Monday, February 25, 2008

to be convinced

Sometimes in the past I have not felt very sure of myself as a Christian. I thought that I didn't understand enough yet about God's eternal forgiveness and love. Which is probably true. Can anyone really ever understand it entirely? But I had one of those lightning bolt moments last night when I suddenly realised that that's not really what I was worried about. I know that God will always be faithful, I know that he will always stick around, and I know that there's no need for me to worry about him abandoning me.

What I was worried about was myself. I am such a weak person. Now, most people I know may not realise this, because I don't let myself yield to temptation that people might find out about. On the other hand, if no one but God and I know or could know, I give in much more easily and quickly. And then feel terrible about it fifteen minutes later. Beyond the stuff I do, there's the stuff I think. Doubts (which I have talked about on here before), mean thoughts, unloving thoughts... I don't really have a beautiful mind. Some of this stuff might sound so mild to a lot of people, and I don't want to be one of those falsely humble people who confess their wickedness just to make everyone else feel bad about their own actions which are far worse. Like a song on my ipod, by Christian comedian Marcel Currin...

"I'm humble, and I love it,
It makes me feel so proud to know I'm humble,
When I do something good (which admittedly I do quite a lot)
I keep my head from swelling,
And make sure everybody knows I'm humble!

Take your eyes off my life,
It just reminds me of my excellence;
I'm sharing my ability ('showing off' is such an ugly phrase)
I'm nothing but a servant,
But to others I'm a good example, I'm humble!"

Okay, so that was a detour from the topic - but I love that song and just wanted to share it :)

Anyway: having spent all this time studying how people behave under totalitarian regimes, I keep thinking, how would I act? It really worries me when I see how easily I yield to anything in my ordinary easy cushy life in which I really should have no worries. I know now how unfair it is to judge the actions of normal people in terrible positions like Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, because I can see that so many of them were very much like myself. I don't expect to be in the same position as them at any time in my life, and I very much hope I will not be - but I think, God has given me such a cushy life, and what am I doing with it that is any more admirable than some of the people who failed to do the right thing during much tougher times?

So - I have felt for a long time very undeserving of God's grace and love. And I've seen other people falling away from him. And it was worrying.

But I feel like now I'm slowly coming to know, very firmly, that it is not MY strength that is important. I can't predict the future. But I know that God will always be in mine. I also know I will change my mind about a lot of things, doctrines, ideas. But God will always be my God. I know I mentioned this a few posts ago, but I love the song "In Christ Alone" by Stuart Townend, and especially these lines - "no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand". The first time I sang those - wow. What an encouragement. It was sudden, a blinding vision. Despite all the stuff I'm not sure about, "I am his and he is mine", and he is never going to let me fall.

That gives me a lot of comfort as I go back to university this year. I meet weekly with other Christian students at church and at Navigators, but around uni and in my classes I am surrounded by people who think I'm indoctrinated or delusional or repressed, or, at best, idealistic. The things they say about the Church or the history of the Church or Christians might give me food for thought, but they can never separate me from the love of Christ. He's bigger than all of them.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

new for me

I have joined a new church. This is the website. It's on campus and is on Sunday evenings, so I can keep going to my family church in the mornings - which suits everyone. Yay! The first service was tonight, as it's an entirely new church, organised by the campus Christian Union, and I really enjoyed it. People were so friendly. Sermon good - even if I didn't agree with it all I like having to think about stuff, in this case, predestination. Music good. All good.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

songs for the moment

I must have written so many blog posts on my other blog about music by now, so it's time to do the same on here. For some reason, I've been getting quite a lot of hymns or Christian songs revolving round in my head the last little while. This is the main one so it comes first:

In Christ Alone, by Stuart Townend. I haven't known this for very long but I love everything about it:
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save
'Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till he returns, or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

This song has got everything. A lovely and very singable tune. The full gospel message. When I sing it I feel like I am declaring my testimony, but at the same time I am being encouraged and reinforced in those beliefs, as if it were a two-way conversation. I especially love that line in the last verse - No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand. Exactly what I need to remember sometimes, and exactly what I want to declare to the world. I love love love it! I've been sitting at the piano all night singing it loudly, as well as another Stuart Townend song, How Deep the Father's Love for Us.

I've also been singing Once Again, by Matt Redman, quite a bit. I'm not sure why, but this song gave me a lot of comfort when my mum was dying, especially the second verse -
(v1) Jesus Christ, I think upon your sacrifice,
You became nothing, poured out to death.
Many times, I've wondered at Your gift of life,
And I'm in that place once again.

(c) Once again I look upon the cross where You died
I'm humbled by your mercy and I'm broken inside
Once again I thank you,
Once again I pour out my life.

(v2) Now You are exalted to the highest place,
King of the heavens, where one day I'll bow.
But for now, I marvel at this saving grace,
And I'm full of praise once again.

When I sing that now, sometimes I can't even bring myself to put voice to the second verse because I remember what it meant to me at the time - I suppose it was my refusal to allow the circumstances to stop me seeing how God dealt to death or to stop me thanking him - but I play the piano with all I've got. I'm even grateful, then, for this song showing me that music itself is praise. People say that the words are all that matter, and I understand the principle, but I think the music matters too. Why sing if we could just talk? Music is praise in action. Music goes where words can't go.

A hymn now, by Charles Wesley - And can it be. You may know this, as it's one of the more popular hymns, but you may not. I want to write the entire thing out but it's FIVE VERSES, so here are my favourites:
(v1) And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

(v3) He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

(v4) Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

The tune for this song is very BOLD, very climactic, perfect for a hymn like this. Unfortunately it's usually way too high for my alto voice but it's such an inspirational song to sing.

I also love When I Survey the Wondrous Cross and It is Well With my Soul, but the other song I especially want to mention here is Jesus, Lover of my Soul, also by Charles Wesley. (NB: I like this best with the Aberystwyth tune.)
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high:
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah, leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenceless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.

So many songs that we sing these days and in the past are so relentlessly happy. My dad found a horror that went something like "Monday I am happy, Tuesday full of joy, Wednesday there are springs within the devil can't destroy, Thursday.... ETC ETC". You know the type. This song is very minor key, almost desperate in tone, and I love it. Sometimes I think songwriters forget the existence of the psalms, unless they're the uber-happy psalms. Sometimes we are given songs to sing in church that I don't feel like I can honestly sing. This song is a reminder that life is not a breeze but that is all the more reason to sing to God.

Here endeth the blog post.