27 February 2012

Hallowed Be Thy Name...

These were the words that stayed with me from the meeting yesterday. Clearly a reference to the Lord's Prayer, the phrase was mentioned a number of times during the meeting, and also during yesterday's Sunday School.

The words mean "may your name be honoured". So how do we 'hallow' or 'honour' the name of our Lord? It's more than just not misusing His Name... it's about giving Him His rightful place in your life.

You see, if we don't have a high regard for some people, the chances are that we'll simply ignore them. If we do not hold them in esteem, we may take no notice of them.

Unfortunately, that's the way many people behave towards God. They fail to honour Him, even doubt His very existence. He is ignored.

His followers, however, maintain regular contact with their Creator; to such an extent that He becomes their Heavenly Father. Every detail of their lives are therefore shared; it becomes second-nature to consult Him, to follow His teachings, listen to His warnings.

No wonder why these words form an important part of this prayer. It's an important truth to hold onto.

22 February 2012

Five Steps To Freedom

He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty” - Lao Tzu (Chinese philosopher)

I blogged the other day about setting a goal to break a habit. Most websites I have read on the subject have highlighted a series of steps that you need to take. Here's my summary of the advice I've found, taken as five steps. I don't claim to be an expect, just an interested amateur!

Awareness: First, you must admit that you have a problem. How is this habit affecting you, affecting others around you? Think objectively: why do you do it? Is there a hidden need within you that you are trying to fulfill? Think it through.

Wanting to Change: How can you beat something if you're not thoroughly determined to quit? You must convince yourself that breaking this habit is well worth the effort involved. Keep in mind how much better life would be once this issue is behind you...

Commitment: Make the decision. Whatever it takes. Seriously! If you want to regain control of your life, you need to commit to it.

Consistent Action: Take consistent daily action to break that bad habit, whilst at the same time taking action to develop a new one in its place. Remember to replace... the "cold turkey" approach (just suddenly quitting) is extremely stressful and for most people simply doesn't work.

Be sure to reward any positive steps taken towards changing a bad habit. Continual day-by-day actions are what are critical. Even if it's only one small step. It is all about being consistent. However, if you stumble, don't worry. Pick yourself up and start again tomorrow. It's only failure if you don't get up again!

Perseverance and Prayer: Stick at it! There will be times when you question whether it is all worth it; when you reach that brick wall; when you say to yourself that it's just too hard; that you are too 'weak' to change. That's where I would suggest you need God to step in. That's when you will require perseverance and prayer.

Pray through the points that you covered before; reviewing the rewards you are striving for, visualising how much better your life would be once rid of this habit. Draw on the Lord's strength.

While you work through these five steps - encourage yourself! Get support from others; read up about people who have been in similar situations and broke their bad habits. Keep positive!

(note: it's important here to make a clear distinction between habit and addiction. Please seek professional help if it is at all possible your issue is in any way an addiction.

20 February 2012

Ditching That Bad Habit!

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."- Aristotle (384-322 BC)

It is so easy for any of us to slip into a habit. Regular repetition of actions become habits, which, inevitably begin to shape our future. For example, the habitual gambler is therefore more likely to lose his house than the average man.

I'm reliably informed that the breaking a bad habit usually three weeks of dedicated effort. In difficult cases, it can take as long as a year! But it might take forever unless you commit yourself to change...

Many people try to conquer a bad habit or to start a good one at a particular time of year. The key to success? Commitment!

The habit I'm trying to ditch isn't a physical one, it's a particular mind-set - one that has been established for years. I'd overcome it for a while, but put me in the wrong situation and I'm back there again. I've seen a degree of success in this area this year, so now's the time to hit it head on and kill it off for good. I think Lent is the right time for me, for so many reasons. I am assured any bad habit can be eradicated if you commit yourself to the change.

I'll be looking at a few steps tomorrow which you could consider if you want to join me for these forty days of Lent. Prayer support would also be good!

19 February 2012

Not Alone

I blogged on Valentine's Day about God's persistent but loving pursuit of each and every one of us, determined to seek us out and bring us back into His fold. But what happens next?

Once we are his, He simply doesn't leave us on our own. He's in there with us, all the way. Helping us deal with our problems, picking us back up when we louse up, dusting us off and setting us back on our feet again.

I can testify to this. Even looking back over the past few years of this blog, I can see many instances of God's leading me through times of trial and uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. I still struggle, but know God hasn't finished working in my life yet.

The reason I've spent some time looking back was because it was our own young people who led the meetings at our Corps today. Including my own son. They did a great job! These youngsters have just started on their Christian path, and face the same issues that I face, but I know they are not alone. Because I'm not alone.

Praying for them all today.

 Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
"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."

18 February 2012

Failure Is Not An Option

I'm a particular fan of the Ron Howard movie 'Apollo 13', based of course on the true story of NASA's efforts to return three astronauts back to Earth following an accident that had crippled their ship.

I now know that Gene Kranz (pictured above) never actually coined the phrase "failure is not an option" which is mentioned in the movie. The line was written in - however, Kranz so liked the line that he used it as the title of his autobiography (published in 2000).

I like it too. However, I've been wondering whether living your life by strict adherence to this adage is actually possible.

Interestingly, a reluctance to accept the possibility of failure is pretty much common to all my favourite SF genre shows:

"Do or do not... there is no try." - Yoda (Star Wars)

"I don't believe in the no-win scenario." - Kirk (Star Trek II- The Wrath Of Khan)

Is this view reflected in our modern lives? I've come across many bosses in my time who motivate others by simply not allow for failure in their planning. Are our standards too high? Do we ever permit ourselves the possibility of failure? Surely the easiest way not to fail is not to try? And what's wrong with 'try' anyway? You may gather that I've spent some time mulling over the subject this week.

You hear it so often, don't you, "I’ll try". Are they really going to give it a go, or does try actually mean "I'll do what you've told me to do, but don’t blame me if it doesn't work". When we make our wedding vows, do we say "I’ll try" or "I do"?

Can you ever imagine the Apollo missions with only an "try" attitude. It just wouldn't have succeeded. The difference between try and do? Commitment. If you do, failure is not an option. If you simply try, failure is a convenient alternative.

Sure, everybody louses it up from time to time. But it only becomes a failure when you give up. Listen to these words from scripture:

Proverbs 24:16 (CEV)
"Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that's the end of them."

God knows we're going to fall down every once in a while. Yet, He also stands by us and helps us get back on our feet.

I know I personally find it tough to accept when I've loused up. I'd rather hang on to Gene Kranz's point of view; not to include it in my options! Letting others down makes me depressed. However, God helps me here to work through my anger and disappointment. Usually disappointment in my own inactions! He wants us to pick ourselves up; to acknowledge our shortcomings and work to better ourselves.

So, it's only failure when you don't get up again. And that's not an option I'm open to.

14 February 2012

The Hound Of Heaven

"Now hounds of love are hunting...
I've always been a coward
And I don't know what's good for me..."

(from 'The Hounds Of Love'. lyrics by Kate Bush)

I've been mulling over a phrase from Sunday about God's love pursuing us, and instantly my mind connected with the Kate Bush song mentioned above. The song has been rolling around in my mind ever since.

God's loving pursuit of His people is clearly shown in several parables - the Lost Sheep, even the Prodigal Son. He doesn't want us to be on our own in our struggles. He's running after us, doggedly chasing us! However, unlike the pack of hounds, He means us no harm. He wants to show us love. He's desperate to show us love. In fact, He is love personified (1 John 4:8).

In preparation for this post I have also come across a poem entitled "The Hound Of Heaven", first published in 1893 by a former opium addict called Francis Thompson (1859–1907). It's well worth a look, and speaks yet again of the Father's tireless yet loving search for us.

Isn't that a great message for a day like today?

More about this next time...

12 February 2012

Stick Around

Psalm 23:5 (NIV)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The words of the 23rd Psalm are of course familiar to us all - but frequently something new stands out, even in the most familiar of verses. When the psalm was read earlier today, my attention was drawn to the overflowing cup in verse five.

How often have we been in a restaurant or a coffee shop and been all too aware of the staff member, constantly watching you, just waiting for you to finish your drink so they can clean up after you have gone?

Rather than simply tolerating a guest, the psalmist is showing us an example of our Father's generous hospitality, as He refills our cups to the brim once again. You don't have to go. Stick around for more! What a great image. He wants his honoured guests to make themselves feel at home. The anointing with oil? Another sign of extreme generosity. God the Father has so much that He wants to give us, and loves to give it.

Stick around. There's plenty where that came from...

10 February 2012

I Get It Now

Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: [about Ensign Ro] "She doesn't belong here. She doesn't even belong in the uniform, as far as I'm concerned."
Guinan: "Really?"
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: "Really."
Guinan: "Sounds like someone I'd like to know."
from 'Ensign Ro' (1991)

I've been a Star Trek fan since my teens. I have always understood the underlying message of the show, the truths about tolerance and teamwork which are an important part of Gene Roddenberry's SF classic. These stories influenced me years before I ever heard the words of Jesus. Modern day morality tales, reinforcing the concepts of universal brotherhood, the importance of the words 'let me help'. And it's still doing so...

Take Guinan's words, taken from an episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' which first aired three years after I started out on the Christian path. I'd been looking at the episodes again recently after a ten-year gap, when I came across this one. And I got it. I suddenly understood Guinan's need to get to know Ro Laren (who was being shunned by the others because of her reputation).

After years of studying Jesus' encounters with various different people from the Gospels, the words that Guinan used in that episode now had particular meaning to me. It reinforced Christ's challenge in my own life on relationships, on accepting others who are different ... even to some extent on uniform wearing!

Much to ponder today.

8 February 2012

A Can Of Worms

Oh dear! It seems everything that I'm opening up today seems to be a can of worms. As I examine each new problem, it just seems to be getting worse and worse.

However, Romans 8:28 assures me that "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (NIV)

If a can of worms gets opened and I feel unable to deal with it, God surely can. He can sort out this mess if I remain focused on my task and focused on Him.

Lord, help me to trust you, and to push my way through this. Help me to 'think outside of the box', to win through.

4 February 2012

Beatitudes and Attitudes

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." - Winston Churchill

The above quotation was one I started reflecting on during the course of Friday, as it seemed to speak right into where I was at the time of writing. This was underlined by the preparation work that I did earlier today for tomorrow's Sunday School: it's all about the Beatitudes!

There's a whole host of different and important meetings and milestones coming up in my life during the next week. For example, tomorrow evening is due to see the launch of 'Messy Church' at our Corps. I need to ensure that I stay ready and in the right frame of mind for all these events because I'm already starting to feel tense about it all. Please join me in prayer tonight to ensure that I keep holding onto the right attitude as I seek to serve Him this week.

Thanks. :)

3 February 2012

Yoked Fellowship: part two

I ended my last blog entry with an opportunity to reflect on the word 'yokefellow', which I had found mentioned in one of Paul's letters...

Philippians 4:3
(KJV) And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

(CEV) And, my true partner, I ask you to help them. These women have worked together with me and with Clement and with the others in spreading the good news. Their names are now written in the book of life.

The word 'yokefellow' is an archaic term for a fellow worker used in the King James Version, however one that refers straight back to The Lord's teaching that I shared earlier. (I also like the CEV translation of 'true partner' which is why I've added it.) Paul uses this term to describe the unique partnership shared between fellow Christians who work closely together.

The Greek word for yokefellow is συζυγος (sunzugos) which implies someone who is 'yoked together', therefore a close companion, a business associate, perhaps even a marriage partner. Harnessed together as a team. In fact, Philippians 4:3 is the only time this word is used in the New Testament. Some scholars say Paul is referring to a person by name (or perhaps a nickname), however this view is not held by all.

It's interesting to note that early-day disciples were sent out in groups of two. These disciples lived together; worked together; played together; prayed together. True partners. They were like-minded, with a common goal, a common enthusiasm. They were there for one another, helping each other, bearing each others burdens. Not judging, but supporting. And totally enthusiastic about their calling!

I get it now. And there's something very attractive in this.