What God is not

Our small group met last night for the first time after a long summer break. It was great to see everyone again and catch up a bit. We thanked God for all the answers to prayer from last term but we knew there were many more things that we were looking to him to do.

Before the meeting I felt God put the following verse from the Bible in my mind. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” Luke 18:1. As I briefly skimmed through the whole passage before people arrived it was as if the whole thing suddenly came alive to me. Not that it was saying anything particularly new to me, but that the truth in this passage seemed to me at that time particularly wonderful and encouraging. Like the first sip of a favourite drink or the moment you step into a warm bath. I love it when God’s word affects me like that. Sometimes you have to work hard at it and mine the truth out but at others it seems to run out to meet me.

The story that Jesus tells is about a widow who was subject to some kind of terrible injustice. She goes to the judge and asks for help. The first thing that particularly caught my attention, as I read it, was when Jesus says “listen to what the unjust judge says.” Luke 18:6. That’s a command, so I did. Looking back on the text the judge says “even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!” Luke 18:4.

So, this judge doesn’t fear God or care about men. Jesus introduces the stroy with this fact in verse 2. Then the judge actually says it himself in verse 4. Then Jesus asks us to listen to it again in verse 6. Its obviously really important! It tells me that this judge was a law unto himself. By rejecting God he had effectively set himself up as God. He wasn’t even a humanist caring about other people. He just lived for himself and what he wanted and was confident that he would get away with it. His reason for giving the widow justice was an entirely selfish one; to give himself a bit of peace and quiet. Yet he did give her justice in the end.

Now, Jesus is drawing a contrast here between the judge and God. He is saying they are, complete opposites. So what does that tell me about God? First, it tells me that God is passionate for his righteousness and justice. These are things that he cares about deeply. They come from, and in fact are, his very nature. He the just judge. He is righteous. He is jealous for justice and will give it. Second, it tells me that God cares about people. He loves them so much that he would give even that which is most dear to him for them. The bible says that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son.

I’ve just watched some of “the Miracle Maker” with my children and was impacted again by Jesus’ baptism where his father says “this is my son, my beloved son…my beloved son!”. And yet this was the son who he was going to give up to a tortuous death for our sins, the unrighteousness and the injustices committed by you and me. This is love. And even as I am writing this I realise that it is this beloved son who is asking me to meditate on the words of the unjust judge so that I might understand just a little bit more how good God is and how much he loves me.

God will not keep putting people off who cry out to him for justice, for his kingdom to come, for  his will to be done. He will respond, and quickly! It’s an amazing contrast that Jesus is drawing. I was thinking this afternoon that it was like contrasting a stone with a bird. The stone is hard and heavy and totally lacking in wings yet if you throw it hard enough it will fly for some distance. How much more will a bird fly as you release it out of your hands? That’s the scale of contrast Jesus is drawing. The difference between a stone and a bird. If a selfish, evil man can be made to give justice how much more a loving, self sacrificing, righteous God.

How I need to hear this right now and how kind of Jesus to highlight it for me. As I look at situations around the world and closer to home it might be understandable to deduce that God was like the unjust judge. “Why doesn’t he work in that situation? Why does it seem he is so slow to respond to this prayer or that request?” Answers given in the past can be quickly forgotten when faced with the massive challenge of the present. The people I have prayed for that are still ill. The injustice that continues around the world in the form of the child slave trade.

That’s why I find the closing few words in verse 8 of this passage so poignant. “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on Earth?”. Will he find people that persist in prayer through challenging circumstances, who believe God’s word over their current  circumstances, who have in their hearts a conviction that God won’t delay, but that he will respond, and quickly! It takes faith to let that truth drive my emotions, my thoughts and my actions.

I am so glad to be with a small group of friends who call on God together. We decided that we wanted to keep on pressing into Him for things this term, believing him for more wonderful answers and in fact I heard tonight that he has already responded to one of our prayers in the affirmative. Thank you Lord. That was quick!

Twittering on

Well, today I went to the doctors to see what’s wrong with my back. Something in my spine seems to have moved out of place. Then had a great chat with an Elder from Canterbury church about small groups. Went to a school governors meeting and tried to understand our budget. Did a lot of running around with one of our children who has just learnt to ride her bike but I’m not sure if she can stop ok yet. Felt like a presidential body guard running alongside the presidential car. Found a much better place to invest my savings than the bank – a local church! Took kids swimming. Watched the first part of the miracle maker with them (great film, felt quite emotional at times at how great Jesus is). Had a delicious tea cooked by my gorgeous wife. And now, have just revisited my twitter account and resolved to use it a bit more. I’ve tried to write the first part of this blog entry in a twitter style (short ‘tweets’) to get the hang of it. I feel under pressure to twitter a book recommendation or pass on some great quote so I’ve not said much on twitter yet. My mind is blank at the moment though. Think I will just have to say what I’m up to. I think that’s supposed to be part of the charm of twitter. You get to hear about the little unimportant details of someone’s life.

I joined about nine months ago but never twittered anything. A few people tried to follow me but I was embarrassed at how I had not twittered anything so have not accepted anyone yet. Oh, except the person who encouraged me to try it out (thanks Ed). The thing that prompted me to give it another go was hearing about the massive effect social networking sites are having on the election campaign. I suddenly realised that things like twitter were not “time wasters” but increasingly important and powerful means of communication. A lot of New Frontiers churches even twitter to let people know what’s going on. Does King’s in Norwich? I don’t even know. Anyway my twitter name is @dmarcust. See you in cyberspace.

Small group, Big blessing

I love my small group. Had a great time tonight worshiping and praying together. I don’t want to overdo it or get all mushy but you know when you are married it’s hard to remember what life was like before, or when you have kids it’s hard to remember what life was like before them, well, as I think about it I find it hard to imagine church life without my small group and the people in it. They are such a blessing to me! But just in case you think I’ve gone all soppy, let me tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing Clash of the Titans in 3D this week with some of the guys. Grrrr. Kill that giant scorpion thing.