Giver of Life

Last night I dreamt I was sleeping in a man’s bed who had died, and his little dog came to my side and he was distressed as only his master had slept there. So I got up and another man entered the room with his wife. He had been a relative of the man who had died, and was grieving but had a peace about him. He asked me if I had any words for the occasion. Seeing that I was a Christian, he thought I might. But I told him I had not any that would do, but that I felt a thickness of emotion in the room that was overwhelming.

And he looked surprised and said he would’ve thought I had some. And then he reached behind him and pulled out a book. Of songs, perhaps. And he gestured to his wife to come over. And they began to sing the most beautiful and uplifting song. One I had never heard before and was sad I would not remember when I woke up. But it stirred my spirit into great hope. It was like the heavens had opened and began to sing.

And I saw before me a great king with a crown and royal robes, and he was animated by a loving tenderness so potent that he shook with it as he rushed to throw his arms around one of his subjects. The love that shone from him, how I wish I could describe it better, it was like light and joy and power and wonder.

What a wonder it is that there is a song that overcomes death, that lifts you so high that nothing can touch you. It is the song of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has defeated death and is the giver of life to all who would come to him.

Sin needs to go

When reading Jesus in the sermon on the mount, I just wasn’t getting it. He is saying that even by getting angry I was in danger of judgement. I didn’t understand, as I thought He was saying I was saved by grace through faith! How could I be in danger of judgement if I was saved by faith? But I realized that I’ve had a mental block. I had seen contradictions here where there were none. I was operating under the impression that I could enter heaven with sin still within me. But I can’t. God wants me to see this: sin, when fully grown, leads to death. Sin needs to be dealt with. Anger does lead to hell when it’s allowed to grow. I needed to get this. That sin must be dealt with. It’s dangerous. It hurts me. And God wants to help me. He wants to save me from it. And I am saved by grace. He himself is going to heal me from it. Through his Spirit within me, he’s going to transform me from the inside out. So I don’t need to be afraid, as long as I remain in him, in a trusting relationship. But he wanted me to understand that sin must go, and he is going to remove it. I needed to know that. I needed to be willing, so it would go easier.

Social Anxiety

I had a revelation today about my anxiety. It’s a lot of stuff I kinda already knew, but I hadn’t really got it in a deep way, and I hadn’t really connected all the dots before now, at least not in a way I felt convicted in my heart.

My anxiety stems from a fear of failure and rejection. This manifests most strongly when it comes to job interviews and actually being in the workplace. It also manifests in social settings as social anxiety. It results in me being repressed emotionally. I want so much to be liked and to succeed that I am not fully myself. It’s like I’m trying to maintain this image of who I think I should be, because I’m so afraid that who I am might not be good enough to keep the job I am in, or in the social setting, to keep the friends I have made.

My wife said something to me last night. She said that she loves how I am in private with her, but she would like other people to see what I am like too. Because when I’m with her I feel safe enough to be myself, and I can be quite silly and eccentric, but when I’m with others I tend to suppress my personality to some level. Deep down I am probably an extrovert, but it’s the social anxiety that has made me think I was an introvert as I would tend to not express myself because of it. It’s also why I find social interactions draining, unless I know the people very well, as it takes a lot of energy to suppress or put up a front.

I know that whether I hide away or not, there will always be both success and failure in my life, and there will always be people who like my personality and some who don’t.

I’d not really connected all this up together, but felt God was showing me this today. Even to face up to it and admit it has felt like a great weight has lifted off my chest and my head, and I feel tangibly lighter. I have felt for a while that God has been taking me on a journey of being more open and visible. And I know this is a process, and I can’t turn it all around over night, but my prayer is that God would continue to show me the truth of all this and lead me into more and more freedom.

Time

I’m obsessed with time. I’m a clock-watcher. Not in the sense of wanting something to be over, or to begin, but in the sense of wanting to carve out time for myself. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having personal time, and I would say it is essential, but for me it has become a source of anxiety.

If I am held up, or something is taking too long, I lose my patience, as I want to get back home to have “my time”. And for me, the evenings and the weekends can never be long enough. So I don’t really enjoy this “me time” that I carve out for myself.

I feel called to a better way to live. I’m resisting though, and it is difficult. But I feel called to hand over all my time to God. To put it in his hands. Then I think I can stop worrying about it.

I always thought that being in control of my time would be freedom. Being able to do whatever I want, when I want. But I’m starting to realize that me being in control of my time is not all it’s cracked up to be. I can never have enough, and it can never be good enough.

But in God’s hands, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. I can let go trying so hard to be in control of my life. When I trust God, I know that he is my provider, and he will give me whatever I need when I need it.

I suppose I have been a “Time Lord” so long, I’m quite used to it, and there is a kind of uneasy comfort in it. But I’m daring to imagine a new life for myself.

With my own hands on the wheel, I keep revisiting the same well-worn and unsatisfying roads, but who knows where I could go in life, if someone else took the wheel. Someone whose dreams and plans are far greater than I could ever ask for or imagine. Jesus.

The True Vine

If I may be so audacious, I’ve noticed what I think is a misunderstanding in how we grow in Christ. I think some Christians are under the impression that Christ makes us stronger and more gifted within ourselves over time as we walk with Him, as if God makes us independently more powerful and successful.

I would argue that it is the opposite! When you walk with Christ, you gradually realize how utterly incapable you are in your own strength, and how completely you need to depend upon Him. We become less and he becomes more.

If we are to grow then it means we are to become more like Christ, who himself is humble, gentle, meek, lowly in heart, giving himself completely to the will of the Father, doing nothing except that which he saw his Father doing, living in total obedience and dependence upon God the Father, whose power is made perfect in weakness.

Christ himself has said that he is the true vine, and we are like branches and must remain attached to the vine, who is the first source and the continuing source of all good things within us, and as Christ says, if we should be cut off and separated from that vine, then we would wither and die.

So we should not become conceited thinking God has made us great, no, God has become great in us! As Paul said, “not I, but Christ in me!”

Perhaps it is not a popular opinion, us having been raised in a society that puts high value on independence and personal growth and strength, but there is a real freedom in realizing that it’s not all on us, we have a good Father that we can depend upon.

Honesty in weakness

I felt that God has told me today, that he doesn’t need me to be perfect, but he wants me to see my weaknesses and acknowledge them. I have been so defensive, not wanting to admit where I am weak and sinful and where I struggle, but God wants me to know today that he doesn’t need my perfection, he needs my humility, honesty and openness. It is enough to acknowledge where I fall short and to confess it, to boast about it even as Paul says, and present myself in weakness to God, because his power is made perfect in weakness. I don’t have to defend myself or hide from him any longer. He knows my intimately, he knows the number of hairs on my head, and he for sure knows where I am weak. It is no surprise to him.

It is enough to admit I struggle in an area and say sorry to those it hurts, and then try to do better. I don’t have to defend myself and fight back. I don’t have to hide my flaws and try to convince others that I don’t have them. It’s time to be authentic and real, and admit it all.

July 14th 2018

This was the day my whole world changed. I remember this Saturday morning, almost 3 years ago. I had been so depressed and just felt dead inside. I went for a walk into Preston town center. A man was playing a guitar and singing on the street, and I sat down on a bench near him. Turned out he was singing about Jesus, and I had a moment where time seemed to slow down and I felt calm and at peace.

Then I got up and walked around the block and there was a table set up, where a pastor and his wife were handing out leaflets and chatting with people. At first I walked by, but something stopped me, and I said in my mind, “okay, fine, I will go back and talk to them.” So I spoke with them, and I went to their church, and I ate with them and joined in with their community.

And then through the course of the next year, my life changed radically. I started a new job and moved to Manchester, I gave up smoking weed, my deep depression lifted, and for the first time in the longest time, I was happy and content. I had hope again for the future. I met my wife and we are about to move into a house together.

All because in that moment on the road that day, Jesus prepared a table for me, and I stopped and turned back. One small decision changed things forever. I just had to say “okay, I’ll give it my best try.”

My Father in Heaven

I never knew my biological father growing up. I had a great childhood with a loving mother, step-dad and brother, but when I got older I sought out my birth father. I wanted to learn more about where I came from. When I met him he wasn’t interested though and he disappeared again out of my life.

Then I sought out God, wanting again to know where I came from, but this time I was not let down. In God I found my true, spiritual Father, the one who made me and formed me. And he made right every wrong.

Sometimes I get distracted by philosophy, approaches and books about God, and I forget that He is not a system or a ritual or a philosophy, He is my Father who loves me and desires to know me.

It was never about a system of belief, it was always about a person.Thank you Jesus for the new life you have given me, in relationship with you.

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

When I am weak, then I am strong, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness. The problem is that I often think I am strong and capable in fighting for myself. I think that by asserting myself and forcing my will upon the world, that I can achieve success in life. But in the driving seat of my own life, I have generally done a terrible job.

The Lord says that He will fight for us, and that we need only to be still. This is submitting to God’s will, just as Jesus submits to the will of the Father in all things.

Often I want to achieve things through my own willpower, but God calls us to instead depend upon him. The flesh is weak, but the Spirit is strong. We need to stop depending on our flesh or our human strength and instead wait upon the Spirit of the Lord to fight for us.

This can often involve enduring unpleasant feelings. For example, recently in a group conversation, I felt I was being talked over and not listened to or included. This felt unpleasant, and I was tempted to try and force my way in, by overtalking others in turn or speaking louder.

But instead I remembered the Lord promised he will fight for me, and that I didn’t need to fight for myself. So I decided to endure the unpleasant feeling and wait faithfully for the Lord. As it is said, “suffering produces endurance, which produces character.”

And sure enough, the conversation began to turn. I was acknowledged and honoured, and I felt the peace of the Lord’s presence upon me. I was still and gave up the space for God to move in. Just as they began to quiet down to allow room for me to speak, I quietened down my controlling self to allow the Lord to move instead.

Journal 16/06/20

Jesus is the light of truth, according to John. This kind of light illuminates reality, revealing the truth of the way things are. All my life I’ve walked in confusion and didn’t even know it. Or sometimes I did know it. Life can be full of confusion and uncertainty and ignorance. I just didn’t realize the depths of my confusion, the depths of my inner darkness. Through relationship with Christ, his light shines into your darkness and illuminates your soul. It is like you were stood in your bedroom in the darkness and didn’t realize what was even around you, and then the Lord switches the light on and you suddenly see how messy your room is.

But it’s not just about our mess, about seeing that in the light. It’s about seeing the reality of the way things are, and the reality of the way things actually work in this life. I am becoming convinced that 100 percent of our sinful behaviour is down to our lack of understanding. We act in sinful and destructive ways because we simply don’t see and understand things as they actually are. God teaches us about life, and through the washing of his Word, our life becomes clearer within the context of God’s Word. He shines his light in us so we can see what is really going on, and then when we act we are acting from an understanding of reality as opposed to acting from a misunderstanding of reality. This is the sanctification process.

I dreamt last night about light. I entered a house that was full of strange plants, and the man inside was telling me of a new invention. He had reinvented the light bulb! He said that the problem with most light bulbs is that they are unnatural and the light is not healthy for us, but through these plants that give off natural light, he had created new devices that utilize these plants, in order to illuminate with a natural light that is just like daylight. And he showed me, and inside his house it really did seem like daytime, even though it was night outside! Then he showed me his best device, and inside it was this really wide, bulky plant, which had a red flower at the top, kinda like a rose, and then the plant started making some rumbling noises, like it was building up in power, and then the petals opened and powerful beams of light poured out of it like the rising of the sun, illuminating the entire room. It was really awe inspiring and breathtaking.

I wonder what God is saying to me in this dream. What are the two kinds of light? What is the unnatural light and the natural light? We know that light is synonymous with truth, with understanding reality. I was meditating today on 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5. Paul says that “the world through its wisdom did not know him”. We are also told in proverbs to “rely not on our own understanding, but on every word from the mouth of God.” So there is the wisdom or understanding of the world, and then there is the wisdom of God. The devil may appear as an angel of light they say. This is the world’s light, but God’s light is much better. It’s discerning the counterfeit from the genuine article. Just as the lightbulb is the counterfeit or the pale imitation of the glorious daylight of the sun, the wisdom from the world is a pale imitation of the Word of God, which is life. God is saying to us, “come and see, I have the better light for you.”