Our Perfect Day Won’t Be Perfect

During the last few months I’ve had the exciting task of planning my wedding. (It’s tempting at this point to spend the rest of this post talking about how wonderful my fiancé Tim is, but I’ll try to stay on topic!)

Those of you who have been involved in planning the wedding of a family member, friend, or of your own, may know the pressure to achieve “the perfect day”, an elusive aim that seems only to have grown more elaborate with the advent of wedding magazines, blogs, and fairs.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ve had to really strive to maintain a balanced and godly perspective on wedding planning, but doing so has caused me to reflect upon my desire for perfection, and to realise that it points to something even more wonderful than the wedding itself.

The Best Laid Plans . . .

You see, however much I obsess over and plan the practical aspects of our wedding day, I already know that our perfect day will not be perfect. Perhaps it will rain, or some of our guests will be unable to come, maybe we’ll forget something, or make a mistake. Most of my married friends have amusing stories of things that didn’t quite go according to plan on the day, and I recently spotted an article online which advertised a “bridal emergency kit” containing more than 40 items in an effort to cover every eventuality!

WeddingAnd yet, even if everything should proceed flawlessly on the day, I must remember that this beautiful event is a metaphor, a picture that points to something higher and better outside itself. An event which will include everyone who loves and follows Jesus Christ: His wedding and eternally faithful marriage to his spotless and perfect bride – the church.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless . . . 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:25-32

The Perfect Day

On this wedding day there will be no shame and no imperfections or failures. The setting will be a redeemed and restored heavens and earth, flawless in its beauty. The bride will be radiant and completely without blemish. The all-consuming nature of her love will be life-giving and utterly fitting. In return the groom’s love will be selfless, staggering in its intensity, totally satisfying, and eternally faithful. Their love will make even the best earthly marriages look weak in comparison to its fullness and perfection.

In fact, as I meditate on this heavenly wedding, I’m even more excited about taking part in its earthly counterpart. Yet this also frees me from relentlessly striving for perfection on our earthly wedding day. If something goes wrong or it fails to live up to my expectations in some way, it won’t crush me because I know that it’s the dress rehearsal for a heavenly wedding that really will be perfect. And as I experience the incredible joy that I’m sure our wedding day will bring, I will be humbled to know that even this is only a foretaste of the joy to come – what a thought!

A Hope for All of Life

This is a principle which also holds true for the disappointments or failures or losses which we face in this life – and there are many. We take heart in the certain, joyful hope of that future perfect day when the whole, ransomed church of God will be radiantly married to her loving Lord and Saviour forever.

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” Revelation 19:6-8

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:1-5

For now we are those who watch, and wait, and long for our perfect heavenly wedding day.

 

Nim

Growing Up

This week marked my 30th birthday, and thanks to my sister’s secret planning it was the perfect day! However, as much as I enjoy birthday celebrations, I wasn’t really looking forward to this one. Thirty seems like a significant marker. . .of something! And I’m not sure that western society gives us a lot of positive messages when it comes to getting older. Most of the adverts that we see and the messages that we hear are to do with preventing ageing, looking younger, and staying current.

However, as the big day approached, I felt the gentle rebuke of the Holy Spirit about my negativity, and resolved to think about how the Bible guides us in thinking about age.woman-street-walking-girl

Have I unquestioningly taken my attitudes from the world around me? Or am I being shaped by God’s perspective? How can I think both realistically and optimistically about ageing?

We mustn’t ignore the difficulties of ageing in a broken world. There are some very real challenges that no one looks forward to. But the Bible equips us to deal with ageing – whether you’re a teenager or student, scared about your future, or approaching mid-life and wondering whether to have a crisis, or perhaps you’re in your seventies or eighties and laughing at those of us who think that thirty is a momentous milestone!

[I asked my family and a couple of friends for their thoughts, and they had wise things to say. So here you go – my first crowd-sourced post!]

 

1) Enjoy Your Youth & Use It Well: We laughed over Ecclesiastes contributions to this subject – essentially, enjoy your youth while you can, for “youth and vigour are meaningless” and will soon be gone! But we are meant to hear in this the warning to live wisely and for more lasting things.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth (Ecclesiastes 11:10 & 12:1)

2) True Beauty Doesn’t Fade: We fear losing our strength and beauty as we age, and we go to great lengths to preserve them. But the Bible urges us to stop swimming in such shallow waters!  True and lasting beauty is to fear the Lord, and to develop a character mellowed and shaped by faith and knowledge of God. He is the eternally beautiful one and over time his people start to share his beauty. (1 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 31:30) So we should focus on preserving our faith, holiness, and obedience as we age, rather than youth or physical beauty.

3) We Have a Renewable Source Of Strength! In a world where our strength can be taken by age, illness, or accident, we need the promises of God:

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

Enduring strength is given to those who trust in the Lord, for his provision never fails. (Psalm 18, Exodus 15:2)

4) We Grow in Wisdom & Influence: A great part of getting older is the opportunity to grow in wisdom and experience, and to enjoy the fruit of this in our work, relationships, and discipleship. We can serve more effectively, counsel and bless those who are younger, and experience new stages and opportunities that won’t have been open to us before. As my Dad pointed out: “The woman in Proverbs 31 is not a young woman, her influence and opportunities have grown as she has aged, and now she has the respect of her family and community, and the means and wisdom to bless many in ways she couldn’t have before.”

5) Ageing Should Remind Us What is Truly Important: Ageing is good for our discipleship(!) It forces us to grow in dependence on God, as we face the challenges of different ages and new stages. The fact that we are followers of Christ should govern our whole perspective on this – who cares what age we are as long as we continue to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”.(Matthew 6:33)  

Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

So where is my focus? On Christ and the joys of walking with him until my hair is grey . . . or on those grey hairs alone?

6) We Have a Hope That Grows as We Age: My Mum says that she never feels negative about birthdays because “Each one represents a whole year of God’s sustenance and work in me.” As Christians we have unshakeable, certain hopes in the face of the trials of ageing – hopes that go beyond this life. One day we will be resurrected with gloriously redeemed bodies – but we won’t much care about how we look in comparison to the wonder of knowing and seeing Jesus Christ face to face!

 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

There is so much more we could say, but I hope you find it as helpful as I have to think through some of these areas. Let me know in the comments if you have other perspectives to add!

Nim

The Right Way to Give Up

Pessimistic. Weary. Frustrated. Cynical. Depressed.

I’m encountering lots of people feeling an assortment of these emotions, and I confess to feeling more than one of the above myself as winter nights, gloomy days, end of year deadlines and the Christmas rush combine into a toxic gloom!

When we feel like this we can be tempted into giving up.

  • Giving up on  serving God and others.
  • Giving up on seeking holiness, obedience, and spiritual maturity.
  • Giving in to laziness, self-pity, and irritation with others.

Christians should give up when the going gets tough.

But NOT in any of the ways I’ve just listed! The reality is that we do get tired, overworked, and overwrought. We are finite, flawed individuals, and exhaustion and stress strip away the layers that we use to disguise this most of the time!pexels-photo-253208

Yet the Bible calls Christians to give up in a different sense:

  • We are to give up on our own strength and resources being sufficient.
  • We are to give up on trying to please God by our own merits alone.
  • We are to give up on self-made productivity and achievement.

 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Instead when we our insufficiency is exposed, we are to rejoice in the sufficiency of our God! We are to rest in his provisions and his power.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Our weakness should remind us of our desperate need for a saviour, one who is our Lord, Master and friend. We should give up on ourselves and draw close to our God. In him are new stores of help . . . but he sometimes waits to bestow them until we are humbly conscious of our need.

Like Martha, Jesus’ harried hostess in Luke 10, we often need the reminder to stop rushing around and ‘choose what is better’ – to sit at Jesus’ feet. (Maybe never more so than at Christmas!)

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:22-6

Even though our challenges may continue and our worries remain, the Bible promises us that God’s mercies are new every morning, and that he is steadfast and faithful. He is our living water that never runs dry and the bread from heaven that ever sustains!

Have a joyful, peaceful Christmas!

 

Nim

 

Flabby or Fit?

Don’t worry; this isn’t a post about pre-Christmas physical fitness!

If you know me well, then you’ve probably learned not to get me talking about the gym. I love it and I will bore you with all kinds of talk about it! However, the Bible includes a few exercise analogies, and so I hope you’ll forgive me if I use one today too.

As with previous posts (here and here) I’m still thinking through the subject of faith. Specifically growing in faith, and living it out day to day.

Living by faith can feel like something I do once in a while when I’m out of other options, rather than an everyday habit.

(By ‘living by faith’ I mean: following Christ and living out the gospel boldly, obediently, and sacrificially within the contexts and opportunities that God has provided, even when we feel weak, afraid, and ill-equipped.)

One of the problems with this is that trusting God bears some similarities to exercise. The more often you work a muscle, the stronger it gets and the easier and less painful it is. But if you only exercise occasionally you’re in for a lot of discomfort!

I wonder sometimes if trusting God can feel so uncomfortable because I’ve let it become an occasional thing rather than a daily part of my life. And just like sporadic gym attendance, it doesn’t feel very natural, I’m anxious, and my enjoyment of the process is ruined!

pexels-photo-gymPerhaps like me you need some reminders of why living by faith is so good, and why it should be an everyday thing instead of the final option we choose when our resources run out:

1) God is utterly trustworthy and wise. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. Ps18:30

2) Fear and worry are cruel and fruitless masters. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matt 6:27

3) God loves to be good to his children. For your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matt 6:8  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matt 7:11

4) Trusting in God is a privelege. In contrast to him, we are unreliable, short sighted, sinful, and weak, with many circumstances outside of our control. It should give us great peace of mind to trust in someone greater in every respect than ourselves!

5) God is weaving us into his story. As his people, by faith we get to be part of something greater and much more meaningful than we can imagine. (See Hebrews 11!)

6) As disciples we are followers. Having to trust in God’s leading and to wait for his help or resources protects this dynamic, lest we stride too far ahead on our own without his guidance.

7) Trusting God daily preserves his kingdom priorities: He is the King, we are his servants, we are to live for his glory and to further his kingdom.  31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’. . .  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt 6:31, 33

8) Living by faith makes us distinctive and attractive witnesses in a world where it’s ‘every man for himself’. By this we model to friends and family a better way to live – as loved and satisfied people cared for by a faithful God. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Matt 6:32

9) It’s a protection for us against wilful independence, idolatry, and self centredness. When we experience questions, doubts, or need, we necessarily draw near to God.

10) And as I’ve hinted with my exercise analogy, living by faith causes us to grow – in faith, in Christian maturity, in hope, and in love for our God. As we see him guide and provide for us we are humbled and blessed, and our faith is reinforced.

So the challenge for me (and I hope for you) is:

Am I growing strong in faith? Do I daily rely on God’s power and provision? Or do I think “Phew! Glad that’s over, hopefully I can relax for a while before I need to flex those faith muscles again.”

 

Why does God want us to be in constant attendance at the gym of faith? It’s part of growing in trust-filled relationship , walking with him more and more intimately, and enjoying seeing him work according to his will. Ultimately and unsurprisingly it’s for our blessing.

Join me in praying to our good God with the honesty of the man in Mark 9: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

Nim

 

Faith is Rest

I’ve been continuing to think about the things I explored in my previous post on fear and faith. [Read it here]

I was particularly struck by something my Mum said recently as I related a worry to her.  After a flood of anxious words from me about “trying to trust God in the situation”, she looked at me calmly and said “Naomi, faith is rest.”

This stopped me mid-rant, because Mum had pinpointed a key thing that I had failed to recognise! Although I was talking the talk, when it came to faith and trusting God my anxious striving demonstrated that I hadn’t fully grasped the concept. To trust God is to rest from anxious striving,  because we know that he is in control and that he is good and worthy of our complete confidence. We can rest, because he is at work.

What a simple powerful truth, yet how difficult it can be to put it into practice!

Unbelief Disguised As Efficiency

Fear and worry bring out the control freak in me. I like to tell myself that “I’m just being organised”, but if I look at my heart I know that often what lies behind is unbelief disguised as efficiency.

I  replace trusting God with tangible human action, as though I’m wiser or more capable than God himself! And while careful control of all the variables might get me through a situation, or allow me to feel ‘in control’, I know that I’ve traded list-making and relentless action for the peace and rest that come from faith.

Of course it’s not really either/or.  We can be both trusting and organised, resting in God and active!

 baby- psalm 130

A Child with its Mother

Faith is rest.

Yet this is not about inaction so much as right attitude. Psalm 131 provides a helpful model:

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

We’ve all seen sleepy toddlers snuggled contentedly with their mothers. They have no troubles because she provides all that they need, making them feel safe and loved.  Any need will quickly and trustingly be communicated to she who is constantly engaged in loving, protecting, and guiding her child.

What an astounding truth that our powerful, eternal God is willing and able to give us that same security and provision, causing the psalm writer to say “I have calmed and quieted myself like a weaned child with its mother.”

We, like Israel, would do well to humbly put our hope in the Lord and rest in him instead of proudly trusting in our own abilities or worrying when we know they aren’t sufficient.

Join me in cultivating this attitude towards our faithful God in pursuit of his rest!

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22

 

Nim

Rocking the Boat

Do you ever let fear or worry stop you from taking bold steps of faith?

Things have been settled in my life for a while, and somewhere along the way I have become a bit boring and safe and…faithless.

Of course in some ways I continue to be faithful – In the sense of being constant, striving for holiness, and seeking to please God. But I rarely make big steps that require faith in God. Instead I scale everything down to my personal achievement level. I don’t take risks.  I am happy with no great extremes of emotion and nothing unexpected, and I avoid anything that might upset the status quo.

I’d rather he didn’t rock my boat by doing anything too exciting. . .

pexels boat

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 Paul summarises the attitude which every follower of Jesus should cultivate, saying: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

But I’ve allowed myself to dispense with living by faith and instead I live almost entirely by sight every day. Things happen as I plan them, and so I don’t expect God to act in significant ways. In fact I’d rather he didn’t rock my boat by doing anything too exciting.

And yet I am his servant to do good works – by faith! I’m meant to be constant in prayerful reliance upon him. I’m meant to be led by his Spirit.

Please don’t misunderstand me, it’s a great blessing when life is good and we have peace and security. In a world like ours, many don’t have this luxury! But I’ve allowed my settled life to make me spiritually complacent. I find myself making decisions based on how something will impact my comfort levels instead of according to God’s glory and will, and I assess things according to my personal resources, instead of God’s unlimited supply. I am a spiritual control freak and a back seat driver!

But we’ve been studying Hebrews in my small group recently and it supplies some helpful correctives:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Things not seen”? I don’t like the sound of that. I like concrete evidence, precise plans, and a detailed road map of where God is leading me at all times!

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

As a follower of God, I must live by faith in order to please him! Real, active faith must spring from my trust in God, even when I don’t know where he is leading me or why. I insult my good and wise God when I reject his authority and act as though he is not worthy of my complete trust.

So what is the solution?

Acknowledging the problem is important, and repenting of my wrong attitudes. Yet reminding myself of  God’s character is hugely helpful too. How much easier it is to trust someone with the unknown when you know that they are infinitely wise, sacrificially loving, and eternally faithful!

Romans 8:32 reasons: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

 

A growing excitement for the good and faithful plans of God

I was also greatly encouraged as I read the rest of Hebrews 11 and saw the amazing things that people of faith achieved by following God into the unknown. It made me long for God to do exciting and significant things in and through me too! I want to know more of God’s power and sufficiency in my life. I want to live for his glory, instead of for my own comfort.  I need to let him rock the boat if that is what it will take to call me to authentic faith and service.

Yet God also assures us repeatedly that as well as being faithful to those who trust in him, he is also GOOD! One such verse is Psalm 84:11:

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favour and honour. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

It is promises like these that give me the courage to step out in faith when God calls me away from the comfort zones that so easily disguise my unbelief and idolatry.  With God’s help (ultimately faith comes from him!) I will continue to trust in his wisdom and goodness as he leads me.

 

Nim

 

So Much More Than We Know

What is sin?

We tend to talk more in terms of sins – things that we do that break God’s moral standards. And this is biblical and helpful.

Yet we also need to understand and feel that sin goes much deeper than our actions. Behind our behaviours there are attitudes of the mind and heart that are deeply insulting to God. Some of which we’re oblivious to.  It’s also not just about what we do, but about what we withhold.black-and-white-person-woman-girl

Yet I don’t say this to condemn myself, or you, because realising the seriousness of sin makes the forgiveness of Jesus Christ much more beautiful and precious to us!

And so I want to share some words by John Piper that powerfully capture why sin is so serious, by showing us how we rob God of what is rightly his:

What is sin?
The glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not relied upon.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin!
John Piper , from “All Consuming Fire” by Shai Linne.

I hope that these words help you like they are helping me, to humble myself before God again, crying out for his forgiveness and joyfully embracing the grace and help that he freely offers us in Christ.

How merciful he is, when we wrong him so greatly!

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world . . . gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-5

[WordPress informs me that this is my 100th post on the blog! Thank you to all my faithful readers and encouragers, and all glory to God for continuing to work in and through me via this blog. Please keep your comments coming if there are ways it could improve!]

Nim

Ebenezer

I’m a little stressed right now. My postgrad theology dissertation looms, work is busy, and my diary is full … But I’ve been studying the Bible book of 1 Samuel with a friend and it has provided a helpful reminder:

In chapter 7 after a dangerous battle between God’s people and the Philistines we read:  Then Samuel [God’s prophet] took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12)

Ebenezer means ‘stone of help’, and whenever the Israelites saw the stone they would remember God’s rescue during this battle. It was a monument to God’s power, steadfast love, and willingness to help his people, and a call for them to trust in him in the future.  What a great antidote to fear, worry, and trusting in the wrong things!journalling

Till now the Lord has helped us.

Remembrance of God’s past help and faithfulness helps us to trust him in the present when life is stressful and we don’t necessarily know how things will work out. Satan loves to attack God’s character and goodness, and to fill us with doubt and unbelief. Yet remembering God’s past faithfulness to us is a great shield against this.

Whether it’s spiritual or physical blessings that we recall, it’s so helpful to our hearts and minds to be reminded of what our God is like, and his willingness to help and provide for us despite our sin and failure.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-3

The Bible is filled with concrete promises like this for us to trust in, but I think there is a place for active remembrance like Samuel’s too. When was the last time you sat down and reminded yourself of God’s particular help towards you in the past? Perhaps you keep a journal and can look back at answered prayers and unexpected blessings, or maybe it’s a case of making time to think through months and years gone by to identify the ways that God has helped you so far? You may even have a literal symbol of God’s provision that you can look at.

Let’s not be forgetful and anxious Christians. Till now the Lord has helped us.

Nim

Quiet Time Qualms

Most Christians try to earmark regular time to spend with God, and it’s often referred to as a ‘quiet time’. I’d certainly recommend it, it’s great to have dedicated time each day to read the Bible, pray, and enjoy the close relationship that God invites us to have with him. Yet I know that I often sabotage myself in this area.

I get up in the morning, fetch a cup of coffee, and sit down for some time with God…and then I heave a sigh, and try to psych myself up to approach him!

Surely God has better things to do?

I expect he doesn’t want to see me after those failures yesterday.

I’m so aware of His awesome holiness and power.

I already feel guilty because I went to bed late and snoozed the alarm this morning.

My phone is urging me to check my Facebook feed.

The day’s tasks are calling for me to begin them.

I can nearly persuade myself in that moment to walk away from my Bible, and put off prayer until another time! Can you relate to this?Quiet Time Qualms

Here are some things I think the Bible has to say to me and to others who struggle with feelings like these. If you are a Christian:

God has already saved you and will not let you go now

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God Ephesians 2:8

You don’t have to persuade God to draw near to you

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty . . . whoever comes to me I will never drive away. John 6:35,37

You don’t have to persuade God to love you

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

You don’t have to persuade God to be gracious to you

If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-2

 

We mustn’t forget how much we need God’s presence and work in our hearts and lives. We must prioritise personal, regular time with Him.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5

Nevertheless we don’t do this in our own strength, but with the help of God’s Spirit, and in light of God’s great love and mercy towards us!

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . .

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:3, 6

 

Let’s rejoice and take courage from these truths!

 

Nim

Banishing Christmas Angst

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m a bit of an over-thinker, which can be quite useful for blogging, but it also means that I sometimes miss the wood for the trees!

As Christmas approaches each year I usually get a kind of weird anxiety or ‘Christmas angst’, which looks something like this:

I worry about whether I am being too materialistic?

And whether I am taking enough time in the busyness for God, and making space to meditate on the true meaning of Christmas?  (I can’t seem to stick to an advent reading plan!)

I worry about whether I am grateful enough for Jesus coming to earth, and if I am really worth his love and sacrifice?

And whether my worship is as heartfelt as it could be (I tend to go into automatic mode when I’m singing carols). . .and so on.

I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way?

 

Missing the Point

Can you see what I’m doing here? I might have good intentions, but I’ve actually made Christmas all about me! And instead of relishing the good news of the Christmas story and letting the truth of it soak in and bless me, I’ve let it become all about what I am doing (or failing to do), what I am thinking and feeling, and whether I measure up! There is a place for reflection of course, yet I’m amazed at how I can distort this until my anxieties squeeze out all the joy.

Fortunately for me, a talk that I heard on Sunday  reminded me that we can see what Christmas is about in the names given to the Saviour whom we celebrate:

Emmanuel: God is with Us

Jesus: God Saves

In these two names I’m reminded that God made the first move (in fact he makes every move of significance!)

Jesus Christ came to earth as a man, to rescue us from our sin.

God proclaims his love, care, and forgiveness for all to see by sending a rescuer to all who will receive him:

. . .the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS that will cause GREAT JOY for ALL THE PEOPLE. 11 Today in the town of David a SAVIOUR has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth PEACE to those on whom his FAVOUR rests.” Luke 2:10-14

Banishing Christmas AngstSo Christmas is a time where I get to revel in this undeserved rescue, instead of trying to convince myself (and God) that I’m somehow worthy of it. It’s not an opportunity for me to measure how spiritual I am. If I focus on my failings or on arbitrary measures of godliness, I miss the point entirely!

Instead this Christmas, I’m going to focus my attention on God’s radical generosity in sending Jesus, and the news that I don’t need to strive to save myself, I have a saviour! I can rest in the reality of his rescue from sin, which began in a manger in Bethlehem.

All that is left to do is to accept it, enjoy it, and praise him for it.

 

Wishing you a joyful and angst-free Christmas!

Nim