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 “ 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,
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.