31 October 2010

Contemporaneous Circumstances

(definition of Contemporaneous: existing, occurring, or originating during the same time)
God is so good. Over the last fortnight (which has included a rather busy week's holiday from work) I have experienced so many blessings that blogging about these has been difficult, they've all seemed to have come as a rush, one after another. Some have occurred all at the same time! It's tough to recall all that has happened, it's been such a rush! Highlights include:
  • five separate opportunities to be 'salt and light' on the streets of  my home town after the hours of darkness, thanks to The Salvation Army, to Street Pastors and the local Council. Although sometimes this has meant 'burning the midnight oil', I didn't miss the sleep, this was more than made up for by some very unique experiences.
  • two occasions where I was privileged to assist my wife with her work with the local Cub Scout pack. Awesome - and often very noisy!
  • some wonderful experiences at the Corps - one young person kneeling in commitment and coming to faith during our Corps Anniversary; other young people really responding to a prayer invitation the week after; even an awesome send-off to one of our more mature soldiers at her funeral service. She completed over sixty years of valiant service; the Hall was packed!
  • several occasions where God has really got to grips with some of our family's more personal requests for prayer. Some of the answers have been right in front of us all of the time!
  • I've even found that 'little area of calm' that I've been looking for (see my earlier blog entry). And I found it within me, so the good thing about it is that it's portable!
As I start to prepare for still further opportunities to serve that will be headed my way at this year's Territorial Congress (next weekend), I'm intrigued to know what else God has in store. Because I'm so up for it at the moment!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(Thomas O. Chisholm - William M. Runyan)

22 October 2010

Inadequate Resources

Mark 6:30-44 (New International Version)
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."

37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" 38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five-and two fish."

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

It’s quite interesting to recall from this story that there wasn't any hesitation here about feeding the crowd -Jesus simply gave the job to His disciples to do! They would have really struggled with this. They were hungry too, because even they hadn’t found the time to eat (verse 31). They simply didn't have the resources to feed themselves, let alone the crowd. And Jesus knew it... The disciples' reaction was a common one, a human one. To give up. It's hopeless. It can’t be done, make them go away (verse 36).

Being a disciple will often lead us into situations where we don’t have the means to meet a particular need -however, He tells us to trust Him, and to do it anyway.

Do you, like me, sometimes feel overwhelmed with your current circumstances? Then take a tip from the disciples. Let Go and Let God. Let Him do His work. Focus on God, not on the problem. He has the resources that you lack; He can take the little that you have and make it a lot.

“God’s work, done in God’s way never lacks God’s resources.” - J Hudson Taylor

18 October 2010

Three Things

"Jesus promised his disciples three things - that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble." - G.K. Chesterton

I came across the above quotation on someone's profile on Facebook a few days ago and just had to blog about it!

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was very prolific in his writings, which include Christian apologetics, philosophy, fantasy and detective fiction. I like his turn of phrase. For example, he wrote: "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

So lets take a few moments to think about the three things in the earlier quotation:

Christians will be completely fearless - Because of God's great gift of love, followers of Christ need not be afraid of anything. There's still a feeling of awe when each approach our Father in heaven, however that is not because there is anything to fear; it's more an act of overwhelming respect for God's almighty and majestic power.  1 John 4:18, NIV: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

Christians will be absurdly happy - usually expressed in terms of joy, this relates to the confidence that followers of Christ will possess arising out of their relationship with their Creator and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Christians will be in constant trouble - it is almost inevitable that Christians, inspired by God's word and indwelt by God's Holy Spirit, afraid of nothing and  possessing a deep contentment beyond human reason, will end up 'upsetting the apple cart' most of the time. They will stand out because they behave differently; they will stand up for others and for their faith; they will stand alone if need be. With such characteristics, it stands to reason there is opposition; why there's a habit of getting into trouble. John 16:33, NIV: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I'm incredibly encouraged by this. It probably explains why I get into trouble as often as I do...

Dare to be different!


14 October 2010

Going Back In Time

Strickland: You don't have a chance: you're too much like your old man. No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.
Marty McFly: Yeah, well, history is going to change.

When you are making a list of popular science fiction classics from the 1980's, then 'Back To The Future' has got to be included. The film presented its audience with a classic time paradox, however it did so in a way that it was popular with mainstream audiences. It was the most successful film of the year, grossing more than $380M worldwide and prompting two sequels, which were filmed back-to-back. The trilogy is regularly viewed at our house, providing us with an entertaining story about how one small event in the past can have repercussions, changing the way things work out in the future.

In fact, it seems this trilogy keeps on revealing new things.... a DVD set released this month to coincide with the 25th anniversary reveals that the original film's history could have been a whole lot different. You see, Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly, and filming was already quite far advanced when director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis began to have some second thoughts. As good as Stoltz was in the role, Zemeckis was unhappy. On reviewing the footage, Zemeckis had to make a bold and 'horrific' decision. Stoltz's performance lacked some of the humour that he felt the film needed.

Some five weeks into filming, the role was recast and Michael J. Fox was brought in. In fact, Fox was reportedly the director's first choice for the role, but was heavily involved in the US sitcom 'Family Ties' at the time. A deal had to be struck with his agent to secure Fox, and a further deal made with the studio to agree for some expensive but now necessary reshoots. However, the popularity of the films helped Michael J. Fox become a household name that he is today.

How different would the film have been with Stoltz in the role? Would it have had the same impact, been as much a success? Footage of Stoltz in the role can now be found on the new DVD as an 'extra'. It's worth a look.

Remember, the choices that each of us make in life can have a profound effect on the way our lives turn out. Things could be drastically different from what we wish if we don't make the right ones. And we don't have the luxury of a time-travelling DeLorean to pop back and put things right if we make the wrong move!

Joshua 24:15 (New International Version)
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

11 October 2010

Testing, Testing

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

A blog that I read this morning pointed out that the Greek word for 'temptation' (pirasmos) can also mean 'testing'. This relates to a trial, a testing of your moral fibre. Some people have a difficulty with the concepts of temptation (usually because that usually is accompanied by the idea of someone who sets out to tempt us, not a popular concept in this modern age!), however I'm sure we can all appreciate that we come across issues where our patience or skills are sorely tested. Usually by whatever the world can throw at us!

As we go through life, some of these trials are unavoidable. 'Such is life', we often say. We all suffer from these sort of trials, they are 'common to man', as is mentioned in the passage above. However, we are promised that God will provide 'a way out'. Indeed, sometimes there are multiple ways we can take to solve each trial.

"Why am I being tested?", the Christian may cry. Well, God allows us to be tested because He wants us to succeed. How else can we pass the test if we don't sit the test? And when we are tested, will we choose to follow Man's way (either our own way or one that someone else has devised for us), or God's way? He wants to test the Christian's response to His word and His promises. God is by His own nature faithful, and we should be, too. Which way will we choose?

8 October 2010

Seeking Perfection - part two

Part two of my thread on perfection centres more on the subject I touched on briefly last time - that of procrastination. Seeking to be better in any area of your life is often a challenge, so it's no wonder that people so often put things off. Like tidying that cluttered room in your house! Sometimes it's a case of not knowing where to start - sometimes it's trying to finding the right time, the right circumstances.

The recent email about seeking perfection (remember my blog entry last time?) recalled a talk on the subject by Pastor Rick Warren, leader of a church in Southern California. A procrastinator, he said, is nothing more than a frustrated perfectionist. The logic went something like this:
  • A perfectionist is convinced to prove his or her worth by being perfect - to seeking to attain perfection.
  • The fear of being unable to achieve that prefection leads to procrastination.
  • Procrastination eventually leads to paralysis. You know what you need to do, even how to do it, but because you can't complete that first part well enough, you end up doing nothing.
Do you end up doing nothing because you feel what you do would be less than perfect? There is a way forward...

1. Realise that no one is perfect - no-one but God. You don't be afraid to make a mistake. Remember the quotation from Albert Einstein:  "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. "

2. Let go and let God! If it is outside of your control, then why not let God handle those things. It takes a lot of faith to let go of those things over which we have no control. Faith like that described in Hebrews 11:1.

3. Learn to be content in your current situation. Life can't be lived in some far-off perfect future. It must be lived today, which means in less than perfect circumstances. Accept that. Love the moment, and enjoy the journey. Dump the pressure that says you must be perfect to be accepted. Just listen to the following quotation: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." (Edward Everett Hale)

The bottom line is - if you are seeking perfection, forget it. What you need to do is seek progress. Why not try and take the first step. Even if you fall over, you have probably gained a couple of steps in the process. Then pick youself up and take another, and another. Before you know it, you will be making terrific progress. Not perfection, but progress!

5 October 2010

Seeking Perfection - part one

We are all encouraged to do the best we can do in all that we do. However, a recent email on the subject of perfection has set me off thinking.

I wouldn't ever claim to be a perfectionist. Take the house for example. I do try to instill some semblance of order to my household (the phrase 'a place for everything, and everything in its place' has almost become my catchphrase, it's such a cliche amongst the family), but with a family of four and so many competing commitments for each of us vying for our attention, sometimes achieving perfection is the last thing on my mind. The place often looks like a bomb has hit it! Particularly during September...

Despite appearing to be a place of chaos and disorder, the house is indeed a home. Let's face it, it's the place where we as a family can let down our hair. Therefore a little disorder can be useful, as long as you can still find something when you need it! There's even a sign stuck to one of the noticeboards in the house: "A tidy house is the sign of a wasted life!"

I must admit to yearning for perfection in this area of my life at least, but with children in the house that can be difficult. I'm working towards a little area of calm in the house where I can unwind. I'm off work at the end of the month to do precisely that. This is an area of my life where procrastination always seems to set in. Regular readers will know that putting myself first is the last thing that I do.

More later...