If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about spiritual warfare, it’s that Satan is no gentleman. He isn’t one to say, “Hey, James has had a really rough week. Let’s go easy on him for the moment.” Quite the opposite in fact. There may be times where the conflict is more overt, and I am more aware of it, but rarely do the guns actually stop.
As a preacher, I know that the build up to a sermon can be a time of conflict. The act of preparation, with the temptation to take shortcuts or play fast and loose with the truth, feels like a battle. When we’re working towards something specific, we can be conscious of the spiritual struggle, wrestling with motives and prayer, but it’s a mistake to think that after the event there’s a ceasefire. As soon as the seed has landed on the path is the best time for the birds to swoop. The moment the preacher sits down is as good a time as any to push him into pride or drag him into despair.
However, as relentless as the Enemy is, God is even more so. The truth doesn’t ever stop being true. There is not a moment where resisting the devil doesn’t cause him to flee from us. I don’t stop being a child of God because I’ve had a bad week. We are always vulnerable to attack but, equally, the Enemy is always vulnerable to the truth.
Speaking of boats (well, I was last week), I’ve been reading a book – Ben Wilson’s Empire of the Deep: The Rise and Fall of the British Navy. It’s a cracking read, for the three of us who are interested in British naval history. It’s been interesting to read about Admiral Nelson, whose superlative performance in battle seemed to come down to the level of trust he’d built up with his officers, and that he’d earned the respect and love of his superbly disciplined sailors. Read more
Isn’t it nice when you discover that someone has put into words something that you already knew to be true on an instinctual level? A few years ago I stumbled upon a quote that resonated with my soul. As a preacher/teacher, I sort of knew what I was trying to do – I wasn’t really so interested in ‘educating’ as I was in ‘inspiring’. However, ‘Inspiring’ is not usually listed as a Learning Outcome on many course outlines, much to my disappointment. Read more
Sometimes I don’t have any words, which can be a bit awkward because words are supposed to be my thing. But sometimes, after the past couple of weeks, with politics and faith, terrorism and flames, there are no words. All I have is silence. Read more
Most of us get bruised as we make our way through this world. Sometimes those bruises take a long time to heal, and might leave us tender and scarred beneath the surface. In Memento, Leonard lets his tattoos and notes guide him. He trusts them completely, and they become his truth. In the same way, we sometimes let our wounds control our actions and outlook on life. The world is full of people who let their scars do the talking. Read more
Memento is a film about Leonard’s search for the enigmatic ‘John G’ – the man who killed his wife. The challenge for Leonard (played by Mike from Neighbours) is that he suffers from short-term memory loss. This throws a spanner in the works of his detectoring. He gets around this inconvenience with a collection of Polaroid photographs and a mass of tattoos that remind him of important snippets of information he has gleaned over the years. Of course, him constantly having to make sense of all this information anew is part of where the film’s twists and turns come from. Read more
It’s easy to hold the Church up as a good argument for atheism. Our shame is not that we have been exceptionally bad, but rather that we haven’t been exceptionally good. But you can’t shake off the Holy Spirit that easily. Read more
There was this one time when I was asked to visit a friend of mine who was in hospital. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘in hospital’. He was actually in the hospital’s locked ward. He’d had a psychotic episode and been sectioned. So I went to visit him, and I sat with him in the secure unit. I was out of my depth, which is where I spend a lot of my time. He asked me to read to him, from the Psalms. So that’s what I did. That’s all I did. For half an hour I just sat and read from the Psalms while he wept beside me. Then I went home to my family. Read more