Saturday, 28 August 2010

Late have I loved you, you were within me, but I was outside....

I am often surprised to find (although I don't know why I should be) that many of todays great worhip leaders reflect a deep knowledge of earlier Christian hymns, hymn writers and teachers. The relevance and impact of these hymns and teachings can be so powerfully demonstrated as the ancient truths are communicated in ways relevant to our culture. However, it is sad how many 'modern Christians' I meet who gain vicarious benefit from these ancient truths via modern songs but have no idea of their roots with some even decrying anything old simply because it's old! When a culture, movement or organisation belittles or ignores its history or fails to appreciate and understand its significance it is probably heading into some sort of self satisfied cultural culdesac. I was reminded of this powerfully and by way of a blessing this week as I got into my newly discovered group 'Gungor' and read some of St. Augustine's confessions (I know, it's not everyday etc etc)....

From St. Augustine:
Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance the innermost places of my being; but only because you had become my helper was I able to do so. I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.

O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.
Accordingly I looked for a way to gain the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who is also God, supreme over all things and blessed for ever. He called out, proclaiming I am the Way and Truth and the Life, nor had I known him as the food which, though I was not yet strong enough to eat it, he had mingled with our flesh, for the Word became flesh so that your Wisdom, through whom you created all things, might become for us the milk adapted to our infancy.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
.......and then as I was listening to Gungor I came across their track 'Late have I loved you'.....

Late have I loved You
Beauty so ancient, so new
Late have I loved You
You were within me
But I was outside You
It was there that I searched for You

Late have I loved You
Beauty so ancient, so new
Late have I loved You

You were here with me
But I was not with You
And it was there that You found me
It was there that You found me

You called and You shouted
And You broke through my deafness
You flashed and You shone
Dispelled all my blindness

You breathed Your fragrance on me
You breathed Your fragrance on me
Late have I loved You
Late have I loved You

You called and You shouted
You broke through my deafness
You flashed and You shone
Dispelled all my blindness
You breathed Your fragrance on me
You breathed Your fragrance on me

I drew in Your breath
And I keep on breathing
I've tasted I've seen
And now I want more

'Cause You breathed Your fragrance on me
You breathed Your fragrance on me
Late have I loved You
Late have I loved You

Credits :
songwriters: michael gungor,

As devotional words these have great power - from us being outside of Him to us being the fragrance of Him - this is our journey. The reading of the words from St Augustine and the listening to them from Gungor lead me to Romans 2 and that great reminder that it is the kindness of God that leads us to that place of repentence -  the atmosphere within which our journey makes most headway........

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Examine ourselves.....

Doctors strongly advise that men and women regularly perform certain easy 'self examinations' ( no need for too much detail here ) A few simple tests can give vital clues and early warning of serious problems that may lie ahead.
In Corinthians ( 1 Cor 13:5 Paul urges us to examine ourselves regularly, a sort of spiritual health check on where we are in the faith. In a twitter post today Matt Redman ( @matt_redman ) wrote the following questions, taken from the words of John Wesley,
1.Did the bible live in me today?
2.Am I enjoying prayer?
3.Is Christ real to me?

Three short but, if answered honestly, really helpful questions by which we can put Paul's words from 1 Corinthians into practical effect.
If you come up short in this 'examination' then 'there may be trouble ahead' - and no amount of singing, dancing, moonlight or romancing is going to sort it out (old song reference there!) but you can go a talk and pray with a trusted mature Christian friend or pastor asap - that is what I would prescribe.

If you would like to dig around a little more in the words of Wesley you can access his complete works here:
And a really good resource for finding your way around the bible is 'bible gateway' :
"Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith....." is not so much about are you or are you not a Christian as it is about are you living, acting, speaking and developing as a Christian, becoming mature rather than remaining an infant - but that's another blog...

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Monday, 23 August 2010

It's been a while

It's been quite a while since I have blogged - all sorts happening at work and, of course, holiday season. I've been away to the Cambridge Folk Festival, had a bit of a break around N. wales and been to the Edinburgh Festival - all of which has been great, but my greatest discovery this month has been a band I found whilst journying around the internet tonight - and they have really blown me away. Gungor

They are on iTunes and here are the lyrics to one of their songs from Ancient Skies - and boy did they get me.


I’ve tasted Your glory and I left it there.
Your poured out Your Spirit and I didn’t care.
Still you loved me

I’ve lived for myself with nobody to blame.
I took what You gave me and squandered Your grace.
Still You loved me.

Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me
Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.

I could live for the broken and share in their pain.
I could die like a martyr or live like a saint just to love You.
I could sing like the angels and gather Your praise:
Be blessed beyond measure and give it away just to love You.
Still nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.
Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.

My heart has been broken; I’ve laid out my shame.
Because of Your mercy,
All I can say is I love You.
So I’ll tell of Your story
I’ll carry Your name
I’ll live for Your glory Lord,
I’ll share in Your pain just to love You.
Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.
Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.
Nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.

Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us
Not death or life
Or depth or height
Or unseen power

Now or ever!

Words and music by Michael Gungor and Michael Rossback

I have also had some adventures in God's Word which I will be sharing when He and I have completed one or two things......

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Are you a still a learner?

Learner drivers - you gotta have them but you don't like getting stuck behind them! Learning is an interesting topic because in one sense you don't and shouldn't ever stop learning, life is one big learning journey.
It's a journey that favours the curious. Babies become very curious very quickly and whilst it can be a real handful for the parents - all the what, why, where, how, but, what if etc - this initially tiring time is repaid in full as the children become both interested and interesting, as they both seek and give knowledge, as they engage in a life that understands the importance of putting into practice what they learn. Sometimes you learn an important truth or lesson and move on. It is a valuable and useful lesson - but you don't need to dwell there - fire burns, don't touch it! Lesson learned, move on. Sometimes, however, there needs to be continuous learning, a subject or topic that just keeps on opening up new areas of discovery, new avenues of exploration, new paths to follow.

In Hebrews 6 we are told to:
" leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity," in other words learn them, leave them and move on into newer and deeper areas! Leave doesn't mean forget - like you don't forget that fire burns, it remains a useful, invaluable and practical guide for living. There are other areas, one of which is worship, where we must remain as learners, we must retain a real curiosity and desire to keep on exploring for to do so keeps us moving deeper into God but not to do so leads to a life that stagnates and lacks passion.
I have found so many resources that keep me pursuing worship as a student, a learner - not in theory but in practice. These resources include God's Word, worship songs from all era's the books of A W Tozer and many others, but currently a little book by Matt Redman called 'Facedown' which I cannot recommend highly enough. It is not so much new material - although there is plenty of that- as it is a revision and reminder of much I have learned but forgotten or simply not put into practice. I have treated worship as though it is one of the Hebrews 6:1 categories - but it isn't!
It is one of those books that has great 'one liners' that send you off in many interesting directions:
'when it comes to worship the heavenly throne must set the tone'
'Any genuine celebration of God's glory WILL be followed by a humbling before His greatness'
'Worship thrives on wonder'
'Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms'
'we convey a tame and domesticated God, and find ourselves stuck in the endless pursuit of the ordinary'
'God is God and as such He owes us nothing - not even answers'
'what the church needs today is a restoration of a vision of the Most High God'
'God does not delight in fast food spirituality'
'so often paradox is the gateway to mystery and wonder in worship'

That's probably enough - and it's a fraction of the 'food' in this small book that has jolted me into increasing the depth and pace of my learning about ,and experience of, worship.
I'm pleased to be a learner and happy to wear the 'L' plates when it comes to worshipping the Most High God.

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Are you sold out?

I recently attended Holy Trinity in Cambridge and heard a great message preached by a young girl who had been a student there and who was now studying evangelism at 'the other place' (Oxford apparently). She preached on the (sad) life of Samson. I was hoping the message may appear on the HTC website as a recording - but it hasn't (yet) and as some of the main points hit home so forcefully here they are:
1.Samson was set apart but sleeping around.
In his case, quite literally, with the Philistines - people who followed false god's but also sleeping around with wrong ambitions, motivations and desires. He was sleeping around with many things that were contrary to his calling and which diluted his dedication to his Lord. What about us? As Christians (if you are) the bible makes it clear we are set apart (see 1 Peter 2:9 - 11 ) - BUT are we sleeping around with things and thoughts, activities and desires that are contrary to our calling and damaging to our discipleship - ouch, strike 1.

2.Next we saw how Samson was physically strong but morally and spiritually weak - he was spiritually gifted but not spiritually mature! He even reached a stage where he forgot that the gifts he had were from God - thinking he could simply 'perform at will' whenever he chose. Today, the church and individuals often confuse gifting with maturity - so much so that the two can easily, in our own minds at least, become equated! This is the time when we start to ask God to bless what WE do rather than spend time discerning where God's blessing lies and pursuing it in His strength. This is the territory where our giftings so easily become our goals. That which God gave us to ACHIEVE a goal - glorifying Him and do His bidding becomes the focus of our Christian life. We must get better at what we do for God..... we pursue what we do rather than God Himself! Strike 2.

In fact Samson had strayed so far down this road that he did not even know when God had left him (Judges 16:9) He stepped aside from the grace which set him apart. He went beyond the 'gift as goal' error and took up residence in the 'gift is my 'right'' camp. He treated the grace gifts from God as his 'God given rights' and that is a rapid descent into a lifestyle that is all about me rather than Him. Strike 2.5

Samson gave very little voice to his calling and did not realise that:
3. Being set apart for God is not the same as 'being sold out' for God!
How many of us are quite content to be set apart and do not hunger and strive to be 'sold out' for the King? Strike 3.......

Those are the main points in which I heard the Lord speak powerfully. And the hope - God called and used Samson despite his frailties - and there was never a time when the road back into the fullness of his calling and gifting was not available to Him. The Father was always there at the end of the driveway awaiting His return, ready to kill the fatted calf and behind the celebrations!

Fo you want a lifestyle 'aspiration'? Try: set apart and sold out for the King of Kings'

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Faith and activity

This has been prompted by a tweet from @clearingtheroad in which I read the phrase 'faith and inactivity' which got me thinking, and I was off on one of my tangents.....
One of the ways I like to describe Christian faith is 'active belief in Jesus' which obviously requires some further explanation and is not the only description.... However, for me, the concepts of 'action' and 'activity' are inseparable from biblical faith, but not just any old activity with a 'God' label stuck on it! It is so easy in life, at every level, to content ourselves that busyness equates to usefulness, that sheer momentum is the same as worthwhile activity, and this is no truer than our approach to the things of God. It is too easy for our activity and busyness 'in His name' to become a substitute for a listening, obedient, reverent relationship in which activity is focussed, fruitful, faith inspiring and often preceded by periods of reflection during which we don't simply read God's word - we wrestle with it and seek to understand it ( something very different from learning and remembering it).
When it comes to our faith driven activity the words 'quality' , 'effectiveness' and 'fruitfulness' spring to mind. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 3:12-13 (NIV)
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.

I pray that my faith would, in part, be defined and recognised through activity and that the activity would be more than 'busyness with a veneer of Godliness' riding on an 'inadequate grasp of His living word'. May the activity be derived from Him, focussed upon Him, result in Glory to Him and be used by Him for the increase of His kingdom. May it pass the quality test of 1 Cor 3 and may it liberate and be liberating. Mere activity in the name of faithfulness is a poor substitute for the radical biblical faith filled activity that communicates Jesus in culturally relevant and powerful ways, that is passionate about the eradication of injustice and which relies on 'His power at work in us' rather than 'our power trying to work for Him'
This is the level of activity that, by His grace, I aspire to. It is the enemy of apathy and a cause for Satan to tremble........... Powerful and effective. Let if be so in Your Church Lord.

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Jesus will 'land in force'

I came across these few words on the second coming by C S Lewis - they are awesome:

Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force. We do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited until the allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. God is going to invade all right. But what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe, melting away like a dream, and something else, something it never entered your head to conceive comes crashing in. Something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left. For this time it will be God without disguise. Something so overwhelming, that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you could choose to lie down when it is become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing. It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen. Whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment is our chance to choose the right side.

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