Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Something Less Glorious

I wrote a phrase this morning in my note book during my quiet time. It has lodged itself in my spirit and refuses to be silent!

The story in 1 Kings 14 is about Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. He is not turning out to be a good king. The King of Egypt swoops down, attacks Jerusalem and carries off the treasures of the Temple. He takes everything including the gold shields that Solomon made.

What does Rehoboam do? Well, he doesn’t chase after the King of Egypt and claim them back. He doesn’t amass another pile of gold and made some more. He replaces the gold sheilds with bronze ones. They only get taken out on special occasions and the rest of the time they are locked away in the guardroom!

The phrase that I wrote? “Rehoboam makes do with something less than glorious.”

I am challenged by that! How many of us make do with something less than glorious?

Perhaps bronze was stronger than gold and much more practical for shields. It looks like they are only there for show anyway. It is not as if they appear to be spear-stopping shields. You get the impression that he makes the replacements bronze so that they are not worth stealing.

I am reminded how often the devil swoops in to try to steal the treasure that God imparts. Sometimes we don’t put up much of a fight! We don’t always chase after him and claim it back!

Sometimes what we replace that treasure with is something less glorious! We perhaps allow our picture of God to get smaller or we allow our vision to be less clear. We count ourselves unworthy of involvement in his Kingdom building. We start to perhaps generate a quality of life that doesn’t draw the attention of the enemy the way it used.

We settle for a Christian life less glorious that the one God mapped out for us!

I had a good think today about the treasure I feel that have been stolen from me by the enemy. I have a choice to stand by and let it happen, and fashion out a poor replacement for what has been taken. Or I could chase after the enemy and claim it back!

The Spirit is urging me to claim my treasure back!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

So what do you need to know?

I was talking a few weeks ago with a friend of mine who had recently got engaged. Falling in love changes people. I have just been watching one of my all time favourite programmes – Joan of Arcadia. In a previous episode Joan had kissed Adam and this one was about working out whether the kiss meant anything significant. A visiting speaker to the school gives them a lecture about love and relationships and likens romance to a virus – it messes up with the normal function of the brain!

My friend was sharing with me that she and her fiancĂ©e plan to see a pre-marital counsellor! My initial reaction was to subdue an outbreak of hysterical laughter. I cannot imagine in a millions years that the suggestion of Joe and myself seeing a pre-anti-or-post marital counsellor as a thing to do! He doesn’t have a high opinion about counsellors. There is no problem that he can’t get sorted out by talking things over with a friend over a couple of pints while watching a football game.

Apparently the idea of these pre-martial counselling sessions is to provide an opportunity to raise issues that might not crop up in ordinary conversations. If you go into a relationship knowing the answers to the big questions I suppose they think that the relationship is that much more secure.

Had I perhaps been to a pre-martial counselling suggestion would I have discovered just loudly my husband snores at night? Would I have discovered that any set of twenty two players and a ball, from any obscure football league in the world would hold his attention like nothing else? Would I have discovered the depth of passion that he has for politics, staying up all night to watch the results of the general election? Would I have found out that anything dipped in batter and deep fried is infinitely more appetising than mange tout chopped into a salad?

I have enjoyed the discoveries I have made being married to Joe. Perhaps if I knew it all beforehand I would not have thought I was up to voyage and abandoned ship. As it is, Joe completes me in a way that I would never have imagined. I am not the same person I was before I met him. I am fulfilled.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Being Fearless

I made a small step yesterday to be fearless. I have a lot of concerns about things but I don’t always say anything. I play the ostrich – stick my head in the sand and hope it all goes away. Part of the trouble is that I fool myself into thinking that certain people are more spiritual than I am. I think they have a better handle on something, or a clearer vision than I have. So I keep quiet.

I am sure there are times when it is a good idea to keep quiet – but I have learned from experience that sometimes my thoughts just simmer and boil and I get spiritual indigestion. It gets to a point when it spills out and not always in the healthiest manner!

Sometimes the worship group begins with the opening phrase “What do you want to do…?” There are times when I have something I want to do. I have spent time preparing myself and have got something burning on my heart. I don’t always have the courage to speak out and we end up doing something that although it might be good to do, it wasn’t what God had planned, because the person God shared the plan with kept quiet! I have often gone back to my car kicking myself for not speaking up!

Yesterday I had my answer to “What do you want to do…? I wanted to talk about things that I thought were going well, or not going so well. I wanted to talk about how some of the changes we had put in place had affected me. I admitted to some of the things I struggled with. It wasn’t a list of complaints. I also had a few answers up my sleeve to some of the problems I was experiencing.

Suddenly we were all talking. We were suggesting ways that we could make more effective use of the time we have available.

What I loved about the meeting was the absence of finger pointing. Worship isn’t about playing the notes of a song in the right order, with the right rhythm, so singing pitch perfect. It is about serving God and serving one another.

I felt very encouraged that we not only listened, but we sought out solutions. There was an attitude of surrender. Sometimes we hold very strong opinions about things and we want to insist on our way of doing something. We fight tooth and nail to hold the ground we stand on. I have been in meetings like that, and been thoroughly mauled! Last night was not one of those nights.

I left feeling very built up and encouraged!

Thanks Mark, Sue and Kyle!

Storming a Stronghold!

I had a very encouraging time at work today. I am not sure if I mentioned in a previous post but someone had approached me some time last year, very tentatively I might add, to see if I was interested in attending a prayer meeting.

I suppose that just because you are known to be a church goer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have a living and breathing relationship with God. A prayer meting at work had been something that I had thought about years ago, but never had the courage to pursue it.

My young friend had the passion and pursued it! He talked to the senior management conscious that we live in a secular society and sometimes it is not “cool” to express Christian values. He got the go-ahead and we had our first meeting at lunchtime today.

For me, at least, there was an unquestionable excitement. We might be planning to meet only once a month – but we are meeting! God has got a foothold in what often seems to be the enemy’s stronghold! I was excited that there were people gathered who wanted to bring God into the work environment and seek His perspective and involvement in daily affairs. There was a feeling of knowing that someone, God, was big and powerful, and on our side.

The other noticeable thing was the attention paid to who walked through the door! I felt like I wished I could hand out badges that said “Proud to be a Christian!” There were a few surprises – people I didn’t expect to be there.

If you could imagine the French Resistance during the war – they know there are allies and supporters, but you don’t ever meet them face to face. People tend to keep pretty much under the radar. Suddenly we are all sticking our heads above the battlements and making a declaration. We get to see who is on our side!

Many of the prayers focussed on the desire to witness. Many of us actually wanted to share our faith but lacked courage. We were worried that we would mess it up and say the wrong thing. I am not sure that it was people’s ridicule that we feared – but more about the damage we might to someone seeking faith if we said the wrong thing.

My young friend who organised the meeting was so encouraged – he just about floated out the door!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Less Than a Conqueror

I missed the word at church yesterday because I was doing Sunday School. While the children and I acted out the Parable of the Sower, and pretended to be seeds, and birds and weeds, the rest of the church were being told that it was OK to fail – I think! We live in a success orientated world where failure is frowned upon, and sometimes rather than try something and fail to do it, we just don’t try in the first place. Once you have failed, people define you by your failure and you don’t often get a second chance!

God had been speaking to me days earlier, when I was thinking about planning for the coming year. I won’t say that I made a New Year’s resolution, because I didn’t resolve anything – but the single word that God gave me was “fearless”. It wasn’t just one word at all, but two – “Be fearless.” Not doing things because I think I might fail is a perfect description of how I often act, and that is not the way I am designed to be by God.

If you count up all the times in scripture that God says to people “Do not be afraid,” and think about all the people God said it to – it wouldn’t surprise me if it came out as the number one thing that God said! It didn’t matter if it was a seasoned warrior like Joshua, or a frightened man threshing wheat in a wine press like Gideon - they all needed to hear the message.

Someone last night gave me permission to feel less than a conqueror! I have a fairly stressful job and like most people doing my job, I get stressed out. I am well aware that I have access to a whole pile of resources that other people don’t have. I have God on my side. I have access into His throne room. I have His perspective on the situation I have to deal with. I have a wonderful Christian family that give me tremendous support.

With all that in place I still feel stressed out at times! I get drained – physically, emotionally and spiritually. And people don’t say it, but I feel it, that I should not be stressed out – not with all the resources I have been given. The Bible says that I am more than a conqueror, but I don’t feel it! I don’t particularly want someone to pray over me. I don’t particularly want wonderful sounding encouragement either. I just want hugged. I want time and space to bounce back in my own time and not feel pressured into being always victorious! I have no intention in revelling in my misery - but I just need time to right my boat and adjust my sails.

When Job went through his time of testing, his friends at the start just sat with him and didn’t say anything. It was only when they began to talk, and offer their perspective on his suffering, that they added to his suffering, rather than relieved it.

Last night someone was sensitive enough to say that sometimes we don’t need the powerful prayers, or the stirring words – but just someone to be there and supply a cup of tea. Sometimes we just need someone to be there, and say nothing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Sceptre's in His Hand

I don’t know whether there is something in the Bible that says that you get to become like the people that you hang around with – but it is certainly true of my friend Mark. I went to a meeting last night. I thought it was something about putting 2008 before God and basically handing the year over for His purposes – which it was! It was more specific in the sense that it was directed towards the prayer cover for Street Pastors which has its official launch at the end of January.

It was a very lively meeting, with people drawn from a number of different churches from Inverness. They were very much involved in Healing on the Streets and Street Pastors and were looking for direction about how to organize prayer cover. They spoke about God appointing (as opposed to anointing) people to do various tasks over the next year. I had this kind of picture of God and a clipboard and a room full of people, and issuing people with colour-coded folders with specific tasks to do. If you watch any of the police programs- a major investigation is about to be undertaken, all the detectives have had a general briefing and then the specifics jobs are assigned – “Hey, Jones and Carruthers – see what you can find about the telephone calls Mr X made over the last six months!” “We’re on it, sir.” That was the kind of thing I envisioned!

The worship time during the meeting was excellent. I can’t remember the song we were singing, but the refrain in my head was “The sceptre’s in His hand” picturing God reigning on His throne and administering his rule.

I then thought about Queen Esther approaching the throne of the King:-

”On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." Esther 5:1-3

We have been clothed in royal robes and have been invited into the throne room of God Almighty. When God sees us approach, He is pleased and holds out the golden scepter to us and invites us to touch its tip. He asks us to bring our requests and share with Him what is on our hearts.

WOW!

A woman sitting nearby had also been thinking about Queen Esther. It was encouraging to have someone confirm what God was saying. It was encouraging for me to feel that in a bunch of very enthusiastic worshippers, I could hear God’s voice too!