Faith is life-defining

24 08 2012

What is faith?  It’s difficult to define, but maybe I can get there by thinking what it is not.  Faith is not the warm fuzzies of spiritual life somehow dissociated from the real world.  If I am to take Hebrews chapter 11 (where Wordlive has taken me) seriously, then I need to have a more robust notion of what faith is.

Nor is faith about believing difficult or impossible things just for the sake of it.  So it is not credulity, though at times it must have seemed like it (eg Abraham and Sarah Having another laugh). It is much more.

Faith is life-defining, as the other examples in the chapter show.  It is believing that there is a God, that he has made promises to mankind, promises that he will ultimately keep, even although is may appear that he has taken a holiday.  So there is something about trusting God’s faithfulness much more than it is about conjuring up a spiritual state for others to envy – the “I wish I had your faith” brigade. There’s also something about living out our beliefs, integrating all areas of life.

In one of his interviews in Mitch Albom’s book I mentioned, the Reb says this:

“‘Mitch,’ he said, ‘faith is about doing.  You are how you act, not just how you believe.'”

He seems to have got it right.

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds’.” (James 2:17-18)

Or as The Message puts it: “Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.”

So I need to have a life-defining faith, an integrated faith, faith that God is faithful no matter what.


What a morning!

8 04 2012

Happy Easter!

Keith and Kristyn Getty have written this wonderful tribute to Jesus.  Come, sing with me!

See, what a morning, gloriously bright,
With the dawning of hope in Jerusalem;
Folded the grave-clothes, tomb filled with light,
As the angels announce, “Christ is risen!”
See God’s salvation plan,
Wrought in love, borne in pain, paid in sacrifice,
Fulfilled in Christ, the Man,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

See Mary weeping, “Where is He laid?”
As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb;
Hears a voice speaking, calling her name;
It’s the Master, the Lord raised to life again!
The voice that spans the years,
Speaking life, stirring hope, bringing peace to us,
Will sound till He appears,
For He lives: Christ is risen from the dead!

One with the Father, Ancient of Days,
Through the Spirit who clothes faith with certainty.
Honor and blessing, glory and praise
To the King crowned with pow’r and authority!
And we are raised with Him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with Him,
For He lives: Christ is risen from he dead.

Read the rest of this entry »


14 01 2012

Chapter 11 of Genesis  sums up how far man has travelled from the good creation of chapter 1 – “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

Powers of ten

Do you remember what God’s intention was?  His instruction to mankind was to fill the earth and govern it, but man thinks he knows better. (Don’t we always?) He wants fame, control and prestige. It’s a sad wandering from the intended path.

You can read more about this in my previous post – Mind your language.

God doesn’t give up on his rebelious people.  God doesn’t give up on me.  The words of the featured song on Wordlive this week sum it up –

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to all who draw near You;
Hearing the cries of the humble in heart,
Showing the cross they may cling to.
Broken I come, helpless in sin,
Found at the feet of Your mercy.
Father, forgive; may my sin be remembered no more.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful through times we have failed You;
Selfish in thought and uncaring in deed,
Foolish in word and ungrateful.
Spirit of God, conquer our hearts
With love that flows from forgiveness;
Cause us to yield and return to the mercy of God.

Merciful God, O abounding in love,
Faithful to keep us from falling;
Guiding our ways with Your fatherly heart,
Growing our faith with each testing.
God speed the day struggles will end;
Faultless we’ll gaze on Your glory.
Then we will stand overwhelmed by the mercy of God.

Merciful God”Merciful God”
Words and Music by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music

Listen here (Scroll down to the audio section)

Finding God in a life filled with noise

12 01 2012

I’ve been experimenting.  No, not growing crystals with my son’s chemistry set, but experimenting in how I read the Bible.

This is outside my comfort zone – once I have a system/method/structure, I like to stick to it, even (actually, especially) if a well-meaning onlooker tells me there is a better way.

So, my experiment – how to find God in, what Kathleen Norris calls, a life filled with noise.

I’m following the Wordlive Bible reading plan and it offers differ ways of reading.  I went for the Classic last year, but this year I’ve decided to check out Lectio Divina.  Week 1 felt a bit “om” for me.  I like the additional comments and explanations that the Classic version gives and there’s none of that with Lectio – it’s just me, the Bible, music and hopefully God. It’s been a struggle to change my patterns, but I reckon that it will do me good to get out of the familiar. 

My friend Eugene Peterson came to my rescue this week. (I don’t actually know him, but he feels like a friend because I have read so much of his writing and been helped in my thinking by it.)  He says – “Lectio divina cultivates a personal, participatory attentiveness…[it is] the fusion of the entire biblical story and my story.”

He talks about Bible reading and prayer being a conversation. 

I like that.  I like the idea of participating, not just sitting quietly.

However, there is a health warning.

If this is true, I need to read and not just shut the book, but read, think, respond, participate.  If  it’s not a serene, silent, monastic experience, the conversation must carry on in the everydayness of life – the pressure of deadlines, the demands of young children, the sadness and joys, the financial challenges, the turbulent relationships, the supermarket shopping.  I need to learn to find God in this life filled with noise.  I need to see if I can cultivate the fusion of the biblical story and my story.

Watch this space.

Read the rest of this entry »

The year at a glance

31 12 2011

Would you want to look like this man?  He is AJ Jacobs and his Before and After illustrate his experiment which became a book – The year of living biblically: one man’s quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.

It is a fascinating account and a great read – funny, extreme, at times poignant.  I recommend it.

As in real life, so in Jacobs’ quasi life – there are highs and lows.  A high that he doesn’t expect comes when he starts to pray for other people  – “I love those prayers. To me they’re moral weight training. Every night I pray for others for ten minutes…It’s ten minutes when it’s impossible to be self-centred…I do feel myself becoming a slightly more compassionate person.”

But there are the lows.

“If my spirituality could be charted like the NASDAQ, the general trend so far is a gradual rise, but there are many valleys, and I’m in a deep one now. It’s making me lazy. I forget to put on my fringes, and I tell myself, well, what’s the big deal ? I’ll put them on tomorrow.”


Those of you who have been with me this year will know that I have been following a plan.  Here’s a reminder: I set out to investigate the truth (or otherwise) of the claim that, “Life works better if you live it God’s way.”

To do this I decided to read a section of the Bible each day in an attempt to find out what “God’s way” is.  I followed a plan provided by WordLive so that my reading was not random and so that I didn’t just pick and choose parts I liked.  That was relatively easy.

The difficulty has been making changes to my life so that what I read impacts me. Writing my blog has helped me process things (Absence makes the heart…) and I’m grateful to those of you who have commented and talked with me about what I write.  But the implementation has been down to me.

There have certainly been times when, like AJ, I was lazy, with a “what’s the big deal attitude.”  And to my surprise I shared his experience that taking action led to a change of heart.  (I’m glad that I didn’t know about his experiment until December – the challenge to keep all the biblical laws would have been a step too far, not to mention the beard!)

Taking action is not an end in itself, though; it’s the change of heart that counts.  That’s what matters to God (Forgettings).  I can take all the action I like, but if it is so that I can tick boxes, forget it (Clipboards, cardigans and cuddles). 

So, at the end of the year, there’s no spectacular Before and After. I look much the same as I did in January, but I like to think I’m making progress in living well. (Perhaps you’d better ask those who live with me if that’s true or if it’s self-delusion.) I’ve decided that the experiment is worth extending for another year.  I have a few amendments up my sleeve, but they may stay there.  We’ll see.  For now I leave you with words that I read this morning –

Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.” (Isaiah 35:4) Read the rest of this entry »

Absence makes the heart…

23 11 2011

Life has overtaken me in the last few weeks.  I’m sure you know the feeling.  Things have happened that were unpredicted and unplanned; there have been calls on time and energy that have drained my tank; stuff has come to the fore that should have stayed as background noise.  It has been life “full to overflowing” rather than “life in all its fulness”.

I have kept with the WordLive programme (more or less, with a few days adrift here and there, now and again) but I have been quiet on the blog for the longest time this year.  The interesting thing that I have discovered is that writing my posts helps me process what I read, and as a result I’m much better at implementing what I’m learning.  So no writing has meant 286-processing and impoverished impementing.  I feel like the person whom James describes in his letter towards the end of the New Testament –

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”  (James 1:22-24)

So, my absence is over and I hope my heart is in a better place now that I’ve started to write again.

Direct speech

11 09 2011

“Life’s Little Instruction Book is a guidebook that gently points the way to happiness and fulfillment. The observations are direct, simple, and as practical as an umbrella.”  (So says H. Jackson Brown, Jr.’s website.)

Jackson Brown originally wrote Life’s Little Instruction book as a gift for his son who was leaving home to go to college. Brown says, ” I wanted to provide him with what I had learned about living a happy and rewarding life.”

Buy it here

Here are some sample entries –

  • – Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know
  • – Never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink
  • – Call your mother 

Yesterday’s Wordlive reading does something similar.  Paul is writing to Timothy, whom he regards as a son, offering him direction about how to live.  He too gets straight to the point –

  • run from evil
  • pursue a godly life
  • fight the good fight for what we believe
  • hold tightly to the eternal life God has given you
  • obey God’s commands
  • avoid godless, foolish discusssions

It’s all a far cry from the person-centred approach that is popular in our day – “What do you think would be a good idea?”  “How about trying this out and see if it works for you?”  “How would you feel about that?” – the sort of approach that lets us keep control.

The contrast is stark.  Paul commands Timothy to live a certain way.  That’s even stronger than Jackson Brown’s good advice. 

And obedience means losing the controls and letting God call the shots.

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