31 January 2011

Be Direct

Matthew 7:7-11 (The Message)
"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?"

30 January 2011

Thoughts On Brotherhood And Suffering

Philippians 3:7-11 (New International Version, ©2011)
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

This weekend has been a real eye-opener. Saturday saw me attending a men's fellowship conference day in Romford, which was really good to attend for a number of reasons. The main thing I brought back from that day is the importance of sharing and receiving comradeship within a church fellowship - which in the context of men's ministry represents a supportive brotherhood. I really warmed to this idea, having been brought up as an only child and therefore lacking the benefit of brothers. I spent a good part of the subsequent evening getting this into context, reviewing all those 'fraternal' relationships I had experienced in my life, and in particular since becoming a Christian in 1988.

Today, the Spirit really moved me during the morning meeting at the Corps. Bullseye, a hit dead centre. Zoe was preaching on Philippians 3 at the time, with the words about 'participation in His sufferings' resounding within me. Words cannot adequately express how I felt, but it was powerful.

In trying to unpack my own feelings on this topic this afternoon, this led me to a study on koinonia, the English version of the Greek word κοινωνία that refers to the sort of fellowship experienced by members of the early church, starting from Acts 2. These Christians were united together in love, faith, and encouragement. Identifying with Christ's own sufferings, they bore each others burdens as they lived and worked together. They kept going and didn't give up. Could the reading from Philippians from this morning have something to do with those thoughts on fellowship/brotherhood from Saturday? I think so.

I'll end this entry with words from Graham Kendrick's song 'Knowing You', which speaks of the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus as a foundation to Christian service. The song is inspired from Philippians, with the third verse being based on this particular passage:-

Oh, to know the power of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your suffering,
To become like You in Your death, My Lord,
So with You to live and never die.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, My righteousness;
And I love You, Lord.
(Graham Kendrick, Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music)

28 January 2011

Prayer Changes Things

The saying mentioned in the title above will be familiar to many; so many more will readily tell you of the truth it represents. Prayer is such a broad subject, and yet even simple prayer is still a mystery to some. Today's thoughts follow a series of studies on prayer in our Corps Bible Study over the last few weeks.
Our Father in Heaven is keen to hear from us. He wants to hear about our day; our successes and failures; our frustrations and our concerns. In the same way I regularly ask my children how their day has gone at school. Sometimes there's little more than 'oh, the usual'... How wonderful when they chat away, sharing the details of their day! And if they share their concerns, how keen I am to assist if it's in my power to help... provided what they ask is good for them. 
So it is with God. He promises to answer our prayers if we ask them (James 4:2-3, Matthew 7:7-11). It's always within His power to help - however, sometimes in our naivety, we ask things that just wouldn't be good for us, or for others...
Prayer is said to change "all things". Philippians 4:6-7 states we should to "pray in all circumstances", suggesting that everything must be capable of being changed by prayer. Sometimes it only takes a change in our own attitude following time in communion with God to make a huge difference. Sometimes, persistent, concerned petition will be needed.
God always answers prayer. Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer may takes a long time to arrive. But an answer will come.
How do answers arrive? Here are some examples:
  • miraculously (Acts 9:40)
  • incredibly (James 5:17-18)
  • but most often through the acts of fellow Christians (Acts 28:15-16)
Perhaps you are someone else's answer to prayer today....

26 January 2011

Easy Target

A work colleague and I were engaged in conversation today about a particular case, and he took the opportunity to correct me on a small matter of detail about what had happened. I know that he took great delight in this, I don't doubt that he did it just to get a reaction out of me. He said that he couldn't resist, I was "such an easy target".

I'm reading up at the minute on whether Christians should be thick-skinned. I have previously felt that an attitude like that would prevent me from feeling the needs of others. Although leaving me open to hurt, I feel that not developing a 'thick skin' would enable me to be of more use to God. More on this later...

I forgive my colleague. I should thank him! At least it has set me thinking...

25 January 2011

Don't Love The World

1 John 2:15-17 (New International Version, ©2010)
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I get a daily bible reading sent to me via email, and this was today's. It's a reading that particularly influenced me this morning.

This year has seen me trying to break away from increasing frustrations caused by a struggle between the spiritual and the secular aspects of my life. I am consciously setting out to carefully rebalance these two aspects. In the reading above, John is reminding us that we constantly need to return to our first love. When we do so and concentrate on loving God, any affection that we may have for the world is relegated to second place. That therefore means we should work to a heavenly agenda, not necessarily a human one.

Instead of listening to others who tell me what I would want (better pay, better treatment, a new job), I'm trying to listen to God, to hear what He would want me to do.

24 January 2011

Keep On Keeping On

Keep on believing, Jesus is near.
Keep on believing, there's nothing to fear ;

Keep on believing, this is the way :

Faith in the night as well as the day.

(chorus, SASB Song 773)

I can't quite put my finger on it but today has been unusual and quite unsettling in some ways. I really can't understand why when looking back on today's events. I only know that I need to keep close to Him, which is always sound advice.

Is something important about to happen?

20 January 2011


I'm not half the man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
(lyrics to 'Yesterday', written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney)

I have spent today trying to find my feet back at work (no pun intended), however during the course of this busy day I realised that I seem to have a problem with 'suddenly'... It was a sudden event that led to my incapacity six weeks ago, and as a result of yesterday's trip to the hospital, I find myself just as rapidly back in harness once again. The change of pace is shocking to the system.

I'd like to think I'm not too bad when it comes to forward planning, and I'm prepared to accept change can be a good thing, but I really don't care for life to be as fluid and frankly chaotic as it seems to be at the moment.

However, today I've been encouraged by the following scripture verse:

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version, ©2010)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Paul wrote these verses whilst in prison, under threat of execution. How stressful would that be? Kind of puts my feelings about sudden changes in my pace of life into context. I need to do what Paul suggests, and 'think on these things' for a while... Ignore the chaos, concentrate on Christ.

Thanks for the prayers.

Back To Reality

Having been seen by the consultant and finally released from my plaster cast, I have been told that I can now return to work. It seems that my convalescence is over, ending even as quickly as it started. I'm travelling up to work this morning.

Time now to get back to reality and get back to grips with the world. The reality is that I'm feeling greatly in need of His grace today. I'm sure that's a good thing, but it doesn't make today's journey any easier.

Prayer support today will be most welcome.

Hebrews 13:5 (Good News Translation)
For God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never abandon you."

17 January 2011

The Impossible Dream

I have spent a while reflecting on the story of Don Quixote, a character created by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, and first published on this day in 1605.

Don Quixote is a dreamer, a man of advanced years who rides out from a small village of La Mancha to do battle as a knight. He is ill-equipped, riding a 'nag' and accompanied by Sancho Panza, a local farmer who becomes his squire. In one famous scene he attacks some windmills, imagining them to be giants. To many the man is a fool, yet in his madness he still displays admirable qualities, maintaining his beliefs despite overwhelming odds - belief in chivalry, on not giving up.

The original novels were a satire of chivalry, yet these are well-loved as they feature a hero who will fight for the common man against overwhelming odds. The books were the inspiration behind the 1959 musical "Man of La Mancha", which featured the song "The Impossible Dream", which is probably where most of us first discovered the character.


I'm coming to the end of my period of convalescence. The next step is to look forward to emerging from the home where I have been cocooned for the last six weeks, regaining my independence and resuming my place back in 'the real world'. (Okay, so 'cocooned' isn't strictly true, but I have been reliant on others to run me around much more than is usual. It will be nice to get my hands on my car keys once again. Perception is everything!). Prayers are appreciated for Wednesday, which is when I see the specialist again.

The occasion seems a bit like starting the New Year all over again!

When attempting to ready myself for a return to 'normal service', I have been challenged by a prayer which I read on a blog lately, and quote it today. I've rewritten this slightly.

Lord, remove the obstacles in my life that prevent me from seeing You. Help me to see Your beauty with fresh eyes today. If there are things and/or people in my life who are blocking my blessings - please move them aside. I declare that 2011 will be a year full of abundance and overflow and I don't want anything standing in the way of that! Amen.

Please stand by.

“We will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.” - Douglas Adams.

14 January 2011

Difficulties With Forgiveness

'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.'

It's with thanks that I acknowledge the feedback that I have received from my last blog entry, both electronically and verbally. This has been most helpful to me in my exploration of this important subject.

What makes forgiveness really tricky are those instances where the person who hurt you does not think they have done anything wrong. If this is the case they won't show any remorse, which won't make your own task of reaching forgiveness and moving on any easier. You certainly won't be able to reach a point of reconciliation. However, it's worth the effort. Forgiveness is still possible.

Until you have worked through this issue and reached this point, being near the person who hurt you may still prove to be tense and stressful. If at all possible, try and avoid similar encounters. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to attend, don't be surprised that things might be awkward, or situations may seem 'charged'. Remember to keep an open heart and mind. You may find that simply meeting up again will help you to move forward.

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviour or words isn't the point of forgiveness. It's more personal and intimate than that. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you  peace and subsequent healing. Forgiveness takes away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

In the course of this short series I have concentrated on the subject of forgiveness from the position of the injured party, however I am reminded by a recent study on the Lord's Prayer that this is a two-way street. Perhaps you are the one in need of forgiveness, by carrying this burden for so long? If so, there needs to be an admission of the wrongdoing, some communication of your sincere sorrow or regret, and a specific request for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can't force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Simply acknowledge your faults and admit your mistakes. Then commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

Matthew 6:14 (New International Version - UK)
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

You may also like to check out the following link: http://www.lords-prayer.co.uk

10 January 2011

Learning To Forgive

Over the past few years I have spoken quite a lot in this blog about bitterness. Having had some spare time lately to reflect, I note that this issue is one with which I've particularly struggled, so that's probably why the issue is such a big deal. It's in an effort to finally bring this matter to a conclusion that I wanted to focus for a while on forgiveness.

Holding on to anger or bitter resentment about past hurts will hold you back, preventing you from moving on with your life. No-one is immune to hurt; each of us can suffer to one extent or another by the actions of others. Because each of us are unique, a mild irritation to some may cause a deep wound in others.

However, it's how we pick ourselves up from these setbacks that matters at the end of the day. If left unresolved, bitterness will overwhelm you to such an extent that you could end up being unable to enjoy life. That's why scripture speaks of bitterness as being like a weed (see below). If not dealt with, this 'weed' develops deep roots. These roots are sources of anger, bitterness and even vengeance which will sit within you and well up from time to time.

Jesus teaches us to forgive others as Our Father forgives us. However, it's not as easy as just saying "forgive and forget"... Forgetting may well be impossible. The act that hurt or offended you may always remain a part of your life, but a conscious decision on your part to forgive may be good news for you. The act of forgiveness can help lessen its grip on you, allowing you the freedom to move on.  It may even lead to a degree of understanding for the one who hurt you (although this may not occur).

Forgiveness doesn't minimise or justify the wrong. It simply enables you to carry on, and to try and seek peace. The toughest part is to arrive at a point where you realise this is the only way things can change. You may have relived the events over and over, recognised how you've reacted, seen how this event has affected your life. You then need to move away from your role as victim, so that this event no longer has power over you.

As you let go of the grudges, you'll no longer define your life by how you've been hurt. You may even find compassion and understanding. More on this topic later...

Hebrews 12:14-5 (The Message)
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.

3 January 2011

In Search Of Joy

First, there was the incapacity of a broken ankle, restricting the things I could do. This was followed by the sheer inconvenience of the bout of sickness that prevented me from going to the Corps yesterday. I could not believe how low I ended up feeling by the evening!

It was clear this morning that I needed a jump-start, something to snap me back to normality. I need a little 'joie de vivre' - so I set out to find it today. This is what I found...

Nehemiah 8:10 (New Living Translation)
And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

After a little while I realised that what I needed was the 'joy of the Lord'. That's what I've been lacking the most.... not the physical feasting that we enjoy at this time of year (there's been plenty there!), but a feasting on God's word, to acquire strength and wisdom, so I can be more effective in doing His will. As my body seeks to recuperate, to regain strength, I have somehow neglected to keep my spirit fed. As I have sought assistance from others to do some basic tasks, I have clearly neglected to seek from God that assistance that I need to live. I have been running low on Joy.

I'm working on this now.