God’s Delight

‘Our true intent is all for your delight.’ – Butlins mission statement

Here is an interesting thought…

At Butlins it is their chief aim to bring delight to those who stay with them. This means all you can eat breakfast and dinner, swimming pools, fairgrounds, activities for the kids, evening shows for the adults, disco’s, red coats at your beck and call, TVs in your apartment, a free tea bag and sachet of coffee, parks, slides, amenities galore… The list goes on. Much of this ‘delight’ revolves around our entertainment. It’s a show to keep me occupied for hours (and the kids) in order that I might relax.

The only trouble is the kids mess around at dinnertime (they are over stimulated), we (the parents) are run ragged by the end of the day, we eat too much, dash from one thing to another, hoping to find some enjoyment in the business of non-stop entertainment.

As I write this, our baby Benjamin, is fast asleep. Jo and the older two kids are swimming, and I have found time to breathe, do a sketch of a boat – I photographed yesterday by the harbour – and relax.

I have to find humour in all the frantic holiday fever (and I do love Butlins by the way!) But at the heart of Butlins’ desire is hospitality to their guests.

In the ancient middle eastern world taking delight in someone’s company looked like this… Abraham welcomes 3 guests. Makes pitta bread, cooks the best lamb, serves coffee and they sit together under a tree in the heat of the day to be attentive to the others needs, whilst conversing about the state of Gommorah.

Hospitality is truly based on relationship. Attentiveness to the needs of others. Living to bring delight to someone else is not about entertainment but about attentiveness and taking time to enjoy conversation and the presence of the one in front of you.

So much of our theology is based on a divine entertainment package. All inclusive. I run around trying to entertain God or I expect God to run around entertaining me.

But at the heart of Christian theology is God coming to earth in human form to have a relationship with His creation. This means an attentiveness on my behalf to bring delight to God but also it’s recognising God has already took delight in me.

‘Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ – Psalm 37:4.

‘He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.’ – Psalm 18:19

God delights in you! Not only that, He delights in you and provides you with your hearts desire and safety.

My response?! Take delight in the Lord… Be attentive to His voice. Serve Him wholeheartedly. Make him welcome in ALL I do.

Let our prayer today be this ‘our true intent is all God’s delight and help us to see that you delighted in us first.’

God bless you

Oliver

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The Kiss of Worship

I recently read a daily devotional about Mary’s act of radical worship, when she broke open the Alabaster jar and poured the nard upon Jesus. Within this devotional the writer described worship as ‘going for a kiss.’ It might seem a little feminine for male members of Church but this phrase struck me right between the eyes.

I studied at Bible College and pretty much thought I had wrapped up the topic of worship within my 5 years of theological study. However, when I read this phrase, I suddenly realised, that there is more going on when we worship than we think.

So, according to Strong’s Greek concordance, worship means ‘to kiss.’

If you can imagine entering the throne room of an ancient oriental King (or Henry VIII for that matter), the usual approach would mean crawling on your hands and knees, with your head in its lowest position, before kissing the feet of the one seated on the throne.

This was the ultimate sign of respect. It is reverence in its most humble of forms. The one approaching the ruler was quite literally grovelling on the ground at their feet.

God is Almighty, Power-full, Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Protector etc., etc.

But when you read Luke 15, we see that the one doing the ‘kissing’ is the Father in the story of the Prodigal son. Luke 15:20 records that when ‘… he (the prodigal son) was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.’ (NLT)

Here are at least four things a Jewish patriarch would never do:

  1. Run in public. That meant lifting up the front of his gown and was indecent behaviour.
  2. Run to a son who had deserted the family, received excommunication from the wider community and had practically wished the father dead.
  3. Embrace his son in public. Hugging and cuddling was not decent behaviour.
  4. Kiss his son in public! A definite ‘no, no.’

The father literally, ran, embraced his son and kissed his neck! Jesus told this story to shake up the Pharisees with the picture of the gentiles coming home to the Father and also to show the radical, unrelenting love of God that had been completely misunderstood for generations.

Often in our worship services we find ourselves praying ‘You are welcome in this place, come and have your way!’ We draw near to God in humility, preparing ourselves to kiss his feet and grovel for the mistakes we have made. BUT, and its an eternally massive BUT… The Father has already run down the road – and he is the one actually doing the welcoming – embraced us and hung on our necks with kisses of compassion and love.

We come like Mary – or the unnamed woman of questionable character in the synoptic gospels – prepared to pour out all we have on Jesus only to find that Jesus has already poured out all He has on us.

It’s a Kingdom paradox.

The King who deserves my reverence and awe, my respect, my grovelling, kneels in humility and washes my weary soul (feet) with His unquenchable, unrelenting love.

And so worship is an exchange of affection. It’s a kiss between lovers. I come to God with my kisses of reverence, only to find that He has kissed my neck with irreverent (at least as far as the Pharisees are concerned) behaviour – running, hugging, embracing and kissing.

So next time you are in worship allow yourself to be loved by Almighty God – The Father of creation.

‘Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine.’ (Song of Songs 1:2)

God bless you

Oliver

Centred on the Presence

In a recent prophetic word we received for the Church, I felt firmly pulled up by my bootstraps by the Lord. Words to this effect, ‘the Presence is the key. Not organisation or programmes’, resounded in my heart like a huge gong being struck.

I realised I had taken my eye off the ball. Got carried away with Sunday morning formats (4% of my waking life), releasing gifts of the Spirit, prayer meetings, Sunday lunches, coffee in Nero’s, YouTube videos etc.

But God’s word rang like a peal of thunder in my spirit…

His Presence is the ONLY thing that can satisfy our longings and see the Hand of God revealed on earth.

David wrote, ‘one thing I have asked of the Lord…’ Israel set their whole wilderness camp experience up around the Presence. Solomon’s priests couldn’t get in the temple because of the Presence. Moses stood before a burning bush consumed by the Presence. Those who touched the Ark without authority died instantly because of the (Holy) Presence. Tongues of fire and swirling winds filled up a room because of the Presence. Peters’ shadow touched people and they were healed because of the Presence. Paul sent handkerchiefs for healing dripping in the Presence.

It’s all about the Presence… God’s manifest Presence aka The Holy Spirit…

He dwelled with God’s people in the wilderness tent and the Temple. He dwelled in His fullest manifestation in Jesus and now dwells in us… And loves to reveal Himself in our midst when He is made welcome by lovers of Jesus.

In all our striving, trials, work, child care etc. Let’s be lovers of the Presence. If the Presence is the key to ALL things of God, let’s make it our chief aim to pursue it, live it, read about it, release it, love it every day.

God bless you

Oliver

The Mountain of the Lord

‘No, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God Himself, who is judge over all things… you have come to Jesus, the One who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.’ Hebrews 12:22-24 NLT

We live in the highest town in England. Its a town contained in a bowl surrounded by hills. The loftiness of our town means we often have strange weather conditions. Rain, snow, wind … and more recently, boiling hot weather! Nice! We are by no means up a mountain but sometimes it feels like it!

The scriptures often talk about the mountain of the Lord. ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?’ ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.’

Moses received the law of the Lord on Mount Sinai. The law, or Torah, is the ‘word’ of God. The words handed down to the Jewish nation to show them the way in which a holy God expected them to live… As soon as Moses returned to the people, he found them worshipping a golden calf – created by the High Priest Aaron! – and, as the 10 Commandments movie highlighted in such dramatic action, they were also caught committing other atrocities.

Let’s jump forward a bit further into Mark’s gospel (ch. 9)… Jesus and His three closest disciples are up a mountain to pray. Elijah (the prophet) and Moses (the Law keeper) appear. There is talk of camping by Peter. Suddenly,  Jesus is transfigured (reveals His true heavenly beauty). The disciples fall with their faces to the ground and they hear a voice ‘This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to Him!’

It is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels ‘… and they saw only Jesus.’ The law and the prophets had gone. BUT Jesus, the true Word of God, was remaining with them.

Not a demanding law-keeper but a grace-filled Saviour.

As Jesus heads down the mountain he doesn’t find law breakers, he finds legalists… arguing. As usual. They are arguing about deliverance, or the lack of…

The crowds, unlike when Moses came down the mountain and they told him to cover his face, saw Jesus and ran towards him… astonished that He had come. The ordinary folk,  having spent hundreds of years under the tyrannical, hypocritical leadership of the legalists, ran towards the presence of God they saw in Jesus.

A hill of transfiguration had become a Mountain of the Lord and the true Torah of God, Jesus, spreading the perfume of God’s presence, drew the people towards grace and truth. As it says in the verses above, ‘we have come to Mount Zion… to Jesus, the One who mediates a New Covenant.’

Because of the New Covenant, our experience of the Father’s Presence, needn’t be like the mountain of doom or the arena of arguing legalists, but a place where our hearts are transformed by the true beauty and glory of the Presence of the Risen One. We now live with our hearts in Mount Zion. The place where God’s glory is revealed.

God bless you

Oliver