Josh Davidson 4.2

wp-1473764965004.jpgPart II

They were building a new shopping centre in Chesterfield and one morning Josh came past the site. He paused for a while, watching. He was watching two contractors – brothers – on the scaffolding. They were brickies, men his age, paid well for working fast and straight. He knew them from work they’d done previously, but this morning he wasn’t interested in what they were building.”Simon!” he shouted. “Andy!”

The two men looked up – gave him a bit of a wave – and paused.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Cladding this wall,” shouted Simon back. “What’s it look like?”

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Josh Davidson 4

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Dry thistles at Thames Barrier Point

Part I

Now, Joshua didn’t stay there long. He followed the voice that told him to go out into the hills and woods of the country, and underwent a test of his own self. A time of self-seeking, some might call it, although this Joshua already knew who he was and what he was called to do. But every accusation that could come at him, as he walked and thought and prayed, attacked him with the voice of the devil. Because he wasn’t eating or drinking, the whole time, longer than a month, and if you’ve never been without food that long then you can’t say you know what hunger was. But he knew what hunger was – past the pangs of longing, into the feeling of bodily need, when your own body feels light because you have metabolised every scrap of fat between your sinews and under your skin. When the cushions of cartilage and fluid are empty and your nerves run directly over your bones.

“Hungry?” asked the Devil scornfully. “But you don’t even need to be hungry! You’re just indulging your need for drama – and needlessly. You’re going to survive – so why invite all this pain and starvation? Only a sadist does that. And are you a sadist?

“And anyway, didn’t we all hear it? If you are God’s son, you can turn any of these stones from the path into something good to eat – you can call a tree to fruit right in front of you. And I thought you liked that whole blossoming, fruiting, growing thing anyway? There’s no need for this stupid fast.”

But he knew why he was there. The hunger was the unavoidable companion of the degree of discipline and sacrifice he had chosen. The Devil was just trying to distract him from the real reason for his fast. “I know what it says,” replied Joshua to that needling voice. “Food doesn’t keep you going and breath doesn’t keep you breathing – it’s God’s promises that keep us alive.” He remembered the way his dad Joseph had said that – sometimes when he had been hungry and sometimes right before a feast. His dad had stuck to what he knew to be true.

But then it was as though Josh’s wanderings had brought him, suddenly, around a dry-stone wall and beneath overhanging trees to the pinnacle of the tallest tower in London, the city spread our below him, the trains rushing into and out of London Bridge station, vans delivering, riverboats accelerating away, and no-one looking up. And the Devil challenged him again.

“I don’t even know why you’re being careful with yourself. If you fall, you’re not going to die! If you were God’s son he’d send an angel to catch you, wouldn’t he? Like it says in that book you love – ‘His angels have orders to protect you, so they’ll carry you and you won’t even stub your toe.’ It’s a written promise, isn’t it? So just jump and leave all this stubborn walking.”

Joshua shook his head. “And it says ‘Don’t joke about with God’s promise.”

But then it was like Joshua had climbed even higher, so that in one view he could see all the countries of the worlds, their rulers and parliaments, all the wonderful diverse and developed kingdoms of men. And he heard the Devil say. “And where is God, anyway? Have you heard him, after all this time not eating or drinking? But you can hear me. Do what I say and you’ll have this – you know you will. You’re powerful enough to take it, if you let me direct you. If you choose me instead…”

“Don’t you dare,” said Joshua. “Don’t you dare even suggest it, you liar! I know what it says: ‘You belong to God – so don’t let anyone else take charge.’ I know what will happen if I choose you, you liar! Go away.”

And that was the last he heard of that needling voice. But I tell you what, he didn’t stub his toe on any stone as he came off the hills and back towards home. And whichever way he looked he saw figures guarding and guiding. And they even fed him with a food that he couldn’t quite recognise. And by the time he was back from his walk, he looked better and fitter than ever.

On the journey back he heard that John Waters had been arrested and was being held pending charges. He returned to his mum’s place and picked up a few things. And then he went down to Chesterfield, because it had always been said that when God would choose to change things, he’d start there. Perhaps because if God could change Chesterfield, he could change anywhere. So that was when Joshua Davidson started to tell people. “Change your life,” he’d say. Whether it was someone on the bus next to him or when he got on local radio or a visit to a school. “Change your life, because God’s reign is coming.”

Verses 97-104

Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long.

Certainly scripture is meaning more to me – but so is his word by the Spirit.  This Psalm has been constantly in my head this weekend – the words and their lessons.  A good way to be.  Oh that my ways were steadfast – that I thought on God’s word through my working day! [I wrote this in April 2014.  It’s far too easy to condemn ourselves for ‘not reading Scripture enough’.  That feeling alone is a symptom of something disconnected in our Spirits.  I think it is and always will be a struggle to tear our minds off earthly things and truly concentrate on the Word, and because we remember the effects of studying it much more than the joy of studying and learning the word, we stop ourselves from falling in love with Scripture.  So – one of our collective priorities must be to talk about God’s word with excitement and love – the same way we gush to one another when we fall in love!]

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,

For they are ever with me.

Able to see further, in time and space, and able to judge what is important – not just of people, but I can out-do and out-think temptation when God’s command is close to me.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

For I meditate on your statutes.

Insight – knowledge of God’s will and way arising from the spirit within each of us.  It develops with the dwelling – ruminating – Eugene Petersen would say ‘gnawing’.

I have more understanding than the elders,

For I obey your precepts.

Understanding in the mind, born of experience, develops particularly as a result of obedient experience.  This is God’s intention in giving us his commands – that we would understand him.

I have kept my feet from every evil path

So that I might obey your word.

Here is another direct walking parable.  There are paths that are evil to our intention and purpose, like Christian’s path in the Pilgrim’s Progress.  Because we long to follow God’s purpose at the great scale – to finish the race and complete the walk – we must be singleminded and turn down other distractions.  Even if not immoral, they can be evil to us if they lead us off the path.

I have not departed from our laws,

For you yourself have taught me.

So at no time have I been able to escape the effect of God’s law and his justice, since he himself has been actively engaged in my education.

How sweet are your words to my taste,

Sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Yet we have to chew to get the sweetness!  Looking at food, we never really remember how good it tastes.  God’s word is sweet remaining in our mouths, too.

I get understanding from your precepts;

Therefore I hate every wrong path.

The strength of my reaction to the paths and ways around me, splitting off from my route, is a result of my mind’s new openness to God’s word and my dwelling in his teaching.  If I continue to learn by making myself available to God, my mind will be even better able to warn me from bad paths, and more able to actually decide against them.  To have a pliable will and insight to see – that is freedom to walk wherever you want!

Graham Writes About Worship – Renewal 2015

I’ve been profiting from reading and dwelling on Graham Kendrick’s stacked-up blog posts.  There’s some quality discussion of leadership as a worship leader and writer of songs on his site, as well as some great stories behind some of his songs.  I find it so encouraging to read how directly the spirit moved him on many occasions to create a song we now take a bit for granted!  Click the pic.


In other news, I’m going to the Renewal Conference in Woolwich next weekend.  I know GK and other British worship leaders tend to be there.  If you haven’t heard of it, click the pic and check it out.


Lines on Highbury Field

The pace of circling runners has now stopped,

Their anticlockwise ringing of the hill

Completed for another Saturday.

Instead the calls of coaches to their boys,

By name, by numbers printed bright

On neon jackets, home strips, away strips

And the thud of leather on leather, the thud

Of childish pleasure in the swinging foot,

The leaping leg, the spring, the catch, the cry,

And sliding tackles scuff the turf with scars,

The boyish shallow trenches of the wars

They live to fight.  For disappointment lasts

But fragments of a minute, not so long

To sour a day as it can do for men.

Instead, with every burst of rivalry,

Each charge up the touchline, each desperate chance,

The game stays living, changing, bright and sweet

Like May sun out from cloud and in again.

‘Come in now, please,’ he calls, the giant there,

A man and half a man to eight-year-olds,

The beauty of his giving as they shoot,

He crouches in the belly of the goal,

The little, four-foot goal, and bids them try

To pass him, knock it in the net and score,

And they begin to learn themselves and find

The pleasure of that leather-smacking thud,

The swinging foot, the leaping leg, the spring,

His catch and cry the affirmation of

Each boy’s good value, his name, his number.

Sometimes spoken – ‘Diego!’  Ringing out loud,

The passers-by and balconeers all share

The pleasure of a boy’s attempt on goal.

Sometimes unspoken – just that look or pat

As Mitchell sidesteps, taps it in the net,

Arry nutmegs coach and all the eight-year-olds

Cheer both.  The older group have finished now

And moved to dribbling, easing bright blue globes

Against the gentle slope of the park’s lie

Upon the hill, up to the cones, then down,

Stretching slightly to keep up with them.

Beyond, a trainer spars and kickboxes

With today’s customer, who wants to learn

For stage, or screen, or just simple fun

Of throwing punches in the morning air.

This richness, more than leisure, more than just

An occupation for the weekend hours,

How we enjoy it, but to tell the truth

It’s undervalued.  God gives peace to men

And all these boys not marching, trained to die,

Assume this is normality.  Not so,

In history, how rare this chance to play.

And I can see it as a prophecy

Of dwelling in the Kingdom without end.

Psalm 119 – Verses 1-8

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,

Our ways are important to God – it’s our ways that make us stand out in the world.  And what are these blameless ways?  I think of James’ letter – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  (1:27)  There’s an inner and an outer dimension to this walk – and being in a way that is merciful, faithful, generous, free is to be blameless.  The Lord blesses them – and these, in this psalm, are his words of blessing.  Those who receive the blessing are those justified by faith, believing and carrying no sin.

 who walk according to the way of the Lord.

This means our walk is defined by the God’s word: his law is the definitive guide to every step and the entire trek – our stumbling, childlike toddle and our youthful racing.  The beginning of our responsibility to crawl forward like a baby, and begin to rise to our feet!

 Blessed are they who keep his statutes

and seek him with all of their heart.

To keep his law and to follow his law is to seek him.  To be obedient is to prove that you are willing to be visited by the Spirit.  The greatest treat or happiness we can have is to be in the place of seeking God.

They do nothing wrong:

they walk in his ways.

Because they don’t fear stepping out of God’s will, they know the height and width and breadth of his love for them, so his ways are explorable, free, open – what we might call free-grazing!

You have laid down precepts

that are to be fully obeyed.

Yes, commands and instructions that are only valuable when we carry them out to the end – when we complete the task and finish the race.  And to fulfil things like this – when we have no strength?  God promises to be our strength – they shall run and not grow weary – and so we don’t fulfil these instructions by the letter but by the Spirit – by God’s grace.  These precepts are foundational for us – their weight is indicated when the psalmist says ‘You have laid down…’ as if they were flagstones or paving on the road.  And this is a prophetic address to Jesus, too.  He has laid down instructions that, fully obeyed, become a firm and plain pathway to walk, to run, through life, almost fulfilling themselves in us rather than requiring us to fulfil them.

Oh that my ways were steadfast

in obeying your decrees!

After receiving revelation of the great value of God’s word, what else can we do but cry out in sorrow for our failure and in desire for their good!  This is our new heart’s cry – the Spirit of life within us cries this out to God – as did Jesus, who loved to obey his father and longed to follow his decrees, even unto death.

Then I would not be put to shame

when I consider all your commands.

Because our conscience will shame us if we think honestly – for all the commands convict us, sooner or later.  If one does, then the whole law does.  But a right sense of shame only exalts God higher, in thankfulness for Jesus and in adoration of God’s holiness.  And when we realise that it is God’s single purpose to bring about his kingdom by changing us so that we do indeed become steadfast and obedient, then we will worship even more, knowing that we can be free of shame.

I will praise you with an upright heart

as I learn your righteous laws.

The process of being shamed and of continuing is the process of learning the law of love – and our redeemed heart will continue to praise God all through the process of sanctification – all through the increasing revelation of God’s plan – even while we read this psalm.  Not a thing can happen but, taken rightly, it will lead us to praise God.

I will obey your decrees;

do not utterly forsake me.

Yes, it will happen.  My obedience to your word, O God, will happen, not because of me but because of what you have promised, again and again.  It will happen because you, yourself, are training me in righteousness.  To leave me without shame and with no conviction would be worse than to suffer correction, so do not forsake me.  What we have now from you is good for us.