Sunday, 28 July 2013

Young Leader:

On Tuesday I'm sharing in a seminar at NewDay for 10mins on a couple of valuable lessons I've learnt as a young leader in the church. It got me thinking and since 10mins disappears faster than a sneeze, here's some things I consider significant (in no particular order).

Iron sharpens iron. The familiar and oft quoted proverb goes; as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Instrumental to my growth as a Christian has been key relationships with friends and mentors. As a young Christian just starting to take my first steps into faith I had a number of people come along side me and input into me. Four people will always be dear to me in this respect. Andy Chev my mentor and friend (and best-man at my wedding) was the first person to mentor me in an intentional way. We'd meet regularly for catch ups and coffee (and Pro on the PlayStation) and I'd get a chance to air my doubts/frustrations/sin/desires/concerns and he'd listen, challenge, correct, answer and pray with me. If he hadn't done that, I don't know where I'd be with God now. T

hree other people were friends of mine who went to Uni with me. Dan, Geoff & Daf. We'd meet to pray, share difficulties and concerns and spur one another to trust Christ even more and dare to believe for more. One night in particular always stands out in my mind. Daf and I were chatting about the gift of languages in 1 Corinthians. I'd recently been filled with the Spirit and was enjoying being able to pray in a new prayer language I'd received. We prayed for him to be filled with Spirit, he was, he prayed in a new prayer language. We then walked to Geoff's house and prayed with him. He was filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. Finally we visited Dan. We prayed with him an he too was filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. God birthed something in each of us that night and started a fire that is still burning to this day. It was also on that night and during that first year at Uni that I learnt the value and truth of that proverb.

I'm in a group of 4 in my church in Seaford. We meet to confess sin, challenge one another, encourage one another and pray for one another. Pursue God with friends. 

Linked with this are two other things that I consider valuable in leadership. The first is an allusion to the story of Jacob wrestling with God in the OT. After wrestling all night God touches Jacob's hip and puts it out of joint. For the rest of his life Jacob walks with cane, he leads with a limp. Lead with a limp. Be aware of your weaknesses, don't hide them or deny them and don't try to lead like the world would flawless like Hercules. This piece of advice seems to make intrinsic sense to me. Sense since I am leading not as part of the world's system but as part of God's kingdom. In the kingdom of God the servant is the greatest and God's power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Knowing my 'limp' or weakness is a cause for celebration. It is what ensures that I don't leave the kingdom of God. That last sentence may seem strange but I feel its truth. I have a choice as a leader everyday. Do I lead as the world would have me lead trusting in my own abilities and resourcefulness believing that I can 'be the best', or do I lean on him, trust him, walk humbly before him and lead with a limp. Honest, dependant and sincere leadership. Leadership that isn't appointed by man but given by God.

The second leadership lesson from the 'iron sharpens iron' insight has to do with the threat of individualitus in the life of a leader. The potent virtue of individualism that underpins so much of our culture's world-view infects us all. It isn't so much our culture's world-view as it is the world created by sin and evolution. A world where survival of the fittest rules and history is told as the story of great men an women, individuals who rose above their station. It should not be so for a leader in God's kingdom. 'You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.' Jesus told his disciples meaning not you Peter or you John but you my disciples, you the people of God. You are together the light of the world, you are together the salt of the earth. Together we are able to do far more than any individual can apart or alone. Leaders in the kingdom of God know this well and are aware that their role is to rose the troops and sound the alarm to mobilise God's people on mission.

Iron sharpens iron, lead with a limp and declare war on individualitus.

The rest are shorter :)

You are what you eat. Trust your conscience and feed what the Holy Spirit hungers for. Don't watch what your conscience is uneasy with and don't be surprised when God seems distant when you do. Do fill yourself with the things that God delights in, that excites your spiritual senses. Hunger for God, consume his word, waste time in prayer. Boot the right software into your system each day.

Jesus isn't a colleague I work with/for but my saviour, friend and life source. Obvious I know but invaluable all the same. The longer I draw a salary from the church the more this becomes something I need to watch. Don't get your life's energy from working for Jesus or even working with him (as magnificent as co-labouring with Christ is). No, get your satisfaction, soul delight and life's joy from the wonderful multi-coloured, multi-layered gospel. Find new ways of ensuring that it catches the sun's light and displays more of its glory. Never allow familiarity to breed contempt here.

Doubt isn't an enemy to faith, it's a bridge to more faith. So I don't mind saying that I doubt often. There, I've said it - will you still listen to me? I find it hard to know how anyone cannot. There is so much about the world that I don't understand, so much about faith that baffles me and God that confuses me. What should I do then? Conclude it's all nonsense since I can't fully understand it or exhaust all my questions? No, I won't. Jesus is alive, he did defeat death, Satan has been conquered, this world is not all there is - hope is real and to be trusted. I will stare down the barrel of any question or doubt I may have since I know the above to be true. I have found that wrestling, agonising and sweating over questions and doubts I have only ever brings me (eventually) into more faith and greater joy. Besides, if I've been conned I want to know and though it would come at great cost to my life and cause a great deal of confusion to my family (I'm not blind to this) I would like to think that I would pursue truth wherever it lies at whatever its cost or implications might be.

Be a Christian hedonist: So we're all pleasure seekers the only question is if we seek our happiness in shallow hollow places or in the source of all joy itself. Muddy puddles of sin and disenchantment or the living water himself? My ability to lead well is directly proportional and intermingled with my happiness in God. Besides George Muller was right, this is my first and greatest duty each day.

Heroes aren't born, they're built. Ah, my love of films and bumper sticker theology. I thank the tagline on the Iron Man poster for this one. I used to think that unless I 'popped' out as a ready made wise and respectable leader then I wasn't meant to be one. I see now the foolishness of that idea. We're all born with gifts and abilities and the natural God-given born into being-ness of those gifts is on a spectrum. Some people have a much more natural and intuitive leadership gift than others but all of us need to grow and exercise or gifts and lean into God to gain the wisdom and experience we need to to use those gifts as he would have us to. Growth and effectiveness comes when we a: surrender our gift to God recognising that it came from him anyway and b: muck in, pray and be ready for some hard work to grow that gift to become fully formed and mature. Learn the lesson of Tony Stark; heroes aren't born, they're built.

Learn from others, listen to others, make your own mistakes.

Things I'm starting to appreciate now:

Learn the value of percolated coffee, and ideas for that matter.

Lead out of what God's put in you. What are you wired like? What do you have a passion for?

Thursday, 18 July 2013


In the New Testament the most commonly used word to describe a follower of Jesus is a disciple. There are 7 different titles given to explain who/what a Christian is but disciple out ranks them all for sheer volume of usage. The word is used as a formal noun to refer to the twelve apostles but from Acts onwards it's used simply to mean any number of people who are part of the church: Acts 6:2 'the twelve summoned the full number of disciples...' 6:7 'the number of disciples increased greatly'. It seems that 'disciple' is the word of choice to refer to any average Joe-saint or christian-Christian.

If you're a follower of Jesus (or the Way), a Saint, a Christian, a brother/sister in Christ, or one who 'calls upon the name of Lord' (or whatever you like to call yourself); you are a disciple. A disciple is a student and an imitator and as such we are, each of us, called to imitate and learn from Jesus. In Matthew 28 Jesus makes an incredible claim to be in overall charge of the world and then instructs his disciples to go and 'make disciples' from every nation on the planet. Jesus and the New Testament makes it quite clear; every disciple is to be a disciple maker.

Now, upon reading that, many will instantly and subconsciously replace the word 'disciple' with 'convert'. The thought being that the two words mean largely the same thing. 'My job,' people think 'is to turn unbelievers into believers' and since very few of us do that too often many of us find ourselves living under a cloud of guilt and heaviness as though we're falling as disciples. Thinking like this heaps a whole load of heaviness onto an otherwise light and easily-yoked Christian existence.

Let me quote Jesus' commission in Matthew 28 in full:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'                 Matthew 28:19-20.
Two questions come to mind: Did Jesus' statement apply to all believers every where down through the ages or specifically to those people up the mountain in Galilee? and, did Jesus have in mind for us to go and make 'converts' to Christianity when he gave that instruction?'

In response, I think the answer is 'specifically and all' and 'yes, but also'. Let me explain.

Everything Jesus said to any other specific group of people was intended to be heard by and applied by, specifically, those people. Having said that we see from Paul's life and the life of other believers in Acts that every one of them took it upon themselves to 'make disciples'. When Paul visited new places and discovered believers already there it was because the saints who'd got there first quite simply got there first. Where they went they shared with anyone who'd listen to them, the news about the crucified and risen messiah. It's been said by church historians and sociologists that the spread of the Christian faith was due more to the 'gossiping on street corners' of everyday believers than it was to do with the 'shouting from the roof tops' of Christian leaders. Every Christian is called to be a disciple who makes disciples.

Secondly Jesus did mean for them and us to 'get people across the line of faith' but he also meant much, much more. Many of us can quote the front half of the commission from memory 'go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,' where, I suspect, many a Christian's memory fails them is in the quoting of the back half '...teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you even until the very end of the age.' This is a problematic memory fail as it imposes to narrow an understanding of what disciple making is all about. The disciple that Jesus has in mind for us to make is much more than 'a line crosser' or a census box ticker. A disciple is a learner, a follower and an imitator of Christ and every Christian is called to be both a disciple and disciple maker: ed=dm.

This means that each and every Christian is to intentionally play a crucial and much needed role in disciple making. It means that between us as the church we ought to be very good at harnessing all of our gifts and abilities to make disciples. Disciples who learn and grow and give and take risks and make other disciples.

The descriptions and metaphors of the Christian (life)  in the New Testament are almost always active: disciple, follower, believer, athlete, soldier, farmer. Notice: a Christian is not simply 'one who believed on Christ' (past tense) but one who 'is currently and ongoingly believ-ing' (present and future tense). With that in mind, we never stop being students/imitators/followers of Jesus and therefore (since it is part of being an imitator/follower of Jesus) we never stop making other students/imitators/followers of Jesus either.

So, what does it mean to 'make disciples'? What does it mean for every one of us to be a disciple maker? Typically it's not something we talk too much about and yet, given the commission, it ought to be something that each of us are mindful of and working towards in our day to day lives. It isn't something that only a handful of Christians are called to do; church leaders, life group pastors or staff members perhaps - it's for every disciple: ed=dm. 

In 2003 the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity published a report entitled 'Imagine How We Can Reach the UK.' The research project involved hundreds of questionnaires and consultations with church leaders. The report concluded:

"The reason the UK church is not effective in mission is because we are not making disciples who can live well for Christ in today's culture and engage compellingly with the people they meet... Jesus had a 'train and release' strategy while overall we have a 'convert and retain' strategy."

Life on life discipleship in cafes, pubs and places of work that involves study, activity, prayer and honest conversation is what's needed. What we need is more risk taking, schedule reshuffling, initiative taking discipleship.The truth is that we'll never build the kind of church we carry a longing for until each of us personally rediscovers and takes responsibility for disciple making.

ed=dm. Do you believe it? Are you doing it?

This is the subject we're digging into at Kings Seaford this summer. We're going to be discovering how every one of us already has everything we need to make disciples and we're going to be looking at how corporately and individually we can carry out the commission Jesus has given us.

Join us through August as we continue to be the church we want to build.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Honour: up, IN

the second in a three part blog series on Honour (Up, In, Out).

Honour yourself:

After honouring God comes honouring ourselves. The logic is basically that since we ought to honour the things that God honours and since God has honoured us, we also ought to honour ourselves.  To honour something, we said, is to treat it with the worth or value that it deserves. A significant way that we honour God is by valuing and giving worth to the things he values and considers worthy.

The creation account in Genesis reaches its poetic crescendo with the creation of Adam and Eve. Up until this point in the narrative God calls everything he's made 'good', but once he's finished with making man and woman it says: 'God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good.'

The Bible says that God made man and woman in his 'image and likeness'. It's not that God looks like a man but that we somehow in some unique way represent him on the Earth more than anything else he's made. It is not that God has hair or two arms and legs but that God is creative, moral and concerned with justice; as we are.

Each of us, as a result of this, has intrinsic value and worth because of the mould we've been carved out of, because of the one whose image we bear. This is where we get out dignity from. It's not because we're the most evolved creatures on the planet, nor because we've invented impressive technologies or weapons or have learnt to govern ourselves. It's not because we have invented systems and 'isms' that we are praiseworthy but because God made us in his 'image and likeness'. We are image bearers.

Just as bank notes carry the image of the Queen so we, in some mysterious way, carry the image of God in us and whenever we act in praiseworthy, admirable ways we prove this. Indeed some of the most valuable characteristics and behaviours of people make headlines. Bold acts of self-sacrifice and compassion and some of the great moral stands people have made resonate with us and point to this reality. Think of famous individuals like Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Mandella, Tutu & Bonhoeffer to name only a few. We value their daring and courage because of the way they, acting out of their God-imganess, mirrored their maker by their actions.

Our trouble is that it has become acceptable (almost virtuous?) for people to dishonour themselves. Self-deprecating humour is especially popular and we find ourselves being suspicious of anyone who seems pleased with their own abilities. We watch television programmes like The Apprentice in which self-made business men and women compete to win a lucrative business deal and we cringe at their arrogance and self-infatuation. 'I don't want to be like that!' we conclude and so we react against it.

The problem comes however when we, scared of being labelled 'pretentious' or 'arrogant', fail to recognise any of our gifts and abilities at all. The problem comes when we go further, when we beat up on ourselves, put ourselves in the dirt and abuse ourselves. We throw pity parties and invite people to join us. We hand out party poppers and streamers and we play 'pin the insult on the straw man potrait of ourselves'. We dishonour what God honours and therein lies a problem.

Honour yourself. Honour in.

In Psalm 8 the writer is describing the marvel of God's creation, the heavens, the moon and stars. He then shifts focus and asks the question 'and what of mankind? What are we that you should care for us?' The answer: have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honour. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; and you have put all things under his feet.
We have been crowned with glory and honour (there's our word). The New Testament writer to the Hebrews picks this up and applies it to Jesus as humanities' ultimate representative, but it's also true generally of each one of us. God honours you.

Psalm 139 says:

You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 
Imagine if I came home from work one day and upon being handed a painting that one of my children had done I proceeded to rip it up and trample on it. It would be a deeply insensitive thing to do and no doubt my child would feel ever so slightly aggrieved, and with good reason. I could protest and say 'but I only dishonoured your painting, I didn't dishonour you.' But we all know that wouldn't make any difference. To dishonour the painting is to dishonour the painter.

Dishonouring yourself dishonours God.

We've said that something is as valuable (or honourable) as what someone is willing to pay for it. The Navajo blanket was always valuable but it only became treated as valuable when someone was willing to pay a huge sum of money for it. I imagine its owner went home from the Roadshow that day treating the blanket very differently from how he did when he arrived!

In 2012 Chelsea football club paid a huge sum of money for Fernando Torres. He became the Premier League's most honoured and valuable player, not because his performance on the pitch warranted it but because someone deemed him worthy enough to pay £50 million to have him in their squad. £50 million! Incredible. Imagine if someone was willing to pay that much money for you, you'd feel pretty honoured I expect.

In Romans 8 Paul asks the question 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' He then explains his logic:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?
God paid a high price to redeem and restore each one of us. Jesus paid the ultimate price. He laid his life down for us. He allowed himself to be treated as a common criminal, strung up on cross outside the city for all to see and shake their heads at. He did it to bring us to God. He paid a high price and proved our great worth and value to God.

We get our sense of worth and dignity from all kinds of different places. We say to ourselves 'I'm valuable because...' and then we fill in our own blanks. 'Im valuable because... I'm paid £X thousand a year, or because she finds me attractive or he does or because I'm better than them at this or that.' We don't use the language of 'I'm valuable because' but by the way we behave when we're not paid that amount or loved by them or able to do those things reveals that we're looking to those things to gain a sense of worth.

Do you know that you're worth more than that? More than a Torres signing fee, more than a respectable salary. You're worth more than the things you give yourself to to make you feel valuable.

For many men the internet is a source of much temptation and distraction; addiction to pornography has never been so high. The trouble with pornography is that not only does it dishonour women (people of  value and worth, made in God's image and likeness), it dishonours men as well. It traps them in a cycle of sin and shame that robs them of the dignity and worth that is theirs in Christ.

Alarmingly the biggest killer of men in the UK aged 19-49 isn't cancer or alcohol or drugs, it's suicide. Every year thousands of young men are taking their own lives, lost in a sea of meaninglessness and despair. Convinced that life is too difficult and fruitless to go on with.

You're worth more.

Ladies you're worth more than some men would have you believe. Worth more than a cheap date and a cheap night of intimacy that leaves you feeling empty. You're valuable, now. You don't need to become a size whatever or buy the latest whoevers, you're valuable as you are.

God knows you, knows what you're really like. He knows the person you are when you're at your worst, when no one else is around. God is not fooled by your sin or caught off guard by your behaviour. He knows you and knew you before you were born. He knew what he was doing when he sent his son to die for you.

You're to be honoured and valued and not because you're a unique, pretty, never-before-seen human snow flake but worth more because you're made in the image of God and Jesus died for you. This isn't pop-psychology with a few Bible verses thrown in for good measure, this is truth from the Bible and truth that we don't often live in the good of.

When explaining how God the Father felt toward a lost and rebellious humanity Jesus told the story we know today as The Prodigal Son. In the story the younger of two sons approaches his Father and asks for his inheritance now. Instead of waiting for his dad to die he says, 'give me my share, now.' Shocking to the hearers at the time and shocking today. Perhaps what's more shocking however is what happens next. The Father consents, he gives his son what he asks for. The son leaves, goes to some far flung land and indulges himself in every vice available. He quickly spends his way through his dad's fortune and finds himself penniless. He gets a job working on a pig farm, longing to eat the food he's feeding them with; rock bottom.

Imagine the shame this boy must have felt. He was the son of a wealthy man, he had status and good standing in the community. Now he's covered in pig's muck, hungry and without a penny to his name. 

He has an idea, rehearses an apology speech and heads home to his Father. 'Perhaps,' he thinks 'my dad will let me be a servant in his house.' Frankly it's more than he deserves.

Jesus then describes the moment of his return like this:

While he was still a long way off his Father felt compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said 'Father I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants. 'Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.' and they began to celebrate.


When you became a Christian your shame was taken away and your honour was restored. God put a proverbial robe on your back and a ring on your finger. For every part of you that feels broken or shameful, Christ died.

You need to stop. Stop cursing yourself, rubbishing yourself and harming yourself. Stop and agree with God, you're to be honoured. If you can't agree with God or believe God, who can you believe? You? Your friends? Seriously, you think you or your friends have a better read on reality than God? The clue's in the title.

Some of you reading this may be thinking 'yeah I want to honour God.' Well, that involves being thankful to God for who he's made you to be. It may be hard to do, especially at first if you've spent years dishonouring yourself. It may be hard, but you need to start doing it. Honour God by honouring yourself. Honour up and honour IN.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Honour: UP

Part 1 of a 3 part blog on honour: Up, In, Out.

In 2001 on the American Antiques Roadshow a startling discovery was made. A blanket that for many years had sat on the back of an old rocking chair was valued in the region of $350 000-500 000.

The owner had thought it was simply a family blanket, passed down a generation or two but in actual fact it was Navajo Indian.  It once belonged to a man named Kit Carson, a famous frontiersman and Indian fighter. 

The blanket was extremely valuable but for many years its value wasn't recognised, it was overlooked.

I think that deep down all of us believe that if we search long enough we'll unearth our very own rare antique and become billionaires along with Del Boy and Rodney. Oftentimes people refuse to throw things away. Who knows maybe one day they'll be the ones with a gold chair when the music stops.

The truth is that we can all miss the value of something. Whenever we throw something away there's always that part of us that questions what we're doing - it'd be tragic not spot the value of something and throw it out. Some things are easy to spot the value of. If you were to empty your pockets out and a pound coin fell on the floor along with a penny, there's no question which one you'd pick up first. Other things are less easy to spot, like the Navajo blanket or Del Boy's watch.

The Bible has a lot to say about the value of things. It uses the word 'honour' and makes the bold statement that the reason so much of the world is in such a mess is simply because we haven't honoured the things that deserve to be honoured. We've dishonoured honourable things and treated with contempt the most valuable things on the planet.

In Paul's letter to the church in Rome he says (talking about mankind at its beginning):

'For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools... Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creatures rather than the Creator who is blessed fo ever!'

According to the Bible a lot of the mess we find ourselves in stems from the simple fact that we haven't honoured God as he deserves to be honoured. We haven't seen the value of the most valuable thing in all the universe. Paul says that not honouring God, led to trouble for us.

Honour God

God is worthy of all honour as our creator and saviour. In Revelation 5 we're given a glimpse into the presence of God, we're shown what goes on behind the curtains into the unseen realm:

Then I looked and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!'

We ought to honour, what is honoured in heaven by the angels. Heaven honours the lamb Jesus and declares that he deserves and is 'worthy' of power, wealth, wisdom, might, glory and honour.

Honour up.

Honouring God is the de-misting of our glasses, it enables us to see clearly. It's then that we're able to recognise the value of everything else. Paul's comment in Romans was that humanity's hearts were 'darkened' by not honouring God rightly. Honouring God, then, dispels darkness.

When Jesus called his disciples he told them to leave what they were doing and follow him instead. His call wasn't simply to consider a career change, or an invitation to go on a long walk, it involved what they were spending their lives on. In essence Jesus' call was to 'spend your life on me'. He called them to put their trust in him, look to him for security and provision rather than their employment or business. He called them to give the best years of their youth to him. He called them, essentially, to honour him with everything they had. The call and their willingness to follow serves I think as a good example of what it means to honour God.

Honouring God is about much more than keeping the rules or trying to do right, it's about recognising his supreme value and worth. It's about laying everything we have at his feet and at his service. It's what Paul had in mind when he wrote 'offer yourselves as living sacrifices to God.' It affects my time, my energy and my money. It involves me loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Proverbs 3:9 says 'honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing,' and Proverbs 14:31 'Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker but whoever is kind to the needy honours the Lord.' Honouring God involves how I spend my money, how I treat the needy and everything else in between.

How are you at honouring the Lord? What would it take for you to stop honouring God?

A.w. Tozer has said that 'the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew.'

We live at a time where conviction isn't cool. We steer away from being too earnest and intense about anything - least of all God. Material comfort seduces us into honouring God in lip service and duty only. Across the world today many people will be putting themselves in harms way simply because they honour God. In countries where it is illegal to be a Christian some will perhaps even die for their decision to honour God.

Jack Deere in his book 'Surprised by the Voice of God' recalls a moving example of someone who honoured God at the cost of his life. In 1682 John Brown and his wife Isabel, together with their children, were visited by a man called John Graham of Claverhosue at the head of a troop of soldiers. He demanded that Brow repented of his conviction that Christ was the head of the church rather than the King of England, Brown refused. Deere then picks up the story:

'Then go to your prayers, for you shall die immediately,' replied Graham. Brow prayed and turned to his wife Isabel and said, 'You see me summoned to appear, in a few minutes, before the court of heaven, as a witness in our Redeemer's cause, against the Ruler of Scotland. Are your willing that I should part from you?'
'Heartily willing,' said Isabel. John took her into his arms, kissed her goodbye, then kissed his baby boy. He knelt down before his two-year old daughter, kissed her and said, 'My sweet child, give your hand to God as your guide; and be your mother's comfort.' When he rose his last words were to God: 'Blessed be thou, O Holy Spirit, that speaks more comfort to my heart than the voice of my oppressors can speak terror to my ears!' Captain Graham of Claverhouse was enraged at John Brown's godly courage. He ordered six of his soldiers to shoot him where he stood. The soldiers stood motionless, refusing the order. The furious Graham drew his own pistol and shot Brown through the head.
With a cruelty that is difficult to imagine, he then turned to Isabel and asked, 'What thinkest thou of thy husband now, woman?'
'I have always thought well of him,' the widow replied, 'but never more so than now.'

Fathers, husbands, wives, children, students, employers, employees; honour God. Honour God when it's easy to do so and when everyone else is doing so but honour him also when it's hard, when you're on your own or when it's unpopular to do so. When it makes for an easier to life to lie, be truthful. When it's more convenient to be less than honest with your financial dealings, pursue integrity. When no one is watching and it would make no apparent difference, honour God. 

When no one will find out or notice honour God anyway.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Life in Ruins: Demolition

I am a ruined man, I see it now.

I was going to make movies, appear on television, be famous, work 'in the industry'. I was ahead of my curve in this regard, volunteering at a young age for television crews, studying in college before I'd yet finished school. I was in contact with local television companies and writing my own scripts and bringing them to production. I wasn't very good but I was young, I was learning, I had time. That was what I was building, that was where things were heading.

Now, all my aspirations and pretensions to greatness have gone. All of my plotting and scheming and all of my 'when I grow up I'm going to be...' has come crashing down.

I see that now.

I am a man held captive, a man in chains; and yet as a man I've never been more free, never felt more liberated and complete. I have known God the Father, Son & Spirit and although I still fight and wrestle with feelings of fulfilment and contentment I know that I am ruined to anything else.

How did it happen? When did this demolition begin?

In the film Inception Leonardo Di Caprio's hatches a plan to invade someone's sleep and plant an idea in their mind. The reason, he says, is this:
An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.
Somewhere along the road an idea was planted in my mind. I experienced a sense of wonder and inspiration. I experienced an awakening of enquiry.

I don't know when it was exactly that I began being interested in seeing through to completion my thoughts about God. As a boy I'd never really given much thought to God. I mean, I believed in invisible things as much as the next boy, I believed that if I concentrated hard enough I could make things move with my mind and that if I tried hard enough I really could fly. As a boy I had a sense that God existed but in the same way that I knew that Egypt was a real place. I had never been there and had no intention of going but I knew it existed.

Somewhere along the line however I began to see the question of God as something to pursue. It became an idea I couldn't escape. If God then x, y and z surely. I don't even think the 'if' was a major consideration at first. I think, like most people, I had a sense that there existed a creator being of some description, I just didn't see the point in thinking too much about him/it. I (like most people) saw that it was only really religious people who were overly bothered by him. To my mind they seemed to take the whole thing too seriously and were quite serious and glum people for it. In my opinion, they were weird, socially awkward people who weren't quite 'cool' enough - and if I'm honest that was my all consuming pursuit. I wasn't concerned with too much else other than knowing that I was 'safe' and not too close to the edge of the lifeboat that was and is social status of the teenage years.

Nevertheless the idea was there, it had taken root from the world around me and the stories I read.

It was when I was 15 that I saw the film Good Will Hunting. It triggered something that laid dormant in me. The story of a man's redemption and rescue through the acceptance and love of a woman inspired me like nothing else had until that point. It was a deeply significant moment in my life. The idea that had taken root in my childhood grew and grew. I walked home from my friends' house only to stop and take in for the first time the beauty of my surroundings. I was embarrassed to admit it afterwards, embarrassed by the emotion of the moment but I cried at the beauty of the moonlight on the grass. Wonder was awakened.

It feels awkward to recall that evening even now but it's clear that in that evening something crystallised;  something that had been growing and gathering pace for sometime. In that moment it felt as though the world came into focus. On that night I became an out-of-the-closet believer in God. I encountered the beauty of creation and became convinced that there was indeed a creator behind it all. I don't think I would have labelled it as that, I was in no way ready to align myself with a faith or identify as a Christian. Terms like 'theist' were foreign to me; they are the labels of the intellects and academics to categorise something that is instinctive. 

That was, I suppose, when the demolition began. It isn't very reasonable - meaning I didn't begin with reason and analysis, but with experience. I began with feeling and wonder and followed the rabbit from there. Some will say that since this is the case I was a 'lame duck' from the beginning, ill-equipped to examine life properly and analytically. I shouldn't be listened to. They may be right and I have found myself thrown back and forth between arguments on both sides. For all my feeling and experience there is still plenty about the world that only really reason and careful thought can explain; but then for all my thinking and considering there is too much beauty and joy that cannot be appreciated except by encounter.

On balance I found and have found since then that we are much more than animals. Our appreciation of life and beauty, our love of love and uncompromising belief in right and wrong betrays the philosophical conclusions that some have made from their science.  Not that science is at all at odds with faith but that some scientists' philosophy is at odds with faith.

I sometimes wish I could simply be left alone to not think or not writhe for something else beyond an animal existence. But then again, as I've said, I'm ruined. I am undone by the love and life of God in Christ revealed to me by the Spirit. An undoing and a ruining that began as a boy and continued on into adolescence.