Monday, 24 December 2012

Mary, My Favorite Example

I may not be Catholic, but I love Mary, the (biological) Mother of Jesus, just as much as they do, if not more. Catholics love her because they think she was super special – supernatural, even - but I love her because she was an ordinary girl who God did a super special thing through; someone who was open to God’s will for her life, no matter what the consequences.

God chose her for her humility and selfless attitude. She was a woman of truly good character, and I aspire to have such a character myself.
As far as I’m concerned, Mary is a fantastic role model (but nothing more!)
I am in no way saying she was perfect, let alone is to be worshiped! I’m just saying she did a wonderful thing, and I mean wonderful in the true sense of the word.
She said yes to God.

Think about this for a moment: Mary, in her young age, agreed to become pregnant, to carry a child that I’m sure she loved fully – as only a mother can - but knew she couldn’t keep, not really. She poured love and time and energy into a baby that she knew would go on to fulfill His destiny and, ultimately, leave her behind (in the physical sense).
She would one day look up into his bloody, beaten face as he lay on a cross, dying and you may not be able to grasp how monumental that is, but I surely do, and that’s why that teenage girl from all those years ago - that girl who no doubt had nasty words said about her and her child behind her back and to her face for yeas – that’s why I respect that girl so much. Because she did more than I think I could do in her situation.

Yes, Jesus did abundantly more than her, and yes, He is our true role model - I’m not trying to take away from that. But I put it to you that Jesus was able to do what He did because He was God (incarnate), and some of us may use that as an excuse. You may say to yourself, “We can never be like Him, even when trying our best,” and you’d be right, but we still must try, just as Mary did. She wasn’t God and yet she was able to do so much, therefore, you are not excused. May God give us all as much faith as her this Christmas - if not more!

Happy Holidays. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Illumination

I’m currently reading ‘1,227 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off’ and one of the 1,227 facts is this:

“On a clear, moonless night the human eye can detect a match being struck 50 miles away”

And I just wanted to share it, because I feel it really emphasizes the context behind the Bible Verses:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew Chapter 5 verses 14 – 16)

Monday, 12 November 2012

Ezra, the Example

I was reading through the book of Ezra a little while ago when something caught my attention…
In Chapter 9 God’s people disobey Him and the leaders come to tell Ezra. He was genuinely upset with them but instead of abandoning them to their sin, Ezra prayed for them. But not just for them – with them!
He hadn’t sinned himself, he hadn’t even idly sat by and knowingly let the people sin – for he knew nothing of it - yet when it came time for him to pray he sticks by them, in unity, using the word ‘our’ multiple times (verses 6 and 7) – ‘our sins’, ‘our guilt’ – instead of the words ‘them’ and ‘theirs’.
He includes himself in the list of people responsible.
Wow.
This man not only loved these people, but he had a Godly understanding of responsibility. He does the right thing, even though he could have so easily threw up his hands and said ‘not my problem, sort it out yourself’.
I imagine Ezra in this instance being like a father; the father of children (God’s people) who have hurt another child (Jesus). He does what any good father would do and takes them to house of the wronged child’s parent (God) so the children can say sorry and he (as the father) can say sorry too. The father (Ezra) didn’t hurt the child (Jesus) personally, but he had responsibility over the people who did, so it’s his place to apologize alongside them.
In taking on the fatherly role in the situation, Ezra is imitating God himself, as we are all called to do, and I was challenged by that.
I pray that, in future, if my friends or family get into trouble that I would mirror Christ, just as Ezra did, and stick by them and pray for them even if my initial reaction is to walk away to face the consequences alone. 

Ponderings about how God is (and isn’t) Working in my Friendships

I seem to be okay at making acquaintances, fine at making casual friends, but a bit crap at finding people who’re willing to become pure, unadulterated, great friends – y’know, the type you can tell anything too, the ones who trust you with all their secrets and the ones that’ll stick by you, and love you, no matter what.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some of these people (enough to count on one hand, with fingers to spare) and I am extremely grateful that I do. Words literally cannot express how much I love them, and I had enough years of being alone, without any of those kinds of friends to really have perspective on what I’m saying right now. I know there are people out there who were like I used to be, people who have no-one and it actually breaks my heart. I feel bad for having a few friends in my life that fit the bill when others have none, but sometimes, those few don’t seem like enough; especially when they’re all so far away.

I consider real fellowship to be more than small talk between acquaintances after a church service, I consider it to be more like the type of friendship I listed above and I don’t have that (not here – where I’m currently living – anyway).
Maybe my definition of fellowship is wrong, maybe my standards are too high or my expectations of people too unrealistic, but I really would like some real, true, honest-to-God friends in this country; I’m longing for it so badly.
I’m praying that God will either introduce people into my life, help me connect with people already in my life, or show me the way to a new life.

It strikes me as completely possible that I’m the problem here, that there are people around who’re willing to be that kind of friend towards me but I’m just not seeing it.

It also strikes me that perhaps – just perhaps – God hasn’t provided these people in this place because I’m not meant to be here long term.
I’ve never really had firm roots here, never had a reason or a desire to stay and maybe there’s a reason for that; maybe God has in mind for me somewhere different to settle and I couldn’t really be happy there, if I was happy here; but hey – I don’t know, these are just thoughts coming to me at 4.53 am that I have to write down to stop them from taking over my head when I’m trying to finish a novel. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

What if?!

What would have happened if Noah didn’t bother making the ark? What if he never even felt prompted to make it because he wasn’t close enough with God to recognize His ‘voice’? What if Noah said “OK God” but didn’t take the task seriously and left the boat with gaps and holes? What if he agreed to make it and intended to at some point but just never got around to it?

They may sound like simple questions and they may indeed have simple answers in practical terms but, think about it: humanity can be wiped out (and often is) simply because we do not obey God.

The decision Noah made was actually massive and it’s only just hit me.
I wonder if God prompted others, in other parts of the globe, to build boats also. We’ll never know and, to me at least, that’s kinda scary! Sobering in fact (but, is it sobering enough to make me change my ways? I don’t honestly know and that uncertainty is also rather scary itself).

Our actions can incur an enormity of consequences and often those consequences outlive us.
Lord may we be more wise, or – better yet – more obedient and faithful! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

My Mission Statement

Ages ago (1 year, 6 months and 6 days to be exact!) I wrote a blog post expressing a desire to write a personal mission statement at some point in the future and, this being the future, I’ve done it! Coincidentally, aside from my own original desire, I was required to write one as part of an assignment for the Engage: Youth Ministry course I was studying last academic year. Below are the main points of a shortened version of that document…
My Aim is to Glorify God.  I plan to achieve this aim by loving God, loving people & sharing God’s love with those people. I plan to love and respect myself; to serve God and people; to work hard and do my best.

I value faith, community, passion, discipline, hospitality, justice, education, encouragement/positivity, clarity, hope, rest, productivity, music, literature & the arts; creativity, animals & beauty (real beauty).  I value ‘Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5 verses 22 + 23) & “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…” (Philippians 4 verses 8 + 9).

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Lessons from Literature Part 5 – Warnings for Prayer Intercessors (FINAL)

This is the last in my series of posts taken from ‘How Not to Pray’ by Jeff Lucas (this segment is summarised and paraphrased in parts). You can buy the book from Amazon HERE (and I recommend that you do).

The poisoned chalice of pride is often offered to those who are recognised for their praying (it is an irony that spirituality itself can be heady, dangerous stuff).
In recent years it has not become usual to describe a group of people with a special gifting in prayer as intercessors. On one level it’s reasonable to recognise and release people into the gift and call God gives but, on the other hand, I’m a little nervous of this tagging of people…
Sometimes the gift is genuine but gets hijacked. I can think of a church right now where the intercessors are causing all kinds of grief, demanding to know details of just who in the church is going through marriage problems, where there are struggles with teenagers – because they mistakenly think they and they alone hold the keys to breakthrough in these areas of difficulty.
If a ‘word of knowledge’ is given by God for use in prayer and that intelligence is not used solely for those purposes a critical attitude is waiting to envelop the intercessor.

I remember seeing this in action when living in a small community church in the USA.
A number of the men of the church had developed a burden for prayer that was authentic and committed. They were gathering together at 4am every day. Sounds good? It was – for a while, but over a few weeks it turned sour. The first Sunday morning the meetings were announced the lead intercessor was joyful, the second he looked tired as he tried to convince people to come along, by the third week he looked close to total exhaustion and came across as judgemental and on week four (the last week) he resembled Lazarus – before Jesus passed him by! The man was enraged with the parishioners for not turning up in their droves.

We must not let our motives or attitudes become tainted, even if we feel our anger is righteous. At the end of the day, if people pray or not it is between them and God. Yes, we should still care and still encourage people to come along to prayer meetings BUT if they don’t it is nothing to do with us and we have no right to judge. If we were truly having a Christ like attitude we would pray even harder for these people instead of quickly criticising. God has indeed asked all of us to pray but that does not mean God cannot do things without us. He may have gifted someone especially in prayer but that does not make them better than anyone else – as with all gifts, they did not earn it. Therefore, brothers and sisters, pray and encourage others to do so but keep your motives in check because looking down on others never ends well. You could be in danger of putting people off God! 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

THIS

Remains one of the most Powerful Images I have ever seen.

Kisses from Katie

This is just a quick note to say: I really recommend you check out Katie Davis’ Blog ‘On Earth as it is in Heaven’. It is amazing. Filled with hope, heart breaking stories and God’s word - truly inspiring! What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Constantly and Consistently Choosing God

Way back at the start of the year my church looked briefly at how New Year’s Resolutions can be mirrored in our spiritual walks. I felt challenged to become resolute and renew my covenant/commitment with God. I said to myself that I would rise to the challenge and I failed to do so quite spectacularly but God didn’t give up on me. I’m so thankful for how many chances he gives each of us and each time I rediscover how amazing that is I once more feel like I’ve recaptured the energy, excitement and genuine enthusiasm of a being a “new” Christian.

I’m not ashamed to admit that each time I hear an alter call, I say in heart ‘yes, I do want to be a Christian’ because for me, being a Christian isn’t a one off experience it is a constant process that requires regular choices. Sometimes I mess up and make the wrong choice but today, I am choosing once more to follow God and I pray that I make that same choice tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that (etc).

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Christians and Politics

Below are quotes that I completely agree with on the topic of Christians in Politics. They are from Patrick Regan’s latest book, No Ceiling to Hope which I cannot recommend highly enough. My review is linked here and you can purchase the book by clicking here.

I’ve often been asked to speak about Jesus and to avoid speaking about politics or the world, as though the two can be divided (Page 78)

 I truly believe we need Christians to be engaging with the political scene, whether at a local or national level. How else can we truly be advocates for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized? But, if we do engage, then we must listen to God’s voice, his plans, agenda and timing… (Page 135)

 Not that long ago I was leading a prayer time about politics for a group of churches and suggested we get into groups and pray for our local councillor. People started looking uncomfortable and I realized they didn’t know who their local councillor was. As I thought about it, I realized I didn’t either. It was a wake-up call and a challenge for me; we’re supposed to pray for “all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2), but how can we do that when we don’t even know who they are? How can we make informed decisions about who we vote into power to run things in our community when we don’t know anything about them? Many of us hold back from getting involved with a political party ourselves because we don’t see one that holds all the same beliefs as we do, but the truth is there will never be a party that holds the exact same view as ours. If we want there ever to be one that comes anywhere close, we can only hope to change that party from the inside out. We have to make do with the imperfect parties that exist, get involved and help shape them towards what we think they should be. We can’t just sit back in cynicism and apathy, and hope that the change we long for will miraculously come about. Talking about each party’s failings in the pub won’t change anything. It’s when we’re willing to get stuck in and take our place in a political party that we can begin to influence the political agenda. Being involved in politics isn’t about the big and spectacular things; it’s unlikely we’ll ever get invited to garden parties at No. 10. The reality is, if we got involved at a local level, we’d be attending regular meetings, dealing with sometimes mundane issues. But what a brilliant place for Christians to be if we care about our communities and want to serve them. When we get involved locally, that’s where hope hits the ground running. (Page 134)

 Philip Yancey said that politicians complain that of all the letters they receive, often the nastiest ones are from Christians. Wouldn’t it be better if we were contacting councillors and MPs asking them to come and see the projects our churches are involved in, showing them the positive impact that can be made and asking how we can work together?
There’s a place for letting our views be heard and standing up for the things that we believe in, but our voice can be so much more effective when we take the time to present a positive alternative and embody a different way of living, not just criticizing others. (Page 136) 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Still Journeying

I don’t have enough faith for testing”, I said. “I’m becoming more disciplined”, I said.

Well, always being first to point out my own faults & failings, let me now say this: My faith has been tested the past few months and I failed because I wasn’t quite disciplined enough.

Actually, that’s only half of the reason I failed…

I discovered that, in the same way that faith without works is dead, discipline without respect will inevitably fail. The two are inextricably linked.

Where does this leave me now? I need to find some true self respect (true in the sense that I can feel it in my bones – that it goes beyond mere head knowledge).
This is just another difficult (and slightly terrifying) part of my journey with God and, once more, I ask you to wish me luck (if luck isn’t your thing, feel free to pray instead!)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sexual Sin

I found this article the other week – about Sexual Sin in the Ministry - found it really fascinating and well written. Check it out: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/sexual-sin-in-the-ministry

Lessons from Literature Part 4 – An Example of Negative Piety

As with parts 1, 2 and 3 of ‘Lessons from Literature’ the following extract comes from Jeff Lucas’ ‘How not to Pray’ Chapter 8. Unlike the other segments, this one is the retelling of a story D.T. Niles told at Princeton University.

Sometime after World War II, during the reconstruction of Europe, the World Council of Churches wanted to see how its money was being spent in some remote parts of the Balkan Peninsula. Accordingly it dispatched John Mackie, who was president of the Church of Scotland, and two brothers of the cloth from another denomination – a rather severe and pietistic denomination - to take a jeep and travel to some of the villages where the funds were being disbursed.
One afternoon Dr Mackie and the other two clergymen went to call on the Orthodox priest in a small Greek village. The priest was overjoyed to see them, and was eager to pay his respects. Immediately he produced a box of Havana cigars, a great treasure in those days, and offered each of his guests a cigar. Dr Mackie took one, bit the end off, lit it, puffed a few puffs and said how good it was. The other gentlemen looked horrified and said, ‘No, thank you, we don’t smoke.’
Realising he had somehow offended the two who refused, the priest was anxious to make amends. So he excused himself and reappeared in a few minutes with a flagon of his choicest wine. Dr Mackie took a glassful, sniffed it like a connoisseur, sipped it and praised its quality. Soon he asked for another glass. His companions, however, drew themselves back even more noticeably that before and said, ‘no, thank you, we don’t drink!’
Later, when the three men were is the jeep again, making their way up the road out of the village, the two pious clergymen turned upon Dr Mackie with a vengeance.
‘Dr Mackie’ they insisted, ‘do you mean to tell us that you are the president of the Church of Scotland and an Officer of the World Council of Churches and you smoke and drink?’
Dr Mackie had all he could take, and his Scottish temper got the better of him. ‘No, dammit, I don’t’ he said, ‘but somebody had to be a Christian!’

Piety, if not truly Jesus-centred, can poison. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Lent 2012

Just a quick note to say: I’m giving up chocolate for Lent this year. And, just because that’s clearly not difficult enough… I’m committing myself to daily devotions for the duration as well.
Shall be using the prayer & fasting manual I downloaded from this website as the bases for these devotionals. I recommend it (Y).