Posts Tagged "God"

Bitten

Bitten

By on Mar 24, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

Imagine a hamster – cute, furry, endlessly running in its wheel – now imagine a pregnant hamster – teeth, fury, aggressive and unapproachable. Now imagine a young child full of compassion, nurture, not really knowing the hamster was pregnant – blood….. I am told that at the time my daughter was brave and relatively controlled. Back at home things were a different story. As she spoke these words ‘I picked up the hamster and IT BIT ME THROUGH THE FINGER’ her composure had changed from quiet misery to complete hysteria. Usually prone to bouts of irritation and impatience at times such as this I received grace to understand the situation.  She was expressing delayed shock and self-preservation, mixed with a little ‘injustice’ seasoning. The rodent’s lair clearly wasn’t a safe place for my daughter to try and understand her emotions. Life didn’t stack up that day and home was the place for release. Psychologists may have a slick mechanism for describing this type of affectivity but for me it’s simple. You’re living life, you get hurt, you need a safe place for release and search for it. In my life experience I can’t recall anybody I know who hasn’t gone through, or isn’t presently going through, this process. The hurt is usually different for each of us but its source is the same: a world fallen. The crux comes when we search for release mechanisms found in that same fallen world. Mankind needs something from beyond a quick-fix no-substance cycle often offered as a 21st century solution. At this point our ecclesiastical ‘spidey sense’ should be going into arachna-drive. Someone wrote once that because Jesus had come and brought all things into cosmic unity, the church He founded is now the manifold wisdom of God present on earth. This suggests we are the living embodiment of the solution to so many people’s hurt. We, amongst whom God dwells, are the safe place for release into freedom so many people need in our community. Nobody’s told them that either. With reluctance and grim openness I face a difficult truth. The further I move into the church the less amenable I am to model the truth I have just written. ‘Sure,...

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God in the Deluge

God in the Deluge

By on Mar 19, 2014 in Blog |

If those living in the UK over the last two months are anything like me, then they too, I am sure, have had enough of this terrible weather.  It feels to me as though our television screens have been on an endless loop of showing more and more iconic images of waves pummelling our coastline, and of communities inundated with flood water.  And yes, it is official: we have suffered the wettest, and possibly the windiest, winter on record.  Yet, as the storms seem to abate, it now feels like we are entering a season of recriminations. Various polls tell us who we think is to blame for the flooding; with the Government, the Environment Agency and freak weather all vying for the top spot.  And if we are to believe these polls, then almost 40% of us think that ‘some towns and villages are not worth defending from flooding, because the cost is too high’.  Yet in all of the talk, I’ve not seen anyone point the finger at God.  Is this because we as a nation, no longer believe in God?  Or have we pushed the view that our God is the ‘God of love’ so much so that we now cannot believe He could have any involvement in such suffering? In his letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people[1].  And yes if we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves[2].  So we can ask ourselves: how is God revealing his anger?  The first thing to note is that the ‘is revealing’ is a present tense, continuous action.  Paul answers this very question in at least three ways in his letter to the Romans; (i) human death reveals the wrath of God[3] from which no-one is immune; (ii) the sinking degradation of human behaviour[4]; and (iii) universal futility and misery are evident of God’s wrath[5]. It is this last point that I wish to explore in a bit more detail here.  From Paul’s words, we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present times, and even we Christians, although we have the...

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Knowing God: Tender Love or a Wrestling Match?

Knowing God: Tender Love or a Wrestling Match?

By on Mar 5, 2014 in Blog |

During the Christmas break, our house was full of the noise of grown up children enjoying being together. They have a deep bond between them and this is often expressed physically; not with sentimental hugs but rather by tea towel fights, wrestling and (this one was new) my son sweeping the kitchen floor by dragging his sister around on her back. When he became a teenager Nathan no longer wanted to be hugged and cuddled by me and yet physical contact was still something he needed and sought. This was usually in the form of wrestling and I still remember the triumph in his face when he was first able to pin me to the floor. In the incarnation God became man and dwelt physically among us. Jesus related physically to the people around him, feeding them, healing them, sitting children on his knee, walking with them, greeting them, laughing with them and weeping with them. God made us as physical beings and the relationship we can have with him is not only cerebral and spiritual, but also one which engages with our physical beings. We see glimpses of this when people experience physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we struggle with this, but should that really come as a surprise from a God who wants engage with the whole of our being? It amazed me recently to learn that when we sing our pituitary gland releases natural endorphins into our bodies. These are neurotransmitters that give us a feeling of well-being. God created us so that even as we give to him in praise, it makes us feel physically good! It is has also been shown through psychological and physiological research that ‘an attitude of gratitude’ has a similar effect. When we live as God intended us to it affects the whole of our beings. In Genesis we see Jacob encountering God in two very different but tangible ways. The first is in Genesis 23, where he dreams of the ladder reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending. Here we see the grace of God embracing a man who had cheated his brother out of his father’s blessing and was on the run. Yet God drew...

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The God Who Dwells

The God Who Dwells

By on Feb 24, 2014 in Blog |

Most religions ascribe a dwelling place to their god or gods. In polytheist religions, a god could be the ruler of the sphere they inhabited, as Poseidon was the god of the sea. Temples were built and statues erected in which the god was seen to live. In contrast, the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions reject the idea of limiting God in space. Nevertheless, Muslims refer to their mosques as ‘bayt-allah’ or the house of God. The Jews believed that the presence of the Lord could be encountered in the Holy of Holies, whether in the Tabernacle or, later, in the Temple of Jerusalem. Although it is known, accepted and believed that God is omnipresent, man has a tendency to appoint a physical place where we can meet him. What of Christians? We don’t, for the most part, believe that God lives in our church building, or even that he is more accessible there than elsewhere. Encounters in special holy places are something we assign to the Old Testament covenant. We can all quote 2 Corinthians 6:16 “For we are the temple of the living God” (NIV) or a similar passage. It’s so simple: God lives in us, not in a building. But what does it mean for our body or for the Church as the body of Christ to be a temple? What do we mean when we say God lives in us? Isn’t it just another, more ‘spiritual’, way of giving God a place of residence? Jewish scholars have coined a term, adopted by Christians, to refer to the indwelling presence of God: shekinah. Although this word  is not actually used in the biblical text, it is derived from the verb shakan, which is found repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, this translates as settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle or reside. Thus, in Exodus 25:8, when the Lord says to Moses “have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (NIV), he is in effect offering to become their neighbour, a permanent presence in their midst. Similarly, the word used for the Tabernacle, mishkan, is also derived from the same root and simply signifies dwelling-place. It is easy for us, with our...

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An Unexpected Journey to a True Fast

An Unexpected Journey to a True Fast

By on Feb 22, 2014 in Blog |

One thing I love about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hobbit, are the quotes that cause me to stop and think about the truths they contain.  They are statements of hope and faith, against the odds, and with evil and darkness pressing in on all sides. With the launch this Christmas of the second film in The Hobbit trilogy, it was time to watch again the first Hobbit film in preparation for the trip to the cinema. I was not disappointed as I watched An Unexpected Journey. Galadriel, the Lady of Lothlorien, asks Gandalf why he was taking Bilbo on this quest with him. In reply Gandalf responds, “I don’t know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” This reminded me of another of my favourite films, Evan Almighty. This tells the story of a newly appointed Congressman Evan Baxter wants to “change the world” according to his election campaign. Various strange events start to happen until finally God meets him and explains how he wants him to build an Ark. Eventually, dispute the ridicule and his family temporarily leaving him, he builds the ark and saves many people when a dam bursts. At the end of the film God reveals to Evan the significance of the ARK – that the way to change the world is one Act of Random Kindness at a time. The implication is that the way to make a difference in our communities and transform them is the same: simple acts of random kindness and love, the everyday deeds of ordinary folk. This is what will hold back the darkness in our own communities and society. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks about how the Son of Man will judge the nations as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. Some will be commended and rewarded for giving of themselves, for they gave food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, they invited strangers into their homes, provided clothing, cared...

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