A short psalm

Lord, I’m on my knees again. I didn’t choose to be, but I’m too weak to stand.

Lord, I’m on my knees again, the yoke You placed on my shoulders is too heavy.

Lord, I’m on my knees again, I didn’t fall in worship, I just fell.

But while I’m here, may I wash Your feet? I have no soap, just my tears – are they enough?

The world says ‘Believe in yourself………’

…..and follow your dreams’,

but Jesus doesn’t! He says,

‘Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me

and also,

‘You have Abundant Life’

is that a paradox, a contradiction, or what? Or just a profound and foundational Truth?

In the previous post I tried to show the breadth and depth of Abundant Life as spoken by Jesus, but I want to tell a little of how it impacts ne.

I was praying recently for some great friends who are suffering greatly and I asked God ‘why is this going on? why now? why all at once?’ and God came right back ‘Stop asking questions you wouldn’t understand the answer to!’ I heard the smile in His voice, ‘I love them, I died for them, they have a living hope and glorious inheritance!’

My life is not what I would have asked for, it’s not easy, and I know I am not the only one in this place. There is a mystery in suffering, that we will not comprehend fully until we meet God, but I am learning to live in the middle of pain and limitations with a real and true sense of the presence of God. I’m way short of perfect, look:

  • Do I struggle daily? Yes
  • Do I make random visits to the pit? Yes
  • Am I angry too often? Yes
  • Do I have chronic pain and discomfort? Yes
  • Do I have Abundant Life?

Oh yes, I have Abundant Life! Oh yes!

Sometimes I wonder if I was nominated for a trial that started 10 years ago to check out if God is good. Today, I am able to confirm that God is indeed good. Immeasurably, unfathomably, infinitely, good. Remember Job, who, in the middle of immense suffering, and having had a serious talking to from God, could say ‘I had heard of You but now I have seen You’. I think he experienced some Divine abundance in the pain!

There are so many things I have learnt in this trial that I would never have learnt any other way, I have heard Him speak to me more than the previous 48 years put together. That’s why I’m writing them down here. Ezekiel (ch 40) was told ‘listen carefully and pay attention, this why I have brought you here. And tell the people everything you see’. I recognise his calling!

Out of God’s abundance, I know that He will never let me go – in the pit, in the pain, in the humiliation of not being understood – He is with me. My glorious inheritance breaks through, my living hope stirs within me and God says ‘Luv ya!’

Here’s an example. I really struggled with worship at the start of my trial, but God spoke such encouragement. ‘Do not be embarrassed by the sounds you make; is your focus on Me? then lay down your desperate desire to sound beautiful; lift up My Name – lay yourself down’. I need to remember that, and put it into action.

And again, a few years ago, I was raking leaves in the garden, with my phone throwing out worship songs. I was tired, (or possibly bored), so I lay down face first on the lawn and joined in as best I can. I heard God say “When a broken man says ‘thank you God, you are good’, I see that as being more than a conqueror”. I wept.

here’s another extract from my phone:

26 Jun 19 – Against all expectations, I have had a wonderful, inspirational day. God has turned stuff around within me – attitudes and depressing thoughts, into hope and excitement. I don’t deserve it but God is good, God is faithful to His children. All our days.

Eyes are hurting, so I’m going to stop now, but I have a lot more to say about the abundance of the Life God has given me!

3 Words for Life

This was very difficult to write and it started looking like a thesis before I canned it and rewrote (as a result there will be some gaps and holes). I write it because God led me through it soon after my emergence from hospital as a shell of my former self. I’m still learning how to live it, but back then in 2012 I was asking ‘how does abundance squeeze into my restricted, disabled future?’ It comes from the words that Jesus said in John 10 v 10:

‘I am come that they might have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows’ (Amplified version).

Full and abundantly overflowing life – I’ll give that a go anytime! It’s fairly clear, don’t you think? Inspiring, uplifting and full of hope. But how can it be true when your life falls apart? Honestly, it seemed an unlikely pathway and so I was prompted to start looking at the word ‘life’ in the gospels – what else did Jesus say about life?

 I was struck dumb (a huge blessing to my family) by the absolute clarity of what Jesus said.  No confusion here peeps! So here we go, seat-belts on please.

Jesus used 3 words for life, not just the one that the English language reduces it to. In the Greek used by the gospel writers, they are bios, psuche and zoe. The bullets below outline what they mean:

  • Bios – our physical and material life
  • Psuche – the life of our mind, will and emotion, our soul, our earthly ‘identity’ (whatever that means!). I would say it’s closely tied to our mental health.
  • Zoe – God’s life obtained through Jesus – eternal, flows out of our relationship and interaction with God. It does not rely on bios or psuche, neither does it utterly ignore or condemn them.

(interestingly, the first 2 have crept into the English language in the form of biology and pyche/psychology, but zoe has not)

The overwhelming view within today’s western culture seems to view life from a worldly perspective, where the pinnacle is some form of self-fulfilment. Within that, there may well be a recognition of spiritual needs, but zoe doesn’t fit because God has a totally different view. Take a good look at what Jesus said about these 3 parts of life

(all the references are here):

Bios

Jesus didn’t use this word very much, with a mention in the parable of the sower (Luke 8) where the seed that fell amongst thorns was choked by the cares, riches and pleasures of this life, this bios. Jesus also warned about riches and how hard it is for rich people to enter God’s Kingdom, He asked the rich ruler to give his possessions away, He told His disciples not to worry about what we eat, drink or wear and to store up treasures in heaven.

But bios was also used to mean our livelihood, and Jesus commended the widow who gave all she had, all her bios.

I would sum up bios as not a very important part of our Christian life! It is not a sin in itself, but can so easily distract us (I’m preaching to myself here!) from God – give it away if it does!

Psuche

Jesus had much more to say about psuche, about our soul-ish and mental lifestyle and ambitions – it hit me like a body punch when I saw how He spoke about it! Basically: don’t worry about it, lay it down, don’t love it, hate it – give it up for Him! That’s what Jesus did as He gave His life as a ransom for many, and our Good Shepherd laid it down for us, His sheep. When Jesus’ psuche was deeply troubled at Gethsemane, He submitted to His Father’s will.

There’s an answer to the world’s heavy problems of stress, anxiety and depression – take Jesus’ yoke upon you, for He is gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your psuche. Can I imagine being free from those things? Well lay it down Popeye, and take up Jesus’ yoke, and then, only then, it will be well with my soul.

But it doesn’t end there, and this is a huge encouragement that yelled at me as I was trying to pull this together, because Jesus then goes on to say: lose it & you’ll find it,lay it down & you’ll save it, hate it and you’ll keep it for eternal life (zoe!). If I want my mental health to be built on the Rock, then Jesus is crystal clear – He’s not saying ignore it, forget about it leave it alone, but lay it down for Him and you’ll get it back big time! Come on!!!! Why hadn’t I worked this out in 2015 when I was seriously depressed? I’d spoken about it twice in 2012 (men’s weekend and church) but it had not reached my heart. My prayer is that it reaches yours a bit faster!

Zoe

Here we go sky high and beyond. Brace yourself for this is where the G-Force kicks in. Jesus used this word for life the most out of the 3, because this was the Life He came to bring to us:

This Life is in the Father and in the Son and God so loved us that He gave His Son, Jesus, so that we can have it – Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and this Life, Jesus who is the Resurrection and this Life, Jesus who is the Bread of this Life, the Light of this Life and Jesus whose zoe Life is a well-spring of living water, abundant, overflowing and eternal. We can only find it by believing in Him, and with the righteousness obtained through that belief we are guaranteed to be free from condemnation.

If we want Light on our journey follow Him, follow Him down the narrow road, not the wide easy boulevard the world offers. This Life is not dependent on possessions or relationships, but it’s so abundant it’s better to enter maimed or blind than miss it.

That speaks right into my heart – healed or not, I have abundant, overflowing, eternal Life. Holy Spirit, challenge me and help me to live in it on the bad days.

I don’t think I need to write any more.

Desperately seeking significance

I thought I was on a roll so I started writing this a few days ago, but I tied myself in knots trying to be clever, so I’ll keep it short (unlike myself) and simple (like myself). It’s pretty sweet too.

With so much of my physical ability lost, after a couple of years it hit home that I was left with very little to impress – certainly not enough to operate at the sort of level I was used to. I started asking tough questions: why am I still here, what value do I add, why do I feel so utterly useless and worthless? I became depressed and however hard I searched, I could not see a way out. I felt ashamed – surely a Christion shouldn’t be depressed?

Out of that miserable position, God spoke more than once to show me that there is a place where I have authentic, genuine and eternal significance – in His presence. How I needed to hear that! We may not be able to do what we believe are significant things or utter significant words, but that does not take significance away from us – His presence is the only place to find it. Stop looking for it anywhere else, because it is not there!

I began to see how much of my life had been influenced by a deep desire for importance, achievement and recognition. I wanted to hold on to the status of Naval Officer and church leader, I relished people’s praise when I spoke or sang, I missed so much the opportunity for displaying my wit and intelligence. Without that I was hopeless and full of despair.

I had a wonderfully powerful picture given to me during this time by a true friend as he prayed for me. He told me he had seen me in a pit with people round the top reaching down to help me and try to pull me out. Then he saw that Jesus was in the pit with me, and the people started calling out ‘Jesus, help him, lift him up from there, come on, we’ll get him out.’ But Jesus answered with words that make me weep even as I type ‘I will stay with Iain. When he is able, we will come out of the pit together’.

God took the scales off my eyes, punched my heart and revealed the truth that my only significance is in Him. He thinks I am of infinite, immeasurable value.

Thank you Father.