The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘self

Selfies at Niagara

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IMG_3917There are some things that I could simply stand and stare at for hours. A natural fire. A storm-tossed sky. A coursing stream. Niagara Falls would drop into the category. It is an instantly and constantly fascinating sight, a stable flow of endless variety, an infinitely interesting glory of God.

I had the opportunity to be there again recently, watching from the Canadian side where you get the most immediate views of the falls. I love the great tumble of rocks at the foot of the American falls that churns the waters as it falls. I love the power of the water that pours over and the swirl of the cloud that boils up from the Canadian falls. Give me a little space and a little peace, and I could gaze endlessly.

As I strolled among the tourists, I was struck by the number of people who were not actually looking at this wonder of creation. Of course, the vast majority were looking at it largely through a screen. What struck me particularly, though, were the number of people who were not looking at it at all. In some spots, about a third of the crowd had their backs to the water. With arms or sticks extended, they were trying to angle their bodies so as to get themselves front and centre in a photo or video of themselves with Niagara in the background. I will barely mention the gentleman who was standing on the path with a high end camera concentrating on a series of shots of … the Marriott hotel blocks towering alongside the river!

I know many love to complain at the way we view the wonders of this world through a lens or a screen. But this was something else. Given the opportunity to drink in something of the majesty of the Creator’s work, the concern of so many was to get themselves into the picture. As one friend asked, “Exactly how do they think that their face is going to make that picture better?”

We do much the same with the Creator himself. For most, he is not to be personally adored, but the imposing subject of a passing snapshot rather than the enduring object of deep engagement. For far too many, even Christians, our ideas of dealing with God are like the person at Niagara with the camera in hand, or attached to the end of that glowing wand of Narcissus. We are impressed by God, but he is in the background of a picture of me. We see him in the Bible, but we need to be the central character in the narrative. God is my backdrop. It is our presence in shot that makes him relevant. It is profoundly selfish, blindingly self-centred, genuinely tragic. We have not known him as we should.

There are all the infinite glories of his majesty by which to be entranced. There is the heaven-praised splendour of his glory instantly and constantly passing before us. There is an unchanging flow of endless depth, the infinitely interesting glory of God. And we, even if not taking pictures of the hotels, so often have our backs to God, angling to get ourselves front and centre.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 14 October 2017 at 11:04

Posted in General

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When I am God

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Sin is inherently anti-God, inherently pro-self. Each time I sin I make a statement about myself and a statement about (and against) God. Each time I sin, I declare my own independence, my own desire to be rid of God; I declare that I can do better than God, that I can be a better god than God.

Tim Challies does an outstanding job of unpacking this declaration. Please check it out.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 23 March 2012 at 12:11

Posted in Christian living

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A throne for Self

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James Henley Thornwell somewhere speaks of the desire to serve the living God with all one’s heart and soul and strength, and then speaks the chilling words: “. . . but self is a powerful idol.”  I recall hearing Pastor Ted Donnelly preaching on justification, and speaking of self-righteousness and self-congratulation, and the horror of finding – even in the very outward act of exalting Christ – a little voice whispering in the minister’s own mind, “Didn’t you do that well?”

I was first and most powerfully struck by this when reading a biography of the Baptist missionary, Adoniram Judson, called To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Judson Press).  At one point (382-3), the biographer is seeking to describe a seminal moment in the ministry of Judson, a time of extreme trial (many grievous deaths in his family).  It was his father’s death that brought poignant memories to the missionary of the “glowing ambitions” his pastor father had had for him.  Anderson writes that,

Reliving these memories, Adoniram began to realise that no matter how he had rebelled, his father had succeeded in instilling in him, consciously or unconsciously, a goal of earthly ambition, an intense determination to surpass his fellows.

Judson began to search his heart, and discerned that his fundamental desire in being and doing what he had sought to be and do was not “genuine humility and self-abnegation but ambition . . . [to be] . . . first in his own eyes and the eyes of men.”  Courtney continues thus:

He had always known that his forwardness, self-pride and desire to stand out were serious flaws in his nature.  Now he began to suspect that they were more than flaws.  They made his entire missionary career up to now a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.  He had deluded himself.  But he had not deluded God.  Perhaps here was the intention in all these deaths: to teach him true humility. . . . No wonder it took death itself, by wholesale, to teach him better.  For Adoniram’s mission, God had approval; for Adoniram and his self-love, a harsh lesson.

How truly awful to have the pall of such a conclusion hanging over the scene of one’s ministerial labours: “a kind of monstrous hypocrisy, a method of securing prominence and praise without admitting it to himself.”  Such pride and self-elevation is an act of wicked folly on the part of any child of God, but how much more so for one whose very existence calls him to decrease, that Christ might increase?

Few of us need to be taught earthly ambition by our parents; we inherit it from our first parents.  The idol-factory of the heart has a great forge in which is constantly being hammered into shape a fearful throne for that most insistent god, Self.  How often do we need to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?  What is my true goal?”  Behind the facade of righteous endeavour, of generous effort, do we hide a drive to excel not for the glory of Christ, but for our own reputation?  Are we driven by love to self, or love to God?  How much, how often, we need to examine our hearts, to search our souls, remembering always that “self is a powerful idol” and that God may approve the work but condemn the motive.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 October 2008 at 09:49

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