Tag Archives: scripture

198 Born Again (Scripture Conclusions)

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Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

John 3:3 NIV

Seeing using Scripture is a real spiritual eye-opener, and I’m talking as much about our inner eyes as our outer ones. If our heads and hearts are meditating on the Word of God, we will see it written and painted all around us, and hear and touch it too, maybe even taste it. For all of our senses can be caught up in the wonder of Logos, the living Word, the Cosmic Christ in whom all things hold together. The world is passionate about illustrating kingdom truths to us. God’s glory is sung out all around.

The next post will be the last one in this year’s series of Eye of Horus. We will be coming to some overall conclusions about what we’ve learnt, and hopefully some of our fragmentary seeings will begin to form a whole.

photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

 

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193 Pearls Before Swine (Scripture 9)

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“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6 NIV

photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

 

190. Sheep Clouds (Scripture 6)

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“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:14-16 NLT

photo © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

64: Lukewarm

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I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 NIV

It is quite possible to coast along these days as a professed follower of Christ. One can simply be seen to do all the right things, baking for church sales, singing in the choir or worship team, tithing, going to Bible study, etc. etc. and you could have a faith tinier than a mustard seed, or none at all, and no-one would know. These are all good things to be doing of course, and perhaps it’s not surprising that in our surface-obsessed culture there can easily be style without substance even in the place where we are meant to be living out the true meaning of life.

It is more surprising, perhaps, that such lukewarm attitudes were already to be found in the first century in the Laodicean church. In a time and culture where being a Christian could get you killed, it seems quite odd that the Lord should chide any of his followers for being tepid in their faith. But it seems from my research that Laodicea wasn’t persecuted in the same way as other churches at the time, and perhaps this, coupled with the riches they had that Christ goes on to talk about, had left this group feeling complacent, self-sufficient and therefore quite akin to a lot of our own faith communities in the western “developed” world today.

Staying ambivalent and comfortable is very tempting when there is nothing pushing us to be different or shaken. And yet the heart of the gospel is to be counter-cultural, and Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind (Matthew 22:37), indeed with our everything. Following Jesus is an all or nothing venture. It isn’t something we hang up in the wardrobe along with our Sunday best to harbour mothballs for the rest of the week. If it is, then we really have not understood our calling to be disciples. Loving Jesus means being willing to do the work we are given, where we are chosen to do it, and often involves sacrifices and worldly discomfort and disappointment.

People who are apathetic about God are the hardest to persuade of his love. It is the comfortable middle classes who see no need for a saviour, and that appears to have been the problem in this church nearly two thousand years ago. Human nature does not change very much! Even atheists have a kind of religious passion that one can engage with, but an agnostic or a tepid believer is often happy sitting on the fence, dangling his or her legs over each side, hedging their bets and perhaps picking and choosing the bits of Scripture that they find easiest to live with. They are the people who hold the spread of the gospel back far more than any persecution, and there is a bit of them in all of us.

That bit of us that doesn’t want to be challenged, that wants to read a cosy book about how easy life is supposed to be, wants to hear about gentle Jesus meek and mild, to sing about a personal saviour but which will avert its gaze from a bloody crown of thorns and go pale and indignant at the thought of sharing in the sufferings of Christ and glazed and distant at the idea of falling into the mystery of love.

Let us then, come back to that first flame of love, and fan it with our deepest longings for God, so that there is no danger of his finding us distasteful!

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo on Yahoo used under creative commons license.

 

49: The Incurable Wound

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Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” Jeremiah 18:15 ESV

 

As a chronically sick person, I can so identify with Jeremiah’s way of expressing his and Israel’s pain in this way. The help that doesn’t come is unbearable. Spiritual wounds can feel like this too, never-ending, incurable, seeping and festering.

In my prayer time today the Lord shared with me about the idea of a “soul wound,” a place in us where the enemy finds a potential weakness. He wounds us there, and keeps stabbing away at the same place over and over again, so that each time we think we have got a handle on it and found healing, it is opened up again and never gets a chance to truly be made well. We looked back over the toughest times in my life and I saw in a way I’ve not been able to comprehend before, that each time I was soul wounded, it happened in several similar areas. I wonder if this is the same for other people too? It could be a myriad of things. Loneliness, helplessness, disappointment, misunderstanding, cruelty, abuse, violation of boundaries, addiction, fear of commitment, running with the crowd. You name a weakness and it is doubtless exploitable. The thing is, if the devil can keep picking away at the scab, and sticking those places with any sharp object he can find, that place will become weaker and weaker and its defence non-existent. So we end up with a seemingly incurable wound.

But what I was also shown, was that each of these wounds is based on or around a lie which we can counteract with scripture. So, for instance, a false aim, like trying to be good enough for God to love you. The premise that you need to strive to be good enough is a lie. You don’t need to try, because you never will be good enough for God to love you. God loves you now, already, as you are. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8 NLT) God does the doing in this relationship. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

Another one might be finding yourself constantly misunderstood. The lie here is that no-one understands you. But God does.

You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.” Psalm 139: 1-4 NIV

Unike Achilles, most of us have more than one dodgy heel, those places where a correctly thrown dart or spear can get under our skin and slow us down. To be sure of what they are, we can listen to the discouraging voices that appear whenever we resolve to do something good, kind or for God. These will most likely also be the same discouragements that try to tempt us away from God’s will. They nearly always have their roots, just as temptations do, in three kinds of misrepresentation. Misrepresentation of God’s word: “did God really say that?” asks the serpent, pointing out other verses and counting on us not to bother to check their validity, context or cultural relevance. Misrepresentation of God’s character: “is God really good? He wouldn’t have done that if he were! He wouldn’t have given me these parents, let that happen” etc. And lastly the misrepresentation of our identity and worth in Christ: “you’re no good, you’re not good enough, you’ll never measure up”, and at the other end of the worth spectrum, “I deserve better, I’m better than that, I don’t need to lower myself.”

Our countering must be swift in order to stop the rot. Just as Jesus came back at the enemy in the wilderness with a neutralising scripture as the antidote to his poison, so can we. Scripture is holy, God is good, there is no condemnation in Christ. And so for every wound there is a lie and many corresponding truths. If we can gather the strength to collect some of these scriptures together, we might make a poultice from their collective goodness, applying them often as a balm to those stubborn wounds. In this way healing can gradually come and the truth really can set us free.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

23: Sulking in the Sun

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But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.” Jonah 4:9 NIV (But please do read the whole of chapter four if you have time.)

 

So, having explored what self-pity is not, in my last few entries, I wanted to try and give an example of what it actually is occurring in Scripture, and poor old Jonah is the victim I’ve picked. Now I am quite an expert on self-pity, having mastered it slowly over a number of years and then having been (mostly) released from it.

I can recognise now that the hallmarks of self-pity are that it is prolonged (though we often dip in and out of it), that it becomes an attitude we live by, that it is almost entirely self-centred, that it smacks of an attitude of entitlement or of self-loathing, and that it twists the facts cleverly to make everything look as though we are at the centre of a vortex of unfairness.

In short, self-pity is permanent sulking. It is our ego throwing a toddler tantrum every time something doesn’t go our way and imagining rightly or wrongly that the world is out to get us. It is all encompassing and often even manages to defy logic. We have persuaded ourselves somewhere deep inside that nothing can go right for us and that the world is not giving us the fair deal we deserve.

Jonah is the daddy of all sulkers. He sulks himself onto a ship, he sulks himself into being thrown overboard and after being rescued miraculously and performing his prophetic duty like a pro, then reverts back to sulking, even about the success of his mission. I told you this is what would happen! is the gist of what he says to God, in one of my all-time favourite Bible verses: “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:2-3 partial NIV)

Jonah is such a practised sulker, he can even take offence at God’s goodness whilst praising him for it. And even though he knows that the city will be spared, he still storms off and sits in the desert “to see what will happen”. He was sent to Nineveh to ask the people to repent and they did. Instead of outward compassion, Jonah displays the giveaway characteristic of someone stuck in the rut of self-pity: he turns even his own successes into failures. Believing that the Lord relenting makes him look foolish is more important to him than thousands being saved from death. This is an ego in extremis. And yet, I have great sympathy for Jonah. I relate to his sufferings, so much so I even wrote a short book about him (yet to be published).

But the thing that lifts my heart about Jonah is, that even sitting in the sun sulking, God is patiently trying to teach him compassion via the lesson of the plant he sends and then withers. The Lord is trying to show him a way out, trying to help him understand the heart of the God he serves, which, (another mark of self-pity) actually Jonah already knows, and judging from the verses I quoted, better than most. He is just choosing anger over compassion because it is easier, because it is ingrained and because his own heart isn’t ready yet to be freed from the stranglehold of ego. The only thing that can perform that kind of often slow emotional and spiritual surgery is love, and God is there with him and us, writing the book on it.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Morguefile.com