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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Seek. Dwell. Gaze

Loving this scripture at the mo:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.... Psalm 27:4

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Wisdom and the fear of the Lord.

So, post the 'owl incident' I've been thinking more on wisdom. In the Old Testament you find the 'wisdom books' - JobPsalmsProverbsEcclesiastes, and Song of Songs. I've always loved Job in a funny kind of way, I guess going through some kind of suffering, in my case being ill, makes it mean a bit more than it otherwise might. But if you'd asked me what it was about, I wouldn't have first said 'wisdom', I would have said it's about something like faithfulness.

So, what is wisdom? where does that come in? Is wisdom just being very wise, full of intelligence and maturity? generally giving good advice on situations? Although let's face it we don't exactly see that from Job's friends... Well, as I discovered in one of my classes this term, at the very centre of the book of Job (literally the centre, at 28:28), is this:

And he said to humankind,‘Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’

But it's not the only place that says this, of course these books are all about wisdom so here's a few more mentions too:

Psalm 111:10 says this:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,To him belongs eternal praise.

and Proverbs 1:7 says:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

So then are we to understand that wisdom is simply found in the fear of the Lord and shunning evil? To be wise, to be filled with wisdom then, we need to fear the Lord and turn from evil?


I'm not sure that wisdom is something that we prize much these days. Wisdom to me means so much more than just knowledge, maturity, or making the right decisions, it's always had a supernatural air about it. Like those who are wise are led by something more than themselves into the things they share. And isn't that what the bible is telling us, that wisdom comes from a relationship with God? Fearing the Lord isn't literally about being afraid, it's more than that, deeper than that, it's about awe and conviction and an inner pull towards something so holy that it can't be described. 

There's something about experiencing God that is like a magnet, like an unseeable force drawing you towards it, there's nothing you can do to fight the pull as it draws you slowly, completely, towards that final inevitable conclusion. It's that pull, that draw, which at times feels full of fear, and such holiness, that all you can do is fall to your knees in wonder. 

No words can fill that space. No emotions. Just abandonment...

Is it then, in that place where we experience the wisdom of God? that we are slowly, gradually, inevitably filled with his knowledge? 

I think so. The wisest people I know are those who have spent a lifetime in God's presence. Short life or long, they are the ones who truly know the presence of God and the insight that it brings. They are the ones that have abandoned themselves to being led by him, to being taught by him, to knowing him.


And in all this, with the owl incident, everything God has been teaching me is about seeking him first. About spending time with him, being led by him, being taught by him and about being ruthlessly abandoned to him.

There were never going to be any short cuts to Wisdom, even our secular ideas of wisdom picture someone (or something) old, mature and seasoned. And it's just like that with God, the more we spend time with him, the more we are filled with him. The longer our lives, the more time we have spent with him.

I don't know if I'll ever be like one of the wise people I look up to, giving out such pearls of advice to rookies like me, but that's ok, because I'm not sure I'm seeking wisdom for wisdom's sake. I'm seeking God, for his sake...

Saturday, 21 March 2015

140 Character Gospel

Quote from Shelly Miller in a Share the Hope Post / 2014

I read an article a while back that looked at inspirational quotes and how we have become so addicted to them. If you google 'inspirational quotes' you get over 55,000,000 matches. And we see them everywhere don't we? My Twitter timeline is full of them, magazines use them as illustrations, coffee shops write them on chalk boards - in fact that is so on trend that you can get your own chalk board quote designed for you...  A few short words to make you feel better, to tell you you're not on your own, or to help you feel part of something. Some are quotes from well known people, others are just feel-good phrases, and they are usually funked up with a nice photo stuck behind them too.

Inspirational quotes are everywhere.

Quote found here.
And I'm not anti them at all, I love them! I've put a few together myself, and in fact for a project I am involved in called 'Share the Hope', we have used many to illustrate the posts and help spread the word about the project. But it's not just inspirational quotes that litter our lives with soundbites, is it? it's everything. I'll admit the most news I get is through the BBC's tweets, 140 character headlines and the occasional picture to explain it. Promotional emails have even cottoned on to this, so the subject tells you in one line all you need to know, and let's face it, how many of us actually read promotional email theses days, even if we have signed up to them?

What's it all about? Are we all really so busy that we don't have time to actually watch the news, or read a book that inspires us? Even though many are busy I'm not sure that's the answer, I think it's got more to do with the fact that we are bombarded with information, all day every day. The communication revolution has taken over so much that we have to actively choose an escape if we want it, turn off our phone, leave Facebook alone for a while, for example. Our minds are assaulted by ideas and thoughts and images all day, so then if something's going to stick, it's got to grab us by the whatnots and grab them quickly. So, 140 characters? Perfect. A one line inspiration? Just what we need. We make snap decisions and that's about all we can take.


So then I ask myself, what does all this mean for the church? We have a message to get across and I wonder, are we actually doing that in that in the age of the sound bite? Last week I had to put together a 60 second sermon. I thought it would be a sinch, but my first draft was 5 minutes long! I came away thinking what can you actually say in 60 seconds? but the more I think about it the more I think, maybe we should be doing more of this. If the rest of the world has cottoned on to the need for short snappy statements, has the church? In some ways yes and even the CofE has several Twitter accounts, but what about individual churches? What about us as Christians? Are we reaching people with the gospel in 140 characters? It's a challenge where every word counts and I'm not sure we've even taken up the gauntlet yet...