Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seekers September - Summary

So here we are at the end of the month. IT has been quite a month. I’ve experienced so much over the month that it’s not possible to remember everything that has happened. During the month I’ve only been at Stoke church for one Sabbath where other Sabbaths have seen me in Newport, home and Warslow. In this month I experienced my first stag do (as a participant, not the stag in question) and the honour of being a part of the crew of ushers at the wedding. I went to Scotland for the first time in my life. This was the month I started the teacher training course a significant step for me in fulfilling the call of God in my life.

I’ve had some wonderful times over the month and blog wise I’ve also been able to get out a fair number of entries out and been able to explore a bit the concept of seeking. Following Audio August, Seeking September really has got me stripping away everything to know what I desire more than anything else. For the next three months we as a church will be looking at the Sermon of the Mount which has at the heart of it a desire to seek the Kingdom of Heaven, see that kingdom manifest on earth, see it’s values and principles embedded not just in our minds or behaviours, but the core of our very being. It’s all about being centred on Christ, looking for him in everything and looking to be like Him in any given situation. So that requires Kingdom allegiance!

At a cell group session this evening we were looking at Job 42 and reviewing Job’s response to God’s responses to his calling out the Almighty to answer some questions. What I found fascinating about the scripture was not so much the recovery of Job’s loss. Not so much Job’s so called friends having to get Job to get them out of God’s wrath. These are all commendable parts of the story worth capturing in themselves. What was especially intriguing in terms of linking seeking to the sermon is the very first main point of the sermon.

Those who inherit the kingdom are those who acknowledge their absolute abject poverty before God, not in the material sense but in that sense that puts complete dependence on the creator of the universe. Job accepts that he cannot interrogate the Creator as if He has an obligation to answer our questions or He won’t get re-elected in the general election next year. Job’s act of repentance brings things back to the beginning where we are nothing but dirt and all we have we owe to His mercy. That’s why I seek Him because true riches are found in Him, not just material but the real riches of godly characteristics re-engaging us with the one who defines us and makes us whole.

That’s also part of the motive of the theme for the next month, but more on that in the morrow should the Lord spare our lives. In the meantime, thank God for the material blessings and great experiences, a loving family, brilliant church family and an amazing cast of friends and assorted extras that make my life what it is. Above and beyond all that thanks for Jesus Christ who allows me to enjoy these things in Him and to the Father who made me and continues to shape me in a pattern of His pleasing through good times and bad by His Spirit that lives in me. Thanks so much.

For His Name's Sake



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Role of the Teacher and Praise Perspectives

Just to say how happy I am and honoured to have made it to 200 posts this year before the last quarter begins. I am really grateful to God for getting the level of consistency to this level.

I’ve been rather poorly lately, but have battled on despite everything to carry on with things like work, family and being an usher at the wedding of a dear friend. As ever, however, tonight has been the teacher training session and it has proven again to be a source of much thought and contemplation. Indeed after it I felt somewhat refreshed by the experience and in the context of the day I’ve had today from it I came out with two outstanding thoughts.

The first was on the topic of the role of the teacher. Is teaching a lonely vocation? In the light of the micro-teach and being able to see how our tutor did what happened it got me thinking about what the role of the teacher really is. There is the assumption that the teacher is the fount of all knowledge in a given area and all must bow and learn from them. I don’t think that’s the case and so I believe there must be an alternative,

I believe Jesus lives out that alternative. It is a testament to His impact that He has been able to get people to remember His teachings and endeavour to live them out and pass them along as they do so. This is so much the case that we have gospel accounts where He has not written a word of it yet He speaks resonantly clear for all to read and hear, see and learn from.

So I’m thinking that the measure of a good teacher is not the wealth of their information base, or their charismatic personality and beguiling communication style. There has to be more to it. There has to be an element of authenticity and challenge in that which is taught and the nature with which it is taught that engages the learner to actually take on board the material and allow their lives to be shaped by it. So much so that when the teaching is transferred from the teacher to the learner and then the learner becomes teacher and looks to replicate the process in their own personal style.

The second thought was about the importance of the perspective of praise. I was encouraging a friend in a text sharing that I had prayed for wisdom, peace and clarity in the situation. What it reminded me of is that our first place is not to consider what we have to do, but what God has already done. It really was a balm to my own recent health challenges triggered by self-imposed pressure by the things I have assumed and feel I should do. I’ve had good words of counsel to pace myself and to ensure I do not to put myself through the mill. All of these were sound words of guidance for me leading to this reminder.

As I pondered further I looked at how God made the garden and then set the man in it and then told him what to do in it. Especially in the context of Genesis 2 it is clear that all the fruit in the garden is for man to enjoy. That is to say the work it/keep it deal, is in the light of what has already been done for him. So man does what he does in the light of what has been done for Him.

When I consider what has been done for me in God creating me, Jesus dying for me and the Holy Spirit making me alive again. When I consider the provisions made for me in relational, physical, financial, intellectual and spiritual issues it shows how great God is and what great things He has done. It is on that premise of praise that I go forward in doing what I am called to do with much joy, not in the light of apparently averse circumstances, but in the light of God’s promise, presence and power.

For His Name's Sake



Monday, September 28, 2009

Seeking in Surrogates

I have no idea what it is this year about the movies. In the first quarter there were a few things that got my interest, but really since then the choice of films on offer has been somewhat substandard. Transformers 2 was alright, but GI Joe was disappointing. The Taking of Pelham 123 was actually a pretty decent film, but other than that the choice has been fairly poor and someone really must have thought that witchcraft and that kinda jazz sells. Whatever.

So of late I’ve been a bit bored with the fare and given the movies a wide berth which is disappointing. However lately there has been a film or two that has taken my interest and for the first time in weeks I’ve made it into a cinema. (Of course the discount I get as a student was also an inducement.)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Bruce Willis. Not to say I hate the guy or dislike his movies, I’ve just not been taken with his material and don’t think of him as that much of a big deal. I acknowledge his skill though in playing certain roles well. He seems to choose stuff that doesn’t require too much of a stretch for his core abilities so when he does the part he can be as convincing as he needs to be. For example I was a fan of his work in Unbreakable.

So with all that on board I wasn’t going out to watch a Bruce Willis film when I heard about Surrogates I was looking forward to watching a film that happened to have Willis in it. I was so glad I did watch it because it turned out to be one of the better films of the year.

One thing that did ring true with one of the reviews was their comment that it was a bit like I, Robot. I was thinking how disappointing I, Robot was. In contrast I really enjoyed the film.

What I enjoyed about the film are the many questions it raised about identity, control, power, freedom and the role of technology in fulfilling our desires. I do love a film sets up those moral dilemmas and those are strewn throughout the film especially the premise for the climax.

One thing it also highlighted again was the following questions:

Who are we really?

Can we be anything we want to be?

What happens when the opportunity comes to do just that but at a cost?

What is more important, your ability to do what you want or your responsibility to others?

Who or what defines us?

Who has the right to rule over us?

What role does technology play in the development of who we are as humans?

What does freedom mean, in an age where it’s not always clear who is on the side of it and what its costs are?

It’s particularly appropriate as the month of October looms and we look at those issues through various means and all with the desire to get a Christocentric understanding of the topic in question.

I recommend you check the movie, although you won’t have to for answering these questions that you can begin exploring now.

For His Name's Sake



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seeking First: Me First vs. Andrews/Aspel

I don’t know if you’ve seen this video before, it doesn’t matter if you have or not I still chuckle at it primarily because it’s funny and also because it’s true. It is tragic that we can go from singing a song like the one linked here to immediately looking at things in a way that suggests that the heart of worship is more about me than it is about Jesus.

It’s not to say thinking about self is wrong – it’s natural, it’s understandable, it’s healthy at times to be aware of the way we’re put together. The natural tendency in one expression or another, however, is where we think Me First. What about me? What about what I want? What about my self-esteem? What about how I feel? How will I come out of this? What’s in it for me?

This is the greatest lie the enemy gave to the first couple back in the garden that they would be like gods and ever since then we’ve done a tremendous job of ascending to the throne of all-importance. We are all there is to know and we’re glad if other people would recognise that as well. We may display it in explicitly selfish ambitious mannerisms or couch it in subtle areas of service done with the hope of recognition and ego feeding. Either way especially with help from a culture and mentality that is implicitly about the deity of humanity Me First has been the predominant culture since time began.

It’s worth sharing the problem with this. The problem is that this approach gets everything horribly wrong. By everything I am of course referring to the concept of nothing being missed in considering what is included. Relationships, health, you name it, it is all ruined by this approach. It’s ruined because we were created as worshipping beings who do not find our fulfilment in self worship, even if that is the default setting of sin expressed through pride and fear.

The irony persists that if we’re really looking to our best interests we’ll need to stop worshipping self and worship the Creator. To get the best for self, requires the death of self. This of course is counter-intuitive, counter-productive in the eyes of many and also counter-cultural. This is not a subtle nudge and wink deal to get back into self-worship, this is a proper full on dying to self to rise again in a new life. That cannot be done by effort of will, but requires outside help from the inside!

Whilst thinking about these issues again I was reminded about one of my favourite programmes growing up This Is Your Life. What I enjoyed about the programme that was in the UK hosted by Eamon Andrews and then Michael Aspel was the format of the host appearing to surprise the special guest and then dedicating the next half-hour to outlining aspects of that guest’s life. No focus on the host, no spotlight on him at all, all focus on the guest.

One of my favourite parts of the programme, though, was at the end when as a special someone was reconnected with the special guest Andrews or Aspel would close the special red book and intone those immortal words following the name of the special guest – ‘This is Your Life’. The theme tune would strike as applause was given and the special guest is prompted by Andrews/Aspel to the front where the special guest takes centre stage and focus of attention as all the other guests who have come to celebrate him/her flock around to continue applauding, in the meantime Andrews/Aspel inauspiciously slips into the background job done and not needing anything in the way of kudos or recognition. It is as if the mere act of highlighting the life of the special guest suffices to give him enough joy. See the end of this clip to see what I mean.

That modus operandi resonated deeply with me for two reasons. One of those two is linked with the following section of scripture

John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:27-30)

Earlier on in this section John’s disciples share their concern that this new upstart baptising all over the shop. John’s response noted here doesn’t quite reflect what the attitude of some of us might be. Let’s look at it this way, you’ve been baptising so regularly you’ve coined a surname after the art. Now someone else appears to muscling in on the territory not only that but he appears to be pulling all the punters. What’s even worse is that you’ve baptised the brother yourself. Now sure he can carry on with the success but where’s your kudos, where’s your royalties, where’s the respect, where’s your time to shine?

Here, however, John appears to be the original Andrews/Aspel. He is not just singing a sweet song and then being selfish (although he’ll have some reservations when he’s banged up). The brother appears to be saying that even his own ‘success’ is heaven-directed. Greater still, John establishes that his role in the larger scheme of things is to rejoice in the presence of the big deal – when you know you’re the warm-up act then you’re in a position to do just that, not seek the main act status. You realise that you’ll be doing well if the audience are prepped and ready for the big deal.

My dad never made a fuss about stuff, he was more than content to do what was asked of him in ensuring the big deal ran smoothly. He lived out the Andrews/Aspel modus operandi never seeking credit but looking to pass anything he got onto the big deal. Never insecure if others got kudos or attention, he just plugged away diligently at his roles and did it with joy. That kind of attitude got its own reward openly in other people noting it especially when he had to move on. He knows however that he does not primarily do it for that, appreciated though it is, his joy is experienced by seeing Jesus alive in others.

So to the second reason why it resonates with me. It resonates because the great challenge in seeking God first is to be aware of my role in the greater scheme of things. We are all called to live in a way that screams, whispers, chuckles, cries and communicates that the big deal is the big deal and This Is His Life. Every success, every failing, every part of our life is not about me at all. From the first step on the journey to our last breathe we point out in whatever way we can we point to the Saviour and Redeemer, Example and Brother, Friend and King – Jesus Christ and take pleasure in whatever opportunity to state – This Is His Life.

For His Name's Sake



Seeking in the Sermon: Live It - Teach It

As you can appreciate in preparation for the new study series that begins next week I’ve begun reading the Sermon on the Mount. I am big on not missing out on the big picture and the connected nature of all the pieces in the puzzle when we start segmenting scripture for teaching purposes.

It is crucial to see Jesus after His Beatitudes making it clear that He’s not here to abolish the law but fulfil it and then proceeding to state the primacy of the law and the importance of living righteously beyond a religious definition of it. To say that if your righteousness doesn’t exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees doesn’t mean that the Kingdom values are easy. On the contrary His outline will allow us to see how much we depend on God to be able to live up to them hence the Beatitudes themselves which depict a people desperately dependent on God to be able to enjoy life in His Kingdom according to His rule.

To prove just how exacting the standard the is for the rest of Matt 5 and into half of Matt 6 Jesus shows how the gist of the law wasn’t to monitor behaviour but to reveal the state of the heart that is towards God. The arresting point for me in my recent reading was the bit where Jesus says if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and if your right eye causes you to sin gouge it out as it would be better to be a one-eyed, one-armed Kingdom-dweller than a full-bodied hell-dweller. The deal here though is not the physical act that’s being suggested – although in mentioning it Jesus shows how seriously we are to take sin.

What we would have missed out on though is the source of the sin – the heart. In essence Jesus is saying take radical action from the heart to deal with issues that can cause you to sin and that means heart surgery – indeed a heart transplant. My contention is, and reality reflects I believe, that just because you get rid of an external stimulus doesn’t mean the heart has been dealt with at all. The issue needs to be exposed to the light of the love of God even as we mourn over our inability to please God and its resultant sinful condition of the planet. That mournful approach has a desire to see God impact the world with His original plan. That takes place personally with a heart towards God that is about radical approach to that which the world rejoices in. So it’s not just about stopping pornography and blatant adultery but to develop a devout hatred for anything that would promote lust and develop that faithful, monogamous capacity within us that means because we can love God with all, so we can love with purity those who come in our lives.

This fits in with the gist of what Jesus is saying in this portion of his teaching – it’s an issue of the heart when it comes to the law, when it comes to the spiritual disciplines, when it comes to the fundamental basic issues of life – it is about the state of our heart and who we commit that heart to.

Speaking of teaching, one thing I find fascinating is our tendency to call this section the Sermon on the Mount when the beginning and end of the talk seems to indicate that this is Jesus teaching. Not only that but in the larger context of what Jesus would commission His disciples to do at the end of this gospel account it is pretty important that any true follower of Christ digests this teaching.

Even near the top of his teaching he states clearly that people who relax the observance of the law AND teaches others that is considered the least and it is those who practice it AND teach it who will be considered the greatest in the Kingdom. That is to say not only in the great commission but in the great teaching there is an expectation on ALL FOLLOWERS to live it AND teach it. This fits well with the concept of the book of Matthew being about Jesus the great Rabbi.

This should immediately challenge some of the current expressions of church that in no way prepares disciples to teach disciples, but promotes a thinking to say there’s a class of people who can teach – the gifted as it were – and the rest are to learn from these. It should be a shot in the arm for all teachers that in the spiritual sense of things you are only as successful a teacher as you are in encouraging and enabling others to live and teach that which you live and teach.

That should stretch our understanding and definition of teaching to incorporate ways in which people teach that is not straight talking business but far wider, but no less intentional – we are not doing this by accident or by osmosis, this is something deliberate and understood by all parties even as those who followed Jesus knew what they were getting themselves in for in terms of being followers.

Lots of food for thought in considering this issue, food which I hope to share further as I delve further in this wonderful work.

For His Name's Sake



Saturday, September 26, 2009

On This Special Day

I first met Andy Kind in 2007. He was developing his craft as a stand-up comedian and he also happened to be a Christian as well. My boss at work linked us together with the thought that perhaps Andy could do some workshops. It turned out to be one of the best things that’s happened in the time that I’ve been at the YMCA. Not only did Andy do the workshops, he also put on monthly trips to the Frog and Bucket up in Manchester on a free night where they did the Beat the Frog competition.

These acts of kindness I was to discover later were very much like the offer Jesus gives to invite those who won’t be able to pay you back to banquets and feasts. Andy in his way was giving people who would never pay him back an insight into some much loved experiences and occasions. Typical of Andy, though, he never acknowledged even this as he was working out his Christianity slowly but surely. He definitely didn’t set himself up as the standard by which all believers should be met. In that sense Andy typified the quality of humility – not thinking of himself higher than he ought. This is quite a feat for Andy …

Over time working on various projects and get-togethers, Andy turned out to be a really good friend. I enjoyed spending time in his company. You know how it is with a comedian you can easily fall into the expectation that everything they say must be funny, or you have to be funny to show him how you can be just as good as him, or maybe in the hope that he’ll say those magical words “That’s really funny, I think I’ll use that in my next set”. Getting over this, though, I felt Andy and I were able to relate on a level that went beyond one-liners and got to the nitty-gritty of life’s issues. It wasn’t about things being overbearing and sombre, but serious things were addressed honestly.

Andy kindly let me have a look at his world and what he does and how he does it. He was very good to me and my family in one way or another. I recall spending a lot of precious moments with Andy and he has been tremendous for me in understanding more about love, grace, compassion, fallibility and what it is to walk by faith and not by sight. Andy is a dear friend for whom I give God much thanks just for the time we’ve shared together.

Now that may read as somewhat anti-climactic as if it’s come to a tragic end, and I don’t want to give that impression at all. I do hope our friendship will continue to grow and blossom. It’s just that he’s moved to Manchester now and more appropriately for the benefit of this particular time, after waiting eagerly Andy has found the one with whom he’d like to spend the rest of his life. Today my friend and brother in Christ gets married. Now that’s good news. That’s great news. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to celebrate with this blog and again reaffirm my love and admiration for Andy knowing that as a dear brother I’ll continue to pray with and for him as he’s committed into the institution! Hopefully the experiences will be beautiful and bring out the best of Christ in life, even in the hardship and challenges that await as well as the brilliant times of intimacy.

In honour of the occasion it was only fitting to dedicate the song below to the newlyweds.

For His Name's Sake



Seeking God Together

Recently I was going on about how important it is to seek God together. This links in well with another topic I mentioned last month on creating confessional community. If we are going to see God there has to be a love among us that goes beyond superficial greetings and barbecues and gets to the heart of who we are together. (Nothing against barbecues, by the way, I defend the right of Christians to continue pointless barbecues.)

I think sometimes it is only too easy to hide behind social events and occasions to allow that be our card that says we’ve done fellowship, we’ve done community, when in actuality there’s nothing about the nature of the called-out ones that would withstand a storm of personal indiscretions. How is that proven, well just slip an indiscretion and see the power of gossip and judgemental attitude that closes ranks against the sinner and offers no room for vulnerability, transparency and genuine repentance.

Seeking God together is surely about taking the time to build those relationships with fellow-travellers filled with the grace to accept that we’re not in this community of grace on merit. As we practice that ability not just to bear with the burdens of others, but allow our burdens likewise to be carried by others there is no room for judgement. There’s every room for cries of mercy and pleas for God to shower His compassion on us all for the ways in which we fail Him.

The difference between me before I met Jesus and now I’m getting to know Him is that the excuse ‘we’re only human’ was a get out clause previously, but now it is the base on which to fall on the mercies of God and the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ to let the Holy Spirit empower me to live right and whether instantaneously or over time overcome that area of failing. Even like some if we’re never able to overcome that thorn in the flesh we can still rejoice in the strength of Christ being made perfect in our weakness and so learn to live through our vulnerabilities as a lifelong reminder of our complete dependence on Jesus.

This is not just rhetoric from me. In parts of 2008 my life was wracked with problem after problem and there were areas of the church that just were not equipped to support me through the process. God always finds people to come alongside though and it was the case that there were brothers who were tremendous aids to me just in their availability, transparency and vulnerability. Together we’d have those brief glimpses of what true confessional community would look like where we were only too aware of weaknesses but grateful to God for His grace and goodness in wiping them away once they were exposed to the light of His love. The battles are not over, but such experiences prove again to me that this love that sent Jesus to the cross is able to work through us as we seek God together and let us reflect that same love to each other, no matter what the issue.

The journey continues both for seeking God and seeing what it is to create that confessional community that acknowledges Jesus as Lord and our sins are ever in need to be washed by Him. The hope I have in knowing that this which He asks for is possible and a glimpse into what that heavenly kingdom is all about.

For His Name's Sake



Friday, September 25, 2009

Chop Off The Old Block

But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:14-17)

There are some really hilarious portions of scripture in the Bible, I main gut-bustingly guffaw-tastic places that will leave you wiping your eyes at it’s humour. This is one of them. I mean check what Peter is suggesting. He is suggesting that in the middle of suffering and getting it in the neck from people who mock and scorn the faith that we hold so dear our response to them should be a considered answer given with gentleness and respect. That’s just funny.

Or it would be if it wasn’t for the fact that Peter is being deadly serious. He should know as well. I’m sure he could recall the night when he was with his Master when He was arrested and rather than a gentle, respectful response one of the disciples chooses to react with chopping off an ear. Now this was no Tyson bite, this was a proper chop. To this day I wonder what that might have looked like in the heat of the skirmish. All I do know is that Jesus rebuked the violent offender and healed the ear of the man who had it chopped off.

There are lots of opportunities to get riled up at people’s ignorance or disdain to the faith. There are plenty of times when a swift verbal chopping off of someone’s ear seems the right response to their blasphemous remarks. Yet in a day and age where true reverence for God is minimal (although to be fair, when has it ever been really different?) our response is given respectfully and with gentleness.

This is by no means a soft-soaped approach that gives no substance in the message. Yet it is one that recognises at the core of all things it is never anything personal and it’s always something spiritual and what better way to respond to that than overcome evil with good. Always pointing out that the hope within us goes beyond what can be done to us in this life and seals our glorious destination once this life is over.

In fact it links rather neatly in the early stages of our study in the Sermon on the Mount as the eighth beatitude really hits home to those expecting a stress/hassle-free faith. Hard times and rejection are to be expected and to be seen as an opportunity to rejoice. Oh for the grace to trust Him more and live that out rather than a being a chop off the old block.

For His Name's Sake



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seeking Together And Alone

Following Jesus is both an intensely personal and private journey and a communal and corporate movement. There is the element wherein we develop Christ-like characteristics and have a direct responsibility to Christ for how we use what has been given to us to be like Him more. This part can be appealing to some and I guess especially in an individualistic society promoting the power of the autonomous one it stands to reason we can have a faith virtually privatised.

Something that’s harder to enact, and yet more crucial to understanding what it is to seek God, is the communal aspect. Building relationships and being intimate and personal with people baring your soul to people with the capacity and tendency to neglect it and indeed crush it from time to time. Having relationships with people out of the church can appear more appealing because of the lack of expectation that’s placed on that to be Christ-like. Slap a Christian badge on it and all of a sudden expectations rise and are frequently disappointed with the inevitable failings of stragglers and strugglers on this Christian highway.

It does not get away from the reality though that there is so much benefit in seeking God with others – not just those formal service times when we can put on the spiritual/pious masks and go through the motions. Rather we get those glimpses as we share life together over a drink or a meal. We get those inspirations as we do shared activities or just have a chat. See the glory of Christ in these frail, vulnerable jars of clay and have that compassionate heart to support each other in our brokenness so that in that mess of humanity, divinity Himself can be seen and expressed in a way that makes us distinct from other social groupings.

For His Name's Sake



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seeking the One

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5)

Life is about seeking after the One – one love, one truth, one hope, one joy. It is about discovering the various combinations that make up the One and recognising that it is meant to be unified because it is all about the One.

So we were at cell group session tonight and talking about Luke 1 where Mary has a conversation with Gabriel about the good news he’s had to share with her. Later on in the chapter Mary meets Elizabeth and gets a confirmation that sparks a little praise party. I mentioned as we explored the Word how it must feel to Mary.

It’s obviously speculation so it’s not to be taken as doctrine, but it’s worth considering. So there the promise is that one day the Messiah will arrive and He must come through a woman, so in a sense every woman is there wondering if it will be her. Is it her. How incredible it would be if you were the one. All that grief that you’ve had to carry, all that baggage, all those issues will mean nothing because you are the one. I was referring to it as looking at it that at that moment all the deepest held desires in the world come true and you above all women are highly favoured. You are the one.

Yet you are only the one to bring forth the One and the One you bring forth is of far greater importance that the carrier.

Sometimes as Christians in pursuit of various earthly desires and goals we tend to forget that Jesus calls us individually and collectively to be the one who carries across the One. What an honour. What a privilege. What a joy. What a blast. What a gig. You are the one who gets to show others the One.

All day today in some shape or form there’s been a thing about one. When I was on my way to work the finale to A Chorus Line came to my head. It was only this evening that I discovered where I’d blogged it before. Even then when I did a bit of research I discovered that the film version wasn’t well received not least among the original creators of the musical on which it is based. Why? Because it did not reflect the truth of the one original.

I mean even reflecting about my wife and the whole concept of marriage leaves me thinking that I seriously am cheating myself out of the quality, riches and beauty to be found in faithful, monogamous relationship in even considering anyone else other than Authrine in the slightest. I think about how complex and deep she is and the level of work and investment it takes just to know her – to really know her. Just when I think I’m making progress something will crop up to reveal hidden depths and aspects of who she is. All those things go missing when she is not the one for my heart. All of those things – those riches, those complexities, those wonders of a single individual human being are lost and tragically so when there’s not that commitment to finding out and searching them out further.

Yet this plays as a mere small fry analogy to a relationship of far greater importance. I was reminded again today that I only ever truly love because it’s a reflection of ever truly being loved. I believe I have the capacity to love, and this is helped by a loving parental upbringing, but this does not prepare me for true love. It didn’t prepare me for a love for my wife in the way I live it. More importantly it was but a small insight into the far greater, diverse, deeper, richer love of God for me.

It is in the light of that love that I am able to love. It is in the light of that sacrificial love not based on merit or what has been earned but solely on the character of love of the one who loves. It is in that light that I learn how to truly love and the first and only port of call for that love is the one who gave that love. So I love because I’ve been loved, even as I forgive knowing how much I’ve been forgiven and embracing and diving into the love that sent the only begotten to be sacrificed, I realise that the love shed in my heart by the Holy Spirit can even enable me to endure hardship of many kinds, because the love of the One is far greater than any pain I go through.

As I even start to take that on board I’m left mesmerised and amazed and grateful for the love of One and see that it is more than reasonable in the light of that one love to love Him with all that I am. This was highlighted this evening. It was minutes after I’d shared that concept of being the one during the session tonight that the topic of the next quarterly study series was revealed.

Now my heart has really been burning about reviewing Matthew 5-7 again after the tremendous impact it had in my life back in 2006. I’ve been badgering on about it because of its Christocentric nature and its call to real discipleship based on Kingdom principles that confound any earthly impression but get to the heart of how God created us to be. After all I can only love my enemy in the light of a Father who loved His enemies so much that He was able to see them made His family. Of course it doesn’t make sense, but then it’s not reliant on the recipient, but the giver and the eternally forgiving, loving-kind nature that allows that to happen.

If you’re thinking that hell and judgement might be a problem, it’s not when you consider the holy nature of God. The two compliment each other well – but that doesn’t make God easy to explain at all.

It does draw me to seek Him more and enjoy the journey when as I get to know Him I realise that I don’t know Him and everything I know about Him is only an invitation to get to know Him deeper. Such is the intensity of the journey of getting to know Him that it takes all the body, mind and soul and leaves no room for anyone else. That level of all out reflection of God’s character is the nub of the talk in those two chapters in Matthew.

So guess what the title of the new quarterly is? And guess who is privileged to be sharing in the teaching duties for this his one passion? Guess who is the one, honoured and privileged to be the one to share about the One who really matters?

For His Name's Sake