Busy at the Highwayman’s Hideout

It’s been busy at #Highwayman’sHideout!  On Saturday I attended Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 in Ealing, where two hundred or so gamebook fans gathered to celebrate 35 years of the Fighting Fantasy series.  I took the opportunity to plug my kickstarter for all it was worth, passing out sample pages, flyers and wearing a sign around my neck.  I made several new friends, met other gamebook writers, put my project onto the radar of some of the genre’s influencers and even found some new backers.

Today I’ve been putting finishing touches to the Kickstarter video and campaign site.  A good friend and successful gamebook writer gave me some much-appreciated feedback on Saturday, so tweakings have turned into re-writings and the best part of a day’s work.

That means that tomorrow is given over for social marketing: I’ll be messaging everyone I can on every platform I can access to remind them of the Steam Highwayman Kickstarter Campaign Launch: 8:00pm London time.  Then roll on 8pm…  It feels very much like the ratcheting climb up an unfamiliar rollercoaster.  I’ve heard a lot about the ups and downs of running a kickstarter, but now I’m about to find out the only way that will really teach me!

Lord God, into your hands I commit the entire project.

Can I get an ‘Amen’?

Steam Highwayman coming soon!

It’s been a busy summer!  Somehow, between all the weddings, trips, church events and socialising, I’ve ploughed on.  Steam Highwayman will be launched on Kickstarter on the 5th September and for a long a nervous month I’ll be watching and praying, while the book is available for backing from all over the world.  I’ve already been publicising the project on social media, introducing the gamebook to fans of steampunk and fans of gamebooks alike.  If I appear on your social feed, you might start to get sick of seeing me!

I’ve had to develop all sorts of new skills to get this far: graphic design and video-making, advertising and marketing and overcoming my naturally polite, patient tendencies!  I really can’t wait to be back in the writing zone again, when I can concentrate on producing the next volume.

Still, I’ve enjoyed all this work massively, and I hope it’ll bear fruit soon.  It’s amazing to imagine that in a matter of months I may well be holding a copy of my own work, talking to readers world-wide and with the success behind me.

Haven 90|60

I’ll be worshipping at Haven 90|60 in Milton Keynes this Saturday and leading a Workshop called Speak Out in Praise, helping believers learn how their passion for spoken word, rap and poetry can be put to the King’s service.

You can access my workshop handout here.

Psalm 119 – 169-176

May my cry come before you, O Lord;

give me understanding according to your word.

This cry is the voice of the human spirit, now rising up to God whether things are good or bad – now I can remain in heartfelt communication with my Lord.  And my cry is – continue to teach me, so I can learn and grow in your Word – with Jesus, by the Spirit, with your word on my lips, speaking and living in your paths, righteous and sanctified and glad to act!

May my supplication come before you;

deliver me according to your promise.

My cry – my appeal – should repeatedly reach the throne of God, say simply ‘Sanctify me, save me, according to your promise, your word, your Son, the promised one, the living Lord Jesus!  Save me in him and in his spirit!’

May my lips overflow with praise,

for you teach me your decrees.

I want my mouth to be overfull and for words to pour out constantly, praising God for this, my prayer, is being answered now [sic.8.6.14, but also 7.11.16].  As I write this, as I read it again in the future, whether times are hard or easy, he is teaching me this pattern of life, his way of doing business.

May my tongue sing of your Word,

for all your commands are righteous.

I want to sing!  To be noisy in your word – for and through the Spirit of Jesus – because your way of ruling is proper, good, upright, effective and able to redeem your people.

May your hand be ready to help me,

for I have chosen your precepts.

I am going to need your help, Lord – but now I understand that to ask in the Spirit is to prophesy – to ‘speak into being’ – to ask with faith is to begin to receive.  We can’t have faith in the wrong things, because faith comes from the Spirit, so what we have been given holy faith to believe, we should pray wholeheartedly for and act upon.  This is to choose God’s precepts rather than our own way of living.

I long for your salvation, O lord,

and your law is my delight.

Being saved is so exciting!  I want to run on in it – because your words and ways fill me with gladness and excitement.

Let me live that I may praise you

and may your laws sustain me.

Yes – this is life to the full – to worship in Spirit and Truth – in understanding of the real state of affairs – and sustained by God’s living law, by the Spirit of Jesus living in us as his word, showing, explaining, drawing our attention.

I have strayed like a lost sheep.  Seek your servant

for I have not forgotten your commands.

And this is the power of God’s law – I strayed – I spent all this time trying to do it – but I have not forgotten your commands because they have continually acted upon me.  As long as God seeks me, holding me on the path through his law, through his Word, his command is to follow.  His command is impossible to resist – his command is the person of Jesus – his person is the greatest command, commanding us to know him by his very presence in the world he created.

Psalm 119 – 161-168

Rulers persecute me without cause,

but my heart trembles at your word.

Even those who would control our lives have no ground – they envy the power of the Word.  I tremble with bodily emotion – with a spiritual sense – of the power of God’s word.  What a thing to say, if you could say ‘There’s only one thing that scares me – God’s Word!’

I rejoice in your promise

like one who finds great spoil.

Yes!  In Jesus we have such cause to be glad.  Here is the treasure in the field, the pearl of great price, the only-real wealth – the true utterance of God, changing us to be more like his Son.

I hate and abhor falsehood

but I love your law.

This is the great spoil!  This is the characteristic of the changed worshipper, finding themselves in love with the law of God.

Seven times a day I praise you

for your righteous laws.

A perfect and complete pattern of life is to worship him for the perfection and goodness of what he has decreed.

Great peace have they that love your law

and nothing can make them stumble.

Our feet can stand strong and steady, our hearts can be certain that this way is the good way.

I wait for your salvation, O Lord,

and I follow your commands.

Now in faith and not impatience – and this waiting accompanies obedience.  This is sanctification – that we should have a heart to change and the willingness to wait or go and let him change us at his own timing.

I obey your statues,

for I love them greatly.

It has become very simple: we now obey out of love.

I obey your precepts and your statues

for all my ways are known to you.

This is all of my life – I’m only obeying your Word, not looking for a path of my own.  I walk along paths that God himself knows and is fond of.  Jesus likes this way, himself.  Amen!

Psalm 119 – 153-160

Look upon my suffering and deliver me,

for I have not forgotten your law.

God cares to look on us and our circumstances – and he doesn’t confuse them.  He knows what is being done to us and what state we are in.  The memory of God’s law is the doing of God’s law: real remembering is enacting, and recalling and meditating on it is doing it – being changed by God’s word.

Defend my cause and redeem me;

preserve my life according to your promise.

What is my cause?  The upright way – and in defending it and proving is, God redeems us.  Through Jesus (who is the absolute example of, and the living truth of, the cause of God) we are redeemed.  His promise has preserved our lives and has preserved my life.

Salvation is far from the wicked,

for they do not seek out your decrees.

How far we have to travel to be in daily salvation!  And how much further when we become lax or passive!  Seeking God’s decrees is vital.  Unless we seek his laws for the time, for our communities, his words for our life and our families and our friends, we will fall behind the running tide of God’s salvation.

Your compassion is great, O Lord;

preserve my life according to your laws.

God’s compassion dissolves this great distance between wicked people and salvation: his laws are alive in Jesus, who preserves life, whose name means Saviour.

Many are the foes who persecute me,

but I have not turned away from your statutes.

Constant prickles of temptation and worldliness are frequent, but tiny.  They alone cannot turn you from the path, the right way.  That comes with the decision to stop seeking.

I look upon the faithless with loathing,

for they do not obey your word.

To grow in faith is to do with obedience.  A faithful friend obeys his conscience, the Spirit, Jesus’ life – all of God’s Word.  So how natural that we will loathe the life of faithlessness.  How horrible to be without God’s presence in life, staying unadvised and unhelped.

See how I love your precepts;

preserve my life, O Lord, according to your love.

And I am amazed at myself!  Not boasting to God, but in amazement and wonder at the passion that arises inside me.  And now, for the third time, life comes from God’s love.  Jesus.

All your words are true;

all your righteous laws are eternal.

Yes – true and applicable, living, responsive, reactive, initial and prioritising.  This is the nature of righteous judgement – to go first, to live by the Spirit, to respond to different situations – and this is what is true about the Word.

Psalm 119 137-144

Righteous are you, O Lord,

and your laws are right.

God’s correctness, goodness and justice inevitably overflow into his spoken instructions – laws – which come from God’s heart, just as our words come from our heart.  The difference is that our heart is changeable, so our words are passing, but God’s heart is faithful and unchanging, so his words are laws, permanent descriptions of what has been, is and will be.

The statutes you have laid down are righteous;

they are fully trustworthy.

All God’s past utterances are equally valuable – he does not delete – and we can reap their benefits at any time, any year, on into the future, without fearing them, knowing all of scripture is God-breathed and good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and making us holy.  The laws to the Jews are like fine wines, laid down and stored, but still so good to drink.  Some might strike us as old-fashioned – but consider how well they stand up, even though they were brewed for very different tastes, written by God to a people far away in time and in a very different culture.  Yet these laws are only the impressions of his own speaking self – his heart – that Jesus summed up in another way – the command to love God and our neighbour without holding back.

My zeal wears me out,

for my enemies ignore your words.

It is exhausting to be zealous, and rightly so, for it should be a drawing out of the depths of ourselves, like exhaustion, seeking with a whole heart, because there are no examples in the world of righteousness and no easy answers.  We cannot simply rest on our brothers’ and sisters’ abilities to find God’s way but must each go direct to God to seek him and his law for our lives.  How does your unchanging character, O God, impress commands into my life and my culture and my daily life?  I have seen how your law pushed into the Jews’ world – now how about mine, today?  Exhausting work!  Zeal is travelling, seeking, walking.

Your promises have been thoroughly tested,

and your servant loves them.

We have only good testimony of God.  His utterance is tried, refined, purified, his Word was refined through the desert, his promises have no weakness or flaw: they are coherent, complete, proportionate, lovely, strong, living and have every appeal to a servant, for they are what we need – not orders but promises, principles rather than simply instructions, so we are free to act for ourselves with full conviction of purpose.

Though I am lowly and despised,

I do not forget your precepts.

No!  It is exactly then, when we do not enjoy the world’s recognition, that we can be most sure of the goodness of God’s word to us.  We are each lowly, despised by the worldly for having these principles, but forgetting them would be the despicable thing.  We must remember through action – by continuing to enact.

Your righteousness is everlasting

and your law is true.

The eternity of God’s character and nature gives integrity to his speech: he alone can claim such a thing.

Trouble and distress have come upon me,

but your commands are my delight.

Oh joy and celebration in trouble and worry – let this be in my life, Lord, for your commands are designed for these times – whether it is difficulty from someone else or our own inconsistent confidence, we can feast on God’s word and his place in our life.

Your statutes are for ever right,

give me understanding that I may live.

They hold the key to eternal and abundant life, and oh, understanding of God’s ways is life indeed!  Being changed by them is really living – a life that will continue beyond the grave.  Ah, Lord God, I long to live with real understanding of your word in me, knowledge of your Son, intimately.

Psalm 119 129-136

Your statutes are wonderful;

therefore I obey them.

God’s words are intended to provoke us to wonder: I say, what is this living voice, this guide, this life?  I cannot comprehend it with my mind, yet I love it – I love him!  I obey out of devoted wonder.  All of your laws are for my good – the prompting of the spirit will always bring good fruit, so do not fear it.

The unfolding of your words gives light,

it gives understanding to the simple.

The light of a clear day and joyful hope – all from an unfolded word.  But it is in unfolding – in the process – that at last I understand – not just knowing about God’s words, but knowing them, ‘gnawing’ them like Petersen, living them – and seeing them in Jesus in the Gospel.

I open my mouth and pant,

longing for your commands.

Yes Lord – the prompting of your spirit and the leading of other believers, I long for them.  Teach me to love your scriptures even more as well.

Turn to me and have mercy on me,

as you always do to those who call on your name.

Satisfy me, O Lord!  Give yourself to me!  I am hungry and I seek real bread.  I want to feast on you in my heart, Lord Jesus – to eat with rejoicing.

Direct my footsteps according to your word;

let no sin rule over me.

In every stepping place – every single footfall – I long to have your spirit close to me, empowering me, checking me, so that I am continually walking in your way.  Then let sin depart from my life, Lord, sanctified in you.

Redeem me from the oppression of men,

that I may obey your precepts.

Yes, God, you take nothing that is not already yours.  You made me, invented me, possessed me, so you can redeem me back.  I wouldn’t live in the worldliness of human culture, I’d rather be bought out placed somewhere I can obey.

Make your face shine upon your servant

and teach me your decrees.

This is the only way for me to learn, Lord – if I see you and experience you.  That is your teaching – the only real teaching – to expose yourself to us and to show us yourself.  Your servant is ready to look up during his labours when he hears his master’s voice.

Streams of tears fall from my eyes,

for your law is not obeyed.

Touch me, then Father, with sorrow for sin and ungodliness.  Let me have this full life that grieves deeply, hopes heartily and acts upon its intentions boldly and clearly.  Only you are God and in you is all life.  Amen.

Verses 121-128

I have done what is righteous and just;

do not leave me to my oppressors.

How can someone claim to be righteous?  Only by God’s indwelling: God cannot leave the new me because he is the new me – I am founded on him and his character.  My once-upon-a-time oppressors, I should pray to be delivered from returning to them.

Ensure your servant’s well-being;

let not the arrogant oppress me.

Well-being relates to our identity as servants of a good master.  We are free of the oppression of the arrogant particularly because the arrogant admit no authority other than themselves- they cannot assume authority over us because we are in a more direct, essential chain of command.

My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,

looking for your righteous promise.

It’s a full-time job, seeking God.  I seek your kingdom on Earth, Lord, your salvation for the people, until day fails and night falls.  If I spent the entirety of every day looking for the application of God’s promise to the day, I wouldn’t be wasting my time.

Deal with your servant according to your love

and teach me your decrees.

To do all this we must embrace the Father’s – the master’s – love for us and let him change us.  What a relief to be taught his will – that we do not have to invent a new way of living, but have a teacher ready and willing to explain to us how we must behave and to help us do it.

I am your servant; give me discernment

that I may understand your statues.

Like a servant entrusted with keys that can unlock his master’s wealth, discernment allows us to understand God’s statutes and then follow them, apply them around us, anticipating his justice, anticipating the natural consequences of people’s actions.  However, ‘no longer do I call you servants’ – John 15:15.  Jesus invited us into a place of understanding we inherit the keys ourselves.

It is time for you to act, O Lord;

your law is being broken.

A bold plea to God – but always relevant – like the inscription on the Clock at St Nick’s church in Nottingham – it is time to seek the Lord.  Always relevant.  Somewhere, in some heart, God’s law is always being broken, but he does desire for us to gain as much a hunger for justice as he has, and does desire for us to ask him to intervene wherever his law is being broken – including in my own self.

Because I love your commands more than gold,

more than pure gold,

This is the security against sin and unrighteousness that the Holy Spirit can give us: a desire for God’s word – a deep love and passion –  that jealously consumes all of our attention, so that there is no spare desire for sinfulness!  What a wonderful prospect – to grow in our desire for God and to become used to his justice until we, eventually, are freed from our pleasure in sin.  Like the hymn: ‘Take away our love of sinning, Alpha and Omega be, End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty.’

and because I consider all your precepts right,

I hate every wrong path.

This is exactly where the scriptures should lead us: a preference for one path, however difficult, is based on considering God’s instruction preferable to every other choice.

 

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.”