This blog is supposed to be, as much as I can, my daily journey through life as a Christian. I hope it to be my thoughts and feelings on life but be as grounded in the Christian message as it can. My intention is not to create a daily readings or bible study guide but to look at my life in terms of a Christian trying to find and follow God's mission using his Life User's Manuel AKA the Bible.

Matthew 10 19-20

And don't you worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words. - Matthew 10 19-20

Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010

There is so much I could say about 2010 and if I said everything I wanted it would end up a very long post indeed. I have had an eventful year and so much has happened, many of them were good but unfortunately a number of them were not so good.

What I would really like to say in this final post of 2010 is that despite everything that has happened both good and bad my faith has grown. Even though I have suffered loss and setbacks in my life this year I am leaving it firmly in His hands.

If for no other reason I am glad I had the year I did. There are many things I would have changed or liked to have not happened. I will probably not look back on 2010 with much happiness or joy but I will remember that without this year there would be no way I would be as close to God or made as much progress on the path He has set me.

Thank God for 2010, and may He bless 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Read a book from the Old Testament

This week has been a very busy week, with Christmas preparations, present buying, work and Church commitments I have not had a great deal of time. But nevertheless the challenge for this week had to be done, and so a small amount of time to read the book of Obadiah was found.

This book is officially the shortest book in the Bible, not a fact I knew when I began to read it. I knew it was one of the shorter ones but did not know it was the shortest. It is an interesting book as the prophesy in it is not for the Israelites, it is written for and given to those who lived in the land of Edom. If you know your Old Testament history you will know that Edom was the country that was born of Esau and as such were kin to the Israelites.

Obadiah warned the Edomites that God was displeased with them for not helping the Israelites when they needed it and as such were marked for destruction. They were warned that although they believed they lived in impenetrable fortresses they would not be safe from God's judgement. They should have helped and protected the people who were their family through God's bounty.

When I was reading this I thought about the Church. God's family through His son Jesus and of all the internal struggle and fractures in this family. There are many different branches of this family such as the Catholics, the Orthodox and the Protestants, and many denominations more. Yet how often do we all stand united, how often do we help each other when we are struggling or under threat. Have we stood back and been guilty of benefiting from the fall or failing of another Church when we could have helped them to survive. We often forget that other Churches are still part of God's family, they are still His children and our brothers and sisters through Christ. We are not in competition with each other, we should be allies against the forces of the enemy. The book of Obadiah may not be written to us, but we can learn from the lessons of the past and make sure we do not make the same mistake.

The next task which has been drawn from the hat is the task to write a memory verse on my fridge. This is a nice easy one to see me through the holiday period and the inevitable lull in activity after such a busy period. Check back next week to see which verse I choose and the reasons behind it. Until then, take care and God bless.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

One word wonder

Ok, so I have just completed the Advent Challenge and some people may think it would be a good chance to have a little rest and settle into the regular blog schedule. But that would not be like me at all. Instead I have accepted a challenge issued to me by my friend Caron, check out her page, it is well worth a read.

So what exactly is this challenge. The idea is to post only a single word each post from Boxing day until New Years eve. This is going to be an interesting challenge to do as to post only a single word which has some significance and meaning to it will be difficult to do. It will take a lot of thought and consideration to think of a word which has enough meaning and significance to merit being posted. This challenge does require a small amount of thought an effort on the part of you the readers. I ask that for each post you consider the word and think about the meaning and the possible reasons for selecting that word.

Jesus is the word, we are told so in John's Gospel and in many places we are told that words are important. Words have a lot of significance, it is part of what makes us human and a part of our everyday life. We are always surrounded by words, be they written or spoken and it is not often we sit and think about what words mean and why certain ones are important. Hopefully this challenge will let us do this and really consider the meanings of the words I post.

So now I embark on this latest quest, with one small exception, tomorrow as usual will be the Soldier's Challenge to post on. After this from Monday through to Friday each post will be just a single word. I hope you guys enjoy the holiday period and have had a great Christmas. Until the New Year keep praying read your Bible, trust in God and take care.

Advent Challenge Christmas Day

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

Well yesterday my task was to wish everyone I met with the greeting Merry Christmas. I would love to say I completed this task, but I honestly can not say if I did manage this task. I certainly wished a very large number of people a merry Christmas. Being out carol playing and then carols singing made this task very easy but the shear number of people I came into contact with yesterday I can not be certain that I wished absolutely everyone a Merry Christmas. However I am certain that I wished enough people Merry Christmas to consider for myself that I completed the task.

As for the Christmas Day challenge it was almost completed for me. In the service this morning at church we took out time to sit and pray for all those who have nothing and no one this Christmas. We prayed for those people who hope for visitors but never get them, the people who have lost everyone they have and are all alone this Christmas. We also prayed for those people both in our Church and in the world as a whole who have lost people this year and are struggling to get through the day.

I will also spend some time today once all the hustle and bustle is over to sit down on my own and pray. I will take the time to think about the people who really need God and who would benefit from being wrapped in His loving arms. This Christmas for me is a watershed moment in my Christian life. I have begun to see just what it means to be a Christian, it is about my relationship with God and about being serious enough about my faith to include it everything I do in all of my life.

I hope that you all have a great Christmas, that you enjoy spending time with your loved ones and that you have a most enjoyable day. But most of all I pray that you will all find the Christ in Christmas this year and celebrate the birth of our Saviour. For the final time this year I wish you all a Merry Christmas and pray blessings on each and every reader of this blog.

Special midnight Christmas message

I don't know about anyone else but my Christmas eve has been absolutely mental. It has been so busy but a lot of fun. Almost the whole day has been spent singing or playing carols proclaiming the forthcoming birth of our Lord and Saviour. It felt great to be out and about amongst the secular residents of my town and being so openly Christian, it is something I intend to carry on through as a new years resolution.

So why am I writing this special extra Christmas post? Well tonight has been such a wonderful night of good Christian fellowship and great Christmas cheer in the company of my extended family and the people I grew up around. Jesus came to earth to bring us together in to one family and tonight was a great example of this to me.

This year I want to take the excitement of Christmas, the fun and feeling and infuse it into my life. I want to try and take note of what Christmas means and how it makes me feel when I realise this and work it into my life as a Christian.

I know Jesus loves me and I love Him too. But this Christmas I want to make a commitment to God, I want to do something I never have before. I want to say, at last, that I don't want to hold back anymore, I don't want to keep anything back for myself. I am not going to hold the door ajar anymore, instead I plan t fling it wide open for Jesus to walk through in all His glory with full access. 

Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus and His entry in to the world He created. It is quite fitting that this year I can celebrate His entry fully in to my heart and life. I know Jesus loves me, now it is time to begin to show how much I love Him.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat

There is an old rhyme I used to sing as a child;

Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man's hat,
If you haven't got a penny a Ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a Ha'penny the God bless you.

It is just a silly nursery rhyme but for some reason it is one of the few I remember. I have no idea why I stuck in my mind so much, but I do have vivid memories of my Gramma singing this rhyme to my younger brother. But I do like the rhyme, even though it is a christmas rhyme which is about the trappings of Christmas with the geese and the ever present need for money to buy gifts. The best line however is the last one, it brings us back to the real reason for Christmas, God, specifically in the form of Jesus.

Last year we were blessed as a family to celebrate Christmas with a lovely 3 week old baby and a manic but memorable Christmas was had by all. This year it will all be a bit different, where as last year we had a lovely addition to the family, this year we will be missing two grand parents. Thinking about Christmas this year has been somewhat different for me in that all of the material things do not matter to me so much, and I have centred my thoughts on my family and the memories we have and of things with a sentimental value.

For me I think this is a lot closer to the real reason for Christmas. We are celebrating not just the birth of our Saviour but a family which he created. We are celebrating the fact that through Him we were all reconciled to God and that our family is now complete again with God as our Father. Although my earthly family is mourning a number of losses this year, we need to remember that they are not lost at all and that we will see them again when we reach the heavenly palace, when we are all born again through Jesus.

Christmas is a reason to celebrate, a time to realise what we have received, not just now, but also what we have received in the past too, the fact that we have been given Jesus and that it was the greatest gift of all. I have no idea what the people who read this blog will be doing for Christmas this year, but I hope that you can take a small amount of time to consider the baby who grew up and died just for you. Merry Christmas, I hope you have a God filled day.

Advent Challenge Day 24

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

Christmas eve, who would have thought it. Well everyone I guess since it falls on the same date every year, but that is not the point. So this means I have almost come to the end of the Advent Challenge and that also that tomorrow I get to spend an insane amount of time with my family, this may or may not be a good thing, I'm hoping that tensions don't boil up and that we remember the good times with the family members no longer with us rather than get depressed about them being gone.

But what you really want to know is about how the challenge went, well we sang and played carols and we had a generally good time. We took Christmas cheer to the masses out shopping and had fun doing so. I hope that in going out and playing the carols and singing at times we were able to remind people with the lyrics just what this season is about and that it is not just about a jolly fat man in a red suit who brings presents down your chimney.

There is probably a lot more I could write about this task and challenge but today is after all Christmas eve and that means I have a stupidly busy day. I am carol playing with the band, then I will be going to visit the graves of my grand parents followed by playing family Santa and dropping presents off all over our small town. Once all of this has been done, in the evening, I will be co-organising the Church carol singing round the homes of various Church members. This is a tradition that has gone on for many many years and that we all love doing. It is stupidly difficult logistically and this year with the weather requires much careful driving, but there is almost nothing that would stop us doing this fun filled tradition. Once all this is finished we are likely to be well in to the early hours of Christmas day.

I will be posting tomorrow at the usual times and will be updating with the final challenge tomorrow and also letting you know about the Christmas day task too. As you may have worked out there remains only one task left to complete and that is to wish everyone I meet today a merry Christmas. If you are not online tomorrow I really hope you all have a great day with whoever you are spending it with, and I hope you take out some time to consider the reason why we celebrate the day. But until then, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jesus is the same still

Hebrews 13:8
     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Yesterday I posted on this verse and asked that you stop and think about this Bible verse and what it really means. I wanted everyone to take some time to prayerfully consider this verse before I wrote about my thoughts on the subject.

For me this verse is something I have only recently come to appreciate. Jesus never changes. Times come and go, kingdoms rise and fall, eventually the whole of creation will have existed and be no more yet Jesus will still be exactly the same as He always was. I have mentioned before my training in science and my love for the same. 

While learning about the universe in my time at university I learned a huge amount about numbers. Learning about numbers, specifically at very large and very small scales I came to some sort of appreciation about just how long the universe has existed for. Jesus was the word at the beginning of the universe, the hands though which the universe was created. This time is so long as to be nothing but an abstract thought for mere humans, but Jesus has lived this, been there, seen it all.

It is hard for humans who by their very nature are constantly changing to understand a perfect unchangeable being. Everything we experience in life changes us in some way, every day we wake up and go to bed slightly different to the last time we did so and different to what we will be next time we do them. 

Yet the God we worship never changes, when we pray we are talking to the same God who walked with Adam in Eden, the God who changed Abram into Abraham. He is the God who talked with Moses at the burning bush and gave him the 10 commandments, the God of the Prophets and of Israel. Do we really appreciate the fact that the God we worship, our Saviour is the same as He was in the Bible, the same as when He died on the cross.

It is very easy at times to justify the ways we act and the things we do as being somehow different to things in the past. We become lax and fall into habits we know Jesus taught against and that would upset God. And the way we justify them is that we are living in a different world to then and that things really are different now.

But God has not changed ans sin is still sin. There is nothing we can do to change the fact that the worlds ways are upsetting to God and that as His children He wants us to act differently to those ways. It is a hard thing to do to live up to the example Jesus was, but it is a worthwhile goal, it must be as the prize is eternal life in Heaven. 

We can trust in God and always rely on Him because we can trust that He will always be the same and He will always be there when you need Him. We can rejoice in the fact that our God will always be the kind loving Father that he is and has been. He will always be the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Advent Challenge Day 23

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

This challenge really has been a bit of a challenge for me, I know I have a lot to be thankful for but it is very hard to think of when we are all gearing up towards the first Christmas with out my Gramma and my Grandad.

But as I said, I know I have a lot to be thankful for and after spending some time reflecting on the things that will be missing this year I began to pray for the things I do have. The thing I am most thankful for is my family, after losing so many family members this year I am thankful for all the family I have left, specifically my nephew and Godson.

In addition to this I am thankful for the friends I have. These people have put up with a lot and been there for me when I have needed people most. My friends are a fantastic bunch of Christian people who really live out what they believe and who have been a great example.

I am thankful that I am blessed with a great job and the opportunities that it provides and the financial stability that comes from having a regular income for the first time in a long time. I am blessed to work in a challenging environment where I come in to contact with a huge number of different people with a range of issues to work with. It is a job that I enjoy hugely and have the opportunity to learn new things every shift and develop my skills and to grow as a person myself.

Most of all though I am thankful that I have come to know God this year. That through the examples and guidance of some fantastic saints I have grown to know the Saviour who was born at Christmas who went on to die that I might be saved. I am thankful that this year I will appreciate Christmas for what it really means, not just a time to look forward to presents and gifts.

The next task in the challenge will be task number 7. Attend a Christmas service. Check back tomorrow to find out about what happens in this task, but until then Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jesus is the same

Hebrews 13:8
     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

There are many things that change in life and it seems looking back over this almost finished year that this has been a year of much change. So many things that were one way at the beginning of 2010 are now very much different, so many plans and ideas have come and gone. I won't go in to too much detail as I plan on writing a summary for the whole year soon, but there is one thing that I have come to realise, and been told recently.

Jesus is always the same, He was one way when God created the universe, He was the same way when He came to Earth, He was that way when He died on the cross and He will still be the same when the last embers of this universe fade and die.

This is one of those facts that I have had as a head knowledge for a long time, something I have read and heard many times over the years. However only recently have I begun to understand quite what this means. I had one of those moments when I checked the Bible verse on my phone today and it was the verse quoted at the beginning of this post.

Hebrews 13:8 
     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Tomorrow I will post my thoughts on this verse, but before I do I'd like people to consider what it means to them and in general.So stop and think about this verse, really consider it and what it really means. I'd ask everyone who reads this post to consider this verse prayerfully and ask God to reveal the magnitude of this verse to them.

Advent Challenge Day 22

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

When the task to help someone came up I was unsure as how to go about completing this task, so I decided just to wait until the opportunity arose. I trusted that God would give me an opportunity to complete the task in a way that I wouldn't be able to do myself.

Turns out my Dad needed some help with something he had planned for work. As it is coming up to Christmas he is having a small party in his office this lunch time and he needs food cooked for them to eat at the party. Since I love cooking and am told I am quite good at it my Dad asked me if I would mind cooking some things along with my Mum for the party.

And so I managed to turn out a few dishes before I had to go to work. My Dad requested that I make wings and glazed sausages to go with the savoury dishes my Mum was making and some sweet lemon tarts for a tasty desert.

This is not the way I thought I would be completing the task when it was selected but since I had no idea what I would be doing I guess it is not a bad thing. It also helps with the slightly strained relationship with my Dad at the moment, hopefully repeated acts like this will lead to him being more accepting towards the plans for the future, but we will see.

I am now drawing close to the end of this series of challenges with only 3 days to go and then it is Christmas. These next 3 days are going to be very busy and fitting these last tasks in is going to become increasingly difficult, but after getting this far into it I will endeavour to complete all of them satisfactorily. But to find out you will have to check back each day until the end of the tasks. In addition to this I am going to make the first mention of a new much shorter series of tasks I have been challenged to do over the holiday period. I will go in to much more detail in another post nearer the time but basically between the 26th and the 31st all my posts will be single words. You have my friend Caron to thank for this, please check out her blog its really quite interesting. I am not quite sure how this will work or how I will complete this but it may be interesting to check out and see ow it does work out.

But anyway back to the task in hand, the next task in the Advent Challenge will be task number 24. Pray for what you are thankful for this Christmas. Check back for tomorrows post to see how this challenge goes, until then, Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What are you waiting for?

Mr Incredible-What are you waiting for?
Boy-I don't know, something incredible I guess.

This quote is from the film The Incredibles which is one of my favourite animated films. It is one of those films that is shown around Christmas time and it is one of the adverts for it that caught my attention. In the advert Mr Incredible has just arrived home and a little boy is sitting on his tricycle when he asks the question "what are you waiting for?" The little boy looks for a second and replies "I don't know, something incredible I guess".

Sometimes I feel as though God is saying to me "What are you waiting for?" And often my answer does seem to amount to me replying "I don't know, something incredible I guess."

I wonder how many other people are the same or who have had similar experiences in their lives. We are sat there waiting for something to happen, but when we are challenged by anyone on what it is we are waiting for we can not explain exactly what it is we are waiting for. We sit there wanting God to show us exactly what to do and when to do it, we want to be led like children with God holding our hand as we walk through life.

Although God will always provide for us because He is our Father, like any parent He delights when we go out in to the world and achieve. He is proud of us when we take the initiative and follow on from where Jesus left off, doing His will and building His kingdom. Often we get caught up in the process of praying for assistance, praying for guidance and praying for help. Sometimes what is required is us to stop waiting for God to do something incredible and go start doing His will now. There is no denying that God could do everything without us, but that is not the way He works, as I said He is our Father and wants us to do well and grow. He wants us to grow in love and His spirit by learning constantly, and the best way to learn is always to go out and do. Practising being like Him in our daily lives, yes making mistakes, but always learning and always growing in a direction that will make Him pleased.

So, what is it you are waiting for? Something Incredible?

We have been told what God wants us to, we have been shown by Jesus the way we should live. What is it we are waiting for, go out in to the world and live as we have been taught and shown. When God wants us to do something incredible He will let us know in no uncertain terms. Until then get out there Kingdom building.

Advent Challenge Day 21

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

This task was one which was quite important for me to do for myself. The reason being is that this year has produced a number of people close to me who are going to find at least Christmas this year difficult. There are different reasons why people may find this season difficult, but I have worked out recently that most issues eventually boil down to loss or relationship break down.

There is another reason I wanted to do this task too, because the last two Christmas seasons have not been the most fun for me with one thing and another and I can appreciate people finding the season difficult to bear. I don't want to go into too much detail about specific people I prayed for in this task, although there are a number of them. All I will do is outline the rough ideas behind it, and hopefully it may encourage others to pray for those people in the world who struggle with the same.

The main area I prayed around was the people I know who have lost loved ones this year at some point, the people who will be spending their first Christmas without specific people there to enjoy it with. In addition to this I prayed about those who have lost people in or near the Christmas season in the past or whose loved ones who are now gone had strong connections to Christmas.

As well as this I thought and prayed about those people who find Christmas for other reasons, it could be they have financial problems and can not celebrate in the way they would like, the homeless or those seperated from their families for whatever reason.

I finished up by thinking about the armed forces of Christian families world wide who will be spending Christmas away from their loved ones due to wars or other military engagements. Specifically I prayed for the Children of the members of the armed forces who will miss parents over Christmas and who are unlikely to understand why their parents can not be there.

I know there are many other cases and situations of why people may find Christmas difficult, but it is hard for me to think and cover them all. Yet I have faith that God is aware of it all and although I can not articulate it all into one prayer He knows about it and has something planned for each and everyone who is prepared to accept His help.

The next task in the challenge is going to be task number 4. Help someone in need. Now I am not sure how this task will pan out, but I am at work today, hopefully, and I am sure that some opportunity for me to help someone above and beyond the call of duty will present its self at some point. Until tomorrow, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The most adequate Christmas ever

God-Hello, Stan.
Stan-If you know who I am, then you know why I'm here.
God-I know everything.
Stan-I guess that makes two of us, huh?
         Look, Sir--
God-You, uh,unplugged the sun. 
Stan-Oh, sorry!
God-Look, I'm just gonna cut to the chase. I'm not gonna help you.
Stan-What? Then just help my family. You can't let them die.
God-Look, everything happens for a reason.
Stan-What reason could there be?
God-Stan, I'm gonna level with you.
         If your family isallowed to live,
         Stanford's tennis team will go oh-and-eight in conference play.
God-I'm just messing with you.
         The point is, mysterious ways,
         have a little faith, I'm in the details...
         Now c'mon, you can be triceratops.
         I know he's your favorite.
Stan-We're out of time!
          Now send me back so I can save my family!
God-Not gonna happen. 
Stan-You have to!
God-Oh, okay, so you know better than me?
         Is that it? You're all-knowing?
Stan-No. Yes. I-
         I don't know. 
God-Exactly! You don't know.
         You can't know. So stop trying to control everything.
Stan-I don't do that.
God-Stan, you're holding a gun to God's head.
         I mean, I can't even think of a metaphor that's better than this.
Stan-But my family...! 
         put the gun down and let My will be done.
Stan-I'm sorry.
God-So shines a good deed in a weary world.
God-That's all I wanted.
         One small act of humility.
         Okay, you can go back. 
God-Eh. It's my kid's birthday.
Stan-Thank you! Thank you! Oh! I'll never ask for anything again.
          .....There's just one more thing.

I wonder how many people know where this script comes from? It is from the season 3 of American Dad, episode 8, the Christmas special. American Dad is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, Seth McFarlane is an absolute genius when it comes to animated comedy. But not only are these shows funny, but they actually make you stop and think about the stories too. Some of the stories while on the surface seem quite crude, the beauty of the show is that they are actually very intelligent and well thought through.

While watching this episode last night I was thinking about what I may be able to write today and had no intention of writing about this at all. But the above scene seemed an absolute gem, it is a perfect opportunity to talk about something I often have a problem with. Arguing with God.

How many times do we pray and pray about God's plans for us, we say we are desperate to know what His plans are. We start off wanting to know, we seek and seek for the answer. But then when God finally starts to reveal His plans to us we stop and say, "Hang on a minute, how about we do this, or that first, how about we do this instead." I am sure I am not the only one who has done this, I am sure I am not the only one who has at times questioned the wisdom of what God is doing in our lives.

Yet we claim to be obedient followers of God, we claim to desire to follow His will and His plans no matter what. I am not saying that by questioning His plans we are being a bad Christian or that by having our own plans we are disobeying God. But if we are asking God for His plans and then when we hear them we decide we don't like them, have we totally given ourselves over to God.

It is never going to be easy to give God 100% of ourselves, we are only human, we can not be perfect. We need to understand that although we have our own, wants and desires it is only God who knows the real needs of our souls. God created us, He knows us better than we know ourselves and because of this His plans will be better for us.

Advent Challenge Day 20

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

Support a Christmas appeal. There is one appeal that I support every year without fail, The Salvation Army Christmas Appeal.As someone who was raised in The Salvation Army it is something that I have always felt strongly about, and even when I was not a part of the Church I still actively supported the Christmas Appeal.

Both through personal donations and playing with the band every winter I do my part in supporting the local Salvation Army in raising money towards the charity work this organisation does. I always fills me with a sense of pride and privilege when ever I see people collecting for the same appeal or when I see the TV ad campaigns.

Also with working in the area where this sort of fund raising goes I have come to a much greater appreciation of what these efforts are for, who is helped by this money and the reactions that it creates. Seeing first hand the sorts of changes it can make has given me an even greater appreciation of what these efforts actually mean in real terms.

I know some people may call cheat on this task as they may claim it is something I would have done and supported anyway with or without the task. However to complete this task was somewhat of a challenge for me. Being slightly incapacitated this week with an agonising neck and shoulder injury causing me to take the week off work sick to complete this task caused me a fair bit of suffering. Standing playing carols in the freezing weather with snow on the ground with constant pain from my shoulder was not easy, and I could have easily skipped it or gone home early. But I did not, and I played with good cheer for the two hours we were out, after all some things are just worth the effort.

The task which is next in the Advent challenge is task number 10. Pray for those who find Christmas difficult. Check back tomorrow to see how this task goes, until then, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Write out your salvation testimony

Now as I said last week, to me the idea of a testimony is something that is fluid, organic and constantly changing as we journey and grow with God. Therefore although I have already written a number of blogs which could be classed as a testimony the one I am going to write here is something different. In addition to this the task is to write your salvation testimony, not just your testimony of life in faith. So first I just want to carify exactly what we mean by salvation;

sal·va·tion   [sal-vey-shuhn] – noun
1. The act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss,destruction, etc.
2. The state of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc.
3. A source, cause, or means of being saved or protected from harm, risk, etc.
4. Theology . Deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.

So there we have 4 definitions of what salvation is, basically it is being saved, resuced, protected from harm, risk and destruction. All in all it is a pretty good word to sum up exactly what God has done for us through Jesus. So what about my salvation testimony?

Unlike some Christians I know or have heard speaking I can not place a date on when I was saved. For me there was no Damascus moment, no sudden conversion. For me I didn't wake up one morning and see the light. Being the stubborn block headed scientist I am it took a number of events, a lot of pushing and many helpful saints to get to the point where I was willing to accept God into my life.

I wouldn't say I ever disbelieved in God, I often denied Him or refused to acknowledge Him, but always in my life I have been looking for Him never quite knowing what it was I was looking for. When I first began going back to Church it was not for God or to be saved, but a selfish need to have some sort of support network around me in case things went wrong, again. But God can use even the smallest routes in to your heart, and placing myself in His home was only ever going to play out to His advantage.

Without going in to too much detail though there are a couple of points which for me were not so much conversion points, but moments at cross roads where God directed me onwards to a new and better path. And I just want to give a couple of brief outlines of these moments.

The first was while sitting in a youth gathering when the Minister challenged everyone there about their lives as Christians, bearing in mind at this point I did not consider myself a Christian. The challenge issued was that of "How is your prayer life? How is your Bible study". Now I know I have talked about this moment before but for me this was a huge revelation. It was not about going to Church and waiting to hear God talk, there was something I could do, I could talk to God and just maybe He would talk back to me.

As I continued attending Church and going about general life I slowly began to realise that the reason I had not been hearing God was that I was not listening, not that He was not talking to me. This second revelation totally changed my outlook on life and moved me on to the path I have been treading for a little while now. But with this realisation that God was talking to me, nay shouting at me, took me by a bit of surprise. It came at a time when I was least expecting it and when I began to listen to the advice and commands I could now hear my life began to turn around. In addition to this knowing what I was now listening to when I thought back through my life I could see moments when God had been talking and shouting at me in the past but that I had ignored and not paid attention to.

There are many other moments, points and people who have brought me to the point where I now know I have been saved by Jesus, I have been rescued from the dangers of destruction that I placed myself in to in the past. But to talk about them all would take too long and would likely not be all that interesting to people. I also know that most of the people who are instrumental in my journey getting to where it is will never read or hear this but I want to thank all of them, they truly are Godly people without who the Kingdom would be all the poorer for.

I know that this is not ended in a way that really bookends the story but I find that exceptionally hard to do as the story is far from complete. Everyday I grow and learn, continually I am journeying onwards and hopefully growing in faith and wisdom. My real testimony is this blog, my daily accounts and thoughts in faith while I am journeying onwards. This blog stands as the testimony to my growth in belief and faith, it hopefully shows an increase in understanding and love for God and Jesus.

So now onwards to the next task, the task which was draw from the hat this week is to read a book from the Old Testament. In a way I am glad it is a little bit of an easy task to complete this week as it is after all the run up to Christmas and there is much to be done. However as with every task it will be approached with a real determination for it to make a difference and mean something rather than it just be the reading of a story. Check back next week to find out which book I read and my thoughts on it. Please feel free to check out the previous weeks task on the Soldier's Challenge page and as always feel free to stay a while and read some of the other daily posts.

Advent Challenge Day 19

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

When I did the task picked yesterday I thought I knew exactly how it would go, I would thank God for all the blessings and gifts I have received and pray for those who would have little or nothing this year at Christmas. And to a certain extent that is how it went, at least to begin with.

After I had prayed and thanked God for everything He has blessed me with in my somewhat comfortable life and prayed for those who are not as fortunate as myself I began to pray for something I had not previously thought about. The scripture quote above from Matthew 10:19-20 is something I strongly believe in, the Holy Spirit can guide our words and provide us with the words we know we need to say but can not figure out ourselves. And so I believe that what happened next was a Spirit led prayer, which in itself I feel is a major break through in my personal growth.

The reason for this is that once I was praying I began to feel a need not to pray for those who wont be able to send gifts or feast in the way most people do at Christmas but to pray for those who do not have God in their lives. Surely this is a more pressing need in reality than the lack of material and worldly goods and possessions. There is a real need in the world for people who have nothing to be supported by those who can afford to give, but this is just as true if not more so for those who are poor in spirit.

This time of year is a great opportunity for us to tell people about our faith, it need not be in a forceful or direct way but it is a time for planting seeds. The seeds you sow this Christmas time may take many years to develop fruit, some may never develop at all but we should use every opportunity to grow God's kingdom when it comes our way. It may be that something as small as a kind act of helping a stranger in the snow, or singing a religious carol while going about your business gives you the chance to tell someone why Christmas is so important to you. As I said yesterday, be brave and courageous, be ready to act in faith when He calls. And remember that the Spirit of our Father will always supply the words that we need.

So the next task to complete is going to be task number 11. Support a Christmas appeal. Check back tomorrow to see what happens with this challenge, but until then, Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Always feet first

Psalm 27:14 (NLT)
     Wait patiently for the Lord. 
     Be brave and courageous. 
     Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I am not one known for making plans, neither am I well known for thinking things through before I do them. Always in my life I jump in with both feet with little or no thought or planning. In the past I always relied on my ability to think around any problem or at least postpone the negative effects untill I could be bothered to deal with them or they became someone else's problem.

Recently though I have been making some big decisions about my life which some friends and family members have been questioning. Not that they doubt any of my plans, but that they know me as some one who is likely to do something very crazy at the least bit of notice.

The thing is thought that without knowing it I have actually been practicing this verse in my life to some degree. The two feet first approach is still there, when it is time then I jump with all I have, but I have been learning to wait for God's commands before I make that jump.

Learning to live in God's time and to Hi plans has been hard for someone who has always done things their own way in their own time. But as I learn to trust in God's plans more and more and trust Him to make things right when I follow them I have had so much fun. I wont say that life has been easy, but neither has it yet been that hard, but following God's plans has brought a joy to my life that I never knew before, a peace within that bubbles up from inside.

Waiting on the Lord is not easy, His time and plans do not always seem to be reasonable to us. But then that is why it takes bravery and courage to be a follower of the Lord. There will never be anything we can not do with Him at our sides but it does sometimes require a leap of faith, it requires us to be like Peter and take that chance with God.

Matthew 14:25-33
     At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. "A ghost!" they said, crying out in terror. 
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. "Courage, it's me. Don't be afraid." 
Peter, suddenly bold, said, "Master, if it's really you, call me to come to you on the water." 
He said, "Come ahead."
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!" 
Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?" 
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, "This is it! You are God's Son for sure!" 

Like I said, it won't always be easy, and we are likely to fail if our faith falters. But we should know that no matter what, God is always there for us, He will always rescue us from the storms that life may throw our way if we but call on His name.

Be patient and wait,

Be brave and courageous,

But always be ready to act in faith when He calls.

Advent Challenge Day 18

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

So, Advent. We all know about Advent, its the run up to Christmas, we hear the prophesies and stories about the preparation for Christ, we light candles and open our chocolate filled calendars. But what does Advent really mean, where does i come from and why do we celebrate it in the way that we do?

The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus which translates as "coming", however the word Adventus is the Roman translation of the Greek word Parousia which is used to describe the second coming of Christ. The reason that this word is used is because Advent is not just a time where we remember the waiting and build up to the birth of Christ, but a time where we remember that we ourselves are awaiting Christs return.

In the western Church Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year and begins four Sundays before the 25th of December, this means the beginning of Advent falls anywhere between the 27th November and the 3rd of December. In the western Church the colours used in the time of Advent are either purple or blue, purple being more traditional and blue coming in to favor due to its ties to the feeling of hope. In the eastern and Orthodox Church the colours associated with Advent, or the Nativity Fast as they call it, are red or gold.

Advent calendars were the product of the Germanic countries and Lutherism, as far as I can find out it was pretty much common practice in Germanic countries from about the 17th century with the first commercially produced printed calendars coming late in the game in about 1903. I can not find out a date for the first chocolate calendar but the idea of receiving a small gift behind each door has progressed far in the time since the first printed ones were produced. These days it is common to find many different types of calendar, my favorite being the Lego calendar where you receive a piece of Lego every day over lent, pretty awesome right.

There is much more I could tell you that I have learned about Advent, from the fasting to the Advent dolls often displayed in Norther England for luck. But to do so would vastly increase the length of this post, but I would advise you to look it up yourself, there is some very interesting reading to be done. So what is the next task? Well that is to be task number 5.Pray for those who don't have anything this Christmas. Check back tomorrow to see how that goes, but until then, Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ginger wine

My family has an obsession with two things, and no time of year does this obsession show as Christmas time. This obsession is Ginger loaf and Ginger wine. Until my Gramma passed away she used to make her ginger loaf right through the year, in my home town they were regarded as worth their weight in gold. Since then my sister in law has taken on the mantle of ginger loaf baker although they are not quite the same.

The ginger wine is the product of my Grandma who has been producing this fine liquid for longer than I have been alive. It does not seem to be popular outside the region that I live, but up here in North Eastern England it is loved, especially at Christmas time. Unlike its weak cousin ginger beer, ginger wine is a winter drink that will put hairs on your chest and keep you warm whatever the weather outside. Agin as with the ginger loaf there can be no substitutions, people will go to great lengths to obtain my Grandma's ginger wine above any other's.

The recipe my Gramma used for the ginger loafs was a closely guarded secret which she refused to share with anyone, not even family. The same is true for the ginger wine, although vague allusions to the recipie have been made no one has worked out exactly how to make it just like her.

There are many things in life which claim to be a secret recipe such as Coke Cola or KFC. The owners of the secret go to great lengths to protect the secret and relying on it to bring customers their way time and time again. They are the keepers of this secret knowledge and the only way to obtain acces to their product is through them and them alone.

Often religions and cults can be like this, mystic and secretive. The only way to obtain the truth is through the priesthood and their mystical rites and passages. "Religions" like scientology will charge you a fortune to "learn" the secret knowledge, other cults require you to give up everything and give it all to the cult. But what kind of truth can earthly goods and treasure buy you? what kind of knowledge is available to buy?

Christianity is always available to everyone, not only is it absolutely free, but as Christians we should want to give it away. Christ came to earth to give us the good news of God's love for us and the redemption that we would receive through Him. Christianity should never be a secret, it should never be hidden or made inaccessible. God gave to us freely that we should have everlasting life. We are all His children and He loves each and everyone of us, why not share Him with those who do not yet know Him? Do you hold back from telling others about Him in your day to day life? If so why? What is it that holds you back?

If God means everything to you, if you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour then it should shine out of you in all that you do. Live right, follow the teachings and it will not be hard to spread the news Jesus came to tell us, people will come to you asking why you live so different to the rest of the world. When that happens you will see how easy things become when God is in control.

Advent Challenge Day 17

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

So the task for yesterday was to place a Christmas Bible verse on my Christmas tree. I spent a while thinking about this and which verse I could chose to put on, in the end I asked my friend who selected the following verse.

John 1:14 (NIV)
     The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As soon as I read it I knew it was the right one to put up, this verse sums up everything I would want to say about Christmas into one short passage. It tells of how Jesus who was there from the beginning came and dwelt among us, how He in His awesome glory and perfection came from God to us to give us the grace of God which leads to eternal life and the truth of the word through which we can live right.

I have placed this verse on the tree almost exactly centre stage so that everyone can see it. There will be many people coming in and out of our home between now and new year and who will see our tree. It is my hope that they will view the tree and take the small amount of time required to read the Bible verse which is quite prominent. Hopefully this Christmas a small reminder of the reason for Christmas is Christ, that without Him all we have is a pointless mid winter festival which means nothing.

The task which I am doing today is task number 16. Research the season of Advent. I enjoyed the google St Nicholas task I did at the weekend and hope that this one is as informative and interesting as the last. Check back tomorrow to find out what I have learned about Advent. Until then, Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A visit to the doctors

I am a lucky person, lucky in the sense that I very rarely get ill. I have in the past had many times I have needed to go to the doctors or the hospital but mostly that has been for other people or through my many self inflicted injuries. But today I had to bite the bullet and go to the doctors, after nearly 4 days in pain I could not go any longer without sleep and being off work again is driving me insane.

But life is never quite that simple, last night everyone in my house came down with a bug, lovingly shared by my elder brother and his family, which meant that getting to the doctors now was going to be a lot more of an effort. But regardless I made it there, after half an hour managed to get registered at the surgery since my GP was still in the city where I studied at university, and I waited. It was like waiting for an eternity, feeling absolutely rotten, surrounded by ill people who all seemed to be staring at me for being an outsider even though I grew up in this small town.

Eventually I managed to see a doctor who after some time checking stupid things like my breathing, stupid because I went to him with an injured neck not respiratory problems, he finally began to prod and poke at my neck. After subjecting me to a series of examinations which I personally believe would have been covered by the Geneva convention due to their agonising outcomes he told me what I already knew. "Sir, you have a sore neck", well I never would have guessed that, and it took you 5 years at university to be able to work out these things? But anyway, he gave me some strong pain killers/anti inflammatory pills and told me to come back next week if the pain persists. Not a great help but I am hoping that the pain pills work and that I will not have to return to be subjugated to the painful examinations again.

This is all well and good, but why have I decided to share this story with you guys on here, it has nothing to do with the theme and usual content of the blog. Well the reason is twofold, firstly I wanted to rant about this and no one in my home is well enough to listen, and secondly there is a further part to this story.

The further part actually comes before I saw the doctor. While sitting in the waiting room there was a lady sitting next to me who began talking to me. After a short conversation we discovered we were both "outsiders" I have lived away for a long time and she only moved here 9 years ago, yes she is still considered an outsider, it is that sort of town. But in the course of the conversation I was able to tell her about the work that I do and my  membership of my Church, I was able to talk to her about not only the work I am doing now, but the work I feel God is calling me to. I love the opportunities God throws in our paths when we are least expecting it, yes we can be sitting in a doctors waiting room feeling like death warmed up in absolute agony, by that should not diminish our love for God or our joy at being His child. I hope I managed to be a good example of a Christian for that woman and that it will make her think about God and His place in her life, you never know what God can do with even such small seeds.

Advent Challenge Day 16

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

The task for yesterday was to read a section of scripture, it is a section that I have looked at recently in my linked Bible study so I have  already considered it recently. The section is Isaiah 9:1-7 which when  looked at it last time I only focused on verse 2. This time however I want to look at a bit more of it.

Isaiah 9:1-7

    But there'll be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he'll make that whole area glorious—the road along the Sea, the country past the Jordan, international Galilee.

        The people who walked in darkness
            have seen a great light.
        For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
            light! sunbursts of light! 
        You repopulated the nation,
            you expanded its joy.
        Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
            Festival joy!
        The joy of a great celebration,
            sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. 
        The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
            all their whips and cudgels and curses—
        Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
            as surprising and sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian. 
        The boots of all those invading troops,
            along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
        Will be piled in a heap and burned,
            a fire that will burn for days! 
        For a child has been born—for us!
            the gift of a son—for us!
        He'll take over
            the running of the world.
        His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
            Strong God,
        Eternal Father,
            Prince of Wholeness. 
        His ruling authority will grow,
            and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
        He'll rule from the historic David throne
            over that promised kingdom.
        He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
            and keep it going
        With fair dealing and right living,
            beginning now and lasting always.
        The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
            will do all this.

This passage is packed with promises from God, what He intends and how He intends to do it. The light which is prophesied about here has a huge job to live up to just by this short passage. Deliverance from oppressors and invading troops, a leader who will be an amazing counsellor, a prince of peace and an eternal father. His authority will grow, He will fix the nation starting now and lasting forever.

It is easy to see why the Jews built up so much expectation around the coming Messiah, there was so much that was said about Him by the prophets, they expected so much. So how was it that they missed Him when He finally came?

The Jews were expecting someone to come in with amazing power to sweep away the forces of evil and tyranny with military strength and his awesome power. They were wanting a Messiah who would utterly destroy their enemies so that the Jews could rule forever in a land of peace. But they forgot God's awesomeness and His love for all mankind, they forgot about the fact that we are all God's children and He loves each one of us.

The truth is that God sent His son in to the world to do all of these things, and Jesus did do them, but His plans were not like our plans, His ways were not like our ways. Jesus came and taught us the way to live, led us by His example. He showed us how to beat the oppressors and tyrants not by being strong, but by being weak and humble. Yes Jesus did have enough power to have completed these prophesies in anyway He chose, He could have led a great army of Jews and conquered the world, but that would not have shown the world God's love for us, it would not have been in His character.

Yes God does sometimes show an angry and jealous side to His personality, He does want us all to love Him, follow Him and worship Him. But that is because He loves us unconditionally, He knows what the enemy is like, He knows what the enemy can do. We can not understand the heartbreak humanity must cause God through our actions and behaviour, yet still He loves us. Jesus displayed God's character on earth, He was loving and kind but He also showed the anger and jealousness of God in the temple. We sometimes forget when we are looking at Jesus we are looking at God too, the Father and the Son, the same and indivisible, one and the same, there are three persons in the Godhead-the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

This was a slightly different look at the same verses that I considered last time, please let me know what you thin of both of them, do you agree or not? If so why not? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. The task selected for today has been task number 22. Put a Christmas Bible verse on your Christmas tree. I'm glad that this one has only just come up now otherwise it may have been a difficult one to complete, the reason being that our Christmas tree only went up last night. Check back tomorrow to see which Bible verse I selected and why, but until then, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

As for God

Psalm 18:30 (NIV)
     As for God, His way is perfect:
     The LORD’s word is flawless;
     He shields all who take refuge in Him.

I would imagine that anyone who said that they had never doubted the Lord or His plans would be lying. As Humans we find it difficult to let go of what we want, of our plans and believing in ourselves. This causes us to ask questions and doubt God's plans because they do not match up with ours or they are not taking us in the direction that we want to go in.

So many times in so many different situations in the Bible we are reminded about God's perfection, the fact that His plans are flawless and in our best interests. In so many stories and parales we see that the Lord only wants the best for us and that in following His will we will recieve so much more than we could gain if we worked on our own.

Jeremiah 29:11  
    I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. 

There is nothing He has not already thought of, nothing He has not already planned for. He knows what He wants you to do, He knows what you need to do all that He asks of you. All He asks from us is that we love Him and trust in Him to be there to provide for and support us.

Acts 2:21 (KJV)  
    And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

Do you trust in the Lord? When you need Help do you call on His name? I know that often I have tried to do things  without Him, I have struggled on without calling on His help. Time and again I have to learn and relearn the lesson of calling on Him to help. We must remember that God is our father, He wants only the best for us and for us to grow in His image. And like a father He is always there for us when we need Him, whatever the situation.

Isaiah 41:13 (NIV)
     For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Advent Challenge Day 15

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

Yesterday the task I completed was to pray for someone lonely this Christmas. This task for me is quite personal as the person who I have chosen to pray for is my Grandma. This year has not been an easy one, and especially not for Grandma. This will be the first Christmas my Grandma will be having on her own, yes she will be surrounded by family, yes she will have people there all the time, but it is the first Christmas without Grandad there too.

It has been hard on my Grandma to adjust to being on her own now, as someone who cared for my Grandad for many years she often finds herself at a lose end and not knowing what to do. Christmas has always been a busy time of year for us with lots of things happening in our Church and with our family. But for many varied reasons this year has been exceptionally quiet and there has not been much to be getting on with. Because of this my family and specifically my Grandma have been finding it difficult to get in to the Christmas spirit and enjoy the season.

I have prayed that my Grandma and my family find a sense of peace this Christmas through Jesus, that they can remember the good times spent with the family we have lost this year and not find ourselves wallowing in grief. But I prayed not only for my family, but all families, all friends, all parents, all children, anyone who has lost someone this year. I pray that although they will never forget their loved ones that it will become easier for them to remember the times they enjoyed together and know that one day we will all be reunited together in God's glory.

The task which I will be attempting to do today is task number 23. Read Isaiah 9:1-7. Please check back tomorrow to see how this task goes and my thoughts on it. But until then, Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seek ye first

Matthew 6:33
          But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

When I was a child I used to sing a song based on this Bible verse. It was a very simple song which is almost exactly the Bible verse as it stands above.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God,
And His righteousness,
And all these things will be added unto you,
Hallelu, Hallelujah. 

I love the old songs and choruses like this because they are so simple and say exactly what needs to be said. There is no pretension, nothing added and nothing taken away. In the modern era many of our songs and music has become very complicated and very sophisticated. There is nothing in essence wrong with that, worshipping God in any form is a great thing but it should not all be about the performance we give when singing.

There is a song that is sung in the Church I attend which talks about this very subject. It is something that many others before me have noticed and understood. There are many greater minds and more experienced Christians who have talked and preached on this subject. But it is something that we are guilty of time and time again, making worship more about ourselves than about God. Yes we should worship God with horns and trumpets, we should praise Him with drums and cymbals. But when it becomes more about the music than about God them we have an issue.

The song that we sing about this that I feel is a very well written song and a beautiful piece of music that does what it should. It makes you think about God and how you worship Him, it makes you think about how the music can become our focus. The words to the song are below, please read the lyrics and think about how they apply to worship in the modern era.

When the music fades 
All is stripped away 
And I simply come 
Longing just to bring 
Something that's of worth 
That will bless your heart 

I'll bring You more than a song 
For a song in itself 
Is not what You have required 
You search much deeper within 
Through the way things appear 
You're looking into my heart 

I'm coming back to the heart of worhip 
And it's all about You 
It's all about You, Jesus 
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it 
When it's all about You 
It's all about You, Jesus 

King of endless worth 
No one could express 
How much you deserve 
Though I'm weak and poor 
All I have is yours 
Every single breath

I'll bring You more than a song 
For a song in itself 
Is not what You have required 
You search much deeper within 
Through the way things appear 
You're looking into my heart 

I'm coming back to the heart of worship 
And it's all about You 
It's all about You, Jesus 
I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it 
When it's all about You 
It's all about You, Jesus
                        (Matt Redman)

Advent Challenge Day 14

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

Yesterday my task was to give myself a Christmas treat. Let me tell you that I really needed something yesterday after the day I had, I wont go in to it but read here if you want to know more. So I was out Christmas shopping with my parents and younger brother and was on the lookout for something for myself.

After almost finishing my Christmas shopping, only one present left to get now, I began looking around for things for myself. There are really only two things I want this Christmas, one is a new crucifix and the other is a watch. Since I already have a crucifix I like I am waiting to see if there is one that I think is more personal for me, something that not only expresses my faith but one that I feel personally connected to, some people may think that is the wrong way to think of it but that is my feelings on it. And for the watch I know I am already getting a very nice watch from my brother as I picked it out.

So wandering round the shopping mall I couldn't think of what to get myself and was feeling that maybe some sweets or a book may be in order. In the end I settled on getting myself a new watch, It was bought in a shop that I though had a special offer on, turns out I need to open my eyes more, but I bout 3 watches in there, one for my Mum one for my brother and one for me. Its not the most spectacular treat or even what most people would think of as a treat but in my family presents normally tend to have a practical theme to them, why buy something people don't need or won't use. But the main thing is that I am happy with it and that is the main part of a treat.

Today's task is task number 3. Pray for someone lonely this Christmas. Check back tomorrow to see how that task goes and what I do for it. Until then, Merry Christmas guys.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A day of agony

This morning when I awoke I was unable to move without causing myself extreme and agonising pain. It took me almost two hours to get out of bed this morning but only after I had taken fistfuls of pain killers an a fair bit of assistance from my brother. I am no stranger to pain having broken a number of bones and had plenty of injuries of various kinds in the past, amongst my friends I am known to be extremely injury prone. But today is quite possibly the most pain I have ever been in.

I am not writing this to complain about the pain or to seek sympathy, I am writing today about what the pain has made me think about. Bearing this pain today has been very difficult for me, I would love to say I have born it with good grace but I have spent the day complaining about it to my family and making sure everyone around me is aware of my pain.

In reality though the pain I have had today is really not all that bad, well for me it is, but our Lord had to deal with so much more than a sore neck. When he allowed himself to be taken and flogged, then crucified the pain he experienced would have been many many times greater than what I have had today. However this pain has made me consider what it is that Jesus went through for me, how much he suffered so that I could be forgiven and saved from the wrath of God.

It might sound strange but I am actually glad for the pain I have been in today. I am glad that through the pain I have been made to think about Jesus and his suffering. I don't pretend to think that this pain is anywhere near comparable to the suffering He went through or that by suffering this way I can understand anything about His suffering. But by the small amount of suffering I have been through I have come to appreciate how much I must mean to Him that he would go through so much for me. I mentioned to one of my friends over the weekend that I hope that in the future I can always look at the situation I am in and think what is God trying to teach me through this. I hope that I have learned the lesson that comes with this pain and will continue to learn what I need to when I need to. With a bit of luck the pain will end soon, but as long as it lasts I pray that I can handle it with better grace than I have so far.

Advent Challenge Day 13

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

How much Christmas cheer have you got? Do you like to spread it or are you sometimes a bit of a Scrooge? My task yesterday was to spread some Christmas cheer amongst the people I was with. I had the advantage yesterday of being in two places, not quite at once but at least in one day. Because of this I managed to send time with a lot of people who are important to me and who I would want to spread some cheer too.

I began the day by sharing a bag of lollies with my my friends and the young people of my Church and spent time talking to all the older members of the Church asking how they were and giving my time for them to have someone to chat with. The nice thing about this was I managed to spend time talking to people I wouldn't normally talk to. After the service I went for lunch with one of my friends who I have not talked to for quite some time. After treating her to lunch we sat and talked for a long time, catching up on what has been going on, plans for the future and generally discussing our faith. I would like to think that although none of this was specifically Christmassy there was at least some joy and cheer that was spread in the morning with my friends there.

In the afternoon I drove back home after a great weekend with my friends and although I had a difficult drive home due to closed roads I did make it home in time for the evening service at my home Church. After the evening service I spent time laughing and chatting with the young people of the Church talking and planning things for over Christmas. We talked about organising Christmas carolling on Christmas eve when we tour the homes of people in our Church singing carols and sharing fellowship.

The fun and enjoyment that I had from this weekend especially yesterday I feel fulfils the task of spreading Christmas cheer, the laughter and good feeling that was experienced was certainly good cheer and Christmas was a significant part of a large part of it. The task I will be completing today will be number 18. Give yourself a Christmas treat. Check back tomorrow to see how it goes, until then, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Read the doctrines

This week the challenge that I have been doing is to read the doctrines of The Salvation Army. This is quite an important one for me as I am currently following plans which will with God's blessings lead me into full time ministry with The Salvation Army. I am proud to be a member of The Salvation Army, actually I am writing this post sat in McDonald's wearing my uniform, and feel that each and every member should know what it is that we stand for and why we believe what we believe.

Salvation Army doctrines

We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead-the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.

We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation.

We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.

We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

So there they are, the doctrines of The Salvation Army. These doctrines are the core of our faith as a Church and vital to our life as Christians practising our faith in this branch of the body of Christ. As a member of The Salvation Army I do believe these doctrines although I do not claim to always be 100% happy with what they mean. However when I have issue with them it is normally problems such as the fact that we believe in the endless punishment of the wicked. As someone who has a considerable number of friends who are scientists and part of what I call Dawkin's Disciples I sometimes worry that these people may fall into the category of wicked due to their active stance against God and Jesus.

There is not a lot I can really say about the doctrines without turning this post in to one of epic length. I think that after doing this challenge I have been inspired to do a series looking at the beliefs I have from the Church I belong to. So look out for that coming up, probably in the new year. However I have a little bit of a back log of things I want to write about stacking up and not much time in which to do the relevant research, but hopefully the holidays will provide me with time to catch up.

So reading the doctrines is done. Well not quite, there is a little more I want to do with them as I said but essentially the task as set out by the challenge is done. But I am intending to memorise these doctrines for myself as well as write on them for you guys to hopefully read in the future.

Now all that is left is for me to let you know what task has come out of the hat for me to complete this week. The task that I pulled out of the hat was to write out my salvation testimony. Now this is something that The Salvation Army seems to do a lot, from the very early days of William Booth testimonies have been integral to our fellowship. In my view a testimony is a very organic thing, it grows and evolves with you as you grow in your Christian faith, if it doesn't then maybe you should be a little worried. So This week I will write out my salvation testimony, which will be different to any I have written before and unlike any I am likely to write in the future but it will be an interesting snapshot into my Christian life as it stands right now. Please check back next week to read the post and testimony I produce and also I hope you will keep checking in the future for when I post further on the doctrines.

Advent Challenge Day 12

This challenge is now complete, please feel free to browse all of the 
completed tasks via the Advent Challenge tab.

So, day twelve, is it just me or does a certain Christmas song come to mind? Hope everyone reading this is having a good month so far and that your Christmas preparations are going well. I my self am almost sorted with everything I need to get and do before Christmas with only a few more presents to get and then wrap or post to the people who will be receiving them. But lets face it, your not here to find out how my shopping is going or even if I have my tree up yet, which I don't, but to find out how yesterdays Advent Challenge went.

It is a shame that I did not happen to have this challenge on the 6th of December which is St Nicholas' feast day. But on reading about Him, he is a very interesting character. St Nicholas became the original Santa Claus due to his habit of secret gift giving which is something I suspect most people already know about, of course good old St Nick gives out presents.

Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, and students. He is also the patron saint of Aberdeen, Amsterdam,Barranquilla, Bari, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Huguenots, Liverpool, Siggiewi, and Lorraine. As if this was not enough St Nick was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.

Not bad really is it, this guy seems to have made quite an impression on a lot of people and places. He is one of the Saints who is recognised by both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and is also recognised by some Anglican and Lutheran Churches too. But what about some facts about St Nick that you might not know.

Saint Nicholas who was orphaned at a young age was raised by his uncle, who was also named Nicholas, who happened to be the Bishop of Patara. His uncle founded the monastery of Holy Sion at which Saint Nicholas spent some time. His relics are situated in Bari, and at the site there is both a Catholic and an Orthodox Church. The relics of St Nicholas are said to exude a clear liquid known as manna which many people believe to have healing properties, this is collected every 6th December and can be bought at the site of his relics in Bari.

Interesting facts? Well I thought so anyway but I have been told in the past that I am interested in the dullest things, for example science. But what do we learn from him, what can we gather form these original foundations on to which the modern Santa Claus has been built?

Well for me he exhibits some of the best aspects of someone living a Holy life. He was a highly religious man in his life and obviously lived a life which was well respected by those who knew him, respected enough that he was recorded so that future generations would recognise him and show him to be a saint. This is all well and good but how does this affect us living today ion the modern age?

We can learn form Saint Nicholas that material goods are not important to living a good, wholesome and holy life. We can see that through right living we can influence people far outside where we are geographically located, by showing God in our lives in small ways but with true conviction we can have a measurable effect on the whole world. Who ever said that even the smallest thing you did does not have huge implications in the future?

So I think that task went quite well personally, let me know what you think of it in the comment section below. Moving on to which task I will be completing today, and the task which has been chosen is task number 15. Spread some Christmas cheer. I have some good ideas of what to do with this one but if you want to know you will have to check back and read the Advent Challenge post tomorrow, until then, Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Today I went to see a film with 3 friends who I have not seen in a while. After spending the day having some good laughs with some great people and catching up with friends the film was a good way to wrap up the day.

Personally, to a number of my friends disgust, I have never read the Narnia series of books. I have seen all three films now, but know next to nothing about the stories or themes that run through them. But one of the friends I went to see the film with is a huge fan of C. S. Lewis. and was desperate to see the new film. The first I heard of the film was when she mentioned it online the other week, having watched the first two films it interested me enough to google it and watch the trailer.

While watching this film it seemed to me almost impossible to miss the Christian overtones of the story and the deep meanings of some of the scenes and lines. It was amazing to sit and think about how many millions of people will watch this film and hear the same lines and see the same scenes portrayed which have huge Christian significance.

But I do have one worry about the film though. I have seen the two films that precede this film and I can not personally remember thinking while watching them, wow what a powerful Christian message. Is it that I only saw the parts of the film that alluded to my faith because I am now a Christian and attuned to these things, or is it that Dawn Treader passes the message on better. I intend to re watch the first two films to see if watching them as a Christian gives a different experience to what I remember of them last time.

I think that I may have the potential to be converted in to a C. S. Lewis fan by my friends, as I have enjoyed all 3 films and the one or two works by him that I have read, but it remains to be seen. I will keep you updated on how this goes in the future if I ever get to the bottom of the stack of books I have to read already. Also keep an eye out as I will probably post something about the story and meaning of the Dawn Treader once I have time to think about the film and do a small amount of background research in to the story and C. S. Lewis.