Monday, 25 August 2008

Total Desperation For The Presence of God

I am not satisfied!
In recent days I have found myself more and more hungry for just being in that place of intimacy with God - I have been to Church services and have left feeling disappointment that I came sang, listened and left - there has been a growing sense of desperation not simply to be in His house but to be in His presence - to know a deeper encounter with the Lord. Then last night my pastor brought a word about the presence of God and I must confess I left feeling more hungry than ever, I am so desperate for the Lord. I long to be in His presence and last night at the end of the sermon I was reminded of an old chorus by Noel Richards that goes like this:-

To Be In Your Presence
To sit at Your feet,
Where Your love surrounds me,
And makes me complete.
This is my desire, O Lord,
This is my desire
This is my desire, O Lord,
This is my desire
To rest in Your presence,
Not rushing away;
To cherish each moment,
Here I would stay.

I have been awake since about 3am and this song has been going round my head - this desire to just be with Him almost throbs in the core of my being - I cannot be the sort of Christian that is happy simply for encounters with God at designated Church meetings! How does anyone rely simply on a weekly or twice weekly or even three times a week encounter with Him - I can't go on at all unless I know an encounter with Him!

A few weeks ago I had a major encounter with God (funny how we scale these things) but I have to say that I have not known such a deep rooted encounter with God on such a scale for a long time - I cannot describe it other than to say I know that God stepped over the threshold of all the stuff in my life that I had fenced up and He stripped it away, He healed some areas of my life and since then I have known a lightness and a release unprecedented than any other time I can recall. What strikes me though is since then, I was talking with my husband about that night and he said something that hit me - he said, 'it was a start, God needs to do more.' In my juvenile moment I was like "more, but God has dealt with so much, surely I am OK now...." that was my honest inward feeling. But over the last three weeks or so as I have read various books and been in the Word the more I realise that encounter is and was not enough..........

..........I just had a breather to get a glass of water and it struck me that some may not understand this wonderful, awesome touch from God and then a realisation that what I have experienced is not enough. I had a glass of water before I went to bed but now I need another one - last nights glass of water is not enough for now or later......... it is like that with our walk with God I guess. It's an ongoing need. Yesterday I really sensed God's presence during the Sunday services at Church - but I need to know fresh encounters with God, I need to know His presence more and more. I am desperate and hungry and thirsty and longing with my whole being to be in His presence, to just sit at His feet, to know His love, to know that 'completeness,' to have the courage not to rush on (something I am too good at!), to learn to tarry more and just 'be.' I am with the Psalmist when he cried out 'better is one day in your house than a thousand elsewhere.'

I have to be honest and put a health-warning on this desperation for the presence of God - His presence is totally addictive! I kid you not! Once you have tasted of that intimacy, that moment when He waltzes in to your situation and lifts your burdens, when He cuts through the mess of your life with a prophetic word, when in the silence of the moment there is that 'I love you' song emanating from the throne, the brief moment when your despair turns like a click of the fingers into hope, when your heart ache turns into a new ache of gratitude and love, when you know His prompting and you have no option but to read what He lays on your heart or to sing that song when all of a sudden you seem transported from the city of this Earth to the city where all the worshippers sing one song, where things of this earth don't seem to matter any longer. I am so hungry and I am so desperate - I long, I feel parched for His presence, I cannot go on without Him. There are more encounters scheduled - He knows my days - but I long for them, I hunger for Him, I am simply laid bare and desperate for Him. No other touch is like His, no other voice is like His, no other presence is like His, I feel like I am in a dry lock of a canal and the other side of these gates is a mighty potential - the gates seem to open and for a time there is an abundance and an overwhelming and an exhilaration but then it seems like the lock drys up again and I am left looking for these gates to be opened afresh - I have had enough of the canal - I want the constant stream, the river - the constant flow with no lock, no damn, I agree with the song-writer! This is my desire O Lord, this is my desire - to be at His feet, to know His presence, to hear His voice, to hear His love songs over me, to not rush any longer - to just be in His presence.......

Sunday, 17 August 2008

New Blog

As I start to type this it is the early hours of Sunday morning - can't sleep and I have been mulling over LOTS of things! I have realised that 'From Head to Heart' has become more of a blog over my journey from legalism to living in the abundant grace of God - it is a journey that I am taking slowly and learning day by day that God's grace is not dependent upon me or my performance, or anything like that, so I am taking the courageous but yet scary (and maybe stupid) step of setting up a new blog which relates more to my walk with God through childlessness and infertility.

Although my journeys are linked I pray that there will be a fresh anointing of fire both for the understanding and acceptance of the grace of God as well as the daily walk with God through the ache of experiencing God giving and then taking away and seemingly not giving again...........

Saturday, 16 August 2008

The Voice of Truth

For those of you who know me or have read my book you will know that I love music - I love stuff that gets my focus on God in song, I love worship, I love that moment in the shower when singing turns to praise and as the water just keeps coming and so does song after song (not sure my neighbours are so keen though!!!).
One of my favourite groups is Casting Crowns - they are awesome - they have written songs that echo so much for me so many times - 'Praise you in this storm' and 'I am yours' are some of my favourites but recently the song that has been on the top of my playlist is 'the voice of truth,' which I will put here in case you haven't heard it!

Anyway recently I have found myself having to stand against the stuff that the enemy has had a go at me over or just simply acknowledging that some things that I have thought about myself or situations are actually contradicting that voice of truth! I have even found myself singing at the enemy 'but the voice of truth tells me a different story....' etc etc!

What has struck me in recent days when I have looked at e-mails that we have received from our website Hope When It Hurts that I have realised that time and time again folks have felt the same way as me, have been afraid of the 'what ifs.' The Casting Crowns song goes on to say 'the voice of truth says do not be afraid.'
Now is the time for listening more to the voice of truth than the stuff that people in this World and the stuff that the enemy throws at you! When the enemy places the next day, week, month, year or even decade before you and threatens you with 'what if this happens or doesn't happen' and you feel overwhelmed with the whole idea of the future and what it holds, when you feel like you can't go on and that the battle is not worth it, when you get discouraged and disheartened with life, with your job, with your walk, with the lack of answers to prayer then sing along with me 'but the voice of truth tells me a different story.....'
Someone reminded me fairly recently of a quote (and forgive me I can't remember who originally said it) that "when the enemy reminds you of your past, remind him of his future." Let's stand on the truth of the Word of God no matter what others say, no matter what our circumstances say, no matter what the situation - let's listen to the voice of truth rather than the nonsense that so easily overwhelms us! Easy to post I know and much harder to do in the dark times (I know it too well!) but take heart my friend - the voice of truth remains true!

Monday, 11 August 2008

God's Protection

I am astounded by God's protection even when we are foolish! What do I mean!? On Thursday we put air in our tyres noticing that one was very low - but never thought to actually check the tyre. Friday we drove up north - we were on the road with a few stop offs at various places from 10am through to 5pm - was a long journey, Saturday we took a long drive with family from near York to Scarborough, at late on Saturday my brother-in-law mentioned that he was concerned about one of our tyres so Sunday morning we took it off the car to put the spare on. When we took the tyre from the car to our horror there was a massive hole on the inside - despite the concern on Thursday we didn't check the inside of the tyre and yet God looked after us - we could easily have had a nasty accident - God certainly watched over our comings and goings (Ps 121) over this weekend!

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Adventure of Learning About Grace

I heard a sermon recently where the preacher's ending line was 'God is both gracious and severe' but then he went on to emphasis the severe and seemed to me to just mention the 'gracious part.' My husband and I spent some time afterwards talking about the fact that we are under the New Covenant and even though the wrath of God and the Justice of God are very real - we do need to comprehend that God IS love - it doesn't just say that God is loving - it is His nature - you cannot separate God and love. But also His character is shown through grace - through the fact that God sent Jesus to deal with all of our punishment - His amazing grace stooped and saved us.

We are on holiday this week and I have brought a stack of books with me to read! (And I brought Todd Bentleys from CLC London on the way through on Saturday! Should be interesting!) anyway - a book that I am half way through travelled with us and yesterday I read some and again this morning and it is an adventure! The book is called 'Grace Choices' by Jeff Lucas and I simply want to share with you some of the things I have read in my adventure of learning about grace even in the last 24 hours! The chapter that I have read is chapter 4 entitled "I will refuse to argue with God's gracious forgiveness" and this is a chapter full of meaty, really helpful stuff - I would highly recommend it to anyone who is on the same adventure as me!

"How often we are like Peter, who had to be told not to 'call unclean that which God callled clean.' So often we do the very same thing: except we are calling ourselves unclean when God has a different verdict about us because of what Jesus has done."
(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas page 63)
Oh my goodness..... what revelation to me this small statement was - my arguement with God has been so often and yet in saying that I am unclean I am actually contradicting God all because of Jesus - even this one small thought has been mind-blowing! It has made me realise afresh the amazing sacrifice of Jesus and that it is indeed completely finished - Peter Day, my pastor has recently being reminding me that all my sin was paid for on the cross, his reminders have been that all our sin is 'future sin' all paid for on the cross and of course we hadn't sinned when Jesus died as we weren't alive! So God says that I am clean becuase the sacrifice has been paid already, the sacrifice was complete covering all my sin past, present and future so I need to stop arguing with God! I am clean!

"It seems that we humans are prone to reverse the prayer of Jacob, who wrestled with God and yelled, 'I will not let you go until you bless me....' We are more likely to pray, 'I will not let you bless me, let me go.' The issue is sharply focused when we consider God's offer to forgive us. Simply put, we struggle and fight with his kindness; some of us feeling unworthy of it (which is ironic - we are unworthy). For whatever reason, some of us seem to want to choose condemnation over freedom."
(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas page 64)
What a challenge - for me I need to change my attitude, my heart and my head and choose freedom - when the enemy comes in like a flood to choose freedom, to not listen to accusation and condemnation and live under a cloud but to choose freedom!

"Condemnation and shame all too often blight our lives and eclipse the light of grace.
Typically shame overshadows us when:-
  • We have been raised on a constant emotional diet of being told that we are no good.
  • We are part of a local church that is more of a 'guilt machine' than a community of grace.
  • We have sinned in a specific area and have repented, but can't forgive ourselves or accept that we have been forgiven.
  • We have a faith that is dominated by subjective feelings rather than trust in what God says to us about our being forgiven in Scripture.

Lucas goes on to say:- "When we choose shame over grace, moments of 'spiritual high' are blighted by mental 'video replays' of our embarrassing and shameful history. And we begin to lose hope, because we are blinded to any steps of growth and change........"

"Even the most proficient can be unaware of any giftedness or progress in their lives if they are preoccupied with shame. Whatever their accomplishments, they remain on the treadmill of failure. One committed Christian wrote of how she 'lugs around inside of me a dead weight of not-enough-goodness.'

(Grace Choices by Jeff Lucas)

All I can say to this part of Lucas' book is how it has hit me - how much of this is spot on for me! Condemnation and shame are something that I have battled with since my earliest recollection - Sadly it is true. But things are due to change and this adventure of delving into grace I can see unravelling things in my head and in time I am praying that it will saturate through from my thinking to my heart! Lucas is so helpful in describing the 'video replays' after a spiritual high - I am sure that I am not the only one that has an encounter with God - something tangible has happened and a weight lifted and then within minutes or hours the goodness is robbed by those mental replays of some sin, some attitude, some lie of the enemy that I haven't met the grade or let people down etc etc - this is a time for change and those that know me are welcome to challenge me if they see me slipping back to living under condemnation or shame - I am a grace daughter - birthed and living under grace!!!! The dead weight of 'not-good-enoughness' has to be cut off and the simple declaration that 'I am, what and, who I am simply under the grace of God.' The relief that this brings no more striving - the thriving will come - I can almost feel it rising up!

Jeff Lucas goes on to deal with 'Choosing Freedom From False Guilt' and he gives some very helpful steps that although "not offered as a simplisitc solution to deep psychological scars but offered to help us to begin our exodus from shame." I found this very helpful which is why I wanted to include them on my blog:-

  • Realise that there is a strategy to rob you of grace: you are not abnormal or alone in these struggles - they are very common. We must not be ignorant about the tactics and schemes of the enemy (Eph 6:11), as well as the general struggles that human beings have with grace and free gifts.
  • Be clear about the issue - if you feel guilt because of current sin, then deal with that - do not try to reject genuine conviction by calling it shame.
  • Recognize that our feelings are not the final arbiter of truth. Scripture is - and God's word about His willingness graciously to forgive is our final authority (1 John 1:9). As Christians, we say that we believe in the inspiration of Scripture - why not accept and believe what God has to say about grace and forgiveness?
  • Refuse to argue with God's verdict - when He pronounces us clean, when we choose to rest in that decision.

I just found these so incredibly helpful - I know that the enemy so often tries to make me feel that I am abnormal with the battles that I face and even that can bring folks down and make them feel isolated - I have been there! If we bring this sort of thing in to the light and admit that it is a battle there would be many released from feeling alone in the battle! The enemy isn't very good at trying new tactics - in fact he doesn't need to because the old strategies that he has used time and time again prove still affective on God's beloved! I like the fact that Lucas does highlight that there is still genuine conviction - we can't simply dismiss things as condemnation or attack if in fact we have actually sinned! Feelings don't tell us the truth - this is where I struggle so often and why my prayer is that God would take stuff from my head into my heart so that my feelings are more in line with what He says! Finally the challenge not to argue any longer with God's verdict - the price is paid! I am clean - I need to learn to live and rest in this unalterable fact!

Finally Lucas ends this chapter with a quote from John Newton in his latter years although he has adapted the quote from Kenneth W. Osbeck Amazing Grace (Grand Rapids;Kregel Publishing 1990) and I want to also end on this quote for indeed we are great sinners but He is a greater Saviour:-

'My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:

that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour!'