The ideas expressed here may be controversial for some - they're intended to be.
The idea is to get you thinking about why you believe what you believe, and generate a bit of discussion.
Many blogs offer devotional inspiration, I want to offer theological inspiration.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Ruby Path

Lord, your love’s no buried treasure,
No secret stash,
No hidden cache of underground wealth.
The map of grace is a path of pain,
And nail, And lash.
A ruby spattered trail
That leads to a cross.

Tim Ross, 2011

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Sick and Tired of Healing?

I'm what you would call broadly evangelical. Liberals would regard me with suspicion and the extreme right-wing would think I'm a wishy-washy liberal. I certainly believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the healing power of God, but the 'believe-and-you-shall-receive' wing of the Church don't understand or cope very well with illnesses that don't disappear the instant hands are laid on them. Usually, the sufferer is the one who takes the blame.

For any evangelical Christian, suffering a long-term illness often adds an extra burden of guilt and questioning. 'Why aren't I better? Don't I have enough faith? Do I have some hidden sin? Is God trying to tell me something? The questions go on and on and can leave you feeling a bit of failure as a Christian. For me, now, these are non-questions. I almost hear God saying to me, "Tim, what on earth are talking about? You're trying to find answers to questions that don't need asking. I am no less with you when you are ill that when you are well - what else do you need?"

We've got so obsessed with health and healing that there is an unsettling perfectionist, almost eugenic feeling to it. It's as though to be a proper Christian with real faith you must be in perfect health. Anything less than perfect implies a lack of faith, spiritual weakness or worse, sin. What message does that say to an amputee, someone suffering a mental illness, facial disfigurements, or any of the congenital illnesses that are often conveniently ignored by faith healers.

The trouble is, the health-prosperity gospel often turns a blind-eye to the realities of what it means to be a fallible human being, whereas I believe what the Gospel shows us is that God doesn't. I had three years of Charismatic evangelical teaching at a Bible college straight after becoming a Christian, but it's taken me all the years since then to learn what it means to be a vulnerable, imperfect human being in a relationship with a loving God who completely understands our frailty and flaws. It's taken me all that time to realise the simple truth that sickness does not necessarily equal sin or lack of faith. Sometimes people just get ill - one look at the number of faithful preachers and ministers who have died of cancer ought to tell you that.

I look at suffering and healing in a completely differently now. I understand it in the light of the Grace of God balanced with the need for humans to have free will and live in universe where free will is possible. I praise God for every miracle of healing that takes place and will continue to pray for and lay hands on the sick and suffering, but, for me, the difference being a Christian has made in my illness is the certain knowledge that God is with me THROUGH my illness. Knowing God is with me, every single moment, even when I can't pray, or think and all I can manage is watching day-time TV, is a genuine source of strength, peace and hope.

This is the miracle Jesus offers to every Christian, sick or healthy. It's the miracle that all you need to do to know the presence of God in your life is simply to trust that He is there for you, unqualified and without condition.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Struggling With Daily Devotions?

A quick search of Ezine, Google or Amazon using “Daily Devotions” as your search terms will reveal hundreds of articles, blogs, websites and books on the subject. Why? Probably many reasons, but one is certainly that you are not alone in struggling to keep to a regular pattern of daily devotions and are hunting for an answer. ALL Christians are looking for a pattern of prayer, a way of doing a quiet time, that will fulfil their needs, keep them both disciplined and inspired, AND (here’s the crunch) fit into the routine of their daily lives without sacrificing still more sleep at the beginning of the day.

It sounds like a tall order doesn’t it.
Well, at the risk of being charged with heresy, I’m going to tell you that for many, it is.

It’s assumed that every Christian is capable of setting aside enough time for a fruitful quiet time every day when the truth is far from it. Throughout my ministry I have met and been contacted by Christians who for a whole variety of reasons simply cannot keep daily devotions or find them unhelpful. They not only feel deeply guilty, they also think that their relationship with God is being stunted, that they are unspiritual and ‘not a proper Christian’.

But you don’t have to linger in a second-class relationship with God. There is hope, because doing daily devotions is actually not the only way to sustain an intimate and meaningful relationship with God.

Throughout Christian history there have been spiritual writers with a closeness to God who have explored the way our relationship with Him works. Many of those have realised that our connection to God does not depend upon spending a precise amount of time set aside each day or getting exactly the right devotional commentary. It’s a perpetual relationship with an ever-present God, and both parts of that statement are significant.

Now I know you’ve got the quiet-time teaching going round in your head, with stuff about tuning up orchestras, spending quality time with God, getting your daily bread and whole host of other stuff, but the truth is, Jesus said, “I am with you always”. If you look it up, that word “always” actually means “always”, not just in half-an-hour of bleary eyed, yawning prayer first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Conscious of it or not, he is with you every single moment of your day, which means every moment of the day is quality time with God. You can turn to Him at any moment, and a single moment of prayer can have all the power of a half-hour quiet time.

It’s an idea that’s been explored by writers like Brother Lawrence in the “Practice of the Presence” and Thomas R Kelly in “A Testament of Devotion”. I explore the idea more fully in my book, “The Nearest: Devotion Not Devotions”. One thing I have learned, you don’t need to give up the idea of living a devoted life just because you don't do daily devotions. You can still have a close relationship with God.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lord, Your Glory Fills the Skies

Lord, your glory fills the skies;
A blazing glory of gold-trimmed nimbus
The promise of eternal hope;
A clear blue glory, of unobscured light;
A gentler glory of subtler hues,
Of grey and falling rain,
Stretched across the earth,
And touching every horizon
Where human feet walk their paths,
And human hands reach up in prayer,
To God whose glory freed from heaven’s lofty heights,
Fills our hearts with praise.

Tim Ross, 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

In Time Of Need

If God will go to the cross for you, will He not also hold your hand now?
If God will go to Calvary for you, will He not also be here for you, when you need Him most?
If God will suffer all the punishments that twisted minds can devise,
  And go far beyond what the human soul can bear,
      And abandon for a moment, His true Beloved,
         For you.
Will he not also cling to you and surround you with His cloak of grace?
So, if God can do all this, and, burst victorious from death’s tomb, can He not also give you hope?

Tim Ross, 2011

Friday, 3 June 2011

Maverick Love

The Love of God’s a wild thing,
A maverick, anarchic rebel,
Set loose amongst our tidy lives
To break the rule of hate and fear, and fear of hate
And all the hate our prejudice builds.

The Love of God’s a reckless thing,
An unruly vandal run amok,
Caring not for personal boundaries,
Spraying walls with grace’s graffiti,
And breaking windows to let in God’s light.

The Love of God’s a crazy thing,
Madly in love and loving madly,
Any and all who live beneath the sun.
And through the Son, and one unbridled act of Passion,
Offers love all consuming that we may be
        All consumed within the Love of God.

Tim Ross 2011

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Because You’re Worth It

What do you do when you want to give yourself a treat? What is your “one weakness”? Maybe to settle in with some chocolate and watch a favourite film? Or relax in a bath with a good book?
Adverts offer plenty of suggestions:
Apparently it’s possible to fulfil the cravings of all your senses just by buying a chocolate-covered ice cream, you can be perfectly pampered if only you use the right shower gel, and with the right cheeseburger, you can even find true happiness.

But why do we need life’s little luxuries?
Well, buy the right mascara and shampoo and you are told it’s “Because you’re worth it”.
And that’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it?
We are worth a little pampering - we’ve earned it - We ought to have a treat now and then...
We deserve it – and you know, maybe there’s something in that.

But what does God do for us?
He is born amongst filth and poverty, endures starvation in the harshness of a wilderness, is rejected and persecuted by his own people, he is tortured and put to the worst kind of death they could conjure up.
And all for us.
But why?

Well, not because we deserve it, not because we’ve earned it, and certainly not to pamper our needs.
Quite simply, God says, I did all this
Because you’re worth it.