Thursday, October 19, 2006

Diving In

On Sunday we had the next in the series of sermons regarding God being closer than we think. This third part relates to living with God today. The sermon, I have to say, was very inspiring and the message clear, but I came away with one puzzling question; "What does it mean to 'dive in'?"

Let me give the context: Richard started by reminding us of all the things we knew so far; God wants to be close to us, and can be with us in each thought, each activity and each moment of our day. Sometimes though, we have days where God seems far away, or where we deliberately push God away, or where we have got a bit stuck in routine and may have 'spiritually habituated'. When that happens, how do we react to it? How do we go about re-discovering God's closeness?

Richard mentioned a few of the things we may try to do: Adding extra disciplines to our routine, trying harder to ensure we get a quiet time, and maybe making it longer, or changing its structure, reading more books, etc. Eventually, we can end up simply trying too hard. (There are many other things that Richard mentioned that people may do in this situation, but I have forgotten them so will update this when I find my sermon notes!). Often we find that whatever we try to do, just simply isn't working.

What if we could find God right now, live with God right now, today, in this moment? Maybe we need to stop trying so hard and just, "dive into the river of the Spirit of God".

He said it much more eloquently than this of course, and it really was powerful. The question is, how do you simply 'dive in'? I have asked a number of people about this and had some interesting answers. For example, its about recognising that we can feel and sense God's presence even just when we are doing the mundane things of life, and in having fun etc.

Someone else said that it was more than this, and mentioned something about a character change, and said it was different for different people. But he didn't really have time to qualify what he meant by that.

Surely 'diving in' requires activity. To dive is a verb - a doing word. But what is it? What do we do? How do we dive in.

A friend of mine (you know who you are) would probably say something about it involving 'resting' in God. (and no I am not implying laziness!), but how do you do that? And is it really about resting? I am not convinced of this either. Plus, I try to rest in God by making sure I spend time being still and trying to imagine God with me. But 1) should I really need to imagine, and 2) surely I am back to trying hard. (Oops, this is getting personal again!)

Someone else (again, you know who you are) would tell me its about making a choice - but I really don't want to get into that here. (Refusing to go personal!)

Am I just confusing the issue? Is there even an answer, or do I just have to wait and see what 'diving in' means for me?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rainbow Moments

Reading blogs has become one of my favourite pass times. I love reading peoples reflections on things that go on in their lives, whether those reflections are light-hearted or on the deeper side. I simply just love hearing people's stories. I mentioned to someone recently that I am aware that some of my posts on this blog are becoming more personal, and that I am keen to get it back to being more generic, but I am questioning that decision. I have noticed - particularly recently - that I am actually a very private person. Not about all things as I do tell people what's going on in my life, but I don't really like sharing my deepest concerns and feelings. Maybe nobody does, and maybe its just because I have had more of those recently than ever before, but at the end of the day I am, no doubt about it, an introvert. As I said, I love reading about other peoples thoughts and feelings, so was beginning to question whether I should be more prepared to share mine, but I don't think it is wrong to be introverted. My decision therefore is that I will keep most of my feelings out of this blog, but will share the occasional personal story, if I feel it is worth sharing. I have had one of those today, so here goes:

As you are already aware, we have been going through the "God is closer than you think" series at Romford recently. The latest things we have considered is how God is active in our world, and how we can have different types of days according to how much we see God. John Ortberg refers to some of these days as "rainbow days"; days where God seems to be right there in front of you, so close to you. I haven't had many of these days lately, but last night and this morning I had two stunning "rainbow moments".

Yesterday night we were at worship band practice, and we were singing a song, the words of which I love, and it was just one of those "wow" moments. The words to the second verse and chorus are:

Who has told every lightening bolt where it sould go,
Or seen heavenly store houses ladened with snow?
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light,
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night?
None can fathom.

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and you know them by name.
You are amazing God.
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim,
You are amazing God.

Then we sang, "How great is our God". Need I say more!

Then this morning I was on my way to work, and all of a sudden I saw a flash. I thought it was a camera at first, but then realised that was unlikely as I was stuck in traffic driving at 10 miles an hour. In fact, it was lightening, and suddenly I was driving through the most torrential storm. I love storms - it was kind of scary as I couldn't even see the car in front thanks to the rain, but I was so struck by the power and glory of God. Then, as it calmed down, and the sun was beginning to show its very orange face I wondered if there was a rainbow, and sure enough, to my right was that unmistakable sight. The promise of God that He is always with us. It was slightly hidden by the clouds, but it was there, no doubt. In that moment, I was just really overcome with joy, and felt so close to God. I guess you could say I was overwhelmed by His majesty. It was just so fitting that we had been singing those words the night before. It was almost like God was saying, I am going to show you that what you are singing about is true. So I sat in the car by myself - no music playing and just sang that song back to God in true heart-felt worship.

I feel a bit funny having shared that, its like I am giving something of me away. But I hope it is encouraging to someone. God truly is closer than I often think.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Sovereignty of God

I have always said I believe in the sovereignty of God. I have never had a problem with the concept of God being sovereign, and I still don’t. I still totally believe it. However, I truly don’t get it. Its such a massive subject with so so so many different debates to be had and questions to be asked. I am not attempting here to provide an argument for or against the sovereignty of God, this is simply a few questions that have crossed my mind recently.

Let me start with a quote from John Piper’s book, “Desiring God”, as it was whilst reading this that many of these questions were brought to my attention:

The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. The reason this may sound strange is that we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God’s design. And when we do ask about God’s design we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the centre of God’s affections. We may say, for example, His design is to redeem the world. Or to save sinners. Or to restore creation. Or the like. But God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These He performs for the sake of something greater; namely the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself.”

This, by the way, is the first paragraph of the first chapter! It totally blew my mind! What is this saying? Surely God’s ultimate aim is not to glorify Himself. Wouldn’t that make him arrogant and proud? The Bible surely teaches us to do the complete opposite of this. I have to say, that by reading on in the chapter, this concept now sits a lot more comfortably with me than when I first read that paragraph, and lots of those initial questions were answered. I will not go into this right now, but you can always read the book if you want to look deeper at this. However, it has raised a number of other questions which, whilst not directly related to the above, do stem from it. I am going to focus mainly on one big topic here, and may write more about my other questions in a future post.

Gods Plan

In my experience, Christians are reminded regularly that God has a plan for them. The Bible does also say this (Jeremiah 29:11 – though this message was actually for the exiles of Judah, but lets not get into that!). My question is, “Is God’s plan for us limited to that which will help to fulfil his plan for mankind, and therefore ultimately to that which glorifies Him?” In other words, if I get to a hypothetical crossroads in my life, where I have a decision to make, has God definitely already planned which way I go? Is this true even if the decision will in no way affect His Kingdom, or His “Salvation plan”. As Rachel and I say, does God care whether I choose a tuna sandwich for lunch today as opposed to some other delicious filling? Plus, if all this is already in God’s plan, and as John Piper says, God’s plan can not be frustrated, (He is sovereign after all!) then how can I possibly do the wrong thing?

Could I offer an alternative suggestion, which is likely to be completely wrong, and maybe even heretical! Please leave a comment to say why this is wrong if you do have an opinion, because in truth I don’t really believe it, but don’t know why as it seems to make a lot more logical sense: Could it be that God has a plan. One plan which is for the whole of mankind. Wherever we are required in order to fulfil a certain part of that plan, (which may be very regularly and may even include seemingly small details of our lives, such as what friends we have or where we work, and also, could include different things for different people), there God plans for us. In that sense, He cannot be frustrated. Those things will happen as God wants them to. This would mean that God has planned for us, but only to the point where that satisfies his ultimate plan for mankind. The smaller, more mundane parts of our lives are ours to decide what to do with. Me choosing tuna over cheese, would not affect God’s plan for Salvation, and ultimately to glorify Himself, therefore He really doesn’t mind. In this sense, God hasn't planned each detail of my life, rather He has a plan, and I often fit into it and therefore much of my life is indirectly planned out for me. If this is not true, then what is the point in praying for anything? I know it shows our dependence on him, but could we not just tell Him that we know we are and stop praying for the things that we want to happen? If God's plans every tiny detail of our lives, and cannot be frustrated, then why bother desiring anything? We might as well just wait and see what we get.

Also, whilst on the subject of plans, if God is out of time, then how can he plan? Surely by definition a plan is produced in order to achieve a future goal. Why would you plan an outcome you can already see? It doesn’t make sense!

See my confusion?!?!?! And thats just the start!

Its a good job God knows what He's doing isn't it!

I realise that this has many connections to a previous post of mine, (God, an individual relationship), particularly the part that says, "Does God care about the things of "life", that I really care about unless these are the very things that themselves have an impact on His Kingdom." I will retrack, and read the comments that were left for me back then, but I did just want to bring this up again because I think it is really important.