Sunday, 29 January 2012

Yesterday I met a pretty marvellous bloke. A real salt of the Earth, hard-grafting man from the East End, now in his late 60's. He came to fix the boiler, but we ended up chatting for quite a while - and he had some stories! Having done some significant time inside in the 60's, he now pursues a life of honesty and hard work, with the mantra that if he just does one good deed or makes one person laugh each day, then he'll die a happy man. He says that losing his freedom for many years has taught him to hold losely onto the things that most get hung up on today - mainly money-security-comfort-happiness based. 

'I'm not religious though!', he assures me. That makes two of us matey. 

Despite his joyfully infectious nature, he humbly (?) told me of a couple of good deeds he'd done this week. 

'If I can't do that, then what can I do with my life!?', he boasts. 

Now, you might subscribe to that philosophy as well, I'm not sure. But I genuinely don't think there is anything we can work on, to make us 'alright in the end'. And unfortunately for this guy, the Bible seems to agree! 

This is one of MANY verses in the Bible that says there is only one way to a fulfilled life. There are no works, not one, that we can achieve to make us right before God at the end of the day. And that includes the works of this charming, zealous and free ex-Con. 

'Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.' 
- Ephesians 2 v7-10 (Msg)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

From Mark 4: ‘Late that day he said to them, "Let's go across to the other side." They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, "Teacher, is it nothing to you that we're going down?

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: "Why are you such cowards? Don't you have any faith at all?"’

Somebody shared this in my Lifegroup last night. It was a great reminder to me (and probably a number of others in the room), about how quickly we start panicking/ jumping ship/ doubting/ getting annoyed at God because of our circumstances.

Now… my initial thought would be: if I was in a boat with Jesus Christ, I’d be feeling pretty damn safe. I like boats at the best of times; but a trip out on the open waters with my Saviour would be pretty awesome.

And then I realised, like a fool, that I am as much with Him now as they were back on those waters, way back then. When situations don’t pan out how I’d imagined they would or an area of my life feels like it’s taking a beating, I’m quick to doubt the calmness of the waters and end up splashing about like a drowning/doubting Thomas.

He asks us in those moments: ‘Do you really have any faith in me at all?’

With a mouthful of salt water, it’s hard to say yes, isn’t it? If He could stop winds and waves in a slight utterance, then our inner turmoil should be fairly straight forward to deal with.

Just keep trusting, no matter what.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

I've had the song 'Jesus Paid It All' going round and round in my head recently. Definitely not a bad song to have on loop.

But it jumped back into my mind this evening, when I opened an envelope. Inside, the correspondence informed me that a recent transaction had been processed and my Student Loan had been paid, in full. Quite a considerable sum, might I add.

I knew this letter was making it's way to me, but it's still stopped and made me think and thank, nonetheless, because it wasn't I who had made that payment. I am the incredibly blessed benefactor of something I didn't earn (or quite frankly, couldn't come close to earning!). A gift, freely given, which will make a huge impact on my future and takes what is quite a substantial burden, off my shoulders forever. I am still referring to the Student Loan thing...though I'm sure you can guess where I am going with this!

It's just a tiny little example of what Jesus did for me. He paid my debt completely - down to the last pence/drop of blood. I have racked up a considerable debt in this life. Not financially, but sinfully. And by all accounts, I should be receiving notification of unmanageable payments overdue and uncontrollable interest growing. But I don't. And never will.

Jesus HAS paid it all for me, on the cross. It's overwhelming to think of this recent Human generosity in my life; but that's genuinely nothing compared to the Saviour's irresistible kindness that I've also been on the receiving end of.

I'm so grateful.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

You might be reading this, waiting patiently for God to 'show up' in an area of your life that you've been praying into for some time now. You might be feeling like you're in something of a drought; a particular dry spell that's proving tough to stay focussed through. The outcome might be a bit sketchy in your imagination, but you're resolute trust in Him is unwavering. And He knows it.

Just imagine this scene for a moment: a Dad watching his young kid line up for a race on Sports Day. It might be the first time the Dad has seen the kid compete properly before; maybe they've never had to train for such an occasion until now; the odds might be stacked against the kid somewhat; maybe they're lacking confidence and a belief in their ability to run well amongst the bigger kids. But the Dad's attention is totally and utterly fixated on that one runner; wishing and willing for the best race of their little life.

That's a microscopic example of God's attitude towards your particular struggle: I'm here; I believe in you; run hard, no matter what you're up against.

Just envisage that victory celebration, when it finally happens (whatever 'it' is that you've been faithfully praying for). That time of 'training' (waiting, praying, sharpening, hoping) will have been so worth it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

God’s been teaching me recently that I need to surrender a bit more to Him. ‘Surrender’ isn’t a particularly easy word or concept to stomach – particularly for guys I think. But He demands it nonetheless. So last night, you might be able to imagine my reaction when I tried surrendering everything I could think of to Him, during a Lifegroup meeting. I should have tried it a while back I think - because it was pretty awesome. We’ve been learning a bit about stress and worry recently – something I'm prone to when I put my mind to it!
With several different areas of life sparring with me at the moment, to make the space for an hour or two in God’s presence – unloading and unwinding – was incredibly important. And He made Himself known to me.
To quote from the spontaneous song that the worship leader gently played through in the background: There’s not enough world to contain Jesus. There aren’t enough songs, books, paintings or people to contain Jesus. Nature can barely even contain Jesus.
I needed to enjoy that vastness last night; because the confines of my mind can be very cluttered and stuffy – He knew that I needed to run around and stretch my legs for a bit.
I feel lighter for it today.     

Monday, 9 January 2012

Don’t promote yourself from Human to God

If you’re stressed or worried about anything, then listen to this very helpful talk, from the new series ‘Gagging Jesus’...

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

How are those New Year’s resolutions bearing up? Four days in and I bet some of those diets have been broken; the running shoes are still in the box; the smoking ban you’ve enforced upon yourself will probably kick in just after this weekend’s night out.

Maybe you’re up to Genesis 4 on that Bible plan you drew up – keep going if that’s the case. Maybe you’ve been setting the alarm earlier to get up and pray – keep going if that’s the case. Maybe that charity you’ve wanted to support for ages has yet to receive your payment – go for it if that’s the case.

Perhaps you didn’t bother going to church in 2011 and have been weighing up the options now that 2012 has arrived – just give it a shot; they’ll make you feel so welcome when you walk through those doors. And if they don’t, it isn’t your fault - move on to somewhere that does.

I was reading something in the book of Hebrews this morning – it’s towards the end of the Bible, in case you’re reading this and aren’t familiar with the order. It said:

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.’

Will you join the crowd again for another 12 months? Or will you realise that 2012 is a year where bigger changes can be made – a bit more significant than some narrow resolutions. The changes that you’re currently putting in place may lead to firmer foundations in God. Or they may not make much of a difference. Ask Him and He’ll tell you which they are.