The city of Edinburgh is full of surprises. There’s even a book called, “Looking Up In Edinburgh” to help you spot hidden gems in the architecture. It’s easy to miss the good stuff.
Penny & I were in Edinburgh this last weekend. I was there to teach and train the worship team of our church there. Penny taught a class on the Christian perspective on emotional and mental health.
Sunday came and we went to church in a conference centre. The room was all “conferency”. Low ceiling, bland carpet, no windows. I felt safe, but uninspired. Just before the service got going our friend Nicola urged Penny & I to accompany her into a lift and up to the top of the building. There we stepped out into a room with wall-windows on three sides and the most spectacular view of the Edinburgh roofline. Sunshine poured in and blue sky stretched away.
The view changed everything. Suddenly I felt alive, energised, lifted up, lighter, more hopeful, less weary. And I carried that “spirit” back down the lift and into the conference room.
Our “view” affects our behaviour. In the sermon we talked about this passage in Romans:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV11)
The word “view” is used here in the sense of “as a result of”, but’s its effectiveness as a means to motivate us to be living sacrifices is predicated on the assumption that we have a clear and accurate view of God’s mercy.
Paul does not urge us to take this action blindly. He has taken the trouble to write eleven chapters of wonderful theology largely focussed on God’s compassion, grace and mercy. Have a look at these references if it helps: Rom 1:5, 7; 3:24; 4:16; 5:2, 15, 17, 20–6:1; 6:14–15; 8:32; 9:15–16; 11:5–6, 30–32; 12:1, 3, 6, 8.
Do you have a clear view of God’s mercy? Are you stuck in a stuffy place, suffering silently because you have no window to God’s mercy? If you are lacking energy to do the “Christian” thing perhaps it’s time to put the “doing” aside for a moment or two, and instead go upstairs for a different view. How might we do that? Here are three tried-and-tested suggestions:
- Pray: with a friend; through a Psalm like Ps 33; use some written prayers; pray in a special place; pray though the situations you thought you wouldn’t get through, but somehow God gave you the strength and here you are still alive! Pray while looking at the birds, and meditate on Matt 6.33. But above all – pray.
- People: talk to someone who you believe has a good handle on aspects of God’s character you cannot see. Ask them how they view God – and why. Badger them until they say something you can understand.
- Potter: no, nothing to do with Harry. But potter through the Bible. Read Romans 8, Ps 23, Eph 2 & 3, one of the passion narratives in the Gospels, 1 Peter 2 etc. Ask yourself what God is like as you read these passages, and then pray and/or talk to people about what you are learning.