Friday, April 16, 2010

the reasons I believe: transforming love

Reason #1: Looking at the world and being disappointed.
Reason #2: Creation.
Reason #3: The cross.

Reason #4: The transforming love of God.

I listened to a sermon at my church a few weeks ago and was struck by one sentence which I jotted down immediately.

The Christian has experienced God's love and has been transformed by it.

This feels like an appropriate reason to follow Reason #3, the cross of Christ, an event and a symbol of God's great, self-sacrificial love for us. As Romans 5:7-8 says, "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

But it doesn't stop with the cross as an event. The power of the cross is the power of a love so great that it is tangible to me, a 23-year-old in 2010, and it has been tangible to me throughout my life. The love of a God I can turn to again and again, a God who forgives me again and again, who continues to bless me despite all my failings; a God who saw me running away, fought for me, and ran to greet me with open arms as I stumbled back towards him; a God whose love has been so immediately present, so real, so comforting, in all the most horrible moments of my life.

It's not something I can quantify because it is so all-encompassing and it's so personal. I cannot prove to you the depth of God's love. A frail example would be like trying to prove that my mother loved me - unmeasurable by the fact that she fed me, clothed me, looked after me when I was sick, although that is all part of it.

However, it is something that I have seen in other people's lives, and the proof is in the transformation. I've seen proud, strong, angry people brought to their knees by God's love; men who used to drink and fight and hit their wives, lives transformed, stand before a congregation every week and declare "God is so good"; people whose actions led them to be rejected by society come in humility and shame before a God who forgave them. I've seen this in people I know, and I've seen it in me, and there is no explanation for it that does not take into account a force outside of these people, a God who loves them.

Friday, April 09, 2010


A break in the faith series for a prayer request: I need guidance.

I've come back to the same spot I was five years ago, and moved on from. Considering a career working for Wycliffe Bible Translators, which is an organisation I've always been very interested in.

When I was in my first year of university, I was taking Linguistics, and considered making it my major, so that I could train as a linguist and work for Wycliffe. In the end, I decided not to, or just drifted away from that idea - and now, I'm wondering if I was wrong. Wycliffe has appeared again on the horizon, and this time, I want to do what God wants me to do, if I got it wrong last time.

I suspect that it won't be possible for me to work for them for a couple of years. Wycliffe is a "faith mission", which means it doesn't pay wages, but it helps its workers get support from various churches and individuals. I have a student loan which is not huge but not tiny either, and I think I should probably pay that off before I do anything that requires church support.

Which means I need to think also about what I should spend my time on during the next couple of years, if I spend them with the aim of eventually working for Wycliffe. Besides paying off my loan, do I also train for certain jobs that are particularly useful for Wycliffe. Do I train further in linguistics? Teaching? Translation? Biblical training?

So - I need prayer, that God would guide me onto the path he wants for me, and (probably more crucially) that I would listen.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

the reasons I believe: the cross

Reason #1: Looking at the world and being disappointed.
Reason #2: Creation.

Reason #3: The cross.

I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross… In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolises divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self-justification in such a world’ as ours.

I almost don't want to write any more, after this quote (from John Stott's The Cross of Christ). It is, for me, one of the most meaningful and wonderful things ever written that isn't included in the Bible. Because it captures what for me is IT, the essential kernel of Christianity that has me hooked.

I am so often confused, so often bewildered, by life; so often unsure of my own ability to understand; so often horrified by what is happening in the world and what has happened in the world. I don't know why I believe. I doubt. I object. I am overcome by fear of the largeness of it all and by the sting of death. I worry that God cannot possibly love so disappointing a creature as I and that my sin is too large for it to be forgiven.

And then I look to the cross. It answers all my questions.

The God who could crush me like a beetle loved me and "humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" That is no frail love. It is more powerful than my sin and is enough to save me.

When I have moments of terror - I don't want to die! - I am suddenly hit with the memory that Jesus was terrified too. He went through everything I go through and more. He did not want to die, yet he did it, for me, and I cannot ignore such love.

Love so amazing, so divine - demands my soul, my life, my all.