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 ...