The greatest love

⁠”I’d catch a grenade for ya
⁠Throw my hand on a blade for ya⁠
I’d jump in front of a train for ya⁠
You know I’d do anything for ya⁠
I would go through all this pain⁠
⁠Take a bullet straight through my brain⁠
⁠Yes, I would die for you, baby⁠
But you won’t do the same”

These lyrics in the Bruno Mars hit song Grenade seem pretty full on in terms of demonstrating love – catching grenades and taking bullets in the brain don’t usually end well for the person doing the grenade catching / bullet taking.

I guess it’s an expression of the extreme love being expressed, but I wonder is this something we can ever experience in this world?

Love in our human relationships often comes with conditions / limits and changes with our mood/feelings. Robbie Williams back in the day expressed a longing to “Feel real love”, and I guess this resonates deep at the heart of our human make-up. We are created in the image of a relational God, we long to belong, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. Sin has broken the relationships we experience in this world, even the most perfect relationship will have it’s moments of hurt and pain and broken-ness.
The greatest love story ever revealed is a loving father God giving His only son Jesus to restore the broken-ness caused by sin, and rescue his fallen children at Calvary.
John 3:16 are probably the best known verses in the bible that tell of this great love story.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”

And later in the same gospel these words are recorded “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).

So there you have it, some musings on the greatest love of all this valentines day – will you accept or reject the Fathers Love freely offered?

Its not about the money

“It’s not about the money, money, money
We don’t need your money, money, money
We just wanna make the world dance,
Forget about the price tag”

And so the lyrics of Jessis J’s hit song Price Tag have been running through my mind of late as I try to match the lyric to the billion dollar industry where it’s all about the money, where extravagance is where it’s at, where the cult of celebrity strives to accumulate more and more stuff to gain popularity, success and ultimately happiness.

But does money = happiness, is that ultimately what it’s all about? As MTV seeks not just to influence but “own” this generation are the values it sells us true, or are we being sold a lie?

Are we just PEOPLE, or are we JUST people?

We’ve spent the last 6 weeks at YF looking through the Tearfund resource Just People, looking at what scripture has to say on the matters of justice / poverty and our response as followers of Christ.  And I admit it’s greatly challenged me afresh as I’ve reflected on how it’s right throughout the storyline of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, was a focal point of Jesus ministry here on earth, is to be an expression of our worship of God and indeed right at the heart of the gospel message.

These words from Micah 6:8 have been ringing in my ear as i’ve thought through these issues and explored it further

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Justice is more than an optional add-on to our faith, something good that we do. It’s at the heart of the gospel, an expression of our worship and evidences the reality of the life changing grace we have received in Christ.  And it’s not an issue on which I can quietly sit on the fence and remain indifferent.  As Desmond Tutu puts it “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

When Christians stay silent it sends out a wrong – yet very clear – message about Jesus: we’re telling people that he doesn’t care. Has this been the message that’s been ringing out in my daily lifestyle choices as I traverse the paths of this global;y connected village where my neighbour is not just across the street, but is equally on the other side of the world?

The diseases of consumerism and materialism that plague western society are crippling the poor and disadvantaged of society, that’s the stark reality that I can easily numb down in my mind because it makes me feel uncomfortable. As Coldplay put it in their hit track Clocks :  “Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease”.

So am I meant to feel guilty, wrestle with this in my head and bemoan the fact that it’s something that’s just too big for me to do anything about?  Or am I going to do something about it? Again the words of Micah 6:8 ring in my ears “and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?“.

I’ve found the following video produced by Tearfund useful in giving me practical ways I can seek to develop a rhythm of justice in my daily choices that can make a difference not just for me, but for others in this global village that i’m connected into.

And so I begin the journey of trying to flesh this out in my daily life, making this a reality in my living and not just something I read about, talk about, am impacted by but ultimately do nothing about. Here goes, care to join me…………..

reFLECT

I’ve been thinking through the idea of being reflectors of the light of Christ in preperation for our church’s prayer weekend.  We are called to be light in this world of darkness, to be the salt and light difference in a dark and tasteless society, but the important thing to note in all of this is that we are not the source of the light, but merely reflectors of the light of Christ, pointing others to Christ as we journey as pilgrims through this life on earth. So here’s some thoughts as I’ve considered this idea of reflecting the light of Christ in soceity.

  • LOOK UP : The SOURCE of light
    PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING1 John 1:5“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”
    John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • LOOK IN : The light exposes Darkness within
    PRAYER OF CONFESSION
    1 John 1:5-10 “5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.  8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”Job 33:29 (MSG) “This is the way God works. Over and over again He pulls our souls back from certain destruction so we’ll see the light—and live in the light!
  • LOOK OUT : Reflecting the Light of Christ to a dark and needy world
    PRAYER OF INTERCESSIONMatthew 5:14 (MSG) “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!”

    Matt 5:16: In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

A song that sums up alot of these thoughts and was pointed out to me by a friend is entitled Sun and Moon by Phil Wickham, and highlights the idea that we like the moon simply reflect the light of Christ.

The gospel in Tech

So i’m just back from Tech Camp 2011, recovering from lack of sleep and reflecting on what was a great few days exploring all things Tech and how this integrates with our faith.  Video editing, animation, Audio Visual setup, voxpop interviews and a geek-hunt at Queens were all part of our few days together.  Lots to learn from my point of view, but refreshing to see young teenagers expressing their creativity and using their God given gifts in all things Tech, exploring how faith and technology can be expressed and explored in their lives.

It was a fresh challenge for me, something different from what i’m used to and perhaps feel more comfortable with, but enjoyable none the less.  It forced me to step out of what I’m more comfortable with, get my “geek” on and connect with kids who were more into Mac’s and YouTube than football and Match of the Day.  As I sought to lead some devotions on the theme of Identity, Being part of the Body, and Using the Gifts we have been given for God, I was faced with a challenge :

  • How can I attempt to connect these messages from Gods word to their world?
  • How can I translate the gospel, and express these themes from scripture in a way that connects to the world of a tech-savvy teen?

This is a challenge i’m used to  with my youth group on a regular basis, but this was a younger group of teens with different interests and different backgrounds than my youth group who I’ve gotten to know and journeyed with over the past 7 years.  While these groups of teens have different interests, and probably wouldn’t associate that much with one another in schools, they have similar needs, hopes and fears. And so do I, so do you, so does all of mankind. And this is where the gospel unites, and communicating it’s truth is what’s essential : we’re all sinners in need of rescuing, we all need to know and experience grace and forgiveness, we all long to belong and experience something more than this world has to offer, we all have something to offer when we get connected to the body and get involved with kingdom work. Diversity in the body should be celebrated and not lead to division.

So here was my attempt to incarnate the gospel for tech-savvy teen’s.

  • There’s a tension that exists in our lives: we have been programmed by the creator to live in relationship with Him, but this good programme has been infected by a virus (sin) that changes everything.  It destroys the function the good programme was designed to do and it affects everything it is connected to.  We experience broken-ness in relationship, pain, hurt, rejection, separation and ultimately death as a result of this virus called sin.  We can try to reverse the effects and un-do the damage the virus has done, but we are merely scratching the surface: it’s damaged the kernel and its effects are irreversible.
    The creator steps in to rescue and reverse the damage the virus called sin has done to his programme for life.  He sends a master-key from the original design to unlock the effects of the virus, and enable us to be re-programmed again with the creator’s good programme.  We need to run the anti-virus and remove the infection so that we can re-download the good programme and start living by it’s design.  The master key was Jesus, and at Calvary he took on the effects of the virus called sin, quarantining and destroying it’s effects forever, allowing himself to be destroyed and then re-programmed on our behalf, so that we can have the chance to re-download the good programme. It’s effect is instant, but it’s power comes from utilising the effects of the new programme in our lives. We need to remain plugged in to the source, and listen to the prompts of the anti-virus programme that alerts us of the attack of the bad programme called sin seeking to interrupt the download and break through and destroy the effects of the good programme as it re-formats and re-installs in our lives.

So there you have it: a blog post inspired by a bunch of tech-savvy teens and leaders @pcitechcamp, who have much to offer a church seeking to communicate afresh the unchanging biblical truths of the gospel to a constantly changing and increasingly technological world in need.

Lessons from the gooseneck barnacle

Bit of a random title for a blog post perhaps, but this was what we encountered on visiting Portstewart Strand during my hols a couple of weeks ago : quite possibly the weirdest thing i’ve witnessed outside of Pirates of the Carribbean and the sci-fi world of special effects in the movies.  Needless to say it generated quite abit of interest, and attracted quite a following each subsequent day we visited, even making it onto the local news.  So how did we find out what this creature was : well no surprises in this technological age it was through a range of modern media that our quest found the answers before it became headline news : post a photo on facebook, await responses as friends scar google, and confirm through wikipedia all before the local media had a sniff of it !!

Anyway why am I recording this sighting here in my blog, what lessons are there from this random looking sea urchin that was washed up rather obscurely on our north coast shores.  Well the answer comes after abit of wikipedia-ing to find out abit about this strange creature.  Two things that stand out about what’s required for it’s survival :

  • It needs to be firmly rooted / attached to something solid (usually driftwood / rocks) to survive
  • It depends on water motion for feeding and ultimately their survival

This got me thinking abit about what’s required for the daily survival of my faith in a spiritual sense, partly because I was attending New Horizon and being challenged in this area of my life.  I was left with the challenge “Am I firmly rooted in my spiritual walk, or merely drifting along, going with the flow and ultimately dying in my faith”.  The lyrics from the song Fall for Anything by the Irish band The Script have been ringing in my head of late “You’ve gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.  And I guess this encounter with the gooseneck barnacle, and finding out abit more about it reminded me of the importance of :

  • Staying grounded in scripture, developing my prayer life and deepening my relationship with my Father God who created me, and gives me purpose and direction for this faith journey i’m on.
  • Allowing His Spirit to flow in and through my life, changing me daily to be more like the Saviour whose name I bear as i continue in this journey as a sinner in rehab, saved by His Amazing Grace, trying to flesh out my new found faith daily in the world in which he has placed me and called me to be His salt and light difference.

So there you have it, some musing’s from my encounter with the gooseneck barnacle, and the importance of being rooted in scripture, persistent in prayer, and open to the Spitit’s leading in and through my life.

Discipline

Discipline seems to be abit of a dirty word these days, it’s often said the “youth of today” are lacking in discipline and respect for authority, and there’s an element of truth in that statement.  But as with many statements like this, discipline is a virtue that is better caught than taught, and how have we embodied these values and passed them onto the next generation?  Submerged in a culture that revels in sin, promotes single-mindedness and celebrates ill-discipline it takes significant effort for us, never mind young people, to go against the flow and choose to dance to a different beat than the culture we swim in.  As a DISCIPLE of Christ, a youthworker who seeks to influence the next generation for Him, how am I SUBMITTING myself to His DISCIPLINE in my life, how am I DISCIPLINING myself to live counter-culturally and resist the sin that prevails in the society in which I am to be an AMBASSADOR.

Sadly alot of our churches have maybe tradionally taken the religious position of BEHAVE, BELIEVE, BELONG in their approach to reaching teenagers : come to our programmes, behave in a way we find acceptable, believe what we tell you and at some stage you will be accepted and therefore belong.  But the counter-cultural gospel of grace as demonstrated by Christ flips this approach completely on it’s head, insisting that first we find our BELONGING and sense of worth and value in Him, as a result we come to BELIEVE in his all sufficient act of salvation on the cross, taking the place of our sin, and then with His help we begin to BEHAVE in a way which brings honour and glory to Him.  We no longer desire to remain in our sin dead lives, but rather seek to live afresh in response to the His Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me.
As I read his word I realise that I am to surrender myself to His discipline as a son submits to the discipline of a loving father who wants the best for him, and as a result I am changed.

Proverbs 3:11-12 (MSG) 11 But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.12 It’s the child he loves that God corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.”

I am also to begin a journey as his disciple, and that involves disciplining myself to resist the sinful desires of my human nature, and strive for the holiness that brings glory to the Saviour who has saved me.  Paul in his writings likens it to an athlete training for a race, or a boxer training for a fight, and the discipline required to keep their body in prime condition as they strain for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (MSG) “26 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me!27 I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

So am I leading a DISCIPLINED life as I progress along this journey as a DISCIPLE of Christ?  That’s the challenge I’ve been left to ponder over recent months, what about you?

Searching through life’s trials

“Some things in life are sent to try you”. Don’t know if you have ever heard these words uttered, maybe after you’ve went through a particularly trying time or difficult experience. How you react and respond in these times says a lot about you as you are, and possibly the person you will become as a result.  When things go abit Pete Tong, when life gets tough, when difficult experiences come our way we often ask the question “Why?”. One of the big questions asked by those seeking answers to life’s questions is “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”. Now I’m not gonna attempt to answer that here, but simply share some musings from my journey along the road thus far.  U2 sing of how “I still haven’t found what i’m looking for”, Travis sang of “Driftwood, floating on the water, breaking into pieces…”, The Script sing of how “You gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”, Eminem speaks of how “I am whatever you say I am” and I could go on.  We’re all searching for meaning and significance as we journey through life, but so often are looking in all the wrong places.  Jeremiah 29:13 puts it like this “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Something i’ve come to realise and believe in over the years (getting very reflective in my old age) is that everything in life happens for a reason, and I have come to believe everything happens within the will of God.  God doesn’t do accidents or mistakes, that’s our part, but sometimes we don’t always see his purposes in the trials life throws our way till we are further down the road and looking back.  That’s certainly been my faith journey, looking back and seeing how God has shaped and moulded me through the losses, hurts, pains and mistakes i’ve made and experienced on the journey of life so far.  How he reached down and rescued me from a life where I was simply drifting along, going with the flow, searching for meaning and purpose in the empty and shallow places of this world that didn’t fill the longing in my heart to worship something greater, something more than this world has to offer.  It was through the trials of life that he rescued me, and revealed to me the forgiveness and grace that I longed for was only to be found in Christ.

The journey since then hasn’t been free from failures / mistakes / pain / hurt, but it has certainly taken on a new found significance and purpose, and I know the assurance of a Heavenly Father who loves me and longs for me to worship Him fully with my life, getting to know Him better as I surrender more of my will and ways into His hands.  Some words found earlier in Jeremiah 29:11 are as follows “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So thats where i’m at right now on the journey, learning to trust in that promise and surrender my plans into His hands as I seek to live my life in response to “His Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me.”  But enough about me, what about you?…………

Missional Living – It’s WHO we are, not WHAT we do

The rough notes outlined below formed the basis of some thought’s I shared at church a few weeks ago as part of our Missional Living mini-series.  Jonny has posted some of his thoughts on his talk on the Holy Spirit on his blog here , well worth a read. Great discussions and a real sense of God moving in us as a body of believers at Boardmills in recent times : Bring It On !!

  • Flea Circus Clip (above) illustrates the danger of having an insular looking church, confined by the limits of religion will fail to reach it’s full potential.
  • Rather we are to be outward looking, kingdom focussed and Christ centred, filled with his Spirit and seeking to reach a culture with his gospel of Good News.
  • In this post-modern, post-Christian, secular western society that we live in we need to re-discover the gospel afresh, re-discover our missional roots, and re-think how we communicate the unchanging truth’s of Scripture that is alien to the majority culture around us.
  • As we observe a world that is more technologically advanced than any other point in history, yet more broken and fragmented than ever due to it’s worship and indeed celebration of sin we may despair and feel all hope is lost.
  • LINKIN PARK LYRICS – FEEL

    I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
    I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
    Somewhere I belong

  • This is nothing new, it has been the repeating cycle of humanity throughout the bible narrative, throughout church history right through to the technologically advanced and spiritually deprived 21st century world that we are sojourners in today.
  • Abraham, Noah, Daniel, Joseph, Esther, the apostles, Paul : all fore-fathers of the faith who have walked these shores before us, not compromising their faith in hostile environments, but standing firm and in many cases redeeming the pagan culture around them for Christ.
  • JOHN STOTT – “You can’t blame the meat for going rotten, that’s what meat does. You blame the salt for not being there to preserve it.”
  • MARK GREENE – “We have a leisure-time Christianity, not a whole life Christianity”
  • SACRED / SECULAR DIVIDE
  • We have somehow packaged a “SAFE”,  “CLEAN” and “COMFORTABLE” Christianity, neatly packaged in it’s holy community that is set apart from the depraved world around us.  This is not the call of the kingdom that demands we “Go into all the world and make disciples”, that calls us to be the “salt preserving, light giving influence on society”, that calls us to “take up our cross and follow”
  • We are not to be CONSUMERS of culture, but rather those who seek to REDEEM and indeed RECLAIM the God values in a fallen world by LIVING OUT LOUD against society’s flow.
  • JOHN STOTT – DOUBLE LISTENING : “listening to both the word of God and to the world around us”.
  • The Gospel is HOLISTIC and INCARNATIONAL – It affects all of life, and every aspect of who we are.
  • For many friends / colleagues / family we are the only gospel they will read, the only church they will know.  How are we representing our Lord and pointing others to him?
  • In order to do this we need to seek the empowering of the Holy Spirit, given to each of us who have received salvation in Christ, to help us and change us to be the people God calls us to be.
  • THE COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS – Acts 2:42-47

    42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

  • This passage follows the coming of the Spirit, and the birth of this first community of believers as they seek to grapple with their calling to take this gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • The sense of belonging, togetherness and genuine love for one another and the world they  inhabited was evident for all to see. Their passion for prayer, for scripture and genuine fellowship shone bright for all to see, and there was added to their number daily those who were coming to faith.

    QUESTIONS

 

  • How have we fallen into the trap of a sacred / secular divide in our western, comfortable Christianity?
  • How can we relearn from the scriptures how to BE the church, in THIS place, in THESE days?
  • What can we learn from this early fellowship of believers in how we do church?

Carlsberg dont do church, but if they did………………..

Dunno what your experience of church / christian community has been, some positive, some indifferent, some negative i’m sure.  But I can’t help wondering what would it be like if we re-captured something of the missional, self-sacrificing, relational core ethos of the early “Community of believers” we read of in Acts 2:42-47

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

WHAT IF………..

What if we re-captured something of the missional heart, gospel-centred, Christ glorifying way of life of those early believers.?

What if we stripped away the religious division, personal comfort, consumeristic, entertainment driven mindset that can easily become the basis of our fleshing out of Christian communities in the western church?

What if we were more concerned about the poor, the lost, the broken, the deprived than our buildings, our programmes, our numbers, our finances?

Can’t help but wondering…………….What If?……………..
JOHN STOTT – “You can’t blame the meat for going rotten, that’s what meat does. You blame the salt for not being there to preserve it.”
So how about we get out there and BE a missional people, living lives as missionaries in a pagan culture that we seek to redeem.

Back to blog

So this blog has been a barren place of late – no posts at all last year, a few thoughts shared of late, but largely it has been void of content.  A number of reasons really for this : other things going on in life, busy-ness, the rise of facebook/twitter/RSS feeds/emails to keep ontop of  (you easily become consumed by the volume of information out there you think you should consume), and I guess a case of the initial desire fading over time (i’ve been blogging since 2003).  Has been surprising though that some people still stumble across it daily, often stumbling into this post when searching for the lyrics to the Script song Break Even.

So this is me re-visiting the land of blog again, and attempting to re-engage with some more regular updates : will try and record some musings each month, for my own benefit if nothing else. In the past i always found it helpful to work through some thought’s /musings, or reflect on some cultural observations and how I flesh out my faith as I carry on in this journey of faith.

Have been challenged / refreshed / encouraged by some thoughts recorded by one of our youth on a blog he set up recently, you can check it out here.  I for one actually believe in this generation, i’m loving how God’s working in and through them in our context at Boardmills, and believe God will use them to redeem his church and bring revival in these days as they seek to live out loud against society’s flow.

1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV) “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

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