Back on track

a black antique abandoned car
Stuck because I’ve been off the road!

Do you ever have, “how could I have been so dumb” experiences? When you suddenly realise you’ve had something completely wrong, especially if it has been in front of other people.

I had such an experience this week, and the dumbness has been public – on this blog in fact.

For several months I have been floundering around trying to ‘figure out’ what I want to be writing about, in some ways wanting to imitate others who have sophisticated artistic blogs. The problem being that the creators of such blogs are sophisticated artistic people whose passion is creating fantastic work. In my more realistic moments I have to concede that such a description does not fit me well.

Then I happened to be reading 1 John chapter 2, particularly:

And the world is passing away along with it’s desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17)

Suddenly I could see why I felt so stuck for writing inspiration – there is a topic I am passionate about: God and knowing Him through Jesus Christ. The reason I’ve been stuck is because I haven’t even been on the road! Heading off on my own path has simply resulted in me becoming lost.

After resolving to focus on writing about ‘God stuff’, the ideas have begun to flow again. Back on track!

Other posts related to this topic:

Image: iStock

Changing seasons

Autumn colors in the Greater Khingan Mountains of China.
It is interesting how our lives go through seasons. During some periods there is hope in the air, new growth, and life moves forward. At other times the stifling heat of worries and cares slow the pace down such that it can feel like I am dragging myself through the days, happy but exhausted. Then there can be times of gloom and hardness, no new growth, grey all around with little sign of any reprieve.

As with seasons in nature, I find it is not until I’m well into a new season and look back that it becomes obvious the season has changed – day by day the changes are imperceptibly small so I don’t really notice them.

As I look back now it is clear that I have recently been through a change of season. Don’t ask what the season I’m now in is – I have no idea, but it is definitely different to where I have been for quite some time.

This transition has inadvertently been reflected on this blog, the lack of posts for the last three weeks is fairly obvious! That was not a planned ‘blogging break’, I just become preoccupied and busy with other concerns which pushed the priority of blogging further down the ‘to do’ list than it had been for a while. But I haven’t abandoned the blog!

However, noticing that the season is changing for me has caused an evaluation of what role this blog should have and I have made some tentative decisions.

From it’s beginning, Words of Eternal Life has intentionally been very focussed on God and living the Christian faith. This helped me overcome the massive barrier to publishing anything I wrote by reassuring myself that if I strictly kept to writing about ‘God stuff’ and stayed within conservative theological boundaries then the product should be edifying to others.

Gradually I grew in courage enough to actually write my own thoughts instead of regurgitating ideas from people whose opinions I looked up to, and even let some of myself show through in my posts. This worked fine and challenged me to be feeding on the Bible and ensuring I had biblically sound ideas to share.

Surprisingly to me, some of what I have written about over the last 3 years has been very personal and disclosed some real struggles. This has been good.

More recently I wanted to be able to post other thoughts about life in general which were not particularly Christian focussed and so started another blog for random musings – a few posts about books I’ve read, some new words I learned and a couple of posts about obscure things I had read. The intention was to simply have somewhere to collect such ideas without feeling any pressure to fully finish the thinking before posting it.

I also have another web project in development which is taking a lot of work and is very geeky (I’m a science geek). This will be an ongoing project, diverting my attention somewhat from here.

So, my intention is to merge the few posts of my random blog into this one and allow the focus of future posts to range more widely than the topics I’ve previously written about. By freeing myself to be less constrained in my writing I hope to maintain a reasonable posting frequency and possibly make things more interesting too.

I realize that widening the scope of topics here may put some folks off reading my musings. There are plenty of more theological blogs out there and many more spiritual blogs also. I am still the same author, you may simply get a more rounded perspective of what I’m really like!

Time will tell whether my writing actually changes or not.

Pray for your kids – willing to work

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.


Download the prayer prompts:

Other posts related to this topic:

Image: iStockphoto

Pray for your kids – Willing to work

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Download the prayer prompts:

I prayed a prayer God has already answered

Hand of Christ reaching down from heaven to grab the hand of man
This morning I prayed a prayer that God has already answered. This sounds a bit daft so let me explain, here is the prayer:

Produce in me self-despair that will
make Jesus precious to me,
delightful in all his offices,
pleasurable in all his ways,
and may I love his commands
as well as his promises
(The Valley of Vision, p333)

This is part of a longer prayer which I was reading when the words “produce in me self-despair” arrested me – I know self-despair well, why would anyone ask God for it?

The rest of the line explains: to make Jesus precious to me.

I have been praying the same in reverse – I have self-despair, please give me hope in Christ.

Reading what some Puritan wrote hundreds of years ago opened my eyes to meaning within my depression. I have given up hope in myself, in the most desperate times all that remains is a plea to God. Jesus says, ask and I will give you eternal life (see John 4:10 & 14).

While I hate depression and do what I can to avoid the despair, this prayer gives me a glimpse of what may be God’s perspective on it. Despairing of hope from within, I seek Christ to be all for me.


Gifts I have noticed recently (#903 – #909):

903) The love of my children.
904) Fear and uncertainty holding me back from stupid choices.
905) My family who loves and needs me as I am.
906) The desire to write, even if I don’t know what.
907) Happy memories to cling to.
908) Encouragement from friends.
909) A few days off.

Related to this topic:

Image: iStock

John the Baptist gets high

Imagine spending thirty years of your life intensely focussed on what you are convinced is your entire purpose for being. The enormity of the task sometimes causes you to quiver and seriously doubt yourself, can you really pull it off? What if, in the crucial moment, you fail to perform what is expected of you? If this job is not done properly history will hate you for it!
It is the preparation which costs so much; constant vigilance, total discipline and self control, being unable to participate in most of the entertainments your peers enjoy. Every day – preparing and waiting – Oh the seemingly endless waiting.

Finally, after years of study and setting yourself aside for the task you know you are ready and the time is right to begin. With faltering voice at first you start speaking out, attempting to convince others of the message you have been given.  Surprisingly the people respond. They see your sincerity, look past your idiosyncrasies and understand the message.

Well, the common people that is. The educated and wealthy start mocking and debating. They cannot see why your teaching is applicable to them, especially given their inherited position.

Yet, despite this opposition even your reputation grows until crowds are gathering to listen and act. People are taking it seriously, asking sensible questions about how to change injustice. Things are happening!

However, with the success your anxiety mounts. Things are surely going to come to a head soon but you still haven’t done the most important thing. What if you’ve missed it? What if dealing with so many people coming to listen and be changed has blinded you to the most important part of the task?

With such doubts in your mind every night you rehearse your message. Your tone is getting more strident and uncompromising. The ‘debates’ with the authorities are getting less like debates and becoming more like tirades against them. Someone is going to get real upset before too much longer!

Then it happens, after yet another heated exchange with the scribes. Looking up, the man walking towards you matches what others have described but more importantly you recognize in him an air of uncompromising sincerity. Now, after so many public speeches your words tumble out awkwardly and you hear yourself wondering out loud whether what you’d been planning to do is actually the right thing.

He smiles and reassures. Yes, your concerns are valid but stick to the plan. So it is done.

Then…

Well, words cannot describe it. Nothing you had imagined came near the actual event. But it happened, just as you had been told. Good thing the water was fairly shallow or you’d have nearly drowned! Not only the dove, but the voice also! The sign! YOU HAD JUST BAPTIZED THE SON OF GOD!

I am speculating here, but it is my guess that John the baptist – a young 30-year-old man – found it difficult to focus on his work for the rest of that day and probably was buzzing too much to sleep very well that night! The purpose God had given him in life had now been achieved!

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34 ESV)

Plan to endure

Only a fool would attempt to climb Mt Cook without a plan.

Likewise, it has become popular to have a ‘Life Plan‘ or similar sort of personal ‘mission statement’.

Interestingly, we Christians don’t tend to have much of a plan with regards to following Christ. I’m sure there are some rare individuals out there who do have some plan for serving God, but the more common approach seems to be either no plans at all or else waiting for God to give us a ‘call’ to do something particular with the life He gave us.

God does appear to call some folks to serve Him in particular ways, He certainly calls all of us to follow His commands. What I’m beginning to realize is that I have never given adequate consideration to how I am going to deal with the hazards and obstacles which will certainly arise in serving Christ. It is one thing to know my goal, quite another to have a plan of how to reach the goal.

Currently my thinking is fuzzy on this, but just as someone climbing Mt Cook needs to consider how they intend to cope with the cold, avalanches, rock falls, crevasses, ice, rock, falling off, &etc; so too I need to consider how I will cope with the obstacles and hazards known to be part of following Christ.

What might those hazards be?
  • Growing weary (Galatians 6:9)
  • Disillusionment
  • Lack of faith
  • Love of the world (1 John 2:15-16)
  • Satan snatching away the word from my heart (Mark 4:15)
  • Falling away during a time of testing (Luke 8:13)
  • Being choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life (Luke 8:14)
  • Temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13)
  • Sin
  • Prayerlessness
  • Inadequate fellowship
  • Failing to rejoice (Philippians 3:1)
  • Being unfruitful

Having only compiled this list right now (and I am sure there are more hazards I could add), I don’t yet have a plan for dealing with each of these potential obstacles to my following Christ. I am going to need to ponder and pray over each hazard and come up with at least an emergency strategy for each. As with physical hazards, experience of the real thing teaches valuable insight into how to best overcome them so my tentative plans will no doubt evolve and be modified by experience over the years ahead!

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30 ESV)

How would you cope with these hazards?

By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:19 ESV)

Why do you work?

For most of us, to ask why we work amounts to a pretty stupid question because the answer is obvious — we work to get paid so we can buy food, clothes, pay for somewhere to live and pay the bills.  Very few have so much money that they don’t need to work.

This rather mundane, pragmatic take on work is also biblical; Paul tells us that if anyone is not prepared to work they should not expect to be fed and we are to do honest work to provide for ourselves and our dependents (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Timothy 5:8). We are also called to put a full effort into the work we do, the admonition of Colossians 3:23-24 indicating that half-hearted work efforts and procrastination have been around for a very long time!

I find this pragmatic view of work in the Bible to be a relief in comparison to the currently popular ideals portrayed by ‘career experts’ pushing ideas such as: “A person’s worth is often measured by the career success or failings“. There is often an assumption that you can find a job which is a perfect (or at least near-perfect) match for your skills, experience and personal motivations. Yet for most of us the whole career experience is more like the verb: “move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction” (i.e., down the dirt track of our lives in the rickety go-kart of our employability!). Very few people have any real ability to actually plan their career, the rest of us take the best job available at the time we are needing one.

In contrast, the Bible teaches that work is ordained by God (Genesis 2:15) and so is a necessary part of life but it has also been tainted with futility by the fall (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:20), meaning that we will always have bad days on the job when nothing goes as we would wish. Certainly there is a lot of choice available in jobs now, but the ideal job for you (or me) simply does not exist because we are sinful and so will bring sinful attitudes or behaviours to our work, and the work itself is subject to the curse of futility so will frustrate us sooner or later.

So after a crap day at work when you might wonder if you have missed your life’s calling, relax. If you have put in a day’s work and were paid for it this strongly indicates that you are in fact living up to your calling in Christ so far as work goes.

Course correction

“We need to put some stuff aside to communicate with people” (Richard Nyhof, sermon comment). Jesus put aside his equality with God and became a servant in the form of a baby in order to communicate God’s redemption to us (Philippians 2:6).

For me, I need to put aside my own agendas and plans in order to be more genuinely interested in others. If I’m constantly thinking of what I really want or ‘need’ to be doing while interacting with someone, I cannot communicate genuine interest or concern for that person – they will see that I am wanting to be moving on to something that is more important to me.

Jesus did not need to put aside his own agenda to take on human form and be crucified for us – this IS his agenda! It should also be mine: God’s plan of redemption is His glory, and the chief end of man is to glorify God (Westminster catechism). The very purpose of my existence is to participate in God’s plan of redemption.

Glorifying God by spreading His gospel is the purpose of my existence – the ultimate agenda for my life. All other plans and agendas I have should serve this ultimate one (and not just tangentially!).

I need to adjust some of my plans!