Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Who's responsible?

I was reading my Bible this morning, the story of Ahab and Elijah. It seemed so reminiscent of our culture today, when theres a problem its "not my fault" is often what we hear or say, no-one prepared to take responsibility for their actions. Maybe because we don't like being seen in a bad light, perhaps because we don't really like being wrong or are not prepared to take the consequences for our actions?

Whatever the reason we need to ask ourselves "how do I react to getting something wrong or there being bad consequences to my actions or words?".

We believe in a God who having created humans with the freedom to choose, saw that we can and do get stuff dreadfully wrong and often with no way to put it right or restore our broken relationship with him. God chose to intervene, which we have just celebrated at Christmas, taking personal action to restore what we get wrong. Accepting the consequences of humanities' wrong choices, he came as one of us, taking those consequences upon himself and putting them right by dying on a cross so that we might not be punished or take those same consequences.

Ahab's choice was to blame Elijah - troubler of the  people, he called him, for the fact that God had shut the heavens and they had had bad harvests. When the real problem was Ahab (and his ancestors') installing other god's in Israel. But Ahab was king, in his own mind he only did right so it cannot have been his fault, it must be someone else's - Elijah's; how wrong he was, read the rest of the story and you will see just how wrong!

When we see things going wrong in our societies today, do we ask ourselves what are we getting wrong or what do we need to put right with God? Possibly we would rather look for someone else to blame, the government, a particular social or ethnic group, circumstances or whatever ...

Its a challenge to all who call Jesus their saviour to own up to our mistakes, Don Francisco wrote a pointed song about this a few years back "It's your own fault" wrong choices or plain old foolishness, often this will have a material price as we put right what we got wrong. We can do something about it, we can own up and take responsibility, we can ask God's forgiveness and not blame others for our mistakes.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Harder Path

Snow stops just about everything when it turns up in Southern England. Its something that because of its rarity just can't be planned for. Today against the advice of the traffic sites I decided that I would drive to my son's University to collect him and bring him home for Christmas.

The traffic sites told of untold woe on the motorways (freeways) around my area and long jams with yet more heavy snow to follow. 5 miles from home I caught the tail back on the M23 northbound and decided to take a chance and use a cross country route that most would not take because of the snow. Apart from taking a lot of care, driving slowly, making sure I would not hit the car in front (if there was one) when braking and so on, it worked fine.  What seemed to be the hardest path turned out to be the best route and it got me where I needed to go and back while many were snarled up for hours on the motorways. My route took more care and concentration but worked!

It struck me that often in life Christians, like non Christians, opt for what seems the easiest path when making choices, decisions etc., like me opting for the motorway rather than narrow, snow covered roads. The path that looks hardest looks that way because it may not fit our plans, desires or requirement for an easy option and yet if we take it, it turns out to be the best. In Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" Christian found this out when choosing to wrestle through harder path, the slough rather than taking the easy path back home as his friend Pliable did!

God set the example when He chose the path of coming to earth as a human, which we will celebrate shortly at Christmas. Jesus told his disciples that the path they would walk would lead them into trouble and anyway who wants to give up everything?

The path we are called to over this Christmas season is the harder one, to have fun without getting drunk, to enjoy company without inappropriate actions, to joke without using coarse humour, to enjoy the food but not stuff ourselves silly. OK so we might stand out from the crowd and some might make fun of us, but if we stand for what we believe then we can shine a light onto the Christmas celebrations in our work places, colleges and schools and families that shows the true spirit of the season ...

A people set apart (Holy), living for Christ and freely choosing his ways over the worlds and yet having fun all the same.

Happy Christmas

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Delight in a gift

While recording a Christmas message today for the church I am soon to become Pastor of, I got to thinking. What presents really make us pleased, happy, overjoyed?

I was using a model of Ferrari 348 which my eldest son thought was a great present when we lived in Italy. In fact we still have his treasured collection of such cars at home. To him such a gift was just the best. My wife the other day mentioned a birthday gift that she had be given. I remember the look on her face of pure joy. She needed a new toilet bag (for bathroom stuff like shampoo, deodorant etc.) and she got a lovely blue one. The funny thing was that the bag came as a free gift with cosmetics that had been purchased as the real present and were inside it. She was so enamored with the bag that it never occurred to her that there was more.  Our little Grand daughter or course delights in a different sort of present and prefers the Teddy that my wife knitted for her.

Whats the point you might be thinking? Well the point is this, different gifts have a different impact on each of us, what excites one does nothing for another. We are quite capable of seeing and hearing about the most incredible of gifts but because its not what we expected or thought we wanted, we turn it down.

Just such a gift for many is the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, the child who as a man presented us with a gift from God that so often is ignored because its misunderstood, thought to be impossible or just not required. Cast aside like so many unwanted Christmas gifts.

But maybe the way its presented by those charged with it is what is really the issue and not the gift at all. After all if you were offered a gift, battered, bent and covered in dirty, torn and well used paper, it might well put you off. When Christ is seen through those who profess faith in Him, what do they see, is it the kind of present which even though they had never thought they needed, suddenly realise they can't do with out? As James reminds us its what we do that gives the truth or the lie to what we claim to believe. Its that acting out of our faith that will give the gift the beautiful look that attracts others to Christ.


So this Christmas, be a light in the world, shine for Christ, live out the truth of your faith and attract others to the greatest present of all, God's gift of life.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Excited Expectation

For those who follow the Christian seasons of the year Advent is upon us. December for many heralds the preparations for Christmas, buying presents, food, drink, extra visits to relatives and all those Christmas cards.

Whatever we think of this time of the year, it is for many a time of expectation, of impatient waiting for presents, for that party, family gathering or good wishes from someone we haven't seen in years. Considering all of these things are they wrong? Is it wrong to look forward to an event or a situation that stirs us or excites us? Israel had been waiting for a Messiah for so long that they had all but given up and yet God's plan unfolded during that census 2000 years ago ... What, I wonder, was the expectation of those travelers, "kings", who journeyed for many miles in the hope of witnessing this event? What is our expectation as we journey through advent, preparing, celebrating, spending money, waiting for the 25th?

In some ways, as a Christian, I can't make any judgment on what those who don't believe in Christ are thinking and doing, but I can encourage myself and others who do believe to think carefully about what we signal by what we do.

For example, I heard someone talking about Christmas cards the other day and pointing out that there is no point in sending a card to someone you haven't spoken to for years. I guess their point is it seems a futile gesture with no point. But anyone who has visited the sick, housebound or lonely will understand the value to these people of knowing that someone cared enough to write a card and send it to them. Yes, for some its the only contact from the sender in the year, but at the very least they are still remembered and once a year is better than never!

When I was younger there was a little thing that romantics like me wrote on a letter or card to someone we were dating or going out with - SWALK - Sealed With A Loving Kiss. When I write my cards, I think of the people and where they are, no I don't contact them all every year, but when they get that card, I hope it touches their heart that I still care about them even if time prevents closer contact. Note to myself - ring a few that I haven't spoken to for years ...



Yet while we were lost in our sinful ways, thinking that no one cared, God in His grace sent Christ as his Christmas message to all humanity. A message that says , I Love you, I care about you and I am prepared to do something to put our relationship right.

He calls us to follow Him, to emulate Him as best we can, to be a light. So in this advent season choose the things to do that will help others have an excited expectation about this time of year, make someones day through that call, visit, card, gift or help make someones life anew through that invitation to a Christmas event at our churches.

Make advent a time of excited expectation for all that Christ means and wants to mean to each and every person.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Rumours or truth?

I was reading earlier the last part of the account of the Israelites taking and settling in the promised land. What I noticed and reflected a little on was Joshua 22 and the account of the tribes that settled on the east of the Jordan river, returning home and making an altar at the river.

OK, you might think theres nothing so odd about that, but then the tribes had been told to serve God, to have one "tabernacle" or place where they sacrificed to God and yet here after a successful campaign where they all acknowledged God's power, they build another altar.

The rest of the tribes hear the rumour of this and decide to sort it straight away, after all they fully remembered what God had done to others who had not followec his laws earlier in the Exodus.

A rumour can , if it is not acted upon and grounded by asking and establishing who reported it and the truth or not of it, have a nasty habit of becoming "truth" just because its been repeated enough times that it becomes common knowledge. "Wonderful" expressions like, "there is no smoke without fire" then come into play.

I was watching a TV program the other day, "Downton Abbey", in which a lot of nasty rumours are circulated about a member of the household staff by others wanting to get him fired. The rumours and half truths that they hear and get from other people who have heard it and thus can give them weight, nearly succeed. But one person decided to follow it up and get to the bottom of the rumours, truth, lies or whatever. You will have to watch the 4 part series to understand it all but suffice to say, the truth was not at all what had been reported and only came out through seeking it.

It's a good lesson in our Christian lives to not simply take for read what we hear of others or of situations. We need always to find out the truth rather than believe even what a trusted source has told us since the rumour may well be unfounded or mistaken. Rumours can be used to destroy reputations, works and even whole Churches if we listen to them and belief them rather than getting to the truth of them.

What we see in Joshua's account is a good example of hearing a rumour, taking action to find out the facts and coming to a godly conclusion. The alter was built not to offer sacrifices but to remind the people on the West bank of the Jordan that those on the East bank were a part of them and prevent anything that might cause those on the East bank being separated, in future, from serving God as they had all so recently agreed.

I wonder how often we act on the rumour before trying to establish the facts of the situation. We hear that someone has done or said something or someone says they have heard that someone has said they ...? Next time you hear someone coming up with a rumour will you ask how they heard it, find out it there is any truth, look for the underlying truth and then act on the facts and not the rumour?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Jesus, good news not bad

How often do Christians get into the press and media for telling others that they have it wrong or are doing the wrong things etc? Pretty well all of the time it seems to me. I know the press likes bad news not good, but as a Christian I have good news to proclaim! I recall a Noel Richards song on the Warrior disc which has this as its subject -

Who can mend hearts that are broken?
Who can bring comfort to all those who mourn?
Who can bring light in the darkest times?
Who can bring peace to the fearful mind?

We have the answer, treasure to share
Through our endeavour, God's love is declared
We have the answer through us he brings
Good news to all the world

As Christians we can spend a lot of our time telling others that what they are doing is wrong, we can proclaim a really negative view of the Church that seems always to be against, fun, against celebration or the way the celebrate (like Christmas and Easter), against one thing or another. The problem, it seems to me , is that those we target do not see what they are doing as wrong. How can they offend a God that many don't know or accept?

A positive example, which has, in my opinion been great this year, is the number of  churches in my area that have offered a safe and fun alternative to "trick or treat", the celebration of Hallow'en. Our church had parties themed "Super Heroes" based around a DVD set "Friends and Heroes", with games, food, sweets, DVD based Bible stories. Teenagers from several churches prayer walked the area, handed out free gifts and posted simple leaflets to many houses. All very well received in our area.
 
So instead of simply saying to the world "Don't do that its wrong" we are saying that fun and dressing up is great. While we don't won't to be involved with or accept stuff that celebrates what we hold to be wrong, theres no reason not to dress up, have fun and celebrate - after all Hallow'en or All Hallows Evening heralds the start of All Saints day to the Church.

We have good news to proclaim and its the way we act and the things we do that proclaim a truth so powerful that those who don't know Christ will take notice because what they experience of us is so different to what they expect that tt will catch their attention. We are as Paul says the "Ambassadors of Christ" proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to a World in need of saving.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

You are my Hope!!


Much has been written about the recent "miraculous" rescue of the Chilean miners, churches claim it as an answer to prayer, the Chilean government as a triumph for them and secularists as a triumph for humanities ingenuity. A story with a happy ending but sadly its not often like this.

As a Child I saw the tragedy at Aberfan unfold in the news, there was no rescue for most, just death under a slide of spoil from the coal mine. This year China has suffered a number of mining tragedies, one reported in April trapped and killed a number while others were saved, and another at the same time as the Chilean one killed 37. China alone loses over 2000 miners a year in such disasters.

I am happy for the miners and their families who were saved in Chile, but can't help asking the question, what about those that were not been saved in such disasters and their families? I wonder if they were able to find comfort for their misery and pain?

We all of us will find ourselves in difficult if not impossible situations in our lives. How can we take comfort in scripture when all around is chaos and confusion? One obvious place is Psalm 46, which talks of God who is our fortress in such times and the one who calls us amidst the confusion to "Be Still and know that I am God". But I think Psalm 71 and especially v14 is key in this; not simply calling on God but remembering who he is and recounting the things he has done, reminding us of the God that we worship, trust and have hope in (v5, 11). The psalmist recalls God in the good and the bad and talks of their hope in God who is their salvation.


Hope is the bottom line; if we hope and trust that God has saved us through Christ, eternally, then even though this life may prematurely end in some disaster or we lose someone we love, we can know that those who believe and trust in Christ will find new life, eternally with him. It cannot remove the pain of those left to mourn but it can provide the beginning of comfort. It was this hope in Christ that led Paul to be able to say in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.


As an after-thought, we hail the rescue of the miners - but who is asking why it happened, could it have been prevented and why in so many counties is mining so dangerous? Perhaps because life is not as valuable to the corporations who own the mines as the product of them and too many are forgetting the value God placed on us when he sent Christ to save us? We should value each life as God does - of inestimable value.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Telling the Stories

In our computer and gadget driven world where there seems so little time to share the stories of life and deeds that encourage and guide us, often from the older ones among us who have much wisdom to pass on, I think we lose out on a major part of life and learning.

I am sure that many have heard expressions after mistakes have been made like "No one reads history anymore" and "if only I knew then what I know now". The thing is its often those very things that others with a few more years under their feet have grown wise in and, if asked or given the time, can share with us and help us not make those mistakes.

Moses reminds the Israelites in Deut 6 - "Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children." talking about God's commands and awesome doings. The key in this passage is to tell the children about God and all he has done, answer their questions about him and to constantly remind ourselves as well. God does not want to be taken for granted in our lives, he wants to asked to be actively involved every day.

I conducted a funeral this week and in it allowed a time for  those who knew the man to share memories of him, what struck me was the now older people, who as young men and women were deeply affected by this mans example and gentle but firm witness of his faith. They respected him and loved him and wanted to talk of his witness to God throughout his life a God who was clearly invited to involved in his life every day.

We have that desire to share the stories of Jesus to thank for the gospels as the writers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, reflected on and wrote down their accounts. The oral tradition committed eventually to paper, sharing the stories with future generations.

How often do we simply sit and share the stories of the Bible with each other? How often do we find time to talk to the children about them and enthuse them with these stories and with those of the lives of people who have followed Jesus?

After all good examples are important and we have few enough good ones to follow, telling the stories of Jesus offers an incredible example to all.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Community benefits

I read somewhere years ago that some life events are more stressful than others. Things like getting married, moving home and having a child were at the top of the list. I managed to avoid moving and getting married close together, but then events meant that I moved jobs, home and within a few months my wife had our first child! The best laid plans often fall down.

The real problem is not the event but the way in which we handle it, how we prepare, how much we get worked up worrying about it and what we do to ensure that the event goes as smoothly as possible. Are you someone who learns from others or someone who just knows that they can do it alone and does not need any guidance or pointers or help?

The church community is a place where we should be supported as we travel through these life events, a place where we can find wisdom, comfort, support and help. As the church described in Acts 2 seems to suggest, we share together. When we moved back in 2007 to be nearer the church we are serving in, the church folks were amazing, helping us clean our old home for its new owners and cleaning our new home ready for us, we would have been at it for months on our own, as it was it took just a day.

I often find people in church with more knowledge of something than me, perhaps you find it a problem to ask for help or advice or guidance? For me its one of the joys, to learn from others, the same is true of our walk with Christ. We are not meant to do it alone but in community so that we learn from each other and gain a better understanding of God through his people rather than develop a sanitised understanding that fits our comfort zone. After all the wisdom of God is not as the wisdom of humanity and we seek it together not apart - a hot coal taken from the fire soon cools and stops glowing, put it back in the fire and it burns brightly again.

All too often we can allow a disagreement or disappointment with some aspect of church, cause us to distance ourselves from that church community instead of applying scripture like Philippians 2 and
1 Cor 13 to it and ourselves. The writer of Hebrews tells their readers Don't stop meeting together, instead get together and encourage each other. So make being part of your Christian community a priority in your life, share your skills and understand and listen to the wisdom of others and accept their help.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Happy ever after ...

When my children were small they loved to hear fairy tales, I am sure you know the ones - Snow White, the princess and the pea, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella ..., every culture has them.

One of the key things, for me, about a good fairy tale is that it has a happy ending. Just think what it would be like if the Prince never found Cinderella, or the piece of apple was not sucked out of Snow Whites' mouth (some kind of kiss that was eh?). The wolf chomping up Red Riding Hood just wouldn't seem right somehow.

As we grow up we hear other stories, which seem just as made up as fairy stories and often its hard to know the difference between what is true and what is false. Many take the view that the Bible is a bit like a clever fairy tale, nice ideas but can't be true and even for many Christians believing the whole lot is too much and so its easier to pick what suits and ignore the rest. I wonder sometimes if what most want is a pick-and-mix Bible so that they can select the bits they like.

Can we have the happy ending, eternal life in heaven, without the rest? Jesus says that we are to be disciples - those who do as he has commanded and since he and God are one that includes what God has commanded. God's promise to us is eternal life with him if we choose to be Christ's disciples - accepting him as Lord and Saviour. You don't say no to a Lord so we are called to do as he has asked.


Is life as a Christian going to be a fairy tale ending? Well I don't think so; Paul, one of the writers of the Bible gave up everything - position, respect, home etc. to follow Christ as did the first disciples. God's promise it not for material happiness now, we won't have all we want and often won't have what we need but God promises to be with us in each and every situation, if we will let him. He seals the deal with the his Holy Spirit so that we will know his commands and direction for us and to be a strength when we need strength and a comfort when we need comfort.

The life of faith is not a fairy tale, its real life; sometimes its blood, sweat and tears, other times is laughter, joy and fun. He is with us whatever a strong tower, a comfort, a healer, a friend and a Saviour.




Monday, 13 September 2010

A Note out of Tune

 The Christian in the west is often filled with the desire to go to the popular Christian festivals, to follow the latest trends in music, in church operation, in how to lead our lives, in reading the right books or believing the latest theories - in short being up to date and switched on.

I wonder though if this is what Jesus really meant when he said we would be in the world but not of the world? Is the gospel message really all about having the biggest church, the latest sounds, the trendiest message or going to the most popular festivals? I think not; but don't get me wrong this is not a rant about these things. The problem seems to me to be that as Christians it is so hard not to adopt or include the ways of the world in our thinking, behaviour and culture.

Are we justified in spending out on the latest CD's, DVD's, books and such - often spending considerable amounts, when we then find it so hard to buy a big issue magazine from a homeless person (for example) or give more than a token amount to help relieve the dire situations in Pakistan or West Africa (to name a few)?

A month or so ago I went to a North London Church to preach and lead and they asked if we could use a song (by Tim Hughes) that they were learning and which I did not know. I fitted it in and was surprised at the feeling it brought in me. I heard it again this weekend when I visited the church my son goes to when he is at University. In the middle of the song it has these words "Stepping forward keep us from just singing. Move us into action".

The gospel is a note out of tune with the ways of this world; we are called to live it out and it needs us to act upon what we sing, what we hear at conferences and what we learn from reading, otherwise these things are a waste of the precious resources God has given us. We should not need to continually top up with more if we live out the gospel in the power of Christ, giving all that we are to him and letting him use us as he directs.

Then the gospel others hear will be a tune they understand as it results in action that brings, comfort, water, food, medicine, justice and shelter as we give up to give to them.



The full lyrics of Tim Hughes song

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in everyway
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give


Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord

Monday, 23 August 2010

A destructive word

A basic rule that I have tried to apply to any job or position that I have held is that when people criticise something or someone I tell them "If you can't offer a positive alternative then don't criticise!". Sometimes people have looked aghast, others have stomped off and some, the majority, have re-thought their comments and attitudes as they look for a positive approach. Usually it results in a constructive solution with practical, positive alternatives to help the person being criticised.
   
Criticism is cheap, it is the easiest thing to do and is often a result of things other than the fact the person, activity or plan is wrong. It can be that we simply don't like it or the person giving the idea or talk or whatever. Read the critics on theatre, food, books in the national press - many fear their comments because they can make or break a work and yet each work has merit but may not fit the pattern a particular critic likes to see. Their comments are often destructive.

Don't misunderstand when something or someone is wrong, it needs to be corrected or put right. But the method that we use to do that correcting makes a huge difference as does the attitude from which we do it. The aim of correction is not to break but to reconstruct, to provide a better way, an alternative or possibility that is accepted and acted upon. This does not happen if the person, who is the object of our correction feels destroyed, stamped on and discredited.
           
Recently I started reading through the Exodus story, one thing stood out - the number of times God produced the goods for the people - freedom from slavery, saved from Pharaohs army, given water, food, a new life, protected from roving Amalekites, shoes and clothes that don't wear out. How does it fit with critisicm?
 
Well every time the people were not happy the complained to Moses about the way he was leading, what God was not doing for them and the result eventually was that Moses was so cross with them that he wacks a rock instead of speaking to it to bring water out of and disobeys God's direction - he does not make it into the promised land because of this (Num 20:8-13). I notice that the people never offered an alternative except to return to Egypt!
                  
Criticism is destructive unless it is done constructively, criticising Gods people and leaders is almost a way of life with some. But ask yourself, could I do better and if I could why am I not? God often chooses the weak, broken and useless things (1Cor 1:27-28) -  (people) and transforms them and because they are who they are they follow him completely without questioning every direction and opportunity that he gives. They honour their call, so when we think they have got it wrong or we disagree with them, find a positive and affirming way to talk with them.

It works both ways of course and church leaders need to follow the same guidelines and avoid cutting people down because they disagree or have an alternative opinion. None of us are right all of the time and most of us are right only some of the time.

Don't destroy with words and cover it with the euphemism "of course I only tell you this in love!". Love first and think before talking and criticising.

Friday, 13 August 2010

When I'm sixty four ...

The other evening I was watching a T.V. documentary about bride stealing in Chechnya, the practice of grabbing a girl, then negotiating with her family to marry her. Often the girl hardly knows the man but more often than not the marriage takes place. One girl was asked, what about love, do you think you will love him? She replied that she hoped that in time she would. Many of us would put love as a major condition to want to marry someone - these girls get no choice. So it got me thinking.

In looking for a marriage partner we often put a high value on what the other person looks like, how they dress or what our emotional or sexual connection with them is and wrap it up by describing it as love. Of course these all play a part in our attraction but we should not forget that people change, wear different clothes, look different as they grow older then we might feel attracted to someone else as our partner changes. Perhaps the Beatles summed it up nicely in their song 'When I'm Sixty four' - "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty four?"

Do we expect relationships to last or are they just as disposable as last years "latest" mobile phone or i-pod version or last years fashions? Do we fall in and out of love with each other or is it really a choice we make to love someone else or to continue loving that same one person?

Well I know that other women catch my attention, as well they might, theres nothing wrong with admiring; I know that just as I mess up so does my wife and I am certain that I am at least as irritating and annoying as she is. Thirty plus years of marriage have taught me that whatever the initial attraction, love comes at a price, love hurts. A price that means loving through all things, in all situations, that one person who becomes a true soul-mate, a companion it says in Genesis as God decided to create woman and for all time men and women will leave their parents and be joined as one, for life. It means not following up on attraction to someone else, which often is just our greed being let loose; it also means gaining the reward of a relationship that grows and blossoms and matures in all of its beauty.

When I think about love as the Bible talks about it, 1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind - but then that has to be seen in the context of the Church before trying to apply it relationships. It tells us that love will overcome all if we are able to put the other first and seek to share with them, look out for them, understand their needs and above all continue to choose to love them in spite of how they change, how they meet up to our expectations or not and any other distractions that draw our eyes.



Ultimately our model is God, who loves each of us so deeply that he came himself, Jesus, to put right what we manage to repeatedly mess up. He offers relationship that is eternal, based on his love for us and his desire to know us and for us to know him. He will love us when we reach sixty four and beyond, he will love us in the great times and the hard times; he will never let us down. Choose that love for yourself and love the God who loves you enough to have been there, done it and got the T-shirt long before you.

 
This is the God who will not walk away from you when you are not all that he wanted you to be, this is the God whose love for you is so deep that he hurt - suffered for you.

Model your relationship with your partner on that kind of love and it will work out no matter how tough it might get at times.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Hearers and Doers

The recent Haitian disaster generated many hours of media coverage, pictures of buildings flattened, streets destroyed, people scattered and many killed, maimed or made homeless. We saw and heard of the disaster and its aftermath, but like much of what we hear these days, it becomes more static in the airwaves after a short time. We emotionally engage for a while, maybe toss some money to a charity as result and then move on to the next thing. The moment has passed and our interest fades as we look for the next thing to draw our attention, like the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.


This generates a culture that listens or hears but resists engaging or doing something about it, leaving to others or to those closer to the situation. We are told that attention spans for learning are falling as more and more young people look to the remote T.V. controller to help them satisfy a growing demand for different viewing, new things, something to interest or absorb even if only for a short while.

I was thinking about all of this the other day  related to food (something I enjoy) and recipes. When we get excited over a great recipe, listening to one of the many food programs on the T.V., what happens if we hear but then do nothing about it? Well just that, nothing! We and others around us will never experience the aromas, textures, flavours, colours and sheer enjoyment of that food if we never actually buy the ingredients, prepare it, cook it and serve it. We will never experience the pure joy of all of this because we heard about it but did nothing ourselves about it.

How does this fit with Christian faith? Well James tells us to be not only hearers (listeners) but doers of the word of God, we are to act on what we hear - through sermons, through teaching, through reading the word of God. Hearing or reading it is not the end only the beginning, we are to put it into action in our lives. We are not to be a sound bite people who hear but then move on to the next sound bite for further stimulation and entertainment. The best sermon in the word has no impact if those who hear do not act upon it. This is James' point :

 
Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

The word of God, however it is listened to, is dry and dusty and of no use if we don't put it into action in our lives. It is meant to change us but can only do that if we take it to heart, put it into practice, in effect live it out. Then it becomes living and active in and through us

The Bible is full of examples of living out what people had heard. Peter and John for example had no money to give the lame beggar outside of the temple, but they did have something to put into action - faith in Jesus Christ; Result the man was able to walk.

If faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains, imagine what God's church could manage if it puts its faith in him into action. Let the word of God become living and active in you, be hearers and doers of the word of God.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Comfort Blankets

When I was fresh out of University, the first time, there was a great series on the radio ... "The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy", based on a book by Douglas Adams and since made into a T.V. series and a film. One of the major pieces of kit required by a Galaxy hopper says the guide is a towel. "A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have ...". The towel has both practical and psychological  benefits.

All of my children had what we called comfort blankets when they were children, that is something that helped them feel secure and safe in bed alone at night with mum and dad downstairs. One was a knitted clown, another a yellow baby's knitted blanket. I suspect if I looked hard enough where each lives I would find some remnant of those comforts.

We all have things that make us feel safe and secure and often any idea of changing those things or leaving them behind provokes the most rapid and vehement of responses from us. In church life it can be a particular prayer being used each service or the types of songs and instruments, it can even be where we sit or the kind of seats we use. All in a sense provide a comfort blanket, a sense of security in a very volatile world.

Another area of church life that often provokes a "run for the hills" attitude is mission - that is reaching out in our communities, making friends, meeting needs, inviting people home for a chat or even to a church event or social. In effect church with its services, meetings and internal activities can be a comfort blanket for those who attend. Leaving that comfort behind and engaging with a generally non Christian world, evokes feelings of fear, possible danger, rejection, scorn, being laughed at. Jesus took on board all of those things for us, he asks us to risk them for others. Have you ever asked yourself or more importantly non-church folk what they see, hear, take away when they come to church services?

Fortunately the Bible gives us a few hints that we are not to stay in our comfort zones, with our comfortable ways to do things. The early disciples were people of the way, they went out to others, often breaking new ground and shattering taboo's and religious comfort blankets. Acts is a good place to start if you are thinking of putting your comfort blankets down, try following one of Paul's journeys for example his visit to Philippi . If you like hearing rather than reading try youversion.com, its pretty cool and you can set it up to listen to scripture being read.

Give it a go, let go of the comfort blankets, let Christ lead you and go out and be a person of the way - reaching neighbours and friends for Christ.


Don't forget if you want to follow this blog - click the "follow" button.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Formal Dress Not Required

Have you ever wondered where our dress codes come from and what they are? I found a web site the other day dedicated to telling the dress codes for occasions in different countries. Some suggest that these codes are set by each society or sub group in a society, in part to make a statement or to set themselves apart in some way. One thing that is clear is that these codes change with time.

Not so long ago a City of London business person was expected to wear smart business clothes, often a suit of  some sort. Today on a commuter train into London you will see all sorts of dress styles on business folks, casual is becoming more popular, smart less so. The other day I heard a radio report that in a recent survey a large percentage of women thought that wearing jeans to the office and even to weddings was perfectly OK.


I have to say that for weddings I still dress up a little and for my graduation from Spurgeon's college in London recently I wore a more formal outfit with a bow tie (I often wore these when in business). Perhaps a reflection of having, like many of my generation, to wear a school uniform - the great leveler of children and so wanting to be different.

My grand daughter was not as impressed with my gear as she might have been, but then she was the centre of attention for all of my family.



What about church going folks, is there a dress code, how do you know what it is and do you need to follow it? Well the answers is yes, no and maybe or maybe not. Certainty there is something of the wearing Sunday best culture in many Churches and for some it is an opportunity to dress up. However for others who wear more formal clothes all week they prefer to dress down and wear casual clothes. When I was in the Congo they tended to dress up and in fact liked the preacher to wear a smart outfit and tie for services in 30degC plus temperatures and high humidity. 

In some regards we can get too hung up on what we look like almost as if our clothes suggest something about how well we are with God, our dress code should not distract others from the reason for going - to come together and worship God. Don't get me wrong I know that some wear smart clothes to church as a sign of respect for God and there is nothing wrong with that so long as we don't make it a legal requirement and so exclude others who don't have or wear such outfits. Jeff Lucas talks about a girl who stopped going when others in the church told her that her Doc Martin boots were not godly in his book Creating a Prodigal Friendly Church.

Fortunately formal dress is not required to attend church. God is concerned with our heart attitudes more than the clothes that we wear to church, we can be the smartest dressed and yet live a life that denies what we say we believe, stealing, fighting, swearing, gossiping and so on. The heart attitude that we bring with us to church is formed and fashioned by the life we live in Christ, our prayer life, our service, our love and our study of his words to us.

Perhaps if we spent a little more time on these and came together for worship of God with a pure heart full of wonder at all that he has done with and through us, we would reflect something of God's glory and that would be our outer clothing?

This little blessing from the Northumbria community might help remind us

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

If you want regular reminders of this bog - be a follower 

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Prayer - active participation or an excuse for doing nothing ...

Are you one of those people who always answers "I'm OK" when someone asks how you are? Perhaps it seems too personal to say something like "I'm having a bad time of it ..." since they may ask you to tell them more. On the other hand often, in my experience, people use this question as a throw away, they don't really want to know how you feel but it makes them feel better to have asked and anyway if you told them you are not doing well, they might not know how to cope with that.

If you are someone who asks the question not expecting an answer, how do you handle someone who tells you that life is not good or they have some illness or problem to face? Do you wilt under the barrage and cut down the conversation moving on to someone else as quickly as possible or respond with platitudes like "it's OK it can only get better" or "I know someone much worse off .." or do you ask them more, listening with a sense of care?



Its not easy to get it right but perhaps having a right attitude to both the asking after someone or responding to the question would help us all to engage better with each other, not getting or giving a life history of troubles but simply responding to a genuine question with some reality which allows sharing of issues and joys.



When someone in church says in response "I will pray for you" - do you expect them to do anything? I do, I am an optimist at heart and want to find the and see the best in everyone, if they say I will pray for you in that situation, I trust that they will.


Paul in letters he wrote to churches says "pray continually" and "... and always keep on praying for all the saints", reminding them and us that prayer is serious, talking with God for that person and their situation is a privilege not a duty or a bore. We should neither promise what we won't follow up on nor turn from offering to walk with that person in prayer or allow others to walk with us in prayer.

 So in the same way that I expect others to pray for me, I pray for them, keeping a note of who I am praying for and why for my daily prayer time. For me offering prayer is not an excuse to do nothing and pass on, it is a way to actively participate in a persons situation and life, bringing them before God and asking him to transform their situation or thanking him for the good things in that persons life.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Patience, but I want to know now!

In Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there is a precocious little girl called Veronica Salt, used to getting her own way in whenever she wants, her watch phrase was "I want it now!". All who have read the book or seen the films (and if you haven't shame on you, head down to your local library and borrow a copy), will have laughed at her antics and yet, as is often the case with humour, we can find we are laughing at our own nature taken to an extreme. Are we ever really patient or like Veronica are we impatient to have whatever it is we want or desire or think we need .... NOW?

Patience is a virtue we hear others say and yet it is in such short supply in this day and age, the age of instant access to money, to shops (via the internet), to entertainment (TV) and to the things that might satisfy us. Take marriage and sex for example, today the attitude to sex and marriage is more a try before you buy, rather than being patient waiting first for the wedding and then for the wedding night. Something God intended to be special between a man and a women, something that should bond, unite and strengthen, turned into a must have now commodity rather than the culmination of a patiently grown, loving commitment for life, before God.


In a small way this is reflected in gardening, at my home in the early spring I had a large pruning job to do on the roses that grow against the front of the house. A careful slow and loving task, which if done badly can wreck the plant. Months of waiting are required to even see if the plant survived it, but now it is in full bloom, more than ever before, not all at once but some buds opened while others are still closed offering a tantalising suggestion of what is yet to come.

If you look closely you might see some more sowing with love and patience that will provide beauty later in the summer.

Patience is something I am learning a lot about at the moment having just gained a Theology degree at Spurgeons college in preparation for pastoral ministry, but as yet, God has not shown me where he is going to take me next. I could be impatient and jump at the first opportunity but it is far more important to wait for God to reveal his choice to me.

Patience is one of the things that the Apostle Paul writes about in relation to church life, as something that comes from walking a life with Christ (Gal 5:22) and something Christians are told to have with each other (Col 3:11-12), because as God knows, none of us are perfect. Our impatience can lead to hasty words or actions, badly formed or badly informed opinions and breaks in the wholeness of Christ's body, his Church. It is much harder to undo something and put it right than not to have got it wrong in the first place. Applying patient consideration of issues, actions, words can avoid so much upset.

God in his patience waits for us to want to spend time with him, to give up our lives to him so that we might receive back life in all of its fullness or abundance so that we might know the peace which he gives to all who patiently trust in him.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding be upon you ...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Like a little child ...

Some things have to be experienced to be understood, having passed through the babies, children, teenagers phases with my own children, it has come as a real surprise to experience the same feelings, emotions and joys as I hold or interact with my grand-daughter Rebecca.

There is something about the look of innocence in her eyes as she looks at me, the joy when she smiles and even at the way she falls asleep as I or or my wife rock her in our arms and sing to her (good job she hasn't learned to know good from bad singing yet!). There is a trust there which is not about understanding or being in control but in simply not being able to do anything else except trust that we have her best interests at heart.

It seems to get harder as we get older, to trust, I mean, life has a habit of shaping us and in response we find it harder to trust so completely because we don't want someone else in charge of us. For many of us trusting in a God who often seems pretty remote to us is difficult, especially when that God says we should have faith like that of a little child (Matt 18:3), that is trust him completely. Pretty well impossible for most of us because we feel less secure letting God call the shots and prefer to do as we want with no restrictions.

How does trust work? Well in a simple way it works like this practically - I can't do something, I know someone who can, but to accept what that person can do for me I have to surrender some of my control/ independence and rely to some degree on that person. I have a friend who is a mountain walking / climbing expert, I (on a previous trip) refused to climb a mountain in Wales (Britain) as it looked too difficult for me and I felt I would not be in control in that environment. A few years later, same mountain, my friend persuaded me to trust him, surrender some of my independence and go with him up that mountain - I did and enjoyed it, reaching the top and going even further than I expected.


When Jesus died for us he did an extreme thing on our behalf, something we could not do for ourselves, restore what sin caused us to loose, our relationship with God. The problem for us is that we want to believe but on our terms, maintaining control. Trust me like a child trusts, Jesus tells us, and then you will become my disciples. Just as I would not do anything that would harm Rebecca, God tells us that he will not harm us but seeks our good (Matt 7:10). Learning to trust God as he deserves, in reality is the only way to really walk in faith and relationship with him. He loves us, we can trust him.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Living dangerously ...

Taking Risks

Extreme sports seem to be all the rage at present. Only this week a young woman was hurt tomb-stoning from a local breakwater and another water related sport is coasteering - swimming, climbing, jumping into the sea along a piece of coastline. I like the idea of that one and the places to jump in are deep enough so its a bit safer.

What holds some of us back from taking risks in life? Is it fear of the unknown or needing to be in control or maybe we just like life to be safe and cosy? Now I am not suggesting we all need to be adrenaline junkies looking for the next extreme thing to do to get a new buzz or high. But on the other hand faith, as a friend of mine is apt to remind me, is a four letter word! While you puzzle that read on.

Daily Take up your cross

In the Bible Luke 9:18-27 Contains that amazing verse telling us to "daily take up your cross and follow me", what does that mean in daily living? - Living Dangerously ..., taking risks.

Look at where Luke places this text, just after the disciples have found that Christ can empower them to do the business - heal the sick, cast out demons, just after the feeding of the 5000. Miracles R'us!

What does Jesus then teach them? If you want to follow me, daily take up you cross and follow.

Jesus was Seen and Known -

His ministry was public, in your face and bold, he calls his disciples to follow this example. No wonder Peter was taken back at the idea of Jesus being crucified!

The cross was public and humiliating, not the place for a king or a ruler, a place for a criminal, a thief - or the son of God, doing what was needed to set us free.

Disciples are called to follow, not a one off prayer but a life of following, taking up the cross and relying on Christ - live dangerously, walk on the edge where Jesus calls you to be.

Jesus was visible, vulnerable and effective - he calls us to be the same.

Now something even more radical in our world of self centered-ness, striving to win ...

Give up to win

Imaging throwing a race or competition - madness most would think. Jesus tells us to throw the race of life to gain life eternal. He canceled the debt we owe to God and made a public train wreck of the devil and all of his works. He gave up his life to win life for us, follow me he says, let go of your security in the world, live your life dangerously for me

Jesus calls us to daily die, over and again that we might win - sounds crazy, weird and impossible and yet ... its the truth, no longer held by those things that chain us we can soar on wings like eagles for him.

We may not be brave, he can strengthen us;
We may not be gifted in our eyes, he can gift us;
We may feel powerless, he can empower us.

All it takes is to desire to live dangerously for Christ, to love him and look to him as our model.

Oh and in case you are still wondering faith ... a four letter work spelled  R..I..S..K

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Refracted Light

When someone else sees you do you wonder what they actually see or maybe you don't mind? Sometimes what we think we are showing it not what is actually seen, we just don't realise it. Theres that expression "don't judge a book by its cover" and then there is "don't go on first impressions". I was once told by one of my bosses that when I interviewed potential  employees that my wearing smart clothes and a tie was too intimidating for the candidates (potential software engineers). He may well have been right, but its what I was taught earlier in my career. Funnily enough when I lived in Italy I was told to dress up, it was expected of senior people that they look the part - "la bella figura".

Perhaps more importantly we should ask of ourselves - what does my lifestyle say about me, does it talk of a person in love with an incredible saviour or of something else? It is so easy to get submerged in the culture we live in and find ourselves adapting to that rather than seasoning it, as salt should do. The clothes we wear, the things we take with us (i-pod, mp3, smart phone ...), the books we read (if we read at all) and the films we watch all say a lot about us and what we find ok and not ok.

In my elementary physics lessons, a few years back, we played with prisms (glass pyramids), experimenting with what happens when you shine light into it. The result is that the light is split up and focused through the other faces of the prism, what goes in produces what comes out and is seen.  A diamond is even more dramatic, as light shines onto it, it is reflected from and refracted through the facets (sides) of the diamond which sparkles. But, and here is the key, no light on the diamond means that it cant reflect, refract or sparkle.

The same is true for us as Christians, we can culturally engage, do the latest things, have clever, witty answers to the popular questions. But in the end those looking at us will be asking what does their lifestyle say about what they believe, can we see the truth of their words in their lives? Our walk is a daily walk with Christ, through prayer, through hearing or reading God's word in scripture, through meeting together, through sacrifice of ourself and listening to God as he directs our paths to do what he has planned for us to do.


Think of the impact of a diamond, its hard to ignore, if we let the light of Christ illuminate our lives daily, it will transform us and then like the diamond we will shine for him and the truth of what we say we believe will be borne our in our lives. The results are surprising, but then we believe in a surprising God.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Just one look

If you are of "mature" years like me, you might remember the Hollies song "Just one Look", with its chorus: Just one look, that's all it took, Just one look ...

Its true at least in my experience, that one look is often all it takes, no word spoken, no actions, just a look. That look can indicate adoration, heartfelt love; it can indicate hatred, loathing and fear; it could be sadness or sympathy. Our faces are an incredible window on what we are feeling and how we are reacting in a given place and time.
Sarah & Neil
Phil & Louis
Last Summer I watched two of my Children marry, and the looks that were exchanged between the couples during the services, were priceless, devotion, love, joy all mixed together. Not a word spoken and neither was any needed, the looks on each face showed all that was going on between them.
 


A few years back my wife and I went to  New York and at sundown one evening stood on top of the Empire State building, I noticed the look on Nicola's face, joy, wonder ..., its a great romantic place and time - guys take note!

I was stopped in my Bible reading the other morning at the point where Jesus, during his trial, looks at Peter (Luke 22:61-62); Peter who had swore never to let Jesus down but had denied he knew him three times that night already; Just one look, thats all it took! We don't know how Jesus looked at him - perhaps sadness, perhaps love, but whatever the look it hit Peter and Peter must have felt his very soul was being torn because he wept. Possibly feeling he could never be good enough to serve Jesus, never able to look his friend and lord in the face again.

Now we know the end of the story where Peter is restored by Jesus after Jesus' rose again from the dead, but what about us? How often do we leave saying sorry, offering forgiveness or restoring someone to our affection and carry anger, guilt, sin or pain unnecessarily?  Paul writing to the church in Ephesus tells them not let their anger get the better of them, "don't let the sun go down on your anger"

Do you know that whatever your situation, Jesus can help you put it right? He is the one who loves you even when you find nothing to like even about yourself? The one who will give you just one look that says "I love you more than you can know".

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

We don't need to walk alone.

At what point do we admit to ourselves that we are past the point of our ability or endurance in a given situation? If most of us are truthful, the idea of admitting that we can't fix it, sort it, control it or whatever brings with it a sense of failure, the idea that we are not as in control or as capable as we had imagined.

Of course our whole upbringing and education can also help to provide the basis for not wanting to seem to need help, "I can do it myself" was a common shout from my daughter when she was a little girl, a very independent child and young woman. How often it is not until something is almost or actually beyond fixing that we admit to the fact that we really can't do it on our own? In my careers I have certainly come across times like this, and if you knew me you would know how much I used not to like failing, possibly thats why most companies I worked for gave me the difficult, sometimes nigh on impossible jobs to do.
Do you every feel like this?
 On one occasion I recall working on a particularly complex design which had some nasty algorithms in the software which we had spent months testing, only to have them fail again. Long nights, hard days, until on the way to the office one morning, I thought to pray, "Lord I don't know how to fix this, can you show me what needs doing?". No flash of lights, bangs of inspiration, sorry if you were expecting that result, but a peace and calm that allowed me to take a fresh look at the information and test results, see a pattern and recognise eventually the issue, something I had gotten wrong because I am not perfect.

The point is God never meant us to struggle with life alone, he meant us to walk with him - Christ tells us not to carry the worlds burden on our shoulders but instead to carry his, a light and easy one. He wants to be involved in all that we do and have a proper daily relationship with us. If you don't have this now you might want to rethink your priorities and get into a relationship with him. Visit you local church, ask about the God who loves us enough to want that relationship, only a fool thinks they can do it all alone and the beginning of true wisdom is recognising and respecting that God.

Go for it, you were never meant to walk alone ...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Attentiveness to God

My wife, Nicola, reminded me the other day that while we don't think of each other every moment of the day, it does not mean that we have any less affection and love for each other than when we do. Love is not a matter of obsessively thinking about the other person, it is more carrying that person with you in all that you do, not doing things that would harm that relationship but things that grow it and look after it as we go about our daily activities.

I hear too often phrases like "I can't find any time to be with God" or "I haven't any time to pray". Expressing perhaps an understanding that being with God or finding time to pray means always setting ourselves apart, going somewhere quiet and being with God. There is a place for the quiet time with God, the time of devotional reading and prayer, being with him in that one on one way. But we can end up beating ourselves up over it and feeling that we are really not very good Christians if this is the only way we think of prayer and being with God.

I recall in my busyness when in the Software industry, working long hours, traveling, dealing with time zone changes etc., that sometimes I felt disconnected from church and friends, but then a phone call, a chat on skype or MSN, a few emails, a look at the photo I carried of my wife and children and I was connected again. Little things reminded me of friends and family.

On one occasion when looking out over Singapore one evening watching the lights from the 60th floor of an hotel, I reflected on all the things of the day. The everyday things, where I might have thought I had forgotten all about God but was in fact sharing my day with him. Remembering the short prayers before meetings or for a situation that had arisen, recognising the answers and guidance, which did not come from a booming voice or writing on the wall, but from applying godly principles in those daily, routine items.

A book I have been reading recently The Day is Yours by Ian Stackhouse (well worth a read), reminded me that even the daily chores, looking after a child, a sick person, doing the hoovering, washing up (or loading and unloading the dishwasher), cooking meals, going to meetings, talking to people ... all of these can be Spiritual things, if we are attentive to God as we go about them. As Ian says of the busy mother, "... even the kitchen can become Holy ground."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Impressions and Make Overs

I was listening to a song in the car earlier, Lifesong by Casting Crowns and it got me to wondering what my life says about my faith.

What impression do other people have when they meet you and get to know you, do you wonder, does it concern you.? We all, so we are told, have masks that we use depending upon the people we are with and the impression that we want to give. I am sure psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have a "proper"term for this. For example when I am with my granddaughter (5 months old), I sing to her, cuddle her, talk in baby language and just enjoy having her with me. When I meet people while walking the dog, I am friendly but slightly distant, I don't want to be too pushy. Then again when I am with church people I am careful not to be ambiguous in what I say so that I don't confuse people or give a wrong impression.

I was talking earlier with some friends at college about how we thought we are meant to live as Christians given that many people complain that they see little if any difference in those in the church to those outside. Is it all about having our needs met, feeling protected and looked after? If it is how then does my lifestyle (house, cars, money to live on, safe environment, food on the table - and in the fridge, hospital when I need it ...) speak to someone who is struggling to survive, no food or money, working for a slaves wage so that I can wear nice, cheap clothes or buy nice cheap food?

I think there is a disconnect and I need to reevaluate what Christ asks when he tells me to daily take up my cross and follow him. Perhaps paying more for things and using Fair Trade or organisations like Freeset (check it out). How do I treat others, am I biased based on what they wear, where they live or how they speak? Jesus had time for all, spoke to just about anyone even those who wanted him dead. He told those who follow him that we need to see others as if they were him - "'Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'" (The Message)

What does my life look like to others, what impression does it give, not as good as it might I fear, I need a make over in what my life shows about what I believe, how about you?

Maybe the lines from Lifesong "May my lifesong sing to you .." need to be more real in all of our lives so that Christ can be seen more clearly in the way we live and the things we do.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Memories that last

When I have a few moments to myself I sometimes reflect back on the experiences that have made a real impact on me during my life and travels. You know those things which are not always in your mind but at the time made a big hit with you. One that comes to mind was the first time I visited a restaurant in Singapore, called The East Coast Seafood Centre, with a work colleague, David, who knew about good places to go. It looked out over the sea and the food was excellent, Chilli Crab, Pepper Crab (my favourite) and fried squid, a feast indeed of flavours, tastes and fiery pepper and chilli. It is a place where you have to get fully involved with your food to appreciate it. I have been back each time I visited Singapore on business. It is a great memory among the boredom of airports, flying and the busyness of meetings to sort things and plan things, that were my way of life.

The one memory which tops my list and which really does it for me, was the morning I woke up to be told by my wife, Nicola, that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour! Pure joy showed on her face and she asked me where her Bible was because she wanted to start reading it. Our walk with God can have such moments, should have such moments and not just the thrill of the big event with thousands of people, but the times when we can truly say - "that was God" and which survive the passage of time as reminders of just how much God has been, is and will be involved in the lives of those who love him. They help us in those times when we feel that God is not speaking or listening, and remind us that actually he always is, but perhaps we are not so good at spending time with him and hearing him.