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

Monday, January 31, 2011

The General-elect

For those who follow my blog you will know that in The Salvation Army we have been going through the election process of the election of a new General. Many people in The Salvation Army have been expecting this process to be a little bit drawn out as it was, and with the nomination of 9 candidates for the job this suspicion seemed to be justified. However today I was surprised to receive an email alert on my phone that they were preparing to make an announcement about the General-elect.

This afternoon I was out for work and could not find out myself who had been elected to replace the current General when he retires. I tried to get hold of a few people and was called a geek for phoning a friend to try and find out who had been elected to the position. After a few attempts I was finally able to track someone down who could tell me who the next General would be.

The official announcement can be found here and The Salvation Army's new General will be Linda Bond. She is the third female General we have had as an organisation and in a time where some Churches are experiencing huge fallout over female ministers I think this sends a message to other denominations and fellow Christians.

For me personally I am really pleased with the decision of the High Council, not because I am particularly overjoyed at the decision, I am pleased as she seems to be the most experienced candidate, but I see the quick and unanimous decision to be a positive sign that God was in the election. For a candidate to be selected so quickly out of so many shows that many people on the High council all agreed on the decision. A quick decision hopefully shows that the High Council was receptive to the leading hand of God and that the correct candidate was chosen.

I look forward to April when General-elect Linda Bond becomes General Linda Bond and takes control of our organisation. I look forward to seeing how The Salvation Army develops and hopefully grows under her leadership. There are many things I would love to see over the next 5 years under the leadership of Linda Bond, obviously growth and expansion but I would also love to see a revival and a return to the passion and drive of the early days. I would love to see The Salvation Army return to being the radical organisation it was, not scared to go to the dark and dangerous places, not scared to take God to the places where He is most needed and least wanted an organisation that dares to be different.

My prayer is that as Linda Bond begins her work with the retiring and takes up her new role that she remains close to God and has her eyes and ears open to what He is calling both her and The Salvation Army to do. I pray that she has the passion to make a difference and the drive to make The Salvation Army in to a spiritual fighting force once again. As I prayed at the beginning of the High Council I pray that Linda Bond may be humble enough to serve, strong enough to be weak and most of all to be a General who is a Godly and Holy person

General-elect Linda Bond

Filled with awe

Habakkuk 3:2 (NLT)
     I have heard all about you, Lord.
          I am filled with awe by your amazing works.
     In this time of our deep need,
          help us again as you did in years gone by.
     And in your anger,
          remember your mercy.

I have heard about God and stand in absolute awe of Him. The works I have seen Him do in my own life defy all that I know, it goes so far beyond my understanding that I have begun to realise that in truth I know nothing. When I have been in greatest need, when I have had nothing and no one He has been there for me, He has provided. I know I have far to go and much to learn, I know there is much I need to do if I am to go and follow where He is leading me, now I am in need again I must once again rely on His giving. Many things I do, many times now and in the future I am the cause of God's anger, yet I am confident that in and through His son Jesus His mercy and grace will be sufficient to redeem me once again. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
     Trust in the LORD with all your heart
          and lean not on your own understanding;
          in all your ways submit to him,
          and he will make your paths straight.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Read the Salvationist

This week the challenge in the Soldier's Challenge was a fairly easy one and one that is not particularly easy to write that much about. The task was to read The Salvation Army's weekly publication for members of the Church called the Salvationist.

Most of this weeks issue is taken up with bits and pieces about the High Council, the election of the next General of The Salvation Army. Most of this is probably not of much interest to anyone outside The Salvation Army, and to be honest I struggled to stay interested in some of the articles myself. I don't normally read the Salvationist, normally relying on my friends and family to let me know if there is an interesting article and finding most of the news about The Salvation Army on the grapevine at work (a Salvation Army Hostel) or at Church through the officers (the ministers).

Well that is pretty much all that I can say for this task. So the task which I am going to complete this week is to sing a Christian song in the shower. So that is all for now, hope you all have a God filled week and check back next week to find out how the task goes this week.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joyful Joyful

This week I have had a great time practising. Despite having a rough time at work at times this week I have managed to find time almost everyday this week to play all of my instruments. The one I am enjoying most and making the most progress with at the moment is my new cornet. This week I have played some fantastic new pieces my two favourites have been the Hayden Trumpet Concerto which is a solo I am practising with my music teacher. The second of my favourites was one I played with the brass band at my Church called Joyful Joyful.

Joyful Joyful is a piece I have heard many times in the past and has been a favourite of mine for many years. It is a brass band arrangement of Ode to Joy, but it is a modern and slightly jazzed up arrangement. The reason why I enjoyed playing this piece is because it gives me the opportunity to shine as I have a solo section where the band is thinly scored and my part carries the band. I massively enjoyed playing it in the practice and look forward to getting to perform it to an audience next month.

All of this has had me thinking about the talents and gifts that God gives to each one of us and the parable of the talents. For many years when I was running away from God I also ignored and buried my talent for music. I played my guitar and was quite good at it, but I never played my cornet which is by far the instrument I have played best in the past. We are warned in this parable that if we don't use the talents God has given us we will lose them, we need to use them so that they and the good they can do will grow and increase.

I am blessed day by day, week by week as I am now playing my cornet again as my skill level is beginning to come back, that my talent which was so close to being lost is once again growing and is being used by God in my Church.

One thing that this parable misses out is that God is a forgiving God. If we come back to him and admit that we are wrong, that we have failed Him then He will reward us. If we have ignored our talents and we are on the verge of losing them by coming back to God and using them again we will be rewarded by God. Think of a fourth servant who began by burring his talents but then realised that He was wrong and then dug them up and invested them. This servant would have at first been chastised by the master for not making the most of his talents, but would at least be congratulated and rewarded for realising he was at fault and eventually using them.

Trust in the Lord always

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
     Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

It's difficult not knowing things, when you don't know what is going on, how things are going to work out or where they are going. We often want to do things our way, the way we understand things , the way we think things should be done. We often fall into the trap of believing that we know what is best for our lives, that we more than anyone understand our situation and circumstances.

So often in life we want to rely on our own understanding and strength, and then we end up upset and disappointed when our plans don't work and we have essentially failed ourselves. Often we try and find external causes and reasons for our failure but in the end the blame often ends up being our own whether we admit it or not.

Trusting in the Lord with all our heart is the only way to guarantee positive results. It is not by relying on our own plans or our intelligence and understanding that we will achieve the only thing that really matters. If we acknowledge Him and His plans, follow His ways then we can be sure that our paths will always be straight.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Are you washed?

Romans 3:23 (NIV)
     For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)
     For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

I was having a hard job writing today, I could not think of anything to write and after the last two days at work I am drained and struggling for inspiration. So as I always do on the days when I have little or no inspiration, I went to the internet and ran a search. The search led me to the two verses above, at first I was going to just go with Romans 3:23 but as that verse alone seemed to be a little depressive I thought about looking for another and saw the verse just below was Ephesians 2:8.

I thought that this was a good pairing with the one verse telling us that we all are sinners and will never measure up to the glory of God. Then we have the second verse which tells us that through the grace of God and our faith in Him that God has given us the gift of being saved.

As someone who has spent his life growing up in and around the Church I know that we will never be anything but sinful. But I also know that this is not the problem that it first seems, I believe that through the saving grace of Christ we have all been washed clean of our sins. Through Jesus God has given us the greatest gift we could ever receive, eternal life with Him in Heaven. 

When I was thinking about what to write one thought I had and then discounted was about a song. But as I have been writing I have realised that it is relevant to what I have written and is something I should share with you guys. It is a song that I was introduced to by the young peoples band I have played in since I was 7 years old and continue to assist with now I am back living at home, they are still playing the same song 17 years on. The song is by Elisha A. Hoffman and is called are you washed;

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing pow’r?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

When the Bridegroom cometh will your robes be white?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Will your soul be ready for the mansions bright,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin,
And be washed in the blood of the Lamb;
There’s a fountain flowing for the soul unclean,
Oh, be washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Yes we will always be sinful and we will always continually to fall short of the glory of God but we have been given the gift from God of being washed by the blood of our Lord Jesus. 

Are you a first step Christian?

The thing about being a Christian is that people think that it is enough to just accept Jesus as their Lord and saviour and that that means they are saved. They think that by calling themselves Christians attending Church that they are doing enough. Some even pray and read the Bible, they can be very good at this but that is as far as they go. They fill their prayers with self serving requests, their own wants and desires, sometimes they will pray about others, their loved ones, people they know and their church members. The Bible study they do only ever scratches the surface, they read and know the stories in the Bible, but they never stop to think about what they mean or what God is saying through these stories.

So many people are willing to make the first step in to Christianity, to dip their toe into the ocean but never commit to full immersion. They take the first steps into the faith with fire and zeal but never discover what it is to truely follow Christ. These people on the surface may look like good Chrsitians, they may be active in the Church and seem to do everything they should be. But are you truely a Christian if you are still holding back, if you have not given every last part of yourself over to God? Are you truly a Christian if you are not living your life for Jesus every day, if you are not acting in a Christlike way in all things that you do.

But what does it take to be a Christian, what do we have to do to progress from the first step and move towards fully giving over our lives becoming fully immersed in God. How do we move from these first baby steps into the faith and become the modern day disciples and saints that Jesus commanded us to be? What does it take to not just stand on the path that God has given us but to actually walk on it?

Galatians 5
     It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
     Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
     You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
     Life by the Spirit you, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
     So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
     The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

In the passage above we are told what it is to be a Christian, we are told what the freeedom that comes from Christ actually means. It is not about living by the Law, it is not about following the teachings of some renowned teacher. It is, and has always been about following Jesus and letting Him into your life and walk daily with Him. There is no time off, no sick days, no leave of absence, only constant daily obedience and bearing of our crosses. If you are following the Law you are not placing Christ as your master, you have taken the Law and substituted it for Christ's Grace.

In many modern airports there are now moving walkways, paths that once you step onto them you are whisked away down the route without any effort from yourself. The path to follow Christ however is not like this, one step is not all it takes, your commitment requires more than just an initial effort to place yourself on the route. The path to follow Christ requires that you are always looking for the next step to take, always looking for the signs that Christ has placed on the path directing you to where you need to be. Each day you must try to make progress in the journey to the destination Christ has set us. Remember it is not enough to take just one step, if we do that we will soon find ourselves along way from where Christ wants us to be, one step is not a journey. The path is long and hard, but Christ is our guide and protector, trust in Him to lead you on the path, have courage to follow Him where ever it leads, be prepared to take evry step required to follow Christ to the final destination.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How much do I give?

Luke 21:1-4
     Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, "The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all!"

How much should we give each week to our Church? What percentage of our earnings should we give over to the Church for its use? Do we follow the Old Testament and give up a tithe of what we posses or earn? Or do we use some complex formula to calculate how much of the 10% we should give after we have done various volunteer work and monies to other causes?

Regular readers will possibly by now have worked out that legalism (here and here) is something I believe to be in conflict with what Jesus taught us. I find time and again that when people are resorting to legalism they are in reality trying to push their own point and agenda and trying to use God and His word to justify it.

Weighing in on a discussion on tithing, I believe that God is much happier with a gift willingly given and willingly sacrificed up to Him rather than a perfect 10% grudgingly given. What we really should be talking about is not how much we are giving materially but how much we have submitted to God over the whole spectrum of our being. We are giving of our time and talents too and we are surely all aiming towards giving our lives completely to God and His works.

This is not a calculation as we would do for our tax, God is not asking that we give a total of 10%, neither is he asking that we give only 10%. God wants, I believe, us to want to give Him all we can, but I also believe that He knows the very detail of our lives and the circumstances we have. God knows what we give in all things He knows what we surrender to Him that can not be measured too. Being legalistic on this subject is as I have already said, in my opinion against what Jesus taught us. Are we going to be like the rich people, giving what the Law required, giving ostentatiously and very publicly, or should we be as Christ taught and give what we can. Did Christ not say that the greatest gift in this story was that of the widow?

Why do you still willingly crucify Jesus?

Now this post was triggered by something that happened yesterday, it is not a dig at anyone in particular or a personal attack but it is a heartfelt plea. In our lives we have a choice of what to do with our lives, we can choose to follow Christ or we can go and do what we want, do it our way. Doing it our way is not necessarily sinful, but when attempting to do things on our own we have neither the strength or the ability to hold out against the methods of the enemy for long. I know that we can choose to sin without the enemy being behind it, but when we weaken ourselves by excluding Christ we only make it easier for him when he does launch an inevitable attack.

When we have a choice to do things in a way that we know Christ would not have done then we are making a concious choice to sin. When we make these concious choices to sin we are turning or backs on Christ's teachings. Worse than that, we add to the suffering Christ bore for us on the cross. Christ died for all our sins, past present and future and non of us will be sinless, it is an impossible goal. But that does not allow us scope to sin when we feel like it, it does not give us carte blanc to do what we feel like when we feel like it.

We all have the capacity to sin, we are all human after all, but that also means we have the capacity, especially through Christ to choose not to sin also. Think about your life and think about the choices you make, your actions and your motivations. Are they all that they should be, or does sin enter in from time to time, is it that you are sometimes doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Even an action that looks right can be sinful if it is done with sinful and wrong motives.

If you want to live for Christ it requires a whole of life change, it is not enough to just say that you believe in Christ and want to live for Him. If that was true then you would be making the changes to live like Christ, you can't truly believe in the saving Grace and Love of Christ if you are content to remain the way that you were before you "found" Christ. Sure believing in Christ and the desire to live for Him is a good thing, but it is but one step of many steps to following Christ, taking one step towards Him is not following, following requires step after step after step, you have to walk. Just taking one step leaves the rest of your personal path with Christ unwalked and unexplored.

Each time we sin, each time we choose to go against Christ we are contributing to the suffering of our crucified Lord, we drive the nails further in we add to the weight on His heart and shoulders. When we knowingly and willingly choose to do what we know is wrong in Christ we become as much a part of the crucifixion as the centurion, Pilate or the Pharisees.

We know what Christ wants us to do, we also know our own human wants and desires, but we need to be mindful of where these desires come from and the price we pay for giving in to them. We need to ask God to help us with our weaknesses and to help us live without giving into them, but we also need to accept that help. We gain nothing from praying time and time again for help if when it comes along we choose not to accept it. Take a look at your life, look and see the places when you need it to be cleaned or even the parts that need to be cut away. Ask for help in doing this and then set to work with God's guidance.

Philippians 4:13 (KJV)
     I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Institutionalised sexism

Now I am about to wade in to a discussion that can be a sensitive subject. It is a subject that I feel is ridiculous in nature and should have no place in our modern world. These thoughts have been triggered by a "scandal" in the English Premiership over sexism in and around the sport.

I find it terribly stupid that in this day and age people can still think that it is acceptable to discriminate against someone for any reason be that sex, race or anything else. Not that I think everyone is capable of doing anything, that is obviously not true as God has given us each different gifts. But these gifts do not make anyone any better than anyone else. But if you are capable of doing something I see no reason why you should not be able to do it, if you have been given a gift by God, who is man to say otherwise.

Now people may have realised by this point that I am not still talking about a female assistant referee in the English Premier League. I am talking about the position of females in the Church. I know that some people will disagree with me on this point, but I confident in my belief in God calling both men and women to work for Him in many different capacities. As someone who was raised in a Church that has advocated the rights and position of women in the Church since the 1800's I have had over the years many sermons preached to me by women preachers. In many cases I feel that these women have at times been more gifted speakers and more on fire with the Holy Spirit than many men I have heard speak.

Jesus came to Earth for the disenfranchised, for those who were downtrodden and those who were discriminated against. Jesus did not come with a message just meant for some people but not others, He did not limit His work to only one race or sex, He was here for all mankind.

I do not believe that God only calls men or only calls a certain race, He calls on each and every one of us. I believe that God can and does use people of all ages, all races, both sexes and all backgrounds. He has use for all who come to Him and I do not believe He limits what we can do down to differences that will not be important in Heaven.

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)
     There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If we truly believe the lessons we are taught in the Bible, if we believe what we read in the verse above then there can be no argument against women in ministry, there can be no way of supporting this outmoded outdated sexist view. We can not allow this institutionalised sexism to continue, it is in my opinion unchristian and not biblical. When will we learn to be truly like Christ and open our arms to all everyone regardless of who or what they are. We need to stop putting blockades and difficulties in the way of people coming to Christ through the Church we need to stop making these "problems" into flash points which cause the Church to become further divided. We can not allow these divisions to continue, they only provide the enemy with more ammunition.

If in doubt...

...Ask God.

There are many things that cause us to doubt, there are things in life which cause us to doubt various things. Sometimes we are going through tough times and our faith is not what it should be and we begin to doubt God. We doubt that He cares for us, we doubt that He knows our needs and we can even end up doubting His existence. I know there have been periods in my own life where I have doubted so much that I was almost certain that there was no God, and that even if there was a God He was uninterested in anything that we did as a species never mind on a personal basis.

The thing is that when we doubt, especially in God the problem can be seen to be in us. Even when the problem is not in us we can be part of the solution. When we are struggling, when things are not as we would like them to be there is one thing that we can do, one thing that is guaranteed to set things right. 


To pray to God takes little to no effort, just start talking and he will hear. Talk to Him and tell Him your problems, ask Him to give you what you need. God will know just what it is you will need, He knows just what it is that will help you on your path. If you doubt God why not try praying and allow Him the chance to help, if you doubt Him why not open your mind, your eyes and ears just in case your doubts are wrong.

Matthew 11:15 (NIV)
     Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Plans moving forward

Today I was given information about a day conference about leadership by two different people. There are a number of things that I am excited about having the chance to go to this conference. The first reason is that it is very specific to the plans I feel God has in store for me, the second is that there are a few people I know interested in going too and finally the people who are leading the weekend are some of the first people I talked to about following these plans.

This conference is a little while in the future but it is something that needs to be planned well in advance due to the distance to travel meaning we will need to arrange a place to stay and will need to work out the best and hopefully cheapest way to get there.

In addition to this the I heard back today regarding one of the application forms I have completed for plans in the future. There is a little few things I need to do to complete this part of the application and then I will find oput how this is going to progress in the future with everything that is going to be going on in my life over the next 12 to 18 months.

Altogether I have had a good day where things seem to have moved along quite nicely and in the direction I feel they should be going. I know that it will not all go smooth, I know that there will be many rough patches and possible battles ahead, but today things are good and I want to thank God for that and enjoy it while it lasts. Hope you all had a great day and see you all tomorrow.

Jesus weeps still

1 Corinthians 1:10-15
     I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
     Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

Jesus Showed His human side many times while He was here on Earth, His anger at the money sellers, His tears for Lazarus and in the Garden of Gethsemane. In this He showed us that God is just as capable of the range of emotions that we have, love, anger, disappointment and so on. 

On of the things that must be a common trigger for anger, disappointment and upset for God must be when there are divisions and bad feelings in the Church. These can happen for many reasons, and some of them can seem just at the time, but nothing that causes discord in the body of Christ can be good. 

At times when we find ourselves involved in these disagreements we have to pray for assistance and guidance on how to repair the damage being cause. We need to ask God to show us what to do, what to say and how to act so that no further split or damage is cause. 

When we are part of the problem (whether the cause or not) we must look at the situation with God and ask Him, what is the right path? Am I right or wrong, do I stand up and fight or do I back down. Lord, how do I make this right, or how can I remove myself from it. Listen to God and His guidance, pray hard for His help and when He speaks go straight to work.

Divisions in the Church are nothing new, and unfortunately they will be with us for a long time to come. But the way in which we act is key. If we are acting in a Godly way we need to ask for God's help on how to help those who are wrong, but it if is us who has strayed, us who are in the wrong we need to look to God to help us put it right. Disagreements over interpretation will be common, in this look to the Bible and follow the teachings of Christ.

Mark 2:27 (NIV)
     Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

Jesus was not one to be held back by the Law, He knew what it was for and knew that there would be exceptions. The Law was made for man, not man for the Law. It works in this too. Legalism is one of my greatest bug bears of the Church, Christ did not come to state the Law, to show us how to obey an old covenant made with the Jews. He came and showed us how to live, loving one another, helping one another but mostly He showed us that to be humble and serve one another is the greatest thing we can do. If you are involved in a dispute in a church, be Christlike, be humble and subservient, be weak. For through this weakness you will find strength, in that strength you will find God, and where God is He will bring His healing love.

In all things, always first look to Christ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making music

Last year my Gramma was promoted to glory. After she passed away we were informed that we had been left a significant sum of money. I was not sure what I was going to do with my inheritance until my little brother suggested that we buy ourselves our own personal brass instruments instead of using ones provided by the band we play in. As soon as it was suggested I knew that it was a great idea and started looking for the right instrument for me.

I finally received the instrument above on the 23rd of December after waiting 2 months for a hand built personalised cornet. Since then I have spent many hours practising and playing this beautiful instrument and enjoying every minute of it.

I talked to my Mum about spending my inheritance from her Mum on an instrument, what she thought and how my Gramma would have seen the investment. The reply I received was that my Gramma would have been over the moon that I was using the money she had left for me to purchase something I would use every week and something I would use every Sunday in worship at our Church.

This instrument is a beautiful thing, not only does it look amazing and have so many special meanings for me, from the tigers eye in the valve tops in memory of my Grandad and the message engraved on it saying;

live, laugh, love,
From Gramma

This instrument also produces an amazing sound and is simply said the best instrument I have ever played. The quality of the instrument is such that it makes me sound like a much better player than I actually am. This is a fantastic thing because it allows me to play this instrument in worship every week in thanks and celebration of God. Although God does not mind the quality of the music we play if our hearts are in the right place and we are doing it for the right reason. But for me, if I am going to be worshipping God I want to do so in the best way I can and produce the best music that I can. 

Today was the first time in many many years that I have had a music lesson, normally I practice and learn on my own in my own time. However now I have my own instrument I am determined to play it as well as I possibly can. If I could ask that you all pray for me and my progress in this new endeavour to be the best brass musician that I can be so that I can use this gift to worship God who has given me this gift, thank you.

Take up thy cross daily....

I love playing strategy games, especially Go and Chess. Both of these games are fairly simple to learn and play but require a huge amount of skill to play well which only comes from regular practice. Not only that but it requires a huge amount of thought and consideration when playing because just one wrong move can mean failure and defeat.

I have played both these games for a number of years and have got to the point where I am good, but to advance any further would require serious commitment and many many hours of game time and study. And that is just not practical or possible in my life, for ever I will have to content myself that this is possibly the best I will ever be at these games and that in all possibility I may get worse if I play less. But these are just two games, in all reality they do not mean much and are not that important in my life, they are something I enjoy doing when I have the time and opportunity to play.

However there are aspect of our life that like Chess and Go require us to put in effort, to spend many hours in "game time" practising and also study hard at. Some like Chess and Go are not that important and if there is no time for them they can happily be left by the wayside and possibly picked back up in the future. But there is one aspect of our life that we have chosen to engage in that also needs to be worked on daily and can not be left, not for one day, not even for one second.

Each and every day we all must strive and persevere to live a life that is Christlike, to live a life doing good and following His word;

Matthew16:24 (KJV)
     Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (NIV)
     Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Two of the Apostles tell us that in order to follow Christ we too must take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ, of a God filled life and self sacrifice. We must take up the cross we have been assigned daily and follow Him. There are no days off, no times of rest, each and every day we must follow Him.

Matthew 16:25-26 (KJV)
     For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Luke 9:24-26 (NIV)
     For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

The Gospel writers were there, they heard it, they saw it lived out each day in front of them and they struggled. Jesus prayed to His Father to have the cup taken away, to give Him another way so that He need not take up the cross Himself. The weakness of Jesus is not one we should look at and say "well if Jesus struggled what hope do we have". Instead we should realise that as Jesus was wholly man as well as wholly God He showed us that though we are weak as humans we have it in us to be strong through the Father. We have seen that the Apostles struggled to always do what was right and good, yet they went out again and again doing the work they were sent to do. If they had not there is no way the Church would have become the size it has or have swept through the whole world. Yes there is much to do, yes we have been give a huge and difficult task, yes there will be no rest and we will likely be persecuted and laughed at in our quest. But read what Jesus said once more;

Matthew 16:25-26 (KJV)
     For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Luke 9:24-26 (NIV)
     For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Donate your unused clothes to charity

This week in the Soldier's Challenge the task was to donate my unused clothes to charity. I have wanted to get rid of a lot of clothes that I have little or no use for any more for quite some time. With everything that has happened in the past I have moved a number of times and not been in the right frame of mind to sort through the boxed memories of the past. So to be honest this task has been needed for quite some time, and it has taken this push to get on and actually do it.

So at the beginning of the week I began sorting through the boxes and bags of clothes and everything else from when I first moved out on my own nearly 2 years ago. I decided that as I was sorting out the clothes I may as well sort through everything else and donate everything I no longer want or use. I managed to go through and sort out many boxes and bags and now have four large bags of clothes and 3 boxes of household things to be donated.

There is one small failure to this task however, although I have gone through and sorted out all the things I am going to donate I have yet to actually take the things to the charity shop. The main reason for this is that I have been away this week and have not had a chance to get to the shop since I have got back. I will be however going along this week as my spell of cleaning and sorting has encouraged my parents to do the same and I will be taking along a number of things that they will be sending along to the shop too. So although there is a small amount of failure, in this failure has come the benefit of the shop getting the things from my parents too.

So this week, as well as taking these bags and boxes to the charity shop I have another task to complete. The task this week is to read the Salvationist, the weekly publication produced by The Salvation Army for the members of its Church. This should be a nice easy one to do this week and as usual I will be letting you know how it goes next week so please check back then, until then, have a great God filled week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

High Council

As I write this I am watching the live footage of the opening ceremony for the 2011 High Council of The Salvation Army. This is an important gathering for my Church as our leaders from all over the world meet to elect the person who is to lead our Church as General for the next 5 years. This is the 17th High Council following it will be the election of our 19th General who will follow the current General who leaves office in April.

Even though this is not the first High Council while I have been a part of the Salvation Army, it is the first one since I became a Christian and the first since I have decided to dedicate myself to God through His work in the Salvation Army. I know I am one of a large number of people who are supporting this election in prayer and asking God to guide the High Council to the person He would chose as the leader of His Army.

Who ever it is has a huge task ahead of them, a huge responsibility. The task of taking this army of God's soldiers forward, working throughout the world, leading the charge against the enemy is not an easy one and they will need to rely on God fully. I feel that there are many people in The Salvation Army who are praying for a powerful General to take charge, a passionate General to inspire and a General who is burning with the Holy Spirit. But I also think we should be praying for a General who is humble enough to serve, strong enough to be weak and most of all a General who is a Godly and Holy person.

I will be praying this week for a General who will be the right leader for my Church, praying that God will show the commissioners who to elect and that the decision will be the beginning of a new period of growth and service throughout the world and that many more people will come to know Christ under their leadership.

Hiking, climbing and the great outdoors

One of the things I have always enjoyed doing since I was a little child is to go exploring in the countryside. To pack a bag and just set out walking somewhere I have never been before and with only the basics to survive. One of my favourites is to not just spend a day exploring but to spend the night out in the wild with only the things I absolutely need to survive.

Over the years one of the things I have regularly had to use is my knowledge of foods available in the countryside, what berries I can eat, where to find fresh water and how to navigate when you have lost your map. All these skills I learned from my Grandad (better than Ray Mears) who learned it all when he was a child from his Dad and Grandad who learnt it from.... you get the point. This information has been learned and passed on time and time again in my family right down to me and I am able to survive in many circumstances in which others would find almost impossible.

Now I feel absolutely blessed to have been taught all of this because it gives me opportunities many others do not have. Some of the scenes and vistas I have seen while out hiking are simply breath taking, scenes that when you see them you realise God has an amazing sense of beauty and has created an amazing world for us. Also when you go to the other extreme and pay attention to the very tiny things you realise that God has not only made these huge sweeping landscapes that look amazing, He also paid the most minute detail to the workings of it so that it may stay beautiful too.

Hopefully now that January is almost over and the worst of winter is hopefully gone I am going to be able to get out and do much more exploring and climbing in the coming weeks and months. Being out and isolated in the middle of nowhere but feeling that sense of being completely surrounded by Him and His work is a great feeling. A feeling that is conducive to some of the most amazing prayer times I have ever had, because being completely alone allows me to drop any and all barriers and truly stand there open and honest with God with no distractions, no stray thoughts in the nearest thing to perfect peace I have ever found.

So I am looking forward to getting back out in to the countryside soon, exploring new places and visiting old favourites. Hoping to also spend some more time out on the hills with some friends of mine who have also been known to climb a hill or two (even if it requires a certain amount of encouragement). Here is to a year full of hiking weekends and lots of beautiful mountain top views to share.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music makes my life go

If there is one thing I think I would really struggle to live without it would have to be music, I spend all my time either playing or listening to music. The range of music I both listen to and play is mammoth, everything from classical guitar right through to hardcore rock. Because of this sometimes the transition from one track to another can be incredibly striking for example from O Fortuna leading into Dance Dance by Fall Out Boy and many other bizarre examples. While driving home last night one of those moments made me pay attention to the words in the song that came on. I can't remember what the song immediately before was but the change to Turn by Travis was striking enough to cause me to pay attention to the lyrics.

The line that really caught my attention was the line where Fran Healy sings the following words;

"I'd Like to see the Kingdom Come"

Last night before going home I went out for a meal with a friend and we talked for a long time. During this conversation a lot of things were discussed but the majority of the conversation was about our faiths and the Kingdom. We were in a loud bar and we were not particularly keeping our voices down and I am sure that the people around us knew the content of our conversation and I love that thought. The fact that two young Christians were sat in a bar unashamedly proclaiming their lives as Jesus'.

Without going into details about the conversation we talked a lot about the Kingdom and the future of the Church as it is here on Earth. We talked about the things that we do for the Kingdom, the things we would love the Kingdom grow to do and include in the future. I took a lot from the conversation and had one of the best nights in a long time which maybe why this song (one of my favourites) struck such a resonant note with me.

In essence last night was one of a number of moments I have had over the last year which has led me to have a burning desire to work in and for the Kingdom, to work fervently towards a future where the Kingdom does come. It is something that excites and inspires me to think that one day we will see Jesus once again walk on this same Earth as us.

In the song the line that immediately follows the one quoted above says "I want to feel forever young". I think that the two lines are irrefutably linked together, there is only one time when we will all feel forever young, that is once the Kingdom has come, one where Jesus has returned and won the final battle. We all know what Jesus commanded us to do, to work daily towards the coming Kingdom, to do His will and rejoice doing it, the work is hard and the hours are long but with such a prize and destination in mind how can we not rejoice. I think there really is only one kind of person who would not want to see the kingdom come, someone who has yet to give their all to Jesus, someone who is not safe in the knowledge that Christ died to save them.

Christ is coming, the Kingdom is on its way, it maybe tomorrow, it may not be for 1000 years, but why should that make any difference to the work we do. We will one day stand in glory, I want to be there knowing that I spent as many hours and as much effort as I could doing what He asked of me. If you don't yet feel the same way or you feel the fire has died down of late pray to God that you will feel the burning desire to do His will ignited in you. Pray these words;

But I must give You the whole of my life, 

How can I help you?

Last night I had a long drive home, after spending a few days with friends I drove home. I guess for some people a 2 hour drive is not a huge drive but it is much longer than I am used to and my car does not like to be driven that far. It is a constant battle to keep it going straight, the accelerator is not in a comfortable position (which leads to cramp) and for some reason the heater has only two settings, too hot or too cold.

Well enough of the complaining. So I was driving home and the road was strangely quiet, one reason was that it was late at night, another was the weather was very cold and there was ice everywhere and there were few people stupid enough to drive on it and perhaps the third was that there were signs everywhere announcing that the road was closed after a certain point. I know this road well having drove up and down it countless times in the last 10 years and I could not work out where the signs were telling me the road closed, the road number they were using I could not place. So I decided to drive north and when the road closed I would then try and figure a way to get back home from that point as the only other road I could have used from my start point was also closed (thanks Highway Maintenance).

The result of all of this was that for the main part I was driving on this 3 lane motorway almost alone, I saw very few other drivers at all. And while this allowed me to get home about 45 minutes quicker than usual ( possibly I was driving a little faster than I usually would) It also gave me an amazing chance to sit in a kind of peace that I don't often find. Even though I live in the countryside I don't often find myself without another person in sight, surprisingly the countryside can be quite a busy place at times. But here I was driving along in the middle of nowhere and could not see any vehicle for miles in either direction. So I switched off the music, turned down the heater (which was just blowing cold anyway) and sat in my little bubble of peace.

While I was sat there I had quite a good little chat with God, I told him about my week and thanked Him for making it so enjoyable, I talked to Him about how the plan for my life was coming along, and then spent the time waiting for an answer. It was a beautiful night, clear skies, full moon and almost everything covered in frost crystals which gave them an amazing glittering glow which looked beautiful. And while I was appreciating that view a simple phrase came into my head.

"How can I help you?"

Now recently I have been going about doing loads of things that I feel will prepare me for the journey I have ahead of me, every opportunity to do something in my Church or to help someone at work or even one of my friends I jump at the chance. But there is always that sense of me trying to control these things that I am doing, controlling the direction that they are going in. I have become aware that although not totally lacking, I need to have a more servile nature. Rather than asking "what needs to be done" I need to take the time and effort to ask "What do you need done?". Whether this question is directed at God or at people I know in each circumstance I don't think is important, but asking the question and acting on the response is certainly something I need to be doing.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lean on me

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me...

          (Bill Withers)

While out yesterday I heard this song playing and although I know this song well I decided to look up the lyrics and read through them. While I was doing this I also looked to find out what it was Bill Withers had to say about the song itself too. 

As far as I can gather the song has no Christian connotations or meanings and is simply a song about friendship. It is a song about friends being there for one another in times of need, it is about how friends provide comfort and support for each other in times of need. But when I got to the third verse I could not help but be struck by the wording;

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

If there is a load you have to bear? Now where have I heard that before?

Psalm 55:22
     Pile your troubles on God's shoulders-
          he'll carry your load, he'll help you out.

I talked about how our relationship with God is that of a parent and young child yesterday, our relationship with Jesus is not the same as the one we have with God, it is different and has a different dynamic. With Jesus we have a friendship, a true selfless loving friendship;

John 15:15 (NIV)
     I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus called us His friends, He had the power to come in and rule the world as His personal Kingdom, He had the power to take the world and do as He would with it. And He did, but not in the way that mankind would, He took the world and made us His friends, we who could and should have been His slaves, He made in to friends. 

This is an amazing thing, Jesus, the son of God, the King of Kings, Lord of all, the Word through which all that was made, was made, He wants to be our friend. I know I harped on about this the other day about mind blowing moments, but walking with Christ is full of mind blowing moments, and my mind is blown yet again by this thought. Just consider for a moment, God is our Father and Jesus is our Friend, if we recognise and accept this then we should realise that we truly are a blessed people and nothing, not even the enemy can stand in our way.

Lean on God when you're not strong,
Jesus will be your friend,
They will help you carry on,
For it wont be long,
Until you're gonna need
Jesus to lean on.

The swapping game...... Again

Ok yesterday I was out in the city centre wandering around, wasting time and generally browsing. After spending 3 hours in Starbucks on one drink I couldn't really go back and so time until I met with my friends had to be filled in with something. So I ended up wandering around, half browsing, half looking for somewhere with free wifi so that I could get on with some work while filling in the time. While I was doing this I was stopped by a charity fund raiser from the NSPCC, these are a fantastic charity, one I have worked with before as a counsellor and one I would love to support again but due to needing to save to go work in Canada next year I have no spare cash to donate to other causes at the moment. However please visit the web link above and if you feel you want to and can leave a donation for them, it will be going towards good work.

However I was able to spend some time talking to the girl who stopped me and talk about a few things, she was a really nice girl who seemed really passionate about the cause and almost persuaded me to pledge money I don't have. however towards the end of the conversation she introduced me to a game, a game I played once before and it almost took over my life. The game I am talking about is not like my childish Consecutive Alphabet Numberplate Counting Game that I play when I am driving (2011 game is now already on to the letter F) the game is the swapping game.

The rules are simple, starting with something you have received either for free or purchased for less than £1 ($1 in the US etc.) and swap it systematically until you have something of significant value. The first time I played this game we had the time limit of one day and I managed to turn a paper clip into an inflatable kayak within 4 hours (an impressive achievement, no?). Well today it started all over again, I traded one of my many badges from off my bag and turned it into a child's wind up toy. The key to the game lies in the fact that something's perceived value and its actual cost do not always match up in real life.

So I am playing the game again, I have a children's wind up toy now and an open ended challenge, what can I trade it up to? Is it possible that unintentionally this chance meeting may have given me the spark and impulse to start the swapping game again. If in playing the swapping game I manage to trade up to something of significant value is it ethical to sell said item and use it as part of my funds for travelling to Canada? That is a honest serious question, as long as I do not rip anyone off, as long as I am honest with every trade and explain the reason behind the game is it unethical to play this game and use the possible profits to fund my going to Canada to work for God there?

 (Also is there anyone who is interested in trading a small wind up kids toy for anything?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tell me the stories of Jesus

Ever since this morning when I wrote the post about blown minds (if you don't know what I mean check back to this mornings post here) I have had an old song I used to sing when I was a child running back and forward through my head. The song used to be a favourite of the children in my Church and we used to sing it beautifully, well at least we were told we did anyway. The son is one called tell me the stories of Jesus by William H. Parker and Frederick A. Challinor.

Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear; 
things I would ask him to tell me if he were here: 
scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea, 
stories of Jesus, tell them to me. 

First let me hear how the children stood round his knee, 
and I shall fancy his blessing resting on me; 
words full of kindness, deeds full of grace, 
all in the lovelight of Jesus' face. 

Into the city I'd follow the children's band, 
waving a branch of the palm tree high in my hand; 
one of his heralds, yes, I would sing 
loudest hosannas, "Jesus is King!"

I know I have said before and there is a good chance that I will say it many more times, I just love these simple songs for Children. The manage to encapsulate such power and wisdom into simple words so that even adults can understand it. I say even adults because when I was thinking about my post this morning I realised that the reason we fail to have our minds blown by these stories is that we have become jaded with our age, we have grown up and these "children's" stories become just that, we end up lumping them in the same group as the fairy stories we were told as children. They are wild and fantastical and as adults we know things like that don't happen. 

Jesus warned us against this sort of thinking and knew that it is only by approaching Him in the same wide eyed wonder as a child does will we be able to fathom at least a small part of what He did and what He represents.

Matthew 18:2-5
     He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

The amazing thing about children is that they are always learning, everything is new and they see the wonder in all things. They have no preconceived notions, they have no baggage which taints their world view and they have no fear of the unknown and the new. Unless we learn to accept Jesus in this fashion, unless we learn to be the children that we are in his eyes then we will never enter the kingdom of Heaven, don't believe me? re read the verses above. 

     “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

We are and always will be like little children in His eyes, in so many ways except the ones we need to we act like little petulant children. We wine and complain, we ask for things that we don't need and often are bad for us, look to your relationship with God and I will be very surprised if it does not look like that of a parent and a young child. There is nothing wrong with this, this is the way it should be. But if we are trying to play a different role or trying to carve out a different relationship it wont work, it can't work. When you start to see your relationship with God as parent and young child then you begin to see that the ways in which we act, the things that we do all need to change to reflect the relationship. I know that I am as guilty as the next person of this and am only beginning to understand this fact myself. But I am hoping that in the future I am able to allow my mind to be blown my His awesomeness and that I remember that I am just a small child in His eyes, and His view is the only one that is important.

The road to Emmaus

I was talking to a friend last night about how we often read through the Bible and the stories in there a little underwhelmed. We have been studying and reading them in different ways for years, for most of us since our childhood days in Sunday school. We have read and re read the stories that many times that we fail to have our minds blown by them any more.

This came up because earlier in the evening someone had mentioned the road to Emmaus and we had been discussing about faith and the power of Christ I don't how much other people know about this story or about the context of this story, but bear with me while I talk through it.

This story centres on two disciples of Jesus, they are not major characters in the group following Christ as the Apostles were, but nevertheless these two men were disciples of Jesus. These men as disciples can be validly thought of as Rabbinical apprentices, and as such would have followed Jesus very, very closely if not for His entire three year ministry then for a large portion of it. Without putting too fine a point on it, these men knew Jesus very well, they would have spent huge amounts of time with Him and known very well what He looked like.

So these two men are walking along, understandably they don't want to be in Jerusalem just then, who would, and they meet a stranger on the road. You can imagine how it would happen, you are out walking with a friend talking, probably not in the best of moods and you come across a stranger. Not only this but the stranger decides to tag along after them trying to join in the conversation, even worse the stranger appears not to have a clue about recent events. Picture yourself in this situation, how would you feel and react towards this person? would it be in a polite, kind Christian way or might you possibly be a bit irritable and dismissive.

If all this was not bad enough the stranger who has already ingratiated himself so well begins to teach the two men about the prophecies regarding the Messiah. But remember these men are not your run of the mill citizens, they are Rabbinical apprentices, theology students, they know in their heads all that this stranger is trying to teach them. We are told that these disciples thought Jesus was the Christ but now because He has been dead three days and His body appears to be stolen they think they have lost everything. And here is this no one, this random stranger telling them about what the Messiah must do, I don't think annoyed is quite the word to express their feelings.

So after what is likely to have been many hours walking, and with this stranger tagging alone possibly some quite tense and uncomfortable hours, possibly some pleasant, we don't know. Obviously they were not that bad that they would let this stranger carry on into the night wandering to the next village and they invite him in to the house in which they are bedding down for the night to eat with them.

At this point Jesus takes the bread, blesses and breaks it and hands it to the disciples, at this moment their eyes begin to see. In the Bible it says that their eyes were opened, for me personally this links to the times in the Bible where it says things like, those who have ears listen, those who have eyes see. These phrases do not discount the blind and deaf, they signify that those people who have been exposed to Christ need to recognise Him and that it is right to do so. I think another equally valid way of saying the same thing would be that the disciples had their hearts opened, for me I think that in this sense it means the same thing.

Take a moment here with me, for a large part of the day these men had been walking with this man the thought a complete stranger. I have already mentioned about the way these men may have felt, a totally understandable way I would have guessed, a perfectly human one at any rate. And then in a blink of an eye they realise this stranger is no stranger, he is the man they have been following for maybe three years, day in, day out. How much of a kick yourself moment is that, how much does that mess with your head. Is your mind blown? I am sure theirs was, I know mine is. If yours is not please take some time, read through the story again, think about it, put yourself in their place. It is a mind blowing moment, if you do not see that or picture it please take the time to consider it again, I assure you at some point your eyes will be opened and your mind will be blown.

There are many other stories just as mind blowing as this one that we just seem to accept because we have known them since childhood. I mean this one time there were a lot of people following Jesus, and He fed them all, 5000 men we are told, using 5 little bread rolls and 2 fish. Mind blown? Think about it, 5 bread rolls, 2 fish, 5000+ people! Not enough for you? Ok, a different time Jesus' friends were out fishing in a boat and there blew up a storm, it wasn't a little but of wind or a little rain, these guys were career fishermen, they knew storms and this storm scared them a lot. We are talking heavy, driving rain, thunder, lightning, waves bigger than the boat and clouds that probably didn't let all that much light through. Jesus who had been sleeping gets up and turns to the wind and waves and says shut it, stop making a fuss. He calmed a storm so big that a boat full of seasoned fishermen were scared! Is your mind blown yet?

We are small people, we have small minds, the only way to understand and deal with the world is to take mind blowing things we have heard and seen before and lump them in with "the norm". But when we do this with these stories we miss out on so much, we begin to think of these stories and Jesus as just normal. The thing is it wasn't normal, it isn't normal. These things have happened often just once, and certainly by only one man, they really should blow your mind. The power of God and Jesus is so far beyond our knowledge and comprehension that blown mind is a good way to approach it. We stand there before God admitting our ignorance, our failings and our inabilities, we stand before God realising we will never appreciate the fullness of His awesome glory in this life. This is a good place to be, in awe with our minds blown. Next time you are reading these stories of Jesus read them for the first time, read them without the barriers and preconceptions we have built up in our lives, read them and allow your mind to be blown away by the power and glory of God through His son Jesus. Blown mind is in no way a destination, but it is both a good starting point and way point on what I hope is a long walk with Christ for us all, why not stop at Emmaus today and see what Jesus has to teach you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Time with friends

Today I spent some time with some of my good friends and had a good long conversation with one of them. This conversation was not an easy one as my friend as always brought up some challenging points and wouldn't let me get off with vague or part answers. Now it is not that she was purposely making it difficult for me or she was asking tough questions just for the sake of it, but she is the only one who asks me these sorts of questions and challenges and pulls me up on things I need to consider or think about.

It was a good conversation about our faiths, our journeys with God and how they are going and how various things are affecting us and our journeys. After eating and consuming a large amount of beverages in two separate cafes we wrapped things up for the day, but there was so much that came up in the conversation that I really need to think about and act on.

These points are ones that I have possibly made before and am likely to mention many more times as I battle through them and try and move on with my life. These are the last of the unresolved hang overs from my last relationship and how it is likely to affect the relationships I am in and possible relationships in the future. Also the point of have I really made the changes I think I have made for the benefit in my life such as being more honest and open with both the people around me and myself. One of the big points raised was how I am dealing with the fact that in essence the life I was aiming for and thought I would have is now no longer a possibility and have I dealt with the anger that could possibly be being repressed over this (my friend says I said I was angry but I have no recollection of uttering the words).

Altogether it was an interesting and valuable conversation that as I think about it over the coming days I will hopefully be able to come up with some answers. But until then I think I am going to leave it open and come back to the points individually once I have digested them in my own time, until then though hope you have a good day and please check out the rest of my posts.

What can you not do without?

Well this morning I am packing my bag for a few days away and it is interesting to go thorough the things I feel I need to take as I would struggle or not be able to do my normal things without. First off on to the pile of things to be packed was my netbook, myriad charging adaptors, my e-book and ipod. To this pile I added two books, 3 pairs of shoes, two decks of cards and my cornet. Once all of these were on the pile I considersed how much room I had left and therefore what clothes this allows me to take with me and therefore what I will be wearing, regardless of the weather, for the few days I am away.

While I was doing this I was thinking about the many various things that become important to us in our lives and how sometimes meaningless things end up becoming very important in our lives. In real terms there is no need for all of the electrical equipment that I "feel" the need to take with me, I can live without it. In reality I could make do with just one pair of shoes and do without a deck of cards for a few days, although with a big poker game coming up at the weekend and my card handling skills being rusty I do need the practice.

However there were two things that got packed under the essential items that did make me a little happier about myself. Two books, two solid, real books, made with paper and always available if ever I want to read them, two books that in reality I should not be without on my mini holiday. The two books were, 1) My Bible and 2) my daily devotions book. And when I realised I had placed these into my essentials pile I did feel a little better that although I had grouped together all of these superfluous things these two books have become so much a part of my life that they do go with me on my travels. It shows me that because these books were packed without really thinking about it that they are working their way into my life more, God is starting to get into the areas of my life that I had previously denied Him access to. I don't know about anyone else but this encourages me and fills me with hope that the future holds a much closer relationship with God, all I have to do is continue to be open to His advances.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday

Now depending on who you ask either today or next Monday is classed as blue Monday, or the most depressing day of the year. The reasoning behind this is that due to the reduced amount of sunlight, the cold weather, the huge amount of time until the summer and next Christmas and the debt incurred and the weight gained over the past Christmas all compound. With all these negatives compounding it is somewhat understandable that people can feel down and depressed, add into it being the first day of the work week and it is hard to picture a more generally depressive day.

However there are two ways of thinking about it, yes there are a lot of things to be depressed about and there are a lot of things that you would struggle to get excited about. But the way I see it is that there is so much more to be cheerful and excited about. If this is the lowest point in the year then surely things can only get better from here on out. If this is the most generally blue day then every other day in the year in general is likely to be better.

James 1:2-4
     Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

The Bible tells us that although we are going to get tough times we are going to have periods that we feel as though everything is being thrown at us at once. James tells us that it is in these times that our faith shows through and through these struggles that we learn, develop and mature.

Isaiah 48:10
     Do you see what I've done?
          I've refined you, but not without fire.
          I've tested you like silver in the furnace of affliction.

God has not promised us that we will always have an easy ride, He has not told us that He will prevent the world from throwing us around on the rough waves of life. He has however promised that He will use this suffering and the affliction we suffer for our good, He has promised to bring us through it all and that we will be stronger on the other side. We have to trust that God is always by our side through all things, protecting and teaching us as we traverse the stormy seas of life. 

Anglican defection - just another Church squabble

Now I don't want to go into the story in detail, I am sure if you don't already know about the story of three Anglican Bishops being ordained as Catholic Priests a quick web search will bring up the stories for you. What I want to talk about is the way that we view our Churches, The Church and the Body of Christ.

Surely I am not the only one who finds the way that this has been covered and the way people have reacted to it as possibly a little unchristian? I know that we are only human and that means that in anything we do there is going to be flaws in it, and from that comes disagreements and conflict. I also know that people can become offended very easily at times and especially so when religion is involved.

What seems to have been forgotten in this situation is that nothing really has changed. Ok the priests are now in the Catholic communion and not the Anglican communion, but they are human definitions. They still have the same Saviour, they still worship the same God, in all things that are important, i.e. the teachings of Christ, nothing has changed. I am not that naive to think that nothing has changed, certain things will be different and some things will have to change as part of the Church they are now a part of, but these are all human trappings that we have added on. And it is the human side of it that has caused this fracture in the first place, the question of do men have a monopoly on priesthood.

But I am not going to get into that question here, the point I want to make is that we often talk about the Churches. Plural? Are we getting this right? Surely there is no plural in it, surely we are all part of one Church, one Body of Christ. There are different denominations, different worship styles and we have some differing views on some things. But we are all followers of Christ, we are all born again Children of God, why do we insist on drawing lines in the sand, why do we look to our differences and not our similarities.

If you follow the teachings of Christ and accept Him as your Lord and Saviour then you are a part of His Body, a member in His Church. It does not matter which "Church" you belong to as they are all part of the Church of Christ. If you are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, if you are one of the many other denominations you are part of something much more than that "Church", you are part of The Church.

If we let divisions like this become big issues then we are setting ourselves up for failure. When we allow these issues to become points of conflict we open up doors for the enemy to come in and work towards our downfall. We are the Church of Christ in whatever way we worship, we are all brothers and sisters in Him, lets stand in a united front and show the enemy that we stand for Christ, that we will battle him on every front, and by Jesus' grace we will win.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Read the book of Mark

This week the Soldier's Challenge was to read the book of Mark. In reading this book I was struck by how much of the book I actually knew and how well I actually knew it. To be honest I should have begun reading it earlier in the week, but being a little lazy this week I left it until last night to read it and only finished it this morning.

While reading through it I came across a verse that I have liked for a long time, a verse that makes me feel thankful that we have a saviour like Jesus. A saviour who comes to help0 those who are not perfect, one who comes to heal us from our unhealthy ways.

Mark 2:17
     On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This challenge was not hard, it took only time and a little effort to complete. It did however make me think about what I know and what I have still to learn. The fact is that I know a lot of the bible at face value, I know a lot of the stories in there. But actually learning the meaning behind these stories, parables and teachings that I have to work on. I know that this sort of knowledge does not come quickly or easily but from living daily in His presence always keeping your heart and mind open and willing.

The next challenge that has been selected to complete this week is to donate my unused clothes to charity. This task has come at the right time as I have just begun to sort through all my things in order to get rid of everything I no longer want or need. Check back next week to see how this challenge goes and who I donate the clothes too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Three times is a charm

Now I know that numbers are important, having studied mathematics as part of my degree course I know about the wonder and power numbers hold. I have also known for a while that numbers have significant meaning in the Bible. And the number I want to really focus on is the number 3.

When I was first beginning this blog I wrote a post on God is a quark linking the trinity to my knowledge of sub nuclear physics in a simple way as my understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When I wrote this however I missed out the significance of the number 3. In the Bible 3 denotes perfection, solidity and reality. My thoughts on the number 3 however were that 3 is the number of completeness.

Now I don't know if this is the same experience as anyone else, but I find that when God wants to tell me, or He wants me to do something the messages normally come in threes. Time and again when I have needed a push in a direction or there has been something I have had to do I have been given the sign or told in three different ways and often by 3 different people.

This happened to me this week. Last Sunday the sermon at Church was about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman in John 4:19-42. Then on Tuesday night I rushed from work in order to make band practice at my Church and made it just in time for the devotionals in the middle of the practice, again the thought was on John 4:19-42. I could easily have put that down to either chance or the fact that the sermon on Sunday prompted the thoughts that led to the devotionals on Tuesday. The third occurrence of this Bible verse however could not have been the result of a cause or effect situation from last Sundays sermon, the reason is that the third time I came across this was in the daily devotions book I am using this year. So three different days, three times this Bible verse has come up, I can only think there has to be a reason and there has to be something to learn from it.

I am still pondering about this verse, the meaning and how it applies to my life but the thoughts from last Sundays sermon keep coming up and I feel have to at least be part of the reason it has cropped up as often as it has. The thought was that Jesus knew the woman before she even spoke, He knew everything about her and her life, He knew all that she had done. Not only this but despite the fact she should have been an outcast to Him and despite the fact that she had not always led a good honest life He still loved her. He wanted her to know Him and He wanted her to come into a knowledge of the Father. He also had a use for her, as imperfect as she was she was able to run back to her village and tell others of Him and her belief that He was the Christ. From this the others in the village came to Christ and heard what He had to say, and so they too became believers in Him.

God knows the very thoughts of our hearts, He knows when we are up and He knows when we are down. He has His plans for us and knows how best to use us so that we can be part of His bigger plan, but He also knows what He needs to give us to do that. He knows that as humans we are weak and that we have doubts in our abilities but He gives us the support and through Him we gain strength for the tasks in hand. We have been promised that He will always be there for us for all time, that He will guide us and pick us up when we fall. Better than that though, if we let Him He will be there for us and provide us with strength so that we can bear the load, if we allow Him He will ensure we do not fall. Trust in Him who knows best, and know that we know nothing at all that has not come from Him.

What dreams may come

Last night I watched a film I have been meaning to watch for a long time but have never made the time to get round to it. It is a film I was made to watch while at school in RE while we were thinking about the Christian ideas of death and the after life. For a long time the reason I did not watch the film was because I could not remember the name, only that Robin Williams was one of the leads. But thanks to IMDb I managed to track it down and found out that it was called What Dreams May Come.

Essentially the film is about families and love and uses the idea of death and heaven as a back drop for which to base the story of true love conquers all. I have to say it is a decent film that is worth watching and at times I was glad to be watching it alone due to the effect it had on me. As I said although the film is set mostly in heaven and one man's journey from life into the after life and his relationships with his family this film is not about heaven or really that religious. The main idea of the film is how the main characters relationships with his various family members was in life and how looking at them from another point of view throws them into another light.

There are some powerful ideas and some emotional scenes in the film which highlight a number of common issues in life, father son relationships, family bereavement and falling in love. These scenes are powerful because they are issues we all have in our lives and we all have to deal with. The sad part of the film is that it takes the main character to die before he realises the mistakes he has made with his relationships.

Although this film does touch on some Christian ideas about death, Heaven and hell it does not faithfully stick to only Christian ideas on this subject. There are a number of spiritualist and other influences such as the idea of reincarnation. Although it takes the idea of Heaven as a place where we go after death it misses out on so much that we believe as Christians. In their idea of Heaven there is still pain and there are still negative traits such as ego and a need for justification. In the Heaven portrayed in the film God does not feature and there is no completion of the journey to discover Him and therefore the completion of our understanding does not occur.

Although I really liked this film and thought that there were some very good points to think on it saddened me to think that films like this maybe the only knowledge some people have on Christian beliefs on death and the after life. The film shows an incomplete picture of Heaven and a pick and choose vision of Christianity. In this world of multiculturalism and the mixing together of ideas we have to be careful not to allow our knowledge of God to become clouded by false truths, we have to ensure that we are clear on what Jesus taught us and what is in God's word. It is only through this knowledge and belief that we can shine as beacons for God, in this knowledge that we can complete our mission. If all people have to tell them of the Father are films like this then they will never enter onto the journey to find complete knowledge that is only found through Him. If they do not know of the journey we must all take they will never take up their cross to follow Jesus.

Those of us who have been called so far have a huge task to complete, a task that is huge and has major consequences. How are the world to know about Him if we do not go out and tell them? It does not require anything but faith in the Father and the acceptance of Jesus, your Saviour, in to your heart. If you have these two things then you are more than capable of doing God's work, He will make you everything you need to be, He will provide you with the courage, knowledge and words, He will never let you down.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Jesus name above all names

Music is a very important part of my life, there are almost no aspects of my life which do not have some connection to music or where music does not eventually creep in. Be it my private time when I almost always have some music on in the background, driving to work, or cooking. Also I work with a number of fellow musicians and we inevitably end up spending a lot of time discussing music and instruments and I attend The Salvation Army, a Church which is closely associated to music. So pretty much my life has its own constant sound track.

Because music is so much a part of my life and because I have been exposed to a huge range of music from a very early age my tastes in music vary wildly. If you played a list of all my favourite songs on shuffle you could easily end up with a hardcore rock track followed by a worship song with a third track possibly being jazz or classical, there are also many other genres that end up being included in my favourites list.

But from time to time certain songs get stuck in my head, and normally they end up being ones either from Church or ones for which ever reason cause me to think about God or Jesus for whatever reason. There is one short chorus that quite often gets stuck in my head whenever I hear it. It is a simple beautiful melody and has fantastic words;

Jesus, name above all names,
Beautiful Saviour, glorious Lord,
Emanuel, God is with us,
Blessed redeemer, living Word.
                               (Naida Hearn)

I often wish that I was able to weave such beautiful lyrics out of the language we use daily, but God chose to give me other gifts. However I am glad that He has blessed some people with the ability to write such fantastic lyrics, the ability to take a though or a feeling and turn it in to a beautiful song with which to worship Him.