Category Archives: life

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…………..

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?…………

Maintaining the passion

The danger of becoming insular. As I contemplate my journey of faith thus far, this commercial comes to mind of how we can become insular and passionless in our walk. When I came to Christ some 5 years ago, I was full of dreams with a passion to bring about change in my home congregation. Having now been involved in the “local church” and its youthwork, how are those dreams materialising, am I being an influence of change where God has placed me? Or am I becoming comfortable and insular, like the flea’s in this clip no longer breaking out of the mould.
I gotta admit it’s a struggle, a frustrating journey at times, but something I feel God has called me to. I just gotta keep my focus on Him, allow Him to transform me and work through me, and continue to keep alight the flame of passion he has placed in my heart. O help me God!!

Instant Faith

I’m off work today, another flexi day which will make this a nice long weekend, and find myself returning to this barren land of blog. Was making myself a cuppa coffee this morning, not the instant but the real stuff, and it dawned on me how often my faith can be like this. It’s so much easier to fire in a spoonful of instant coffee, add boling water and away you go : quick and easy. But it’s much nicer to go through the process of grinding the beans, filtering the water through the freshly ground beans, and enjoying the taste of freshly ground coffee. Takes longer, requires more effort, but its worth it.

Often I confess my faith can have a similar approach, i’d choose the quick and easy approach, the disciplines required to develop a living relationship with my Saviour fall by the wayside and I adopt the quick “pick and mix” approach, and wonder why I find myself stumbling along the way and lacking the intimacy and passion that I desire.

So here I am, in that place again, resolving to get back on track with God and desiring to be in that place of intimacy and oneness that my heart desires.

So help me God

Busy Times

It’s been a hectic few weeks, alot of meetings, hardly a nite in, and often I find myself running from pillar to post without taking time to catch a breath. It’s kinda a love/hate relationship with busyness and me : I love being busy and having lots on, but at the same time I hate it when I fail to have time to catch a breath and simply chill. Today has been a welcome calm amidst the chaos as I had the day off work, and have had a little time to just chill and reflect. So whats been going on and whats coming up………….

  • Celebration Of Hope – was involved in the counselling/encourager team at the event on the Friday and Saturday nights. Incredibly well organised event, great response on the youth night, appropriate means used to communicate the gospel through dance/song/testimony and proclamation of the biblical truth
  • Meetings – involved in a number of church committee’s, trying to gradually bring about change and rock the boat abit in our traditional, comfortable, highly frustrating church setting. Hoping that the community outreach mission planned for October 08 will re-focus our attention on the taking the gospel outside the 4 walls of church building. Hope to building bridges into a community that has become distant and uninterested in what the church has to say, meeting people where they are at with the unchanging gospel using appropriate means to establish this connection through which the gospel will flow, and God willing reap a mighty harvest.
  • Reachout Prep – planning for Reachout 08 begins tonight, with the week hopefully happening at the start of August. Trust God will continue to grow this ministry that he has birthed, and use it for his glory, impacting many lives young and old in the communities we are placed in.
  • Turning Point – this weekend i’ll be involved with a team of counselors, mainly guys who have been involved as leaders in Reachout, at a Christian event run for young people at Ganaway, organised through the Belfast Battalion of the BB. Really exciting event, first time we’ve been involved, but sounds like a scaled down version of Summer Madness.

Distractions contd.

Focus

I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but find myself coming back to the same train of thought and it’s this : why do I allow myself to be so easily distracted with the temporary (be that pleasures, possessions or passions) rather than focusing on the eternal.  How many times do I have to follow meandering paths to nowhere, desire temporary pleasures, stumble and fall along life’s journey before I realise it’s only Christ who can satisfy my hearts desire.  His words of frustration to his disciples long ago ring true in my ear

Matthew 17:7 “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? “

And I come back to the same conclusion, I need to discipline myself to keep my focus on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, the one who has dealt with my sin and shortcomings at Calvary, and has paved the way for me to experience newness of life in him.

Hebrews 12:1-3 “1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

This easter time may that be the focus of my reflections as I consider the once for all sacrifice of my saviour who endured the suffering and shame of Calvary for my sin, and by whose blood I am cleansed and set free.  And may I take up my cross daily, keeping my focus on him, filtering the rhythms of the culture that consumes me through the lens of his word, and seeking to flesh it out in my journey through life.  Holy Spirit, help me keep focused on Him……………

Stop………

Find myself returning to this barren land of blog after a lengthy absence, been flat out busy and have failed to take time to reflect on the journey this past while. Until these past couple of days that is when God has stepped in and flattened me with a cold/flu type thing which has forced me to stop, and given me the opportunity to reflect.

So here goes: life has been busy and the months have passed me by, but life is good, though somewhat hectic. HAve been going along to the Christian Life and Witnessing Courses in preperation for the forthcoming Celebration of Hope event planned for the Odyssey at the start of April. Has been refreshingly good, solid teaching, a real sense of anticipation of God moving in a big way in coming months on these shores, and a great opportunity to get involved in some small way in Gods kingdom work through this ministry.

Youthwork’s been carrying on, continuing to work through the Sermon on the Mount with the youth on a Sunday Morning at Breakfast in the Book, sharing in fellowship around the breakfast table and then feasting on the Word of Life, and Jesus call to follow in his Upside Down Kingdom. Youth Club and BB are ticking along, would love to do things abit differently with them, but time constraints limit this : if only there were more hours in a day!!

Committee commitments in church have also been eating into time recently, a mixture of frustrations and small steps of progress, but I guess change doesn’t come without its frustrations. Planning ahead for a mission in the community this autumn which will God willing focus our attentions on those outside the 4 walls of the church and challenge us to connect and build bridges with the godless community on our doorstep.

Thats pretty much life at present, somewhat mundane and hectic at times, but all is good. Still trying to keep to the Bible in a year challenge, hard work but immensely benneficial and something i’m trying to discipline myself to do. Also working at removing the areas of sin that i’ve constantly struggled with in recent years, the stumbling blocks Satan uses frequently to trip me up, often when i’m tired/frustrated and failing to spend time with God. It’s about being aware of my areas of weakness and times when Satan will attack, and fleeing from the situatrions which lure me into sin. Still working at it, stumbling along the way, but by Gods grace, and with His Spirits help, i’ll get there.