Spiritual Warfare – 10 top tips!

St Michael's Victory Over The Devil, by Jacob Epstein. Photo by Ben Sutherland via Wylio.

St Michael’s Victory Over The Devil, by Jacob Epstein.
Photo by Ben Sutherland via Wylio.

Ok let me start by saying, I am not one of those people who sees a demon behind every lamp post (I heard that line somewhere and commandeered it, can’t remember who said it though!). Really I am not, we can be over sensitive to these things and assume anything that means life is not super perfect, shows the devil is having a go at us. I don’t stand in that camp, but I do believe there is far more to life that we are often aware of. This line from Hamlet springs to mind…

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The bible is pretty clear that the devil/satan/demons are real and something to be aware of, but not something to put our focus on. Jesus is our focus and the danger can be when you start to think about spiritual warfare that the focus becomes the perpetrator and not the victor.

So, in my life I have felt times of spiritual attack, when it seems there is more going on than is at first apparent. The book of Job, which I’ve been studying recently, shows a great example of this, where Job is suffering untold misery and tragedy in his life but behind it all there is another whole story. And right now feels like one of those times. Not that I’m blaming either God or the devil for my back injury, probably years of running has had a hand in that little issue, but it just feels ike there is more going on, that’s the best I can describe it.

So in that I’ve chosen to focus on God and in spending a large amount of time lying on the floor to ease the pain, I’ve been able to pray, read my bible and think. And one thing I’ve been seeking God on is: how to react when I feel under some kind of spiritual attack. As a result of that, here’s my top 10 tips on responding to spiritual attack. The first 5 are about what’s going on, then last 5 are about what you can do. And just to clarify, I’m not talking about full on deliverance here, I’m talking about when you feel under personal attack. Deliverance, possession, praying into this stuff for others, can be a-whole-nother kettle of fish!

1) DISCERNING. Firstly are you actually under spiritual attack or is what’s going on the result of your own actions or the consequence of sin, or being in a sin-drenched world? Or is it actually God highlighting something to you? Pray into this!

2) SPIRIT? Is there something specific that you feel spiritually? Are you feeling angry about something or, condemned or guilty? There might be a particular spirit seeking to distract you – a spirit of anger for example. Knowing this can help you to pray into the situation. Again go back to No.1 and discern what is going on! If you are not sure on this or no.1, think about the attitude or heart – does it sound like God to you? God does not condemn us but can correct us.

3) PAST. Things from our past can easily be dragged up and affect us. Thinking about no. 2 above, is your current emotion or feeling actually based upon something from your past? We are so good at suppressing things that are painful or difficult to think about, which have a funny way of blowing up when we least expect it. Ask yourself is your reaction to your situation more than it should be?

4) FOOTHOLD. Don’t give the devil a foothold! Ephesians 4:27 tells us not to let the sun go down on an anger, but for any difficult situation, the longer we leave it the more it festers, the more we feel justified in our emotion. Such an easy way to be distracted from the ways of Christ.

5) FOCUS. Following on from no.4 and from my intro, our focus must always be Jesus, not satan. Jesus was tempted by satan and resisted, he overcame death and has the victory, then and now and forever! Yes it’s good to recognise if something is going on spiritually but always remember that Jesus is the one who counts!

6) PRAY.  Ephesians 1:17-22 is part of Paul’s prayer for the church – he prays that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation to know him more, to know the hope, inheritance and power that is within him. What a great prayer to start with, to know Jesus more. Then, then pray into the situation, asking God for guidance, for revelation and even ask him how to pray. If you have the gift of tongues, pray in tongues. If you haven’t, ask for it!

Sometimes praying can be hard, especially when you are in the midst of attack, pain, suffering etc, if that’s the case even just uttering the name of Jesus can be helpful.

7) SCRIPTURE. God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It’s a powerful prayer that uses scripture. Read it, study it, pray it out loud, declare it! When Jesus was tempted by the devil he responded with scripture, so if Jesus does it, that’s got to be the way forward! Again, as above if you find you can’t pray or find it tough, read scripture aloud.

8) DECLARE! declare out loud the promises of God, your faith, the truths of who Jesus is. Not only is this a powerful thing to do spiritually, but it will make you feel great. Rather like PMA – Positive Mental Attitude – I’m sure you’ve heard that said before, but having positive thought can make you feel better, well declaring out loud does that too, spiritually and physically! As well as reminding you of who Jesus is in your life it can be a real faith boost too. Red Bull for faith ;) In the CofE we regularly declare the creed – what we believe. Such a powerful prayer – if you are of a more traditional faith, pray the creed.

9) WORSHIP. Job’s first reaction to the tragic situation he finds himself in, is to fall to the ground and worship. The Psalms are full of the Psalmist choosing to worship and praise God when he is struggling with life. My experience has always been that worshipping in times of trial is so much more powerful and I’ve felt the presence of God far more in those times than at others.

10) CLOSENESS TO GOD. James 4:7-8 is often quoted in relation to matters of spiritual warfare:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.

The most important part of this, in my opinion is drawing close to God. It’s not just ‘resist the devil’, but with the closeness of God, he will flee. So, in all things come towards God, in whatever way you can. If you have time and energy and inclination, pray, read the bible, focus on him. If you just can’t do that find something to help you – ask others to pray for you, read the creed, say the Jesus Prayer, do something!

 

So there you go, a few pointers, but I should say  if you need help, ask for it! Ask someone you trust to pray with you or for you. If all of the above seems out of your comfort zone find someone you can chat to about it all. I mentioned deliverance above, if you feel out of your depth or feel this is emoting you are facing, do find someone trustworthy and in a position of authority to talk to you and help you with this.

 

For more info on spiritual warfare here’s a couple of links:

a bit of biblical stuff at Gotquestions

Bible Study from BibleStudyTools.com

Massive Apologies

As I have transferred my blog over here from WordPress I have been discovering a few glitches. Tonight I found that in transferring all my old posts (6 years worth!) over here, that the auto-share was sharing them all via soc med – one after the other, after the other… yikes! So this is a quick but big apology to anyone who follows me via Twitter or Facebook, for clogging up your timeline. Thankfully I found out after just 100 posts, but that enough was I am sure, ridiculously annoying and I noticed I’ve lost a few followers already, oops.

So anyway, massive apologies for not being more on the ball, my only excuse is that I am full of mind-numbing painkillers, but nonetheless I am sorry. I don’t know yet if this has affected those of you following via email, which could feasibly have meant 600 odd emails into your inbox. If this has happened to you (and I truly hope not) do get in touch as I would like to say sorry properly.

Jules x

Is there such a thing as a Christian Practice of Internet Use?

This post originally appeared at the old blog venue here. I’m reposting it here as I’m continuing to look at this theme and more posts will undoubtedly follow..!

So I posted recently and tweeted rather a lot about my latest essay for #VicarSchool entitled: Outline and Argue theologically for a Christian Practice of: Internet Use.I promised to share some of those thoughts online, so here’s some of them. Bit long for a blog post but hey it was a 2,500 word essay! There was so much I could have written but the essay was about Christian Practice, so that’s my focus, plus I focussed largely on Social Media but maybe I’ll write more on other areas another time! And if you really want to read the full thing let me know and I’ll send it over.

I’m so grateful to everyone who responded to my questions – whether I’ve quoted you or not, you helped me shape this essay, so thank you!

For info I’ve not cited all the books and stuff that I referenced in the essay as this is a blog post, but there is a list of some recommended books at the bottom and if you want to know where I got anything from then do let me know…

..oo0O0oo..

So, what  earth is a ‘Christian Practice’? Well, I started with this quote:

Spiritual Practices
I love this quote, because I mean what even is a ‘Christian Practice’?! Choosing which is our own preferred interpretation could be a practice in itself! My view is that Christian practices are less about doctrine (boooorinnnng…) and more about actually seeking God for ourselves. So in a way a practice should be a bit softer round the edges, or less definite than doctrine. It’s not black and white words on a page, but more encounter with God. It’s almost as if we are building something where, if the doctrine is the foundation or the structure, the practices then enable us to fill the space and to decorate even!

I like that Dykstra talks about a practice being communal and prayer is a good example of that, because even when we pray alone, our prayers join with countless others around the world, rising together before God. Prayer is something that should permeate our lives, not be something that happens once a day or twice a week, or whenever we feel the need, it is as fundamental to our lives as breathing, without it we would wither and die spiritually.

Right so now we have that sorted, what about using the internet?

Use of the internet has rapidly become an integral part of 21st Century life. Of course there is a choice not to use it, but I would suggest that like prayer, without it life becomes less full, it withers, it becomes difficult to live, it is, I think, perhaps controversially: like a life half-lived.

So then, use of the internet for Christians as a ‘practice’ should be an extension of a faith-filled life. We should seek to find God within it, to allow his presence to be apparent within it and for it to be a place where God is experienced and made more fully known to us.

So, Social Media then…

SOcMedStats

I couldn’t find statistics for Christian use of social media (any ideas anyone?), but even if it were a very small percentage of these figures above, it would still mean a huge number across the entire world. I wanted to look at this in more detail and as you probably know I posted here and on Twitter, asking people used their social media as Christians.

There were some key areas that people talked about including a sense of community, being part of something bigger and being supported and encouraged online, especially those for whom physical community is difficult, perhaps thorough disability.

Of course the idea of community makes sense, as humans we were created to live in relationship with others, as we see in the creation of humans in Genesis – and we seek to be part of something throughout our lives. Internet use is by it’s very nature relational and communal, as I discussed earlier with the example of prayer, millions of people taking part in something at the same time.

I loved this from @thehippypenguin said:

it’s connected me with a lot of like minded people I otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with.

and

‪ I’ve seen people offer prayers, support me in faith stuff, talk about the big issues. All with a godly focus. Like a church almost

And I also love that people really felt God’s presence using the internet. This is a key point, that spiritual growth can indeed be achieved through internet use. After all, God has used some rather varied means to reach out to human kind, including a burning bush, bright star, a rainbow and even a talking donkey, so why not the internet too?! The responses ranged from seeing him through the words or responses of others, to a more active and personal answer to prayer. ‏‪@CatDeBie  felt that she was constantly reminded of God’s presence through following other Christians on Twitter and ‏‪@NoNonperson suggested that she felt God’s presence more in online interaction that at church.

@giles_morrison said this:

Difficult. I find my compassion challenged, there’s more to despair of in creation and I’m unequal to the prayer challenge.  might be tiny fraction of looking into the heart of God. I’ve become more reliant on prayer by the Spirit. I don’t have the words 

What a wonderful idea, that he might be experiencing a tiny fraction of God’s heart by simply using the internet, I love that! But indeed this is something that came across in several responses and one I can relate to as I have felt God’s presence online on numerous occasions, and sometimes very personally. Read my owl story for example, if you haven’t already…

..oo0O0oo..

All of this though, does require a definite choice to participate, which could be in actively choosing to follow or like other Christians on social media but also in engaging with the platform, posting prayer requests, responding to others or seeking out spiritual advice.

So a Christian practice of internet use is communal both in a passive sense – by being part of something bigger, but also in an active sense – in actually receiving from God through others, by being online.
And experience is great, but that’s just a part of a Christian Practice, being shaped and formed as a result is also vital. Pam Smith mentions this in her fab book ‘Online Mission & Ministry‘ as she talks about how using the internet has been key in her formation both as a Christian and as a minister. She highlights the importance of Christians sharing thoughts and ideas online in order to explore faith. Likewise, Romans 2 tells us we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, in order to know more of God, therefore in any Christian Practice we must allow ourselves to be formed and changed, through God, by being online. This passage also tells us not to conform to the pattern of this world, so we must also be aware of how we use the internet so that we are there with a Christian presence and not one of this world.
Pope_Twitter
One of my fave people right now is Pope Francis (@pontifex). On the World Day of Communications last year, he said felt the internet was a gift from God, when referring to its benefits and possibilities! He asked also:

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel? 

What indeed? Something to ponder further I think…

..oo0O0oo..

As I look back to Dykstra’s definition then, I see a Christian practice of internet use that embraces communal action in which God is made known. A practice that, in a 21st Century way, has a ‘virtual’ monastic air to it, where prayer punctuates the day as internet use does for the modern Christian. Social media statistics show that a large portion of users access their accounts several times each day and often at the same time each day. In this way if the Christian internet user does so with God as his focus, he is continuing the tradition of thousands of years of believers seeking God several times each day. The monastery is virtual, the community is online and the prayers and praises typed, but together they provide a constant chain of prayer, praise and thought toward heaven.
Want to think about this more? then try these…

Aquinas on theWeb?: Doing Theology in an Internet Age – J Bennet

Reach: How to Use Your Socialmedia Influence for the Glory of God (kindle Edition) by L. Krokos & A. Pratt

Online Mission & Ministry – Pam Smith

Beautiful Pain

MRI
Yes this is my spine…

So, I’ve now spent 2 ½ weeks off work at home (and 5 weeks before that in pain) with a prolapsed disk in my back. That’s the MRI of it up there, Mount Fuji the consultant called it, except I’m sure Mt Fuji is infinitely more beautiful than that mess. I’m now awaiting surgery, although I wanted to see if it would begin to heal on its own, so he gave me 2 weeks to see if it would improve, or as I see it, 2 weeks for God to perform a miracle.

If you’ve seen my last few posts you’ll know I wasn’t handling the pain well. There may have been some swearing. But in that first week I realised I had a choice, to give in to the pain or to seek God. I chose God. I mean it’s a no brainer. Jesus suffered the most pain ever, so he knows, right?

In prayer last week I felt the words ‘allow God to make the pain beautiful’. To someone with chronic long term pain I can imagine that might sound insensitive or even impossible and I’m not yet entirely sure what it means for me, but I have been trying to seek God each day. Whatever state I’m in. Sometimes that means bring curled in a ball, sobbing, simply able to utter the name of Jesus. Other days I’ve been able to pour over the bible and really get stuck into God’s word. And I’ve been reading Job (as you do).

The thing I’ve learned from Job is not to turn my back on God. He moaned, 7:7 ‘My eyes will never see happiness again’ – and oh yes, have I moaned. I have written countless posts and scrapped them as I tried to figure things out in my head. I made a mental list of al the things I was missing out on: Big church day out, Pentecost, having fun with the kids, preaching, seeing friends, running, heck just walking would be nice.

Job got annoyed with his friends, 16:2 – ‘miserable comforters are you all!’ – well my husband has had that pleasure, sorry hon.

Job tries to work out why? 7:20 ‘why have you made me your target?’ -well I’ve done a bit of that too and he feels abandoned and alone, 19:7 – yep felt that too.

But in it all, Job doesn’t reject God, he is still talking to him, questioning him, and in fact his very first response is to fall on the ground and worship, 1:20. Wish I could say mine was the same…

But you know what, God is in this for me too. It’s taken me a few weeks to suss that out. I’ve been seeking him, I’ve been praying reading my bible, reading Christian books, but I guess I’ve just felt a little bit too sorry for myself.

Camp on the floor, with all things necessary within reach. Now if I could just drink tea down here...
My camp on the floor, with all things necessary within reach. Now if I could just drink tea down here…

This week though, this week I’ve turned a corner. Not in any recovery sense, in fact if anything it’s getting worse, I am largely consigned to the floor, but I just know God is with me.

In a funny way it’s a bit like being on retreat, in that life outside of this bubble of infirmity, is on hold, and there’s nothing I can do about it. So inside the bubble it’s all my choice, or God’s if I let him. I can’t plan ahead, I can’t focus – if this post even makes any sense we’ll be on to a winner, but the one constant in the bubble and out, is God and for that I am immensely, pathetically grateful.

So, if you are a praying type, please do, as it’s looks like surgery will be within the next few weeks and I’d love to go back to the consultant and tell him all pain has miraculously gone! But if I’m not healed, that’s ok too, because so long as God is with me, I’m ok.

New home for the blog

new home

Pic via Boston Public Library

So I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and been very happy over at Blogger. However as time has gone on I’ve been thinking about changing to a different platform and now today is the day! There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that over at blogger you don’t retain copyright to your own work, which means less control and that you are at the whim of google (who own blogger). That might sound a bit up my own backside but as a creative type I do rather value the stuff I put together. So here we are. A new home for Apples of Gold.

As yet I haven’t been able to transfer all the old posts over so if you want to see more do check it out here.  Otherwise, welcome! Hope you enjoy, comment and join in…

Seeing God in the pain…

11/05/15 This post was originally published at my old blog here.

Strength of My Heart
I feel like shit. And I’m not even going to apologise for swearing. It feels like the only word that explains it right now. Worse than ‘I feel terrible’, ‘I am in pain’ or ‘I am fed up’. It’s all of those things and so much more. So, I feel like shit.

I’m in pain, not sure if it’s an old back problem flaring up or something new. I haven’t been able to walk properly for a week and now I can’t even move off this one spot I’m sitting on the floor without being in pain. And I don’t mean an ache or a something akin to a headache, I mean an excruciating, acute, knife in my leg kind of pain, the kind that means if I find a position where the pain is manageable, I ain’t moving. It’s the kind of pain that means weighing up the options on everything I do: how badly do I need the loo? how much do I actually need a drink? do I really want to read that book over there? How long will the laptop (my lifeline at the mo) last without being plugged in? So far the things that have got me moving are: finding the painkillers (and oh how I praise God for painkillers) and getting a cup of tea (well, needs must when you feel like crap and tea helped although it did cost me).

I’m not writing all this to invite sympathy, I’m not good at receiving it anyway, I just want to explain how I’m feeling as a kind of intro to this post. Which I guess is really just some thoughts on pain and how we (well, I) handle it… So here’s some things I’ve journalled in the last few days:

..oo0O0oo..

I made it an hour out of bed this morning before the onslaught began. I thought I can handle this, today is a new day, repeating to myself:

Thou, Lord and God of power, shield and sustain me this day….

I willed myself onwards: I can do this. Get a grip you stupid woman. Don’t let people down. Let yourself down, that’s bad enough but DO NOT let others down. We are a team, we support each other. But not willing to be supported. Everyone who had asked I snapped ‘don’t be nice to me, I’ll cry’. Truth of course, I was only just holding onto my composure by a thread as thin as a cobweb. Even a gentle breeze would destroy it.

And that was it – a simple and sympathetically voiced ‘are you ok?’ from someone who cares. But I had to shut it down, not willing to fall, to break.

But to no avail… I am broken and in pieces anyway.

Sobbing, heaving, sighing. Broken.

Thank God (and I mean that) for a dear friend who came and gently picked up my pieces and didn’t attempt to stick them back together, she just held them and gently gave them back to me.

..oo0O0oo..

As I lay in my little cocoon of self pity all sorts of devil-sent-lies were in my head…

You’ll have to take pain killers for weeks

You’ll be in pain forever more

There will be horrible side effects

You won’t run again that’s for sure. You are useless. You won’t be able to walk, you’ll put on weight and be fat. You’ll have to sit around all day doing nothing…

People will be talking about you – did you see her – what a wreck, she can’t cope

Your team will think you are useless, you never pitch in, how selfish of you

Your family will get fed up with you always needing help

..oo0O0oo..

Well what a difference a few hours makes. Not sure if it’s painkillers, the emptying of tears and snot or just: a few hours.
Now there’s just anger and frustration, oh and the fog of the pills of course. Can’t think straight, can’t read properly, can’t remember anything… There’s the pay off.

..oo0O0oo..

I hate this. I really do. It’s like my boundaries are being reduced each day. First I couldn’t run, then it was walking, then a week off work, then, well then just whatever I can find that is pain free – well it’s not pain free, but managable in the pain is the best I can hope for…

..oo0O0oo..

When will this end?

..oo0O0oo..

I am so frustrated and angry right now. Oh yes I know, I know, God will teach me through this – of course He will, that’s what He does and already is. But I’ve had enough of that at this moment in time. If I’m honest I don’t want to be taught anything right now. I’ve had enough illness and infirmity in the last 7 years to keep me going for a while.

Can’t He see that? I’ve had enough.

..oo0O0oo..

But then…
Then I’m ashamed.
I am so blessed, I have so much more than so many. I am so much better off than so many.

How arrogant am I? To say that I don’t want to learn from the living God? How dare I? How can I rebuff his teaching, his love, his compassion and comfort?

..oo0O0oo..

And yet now I seek, I feel like I’m in a whirlwind, a hazy fog, where is He in all this? I am seeking, looking, not knowing or understanding…

Where are you Lord? what am I not seeing?

Pain

Saw this quote twice on Twitter today within the space of 5 mins.

Coincidence? I think not… ;)
So anyway I liked it so I made a pretty little infographic…

Is there such a thing as a Christian Practice of Internet Use?

So I posted recently and tweeted rather a lot about my latest essay for #VicarSchool entitled: Outline and Argue theologically for a Christian Practice of:
Internet Use
. I promised to share some of those thoughts online, so here’s some of them. Bit long for a blog post but hey it was a 2,500 word essay! There was so much I could have written but the essay was about Christian Practice, so that’s my focus, plus I focussed largely on Social Media but maybe I’ll write more on other areas another time! And if you really want to read the full thing let me know and I’ll send it over.I’m so grateful to everyone who responded to my questions – whether I’ve quoted you or not, you helped me shape this essay, so thank you!

For info I’ve not cited all the books and stuff that I referenced in the essay as this is a blog post, but there is a list of some recommended books at the bottom and if you want to know where I got anything from then do let me know…

 

..oo0O0oo..

So, what  earth is a ‘Christian Practice’? Well, I started with this quote:

 

I love this quote, because I mean what even is a ‘Christian Practice’?! Choosing which is our own preferred
interpretation could be a practice in itself! My view is that Christian
practices are less about doctrine (boooorinnnng…) and more about actually seeking God for ourselves. So in a way a practice should be a bit softer round the edges, or less definite than doctrine. It’s not black
and white words on a page, but more
encounter with God. It’s almost as if we are building something where, if
the doctrine is the foundation or the structure, the practices then enable us
to fill the space and to decorate even!I like that Dykstra talks about a practice being communal and prayer is a good example of that, because even when we pray alone, our prayers join with countless
others around the world, rising together before God. Prayer is
something that should permeate our lives, not be something that
happens once a day or twice a week, or whenever we feel the need, it is as
fundamental to our lives as breathing, without it we would wither and die
spiritually.

Right so now we have that sorted, what about using the internet?

Use of the internet has rapidly become an integral part
of 21st Century life. Of course there is a choice not to use it, but
I would suggest that like prayer, without it life becomes less full, it withers, it becomes
difficult to live, it is, I think, perhaps controversially: like a life
half-lived.

So then, use of the internet for Christians as a ‘practice’ should be an
extension of a faith-filled life. We should seek to
find God within it, to allow his presence to be apparent within it and for it to
be a place where God is experienced and made more fully known to us.

So, Social Media then…

I couldn’t find statistics for Christian use of social media (any ideas anyone?), but even if it
were a very small percentage of these figures above, it would still mean a huge number
across the entire world. I wanted to look at this in more detail and as you probably know I posted here and on Twitter, asking people used their social media as Christians.

There were some key areas that people talked about including a sense of community, being part of something bigger and being supported and encouraged online, especially those for whom physical community is difficult, perhaps thorough disability.

Of course the idea of community makes sense, as humans
we were created to live in relationship with others, as we see in the creation of
humans in Genesis – and we seek to be part of something throughout our lives. Internet use is by it’s very nature relational and
communal, as I discussed earlier with the example of prayer, millions of people
taking part in something at the same time.

I loved this from @thehippypenguin said:

it’s connected me with a lot of like minded people I
otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with.

and

I’ve seen people offer prayers, support me in faith
stuff, talk about the big issues. All with a godly focus. Like a church almost

And I also love that people really felt God’s presence using the internet. This is a key point, that spiritual growth can indeed be achieved through internet use. After all, God has used some rather varied means to reach out to human kind, including a burning bush, bright star, a rainbow and even a talking donkey, so why not the internet too?! The responses ranged from seeing him through the words or responses of others, to a more active and personal answer to prayer. ‏‪@CatDeBie  felt that she was constantly reminded of God’s presence through following other Christians on Twitter and ‏‪@NoNonperson suggested that she felt God’s presence more in online interaction that at church.
@giles_morrison said this:

Difficult. I find my compassion challenged, there’s more to despair of in creation and I’m unequal to the prayer challenge. 

might be tiny fraction of looking into the heart of God. I’ve become more reliant on prayer by the Spirit. I don’t have the words 

What a wonderful idea, that he might be experiencing a tiny fraction of God’s heart by simply using the internet, I love that! But indeed this is something that came across in several responses and one I can relate to as I have felt God’s presence online on numerous occasions, and sometimes very personally. Read my owl story for example, if you haven’t already… 

..oo0O0oo..

 

All of this though, does require a definite choice to participate, which could be in actively choosing to follow or like other Christians on social media but also in engaging with the platform, posting prayer requests, responding to others or seeking out spiritual advice.So a Christian practice of internet use is communal both in a
passive sense – by being part of something bigger, but also in an active sense
– in actually receiving from God through others, by being online.

And experience is great, but that’s just a part
of a Christian Practice, being shaped and formed as a result is also vital. Pam Smith mentions this in her fab book ‘Online Mission & Ministry‘ as she talks about how using the internet has been key in her formation both as a
Christian and as a minister. She highlights the importance of Christians
sharing thoughts and ideas online in order to explore faith. Likewise, Romans
2 tells us we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds, in order to
know more of God, therefore in any Christian Practice we must allow ourselves
to be formed and changed, through God, by being online. This passage also tells
us not to conform to the pattern of this world, so we must also be aware of how
we use the internet so that we are there with a Christian presence and not one of
this world.

One of my fave people right now is Pope Francis (@pontifex). On
the World Day of Communications last year, he said felt the internet was a
gift from God, when referring to its benefits and possibilities! He asked also:

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture
of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter
others in the light of the Gospel?

What indeed? Something to ponder further I think…

..oo0O0oo..

As I look
back to Dykstra’s definition then, I see a
Christian practice of internet use that embraces communal action in which God
is made known. A practice that, in a 21st Century way, has a ‘virtual’
monastic air to it, where prayer punctuates the day as internet use does for
the modern Christian. Social media statistics show
that a large portion of users access their accounts several times each day and
often at the same time each day. In this way if the Christian
internet user does so with God as his focus, he is continuing the tradition of
thousands of years of believers seeking God several times each day. The monastery
is virtual, the community is online and the prayers and praises typed, but
together they provide a constant chain of prayer, praise and thought toward
heaven.

 

Some More Thoughts on Being in Pain

This post first appeared on blogger here on 12/5/15.

So a few weeks ago I visited Premier Radio and made the most of the freebie mags in the reception area, stocking up my bag for later reading. Yesterday as I sat in a pain/drug induced heap I reached for the nearest thing to me to try and take my mind off my failing body. Youthwork magazine was on the top of the pile and in no coincidence I’m sure, features this fabulous article by Danielle Strickland about pain. She suggests, in a nutshell, that not only do we need pain but that it is a gift and through it God speaks to us.  (Note there is a link above but to read it you need to sign up for the free trial, or subscribe, sorry about that).
Do read it if you can, I’ve read it three times now and keep finding more things to ponder upon and it’s sent me straight back to the book of Job for some theological reflection (my Tutors at #VicarSchool would be so proud).
Like Strickland, I’ve been taught in the school that says pain and suffering is never of God and that we should pray until it’s gone. I don’t disagree with that but equally I’m not sure I sign up to it 100% either. I’m not even thinking about the whole predestination thing or what prayer is about, I’m just thinking: why should we expect to go through a life without pain or suffering? Which is basically what this school of thought expects – a life of ‘unsuffering’. I mean where does that come from? The bible is full of people suffering and in pain and yes I know there’s also masses of healing too, but there’s also those that live through it.

I think I see the idea of life without pain and suffering as the ultimate goal, the kingdom of God here on earth, which we’ll one day see. But by the same token, although that kingdom is here and now, it’s also not yet.
The danger of believing that pain can be dealt with by praying it away is that when it doesn’t, where do you go? I spent months if not years praying against exhaustion and CFS. There was no instant miracle, there was a gradual recovery and perhaps that was of God, after all I did improve and I do lead a relatively normal life. But it was not what I was seeking. In fact I think it was when I let go of waiting for a miracle that I was actually able to find God in it all.
So now. Today. Still in pain but better than the day before. I want to sit and just be, but I’m not sure I’m capable of it so I’m varying my day with some reading and some vegging. And in the reading, as I said, I find myself drawn back to Job. I do find the book of Job a comfort. I did when I was ill with exhaustion and I do now. There’s something about the not understanding what’s going on and why awful stuff is happening, that Job helps with. And what is his reaction to the hideous things that happen to him? Simple: he falls down and worships God. Not after a good moan, then he turns to God. Not once he’s got angry and shouted, then he turns to God. Not after the initial shock, then he turns to God. No, the first thing he does is to worship. And Job didn’t just have a bit of back pain, he lost everything (except his wife – I’m sure there something in there to reflect on…). Everything. Home, business, family, all gone in one day.
I wish I could say I reacted as he did. But I am choosing to today. To seek God in it all. I don’t think he made this happen, I don’t think it’s what he wanted to happen but I sure do believe he can redeem this pain. Even in my drug-pain-fuddled state, I choose to see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to spend time with him and to listen. I was scribbling notes in my journal earlier only to see at the bottom of the page written: ‘Be Still and know that I am God’ from Psalm 46.
Yes. Just this…