and only because, by grace, you have come to know and trust Jesus as your Saviour and Lord. He is eternally for you.

So what on earth (and in heaven) is he doing? The revelation is often excruciatingly painful, the trials near-impossible to bear, and the vision not too clear. The answer is simple. The Holy Spirit of Jesus, sent by the Father, is the Kingdom’s Sculptor-in-residence. Every now and then he brings you back into the workshop for another session of chiselling! And do you know, he has before him a living model of what he’s creating. It’s not an ‘it’. It’s Him, Jesus. He’s the image of God and his Spirit works with passion to fashion us in his image. All the while more and more glory is being revealed. May not feel like it but that’s what is happening.

So how on earth (and in heaven) do we deal with our unwelcome awareness of sin, its power, the hurt in our hearts and the crushedness of spirit? Well, first of all, keep your eyes on Jesus, who has walked this way before you. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Then, confess the truth of your sin and confess the truth about Jesus the Christ to yourself and to another Jesus’ person you trust. Hear forgiveness declared and acknowledge your forgiveness. Ask Jesus to keep his promise to you of immersing you constantly in his Spirit for your daily living. You can’t do it on your own but you can with Holy Spirit in your life.

And one other thing. Remind yourself every day, even every hour, that, “There is no condemnation now for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) You are not defeated in Him. You cannot be defeated because the devil has as much chance of separating you from Jesus as he has of separating Jesus from the Father! It’s not going to happen. In Him you are not overcome and you are not a withered branch. Yes there is a battle to be fought, but we win because we set our hearts on Him and not on our sin!

If the devil wants to highlight your sin then fight back by highlighting his future!

There’s a couple of other bits ‘n pieces to pick up. I’ll do that another time.

He’s Lord.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

CP 207 The breathtaking - breathgiving Spirit

The breathtaking - breathgiving Spirit…

Holy Spirit, Spirit of the living God,
Spirit of the Lord, Eternal Spirit, Spirit of truth,
Spirit of the Father, Spirit of Jesus,
Spirit of Jesus’ conception, anointing and ministry,
promise of the Father, living water of heaven,
comforter, paraclete, counsellor, advocate.

Messiah-revealing Spirit, faith-birthing Spirit,
heart-searching Spirit, sin-convicting Spirit,
forgiveness-knowing Spirit, grace-bringing Spirit,
life-giving Spirit, holiness-calling Spirit,
new-heart-creating Spirit, willing-and-right Spirit,
mind-opening Spirit, scripture-understanding Spirit,
witness-bearing Spirit, mission-driving Spirit,
kingdom-revealing Spirit, knowledge-teaching Spirit,
wisdom-leading Spirit, direction-giving Spirit,
love-bestowing Spirit, joy-inspiring Spirit,
Cross-fashioning Spirit,
spine-strengthening Spirit,
Christ-honouring Spirit.

Spirit of meekness, mercy and compassion,
Spirit of truth, discernment and power,
Spirit of power from on high,
Spirit of Christ’s apostles, prophets and evangelists,
Spirit of Christ’s pastors and teachers,
Spirit of Christ’s humble authority,
Spirit of Christ’s meekness and gentleness,
Spirit of intercession and thanksgiving,
Spirit of adoption,
Spirit of the cross-shaped love of the Father and the Son.

Spirit of glory and of grace,
Spirit of unity of faith and love,
Spirit of the communion of saints,
Spirit of boldness in the face of fear,
Spirit of courage in the face of danger,
Spirit of confession of in the face of hostility,
Spirit of rebirth and renewal,
justifying Spirit, sanctifying Spirit,
Spirit who prays us according to our Father’s will,
Spirit who seals us ‘in Christ’,
Spirit of freedom to love as Jesus Christ loved,
gracious Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit of Jesus, grant that we may never outrage you, grieve you, quench you or deny you. You never draw attention to your self. You always honour the Saviour-Son. As you worked for faith and trust, worship and praise, in the life of Jesus, so work in our lives. Cause us, in the presence of our Lord, to be as unassuming as you are! Fill us with passionate joy about HIM. Strengthen our trust and love. Cause us to celebrate, and rejoice in, our place in our heavenly Father’s family. Amen

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

CP 206 Glorious Names... Majestic Titles

CP 206
Glorious Names... Majestic Titles

Father in Heaven,
I honour you as I honour your Son
with all my heart
as my lips confess the name…
the name above all names…

Jesus, Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of Abraham, Son of David, Son of Mary, Son of Man
Son of the Most High, Son of God,
Only-begotten and beloved Son of the Father.

Rabbi and Master, Teacher of Israel,
Word of God, Creator Word,
Word of the Father, Word become flesh,
Immanuel, God with us, Eternal Life
Living Word, Eternal Word,
Unchanging Word, Sword of the Spirit.

Meek and Humble One, Servant of all
Washer of feet, Wiper of tears, Giver of rest,
Healer of body, Restorer of soul, Renewer of spirit,
Balm of the bruised, Mender of the broken,
Merciful One, Seeker of the lost, Forgiver of sins,
Shepherd and Guardian of our souls.

The great “I am”, Light of the World,
Bread of Life, True Vine of Israel,
Good Shepherd, Gate for the sheep,
Spring of Living Water,
The Way, the Truth and the Life.

Lamb of God, Lamb without blemish, Passover Lamb,
Lamb that was slain,
Holy One of God, Righteous One,
Suffering Servant, Ransom for sinners,
Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour of the world,
Crucified One, Lord of Glory.

Lord Jesus the Christ, My Lord and my God,
Saviour of the world, Mediator of a New Covenant,
Pioneer of Salvation, New and Living Way,
Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God,
The Prince of Peace, Our Peace,
The “Yes” to all the promises of God.

The Alpha and the Omega, who is, and was,
and who is to come, the Almighty.
The Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead,
The Ruler of the kings of the earth.
The First and the Last, the Living One,
Holder of the keys of death and of Hades,
Judge of the living and of the dead.

Radiance of God’s Glory,
The Living Stone, The Risen One,
The Resurrection and the Life,
The Lion of Judah, the Root of David,
Faithful Apostle, Great High Priest,
King of the unshakeable Kingdom,
King of Glory.

King of all kings and Lord of all lords,
Disarmer of principalities and powers,
Conqueror of Satan, Destroyer of death,
Judge of the living and the dead,
The Exalted One, The Coming One,
Lord of Heaven and Earth.

I believe that Jesus Christ,
true God, Son of the Father from eternity,
and true man, born of the Virgin Mary,
is my Lord!

Hallelujah and Amen.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain…
…to receive glory and praise.
                                                                               Copyright FHV 2011

Thursday, May 02, 2013

CP 205 Wobbly self... unshakeable Lord

CP 205 Wobbly self… unshakeable Lord

One day in early High School a group of us were out riding near the old Ag College near Wagga. At the top of a hill on the way home it became – as it does - a race to the bottom. The speed was impressive until the front wheel began to wobble… I didn’t crash, but yes, I just about wet myself, and have never had the same confidence with bike-speed since. Some years later, working as a storeman at the local Woolies, I climbed a ladder to an upper-level shelf and when I got right to the top it began to wobble…

Forward another two years and I’m taking a corner too fast on the road back from Tumut. The passenger wheels get on to the gravel and the car begins to wobble… Years later I’m a young dad showing off to my kids on a water slide. I’m going too fast and next thing I’m wobbling… Fast forward and I’m swimming across the river which feeds the four waterfalls of Mitchell Falls in the Kimberlies. I haven’t gone far enough upstream and the current is too strong. My heart begins to wobble…

I’m 60 and copying the grandsons as they do tumbleturns into the pool. In I go and find I have no idea which way the surface is. Yes, I panic and my whole being wobbles... Soon after, I’m age 61 and climbing Ayers Rock. Two thirds of the way up my knees begin to wobble… and so does my courage. My confidence evaporates.

So now Fred’s 63 and often thinking about loss of confidence. One discovers limits of one’s ability and has to acknowledge shrinking capacities. However it isn’t simply about my own physical limitations and personal capacity for selfishness. My trust of institutions has wobbled because of lies and dishonesty. Successive Prime Ministers (and opposition leaders and others) are constantly economical with the truth when it suits their purposes. I lost confidence in a Bank when it cleaned out a small account I hadn’t used through fees and charges.

Did I mention Insurance Companies? Or how about our ‘family friendly’ supermarket chains which between them own the vast bulk of this country’s pokies. Salesmen and saleswomen in many industries ‘con’ me. I suppose I could mention the Media, Lobby groups, the Courts, Customs, mining contracts and practices. Maybe the Church too! Everywhere there are empires and people fight for the power the empire bestows.

It amazes me when I think about how I’ve lost confidence in myself, and about things, people and institutions I thought were rock solid, dependable, reliable and ‘forever’. At some point everything I’ve trusted seems to have wobbled. That said, there is one part of my life where my confidence has escalated as ‘other things’ crashed. And what might that gem of a shining light be?

It’s in the truth of the claims and convictions about Jesus the Christ given to us by the Gospel and Epistle writers. Is Jesus who he claimed to be? Yes! C S Lewis was right when he said that Jesus was either a liar, a loony or Lord. Lewis insisted that people needed to confront that challenge. My testimony is that the older I become the deeper grows the conviction about what took place on that first Good Friday. Jesus of Nazareth, who embodied humanity as the Son of Man, and who, as the eternal Son of God, embodied the fullness of the Holy One, was nailed to a cross and died. More than that, on that original Easter Sunday, yes, he conquered death and rose again. Even more glorious, he now exercises all authority in heaven and on earth, from the Father's right hand!

All the other hopes, and sources of hope, may have diminished or soured. But for me, the trust that Jesus the crucified is alive, that he is Lord, that his death brought forgiveness, and that his raising guarantees Spirit and Life, well, that is my foundation. He and he alone is the unshakeable rock on which I’m anchoring my life and my eternity. That is why I sing, and that is what I sing about. His Kingdom is unshakeable.

PS Every time I find a friend, a tradie, a businessman, a neighbour, a family member, a colleague, a professional, or a fellow Jesus-Christ-traveller, who is straight as a die, and who cares, I sing all the more loudly. Them people are golden gifts. I hope I can be that gift to others.