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Getting to the End of Yourself

Hi. Glad you're reading this. I'm going to assume that you're reading this because you are interested in your walk with Jesus, and that's a really good thing.

I started this blog because for the past number of months now, I have really felt God pushing me, continually, to share the lessons He has been teaching me with others. I'm sure there are a lot of people like me who've found themselves far from Jesus but who have just been looking for some help in finding their way back to him. It can be a very lonely place. You might feel desperate, hurting, and often the responses you get from people are full of judgement and that maybe people just don't care. I just want you to know you are not alone. Sometimes people don't react well because, well, they don't now how to react.

I spent a lot of years living my life far from the Lord, and as I began my journey back to Him, I found it really hard going. A lot of religious people, especially here in Northern Ireland, look upon someone who is struggling as 'damaged goods.' This was my experience. And I'm not alone. I've heard the same story from others. Our 'Christian' culture is laced with a heavy dose of "guilt." I have to be honest and say here that there was a time when I really resented people like that. But these days, I am just more saddened by it as I just see how much damage it does to people who genuinely need help. I also want to point out that I'm not saying that to have a whinge, I'm honestly not, I'm only pointing out what is a reality for many in their experience. So much of (church) culture can revolve around our proving something to someone, and less on the restoration of a hurting and damaged soul.

If you're reading this and you get what I'm talking about or you've been experiencing this yourself, I would love you to get in touch. I'd love to chat with you and help in some way.

Jesus didn't leave us here on planet earth just to be wallflowers, but to bear witness to the Kingdom of God. What I'd ask is that you don't get too hung up on the term "Kingdom of God" because I think it has really been hijacked by those who have a particular escatological viewpoint, and I'm not talking about that here. Believe me, I love a good discussion of doctrine like the next man, but listen, time is short and there is a world that needs Jesus.

When Jesus presented Himself to the world, He said....

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matt 4:17 (ESV)

The word "repent" is the greek word 'metanoeite' which simply means to 'think differently' or to 'reconsider.' Of course He also said that 'as a man thinks in his heart, so he is...' and that is kinda saying that we are what we think. So that means that if we truly change the way we think about something, it will change who we are.

The important part I want to get to though is that He is effectively telling them, right in the street or the hills where He was teaching, 'You've been looking and seeking the coming of the Kingdom of God... well it's standing right here in front of you. I am the Way to God, if you see Me, you see the Father. Follow me and I will show you the way to live in the Kingdom, under the authority and rule of God.' (My paraphrase.)

This has been the journey Jesus has been leading me on these past few years, since I have started to move myself back towards Him, because let's be honest, God didn't change, or move away from me, it was me and my own cynicism and self-reliance that took me away from Him.

I have been so blessed recently to read and listen to some great teachers and I will have to apologise continually because I reference them a lot. Like any other muscle, our faith needs to be exercised and challenged. Someone who goes to the gym or works out doesn't just stick to the same weight, bit by bit, they increase their lifts, because they want to strengthen, to increase muscle mass. So if you always listen to the same one teacher or only those that you find agreeable, well, maybe that could be a reason that we struggle seeing our walk with Jesus grow. Dallas Willard said that "Faith is environed in knowledge," and that believing the Gospel is not so much a blind leap of faith, but a leap based on the knowledge of what we know to be true about God and His Kingdom.

Two teachers that I have really been finding a blessing are John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers. Between them both they produced a podcast called "This Cultural Moment" which was a really interesting conversational podcast where they discuss the position of the global church in this current post-Christian world we live in. I've really been blessed by their writing too. In fact, I'm currently reading John Mark's "Live No Lies" and prior to that I read Mark Sayers' "Disappearing Church." I'm not going to critique them here today, but I'd highly recommend them. (I'd so love to do some book reviews sometime in the future, so hopefully I'll be able to do that.)

Anywho, I was listening to one of their podcasts, from back in 2019, actually a lecture that Mark gave and this one phrase really struck me. Infact, its the reason I felt moved to write today's post. Here's what he said:

"Renewals happen when people get to the end of themselves and there's nothing to rely on, except a contenting on your knees for the presence of God to move..."

It reminded me of the story that Jesus told about the Prodigal Son. I'm sure you remember it. This guy turned his back on his father and basically told him, (my paraphrase again,) "Look dad, I'm gonna cut loose here, I don't want to sit around here wasting my life until you die. I want to do and enjoy myself, so, if its ok with you, can you just read out the will now, let me have my portion and I'll be on my way. I have placed I want to see and things I want to do."

Pretty thoughtless and callous. Maybe somebody could think, well he's just being honest, surely that's good? Well, I don't want to get into that here, but I'd say not so much. The point is though, that the son did all the things he wanted to do. He partied hard, make some great friends, who sucked him dry and left him with nothing. And it couldn't have gotten any worse. Penniless, he gets a job feeding someone's pigs and ends up lying in the pig sty. (I've heard of some teenagers that got told their bedrooms were like pig stys. Not that that has even happened to me! You maybe detect some tongue in cheek there!)

Anyway, in reality, this poor man's situation is very dire and very real. It's so bad in fact that he's eating out of the pig's trough. Have you seen pigs eat? Have you seen what they eat? Back in the '80's I attended college in the States, and part of my duties was taking the all the waste food (slop) to the pigs (hogs) each day. Think about all that stuff you pour down your sink or put in the brown bin. Pigs eat everything. Well this guy virtually has his head in the slop bucket.

Then we read....

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!" (Luke 15:17, ESV)

"He came to himself." A lightbulb moment! Like Homer Simpson, he said, "Duh!" There were no more distractions. No partying or dancing or loud music, no hangers-on or entourages. He was sitting alone with the pigs, and the truth of his situation hit him across the face like a wet fish.

The truth is, we will never see God move in our lives, unless we get to that point. Until our own believe in ourselves and our ability registers in the minus, God will not speak into our situation. He is not going to share His glory with anyone. When we come to the end of ourselves, that's when God will speak into the stillness.

The thing I like about this story is that he got to the place where the time to wallow in self-pity was over. He probably knew when he returned to his father, that his brother and other people would not be impressed. They might hold their noses, and turn away from him. But you know what? He didn't care a fiddler's! He was returning to his father, deeply ashamed and aware of his situation and all he hoped for was forgiveness and acceptance as one of the employees. And he was willing to put up with whatever was dished out by the self-righteous, because their distain didn't matter to him. He was only interested in what his father said.

But it all started with the prodigal son being in a place where he could reflect on the reality of his situation. For me, as for many others, that's the importance of finding times of silence and solitude. Sometimes we need to turn off the background noise and go sit by a riverbank or the sea shore and just breathe... Take time to reflect on things. To paraphrase what Jesus said, "reconsider things, because I am right here, the answer to your struggle. Walk with me, surrender your own self-will and your plans and schemes and take my easy yoke upon you and learn from me.... find rest for you soul."

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matt 11:29, ESV)

Maybe you're feeling a bit like the prodigal son. Maybe you see where you're at, but you're worried about the other stuff, what people will say or think. First off, let me say, you're not alone, everyone does have those doubts and worries. But don't let the enemy of your soul use that to keep you from moving forward, back towards your loving Father.

Remember this: God moved Heaven and earth to seek you out. He died on the cross to redeem you, and Jesus presents to you a way back into relationship with the Father. He says to you,

"Reconsider your ways, I am the way back into a loving relationship with My Father. Believe in Me."

As I've said already at the start of this post, if you have any questions or want to get in touch to talk more about anything that's been said here, please contact me through the comment page and I'll respond asap.

Peace & Grace

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