Friday, 31 December 2010

Grace

I recently learned the difference between common Grace & saving Grace (go me!). It may be really obvious to everyone other than me but if not, here’s my definition:
Common Grace = the gifts from God (such as life, health and good fortune) to everyone regardless of whether they’ve accepted him into their lives or not.
Saving Grace (as the name suggests) = the gift from God of salvation to his followers.
Also, if you’re interested, Mercy can be defined as not getting what we do deserve (i.e. negative consequences) whereas Grace is getting something (positive) we don’t deserve (or could never earn).

Some people ask the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ and there are two elements to this, the first being: how do you define what makes a person good or bad? Biblically, no one is good by God Standards (our standards are irrelevant!). The second element to the aforementioned question is the flipside: ‘why do good things happen to bad people?’ and the answer to this is: common grace.
As a side-note, bad things happening to ‘good’ people and good things happening to bad people flies in the face of those still believing in Karma.

There defiantly was common grace in the Old Testament (otherwise criminals wouldn’t have had good health or liars would die upon opening their mouths – that’s what life would be like if Karma were to exist) however, a lot of people wrongly assume that there was no saving grace prior to Jesus being born (at the start of the New Testament) as he hadn’t died yet to save people that existed before his birth.
People who make this assumption tend to label God as unjust and unmerciful and these labels would be accurate if indeed the assumption was true but, thankfully, it’s not and I’ll explain why:

God is the same yesterday, today and forever - God is unaffected by time as he works outside of it; it is his creation. Jesus is God and as such he works outside time also (aside from when he came to earth as a human). When Jesus died for all our sins he really did die for them ALL – past, present and future. He’s able to do this because time is only relevant while on earth.
If he’s able to remove our past sins, which he is, then he can remove the past sins of others regardless of what point in time they lived as it is irrelevant to him.

I believe 1st Corinthians 10 verses 1 - 4 is an implicit reference to the fact that what happened in the Old Testament was affected by Christ’s life and death (implicit because that wasn’t the main point of what Paul was saying).

The True Nature of God Part 2

I always imagined God as a man sitting on his thrown, head in hands despairing over every mistake I make but this isn’t accurate. He already knows what mistakes I’ll make *long* before I make them, nothing I do can surprise him. As the Bible says – he’s not ‘distant and angry’.
It’s said that Christians will be told “Well done, good and faithful servant” by God upon death but despite knowing it’s true in my head it’s still not the response I’m expecting.
I find it really hard to merge what I KNOW God’s like and what I THINK God’s like in my head...

Have you ever asked yourself the question ‘who is God to ME?’ – In my experience, God shows different aspects of his being to different people at different times. When you’re upset he’s your rock and your comforter. When you’re wrong he’s your merciful judge pointing out your mistakes and giving you another chance.

It struck me a while ago that maybe the reason I have only a tiny bit of ‘real’ joy (as opposed to temporary joy from eating my favourite meal or watching a great movie that doesn’t last, it quickly forgotten about and doesn’t change you as a person) because I only have a little bit of God. Now, I mean that in the sense of ‘I need to get to know God better’ not ‘God is in this part of my life but the rest is my own’ as that’s not possible, you either have all or nothing.
I guess these series of posts on God’s true nature is about me getting to know God more personally than ever before, in the next 2 posts I will be looking at attributes God is said to embody (such as holiness and love).

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The True Nature of God Part 1

It’s amazing how often God is misunderstood, even by Christians. It’s easy to do considering how complex, even on a purely conceptual level, he really is. With that in mind, this post – if it were to go into full detail – would be literally never-ending and therefore I will attempt to focus on 2 aspects I believe to be apparent in God’s vast character.

Firstly, I once heard God described to me as ‘the great networker’. This title makes sense when you consider that he knows each person on this planet as well as being the ultimate creator of the very time they use to meet each other. If God guides your life (as he does with Christians who have given Him their lives) then he can make good come out of situations that the devil had intended for bad. For example, the devil could be working hard to make sure you’re an office party where you’ll be tempted by adultery but God can take that situation and make it so that instead of being lead astray your attention is elsewhere as you’re introduced to a top business executive who’ll offer you a new job – of course this is purely hypothetical but my point is that God has this power. If indeed that situation did happen you would most definitely never know that God had stepped in and this is just one of many reasons we should all give thanks to God more often; For He does things for us all the time that we don’t even notice – right now he’s causing your cells to replace themselves and providing air for you to breathe. Thinking about it like this is mind-blowing, maybe that’s we often gloss over it.

Secondly, I know a lot of people struggle to understand how both God and people wrote the Bible. We’re told in 2 Timothy Chapter 3 verse 16 (NIV) that ‘Scripture is God breathed’ and as such it’s commonly referred to as ‘the word of God’. A helpful illustration I’ve found is to think about the process in terms of Ghost-writing – it may sound a bit farfetched but bear with me.
In typical Ghost-writing, a professional author writes a novel under the name of a celebrity often using an idea outlined by the said celebrity. This isn’t EXACTLY what happened when God ‘wrote’ the Bible through physical people but it’s probably as close a comparison as you’re going to get.
God had all the ideas and knew everything that was to be written, he then instructed specific followers to physically write them down – often in their own personal style while not taking away from the intended message. As you could assume, this would be a complex process as the physical writer would have to make sure – through prayer – that each word did indeed come from God and was untainted by their own thoughts and/or opinions. No wonder it sometimes took years for a book of the Bible to be written!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lessons from Literature Part 2 – Forgiveness

Taken from ‘How Not to Pray’ by Jeff Lucas, Chapter 8, Page 118.
Copyright 2003 Jeff Lucas

“Forgiveness is not an act that seeks to pretend what was done to us was not wrong; on the contrary, the very fact that it is ‘forgiveness’ that is offered clearly recognises that sin has been committed; to state the obvious, if it were not wrong then it wouldn’t need to be forgiven.
Forgiveness does not bless sin. Nor does forgiveness release the other party from the negative consequences of their actions. Everything may not return as it was; indeed, some relationships may be fractured beyond repair. Forgiveness does not imply that there will actually be full reconciliation. The damage done to a marriage shattered by adultery may be an example; the aggrieved party may indeed forgive but that does not mean necessarily mean that a marriage will continue. Scripture seems to give the wounded party a choice in that. In just the same way that we can be forgiven by God for our follies, yet may still suffer the natural consequences of them, so forgiveness doesn’t cancel out the effect that our sin has caused.”

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Your Lies Will Find You Out

One Sunday, after the sermon, a pastor asked his congregation to prepare for next week's sermon at home by reading Mark Chapter 17. Everyone uttered a sound of approval.

The following Sunday the Pastor asked everyone who had read Mark Chapter 17 to raise their hand - everyone did. Then the pastor said: "Mark doesn’t have 17 Chapters, welcome to my sermon on lying"

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Greatest Love

John Ch 15 v 13 & 14 – “The greatest love a person can show is to die for his friends... you are my friends”

The first few times I read this passage I thought it was mainly getting at the fact that the disciples should love their friends enough to be willing to die for them then it hit me (like a ton of bricks) that (while the first point is still true) Jesus is in fact saying he will demonstrate this love by dying for the disciples (emphasised later in verse 14 by the statement “...you are my friends”.
But the lesson doesn’t stop there... (and I love the fact that God uses 1 point to make 3) – Jesus is also making reference to the fact that the disciples will one day give up their lives specifically for Christ in martyrdom (reinforcing the message of Matthew 16 v 24 – ‘take up your cross and follow me’).

Monday, 15 November 2010

Lessons from Literature Part 1 - The Story of Mr Van Der Broek

I have somewhat accidently began a personal study on prayer and so far I feel like I’ve learnt so much and yet I know it’s the very tip of an iceberg.

It all started when I began reading ‘How not to Pray’ By Jeff Lucas again. I’d originally started the book ages ago but then forget about it soon after. My “personal study” has also included listening to the ‘Jesus Calling’ audio-book I’ve had on iTunes for months, watching ‘The Big Silence’ series on the BBC and the rediscovery of my prayer diary.

I really recommend ‘How Not to Pray’ even if all you read is Chapter 8 – the chapter really touched me in 5 specific segments that cover:
Warnings for Prayer ‘intercessors’,
Negative Piety,
Forgiveness,
The Story of Mr Van Der Broek (a perfect example of forgiveness)
and notes on a Brazilian prison called Humaita.


I think the message from each of these segments is so important; I think lots more people would benefit from the message being shared and therefore I plan to include each of them, here, on this blog. Firstly, the heartbreaking story of Van Der Broek:

A frail black woman about seventy years old slowly rises to her feet. Across the room and facing her are several white police officers. One of them is Mr. Van der Broek, who has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman's son and her husband some years before. Van der Broek had come to the woman's home, taken her son, shot him at point blank range and then set the young man's body on fire while he and his officers partied nearby.
Several years later, Van der Broek and his men had returned for her husband as well. For months she knew nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband's disappearance, Van der Broek came back to fetch the woman herself. How well she remembers the vivid detail that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were "Father forgive them..."
Now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confessions offered by Mr. Van der Broek. A member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks, "So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"
"I want three things," begins the old woman calmly, but confidently. "I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial."
She paused, then continued. "My husband and son were my only family. I want secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me." She also stated that she wanted a third thing. "This is also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can let him know that he is truly forgiven." As the court assistants came to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr. Van der Broek, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted. As he did, those in the courtroom, family, friends, neighbours - all victims of decades of oppression and injustice began to sing, softly but assuredly, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me".

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Local Christian Institute Meetings

The Christian Institute is a charity that “stands up for Christian truth in the public arena” and if you’re on their mailing list you should already be aware that they are holding some local meetings (in my area at least, I can’t find any info online for other areas).

For those of you reading this in Northern Ireland your local meetings are:

Ballymena at The Adair County Hotel, 1-7 Ballymoney Road, BT43 5BS
8-9.30pm on Thursday November 18th

Belfast at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church, Templemore Avenue, BT54FX
1-2pm on Friday November 19th

Newry at The Canal Court Hotel, Merchants Quay, BT35 8HF
8-9.30pm on Friday November 19th

Topics of the meeting will include: Religious Liberty, Charity Commission and Practical Advice.
The speakers are Collin Hart, Callum Webster and Benjamin Mitchell.
For more details contact Sandra Mackay on 0289041667

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Me and My Big Mouth...

I wrote on here recently that I struggle(d) a lot with being a slave to guilt and regrets. I was thinking the other day about all the regrets I have and I realised that around 90% of them are in fact things that I’ve said (as opposed to things that I’ve done - or not done - which forms the other 10%).

Those who know me well will be aware that I have a big mouth and as such I seem to suffer from ‘Foot-in-Mouth’ syndrome rather chronically – therefore, being all too aware of this, my recent realisation shouldn’t have come as such of a shock to me, needless to say, it did.

The good thing that has come out of all this is that I now have a greater sense of the importance of being wise with words. I’ve heard it said, preached, written about and probably even sung before – that the art of holding one’s tongue is such a valuable asset but it’s not until the message sinks in or ‘clicks’ via divine revelation that I’m actually moved to do something about it.

In conclusion, I think this is a tiny step on the journey towards wisdom and ultimately, God glorifying Christ-likeness (which is of course, the whole point of being a Christian).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Purpose of Church – Revisited

A while ago I wrote about why going to church for the right reasons is important – you can read the original post [HERE] but to summarise I outlined the purpose of church as a chance to calibrate yourself (to get right with God), to repent and to take part in fellowship.
Now I feel lead to adapt that slightly as my understanding grows.

While repentance and fellowship are both good and Biblical they are not ultimately the purpose of church. The purpose of church is that God is glorified and indeed he is glorified by repentance and fellowship. It’s like putting the cart before the horse or the egg before the chicken – where the chicken is (where God is glorified) eggs (repentance and fellowship) will follow but the chicken is the important part, without him the eggs wouldn’t be possible.

Jeff Lucas put it this way: “The church is not here to serve us or particularly please us. It is here to serve the king and his purposes”. This doesn’t mean that if we get some gain from going to church as a by-product it is wrong but that if blessing does come it is just that – a by-product – not the main point or focus.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

My Hypocrisy...

I was reading through my recent posts when I realised how 2 of them (In Yer Faith & Work in Progress) contradict each-other, I thought I would point out the hypocrisy before someone else beats me to it...

I say firstly that ‘What upsets/worries me more than being a bad representation of Christ is the fact that too many others simply don’t care that the faith they claim to have isn’t apparent in their lives’ (slight paraphrase) while 3 posts later I state that “I... live an unfaithful sham of a life often without noticing or... without caring”

As I stated at the time - “I honestly wish my ungodly behaviour would upset be more than it does now, maybe then I would do more about it” and what I mean by this is that although I may not care about misrepresenting God all the time I care about the fact that I don’t care – I know it sounds stupid but my apathy really does upset me (ironically).
I often ask God to help me be less apathetic about sin but the fact that I ask that must mean that I care a little bit to begin with.

The other element at work here is the fact that I often don’t realise that the faults that irritate me so much in others and therefore the ones I complain most about are indeed the exact same flaws that are very much apparent in my own character - that’s plank in eye syndrome right there! (See Matthew 7 verses 1 – 5 if you didn’t get the reference)

In conclusion, I can be a huge hypocrite sometimes and for that I’m sorry. The first step to changing this is being aware of it so if and when I slip back into it feel free to point out my mistake and I’ll try not to be too immature about realising I’m wrong (again).

Friday, 22 October 2010

Grapevine 2010 – Part 3

(Part 1- Click Here : Part 2- Click Here)

This part is more personal in nature than the other 2; it’s about what God spoke to me personally about during the event.

I’ve always had big problems forgiving myself for things and not letting go of regrets.
While serving with the Powerpack team at Spring Harvest I declared that “I am free from the past in Jesus name” but it’s never that simple – was a good first step though; I need to keep declaring it and keep meaning it for such a declaration without sincerity is pointless.

During a time of praise and worship for the Powerpack leaders at Grapevine one of the other helpers told me she felt God wanted me to know there had been a “shift in my lift” for the better that day. While I still don’t know the full implications of this I trust in it and pray that I won’t do anything to shift back as it were.

I felt God telling me to take things “one day at a time” – something I keep thinking about every time I get overcome with the task ahead or get over-excited by potential opportunities, when either of these two things occur I tend to be so busy focusing on them to actually do anything about them.
Taking things ‘one day at a time’ also works on the level of letting go – it won’t be easy for me to do and therefore will must become a daily decision.

The story of Lot’s wife also came into my head at this time, she was told not to look back at her town being destroyed. She loved the town despite it being utterly sinful, it was a good thing that she was leaving but she wanted to stay (i.e. not move on/forward); she was warned not to look back and when she did she lost her life. This may be a drastic comparison in that I don’t believe I’m going to fall down dead if I don’t let go of past mistakes soon but I do believe it’s a warning that if I don’t move forward and stop looking back I’m not going to enjoy or take full advantage of the rest of my life and it’ll be my own fault.

One of the many cool things about God is that he speaks to you on your own level - in the same way that he spoke to shepherds using sheep analogies he speaks to me (not exclusively) through music/song lyrics as I usually pay particular attention to them and often ponder on their meaning.
While feeling God telling me to take things one day at a time I had the song (of the same title by Jeremy Camp) accompany it in my head. In addition to this, the lyrics of a Hillsong song also came to mind with regards to what God was teaching me: “I will soar with you, your spirit leads me on, in the power of your love” – these words mean a lot to me and make me so thankful.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Bible in a Library – Just a Thought

I once had the question “which part of a library would you put the Bible in?” put to me and it’s actually a very clever thought because the Bible isn’t a regular book and as such it can’t be categorised easily i.e. parts are historical, parts are prophesy, parts are poetry.

It includes genealogy information, geographical information, wisdom and songs.
It speaks on a whole range of topics from sex to money to sheep to idols to work to love and even death with a whole heap of others in between (part of the reason it is still relevant to today)

Now, you may be reading this as a non-Christian and be thinking right about now that you would put the Bible in the fiction category but if you are indeed thinking this I would like to point out that both Christian and non-Christian historians alike have validated aspects of the historical content by correlating details in Bible to that of other documents and relics etc.

Grapevine 2010 - Part 2

The theme of the Powerpack meetings that we were to ‘get across’ to the kids was ‘You’re kingdom come’ – a reference from the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6 verse 10).
There was a big focus on prayer – to pray for God’s kingdom to be on earth the same way that it is in heaven for example, there is no sickness in heaven so we encouraged the kids to pray for healing.

This focus on prayer gave me a passion for it that I’ve never felt before but sadly I feel like I’ve lost that passion since. Though I know I will get it back, by praying for it (ironically)...

The kids really impressed me; their willingness to get involved and their enthusiasm were a great blessing. Despite being there to try and teach them I found at many points during the weekend that I was learning just as much as they were.

What impressed me most were the kids that chose to do a kind of preaching workshop in which they put together a mini sermon based on what they felt God was speaking to them about.
Although not many kids chose this workshop I would say it was one of my favourite to hear about at the end. God was really working through the kids – the words they spoke seemed so wise to be coming from an 8/9 year old. One thing that particularly stuck in my mind was a little girl that preached “Don’t look where you fell, look where you tripped” – such a great concept! To put it in other words – don’t focus on where you fail, focus on the cause of the failure.

Another great concept that I came across in one of the seminars was “don’t focus on the tick boxes when you should be looking to the cross” - it’s so easy to get distracted from the really important things by fulfilling a lot of tasks that ‘the world’ would have you believe make you successful such as having a nice house, an expensive car etc.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Work in Progress

I’ve been feeling challenged lately, about something I thought I’d set right in my head 2 and a half years ago when I came back to Northern Ireland for the summer after my first year at university and then again at the end of Summer 2009 at Forum (UCCF event).
It turns out that it’s not as simple as ‘setting it right in my head’ one time and being sorted for life but a long term conscious choice that I have to keep making – I knew this at the time but appear to have forgotten.

It’s a fundamental part of being a Christian that never really clicked before that day and it appears that I’ve strayed away from it again since then.
What I’ve taking about is giving your life for God – all of it, not just parts.

I’ve always reminded people that not everyone claiming to be a Christian is one and also that even Christians make mistakes but while these are both true I must admit I’ve used them as a bit of a cop-out when asked why those claiming to follow Christ clearing aren’t doing so.
The truth is I do it all the time – live an unfaithful sham of a life - often without noticing or dare I say it, without caring.
The realisation struck me hard just the other week when my friend called me a ‘half hearted Christian’ and I had no basis on which to defend myself – she was right and I was blissfully unaware.
It’s true that no one really knows what your relationship is like with God apart from you and God but how we live our lives give away pretty big clues.

More than a few times I’ve judged others for doing just that. It was wrong of me and I regret it.

There’s a quote at the beginning of the D.C. Talk’s song ‘What if I Stumble’ which says:
"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

I’ve heard it so many times and nodded along in agreement but that’s me right there – the cause of atheism. I’ve got a lot to answer for and I praise God that he has more than enough Grace for me (provided I turn from my sin again – and keep turning from it).

Christians have a responsibility that has serious consequences (Micah 3 verse 9 – 12)
As God’s Children we are representing the king and I honestly am finding that concept hard to grasp right now; Kinda goes over my head a bit.

Right now I feel bogged down with guilt but I know that won’t get me anywhere. Something I’ve learnt is that God doesn’t deal in guilt he deals in conviction and repentance.

Some of you may know that I got ‘The Growth Award’ at a Christian Union event a couple of years ago but no-one knows that I actually tried to give it back afterwards. I felt I didn’t deserve it but I see now that it wasn’t just about me, it was marking the fact that God had made a difference in my life and to refuse it would be like saying that he hadn’t done a wonderful thing for me.
I thought at the time that it represented being a Godly woman but in fact it marks the first couple of steps in that journey.

It was a similar situation when I was about to be baptised; They day before I was having doubts, not about the fact that I trusted God and wanted the world to know but about being able to live up to the consequences of that – trying to follow God without faltering while the world watches.
The reason I went through with it is because it was the right thing to do, it was what God wanted, what he commanded and he knew when told his followers to get baptised what we’d be like and that we’d never be worthy enough. Praise God that I don’t have to have to be perfect I just have to strive for perfection – it sounds odd when put like that but I believe it’s all about your (or rather my) heart attitude and motives.

I’m currently reading a (Christian) book called ‘The Me I Want to Be’ and it talks about God shaping people in different ways because they are different. I guess some people are wise enough to know how to avoid mistakes but I generally learn the hard way, each heartbreaking mistake at a time.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Grapevine 2010 – Part 1

Sorry this is a bit late, with Grapevine being like 3 weeks ago and everything.
It was a great event, although admittedly I didn’t see much of it other than the Powerpack events (not that I’m complaining!); both the kids & the leaders meetings were awesome – way beyond my expectations... well, to be fair, I didn’t really have any expectations but it was still really good!

I’ve learnt (from being on the Powerpack team here and at Spring Harvest) that I *should* have expectations – I should be ready and waiting for God to move.
Turns out I had completely the wrong attitude, I’d been praying that the kids would have fun and that they would all get along when I should have claimed so much more for them in prayer – God promises in the Bible that his word won’t return to him empty (Isaiah 55 v 10 + 11), that means every time we pray with the kids and every time we speak about him, God will take that tiny seed that we’ve planted and reap a crop from it – it won’t go to waste. I should have held on to that promise, spoken it out and asked God to fulfil it. God can do so much more than we could ever imagine and he tells us to ask him to do mighty works but we don’t, we ask for little as if God has limits!

Anyway, I know I said I didn’t get to see much other than the Powerpack meetings (in comparison to what was available) but I did make it to a few things during the week: 3 seminars, 2 after hours sessions (LZ7 performing live plus a cheesy disco on the last night) and the brief family celebration (where Powerpack did a few segments on the last day). If I had just been to these and nothing else it would have felt worth it – I enjoyed them so much.

In the same way that 1 song really stood out for me at Forum last year (‘Almighty God’ by Tim Hughes) and therefore is now always known in my brain as ‘The Forum Anthem’ there were 2 songs that did the same for me at Grapevine – ‘Our God’ by Chris Tomlin and ‘You’ by Tim Hughes.

Finally I must admit that yes, I am a lemon because I (of course) forgot to bring the tent and seeing Beth’s face when I told her this was priceless (lol).
Part 2 coming soon!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Glory Circle - Bright Idea

A few days ago I was discussing Godly priorities in relation to Solomon building the temple before he built his palace (1st Kings chapters 6 & 7) as well as 1st Corinthians 10 verse 31 (whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God).
During this conversation I came up with the concept of a Glory Circle - I know it sounds a bit odd but it's essentially the opposite of a Vicious Circle.

I know a lot about Vicious Circles as I'm particularly talented at ending up in them - for those who don't know what they are they can also be referred to as a 'Catch 22'.
Two definitions I've found describe it as:
- one trouble that leads to another that aggravates the first
- a downward spiral of negative feedback where a trigger event starts a sequence of effects which continue to make the situation worse

An example of this is comfort eating because you feel fat – you feel unhappy so you eat to comfort yourself, eating makes you put on weight which make you unhappy which makes you eat more etc etc.

It’s it a Christian’s primary objective to Glorify God in all that they do (see 1 Cor. 10:31 above). We can’t do this on our own strength - we need God to help us.
The theory is, if we spend more time with God he will be glorified with our use of time and the more time we spend with him, the more he will change us to be more like Jesus which will also glorify him. If we are more like Jesus we will do things more like Jesus would do them and have a better, Godlier attitude to these things – again this glorifies God. Also, if we’re doing things like Jesus did this will include spending time with God and so the cycle starts again.

In the same way that vicious circles are easy (for me at least) to get into and difficult (and in some cases impossible) to get out of, Glory Circles are hard to get into (you need to make it a routine) and extremely easy to get out of (by simply skipping or forgetting part of the routine a couple of times).
They therefore require a lot of effort but as with any aspect of the Christian faith – the extra effort is worth it. I have keep coming back to this point, it's such a basic truth that goes against the ‘life is better when it’s easier’ ethos that the secular world promotes.

Friday, 17 September 2010

In yer FAITH!

“Is it true today, that when people pray, we'll see dead men rise, and the blind set free? Yes it's true and I believe it- I'm living for you!”



It's true that God, in his endless measures of power, can transform lives and it’s a great and wonderful thing to witness but I'm sad to say that most people calling themselves Christians these days don’t behave, speak or think any differently to non-Christians - I know I fitted into this category for years before really getting to know God and that it is possible for even the strongest Christian to ‘lose the glow’ from time to time.
I know I’m not a good representation of Christ – far from it most of the time and this upsets me more than anyone will ever know; I honestly wish my ungodly behaviour would upset be more than it does now, maybe then I would do more about it.

What upsets, or rather worries, me more than that even is the fact that too many others simply don’t care that the faith they claim to have isn’t apparent in their lives. I really don’t understand why there are so many apathetic people in church!
A Facebook friend recently posted a YouTube link to a sermon by Francis Chan called ‘Lukewarm and Loving it’ – it echoes the point I’m trying to make here, or maybe this is echoing it... either way...

You may have heard the saying: ‘If being a Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?’ – when I first heard it I thought it was a great way to think about it but I’ve been thinking about it more since then I do genuinely believe it’s possible to have all the evidence on display in your life (the catchy slogans, the little fish symbol on your car, worship music in your C.D. collection etc) and yet not be saved, after all, it’s not about the display- it’s about the heart attitude and the motive behind it. I believe this is backed up by Matthew chapter 7 verse 21 -23.

I don’t want people reading this to be completely discouraged, however, for there are a few people I’ve had the privilege of meeting that just have 'JESUS' written all over them - they are such a blessing and an encouragement to me and others.
I praise God for these people. Most of them I didn't know prior to their salvation so I can't really testify to how much they’ve changed.
What I can testify to, however, is God's transforming power in the life of 1 particular guy I went to High School with, back then he didn't know God and now the difference is phenomenal.
I’ve mentioned his music before on my general blog (link)...

I want this to be an encouragement to him and to the others to keep going for God.
I’m writing this to tell you that your faith inspires me to more faithful, to tell you that your small acts of kindness and wisdom don’t go un-noticed.
I'm not trying to build anybody’s ego here, I just want to praise God for what he’s done in the lives I’ve mentioned (implicitly or explicitly) as examples that point to God.

With this encouragement there comes a 2-part warning: firstly to be aware of the pride that often rides on the back on compliments and secondly, on the flipside of little blessings that don’t go un-noticed there can be tiny throw-away comments that each of us post online that can have a huge negative effect (like a ripple effect, they are often far reaching and we’ll probably never know where they end up). This part is as much of a reminder for myself as it is for anybody else reading this- too often I waste time complaining on Twitter when I should be full of praise, it’s an easy trap to fall into.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on a fair bit now and I hope this all made sense, as always feel free to discuss in the comments below.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Recommendation: Open Bible Website

I first came across the 'Open Bible' website when Josh sent me a link to it while briefly discussing my post on Procrastination.
I believe it's a good resource, similar in some aspects to a concordance and I especially find the topical index aspect useful
As I said in my post on Procrastination, however, I don't think all of the verses it brings up on certain topics are completely relevant unless taken out of context but it's defiantly a good starting point and I plan to use it for a few of my future posts.

www.openbible.info

Impromptu Twitter Sermon

For those of you following me on Twitter, you may have noticed I went a tiny bit crazy with the amount of tweets I was churning out earlier. Just got inspired by a couple of Sermon-Jams on YouTube & GodTube and got carried away with thoughts of God and all his goodness.
For those who missed it I thought I'd piece it all together here as a single post as I believe it's a message worth hearing, not a message from myself but one from or inspired by God (you can judge this for yourselves).
As a side note, this sudden gush of Biblical based truth is refreshing change from the usual complaints and trivial things I put on there so hopefully there'll be more of it in the future... anyway, here it is:

"Brothers & Sisters, try not to become complacent about holiness and lost souls too often, or at all if that is possible... don't forget about what's really going on in the world because we're caught up on trivial things.
"The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled Was Convincing the World He Didn't Exist" - Baudelaire
Never underestimate the Power of Prayer, it Works, it is not something Weak or Pointless, it's a Privilege! (www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GPgJniUQnY)
Living for God isn't a 1 time decision it's a constant day by day choice. We all wander from the path but it's our responsibility to notice we've got lost and ask God to help us back on track. Don't give up and think you'll get let off
It's so easy to be discouraged but when we do well it becomes so easy to fall into the trap of pride....
Following God sometimes feels like walking a tightrope - trying to achieve a balance between faith and works, there should be a healthy amount of both and you have to keep reminding yourself that works will never earn yourself a place in heaven yet still try to glorify God through works anyway.
I may be putting people off Christianity right now by speaking of how difficult it can be but the best things in life require effort...
If your main motive in being a "Christian" is that life will be easy then you're wasting your time.
It can take a while to sink in that it actually has nothing to do with any of us, being a Christian is all about God... never be fooled into thinking that's a bad thing...
To summarize: Living for Jesus isn't easy but it is most defiantly worth it!
...so give it your all. Never give up, keep getting back on the horse every-time you mess up and fall off. God will always help you if you let him but he won't do all the work, it's a partnership, a relationship - do it together.
God is AMAZING and he'll never be anything else. Doesn't that just make you feel like singing? Who wouldn't want such a majestic King?
I haven't even scratched the surface when it comes to saying all there is about the almighty one and this makes me oddly happy, for he is of course indescribable! Reminds me of yet another glorious tangent --> www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzqTFNfeDnE :)"

Here endeth the lesson

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Ellie's Psalm

So... I had a go at writing a Psalm:

Put a song in my heart oh Lord
Utter whispers from my lips
My words are not enough
No pride do I deserve
Yet there and here is it
God it is by you that I breathe

Don't let me forget God that without you there is no I nor would I ever wish it so
Father of the flock I beg that you lead
How often we stray!
Allow us to see our stupidity oh God
Let us not underestimate nor misrepresent your holy name
Thank you always, good and amazing Abba.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Learning to Lean

Throughout all the difficulties I've been facing throughout he past month (in particular) I'd like to take time out to express just how grateful I am to God for getting me this far and not leaving me to deal with it all myself. I feel he's teaching me a lot at this time and taking away everything I rely on so I can rely on him more.

I thought that once I moved back to Northern Ireland life would get easier but now it doesn't look like that will happen for a while and I'm sure that I'll stray from thinking about/thanking and leaning on God from time to time as that's part of human nature (just look at Israel during most of the old testament).

[The title of this post is a reference to a song by by John Stallings I learnt before going to England which speaks about learning to turn to Jesus with everything, regardless of circumstances -it seemed appropriate.]

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Procrastination – Just a Thought

I posed the question online a while back with no real feedback: Is procrastination a sin?
Today I’m asking myself if procrastination is a form of laziness, lack of concentration, neither, both or something else?
I think most people would agree laziness is a sin but how is laziness defined? Is it OK (and therefore not sinful) if a person were to be lazy occasionally when they work hard the rest of the time?

I’m not really sure why this popped into my head and I don’t have definitive answers for any of this I just wondered if anybody else had an opinion.
If so, feel free to comment below as always.

***UPDATE - 12/09/2010***
I just thought I would come back to this topic as I've been discussing it a bit on Facebook with my friend Josh; he pointed me to this website --> www.openbible.info/topics/procrastination but I'm not completely convinced that all of the verses listed on said website are relevant unless taken out of context

Friday, 20 August 2010

Blinded Understanding

Ever wondered why God would stop people understanding his message, as told by his followers? I have. I thought it all seemed just a tad counter-productive on his part but I trusted that he knew what he was doing, after all, who am I to question his actions?
I understand now and it makes perfect sense; it’s good when God just shows you something isn’t it? (The irony here is just beautiful)…

God, of course, isn’t malicious - he’s not going to stop people hearing a life saving message if they were going to believe it. It is, in fact, his graciousness that stops them from understanding a message they would reject.
To put it another way, imagine God in his role as judge, when someone comes before him having broken laws they didn’t understand or know about they will be treated less harshly than someone who knew the laws, understood them and broke them anyway.
God, in his amazing wisdom, knows who is going to accept him and who is not so this is his way of helping out even the people that don’t accept him by mercifully sparing them partial punishment.

This blows my mind a bit, how much God loves even those that will never accept him (keeping in mind how we all reject him at some point in our lives).

[Verses relating to God stopping people understanding his message i.e. blinding their eyes deafening their ears and hardening their hearts: John 12 vs 37 – 41 / Isaiah 6 vs 9 + 10]


***UPDATE - 21/11/2010***
I've just found 2 verses that I believe support my previous conclusion -
John 15 verse 22: "If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have been guilty of sin..." // John 15 verse 24: "I did works among them that no-one else has ever done. If I had not done these works they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen what I have done, and yet they have hated both me and my father"

Monday, 16 August 2010

Pure Evil? - Just a Thought

I always see these big media headlines about criminals – murders, rapists and the like – labelled pure evil and while I no way want to downplay the severity of what these people have done I can’t help but question, from a Biblical point of view, if such titles are accurate.
I mean, are there degrees or levels of ‘evilness’? The implication of saying it’s possible to be completely evil is that, on the other side of the coin, it’s possible to be a little bit evil or moderately evil and it’s not too often you hear people described in those terms.
Is it a case of evilness or sinfulness – are they the same thing? Non-Christians will no doubt have different views on this to believers (the theistic point of view being that everyone is sinful). I’m not sure if all Christians would agree that everyone/anyone is also therefore capable of such great atrocities as those mentioned before but I guess what really matters is how God sees things.

I could say a lot more on this as it’s such a huge topic to think about but for now I’ll let you draw your own conclusions; Feel free to debate below.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Amazing Grace

I cringe every time I hear Amazing Grace covered by yet another secular artist who doesn’t even know what Grace is. Its popularity also put me off playing it during personal worship.
I always think after you’ve heard something so much you start to pay less and less attention to its message. I later discovered the sincerity of its message when I heard about the back story of its writer (John Newton).
(As far as I know, this story is told to some degree or another in the fairly popular film of the same title. I must admit, I am yet to watch it…)

I do believe it was the line about being a "wretch", gloriously saved by God that stopped me singing along to Hymns for years before I gave my heart to God. I mean I knew I was bad but I refused to believe I was bad enough to be called a wretch and I wasn't about to sing something I didn't agree with. Little did I realise how accurate a description it was!

When John called himself a wretch he wasn't joking! As a worker on, and later captain of, a slave ship he saw many under his watch abused and even killed, (thrown overboard if suffering from a contagious condition).

Glory to God for working miracles in the most misguided of lives!

You can read more about John's story here.


***EDIT/UPDATE - JANUARY 2012***
My love for this song has grown a lot in recent months.
Having now watched the movie also, I really recommend it - although, it doesn't tell as much of John Newton's story as I first thought... Seriously, go watch it! Peace out.