Nutella and eternity

8 Jun

My love for good holiday books tend to result in a heart-stopping moment as I place my luggage on the check-in scales to be weighed. I hold my breath as the weight creeps dangerously close to the 10kg limit. I haven’t been fined yet, but I have had to do the awkward airport-floor suitcase reshuffle.

What’s more, I’m a naughty reader. With a good book I can’t help but sneak a glance ahead. I do it with the coyness of a child who knows they are doing something they shouldn’t – cautious not to be caught with their fingers in the Nutella jar. I look around to make sure nobody is watching as I jump a fistful of pages and chapters ahead, just to get a taste of what is to come.

It got me thinking…would we live differently if we really knew where we were going? Would we act, speak, pray, spend differently? With eternity written on our hearts, we often take forgranted the reality of heaven and what it means for us as Christians to spend forever in the presence of God. The book of Revelation provides us with that peek ahead. It is full of written glimpses of heaven offering descriptive metaphors, stunning imagery and strange descriptions of a reality that is incomprehensible to us in life.

What if we were to live with a more heavenly perspective? Paul often reminds us that the best is yet to come. He encourages us to see life through the lens of eternity. In Romans 8:8 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”

But how can we maintain a heavenly perspective when the world encourages us to live endlessly seeking the promises of pleasure? We enjoy the illusion of security, and desperately try to satiate a hunger for things we can’t always name or put our finger on?

With inspiration from Paul in Philippians 1:18-26, here are some tips for maintaining a heavenly perspective:

– Rejoice. Not a fluctuating happiness that depends on circumstance but praise that is offered throughout the seasons of our life. Pray for the gift of Joy and make decisions to worship even when it’s costly

– Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and keep asking

– Pray and be prayed for

– Know what you are fighting! If it’s materialism, an addiction or a destructive relationship that battles for your attention – name it and seek accountability

– Get your hands dirty. Commit yourself to working for the Lord throughout your brief time on earth. We only get one chance, make it count

So…let’s live purposeful, heaven bound and heaven-focussed lives, creating echoes that bellow into eternity. Being driven by a spiritual urgency that acknowledges how short our time here is.

 

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Business as usual

26 May


Isn’t there something comforting about the term ‘Business as usual’? Everything is happening as it always does, as you would expect. Work, planning summer holidays, nights out, the same old banter and tensions. Nothing too exciting, nothing too awful – predictable and comfy.

So on the one hand, I like it. Life throws at us all sorts of challenges, twists, turns and unexpected crises. We have all had the phone call that changes everything, or a shock that quickly redirects our path – and at these times we can often yearn for good-old ‘business as usual’. 

But on the other hand – the term presents such a huge challenge to us. We want to live radical lives of abundant generosity that reflect the Father – but how can we if we hold onto the comfort of ‘business as usual’?

On a conference this weekend, I heard a statement that has prominently echoed in my heart and mind ever since. Here it is..

“Unless something disrupts business as usual, business as usual is how we will live out our life”

What happens to you when you read this? Where does your mind go? My mind goes straight to the verse in Matthew 10:8: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

So what bridges the gap between ‘business as usual’ or healing the sick, praying with other Christians for your workplace and family or seeing healing and revival
Supernatural living that’s what! Not just praying supernaturally, but living supernaturally.

This mandate that is handed to us, this commission, this request to pray, heal, deliver…what can we do with it? How can we walk forward in supernatural living without resorting to our default of ‘business as usual’?

We need to push into our relationship with God. Pray for ourselves, for one another and with one another to be filled up to overflowing with the spirit. Only then we will leak the fruits as well as gain a new confidence and zest for the word. Only then can we live out of an overflow rather than tire ourselves out trying to fulfill a mandate that wasn’t intended for the ‘natural’ life anyway. 

So what will it be? A risky, radical, God soaked life? Or simply ‘business as usual’?

A fist full of M&M’s

17 May

I like it when my colleagues go on holiday. They might not be pleased to hear this, but I do. Why? Because when they return – they bring sweets.

As a result I have just eaten so many M&M’s I feel a little sick. Not to mention the number of Hershey’s kisses I ‘had’ to consume to make a firm decision on whether they A-taste delicious or B-taste like horse manure (answers on a postcard).

But, on finishing my fist-full of chocolate I was met with a not-so-sweet challenge. And the challenge is greed. Amidst my sugar high, it struck me that if greed didn’t exist, much of the sin in this world wouldn’t either. Think about it – no thieving, no adultery, no materialism, no poverty, no gossiping… the list goes on. Remove greed and you will see of our false Gods blown out the water.

So you haven’t coveted your neighbors donkey recently, or cheated on your girlfriend but have you daydreamed about a new car, felt a pang of jealousy, looked lustfully at someone or stashed away teabags from the hall canteen? Greed can be subtle and seemingly innocent, it can devastate lives, ruin friendships and pull apart families. It’s tempting to devise a ‘greed scale’ and feel smug that we haven’t committed many extreme acts, but greed is greed, and greed is a serious problem. It’s our problem.

If you aren’t shuffling in your chair you are either one special human being, live in a cave, or haven’t yet felt a little nudge of conviction.

We life in a materialistic and indulgent culture and need to actively guard ourself against greed because as Paul says – we can’t call ourselves brothers of Christ and be greedy. We need put up defenses, pick up our swords and fight. Where greed exists, there can be no fruits, it finds us blending right into the vacuous crowd of those trying to fill a never-ending deep hole – chasing the wind.We need to be investing into consistently realigning our perspective – It’s all about God, itall belongs to God.

But don’t shuffle too much – there is hope, we have an amazing, powerful and gentle God who jumps at the chance to lovingly work with us on our character – in order that we may reflect his Son more.

It’s amazing what challenges lie in a handful of American sweeties!

Botch-jobs and fast-food

10 May

Botch jobs go wrong – sooner or later. TV programs are devoted to lazy surgeons operating without truly knowing what they’re doing, and cowboy builders doing jobs worthy of announcing your home as a hazard.

Your God isn’t a God of the botch job

I apologise lads, this is about to get a tad girly. Because what better picture of the anti-botch job exists than a Pearl? I have lots of ‘pearls’; my current favourite are huge – the size of sweetshop gobstoppers. Most people own cultured, processed, farmed or plastic pearls, but very few people own real, natural pearls.

Real pearls are expensive and rare (1 in 10,000 oysters) and cherished. So cherished in fact that in Matthew 13:44 a man sold all he had to buy a field containing one.

How many of us want fast-food-style responses to our prayers. Prayers quickly answered with obvious effect.  Botch-job answers.  We pray for those we love, our students, our campus and we want answers NOW.  If we don’t see the fruits of our prayers in days, weeks, months, we begin to ask questions of God. Is he listening? Does he care? Surely our prayers are in line with him

The natural pearl is formed over ten years; layer upon layer is built around an irritant or a tiny speck of sand, encased in a fleshy oyster in the secret depths of the seas. And God works in those secret places, in the depths of identities and spiritual strongholds. He works in people from the inside out, from the secret depths, moving through to the outside behaviors that we see and often use as a measure of ‘where people are at’.

I want to encourage you in your prayers – prayers for your friends, your situations, your campuses. Prayers that you might not have seen answers to yet and perhaps you are disheartened about. Keep praying – trust that your prayers are that speck of sand that form the irritant for the change, habit or the heart behind the campus. An irritant that provokes dis-ease, and questioning at the very core, questions that shake foundations and shine lights into dark places.

Plastic pearls loose their value and shine, real pearls are of value throughout. Just as quick change can loose it’s shine if the real groundwork and foundations aren’t there, deep, timely change can last a life time.

It’s in the discomfort of the process, the confusion of the patience and the gentleness of the Father that true pearls are formed, and true, deep change comes about.

‘We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised’ Hebrews 6:12

Forgetting about happiness

18 Apr

I remember summer journeys as a child. The car stuffed full of duvets, a weeks worth of food and the air full of that incessant question that drives every parent up the wall –  ‘are we nearly there yet’.

We would chase mirages on the French roads – those big pools of water in the distance that stretched across the melting tarmac. We would get excited about the cars wheels causing a wave of water as we drove through, big refreshing splashes soaking us through open windows.

It never happened. The puddles didn’t exist.

Thirsty desert travelers see these same mirages in the hot, sandy desert. Hoping for cool water for their dry mouths and parched camels. Their hearts sink as the refreshing pools vanish. They’d fallen for it again. Hope removed and thirstier than before.

How many of us are striving towards mirages? Believing that we will find happiness if we get the boyfriend, the job, the car, the iPhone.

And we get there to find that it’s a mirage. It’s fleeting.

We are chasers. Chasing that next experience, thing or person to satisfy our need, to make us happy. Like a forest fire that devours everything in its way, our quest will never be satisfied.

So let’s forget about happiness and focus on Joy. A joy that surpasses circumstances, ‘I wants’ and ‘I needs’; a joy that finds us smiling in times of pain and dancing through heartache. I’m not denying tears and pain; I’m suggesting that the two can come together.

Paul rejoiced in prison. Abused, tortured and shackled, he was joyful (Philippians 4). Like us, he could have said “When my chains are off, THEN I will be happy.  When I am free, THEN I will dance”. He could have chased mirages. But no, he wasn’t into fleeting happiness, only deep joy would suffice.

So let’s give up the chase. Let’s stop the relentless striving for happiness and start worshiping, for that is where we will find authentic joy.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Rich girl

11 Apr

Something happened that caused me to be rich beyond my wildest dreams. So rich I don’t have a clue about what to do with it.

I am like the old bag lady you read about in the local paper. The one known for carting around piles of rubbish. The one who died leaving millions of pounds to shocked distant relatives – a millionaire who chose to live the life of a pauper.

I have not money (in fact I have barely dented my student loan) but I have riches, priceless gifts that come with being a daughter of a King. When I became a Christian, an Heir of God I was declared a daughter, not a servant (Galatians 4:7)

I have a royal robe hidden under my bed in a box that I don’t wear and a jeweled crown in the cupboard wrapped in newspaper

I have inherited freedom, yet i’ve lived dangerously enslaved. I have inherited immeasurable worth, yet have suffered with self-hatred. I have inherited the closest friendship, yet have hidden from the world when things hurt.

I woke up at 4.00am last week with this message heavy on my heart. Maybe it’s God waking me up, breaking my heart again to the reality that so many of us aren’t living in our inheritance  (see my post on being numb) .  We aren’t living the lives that Jesus died on the cross for. We are beloved children of God yet we choose to live like strangers – clumsily attempting to manage our own destinies.

I have been daydreaming as to what our lives could look like if we lived in our inheritance more… grab a cup of tea and dream with me.

We would value ourselves, we would not be lumbered with false guilt, fear or loneliness. We would have an entirely new zest for live, a new zest for sharing the gospel with others. What’s more, we would sense a new Godly urgency to see people freed through living in all that God has for them.

When we begin to look through eyes of grace, we forgive more and love more. We find more capacity for patience and kindness and find a joy that extends beyond circumstance. In fact, our very being would bring glory to, and point to God.

Yes let’s dream for a moment. But don’t leave it there – start claiming it as your reality. This is what Easter is about. This is what Jesus died for – that we would become Children of a living God, joint heirs with Christ. It’s not there for daydreaming, it’s  there for taking, there for the living.

So challenge you to pray. Ask God what this means for you. Ask the holy spirit to point out areas of your life in which you need to start walking in your inheritance.  Then..

Dust off your crown

Dig out your robe

And see what happens.

 

Gambling with your identity

5 Apr

I’m not a gambling girl. However, my Grandpa used to take my brother and I to the penny arcades. We’d be given the grand sum of £1 and set loose to run wild with the 1p and 2p machines (we were big spenders). At the end, my brother would end up with a pocketful of pennies, and I’d end up with nothing.

He would feel pompous, bragging all the way home, whilst I was there throwing myself a little one-woman pity party.

Self-righteousness and self-pity are two states many of us know intimately. I’m talking about comparison my friends. And it’s a gamble.

Why? Because it’s dangerous and it’s dangerously addictive. Every time you compare yourself, you are spinning a wheel – you are either going to come up on top, or you are going to fall short. You are popping the penny in the machine and you will either end up with a pocket full of change and that oh so fleeting feeling of victory, or be left feeling empty and useless. Whether it’s intellect, looks, material possessions, boyfriends, marriages, grades – it doesn’t matter..

You are paving the way for self-destructive thoughts that challenge your self worth and your precious uniqueness to the very core. That bit of you that makes you – you, that bit of you so thoughtfully and skillfully knitted together by your God.

So if comparison is your struggle, let me encourage you.

I want to encourage you to capture those thoughts. Yes, grab them with both hands and look at them in the light of God, see them for what they really are.

Whenever you feel yourself reducing who you are to a series of tick boxes, seeking approving ticks or gut wrenching crosses, try one of my (tried and tested) tips:

  • Keep an eye on the areas that you find yourself comparing. Write down the fundamental, common lies. Bring them to God and ask him to reveal his truths to you
  • Arm yourself with truths. Read the word like your identity depends on it. Absorb it
  • Find some mantra verses that you can repeat, and ask God to inscribe them on your heart – Try Psalm 100:3, Isaiah 43:3, Matthew 10:29-31, John 15:14
  • Make yourself accountable to close friends. Let them know what your battle is
  • Realise that you emotions are fickle. You may feel great, you may feel rubbish, but the truths that your God speaks over you remain constant
  • Be reminded that it is not only yourself that you are putting down or elevating, because in comparison, you are also doing that to your Brother’s and Sisters
  • STOP that negative self-talk, whether done jokingly or in seriousness, publicly or under your breath. I can tell you one thing for sure – it breaks God’s heart to hear you speak of yourself like that

Investigate what it means to truly love yourself – because you are so ultimately, deeply and unconditionally loved. To be secure in this love is a journey and a challenge – one that I am pushing into myself.

So let’s dust off the crowns of our inheritance, of the unconditional love of a Father who sent his son so that we could live in freedom from the slave of comparison

“Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t”. Roman’s 12.6