Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 in 4 words

How would yours read? Judging by what most people were saying on Twitter yesterday, it has been a pretty bleak year. Most couldn't wait for 2011 to be over so that the clean slate of 2012 could be handed to them. Some said 'I survived it all'; others said 'It's gone, move on.'

Would yours say 'the worst year ever'? Or maybe 'the best year ever'? (not particularly imaginative options, I must admit).

Take some time to write those four words out. 365 days is a pretty massive horizon in front of us, so today is probably a good day to take a deep breath and stretch out those tired bodies before the new chapter kicks in.


'Repaired by grace. Frequently.'

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Bad

So we're on the threshold of a new year. Only 2 and a bit days away now. 

Is 2012 going to look like 2011 for you? What stupid mistakes did you have to deal with this year that need to be avoided like the plague next year?

It's the subtle ones you need to watch out for most. Have you recently been reconciled to the lie that a hard-earned pint is your reward each evening? Or perhaps that a little porn every now again isn't so bad?! Have you decided to stop praying with all your heart for those loved ones around you in need of Jesus? Maybe you've decided to stop giving a portion of your money each month - just for a little while. Maybe, just maybe, you've decided that the Bible isn't all that, and have decided not to make it part of your daily routine? 

Or maybe you can't be bothered going to church anymore; can't be bothered praying with your spouse; speaking to others about Jesus; or perhaps you just cannot be arsed to make an effort at work any longer...

The many varied lies that the Devil has won you over with need to be carefully dealt with, all year round - but the start of a new year is as good a place as any to take that personal inventory. Fine-tooth-comb it and leave no stone unturned. 2012 COULD be an amazing year for the Lord. 

The Good

Look back over the last 12 months. Including the sheer fact that you are still breathing (a pretty massive gift in itself), what has God done for you this year that is worthy of an incredibly thankful heart!?

New babies? Financial provision? Times of relaxation and holiday? Laughing with friends and family? Happiness in your marriage? A roof over your head and food on your plate? Clothes, entertainment, rest. You name it, it's all a gift. 

You may have faced massive set backs this year; God may have carried you through some serious loss and uncertainty - but end 2011 by saying thank you. We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Most people have wondered about whether He really exists; usually in their childhood probably. Before 'life' and 'the world' cluttered their thinking. 

We all love the thought of this supreme man secretly being there for us at Christmas, giving us gifts. He never asks for any gifts in return; He's just incredibly content with the knowledge that we have acknowledged Him.

He seems to know exactly what we'll need/want each year as well. Strange, considering we rarely give Him the time of day for 99% of the rest of the year. It's like He really knows us or something!?

He's certainly too big to fit down most chimneys, and He certainly deserves more than a mince pie and a glass of Brandy. But then we could never really properly repay Him for what He does for us. 

Most people laugh at those who still believe in Him; like they need to grow up and move on from those childish ways. Deep down though, we all know He's there all along. 

Happy Christmas, indeed x

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

It had to begin somewhere.
If it had begun with the sky splitting in two with a bolt of lightning producing a chiselled Herculean philosopher, nobody would believe it. It’d be too farfetched for us to concede as possible. Instead it began with a young, pregnant lady. She carried Him, but Joseph didn’t Father Him. Daytime TV is full of similar scenarios, and we believe those stories easily enough.
Suspend your disbelief for a moment and see through the weird Nativity plays that include an Octopus and a starfish next to the manger.
What if He really did become a little baby? The thought of a baby is enough to freak most guys out; imagining this one is even more scary! God became an actual little baby – He started human life from scratch – just like the rest of us. He would have cried, crapped and coughed up milk, just like you did.
It wasn’t like something from a fairytale – it must have been minging by that manger. But it definitely began there.
That same little baby would later hold sound debate with Jewish teachers, before He even hit his teens. He would walk on water. That baby would be able to pull in gigantic hauls of fish; feed thousands of people with a few small meals and even make water into fine wine. He would be able to define an individual’s thoughts and struggles without even knowing them; He would be able to bring sight to darkened eyes. He would become a master craftsman – just like His Father. He would become the most powerful and imitated orator in History. This baby would be able to take leprosy from a diseased body and even raise a pulse in the chest of a deceased body.
This baby would certainly make something of the life He was given.
But in the meantime, He would have to be content with straw, sleepless nights and star-gazing Shepherds.        

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Wise Men Still Seek Him

The wise men before knew that something significant had arrived. They had received some kind of Heavenly revelation about the imminent arrival of somebody incredibly significant. They came bearing gifts that would prophetically mark this significance from the outset. He needed Gold because of the throne that He had left and would one day return to. He needed Frankincense because He was to be worshipped – His immensely humble beginnings contradicted the awe that millions upon millions would have for Him over the centuries. And He needed Myrrh because one day His people would bury Him – unaware of the resurrection that would hastily follow, despite His instructions that they needn’t fear.

They sought after a glimpse of Him. An audience with a baby King.

What lengths would you go to this Christmas to seek Him? Would you lay down the lies and sin that have clouded meeting Him so far? Would you bring the gift of your life in order to receive a new life in Him? They probably couldn’t believe what they found in that stable. They probably wouldn’t have been able to believe the impact He would have.

I’m confident you’d be in a similar state of awe as well.

Wise Men still seek Him this Christmas. What they find today is no less captivating.

Friday, 16 December 2011

So meeting in a dirty old South-London pub, under the railway arches, is a far cry from the ‘upper room’ image described in Acts. But I love it even more I think. The festive, blustery, hustle and bustle of a post-work pub room in December was a cool backdrop to discuss our busy lives and future plans. As grumpy old employees tried to engage in some Christmas cheer, we stood in the thick of it – trying to encourage and challenge each other. There’s nowhere else I’d have rather been last night – and my brothers were incredibly generous to me.

As I said to someone recently, going it alone is absolutely impossible as a Christian. It’s fatal and stupid. If you are trying to do life on your own as a Christian, without the support, prayer and accountability of like-minded people, then stop everything and find some people who are willing to get alongside you – as a matter of urgency. If you haven’t already fallen way down a slippery slope, then it’s sure to happen imminently.

The Devil will have lied to you, and told you that it’s OK to carry on alone – but all he wants is to kill you, steal from you and generally destroy your life. Get people around you, who can help identify when these schemes are sneaking up behind you; or just spiritually blood-nosing you in broad daylight.

It scares me to think of one of God’s people trying to navigate separated from the pack. I would have been seriously screwed a long time ago if I'd been in that position for much longer than I was.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

‘Tis the season to be jolly. They’re right there.

So as you don that paper crown, chink that champers glass and dodge Mavis and her mistletoe, spare a thought for why the season is what it is. So many people dismiss the true meaning, saying it’s just a Pagan date and it’s all about family and being charitable to all around you. Two incredibly minor truths, which the Devil craftily uses to blind the high streets and the decorated dinner tables.

Many say He didn’t exist. Many say that they will celebrate His birth by getting legless and seeing out 2011 in a haze of Festive Fun. I think it’s great that we can all come together to celebrate such an amazing arrival. But I don’t plan to commemorate it with a hangover, however - I’m still too amazed by the truth of it all.

That truth invades more shops, homes and work places this month than at any other time of the year. And many don’t even realise or remember it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

I was chatting to someone lastnight, over a couple of cold ones. For the sake of things, let’s call this someone ‘Bob’.

Now, I was trying to explain to Bob that having been high as a kite and drunk as a skunk in the past, I can now say, hand on heart, that the thrill of living for Jesus far outweighs those kind of worldly pleasures. No doubt about it. To know that fullness of life and the adrenaline that comes from walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, far out does the biggest, messiest, gutter-ending weekend night that currently captivates his midweek daydreams.

I know they’re fun. I have had hundreds and hundreds of those nights out.

But to find purpose, discipline and joy each morning is WAY more exciting than the vomit, regret and emptiness that readdresses the balance after a ‘fun’ night out with the lads.

I dunno whether Bob will get it. But, as I told him last night – he could try and fill that longing with Jesus now – or in 20 years time; when the urge to overcome the hunger for God is still there. The Jesus-shaped hole in his heart could be filled with Jesus now, or later; but it wont be going anywhere until he does.

I’d give it a shot now, if I was in his shoes (excuse the pun)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

He lived. He was willingly slaughtered for your sins. He rose to life, to show that His power was totally victorious and utterly continuous. And He still lives. He can still carry those sins, if you'd just let Him. He bids you to rise from the depths of your own messy state, to continue in a victorious new life, hidden in all that He has done for you. A completely clean slate, regardless of the junk you've placed on it. ANY of the greed, lies, selfishness, lust, anger or envy you've EVER pursued.

This may be the first and last time you've been told about the Good News of Jesus Christ. But because of what you've just read, you can no longer tell Him that nobody ever told you about it. I just did.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What do you make of this, eh?!?

Just a little story for you. You might not think it’s all that significant, but that’s probably because you haven’t thought about it properly. The other day I prayed for a mate of mine. He had a very stiff and sore neck that was causing painful, sleepless nights.

I prayed.

Nothing happened. No improvements. I was bewildered; he found it funny.

So, like the resilient man of faith that I am (I am totally joking by the way) I said that I wanted to pray again.

Nothing. Absolutely nada.

In my head, I was thinking – if God can raise people to life or get crippled people back onto their feet, why is my faith so puny that this small bit of nerve tension (or whatever it was) can’t be shifted?!

So I prayed again. And again. Four times in total. After the third prayer, the pain was lifting slightly, but the stiffness remained. By the end of the fourth prayer, the pain had gone and he was moving his neck freely. Cue exclamation marks!!!

It would be easy to get hung up on the fact that a) I had to pray several times b) it was only a painful neck (not blindness or leprosy, like we see healed in the Bible).

But the fact still remains – God healed this guy, there and then. He didn’t go to a doctor, take pain relief or give it any rest. I put my hands on his neck and commanded that the pain disappear, in the name of Jesus. Pretty much as simply as that.

You might not think God exists. You might think that miracles are actually tricks of the imagination or totally fantasy. But let me tell you - I ‘aint medically trained and I‘m certainly not BS-ing you. What would be the point of me doing that??? I have absolutely nothing to gain from telling you this. Just like I had absolutely nothing to gain from seeing this guy’s neck healed.

It actually happened. God actually healed him. This surely sets alarm bells ringing inside your head???

Friday, 2 December 2011

The evidence is irrefutable; it's incredibly incredible; it's undeniable; it's emotional; it's captivating; it's so life-altering; it's foundation-shifting; it's sin-bleaching; it's history-tested; it's witness-invested; it's response-demanding; it's soul-commanding; it's beautiful; it's hard; it's actual blood shed; it's real-life flesh scoured; it's blunt nails driven through calloused Carpenter palms; it's fistfuls of torn facial hair; it's cross-shaped agony; it's Roman guard brutality; it's your sin that put Him there; and it's His love which says "It's OK, i'll take this punishment for you - just please still believe it in 2,000 years time!"

Thursday, 1 December 2011

This one is for the people reading this who don’t profess a faith in Jesus – I know for a fact that you’re reading this blog too!

What do you worship?

That’s right – you do worship something.

Whether we like it or not, we all worship something or someone. We ALL have a theology that we stand by. Some people get theirs from The Bible – the safest and most steadfast bet, in my humble opinion. But we each have a theology nonetheless. I wonder whether you’ve considered that before? Just because you don’t follow God – with a big G, it doesn’t mean that you don’t worship a god (or gods) with an incredibly little G. The god of money. Or perhaps the god of food…drink…sex…comfort…drugs….porn….greed. There are SO many little gods, it’s almost unbelievable! But it’s true, regardless. Some facts are tough to stomach, but it doesn’t mean they are any less a fact.

So – which gods do you base your theology around? Get rich or die trying? Get laid or die perving? Get ahead or die scrabbling up the ladder? Everyone bases their walk on something and puts their faith in a God and/or god.

Which is yours? You definitely have to decide – one day Jesus will demand that your colours be nailed to the mast, so it’s advisable to get your head around it before you’re put on the spot!

More on this subject later.....