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Do you not care? Lord you are asleep!! Do you not care that I am perishing? The existential question. It is masked by fancy parades. It accentuates people’s pain. It presents as hardness, aggression, stoic strength, anxiety…but our souls are laid bare in this one question. Do you not care?

Three words is all it took him. Three words that handle that question with great patience, yet powerful authority. “Quiet! Be still!” Does he care? He exceeds expectations. He not only cares, but has the power to calm the storm that reminds us of immortality. He is the only one who has the power over immortality. He doesn’t only care that we are perishing, but his care led him to perish in our place.

He turns the existential question on its head by asking his own. “Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith?” My fear of perishing is bound up with my answer to this question. If I am in the presence of the Lord, if he is in my boat, why do I still fear the storm? If Jesus sleeps in the stern, why do I not sleep with him? My mind is so alert to the dangers around me that I forget whose presence I am in. My mind is busy preempting scenarios, planning escape routes, fearful of the waves that scream so loudly.

But my hope is in something that screams louder. The silent Saviour asleep in the stern. Not a sleep that is disinterested, unconcerned and powerless. But a sleep that is screaming of his utter sovereignty, his ever near presence, his identity as Lord.

Their focus has now been shifted onto the one whose presence they are in. He calmed the storm with his word. Their vision now beholds him. They are no longer terrified of the power of the storm. They are now terrified of the One who is more powerful than the storm! There is one thing left to ask…the question of all questions. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

O my Lord. Why am I still afraid? Do I still have no faith? Help me remember who you are. Help me to remember what you did on that rugged cross. Help me to sleep in the stern even as the storm rages.

Why? The words lay on the centurion’s lips: “truly you are the Son of God”.

Yes, I will sleep in the stern.

Faith led me to know doubt.

Let me explain. Growing up, belief in Jesus was never hard…He was the realest thing I knew and I never had any doubt. I just believed. I was a Christian. That’s how I existed in this world. The lens through which I viewed life. So you can imagine that when I was first confronted by doubt, I was thrown cleanly off my feat. My anxiety grew, as did my efforts to suppress it. I just didn’t know how not to believe. The questions that were coming to my mind were like assaults that I just tried to defend against. I wouldn’t manage to hold one at bay before the next would surface. One after the other. I was scared of doubt. It shook up the most solid thing I knew. Each year, they would resurface. But I learned to manage them as I continued to walk in the only way I knew how.

Someone said something to me recently that they had read in a book. “Faith is a journey of doubt…faith has no place in certainties”.

I haven’t been able to shake this from my mind since. This one sentence removed the fear that attaches itself to my doubts. A sense of a foggy cloud in my mind lifted.

My changes in circumstances and adulthood as a university student, weren’t serving to shake the truth. Despite being what I felt at the time. They served to show me that I am naturally a doubter. My predisposition is to doubt.

Straight away I am brought back to the Garden. The conception place and birth place of doubt in the Word of God. In this scene I see myself. I am not predisposed to believe. While my upbringing may have given me a false confidence in myself, what I now see is that the origin of faith does not lie within me. I have a doubting heart. The essence of sin.

This is why He came on my behalf. This is why Jesus had to die. This is why he came as light into a world of darkness.

Fragility was an everyday experience as I perceived my faith to be threatened. I was fearful of one day hearing a theory or argument that would destabilize me. ‘Sometimes our security can falsely be in the confines of our own intellect’ my new friend told me. This is not where Jesus commands my security to be. It is to be in him. Yes God works through my intellect and all aspects of my person to bring me to Jesus…but it is not in those things that my faith rests. It rests in Jesus. My security is in something much bigger than my upbringing. It is in a truth that exists outside of me. A truth that has stood the test of history. A truth that in fact pierced history and was revealed in it. A truth that was embodied.

What I have now realized is that true faith, is coming to grips with the natural inclination of my heart.

My faith was not being jeopardized. It was being re-anchored. The source of my faith lies outside of me. True faith led me to know doubt. It gave me eyes to see my doubt for what it was rather than fear it. A natural inclination to not want to believe in God.

This is why God sent one who would believe him wholly and obey him fully because no amount of my intellect will lead me wholeheartedly to God. I needed saving. I need my doubt filled rebellion to be washed clean by the Savior. I need my hard heart to be softened by His life giving Spirit. I need my mind to be transformed and renewed as I take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. I am a wondering sheep that needs a Good Shepherd to search for me.

“I believe help me in my unbelief”

(un)surprised by pain

The first wave came as a complete surprise. It knocked me cleanly off my feet. Thankfully He still held the ground that was beneath me. The hesitation and caution with which I crawled again before him, expressed itself in my doubt filled prayers. Then came another. I had just managed to take a breath before I went under again. The wound was made fresh again. This time rather than trying to stand, I stayed huddled in the corner. After all, if the waves were not going to change their course, then to stay hiding would be the safest option. Maybe then I wouldn’t notice falling so much. This time, half-hearted prayers were silenced by despondency. The lie of despair called my name loudly. It told me that my prayers were to no avail. So why bother using that breath to cry out to Him when I needed to conserve it just to survive.

As I sat here, I heard the prayers of others. I even heard them say they were praying for me. But these words didn’t take root in my heart. The devil had his foothold. He caught them and threw them away before they could cause me to trust in the One who was listening the whole time. He climbed higher and tried to cover my eyes with a thick blanket that stopped me from seeing the Loving Sovereign Father at work in pain.

It causes me deep sadness as I reflect on this to realise how long I stayed here. But he taught me valuable things when I was in the corner. His Spirit ministered to me in ways that my conscious mind may never know. His faithfulness stood undeterred. Then came the thought that caused my spirit to again stand with His.

I had been surprised by pain.

I had seen first hand the effect of a gospel that proclaims an easy life. I had felt the disappointment of the false whispers that made me trust in my circumstances. But even more revealing: I realised what darkness there lay in my heart. How quick I was to throw in the towel. How quick I was to retreat from the Author of Life. How slow I was to trust His wisdom.

His word gives a lens that explains pain like no other attempt I have ever seen. A brokenness that runs so deep into humanity that no one likes to acknowledge. A deep rejection of God as God.

As a result this life is broken.

I should be unsurprised by pain.

But there is more. There is also a deeper answer. A deeper hope. A way that plummeted the depths to soar to the highest heights. A love that broke through. A cross that pierced that deceiver, a cross that engulfed the darkness, a Saviour that scooped up the broken one. A grace that transformed the hardened one.

He showed me that I should be unsurprised by pain, and that he arms me to keep standing. Nothing kills trust in His goodness more than giving in to passivity. And projecting this passivity onto God…who is tirelessly at work for our good.

His Word is also living and active. A sword.

Lord you call us to an ACTIVE faith. Lord WHEN the next wave rolls in, may I wrestle with your word. May I reconcile every doubt-filled thought with the truth. May I desire to take my tendency to retreat to the foot of the cross where I find the power to stand. And when I can’t fight Lord, help me to know that your word fights for me. You act on my behalf. You always have.

I praise you that it is YOUR armour that we are told to put on. It is far better than any of my coping mechanisms.

Help me to fight the good fight of faith. With your children all over the world. Help us fix our eyes on heaven. When you bring all things under Christ. A restoration of brokenness.

And help us realise Lord…that now…while we wait…it IS a fight. So rather than being surprised by pain, we are armed and ready.

 

 

Jesus the Seeker

There once was a man who decided to seek Jesus…from a distance. Intrigue got the better of him. He yearned to know who this man Jesus was. So he climbed higher. High enough to see over the crowds. From a distance. He wanted to watch Jesus as he passed by; to watch this man of importance who seemed to be on a great mission.

But little did he know what was at the heart of Jesus’ mission. The heart of which many would be quick to deem unworthy of the title “mission”. This man….watching Jesus from a distance…was Jesus’ mission. Jesus did not pass by as expected. Jesus stopped. Jesus looked up. Addressed this man by name. Called him to come down closer. Jesus the seeker. Up close and personal. No longer at a safe distance. Face to face. This man met Jesus. His seeking would only result in being a spectator…from afar. But thankfully, Jesus was the real seeker. And the one whom Jesus seeks, is not kept at a distance. The one whom Jesus seeks is brought close. Looked in the eye. And addressed by name. The one whom Jesus seeks is changed.

“The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”.

For so long, I attributed faith as the outcome of my “seeking”. Yet the truth, which results in the crushing of all pride, is that He was the real seeker. My seeking would have kept me at a distance. Observing from afar. My seeking may even have filled my lips with opinions to share about Him…something to contribute to the discussion. Something to offer. But His seeking of me brings me intimately close. It breaks down pretence. Produces a desire for holiness. Brings transformation. My seeking would have observed him from afar. But He came close, called me down my name, so that I could joyfully receive Him. Not just so that I could know of this man Jesus, but so that I could be known by Him.

Lord Jesus, may my mission be yours. May I not see “stopping” for the lost, as a distraction, but as your very heart. Lord may I not be so precious with my time, so rigid in my schedule and goals, that I fail to stop and notice. That I fail to stop and look someone in the eye and tell them of the news of the God who came to save them. Please bring this work to completion in me Lord. May the knowledge that you have known me, produce in me a desire to live a life worthy of your call. Thank you for being the Seeker.

 

 

My dear foot

As I look down the barrel of a new year, there are two ways I could place you my dear foot, as you step. The first is by way of confident independence. The confidence of this step would be in reflection upon your past successes. Victories won. Trials endured. This step would be clothed in the royal purple robes of self assurance, crowned with positive thinking, presumed upon dreams, and holding a sceptre of control. It would be founded upon empty promises, false confidences and paper thin resolve. You see my dear foot, to take a step like this is to fall for the illusion of independence. The illusion of control. Let me show you a more excellent way.

The second way to tread would be in utter dependence. Not by way of choice but as a realisation of reality. Dependence is not merely a chosen path but the truth. All else is deception. The confidence of this step would be in reflection upon Another’s faithfulness…yet again. Another’s strength….in my weakness. Another’s sustaining. This step would be clothed in the royal blood-red robes of humility, crowned with obedience, embodied sacrificial love, yet holding a sceptre of true sovereignty. This step is not your own dear foot, but the following of Another’s. A path already walked. A path walked in the softest gold perfection. You, my foot, must continue to follow. This step is founded upon faithful promises of never being forsaken, confidence in an eternal hope, and the resolve of which led Him to the cross.
This is the only way to face an unknown forest of trees. The only way to walk in a manner of not fearing the worst. On this path, all goodness and beauty turns to praise of the One leading, and all trial and heart ache a chance to know true sustaining grace.
Lord Jesus, You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no-one comes to the Father except by You. This new year, may Your word continue to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Today

I tied myself in a knot playing the omniscient one. A scheme of the enemy….he folded my thoughts in on themselves as they launched into territory they aren’t made to be in. Thoughts mustn’t be anxiously active where their body hasn’t taken them. Or in time that the Lord has not yet given.

And so I remember a powerful word.

Today.

Lord today I need to remember the Gospel…for today my heart will forget what my head knows. Lord today I need strength to obey you…for today I will be tempted to live my own way. Lord today I need to find contentment in you…because today I will seek it in other things. Lord today I need the humility of Christ, because today I will be tempted to be proud. Lord today I need to know my identity in you, for today I will feel insecure.

Lord today I need your wisdom to make decisions for tomorrow, for only you know the future. And today I need to commit all those plans to you and go on focussing on today for this is where you have me.

Your mercies are new each morning.

I need your daily bread.

Help me be all in today.

Dear Father,

Forgive me. Thank you for your patience. I want to begin an adventure with you. An adventure that wrestles with and understands the truest way to experience You. The deepest and most intimate way to know You.

In an attempt to become more “grounded” in your Word…In an attempt to be on the same page theologically with those around me, I threw the baby out with the bath water. I became skeptical of my emotions, my feelings, experiences and also of how your Spirit works.

I began this journey of “truth seeking” with the glorious Jesus in my vision. But before long found myself just trying to please man. The irony is that in an attempt to be a “word-based” Christian I actually stopped trusting in Your Word.

I affirmed it with my lips…searching for others to approve of my “doctrine” but my heart was cold.

It was “theology-out-there”. Cold. Distant. Separate.

LORD this is the greatest of mistakes. I cared more about “mastering my theology than being mastered by Jesus” (Josh Harris).

To trust Your word, to have a faith based on the Word, is not just to defend the faith intellectually…historically. Which thankfully the bible is capable of!!! But it is not ONLY that. What a sad way to reduce the speech of the living God!!

Yes it is those things but it is so much more. To trust in Your Word is to have it quicken my heart beat. To trust Your Word is to believe it is the greatest of treasures and delights.

To be a word-based Christian is to let your word pierce, expose, enlighten, empower. To be driven by Your word is to have my experiences, emotions, feelings, informed by the truest of treasures that far surpass anything originating from my intellect…or from my feelings.

Forgive me for mishandling Your word…not in terms of “exegesis”…not in terms of “preaching prosperity”. No. Something more subtle and damaging.

For seeing it as “theology-out-there”. For seeing it as a ‘form of godliness but denying its power’.

For using it to be affirmed of by man rather than to know and experience You.

Yes…experience.

Scoop me wholly up into your arms again Lord. May I experience You not just in fragments of my person but TOTALLY. Your Word washing my heart, mind, emotions, walk, speech…everything.

God Your Spirit dwells IN me!! Illuminating you word…guiding me into it’s truth. Pointing me to Jesus. Transforming my mind. Giving me a new heart. It’s not “theology-out-there”.

Because of Christ, I am indwelt by You.

Nothing is more intimate than experiencing You through Jesus, by the Spirit.

Keep teaching me Father.