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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Letter Writing

Hey guys hope you are all well. I am doing pretty good myself but have recently got a bee in my bonnet about the work I do and the Church I am a part of. This has led me to begin writing a mammoth letter which I will be sending to the leaders of my Church both nationally and internationally. Unfortunately this probably means that the time I would use to write on this I am likely to use in working on this letter. I may post the letter on here once I am done but I am not sure. So if I don't post for a little while don't worry I have not disappeared again I am just working on something else. Hope to be back on here soon, until then guys.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rugby World Cup

As I write this I am lying in bed watching England's first game in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Now I have been waiting 4 years since the last one for this one to start and like I do every 4 years I believe England can win the Web Ellis Trophy once again.

Rugby is a sport I love whether that is playing it or watching it I love it. However I have noticed at times that this sport can bring out the worst in me. I am well aware that this morning I have been very verbally aggressive and possibly slightly racist against the Argentinians and all because of 30 men running round after a prolate spheroid.

This aggressive nature is completely opposite to what my Christian nature should be, it is not compatible with the life I should be living. But how is it possible to reconcile my passion for this sport and my country and my Christian faith?

When I used to play myself we were always taught that we were to heap all our hate, anger and aggression on the other team so that combined with our passion we would be committed fully to a win. Equally though we were taught that respect on the pitch for our fellow players and to leave all those feelings on the field was the way we should be acting.

I think that this is similar to the idea of being strong on doctrine yet also strong on mercy. We can have this passion and have a righteous anger and still show Christian forgiveness and love by being merciful in the same way Christ was. We can want to win, we can push for victory, but not at the expense of our faith and values. We can hate what is wrong and hate what is evil, but not hate the people who are in the wrong or being evil. As Christians we should be tough on sin but gentle with the sinner.

Saying this it does not excuse the things I have felt and said this morning towards the Argentinians but it does show that we can have a passion and a desire to win in such things but we should always remember that as Christians we should love our fellow man, even if they are from Argentina.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

If it wasn't for those darn pesky Christians

I need to blow off some steam about something that happened at work tonight. I work as a support worker with people who are homeless, rootless or at risk of becoming so. This entails working with addicts, alcoholics, people with mental health issues and those working the streets. It is an absolute passion of mine to help these people and although I have not been employed to do this for long I know what does and does not work with this client group.

So tonight while working on our soup run four people in bright fluorescent jackets rocked up to my soup run asking who we are and what we do. It turned out that these people were from a local church who had recently begun doing outreach for the homeless on a Wednesday night offering hot drinks to the homeless and street beggars. This in itself is not a bad thing, anything that helps people in these situations can only be a good thing my issue lies in the fact that these guys are the new kids on the block rocking up to an established service attempting to poach service users is not in the best interest of said service users. My biggest bug bear is that they were actively attempting to coax my clients to their service, but they are not offering them anything past a hot drink and maybe a listening ear. Normally this is not a bad thing, the charity I work for believes strongly in service user led relationships and building relationships with service users by giving them time and not pushing an agenda. However when this takes a service user out of a situation where they are accessing a support service where they receive support that is available every day of the week and try to supplant this with just a one night a week service which only provides a hot drink this is doing harm.

What I see happening is a Church who have had the right idea but they have not followed it through properly. They have not looked at service provision already provided and looked to fill a need that exists, they have just simply had an idea and gone and done it. This for me is a massive waste of volunteer time, resources and funding that could have been utilised to do much more good in a different way. If they had looked at service provision they would have seen the nights when there is no provision and been able to set up a useful service. As it is they are providing nothing new and potentially causing harm to people who could be receiving practical help and assistance.

This is not the first time I have seen this happen, a Church sets up a scheme or program to help "the needy" but quickly burns out because they are replicating services and not providing anything of use. Like I said I have no objection to what these people are doing, helping these guys is fantastic, however by not researching the situation they are not helping they are potentially causing harm which is in no ones best interest.

One thing that I found didn't sit well with me was the need of these four to talk about God constantly. Ok, you are from a Church we get that, you want to help those who have a need, we get that too but why are you trying to convert people before you help them? Why are you presenting yourself with the unwritten proviso that by being Christian you are going to receive more help? It shouldn't be about trying to convert these people, we shouldn't be telling them that we will help them but fist we will pray about it. In time it may be that these people want to know about God, want to know why we do what we do, but it should never be something we require them to do. Help should never be provided on a basis of conversion, help should be freely given. We should be acting in a Christlike way, we should be helping these people but to do so on a basis of them listening to us sermonising is in my eyes wrong. Preach by your actions by all means, but to force your religion on someone when they don't want it is not going to win any souls.

For me the most telling part of the night was a quote from one service user who said to the Church group;

"This guy is my support worker, he looks out for me and has my back and for that I have his back. When I need help he is always there, he knows me and my situation and knows how to help. He's not just about a cup of coffee he is there when I'm rattling for drink and drugs and never judges me. I don't come here for the coffee or soup, I come here because I know he will be here and I know I can come tell him my problems and tomorrow morning he will be there to help sort them out. And any way I have enough problems as it is without you guys giving me more"

I know some people out there will disagree with me, but I am a Christian, I have a calling and a passion to help the homeless and the social outcasts, yes I want to win souls for Christ, yes I would love them to attend a Church but I am never going to force my religion on someone as recourse for providing help and I don't believe anyone else should either. If Churches are to do this sort of work they need to think about who it is they are really helping, are they doing this to ease their conscience or are they trying to help those who need it.  If they are really there to help those who need it are they really providing the right kind of help or could the money be better used by professionals out there day after day providing the help these people need and really making a difference.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I'm a Christian, But......

Before I start this post I want to put out this disclaimer. I do not claim now and have never claimed to be a shining light of Christian purity. I would willingly admit that I often get things wrong and that I have made many mistakes past, present and likely in the future too. I also know that I myself am far from sinless despite my best efforts to be what I should be as a Christian.

Ok now I have said that I feel an awful lot happier about the rant I am about to go on. The thing I want to talk about is Christians who push themselves into positions of influence and set themselves up as supposed good examples who knowingly live in unchristian ways.

I doubt it is only me who has trouble with people who seek out positions of influence and power in the Church for their own means and then go on to act in thoroughly unchristian ways. I can't help but think that a at least part of the problems we have in the Church are in some way connected to the bad examples of leaders who are not there for God. In this I mean the people who need to be in these positions of power and influence for their own gratification and own purposes. These people who then go on to continue to act in worldly ways with inappropriate behaviour, gossiping and spreading rumours. This poison then permeates its way through Churches, in fact The Church infecting people further setting poor examples to those young or weak in the faith who perhaps then see this as acceptable behaviour.

As I said in the disclaimer, I do not believe myself to be an example of what a Christian should be, far from it. To be honest I would be willing to admit I fall far short of where I should be as a Christian many times. But without then trying to make myself sound any better, I do not claim to be a perfect example, I do not pretend to be anything but a sinful man daily asking the Lord for forgiveness. I pray that Christians would see the sin in their own lives, the gossiping, rumour spreading and general sinful behaviour and acknowledge it. By acknowledging it they can not only confront it and attempt to drive it from their lives but also show others that while sin is not ok or acceptable it is going to happen. Show that by having a relationship with Jesus and asking for forgiveness we can grow as Christians and in faith.

These people know that what they are doing is wrong, unchristian and hurtful, they know they are causing pain to those they wrong and who they gossip about. Rumours based on idle speculation, conjuncture and wild fantasy that they spread cause a level of hurt that is known only to the individual and the Father. When friends turn on friends and say things that are hurtful or cause situations where the truth is either veiled or hidden purposely for their own gain. When friends manipulate circumstances to gain an advantage over friends all of these things are a source of the pain that Christ felt upon the cross.

Paul's letters to the early Church talk about situations we still see today, brothers and sisters in Christ are still acting in ways that are far from Christlike and in ways we have be warned and instructed not to act. We are all going to sin, we are all going to make mistakes but I can't help but think that these people are claiming to be followers of Christ but have not accepted the Spirit, have not accepted Christ's forgiveness and are not following the two greatest commandments.

Matthew 22:36-40
When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: "Teacher, which command in God's Law is the most important?"
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Sunday, September 04, 2011

25 years and counting

So today is my birthday, not normally something I celebrate much or really bother with but I think adding an extra year on is a good time to take stock and look back on the last year. So here is a quick summary.

In this area of my life I have been quite successful, just less than a year ago I made the transition into working in social care from my previous life as a scientist. This went very well and the training post I was in taught me a lot in a short space of time. I met some fantastic people who began to equip me with the skills I need to follow my calling. Then in March I moved jobs and cities to begin working with a small charity that helps street addicts and street homeless which is something I feel very strongly about. In the 5 months I have been there I have grown in knowledge and understanding of the sector and also gained many skills that will be invaluable to me in the future.

This time last year I was living at home for the first time in 6 years and it was not ideal. However it did put me close to my family and allow me to spend time with them, especially my Godson. But with the new job came a move to a new city and while for a short time my housing situation was not good, i.e. technically homeless, I am now living with one of my best friends in a lovely apartment and beginning to9 settle in quite nicely.

Now this area of my life has been quite rocky. I made a commitment to God and my Church over a year ago but due to various reasons this has still to progress further than just talking about it. Because I moved cities and have had to move Churches the process of me applying to become a minister has taken about 20 steps back. However as of this week I am now officially a member of my new congregation and looking forward to things moving forward again. I miss the Church I grew up in but feel that moving to a new city and a new Church with everything tht is going on will in the long run be the best for my spiritual growth.

Spiritual life:
Now probably the most important aspect of my life. Sadly I have not taken care of this aspect of my life quite as well as I have of the others. With everything that has gone on of late setting aside time to be with God has not been easy and at times I am sad to admit not been a priority. This has had an adverse affect on some areas of my life and I have really struggled at times. There have been some dark days which would have been so much brighter if I had not been neglecting my spiritual life. I am now making an effort to change this, I have seen it as a problem and have begun to make it more of a priority.

As many of you are likely to know I took quite a long unplanned hiatus in blogging. I did the thing I hate other people doing and just disappeared from the blogosphere with no warning. There are reasons for this, mostly to do with the stresses of moving city and starting a new job but with some extra unneeded stresses from people who were supposed to be there to help me. I am now back on track even if I am not posting with the same regularity and quantity of the past. I am still trying to work out what I want this to be going forward but after my break I have rediscovered my passion for sharing whatever is on my mind with you guys, hope someone is finding it interesting in some way.

So that is a rough summary of most of my life in the last year, there have been a few other things going on but that about covers most of it. I am now off to enjoy my birthday by relaxing and taking it easy, after 25 years of trying I might finally get the quiet and relaxing birthday I have always desired.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Church Billboards

I went to one of my work colleges house warming party tonight and on the car journey home I saw a really good Church Billboard.

Jesus is the bread of life
Uses self-raising power

When I saw this it took a few seconds for it to sink in, a few seconds to realise the full meaning of this phrase. We see the analogy of the bread of life used time and time again, it was refreshing to see this clever play on words to make you think about it a little bit more.

For the rest of the journey the phrase ran round in my head and I thought about how true it is. As with baking bread if we want to make our lives with God the right way, if we are to follow the recipe we need to use some kind of raising agent, and the only raising agent for true everlasting life is Jesus. 

Jesus can make our lives grow and expand and become so much more than they could be with out him much in the same way that bread dough rises with the addition of yeast. The power of the risen Saviour can do amazing things, bring about wondrous changes when applied to your life. 

What is your life like?

Is it a spiritual flat bread or do you have the rising power of Christ in your life?

No Surrender, We Will Not Retreat

How many people are prepared to give up everything for Jesus, how many people are prepared to turn their back on everything they have known, a safe life, a solid career in order to follow the will of God? I know many Christians who would say that they would, many Christians who would claim that they put Jesus first in all things.

How many actually do though?

We see many people who claim to Christians, who claim to be strong of faith who will just go through the motions, who will turn up week in week out "doing their bit" and "chipping in". When asked about their calling they will either ramble off the subject or say something along the lines of "I don't know what God is calling me to do yet".

I understand that God works differently with different people, and some people are desperately searching for God's plan in their lives. But I would say the problem for those genuinely searching and those just showing a Christian face on Sundays is roughly the same. They have not given control of their lives over to the Lord, they have not offered to do His will come what may.

The people who say they are praying for direction and to know God's plan for them are either not praying ernestly or are holding back. When you ask God how he wants to use you, when you offer your life to God with no provisions or caveats then and only then will you begin to see His plan mapped out in your life.

In the Church we do not need more people who are just along for the ride, we do not need more people who are wanting to remain in the world. What we do need are people who are willing to give up everything, people who are willing to say "No surrender, we will not retreat". We need people who are on fire for God, burning with a passion that only the Holy Spirit can bring.

Following on in a similar vein to yesterday I would rather see a smaller Church of people who are really on fire for God. A Church cut back and pruned to those who are healthy in the Lord. I believe that when we get a Church like this, a Church following His will, a Church willing to sacrifice all it has, that is when we see Church growth, that is when we see revivals and that is when God can do his best work through his Churches.

How many people can say they are willing to give their all to god? How many Christians are willing to do anything He requires?

I don't know the answer to this but I pray that the Lord will find more people open to His will and that we follow His ways to bring his Churches back to life so that He does not decide to prune us and remove us from the Church vine.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Cutting back

Pruning - To trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, esp. to increase fruitfulness and growth.

After a conversation with my flat mate and having being forced to watch a TV program about attempting to revive a dying village in Wales I have been thinking about dying Churches. These thoughts have been running round in my head for a number of days in a different form. This has brought me round to thinking about how we deal with small, shrinking and dying Churches.

In the UK we have a problem with shrinking congregations, reduced Church attendance and Churches withering and dying. In towns and villages up and down the country groups of Christians are fighting a losing battle to keep their Churches alive. My question is, are they wasting their time and is there a different way to tackle this problem.

John 15:1-2
 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Now for me it seems obvious that when something dies and has no life left in it something needs to be done. As in plants or indeed bodies if a portion of it dies then it should be cut off. If this is not done the dead or dying portion sucks up valuable resources and deprives the healthy areas of the things they need to survive. It can also be the case that these dead and dying portions become rotten or infected and because they have not been cut off they infect other areas.

As in gardening and medicine the Church should also be aware of areas of itself that have died or are dying. It is not that Churches can not be saved, unfortunately some can not, but once they are past a point is it wise to pour resources down a black hole when they could be spent expanding work elsewhere. As Jesus said, if a branch is not bearing fruit then it will but cut off, Jesus even tells us that these branches will be left to wither a dry up and then be cast on to the fire, they are no good for God if they are not doing his will. Even those Churches who are strong will be pruned back from time to time in order to bring them renewed strength.

The point I want to make is not that shrinking Churches are a bad thing, sometimes good can come from this and a Church that is pruned back to healthy stock can flourish again. However a dead a rotten Church is doing no one any good and could in fact be doing harm. I can't be the only one who thinks that the hard decision should be made to shut down dying Churches and use the money in different ways to extend God's kingdom. It is not even necessary to remove the money from the community it is in but perhaps use it in a more constructive way in a community than shoring up a failing Church.

When I think of Jesus and his ministry I see someone radical who pushed the boundaries of the status quo. I see some of the situations in the modern Church causing him to display the righteous anger from the temple. The way we are running the Church is not in my eyes in the spirit in which it started. The reason I think we see the problems we do is because we have turned away from God and are ignoring the Spirit. As I have already said they best way I see to remedy this is to return to the early Church, return to the Churches true calling. This is not going to happen if we continue to pump money into failing projects, dying Churches and continue to push our own agendas rather than follow God's.

Let me know what you think about this subject, do you have a better idea for a solution, or do you have any other thoughts on this subject. Please leave a comment below.