To this End…early learning makes its mark

seedling.jpegI have changed tack a little the last time introducing some early years stuff I did and learned, one of the first things was discovering what a Christian did not look like I suppose, my mistakes and misrepresentation of the Father was not helpful to me or those around. I learned much in my early years stuff.

A wrong view of the world.

In South Wales “worldliness” was equated with anyone who watched TV, went to the cinema, a dance hall or pub, followed contemporary dress trends, or hairstyles. It made the streets where I lived on a Sunday deserted as you dared not go out and kick a football around, never mind if you went to church or chapel. It was the most deserted and boring day of the week as a child, you were not even allowed to go and buy and Ice Cream or chocolate, it was just wrong, it was the Lords Day. Although you longed to be out playing, longing to be like the other boys and girls but you had the Lords day in mind. As a young believer it was a world subjected to much “give up” and filled with things I could not do. It was really, pure religion.

At 16 I made my choice, I chose to follow Jesus not realising its implication, life began to change, I could not play rugby, I had played for the town which was real joy, Rugby Club lifestyle was not Christian I was told. The cinema became a big NO, it was said, “…would you be happy to be found there when Jesus came back?” Because I loved God and genuinely wanted to follow him with everything in me, whatever these ‘better Christians’ said was taken as truth. I surrendered to their legalistic mindset, little realising it was to lead to my becoming as legalistic as they were in my view of worldliness. I could not participate, I had to remove friendship, “…if you really were a Christian you would …”, I heard being said, it was the ‘Great Give Up’, certainly not life and more abundantly!

No-one addressed what I now see to be the greater evils that were abounding in the churches at the time, hypocrisy, legalism, deceit, backbiting, gossip, division makers, etc. The result was not a “life abundant” I often tried to fill times of dullness with religious activity, thinking and trying to persuade myself I was happy.

Later understanding helped me define worldliness biblically. Consequently I was able to enjoy myself ‘in’ the world without being ‘of’ it.

Worldliness is when my attitudes, behaviour, thinking and speaking continuously conforms to the moral values of the world system around me.

Jesus brought liberty and a fullness of life, not practices and religion that constricted life out of you. Now we seek to impart life and the ability to see God everywhere, in all things, for everything is spiritual.

Ineffective Bible Studies

Within the early weeks of my Christian life I was introduced to the Bible study meeting. These were generally too complicated for me. As a dyslexic it become difficult at every level, you were judged as to how many scriptures you memorised, seeing that my dyslexia manifested itself in my memory ability of tying words and numbers together, I felt unable, therefore never good enough.

One major hindrance was everyone used the King James bible (AV) which used such outdated English that I was completely lost.

Furthermore, the study generally consisted of an exposition of a biblical passage or book with little reference or relevance to the present day. So I had little understanding of how to apply God’s Word to present day situations.

“When speaking to the ordinary man you make things plain by speaking plainly!” It took years for us all to see that God was in the translations and paraphrases, we are actually free to use any thing to instruct and gain understanding. We realised that the Father was writing a third Testaments, we have the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Third Testament, that is you and I are to be written on in our hearts and be read by all men. That the bible studied you rather than you studying it. I discovered that turning to the word of God and becoming a disciple of the Kingdom meant that I could turn and understand God in the adventure of being introduced to the deep things of God revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 2:9-10 God send God deep inside God searching for fresh insights to make known to the searching hearts – what an adventure I discovered later.

Foolish Controversies

As the months rolled by I listened intently to the various interpretations people were putting on things they were reading. I was introduced to the arguments for and against different interpretations. I was becoming part of a circle of people who measured spiritual growth by how much Bible knowledge you had and how well you argued for your interpretation.

I became trapped in the arguments of the ill-informed. Pride and prejudice quickly took root in my heart in such an environment. I found myself refusing to admit my ignorance even when another’s knowledge was clearly superior to my own. So often the game of ‘bible up-man-ship’ dominated our fellowship as people.

To be clever, is often the way of the fool, not the wise.

Refusing to admit ignorance is deciding to remain ignorant.

The admission of ignorance opens your mind to knowledge that leads to understanding

To This End… EARLY YEARS LEARNING

images-4They are spiritual, I was not?  Well it didn’t half feel like that…

Most books I was encouraged to read in my early years were very encouraging, they presented us with the opportunity to drink from someones experience, it was and is a continuing a great privilege.   However there was a recurring factor, I read of preachers, powerful people of God putting pen to paper outlining their endeavors, yet the writers only seemed to emphasis their greatness and spirituality without highlighting any faults or life’s realities.   I know the trend today is a little different in the willingness to be vulnerable but still it’s not every one who does it.   Indeed, many ministries would not advocate the sharing of mistakes and challenges, saying, “It will leave you exposed to your enemies,” or “open to criticism.”    It brought, probably intentionally such a testimony, a picture that inspired you to what God can do but it did not help to present that it could be YOU and though YOU.   They were great and mighty never dealing with normal little stuff of my life, it felt as if they had gone beyond this life, the supermen and women.

They are spiritual I was not.   Don’t get me wrong these accounts did wonderfully open up God greatness in a life, but made the experience inaccessible.

It would have greatly helped if someone had written honestly of their mistakes when I was young in the faith, and shared some of the pitfalls on how to avoid them. So embracing the risk of vulnerability I am going to share with you as openly as possible as we continue our journey in “To this End.”   In my challenges I felt its was only peculiar to me, it cultivated an attitude that I should not talk myself about my struggles, these were not to be talked about, these things of life, they were clearly my issues nobody else had them, or it felt like that.

It was learning about life I needed, it has taken a necessary cultural change to happen to make lives more accessible, for ministries it was a long time before people came down off their distant pedestals, and some still retain an ungodly superior or untouchable manner.   As a young man when I found people who would be open and tell of their joy’s and failures it was a real release, to know others had the same struggles and they had overcome them.

I recall later on in my journey, actually the day I left the building industry to live by the gospel, one of the most helpful lines ever given to me was said, it continue to serve me well in almost 30 years of ministry life.    I was taken aside and told “…all these, every one you have put on a pedestal have clay feet – that is are a mixture in their lives.”    So simple but so profound, It did not destroy my honour or admiration of them far from it, it actually helped as I saw their failures, mixture of attitudes and as I got close to so-called the “great?”   It did not excuse them, it did help me to see their journey, I saw real people walking with God.  It helped to avoid disappointment along the way and prevented feeling let down as they made their mistakes.     As I began to move, relate to ministries of great renown and stature, these people who I had put far above, I know that’s the Christ but we do it so easily to people, foolishly rather than Christ.   Now I am not talking about honour, honour should be a disposition we live by, honour is positive but the negative view at its worst celebrities and super-spiritual, so-called people who set themselves distant from you, who occupy the pedestal and control from there, rather than becoming co-workers, partners, fellow journey men and women.

I needed people who would help with my life and help me to see I was spiritual even with my foibles and wrongs as I walked my journey into God.   Discover that I am spiritual and can be all God wanted even with my thoughts and actions, even with my insecurities and attitudes.   People who have the same challenges to walk and talk me thought them from their book of life.

This will be my aim as we continue the next chapters of “To this End.”

 

“To this end…” even more

Hands that toil
28 
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature inChrist.

29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

(Col 1:28-29)

I recently watched a new documentary fronted by Hercule Poirot, the French detective, well not really it was the actor David Suchet.   The focus was the it is a tracing of the life of Paul, amazing and moving.   I was moved to see the resolve of this man, Paul that is, the outright single-mindedness he was on his purpose, that Christ might fill all in all.   He clearly was a man with a desire of brining Christ to a broken world was uttermost, it was not just salvation but a transformation he believed in, the belief that he could change his world, he really had a conviction and laboured to that end.

“To this end I labour”, I now continue with the thoughts around that ”labouring to an end”, I have already competed 2 posts and cover 4 steps for us in of setting a pace to get the job done.    All who have celebrated the arrival of 2013 it is once again the beginning of a new year, it affords us in our thinking a focus on the coming year, what I would give my self to, what I would labour towards, I trust this further journey will add to the last two blogs under the same topic heading, read on!

Step four VERBAL CONFESSION

As soon as it is feasible it is good to confess your faith verbally.     Confession with the mouth seals something in your heart.       It is this commitment, confined in your own words, that spurs you on in your Christian pilgrimage.

Verbally sharing your faith deepens your appreciation and conviction of the life you have received, as well as sharpening your ability to communicate it effectively to others.   Sharing your experiences confirms the God of history that invades today and brings hope for tomorrow.

Confession quickly allows us to find from the crowd those whose faith and boldness is similar to your own, and you will be drawn to them as they are drawn to you.     It is often the beginning of progress in meaningful relationships.

Step five LEARNING FROM OTHERS

‘Of the past’

I owe a great debt to men such as Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis, Ern Baxter, E Stanley Jones, Austin Sparks  Andrew Murray, F .B. Meyer, S.D. Gordon, Watchman Nee, Rees Howells, Charles Spurgeon. George Eldon Ladd and others, the list is endless.     Most I have never met in the flesh, but have sat for hours on end listening to them opening their hearts in revelation of Christ to me.      All this has taken place through my being a prolific reader.     I cannot over estimate the value books in my life.      The writings of such men as these speak to all ages and times, since the principles set out are themselves eternal.

‘Of the present”

One of life’s privileges is the opportunity of fellowship with men of spiritual experience beyond ourselves.    They may not see themselves as fathers or mentors to us, but many of them are that. They are deep waters of revelation, experience and truth for us. I am again indebted to numerous men in my lifetime – Keri Jones, Tony Ling, Ray Bevan, Dave Mansell, Charles Simpson, Gordon Fee, Tom Wright, Derek Morphew, Sam Solyen and others, endless list again.  For some of these were willing to take an interest in me and allowed me to draw upon them in my development, others I meet and continue to draw from their journeys through writings.     Needless to say I clung to several of these very strongly and learned from every one of them.

Then again in retrospect I see how many men who were growing up alongside me in their own faith have greatly influenced my life.     I think in lots of instances we owe as much if not more, to brother-ing than fathering in our spiritual progress.

Step six LEARNING TO HANDLE DEFEAT

I have seen so many allow themselves to be wiped out by mistakes.     If I had allowed this to happen to me then I would have been destroyed in the first 3 months of my life.     But again-and-again I came back to the bedrock conviction that I was born again despite my many miserable failings.     The burden and what I had seen came to the fore front, resurrection from deep within the very taste of the future God has allowed me to taste came strong at those times

I have continued to go forward with this conviction of faith, that God is greater than my mistakes, bigger than any problem I face, deeper than any shallowness of thought, word, or action on my part.      Even realizing that my mistakes and my success are as much part of who I am today rather than only seeing the success made me they all have made me and brought me to today!   I got to today because of my successes and my failures they made me and i am not so bad after all.

This enables me to bounce back again from any failure, embracing grace as the means to restored fellowship, and giving me liberty from any condemnation that would threaten my progress or happiness.

That’s long enough for this one we will continue next time on Step seven Power of Discipleship

 

“To this end…”, more to follow

Moulded in the potters hands

Moulded in the potters hands

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature inChrist.

29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

(Col 1:28-29)

The Next Step, which is the second on this topic is SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES 

Turning my inner person to God and giving time, over the years many have used different names to call for this process such as “Devotional time” or “Quiet Times”.    Some even have seen liberty as a reason to be free form a discipline and used the thinking not to develop the intimate times with God.       Let me say from the onset without developing these regular, intimate moments with God one will not advance, neither is it a religious action but a real love, developing an adventure of hearing the Father.

The natural progression of fellowship leads you to a disciplined development of intimacy through spending times away, aside with God, the Psalmist said evening and morning he did it, quiet times.     Now all our faith is learning that the Father wants responsive followers,  not people living by the letter of the law, so this ‘quiet time’ is not a duty but an outflow of deep thanks, manifest in time given to be intimate, never due but an appreciation and response.       As for me, if I do not create these moments I feel starved and hungry.      My children, when younger, would say it was evident in my ways or life’s conduct towards them if I had neglected that time with the Father.    Let me re state it again although daily times when followed as routine or obligation have been discredited as legalistic, it is nevertheless true that the absence of seasons of quietness with God will eventually lead to poverty of soul and vulnerability.

Again, looking back over the years I see the practice of a daily time of meditation as one of the greatest strengths in the development of my spiritual life.      I look upon it not as a time to get something to say or preach but a conversation between me and the Godhead for us together.    For these times to be seen as necessary as eating, taking in nourishment to the body so these times of discipline are to my whole being.       Over the years I have looked upon it as times of just filling up a kit bag for a long journey, storing insights, Holy Spirit utterances and directions, never knowing when or what the Holy Spirit will draw from that resource we placed into the kit bag for life some time ago.    For the Father to mould me more and more into Gods image.    Although in recent years I have modified my approach, I remain convinced they were vital to fellowship with God.

The reading and marking of the Word of God

God’s life works powerfully in those who love the Word.     It reads, speaks, grips and provokes you. There is so much that the word of God does in you that nothing else could – preachers could never produce what the Spirit does through the Word.     It is this opening of my life and mind to its truth and challenges that has proved indispensable to personal development.

I turn to the word of God as I turn to a person knowing that this person wants to talk with me, I love 1 Cor 2:9, 10 that says for me, God is searching God, to bring out the deep things of God to show and present them to me.   Therefore every time I turn to word it is an adventure and excitement, I feel the thrill, what about you, revelations come when we do, honestly, try it is a promise.

I read the Word simply, in an attitude of faith.      I don’t look for it’s difficulties or problems, I don’t concern myself with the arguments of author ship or authenticity of historical detail.    I first read the Word to let it read me.    I take what is obvious from the surface, apply that and rejoice in it.     My marking system – underlining etc., reinforces its impact on my mind.      Today I have hundreds of notes daily devotions in my computer stored for either me or some one else in later years may wish to mull over them.

When studying the Word more earnestly for a given purpose, I give myself to research as to the authorship, the background of the principal parties concerned.       The circumstances of the nation at the time, the issues that are primarily being addressed etc.      But my first approach to the Word is to get to know God by allowing its revelation to minister to my life.    It is God the Father making known his nature, it is the ever arriving God, a self-reveling Father eager to make known to reward and give gifts.        Choice of emotions?????? this is not what you are considering….

Step Three – You CHOICE OF FRIENDS is vital to ongoing spiritual progress.      

It was the awareness of this that made me face up to my first series of difficult choices.     These were to affect my relationship with my former friends in the world.

Their way of life was now so different from my own.     I had witnessed effectively amongst them to the point where those open to Christ and change had already been converted.      Finally I was faced with the difficult choice concerning those who had no intention of changing.      I became convinced that continued companionship with some of them would eventually lead to the compromising of spiritual values, and that meanwhile  I would be under constant pressure to conform to their behaviour and activities.

From early days I had to make the decision, I recall some who helped me, that after deciding to follow Christ they used to cross the road directly in front of me, in order not to entertain meeting me, once passed they would cross back to the original side, it was challenging at the time as we all like being wanted or liked but then it helped me to see choices in relationships are so important.    Let me add a caveat, it is not rejection or exclusivity we cannot do that in the gospel of the Kingdom, we are not to be exclusive, the Kingdom of God makes us at every hand inclusive and I must demonstrate that, it is just knowing where and how I grow through the relationships around me, while accepting and loving every one.

Then there were the “carnal Christians”, not sure what that means any longer some times?      You understand those who seek their own, those who have themselves at their centre only, those who are looking to add the things of the present to themselves for positions or stature, not seeking the Kingdom of God as predominant view.   I met many in my early experience.    It became clear to me that continued company with these would prove almost as damaging.      Fellowship was based upon the sharing of discontent, mutual grumbles, ill-feeling, gossip, argument, contentious discussions and soulish issues such as “preacher for lunch”, and “destructive sermon analysis”, running people l down in the light of “being honest”, being divisive and colouring my view of others, Inflicting their personal agenda on people

Alternatively, there was the prospect of companionship with those whose heart was towards God.     Who loved God as I loved the Father, who were intent on making progress in their spiritual lives while pursuing their destiny.

I decided these were the companions I should cultivate, for their fellowship would help sharpen my spiritual insights and provoke me towards maturity.

I am told which I am sure its true that less is best for a blog although I don’t know how to lean this or better still practice the lesson today however I am going to head the encouragement allowing you to mull my comments on adding and advancing your journey into God.

I pray that you will develop deeper in 2013 your Spiritual Discipline along with wisdom, not emotion in your choice of friends while recalling Part One of “To this end…” with developing that fellowship with God who is eager for the relationship.

Happy journeys into Christ, great adventures of the Holy Spirit and deeper into God in 2013

Chose!

images-4Chose Life is the direction of the scriptures, more than that the Spirit of life causes us to ‘chose life’, the passage in Deut.  30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 

 The desire of the Father for us all is that we “CHOSE” and that choice is “LIFE”.   “Chose Life” the shout goes across time and through creation into the hearts of mankind.   Chose, make a right choice, the grace of God enables us.

We must have all sat in examinations some time or another, I recall  schooldays with the invigilator, the one who wandered between lines of the desks  making sure you did not cheat in any way, whilst you had notes written on your arm, little slips of writing paper with answers on slipped into your pencil-case, with words so small that by the time you needed them in the exam you could no longer read them, by what ever way by whatever means people attempt to get themselves ahead.   Perhaps you are one who did not need anything but could recall all at the appropriate moment.    The invigilator strolling between the lines of order, pressuring the children.   But this Father of ours , the God of all creation does not allow any one to become pressured, for as the Father of Life passes by and sees your pressure he reaches over your shoulder and points at the correct choice.   So he sets before us choice, life or death and points, just incase the question is too difficult for us, LIFE to enable us to make the correct decision.

Life is a series of choices. Our present circumstance and status in life is the consequence of the choices we have made & have refused to make in life.

The most difficult choices are not the ones between good & evil, but choose between multiple good. Phil 1:9

 

Choices, Life is full of them they roll in every day, ever hour, they stand before us daily.     God wants us to make choices and through choices we are schooled, God will always present choices for our maturing.   Consider Adam right from the word go humanity is presented with a choice ‘this tree or that one’, a moral choice, a choice of life, a choice of obedient response.   Humanity even following being instructed not to take of one tree, humanity is even show which one was full of life and humanity should continue to taking from it, yet a choice stood in the centre of the garden two trees to begin the process of maturing.   Through the choice made immaturity along with a way of life that all humanity has struggled with, an orphan way of life overwhelmed at that time and we have being dealing with provision and protection ever since.

A choice made that brought all mankind to be defensive and protective in life along with taken up in gathering and amassing all kinds of provision, in making providing for self a central feature of life yet Choose Life the direction was to be.

In making a sound choice, freedom from 2 enemies of the present age is necessary.

  1. Possessions material goods and  the pursuit of them
  2. Positions status, what others think of us, protection.