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13th September 2016.
I like to feel useful, to be involved, to make a difference and so I push myself, sometimes to the limits. I let people use me, my house, my car, my guitar, my time, my energy because God has given me endless grace and I have no right to hold things my own. Then sometimes I do more than I can and I stretch thin.*
God is limitless. I don’t understand that, but I recognise it and appreciate it when I reach my limits. Once again a summer of activities has left me frazzled, finding simple tasks complicated. I make excuses like, ‘I can do everything, just not everything all at once!’ but God has no limits. I get tired, I can’t manage my e-mail and my phone drives me nuts, but God’s ear is limitless. He can listen to billions of voices all at once and distinguish yours individually and carefully craft a response designed just for you.
God’s forgiveness is limitless. There’s nothing that you can’t come back from, there is no-one too far to reach, He made an endless decision to remember your sins no more. I try to forgive, I try to hold people up and bring them back, but I lose patience or I lose the strength to keep up with them. God’s patience is almost limitless. I say almost because His justice is limitless and must be satisfied and someday His patience will run out, but a God who is slow to anger is fascinating and one that I need.
You see the one thing I seem to find about me that is limitless is my failure. I try hard, but I still let people down. I want what is right but I still abandon it for what is easy. God’s love is limitless and no matter where I am or what I do He does not reject me or abandon me. His presence is limitless. All of creation tells of how far He extends, that the heavens stretch to hold Him, even the darkness is as light to Him.
My hope is limited by my experiences, or at best, my imagination, but He who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine has a hope for us that extends beyond life and death and time and eternity. His hope for you is limitless.
My energy and life is limited, I can only achieve so much and I can only run so long but when the sun has stopped shining the heavens and the earth will still be lit by a God whose power is never consumed, because His power is limitless. I can’t explain to you how limitless God is, but whatever your image of God is, he is bigger than that. Whatever your experience of God is he can be closer than that and more powerful than that. Praise be for our limitless God.
*This reminds me of a couple of things, like when Bilbo is telling Frodo in Lord of the Rings that he feels thin, like butter spread over too much bread. Or when in physics you would test the elastic limit of a rubber band, and you would stretch it in a way that it would never go back.
10th July 2014.
The fact is the Bible really is true and really does have answers. It lays out not only the mess we’ve made but the design behind it all. It says that we’re made in God’s image and that the relationships we’re meant to build are meant to reflect God. A man is supposed to love his wife the way Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, to present her spotless and beautiful without blemish (Ephesians 5v25-27). What that means is that at the very least a girl should be looking for this, a guy who makes her more beautiful. Not a guy who appreciates how beautiful she is already (although I expect they will) but one who adds to her beauty. Take this into account, is he making you more special? More happy? More positive or more powerful?
Now I’m not writing this as a shout of frustration, though in the past I’ve been very frustrated with beautiful girls going out with absolute wasters who diminish them and make them feel small. No, a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a girl who says she always gets the wrong guy and every guy she’s been out with has been rubbish. Well, you’re looking in the wrong place and you’re looking for the wrong thing. If you meet someone in a nightclub at best you get an idea of what they think of you (and that’s probably only what they can see). In actual fact you probably won’t know anything. How do you know if they’ll add to your value? It’s just simple logic, unless a guy makes you more special or more beautiful, you’re better off without one rather than having one who destroys your self-esteem and belittles your goals.
I know it’s hard to find a relationship like this, but it’s ok being single you know. You just have to make the most of your choices. You can build real friendships of trust and hope, you can develop goals and skills and character, you can get up and go places and do things that other people are tied down and can’t do and you don’t have to spend your money on someone else.
So ask yourself some questions… does he spend more on you than he consumes from you? Does he make you feel more beautiful and more proud of who you are? Does he invest in your long term future, does he value your goals? If he does there’s no guarantee he’s right, but if he doesn’t there’s pretty much a guarantee that he’s wrong for you.
I must admit, what does frustrate me is that girls go out with rubbish guys and let them be like that and it just gives them the feeling that it’s ok to be a scumbag. If you don’t change the parameters, they’ll just keep being the same. They’ll be drunkards, they’ll be abusive, they’ll be negative and depressing, they’ll be domineering or belittling or tiring or they’ll just suck up everything you’ve got. The Bible says relationships reflect God (Genesis 1v27). Does that guy bear any resemblance to godly behaviour? Would he father your children in the protective, hopeful, loving way God parents us? Does he love you or care for you as Jesus does?
Oh, and by the way, make these decisions before you agree to anything. It’s much harder to get out of something once you started. He’s not going to change so don’t begin thinking he might become that later, you know that’s just kidding yourself on. Just for once I’d like to see a guy ask a girl out and for her not to say Yes or No but “I don’t know if you’re right for me, I don’t know if you have my best interests at heart. What do you hope to happen?” Somebody has to challenge the way this world works because it will crush you until you feel worthless. Relationships done right can be the most powerful evidence for God. Relationships done wrong can take you to dark places where God is really hard to find. You choose.
22nd May 2014.
I really am a rubbish blogger huh?! I had so many blogs I meant to put up and time never allowed. Anyway, having just come back from France (where I meant to do an excellent blog on rich people and my own attitude) I saw the front page of the Herald yesterday. This gives a brief summary of the article. A guy of 20, with a number of family issues, worked hard and applied for loads of jobs and didn't get any. In desperation he took his own life. It's immensely sad, and reminds me seriously of why we want to build a youth and community centre. This was just a few miles away in Greenock. The subtitle for the front page article was "No Hope at 20!" Isn't that what Ephesians was saying, that before we were saved we were without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12).
I'm sure there's more to it than just not having work. He has left children and it is just outstanding that in fact this sort of incident is just not outstanding. Young people are becoming increasingly desperate. There's another article about self-harm in the same day's news. If we don't have something to say for this generation who does? Are we the sort of people who lament the downfall of humanity (which incidentally has been going on since men first sinned) or do something to change it. I'm not talking about legal reform, or legislation or government investment or community development, I'm talking about a real church bringing hope to lives. Do we believe there is more to life?
A few years ago as a youth worker I was walking to the door after setting up for a youth event. On the other side of the glass doors 'waiting' to get in were a horde of young people, throwing rubbish, shouting loudly and being foolish. My heart sank, but as I walked those few steps to the door I thought how everyone else thought the same and treated them the same, as a nuisance and a pest. Even many of their parents magnified their faults and minimised their joys. I decided I would be different. I opened the door with joy, smiled at them, invited them in warmly. I know they'd eat my food and drink my juice. I know they'll throw stuff and I'll spend quite a while cleaning up. But they're worth it. And I don't mean that in a shampoo advert kind of way. Each one of those guys I worked with is a stunning piece of God's handiwork. His artistry is immense.
I am sad about that young man in Greenock, trying not to be a waste of space. God made him and he never was a waste. Maybe there'll be another young man in a few years time who'll come to the same crossroads and will make a different choice because some people at the Gateway place showed him he was worth something and he had hope he didn't know he had. Maybe we can't reform a nation or a community, but maybe we can rescue some people. Maybe if we rescue enough we can bring change, but we have to believe that God designed every inch of every heart.
5th November 2012.
I think it's hard making decisions about ministries. I'm sure when Jesus sent out the 12 disciples, and then the 72, He knew the challenges they would face and that some of them would find it hard. He trusted them and gave them instructions and gave them a chance to be at the front. Our troubles with who we get to take on ministries tend to be based more on the simple balance between availability and ability. Maybe if we are lucky we have the luxury of considering integrity.
Who should lead our Sunday School comes down to who is willing and who can work with children. Yet there are more young people at Sunday School than before and their age ranges vary greatly. Is it not one of the key ministries of the church? Surely there should be people delighted to take on the opportunity to make a Spiritual difference in a young life?
Forcing someone to take on (or keep on) work they don't enjoy is not God's way. Maybe if we don't enthuse people about the possibilities of Sunday School and the impact that it has we'll never get the right person. I know that people with integrity, gifting and availability are few and far between but this is not a thankless task. Who doesn't remember the songs they learnt as a child? The Bible verses in my head come more from my childhood training than my teenage ambitions or my adult (not that I like to think that I've grown up) attempts at continued development. I may have only learnt them to get sweeties, but they have stayed there.
I think we like new things far more than consistent, faithful ministries and yet it is the solid, consistent teaching of the Word that sustains us. I suppose we're no different from the Israelites who enjoyed the manna from heaven, until they had it every day, and then they complained. One young life is more changed by faithfulness, more nourished by compassion and care than by big parties or generous gifts. Right?
So what do we do? How can we show the Spirit of God at work in consistent things more than innovations? Do we believe that God works in faithful things, or are we hoping for some sweeping revival to come from outside because we tried a new type of prayer meeting or a different sort of outreach?
My blog isn't much good is it? More questions than answers. I am convinced however that God's faithfulness is a key part of our design in His image. We need to value persistence and faithful ministries because we believe that many of those who reign with Him will have endured with Him for a long time and much of their faith will come from their childhood.
23rd October 2012.
I know there's a lot of complex paradoxes in the Bible. It's hard to get. God is both endless (beyond any bounds we can imagine) and imminent (closer than the thoughts in our head). He is light and there is no darkness in Him at all and yet He chooses to be among people lost in darkness.
Living the Christian life is the same. Somehow I am called to be holy and yet sin lives in me. God has given me endless power and yet I seem incapable of making choices that are right, and powerless to follow through on good choices I have made. I am a frustrated bottle of good intentions all shaken up.
The thing that has been on my mind is what the church presents. We are supposed to evidence the standards of God as perfection and holiness and yet make known to people that God loves sinners. We try to tell people that God is infinitely righteous and yet He lives with us and we are the worst kind of scum. And people hear the message in all the wrong order. If God likes us then we must be ok, right? Therefore God's standards must be just about the same as ours?
We have to start with fear. It seems kind of wrong to present fear, but the Bible is full of fear and fear being relieved. If there's no fear, then that which is boundless forgiveness seems like a little pat on the back. If there's no problem, then the death of Jesus can be presented as a nice example of kindness, rather than the violent destruction of the God of heaven, that was absolutely necessary in order to win back His broken people.
We need to find a way. People think that church people are nice people, they think that church teaches us to be good. And they think this is a Christian country, that the laws of the land show how to be good. This town and these people are so far from getting it. God will never diminish. I need to somehow show that He is endless in His justice.
I guess what I'm saying is that it is impossible to understand love without knowing the price that love paid, and it's impossible to know the price that was paid without knowing how immensely far we are from good. When we say "Jesus loves you" they hear "Jesus thinks you're doing all right" or "Jesus will never hold you accountable, never demand change from you and doesn't care what you do." What a task, to try and change that! It's impossible, unless our God is endless...