Why do I blog?

I have written a blog in one form or another for ten years. I have never been the most consistent blogger, and I sometimes wonder what it is about blogging that keeps calling me back. In particular, why do I find that the most compelling thing to blog about is my faith?

Some blogs are created by experts who aim to share their knowledge with the world; that is by no means this blog! I’ve not formally studied theology or biblical studies and I’m not a pastor, minister, or leader. I’m not a person of any great influence, and there’s no particular reason anyone should listen to what I have to say. What’s more, as far as I’m aware, there are no people clamouring to read my thoughts on life, the universe, and everything.

So why does this amateur Christian bother with blogging?

Obedience to the Lord

The main reason I blog is that I feel a sense of calling toward blogging. When I am reading the Bible or other spiritual/theological books, I naturally find myself drawn to write things down. This often goes into personal notebooks, or else to my social media feeds, but recently I have felt it important that I get more intentional about engaging with this impulse to write. This leads me to believe that blogging and writing is one aspect of what it is for me to faithfully follow Jesus and grow in His grace. It is a practice that I want to cultivate and grow in.

For myself

Personal discipleship

Before anything else, my blog is a place for me to explore what it is to know and love Jesus well. It’s a space where I can share the things that are stirring my heart, piquing my interest, challenging me, or else work through things that are niggling me. It allows me to share what I’m reading in the Scriptures, extended quotes from books, or link to other articles and blog posts that I’ve found useful. The blog format basically allows me to think out loud, but the fact that my thoughts are published for the world to see forces me to actually put some effort into presenting things clearly and concisely. This then prepares me for sharing my faith in the real world and stimulates greater growth in discipleship.

Better focus

My Myers-Briggs prayer is “Lord, help me finish the things I sta…” Naturally speaking, I find that I can too-easily flit from thought to thought, subject to subject, book to book, and project to project. Posting to a public blog requires a certain amount of discipline and provides an opportunity to overcome innate flightiness and focus on something in a deeper way than may otherwise occur.

A love for writing

A final personal reason for blogging is that I have always loved to read and write. Long before I ever embarked on becoming a professional geek, I wanted to be an author when I grew up. Since I don’t always feel grown up yet, I figure there’s still time and this blog is a good first step!

For others

While my main aim in blogging is personal growth, I know that some of the things I have written in the past have been helpful to others. Sometimes this happens deliberately, where I publish posts that I believe I have been led to write. More often than not, this happens by accident with something that I never intended to serve any greater purpose resonating with someone. Another aim in blogging, then, is to bless others with the things I write.

While the word ‘bless’ implies a warm and tingly feeling that all is right with the world, I believe it also covers the messiness and discomfort that we experience as we go through daily life. To that end, I’d also like to bless others by stimulating discussion and disagreement. The spiel above regarding my qualifications to write a blog was no mere exercise in humility. I don’t have everything sewn up, and I would value any challenge to the things I write so that we can all learn together.

So these are the reasons I find myself constantly drawn to blogging. Hopefully, you’ll find the things I write interesting and useful. I’d be even happier if you ask questions, leave comments, and in any other way engage with what I write. It may even be that seeing my reasons for blogging has made you want to get going yourself. In many ways, that would be the best outcome of all!

Sovereign Over Us – Vineyard

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You’re the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory

Even in the valley, You are faithful
You’re working for our good
You’re working for our good and for Your glory

Just remember who you are

As a Dad to two girls, I have watched the latest live-action version of Disney’s Cinderella a time or ten! The last time it was playing in our house, the final showdown between Cinderella and her wicked stepmother caught my attention. Having done her utmost to trample over Cinderella’s happy ending, the stepmother is surprised to find that the King himself has come to seek his bride, and there seems to be nothing she can do about it.

She first tries to forbid Cinderella from descending the staircase where the King awaits to return the glass slipper that would prove her identity. An officer of the King rebuffed this attempt, and so the stepmother wields her final weapons: intimidation and scorn. Her words reveal the contempt that filled her heart: “Just remember who you are, you wretch!” Driven by jealousy and spite, the stepmother seeks to put Cinderella in her place. With all the venom she can muster, she tells Cinderella that she is nothing; a worthless wretch, who is only fit to serve her and her daughters.

Here is the dramatic climax of the story. Will Cinderella believe her stepmother’s lies? Has she been broken enough by the abuse she has received? Can she believe that there is a happily ever after if she can muster the courage to go down the stairs and meet her date with destiny?

Those of us who follow Jesus have a similar enemy. He comes against us breathing out lies about who we are and what we are worth. Where there are sins and temptations, he takes delight in reminding us of them, always suggesting that we are a lost cause. Where we have been hurt, he tells us that this is what we deserved all along. In the midst of fear and tribulation, he breathes out words of despair and doubt – “How could God possibly love you? You’re a wretch; a worm. You are just not worth bothering with!” In this way, the enemy intimidates and denigrates those whom God loves.

All-too-often, he doesn’t actually need to say anything at all. When we sin, we wallow in self-condemnation until we feel we have suffered enough. When things go wrong, we rarely rise up and fight against the situations we find ourselves in. We simply accept the opposition and go on believing that it’s our lot in life. Beaten down, we kneel in the dust and let the thief come to kill, steal, and destroy, living far below the abundant life that Jesus came to bring (John 10:10). Our own conscience, doubts, fears, and worries suffocate the good news of Jesus Christ – that we are forgiven, loved, accepted, and included in Him.

Like Cinderella, we have a choice before us. We can continue to believe the lies, and remain holed up in the dusty attic that has become our prison. We can live out our lives in glumness and misery, and console ourselves with the thought that at least we’ll get to go to heaven one day.

Or we can do what Cinderella did. We can refuse to believe the lies, and choose to meet with our King. Cinderella’s Kit left no stone unturned in the search for his bride, even joining the search party personally. In the same way, Jesus, our King, has moved heaven and earth to seek us out. He left His home, became just like us, and died our death that we might live. He then rose again so that He may claim His bride and be with us forever.

Our King longs for us to know Him in closeness and intimacy. The desire of His heart is that we would accept His view of us, and live in daily fellowship with Him. He is willing us to step out of the prisons we find ourselves in, descend the staircase, and find out the truth – that we are truly loved by the King!

Today, shut out the voice that condemns – whether it be demonic or your own self-condemnation and pride. Turn your ear to heaven, and hear your King speak:

“Just remember who you are, my beloved!”

Jesus-centred spiritual formation – Dallas Willard and Don Simpson

I have just started reading a book that has been on my shelf for several years: Revolution of Character, by Don Simpson and Dallas Willard. The book is an abridgement and distillation by Simpson of Willard’s book Renovation of the Heart. Recent sin in my life has made me hunger again for robust and deep spiritual formation, yet I’m still wary of legalistic effort-driven approaches to personal holiness because I know they don’t work.

This summary of spiritual formation from Revolution of Character gives me hope that there really is a grace-empowered, Jesus-centred way of spiritual formation that can bring true life transformation (emphasis mine):

Christian spiritual formation is focused entirely on Jesus. Its goal is conformity to Christ, a process that arises out of purposeful interaction with the grace of God in Christ. Obedience is an essential outcome (see John 13:34-35; 14:21).

However, we cannot manifest Christlikeness through a primary focus on external behavior. When externals are the main emphasis, spiritual formation doesn’t really happen. The process falls into deadening legalisms. This is what has happened so often in the past. Peculiar modes of dress, behavior, and organization don’t change the heart.

Externalism was a danger even in New Testament times. But “that Christ be formed within you” has always been the true watchword of Christian spiritual formation (Galatians 4:19). This watchword is fortified by the deep moral and spiritual insight that while “the letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

To illustrate briefly, Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7) refer to various wrong behaviors: acting out in anger, looking so as to lust, heartless divorce, verbal manipulation, returning evil for evil, and so forth. But as abundant experience teaches, to strive merely to act in conformity with Jesus’ expressions of what living in the kingdom of God is like is to attempt the impossible. We may work hard at it and keep up a good front for a while, but eventually we fall flat on our faces.

Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe

There’s nothing worth more that will ever come close
No thing can compare, You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

Rediscovering the beauty of Christ – Brian Zahnd

All who have placed their trust in Christ are, by definition, on a journey that requires repentance and rethinking. The Greek word typically translated as ‘repentance’ in English could be translated ‘change your mind’, and is a fundamental practice for disciples of Christ. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to do it as Brian Zahnd has done in recent years and worry about pastoring a mega-church through the change.

Soon after coming to faith, Zahnd was influenced by the Jesus movement. He started Word of Life Church with the desire to share Jesus Christ with those who don’t know Him. As the church grew, it fit comfortably into the independent charismatic/evangelical mould. As time went on, Zahnd found himself hungering for a deeper faith, which he discovered with the help of the early church fathers. As he has radically re-oriented himself around Jesus and His Kingdom, Zahnd has both written books about his journey and managed to lead Word of Life Church in the same direction.

In a recent blog post, Brian Zahnd shared about different metaphors and images that could be used to describe the journey of discovery he has been on. He shares a few metaphors that he finds helpful, and explains why he doesn’t like the motif of deconstruction. The full post is well worth reading, but I found the last few paragraphs particularly inspiring, dovetailing nicely with the name I have given this relaunched blog:

My journey of rediscovering the beauty of Christ was mostly a journey I travelled in prayer. It’s true that I read a ton of good theology, but this only changed my mind. My heart was changed as I learned to sit with Jesus in contemplative prayer.

Don’t deconstruct…pray. Sit with Jesus. Gaze upon his beauty. See the beautiful image of Christ lying under the patina of distortion. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Then wipe away the false varnish with your tears of gratitude. This is restoration, not deconstruction. This is what will save your faith.

Check out the full post:

Deconstruction or Restoration? – Brian Zahnd

Deconstruction or Restoration? Brian Zahnd In describing my journey of rethinking Christianity over the past twelve years I’ve used a couple of metaphors. One I call “End of the Line.” I first used this metaphor when speaking to the staff of Charisma Publishing six years ago.

My Lighthouse – Rend Collective

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go
In the questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness. I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise.
You will carry me safe to shore
Safe to shore
Safe to shore
Safe to shore

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us. You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms

Neil Cole – Erasing the apostles and prophets

I have long been convinced that all the gifts listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 are of vital importance to the health of the church. However, having spent my formative years in a cessationist/conservative evangelical church, I have often felt a certain defensiveness when broaching the subject of modern-day apostles and prophets with those who hail from this background.

The conservative evangelicals I know are convinced that it’s clear and obvious that these were special gifts, limited to the first century of the church. In this view, the apostles and prophets were essentially walking, talking Bibles; authoritative sources of revelation that the church could trust. They were given to the church to ensure the Bible was completed with the New Testament witness to Jesus. Since we now have the Bible, we have no need of these more extraordinary gifts and are left with pastors and teachers whose job it is to explain the Bible for the instruction of the church. Where Roman Catholics claim ongoing apostolic validity via apostolic succession traced down the centuries, conservative evangelicals claim apostolicity through their reliance on the Scriptures.

Combined with their reputation as people of the Word, the conservative evangelical certainty on this matter is formidable. They give the impression that the burden of proof lies with whackos like me who suggest that Jesus may still be giving apostles and prophets to the church today, rather than upon themselves who claim God intended a radical ecclesial shift to occur with the passing of the original apostles.

Primal Fire by Neil ColeWhich is all mere preamble to sharing a quote from Neil Cole’s book about the Ephesians 4 gifts, Primal Fire. Chapter 4 sees Cole tackle the evangelical reluctance to accept contemporary apostles and prophets head-on. In the quote below, he pulls no punches in exposing the emptiness of the establishment tactics to theologise the contemporary apostolic and prophetic ministries out of existence. I found it provocative, encouraging, and emboldening:

Opposition to the prophetic and apostolic gifts is nothing new. Jesus spoke against the religious leaders of His day who honored the very prophets their ancestors had persecuted and killed.

Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. . . . For this reason also the wisdom of God said, “I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute.
Luke 11:47,49

Today there is no less resistance to the apostolic and prophetic gifts by the religious establishment. But instead of making martyrs of the apostles and prophets and having to raise statues in their name, the religious leaders of our day have found it far easier to theologically define these gifts out of existence. Instead of killing them in public, they have expunged them from their theological textbooks, classrooms, boardrooms, and pulpits. They remove them before they can even become a problem. This is another way of killing them, without having to look like murderers. They simply deny their existence and do not allow any place for them. This they do with their Bibles open, but without a shred of biblical support.

Primal Fire, Neil Cole (p. 62)

New blog, new name

RIP Truth on the Way

While this site is currently shiny, clean, and new, it is by no means the first time I have attempted blogging. For the last 8 years or so, I have sporadically written blog posts at a site called Truth on the Way. Sadly, I was affected by the recent administrative snafu by my hosts 123-Reg and that site was killed in one fell swoop. As a professional geek, I know that this situation was entirely avoidable and it would be an understatement to say that I was appalled at what happened. But it has also given me a chance to make a bit of a fresh start and who doesn’t like a clean sheet of paper? You could say it’s Romans 8:28 in action!

A clean start

Having found myself with no easily-restorable backup, I had decided to set up a fresh site under the old name and restore older articles bit by bit alongside writing new posts. Once I had selected a new host, I saw that I had the opportunity to register a new domain name for free and change the site name. As it happens, I had been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the name of the old site – I chose it as a 24-year-old, and spent all of 2 minutes thinking what it should be. It seemed like a good fit back then, but as I’ve grown and (hopefully) matured, it no longer seemed to say everything I wanted it to.

What’s wrong with Truth on the Way?

In many ways, nothing at all. On the one hand, it nicely summarises that all who name Jesus as Lord are on a journey of discovery with Him. However, I decided to move away from the name because it no longer reflects how I see the Christian life working. To 24-year-old Jon, the Christian faith was essentially about knowing what is true from what is false and then living it out. It’s not an uncommon approach to life. After all, didn’t Jesus say “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”?

As I’ve grown, I’ve increasingly found it an inadequate way to live. It’s not enough to get your doctrine all sorted and lined up. It’s not enough to attempt to put good Christian principles to work in your life. It’s not enough to ponder theology and wonder about what makes God tick. While none of these are unimportant, they can easily become dead-ends that trap us from the true source of life. The same Jesus who spoke in John 8:32 also said:

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.
John 5:39-40 (HCSB)

From Glory to Glory

Starting the hunt for a new name, I threw some name ideas down on a piece of paper. I very quickly found myself drawn to names that were inspired by a verse in 2 Corinthians:

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB)

After searching for possible domain names, I decided that the name for my blog would be From Glory to Glory. I’ll be posting a bit to share what it was about this verse that drew me, and precisely why I settled on this name. For now, suffice it to say that this best represents how I believe the Christian life is supposed to be – a life lived in Jesus, devoted to Him, beholding His glory, and finding ourselves changed by His Spirit into His likeness day-by-day as we do so.

So welcome to my new blog. I hope you find it interesting. I hope you find it inspiring. I hope you find it useful. But above all, I hope you meet with Jesus and get to know Him a bit better through the things I write and share.

If God Is For Us – Vineyard

If God is for us who can be against us
He who gave His only Son; died to save us all
It is Christ who died and rose again and is sitting at the right hand of God
Who can separate us from that kind of love

Not death not life; not angels nor demons
Not powers nor things present nor the things to come
Not height not depth nor any other creature
Can separate us from the love of God

Oh, I know all of the problems of this world
Aren’t worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us
Even when I’m scared and tired and feeling all alone, though I’m hungry I know
We’re more than conquerors with the love of God
Through Christ Jesus, our Lord