Thursday, January 31, 2008

Together we are stronger

Today we live in a culture that's very individualistic, that's all about us.

We are the centre of the universe, life is about us making our way and doing the best for ourselves.

We're the most important thing and value is place on everyone being happy as long as they don't interfere with other people's lives. We're free to do whatever we like, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else and makes us happy.

It doesn't have to be that way.

There is another way.

Jesus way.

Loving one another, serving one another, serving one another, forgiving one another, whatever we think of someone. Whether we like them or not. Being accepting for people as they are and putting others priorites and best before our own.

We can't do this as on our own though.

Jesus is about community.

That's why church is so important. Christians who think they don't need church or church is irrelivant are going against what Jesus talks about in my opinion.

When Jesus sent his disciples out, He did it two by two. In community. Not alone.When the Holy Spirit came, when the church started 'they were all together in one place'. The disciples were a group, a community.

All with different gifts. All with different qualities. All with different needs.Complimenting, supporting, serving each other.

Together we are stronger.

Together, if we try to celebrate our similarities instead of arguing over our differences, then we can make a huge difference.

The world is in crisis. Poverty. Consumerism. Injustice. People trafficking. War. Unecessary pain and suffering.

People are looking for genuine hope. People are looking for real love and acceptance. People are in need of grace and forgiveness.

Jesus can give them all that, and as Christians and a church, His body, we are His represnetatives. When people see us, they use that to see what Jesus is like. We need to be giving people a positive and life-changing picture of Jesus. A real picture of Jesus.

Someone who makes problems in life easier to cope with, but doesn't always magically take them away. Someone who loves, accepts and forgives those who don't deserve it. Someone who stands against injustice and poverty, and leads the way in taking on these issues, both locally and internationally.

Jesus isn't asking us to be perfect.

He's asking us to be real. To show them what He's all about, what His values are, how He can change lives and that the divded, hypocrytical image the church has is a distorted image of who Jesus is and what our faith is about.

To show them that Christians aren't perfect, but have a real hope and a transforming power in their life which can sustain them, change them and make difficult times easier to deal with. Can make life worth living and give people a purpose. That there is a community, a body, which supports, takes care of, serves and blesses people who need it, and takes care of people both within it and outside it.

Show them who Jesus is and what church should be. Show them the reality of being a Christian.

Together we can do it. With Jesus as our role model, our guide and at the core of who we are and what we do.

Idealistic? Maybe, but that's what Jesus wants us to aim for. If we're not careful, we can let the cynism, mistrust and negativity of the world bring us down. We need to be positive, we need to beleive in the hope we have.

Otherwise, what exactly are we beleiving in?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Its true. That's all you need to know.

I'm going through a particularly difficult time at the moment, for one reason in particular which I'm not going to go into detail about.

However, one thing has become abundantly clear.

I think that often some of us get so caught up with the good things, the comfortable western life we have, the culture of "I'm worth it" which makes us believe we only deserve good things, that we forget something.

Or we get so caught up with the blessings and and the good things we have at church - fellowship, worship, good teaching, the ministry of the spirit that we forget the very same thing.

The reason to be a Christian.

The reason to be a Christian isn't because of all the blessings we receive. The reason to be a Christian isn't because of the fellowship, isn't because of the good worship or the feel-good emotion we get when we're in a room full of the spirit. Its not because God always provides for us. Its not because He answers all our prayers and gives us what we need.

Its none of these.

The reason to be a Christian is....

...because Jesus is true.

His love is true.

The cross is true

That's it. The love, forgiveness, and sacrifice of Jesus is true.

That's it. That's all.

If our lives suck, if we're going through pain, if everything seems against us, if God seems distant, if we don't think our prayers are being answered, if things are happening to us that don't seem fair, if we don't get healed, if we don't feel the spirit, if our church isn't good, if things aren't going well - none of them are reasons not to be a Christian.

God is always with us. Jesus promised that He would always be with us, that the Spirit would always be with us.

That's it.

If we have real faith, surely we will keep believing, keep going and hold on to that.

If our faith is dependent on what Jesus does for us and how He blesses us, then its no faith at all.

Jesus is often quoted as saying how little faith people have and despairs of it, He despairs that people always need signs. Its there, all the gospels have it. That's because He doesn't want our faith dependent on anything but the truth. Not works. Not miracles. Not gifts. Not anything we get from God as a blessing.

The cross is the key to our faith. Anything we are given or is good in our life on top of the cross, is a bonus. Jesus wants us to recognise this, so we can have a really strong faith.

To have a real, strong faith is to believe in Jesus when there's every reason not to, and that's a challenge to us all.

Jesus is true.

That's all you need to know.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My decisions for 2008

At my church recently my pastor was speaking on decisions, and instead of new years resolutions making proper decisions about things we are to do this year and who we are to be.

Decision in the truest sense means to cut yourself off from anything that isn't that, that has been before, and not going back. Moving forward with a new philosophy and way of life that is different and never going or being able to go back.

Very challenging.

I made some decisions, and at the risk of embarrassing myself I thought I'd be bold and make them public on here, so anyone who'd read these and ever meets me can challenge me on them, and also for myself, to really make them real by putting them on paper, as it were.

So what have I decided?

Well, first, to lose weight. This means eating healthier, eating less and exercising at the gym at least two and eventually three times a week, for a full 40 mins. I will build up to this 40 mins three times a week over a number of weeks, but by mid-February I will be on three times a week, and my life and what I do outside of work during the week will take second place, apart from my house group. It will be a priority for me. It will be a choice I make every day and a gradual process, not some random thing I will do for a few weeks and then give up on.

The second, is to study and read more. This means doing an evening course of study in theology, attending Deep Church lectures, reading more books to learn and understand theology and the Bible more, and to read the Bible every day. These, again are habits I will get into and keep to, and will be a priority in my life.

Of course, I will keep writing this blog regularly but I also plan to write some sermons this year as part of my study and also to develop my teaching skills. I may publish edited and shorter versions on this blog so hopefully you will see those at some point.

If you are reading this as a Christian, I'd appreciate your prayers. If you know me, then please do keep me accountable.

This will serve as a reminder and a sort of prayer for me for this year, and the decisions I've made. So at the beginning of next year I can remind myself of what I chose this year and see how its gone.

I hope and pray that I will keep to the decisions I have made

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The new year's transformation

So its a new year. Resolutions, diets, promises to change and achieve things. I thought about all my resolutions (and a slightly different view for this site). Then something became clear to me, it became clear what our real new year's resolution should be - or rather, what God's resolution for us is.

Let me explain.

Its a new year. But what has changed? Well, literally overnight, not much really.

People are still the same. Our strengths and weaknesses are still the same. We might be different to what we were a year ago, but we're still a work in progress.

Sometimes I think people make these resolutions in the vain hope that if they achieve or keep to them then they will be totally transformed and then won't have to change any more. As if, once they've done what they resolved to, that they will be complete. That's certainly the impression I get sometimes.

The honest truth is that we're all a work in progress. We are all at different stages of our shaping and our forming. Making us the character and person we were planned to be. Becoming more like Jesus. Forming the character we take with us.

Its a constant process.

Physically, we are always changing, layers of skin disappear and brush off without us noticing, but we look largely the same, who we are remains the same. Hair grows over time, but we stay largely the same.

Its the same with character. With one difference.

When your character changes, it won't be like it was before, you won't be like you were before. Nothing you can do can undo the development you've made over time. You may stay the same person, with the same unique personality, but the rest of you can change. Your abilities. Your character. Your skills. Your opinions. Your friends. Your church.

Everything changes. Its always happening, it never stops till you die. Always growing and maturing and being transformed. Sometimes others don't notice it for a while, then something happens or you do or say something which draws attention to you and they suddenly notice the difference. Its the same physically. People can not see you for a while, they see you again and notice the difference almost straightaway.

We are all always in a process of transformation. Whether Christian or not. We just need to make sure the thing that shapes us, our priority, our major influence and accountability comes from God. Then we really can become, over our lives, the people He planned us to be, at each moment of our lives.

My new year's resolution then, this and every year, is to keep on being transformed. That's because, ultimately, we are always being transformed. With God, there are limitless possibilities. Totally limitless.

Each year - all throughout our lives - God wants to transform different parts of us, work on different areas of our character and experience. It all happens in 'seasons' of our lives, periods where God does different things with us and through us, all to help form us into the people He wants us to be.

The possibilities are endless, limitless and you never know what's next. Whatever happens in your life, you know that God is with you and will use that circumstance to make you more like He wants you to be.

How reassuring.

So this year and every year, I invite you. Make your new year's resolution to continue to be transformed into Jesus image. More into how He wants you to be. Then ask God, ask yourself, what the things are He wants to transform or work on now, today, this week, this month, this year.

Its the best resolution to make, and the one you're more likely to keep. Because whatever we do, God uses it to shape us more into His image.

How good is that?