25.8.20

True Evangelical Faith

17 injunctions for embodied faith by Menno Simons:


“True evangelical faith is of such a nature it cannot lie dormant, but spreads itself out in all kinds of righteousness and fruits of love;


it dies to flesh and blood (1);


it destroys all lusts and forbidden desires (2);


it seeks, serves and fears God in its inmost soul (3);


it clothes the naked (4);


it feeds the hungry (5);


it comforts the sorrowful (6);


it shelters the destitute (7);


it aids and consoles the sad (8);


it does good to those who do it harm (9);


b it serves those that harm it (10);


it prays for those who persecute it (11);


it teaches, admonishes and judges us with the Word of the Lord (12);


it seeks those who are lost (13);


it binds up what is wounded (14);


it heals the sick (15);


it saves what is strong (sound) (16);


it becomes all things to all people (17).


The persecution, suffering and anguish that come to it for the sake of the Lord’s truth have become a glorious joy and comfort to it.”

What is an Evangelical?


A Definition of Anabaptist


An Anabaptist is a type of Christian who normally traces the views they have to the "Radical Reformation" of the 16th century. The distinctives of such a movement are normally, but not solely, believers baptism, a nonviolent ethic, and separation of church and state. Being a Reformation group they also tend to believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. They endeavour to follow Jesus with a biblically-based life. Like Evangelicals and Charismatics they exist in many different denominations and also have movements or denominations directly birthed from them. 



Angelos (a short novel) - Free E-book

 

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The Peace Testimony - Free E-book

 


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Notes On Suffering - Free E-book

 


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24.8.20

Resurrection Hymn

 



From a scream to a whisper

There is a scream way down deep in my heart and soul.

A primitive scream of mourning, anger and pain.

A scream that should it erupt would shatter worlds.

A scream that if possible would awaken the ancestors and echo into the generations. 

A scream that would make demons tremble and angels take notice.

It is not my scream alone, but a scream of collective force. 

Fires and floods ravaged the years. 

War and racial tension shook the earth. 

Childish leaders oppressed the innocent and child like. 

The species drained the earth of life and resources. 

Disease and pestilence attacked the species. 

'A pale horse and the one who rides on it is death and hell follows with him.'

What can hold back such a scream? 

In my minds eye I see an empty old rugged cross, an empty tomb, creation groaning in birth pains, hope even in the darkness. 

In my minds eye the scream becomes a whisper, "Be still all peoples, be still creation, be still my soul, be still and know that He is God."



Time

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12 ESV)

Time goes marching on.

Many an empire has come and gone.

Yet we remain.

Watching the ticking clock and the sifting sands of time.

Time goes marching on.

Many a friend has been and gone.

Yet we remain.

Watching the ticking clock and the sifting sands of time.

Time goes marching on.

Many a soul has been lost and won.

Yet we remain.

Watching the ticking clock and the sifting sands of time.

Time goes marching on.

When our time comes, if we are remembered or not, will the love sown remain as time goes marching on?


I Hear People Crying For One

One of my favourite superhero quotes is "I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one." - Superman in Superman Returns (2006)

Some people say that if bad things happen there is no God. But, bad things happening is exactly the reason there needs to be a God. Someone to redress the balance. There needs to be hope, light and good amidst defeat, darkness and evil.

For Christians this global crisis is as good a time as any to re-acknowledge both our need of, as broken and fallen people who sin, and our hope in, the child born in a manger. Such a humble beginning for the King of Kings. Years after the stable birth His death would be brutal yet redemptive, His resurrection triumphant and hope giving. Soon His return will prove both inevitable and welcome. He is our hope. Blessed be His name!

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

 "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." - John 14:1,2 (KJV)

Not being troubled, especially in the middle of a pandemic, seems virtually impossible. But, Christ can comfort us.

I read somewhere that our fear should be an invitation to faith.

A Christian, recently told me of a conversation they had with another Christian about what sounded like a panic attack of sorts. In the midst of this attack of anxiety (which was in reference to the pandemic and fear of death) this other Christian calmly said to them they didn't feel they would get the virus or die, but if that did happen they would enter the prescence of God. A place of perfect peace. Now that is faith!

One thing I will say is that the shadow of death should encourage us all to examine ourselves, to make our calling and election sure. "Am I in Christ?" "Am I following Him well?" If the answer is no to either or both of these then now is the appointed time, now is the day of salvation. Accept Him as Lord and Savior and bear good fruit. Do not delay!

I'm not going to lie, I have struggled with thoughts in relation to death, this pandemic and all kinds of other anxiety. In fact I have a feeling I may have a social anxiety disorder, but still need to confirm that with a professional. So the bottom line is I am no stranger to anxiety. I do get it and understand others who do.

Yet, I recently rediscovered a verse that was so dear to me as a child and as a newly converted soul. The verse says, "Do not let your heart be troubled." It was on the cover of a small tract that I think belonged to my Mum's Granny originally. I still own the tract to this day. I find the words less like a demand, and more like an encouragement. Almost as if Abba is saying, "Come what may I have got you and I have got this. Be still my child, fear not."

I close with another verse:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (v27)

His Name Forever Shall Endure

 Written a number of months ago - 

"His name for ever shall endure;  last like the sun it shall. " (A line from Psalm 72 - Scottish Metrical Version)

I didn't think I would be able to write much just now. But, after a walk of solitude one day (one government permitted exercise of the day) a few ponderings came to me. I am avoiding a certain topic on the basis of self preservation as it would only add to anxiety. I'm sure most readers know what I mean.

Anyway there is a huge network of woods near my house. I just went exploring and to make it truly a time of solitude avoided the beaten track for a large part of it.

Briefly I forgot I was in Edinburgh and felt as if I was back where the wild things grow. 

Pondering 1 - The Castle: She stands longer than our mortal flesh, but shorter than our immortal souls.

Pondering 2 - The Legends: They also may stand for generations. But, in time they evolve or pass from memory. 

Pondering 3 - The Car: Our impact both good and bad will have an impact for generations to come. Rust and decay will have it all. (Side note: We need to flatten more than one curve and go from climate distruction to climate sustainability). Ponderings 4 - Questions to consider:

What do we trust in?

The non - essentials now gone? 

The essentials we now struggle to get? 

Ourselves? 

Or

The sustainer of life and souls? 

Our worship or the one we worship? "His name for ever shall endure;  last like the sun it shall. "


Darkness Has Not Overcome

 John 1:5 (ESV)

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." 

Some much needed perspective: Even if there is darkness there is also light. At times we can go from a sense of being optimistic about our species to a complete loss of faith in humanity. Even those we view as good leaders or heroes can and often do fall. Some to a terrible extent inflicting horrible disappointment on many. Yet at the same time I sometimes also share thoughts on original goodness, the divine image. The way we were meant to be before Eden gate. Effectively that of God within us and around us. In truth we need only open our eyes. Disappointed? Consider this the 'good' are also 'bad', but even the 'bad' are sometimes 'good'. A song from years ago also came to mind, Outrageous Grace by Robin Mark. The words are powerful. Definitely worth a look. 

A final thought is if you feel your faith in humanity fail, put your faith in God. Because it was never about us anyway. His light never goes out.


Original Goodness

 At the start of Lent I started reading Tearfund's lent devotional, Alive. The first message spoke into the heart of a sadness I had at the time over humanity being so broken. The message spoke of original goodness, of being made in the divine image and the need to reconnect with the divine vision. Two verses were shared that express much needed hope for humanity. 

Genesis 1:27 (ESV)

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." John 1:5 (ESV)

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." Amen and Amen.


The Greatest of These

 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (New Testament Community Bible Experience (2011) NIV p26)

In Luke it says a teacher asked how to get eternal life. The answer is put forth: Love God and Love others. Jesus says “do this and you will live”. John says elsewhere “whosoever believeth in Him shall have everlasting life.” So it seems trusting in Jesus and loving Him (and others) are joined to each other. You can’t love Him without true faith in Him and you can’t have true faith in Him without loving Him (and inevitably others and even yourself – all made in His image). Without faith you can’t see God and faith (as James says) without works is dead. If one has true faith there must be evidence. There will be fruit and that fruit is primarily love. We are not saved by works (writes Paul). It is all of Grace through faith but we are saved to do good and demonstrate our love for God. 1 John 4 speaks of the importance of love and how without loving others one can’t say they love God.  So not only is faith and love to God connected, but love to God and others is connected also. Love is so important to our faith, indeed  all the fruits of the spirit are important…. (Gal 5:22,23 NIV UK)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” So let us draw nigh to God in faith and live life full of love!


Alone

Though the phrase alone gives images of a lonely saviour on a tree, being alone can also be good.

Jesus often was alone in prayer: “At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”

(Mark 1:12-13) “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

(Mark 1:35) “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

(Luke 5:16) “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them.”

(Luke 6:12-13)

George Fox the founder of the Society of Friends is an example from history of a man who spent alone time. “I fasted much,” Fox says, “walked about in solitary places many days, and often took my Bible, and sat in hollow trees and lonesome places till night came on; and frequently in the night walked mournfully about by myself; for I was a man of sorrows in the time of the first workings of the Lord in me…

Though my exercises and troubles were very great… I was sometimes brought into such

a heavenly joy that I thought I had been in Abraham’s bosom…” For instance, one day when he was walking in solitary prayer he writes, “I was taken up in the love of God… it was opened to me by the eternal light and power and I… clearly saw that all was done and to be done in and by Christ, and how He conquers and destroys this tempter the devil, and all his works…and that all these troubles were good for me.” Scripture says “Be still and know that I am God.”

(Psalm 46:10)

Let us withdraw at times to pray alone, and remember to be still, and know Him as God.


Happiness Replay

 A positive moment in time was an autumn day when I was sweeping leaves on Kilravock Castle grounds.

These are some feelings in that moment:

Contentment. The gentle breeze touched my cold red cheeks. The leaves rustled as I walked and swept the drive way up to the Scottish Castle, my home and job of those years. A crisp beautiful sound comes from the leaves. It reminds of childhood and a simpler time. I could do this job forever. Not only because I suspected a gust of wind would mess up what I started (and frankly didn't mind), but also I found something I enjoyed. Hard work outside. It was a job of solitude suited to a contemplative introvert such as I. One of many tasks. But, a special one that made me feel useful and one with the wild wooded Highlands of autumn around me. I felt at home, though I always knew the Castle was not my home, but the home of an ancient clan. Though I simply worked there I found home, not in Castle walls, but in the beauty of nature. I found a moment of contentment.

What is your happiness replay? 

(Originally written as part of The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 6: Do a Happiness Replay)


The Sunrise of His Grace

 Behold the Sunrise of God's infinite Grace.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness, a child was born.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness a boy stunned the religious elite.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness a man preaches love and performs miracles.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is humiliated, mocked, tortured and killed, his body on display.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is buried by followers, crushed, forsaken.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness HE RISES AND DEFEATS DEATH!

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he forgives the followers who abandoned and denied him.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness he is still forgiving.

In an age of war, disasters and all out wickedness HE IS COMING AGAIN!

Behold the sunrise of God's infinite Grace!


You

Nature, gentle wild things and you. The things that I love so true.

Walk with me through the woods of life. Hand in hand we will take the strife.

Across the valley to the babbling brooks. I will admire your kind looks.

Into the wild lands where nature is king. Our love will make us sing.

My angelic beloved, you are beautiful forever. Intertwined I will leave you never.

Nature, gentle wild things and you. The one that I love so true is you! 

~ Dedicated to my wife Sarah ~


Still Waters

One of my favourite verses of recent years has been "Be Still and Know that I Am God." Although it doesn't specifically mention silence I sense that it is implied. How can we hear from God if we never shut up, if we never close out the noise of life, if we never even Sabbath for a few minutes?

We joke that lockdown is a bit like a month of Sabbaths. However, home life is not very silent in general, let alone in lockdown, with one baby and one toddler and the blessing or challenge of demands for attention. I would not change that for the world. I love my wee family and they deserve a Father or Husband who gives them good attention. There is also now a demand for TV from our toddler (which as Wilkerson put it can seem like a sewer running through your living room, I wonder what that makes smart phones for us adults). Then my job as a Support Worker is hardly silent and certainly not that of calm solitude at times. Again it is an essential role and I am grateful to God that I have the provision of a job in such uncertain times. The opportunity to be a keyworker is both anxiety inducing and at the same time an honour.

The church I go to is fairly upbeat, even while online. I love lively Christianity as it is very in keeping with the word Hallelujah, which my wife often reminds me means effectively to make a loud shout unto the Lord. So, again I am greatful for the style of church I'm in.

However, I also deeply love the still, the calm, the silence. This is the place where I find God best as both a contemplative and introvert sort. In a fast paced loud world finding time for silence is a worthwhile challenge. I pray God guides me and all who thirst for it to his still waters.

Even if only for one minute take a moment to be still and know Him as God.


Remember Your Enchantments!

 10 of my enchantments 

(things that bring me life other than family): 

Gentle streams. 

Mountains of wonder. 

Trees. 

Wild flowers. 

Butterflies. 

Otters. 

Birds of prey. 

Coral beaches. 

Shells. 

Sunsets and sunrises.

What are 10 of your enchantments? 

(I originally wrote this list as part of The 2020 Writers Happiness Challenge Day 4)



Are we prepared to follow you the mighty lamb of God whithersoever?

 Lord, 

Are we prepared to follow you the mighty lamb of God whithersoever?

Strengthen us that we may do so. 

Lord, you can do as you choose and who are we to question one such as thee. 

You dispense miracles as you see fit, for your own glorious purposes.

Yet, sometimes it seems you don't give us exactly what we ask for. Whatever your reasoning help us to trust in you. 

Sometimes healings just doesn't seem to come. Or some other long sought miracle. But, your word confirms that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust. You also tell your people to expect suffering in this world, but to fear not for you have overcome the world. 

Even when a healing or miracle does occur we all know we will all grow ill again and one day surely die. But, in Christ we can have eternal life. 

So inspire us to trust in your sovereign choices and not trust only in getting what we want in this life. 

Lead us to stop fixing our eyes on the storms, hard as that is for us, in this fading world, and to rather fix our eyes on the Christ of heaven. 

All for your glory, Amen


God of Wonders

 Names in the bible are significant. For example, David means, beloved by God and man. And so king David was.

Jesus asks who do you say I am? A question to his disciples, but also all of us? He says the father's name is to be hallowed (see the Lord's prayer) and that he and the Father are one. So we should meditate on the holiness of his names. There are hundreds of names for God. They each provide a rich blessing of description. One such name is: God of Wonders. The song says "God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, You are holy."

It is worth thinking on any wonder, no matter how seemingly small, that we are blessed with in life. God operates in both the magnificent out of the ordinary (e.g. Acts 2:19) and in the everyday. I truly believe in everyday miracles, the simple things in life. This God of resurrection wonder (Eph l:20) not only raised Christ, but daily raises up those in need. His blessings are new every morning. He not only is a creative life giver at the beginning (ls 44:24), but continues to be now. He promises that all things can be made new (Is42:9) and all creation is groaning like a woman in birth pains for it. In other words the suffering of this time shall surely pass. He and His kingdom are coming little by little, wonder, by wonder for he is the God of Wonders and is truly wonderful. For the Christian He is our hope of new life in a dying world. 

(A version of this post also appeared in the Primitive Quaker Journal, The Call).


See Beauty

As I look out the window... At a glance the phrase "What a miserable day" would be normality. Grey sky, grey buildings, dirty old cars. But, then if one looks closer it is so different. 

In the midst of grey and dirt is beauty. In the distance trees that have lost leaves blow gently in the wind. Then there are pine trees and bushes full of a huge variety of different greens, all thriving on the rainy weather. As they find nourishment so does my pen. 

Closer I see someone has hung purple and pink flowers by their front door. How do they thrive at this time of year? Are they real? I question myself. 

Standing close by a weather beaten shed is consumed by vines and greenery. Nature sometimes takes over where man has been. 

Much closer to the window is a hedge and then a ramp. The fence on the ramp is covered in yellow flowers. Yellow is my favourite colour. So bright, so vibrant. 

If we look hard enough we can see beauty, if we just allow ourselves. 

As I look out the window.

Where do you see beauty? 

(Originally I wrote this as part of the writers happiness challenge, earlier in the year).