The Joy of being a Christian

There has been a lot of movement in my walk with Jesus recently, a lot of insights, some healing and clarification over what I need to do to become more christ-like.

1-2 weeks ago, after some repenting in prayer and in my actions, I felt a very deep joy which I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before.  It was as though I found something that I’ve been searching for my entire life.

It was like I was finally content and at peace.  I think that the Holy Spirit had penetrated deep into me, like water slowly seeping into soil, and filled me to saturation.  After saturation, it then started radiating outwards to everyone else.  I can’t emphasise how beautiful it was.  My senses seemed more activated, my sense of smell was heightened, the world seemed more alive.

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I felt loved by God and I just wanted to love EVERYONE.  There was no more striving and longing, whatever it was that I was looking for – I had found it.  To top it all, there were a few beautiful spring days during this time and some lovely sunsets to enjoy.

I just wasn’t used to feeling that way.  A part of me still wanted to be in charge of my actions but this felt more like God had taken over to some degree.  It was like God had taken some territory inside of me and claimed it for himself.  Only thing left for me to do was to yield to God’s commands.  I remember leaving the church slightly earlier than I should’ve and a couple of days later being all disappointed when I knew I should’ve stayed there longer to be with God’s people.  Ah well.  I suppose this demonstrates how we can be full of the Holy Spirit and still have the choice whether to obey it or not.

Thankfully, my experiences didn’t go unnoticed, a few people at church and in other places seemed to get a sense that I was in a really good place.  It’s always good when you get some outside confirmation that you’re on the right path.  A bit more would’ve been nice but I know I shouldn’t hanker too much.

During the prayer that led to this, I was praying about how I realised that practicing kundalini yoga was a destructive energy which was only causing havoc and aggravating any blocks within me.  It’s a lot like if you’ve got a pipe with water running through it and there’s a kink in it.  Practicing kundalini yoga is a lot like turning the tap on harder to get more water out of it instead of just removing the kink like any sensible person would do and leaving the tap alone.  Anyway, I held no grudge against those I was butting heads with during the kundalini episode and forgave them and also took responsibility for my actions.  It was my fault after all, as it usually is.

I pray that you receive the same filling of the Holy Spirit that I received and also experience the same deep joy I did.  If one thing’s for sure, that kind of joy isn’t meant to be kept to yourself – it’s meant to be shared abundantly.  I also pray for an even greater resolve to obey God and for a deeper and truer repentance for myself.  Amen.

 

Deep purple healing dream

I have recently been relieved of working for a certain takeaway where I live as they’ve been bought over.  The new people wanted to keep us but I had an opportunity to leave and the long and short of it is that I chose to work somewhere else and I am feeling the relief already.  I had a dream last night which seems to be illustrating this.

I was with a group of peopleimg_248992705681597 who were all doing this weird shaking movement (similar to what people were doing on David Bowie’s “Black Star” video).  It’s as if we were all getting rid of tension in some way.  It looked a bit odd to see everyone doing this but I just went with it and kept doing it.  Someone from the group came over to me and started running in this grassy area (like a garden) and I noticed that the atmosphere had a deep purple hue about it.  It felt like the spirit of the Scottish countryside was there and that the purple colour was related to this in some way.  Anyway, I followed this person into the area and felt myself letting go and becoming more free.  Gravity had no hold on me anymore and I felt myself flying through the air.

There was a feeling of deep grief being attended to.  I was crying but in a very strained, deep way.  The last time I cried like that was a month after I was made redundant in 2012.  I was relieved of a job I hated and have recently been relieved of another job I didn’t like which may explain the similar feelings that came up.

What a glorious feeling that deep purple was.  Just to let go, float through the air and let yourself be taken up by it.

Unbelief in Jesus’ sacrifice yet lover of the Holy spirit?

I was at a Bible study recently studying Joshua 9 and one of questions we got in relation to this got me thinking about my position in the church I am attending.

In this chapter, the Gibeonites deceive Joshua into thinking that they were from a far off land and weren’t from the local area so that Joshua and the army of Israel would make a peace treaty with them in order to spare their city from being slaughtered as they had slaughtered every other city in the region.   So the question we received in the Bible study was as follows :

“Do people sometimes try deception to gain ‘entry’ into fellowship of a church?  Why do we think they do this?”

Which got me thinking.  Have I personally used deception to gain entry into the church I am currently attending?

I would have to say no, but that’s not the complete story.  I have no intention of deceiving anyone and have been completely (and probably too) honest about my reasons for being there since day one.

4 years ago I was praying to God desperately after finding myself at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life.  I prayed fervently and the next day I was full of the Holy Spirit.  It took me a year or two to realise that that’s what it was – all I knew at the time was that it felt like Jesus and I have since been filled and refilled with the spirit many times.

So in this respect, I consider myself “qualified” to be at church.  But the problem is, when it comes to certain aspects of the faith such as the idea that Jesus “dies for our sins” and that Jesus is the Son of God, (but especially the fact that he died for our sins) I find these really hard to believe even after having been filled with the spirit many times over.  My thinking has been that if it’s true, then maybe it’ll become clear to me in time and maybe I don’t need to worry about it so much.

But after almost 9 months of regular church attendance I still find myself struggling with these ideas and consequently feeling like a bit of a hypocrite/deceiver at times.

If I really have received the Holy Spirit many times over, then does this give me enough qualification to go to church even though I still can’t bring myself to believe that Jesus died for my (our) sins?

My focus has mainly been on trying to embody the Holy Spirit to the best of my ability while repenting of my sins as opposed to accepting that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient enough for me.  I suppose I’m not thinking about being reconciled to God or going to heaven when I die so much as I’m focusing on becoming a better (and hopefully more blessed) person in the here and now.  Whatever happens when I die happens when I die.  What use is Jesus’ sacrifice if I don’t become a decent human right here and now?  This may sound legalistic to some people but I am not trying to get into heaven through my own efforts – I simply want to redeem my spirit and feel the benefits and blessings of this here and now – today.  I have made mistakes in my life over the past few years and have come to the realisation that I was living my life in a very unhealthy way – living alone and practicing meditation and kundalini yoga really are not a healthy way of life for a Scottish guy working as a Telecoms engineer… and certain sins lead to other sins… and now I am paying the price for it.

So is it really so unreasonable for me to attend church given the fact that I still struggle with the main doctrines?  Is loving the Holy Spirit not enough?  I just can’t help but feel uncomfortable when people talk openly about how Jesus died for them when I know that deep down I find it very hard to accept.

Blessings,

Ryan.

The importance of investing in Grace

You will only mature and evolve as a human in so far as you are willing to experience the deepest levels of unresolved emotions within you.  Your ego will want nothing to do with how you’re feeling – you’ll hate it.  But whatever your deepest wound is, when you start accepting the scenarios that inevitably come up in your life which give rise to these most difficult of emotions, you will find that not long after processing those emotions, you’ll feel like a more capable and complete human being.  Shame is one thing I’ve been processing over the past few days and I could’ve sworn today that for about 5 minutes I felt like a capable and complete human being again.  Praise God.

But it goes against everything the world teaches us about how to live.  We’re taught either directly or in other ways to build empires that serve only ourselves – at least in the west, this is what we’re taught.  We’re taught to get as good a job as we can so we can earn as much money as we can even if we only have ourselves to spend it on, we’re taught to find a wife or a husband regardless of whether we actually have anything substantial to offer them and eventually to start a family… You’d hope that at this point people would be evolved enough to actually look after and love their children but anyone who follows what’s expected of us in the west is likely to find it difficult unless they already come from a family capable of “seeing” and with enough development of grace in the first place.  So there’s a way to go about these things which isn’t made clear to us (although some people will see it more clearly than others) as we’re growing up.

Growing in faith and Godliness to me is like a long-term financial investment where you save, say 15 pence a day and 15 pence a day would be equated to say, saying some prayers and reading God’s word in the Bible.  After 2 months you’d £4.50 – not much to buy anything with really.  After 6 months you’d have about £27 – a good bit more and maybe you could buy some jeans but nothing to write home about really. After a year you have about £55 – getting better, maybe some decent jeans this time but you could still do better.  I hope I’m not being too facetious here.  But I get the sense that with the right management, this investment wouldn’t just grow in a linear fashfreedomion – it would grow leaps and bounds as you constantly monitor what relationships and behaviours you invest your time in.  It would start to grow logarithmically as you make more room for Godliness to flourish and less and less room for sin.  Blessings would become abundant as your cash flow increases and you experience the give and take of grace on this level.  This, to me is a real, Godly life where you put the effort in in terms of repentance and it feels awful and depressing at the time but every time you do so, it’s an investment which God notices and will bless you for maybe not straight away but certainly at a later date.

Our current blessings are nothing less than the culmination of the investments accrued by ourselves and our ancestors which are finally paying interest in our lives in the present.

 

The wisdom of trees

tumblr_m90bh1qosf1rd3ibco1_500There is only one time in this world and that’s God’s time.  The autumn has reminded me that when the leaves fall from the trees, this happens only at God’s discretion.  Only when the connection between the leaf and it’s twig and just weak enough and the leaf itself is just dry enough or when the wind blowing on it crosses just over the required threshold for that particular leaf does the leaf actually disconnect from the twig and fall to the ground.  The tree itself played absolutely no part in deciding when this event would take place, but when it did happen, the tree gracefully allows it to happen without fear or grasping.  Even though the tree  more than likely will become entirely naked, it still allows as many leaves to fall off as its external conditions dictate and submits to these conditions entirely.

Now I know trees have no will of their own and can’t decide these things for themselves as we can and it’s obvious that a tree would never be able to grasp onto it’s leaves for fear of the cold.  But I enjoy finding lessons in nature and trees seem to be very good teachers on how to live a satisfied, content lifestyle.  I think we have a lot to learn from them.

22f994ee8aa5cb9ba2f26fd28920e68fFor example, I recently decided to become a christian.  One thing I can see is that it’s very easy to feel tempted to fall away from the faith and think, “OK, I think I’ve had enough of God for now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the blessings I’ve received.”  But that’s almost like a tree which has started growing, became a sapling and hasn’t bore fruit.  Or maybe the tree has born one fruit, but it’s just a single apple and no more.  Saying that God wants this or that still feels a little odd for a baby Christian like me, but if God wanted anything for us, I’m sure that he’d want us not only to bear one fruit but an absolute glut of fruits – so much so that they’re all strewn about the ground and even nature itself wouldn’t know what to do with them all.

So everything that happens in life happens when God decides.  We have to submit to the reality that we can do nothing in life without him and that it’s he who intercedes and decides what is best for us.  I have a feeling that there is a highly exquisite, grace-filled, miraculous adventure waiting for us all – if only we choose to put our own agendas aside and become a part of it.

The grief of becoming a Christian

There is a kind of grief that comes with becoming a Christian which you don’t often hear about.

As glorious as it sounds to live in accordance with God’s plan for your life and to enjoy his blessings, there are sacrifices that need to be made in order to become closer to God and to receive these blessings.  You will have to let go of the plans that you had for how you were intending to live your life.  In fact if you really want to enjoy more of God’s blessings, you will have to let go of these plans completely – they will no longer exist.

They will die.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  Romans 12:1.

Reasonable service just means, this is the correct way to really worship/serve God: to give up your own agenda in favour of his.

So no matter if you’ve been planning on becoming a CEO since you were 12 years old or wanted to be a football player for a major league team or (in my case) a guitarist for a heavy rock band – if God doesn’t want this for you then you will have to give up on any hope of these outcomes ever coming to fruition.  It doesn’t make any difference how desperately you may have wanted any of these things or what major traumas you’ve gone through that have led you to having those specific desires – they will still have to go.

However I’m certain that even though it may be painful for us to have to give up these things, God knows our hearts and God will minister to our needs.  Letting go of some of our deepest desires doesn’t mean we’ll be left high and dry, but if you feel as though you’ve been abandoned in some way at an early age, then giving up these desires may seem difficult because if you aren’t trying to bless your life off your own accord, then in what other ways could you receive any blessings?

The things we have to sacrifice are manifold.  We may have to give up :

  • The expectations our parents placed on us which we are trying to fulfill (especially if our parents are non-religious)
  • Our main chosen career path
  • Certain hobbies which only serve to glorify our selves/ego
  • Spiritual pursuits that don’t serve to create more life for ourselves and those close to us
  • Our possessions (if we have too many)
  • Rooms in our house (in my case, I live alone in a 2 bed house… one person doesn’t need two bedrooms!)
  • The extra car we don’t need (again, one person doesn’t need two cars..)
  • Lifestyle choices such as going out clubbing, partying, etc
  • Unhealthy relationships and unhealthy ways of relating to those close to us – being abused by and abusing others in a plethora of ways

The list goes on.

There is one certain thing I find very hard to give up.  When I grew up, for whatever reason, my dad didn’t pay much attention to me (or my brother really) – he was always physically there, but he was absent in that he wasn’t engaged in relating to his two sons (as I’ve probably mentioned in this blog previously).  This leaves a father-shaped hole in the life of a child coupled with a sense of shame that I’m obviously not worthy of being noticed and acknowledged.  Since then I’ve attempted all sorts of ways to “sort this out” all to no avail.  I would love to have been able to sort this problem out without having to resort to becoming a Christian.  It’s like giving up.  It is giving up.  Nobody wants to give up!  We all want to be triumphant in our own efforts and to pull through and finish the race and “achieve our dreams”, etc.  No-one wants to give up and say, “OK, I give up, I can’t do this.”  There’s concern that if you give up all these things, you will life an unremarkable, mediocre life – and who wants that?

So there is anxiety over the potential abandoning of ourselves aswell as grief when we let these things die.  They don’t often tell you about this when you start thinking about becoming a Christian… it wouldn’t be a great selling point (!)  But a relationship with God is a reciprocal relationship – one of give and take.  If you renounce things for God, you will be blessed and the more you renounce, the more blessed you will be.  Turning to an active relationship with him will ensure that we won’t have to worry about the possibility of leading a mediocre life.  It’s a matter of exchanging one system of power for another – engaging in an active relationship with the God that created all of us as opposed to trying to meet all our needs through our own efforts.  Through God all things are possible.

So, to discern the will of God :

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Romans 12:2.

In other words when you present your life to God as a sacrifice, your mind will be renewed and this will give you the clarity to ascertain the true will of God and how he wants you to live.

But it’ll always be a leap of faith.  I’m hoping the leaps get easier after a while!

A weed growing in the mind

I have made many attempts to write blogs on certain subjects recently to no avail.  There’s certain things I would love to speak the truth on which I have no ability to speak about.  I have certain anxieties which never seem to leave my mind and a good deal of shame associated with these things which no matter what I do never seem to leave me.  It’s not unlike having a weed growing in your mind that no matter what you do or how many times you try to pull it out is so tenacious that it just keeps regrowing itself again.

I just started work at a new place the other day and the boss, in a very light-hearted way asked me if I was ok and said that I just seemed a bit upset?  I felt a little taken aback as I often tell myself that no-one cares about me (some people certainly aren’t too concerned about me, that’s for sure) but here was someone (a new boss, even) giving me some space just to say whatever was on my mind.  The space was there if I needed it.  I will always try to remember that.

But I had no idea what to do, so I just hung my head in shame and tried to let some of the feelings wash over me a little.  I couldn’t tell him what was really bothering me so what could I do?  I just said to him, “I just have a lot on my mind at the moment.”  He then enquired a little more and all I could do was shrug.

I must be a profoundly frustrating person to be around.  I seem outwardly like a decent guy (to some folk anyway) and yet my mind is filled with all sorts of accusations and torments that I cannot shake off.   At times the thoughts will be strong and accusing and I will get quite upset about them (like the other day) and at other times I seem to function much better without having to worry too much about how I appear to others.

I can work like a workaholic in order to forcibly bury the thoughts I’m having, which works to a degree, although it does make me a more hard-hearted, less sensitive person.  Or I’ve found that when I’m unemployed and my mind has nothing to occupy itself with, it invariably becomes full of accusations of all manner of badness I’ve inflicted on others and how I should go about repenting of these sins.

The middle ground appears to be in these situations where I am freely given space to feel the real shame I feel from a place of non-judgement.  But the thing is, if everyone knew what was really on my mind, I don’t think they would be non-judgemental anymore.  I am terrified of the consequences of what I am inwardly accusing myself of.  It feels too big for me to handle.  Another analogy would be that it’s like trying to squeeze an elephant through a keyhole.  I am on the side where the elephant is and everyone else is on the other side of the door trying to figure out what it is that’s so difficult for me to squeeze through the keyhole.  It’s an elephant for goodness sake.

This problem is paralysing me from living the full, inspired life I want to live.  I come across people who offer to help and I simply can’t open up because I am so terrified.  I don’t know how much truth there is in these things I accuse myself of having done as I no longer have any way of testing them against reality (apologies for the vagueness, it’s a symptom of this problem I have) which means I have to find another way of achieving the peace of mind I am looking for.

Therapy seems to have given me limited success, although I can’t compare myself to an imagined idea of what I would be like if I never went to therapy.  So I’m now trying to spread myself thinly in various situations until some kind of shift happens.  If some kind of shift happens.

It could be I have a type of OCD.  It certainly looks that way and I’d much rather be mentally ill than find out that I really have done the things that I accuse myself of.  I can’t think of anything worse than being held prisoner by your own mind.  I did try to see the NHS psychologist 2 years ago but no conclusions were drawn.  She did recommend I buy a book called, “Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” by David Veale and Rob Wilson, telling me that it’s the best out there, yet in the next appointment she said, “I’m not saying that you have OCD…”  So, God knows what’s going on.  Maybe I need to go back again.

It’s the not knowing what the truth is that’s paralysing.