Monday, March 30, 2009

Wasting your life...?

I was reading the blog and he gave some startling facts about how we easily waste our life:

According to a new “Video Consumer Mapping” study by Ball State University, Americans aged 65 and older spend an average of 420 minutes per day in front of a television screen. 420 minutes per day. Let that sink in for just a moment. That is seven hours; seven full hours. Every day. On average. That means that half of the days it would be more than seven hours. Is that three hours in the morning, perhaps 8 until 11 and then four more in the evening, maybe 7 until 11 PM? How is it even possible? It is unbelievable. And it does not even include time spent watching DVDs or Tivo."

This is astounding and scary! We so easily fill our lives up with rubbish, wasting our lives consuming ourselves to serve ourselves and to make ourselves feel better. When was it ever about serving ourselves? I so don't want to be like this, I don't want to waste my life. I want to enjoy life by enjoying Jesus and having Him as my treasure. But it is so hard, its so easy to be distracted with everything the world throws at you.

My greatest fear is that I lose my passion for Jesus, that I find myself middle aged, stuck in a middle class life, with hobbies, a nice house, money, comfortable, with my circle of friends and my routine. Not to say that these things are bad, but if thats all I have and am no longer seeking Jesus, being excited by the Gospel, seeing Jesus work in my life and those around me, praying with faith and yearning, repenting and having a passion for the lost and the poor, no longer reaching those in need... then my life is not worth living. Infact if I lose all those things I am near enough dead. If I lose Jesus then I lose everything - what would be the point in living?

As piper says, we are on this planet to make much of Jesus Christ.

What a challenge! What are we making much of right now? Are we wasting our life? Do we have a Holy Ambition?...

Lastly, a quote from piper:

“When I heard J. Oswald Sanders at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School chapel speaking at the age of eighty-nine say that he had written a book a year for Christ since he was seventy, everything in me said, ‘O God, don’t let me waste my final years! Don’t let me buy the American dream of retirement—month after month of leisure and play and hobbies and putzing around in the garage and rearranging the furniture and golfing and fishing and sitting and watching television. Lord, please have mercy on me. Spare me this curse.’”

Spare me from this curse also - now as a young woman and then as a middle aged woman and then as an old woman.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stay Free :: Stay with the Gospel

This was the last study I did on staying Free as a Christian. This one looked at how to stay with the Gospel and how to carry on as a Christian.

Mark 8:31-38 says some stark statements by Jesus. This is in fact one of my favorite passages in Marks Gospel. Jesus says:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
This whole passage is a challenge. Jesus talks about how we should deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him. How do we carry on as a Christian? By not holding on to our lives but giving them up in order to follow Jesus.

This is hard for us because in our culture we have so much, giving all of that up seems like an impossible task! Is it all worth giving up for Jesus?

It is good to examine and look into what things we are tempted to hold on to rather then give them up. What are the specific areas of our lives where we have to take up our cross or lose our life? These are hard questions to chew over but its worth doing.

So how do we stay Free? We stay free by letting go of everything that binds us or everything that takes our focus off Jesus and then we take up our cross and follow Jesus. We stay with the Gospel, because the Gospel is about Jesus and reminds us of who He is, what He has done and how amazing He is. We will therefore see the immeasurable treasure that is Christ which will prompt our heart to let go of everything we have got and go after that which is most beautiful and most wonderful in Christ.

Following Jesus is all about staying Free.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stay Free :: Stay at the Cross

John Stott says ~

The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be."

As Christians we need to stay at the Cross, no matter where we are in our Christian walk. The Cross is important. The whole of the Old Testament has been pointing towards this moment in history, it has been pointing to Jesus.

As we open Mark 15:33-39, we observe this moment the world has been waiting for. Here it comes to a climax and what happens is significant and not to be overlooked...

Three instances are unfolded in this scene -

1. The sky turns black - A sign of Gods judgment. Just imagine that you are at the movies and this chapter opens up with rolling black clouds. Something is about to happen and anger is the vibrations...

2. Jesus Cries Out - Heartfelt cry that is full of anguish and pain. Abandonment. Could this really happen to the Son of God? Psalm 22 comes to mind. Incredible how the Son of God goes through this for us.

3. The Curtain is torn in two - Suddenly the scene is cut short and the director take us to the temple... why bother going there?? Because here, in the most Holy place the curtain separating God and man has been cut. We now have freedom. We can now come near to God...this is Good News!

There at the Cross, Jesus died paying the price for our sins. He appeased the Fathers wrath by his obedient sacrifice. It is incredible and here we should stay at the Cross and be in awe of Jesus and what He has done. Because at the Cross there is no room for pride. The Cross gives us freedom, we can stay free when we are at the Cross.

I love the fact
that I get to study this with students and that I am also reminded of the Cross and can stand in awe of Jesus.

This was only a glimpse of what I studied, but I wanted to share a small drop of why the Cross is amazing and why we all need to stay there!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

May I bring my friends?

Peter Storey, a Methodist Pastor says...

"Some tell us that following Jesus is a simple matter of inviting him into our hearts. But when we do that, Jesus always asks, 'May I bring my friends?' And when we look at them we see that they are not the kind of company we like to keep. The friends of Jesus are the outcasts, the marginalized, the poor, the homeless, the rejected--the lepers of life. We hesitate and ask, 'Jesus, must we really have them too?' Jesus replies, 'Love me, love my friends!'"

Friday, March 20, 2009

BE-Engaging :: Paper Planes

~ Paper Planes by M.I.A ~
This is a catchy tune! In fact if you get in your head you can't get it out... this is a tune from Slum dog Millionaire (worth seeing!)...

I am really interested in the lyrics of this song, it says a lot about our desires, the western mindset and "third world democracy". The heartbeat of this song is about money and any possible way of getting it from hustling, making visas and taking your money!

The Chorus is very catchy:
All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
And (KKKAAAA CHING!) And take your money"

Does the world revolve around money? It appears so. But was this what we were made for? Were we made to take as much money as possible - To get rich and die. Is that satisfying? I think it might burn a hole in our insides.

Jesus makes remarkable statements about money and our possessions. To one man he says -
o, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”" (Mark 10:21)

What would we do if Jesus directly said that to us today? I find it interesting how we dismiss this verse and say that Jesus isn't saying that to us now. But I wonder if thats because the crutch of this statement is so brutal to our pride in our material possessions that giving up everything is impossible. But look at what Jesus offers in return for giving up his money - treasure in heaven. Treasure in Heaven!! If all we want to do is "take your money" then we are missing the joy of treasure in heaven. Jesus is saying that there is something greater then money, something far more satisfying that is worth giving up everything for.

My favourite parable is the parable of the hidden treasure, where the man sells everything to buy a field to have the treasure in it. That is what the Kingdom of heaven is like!! Can we offer this to the secular world? When the obsession of money is hitting a peek, yet recession is upon us, can we offering something that will not fade or rot? Imagine having an eternal treasure that is worth more then anything in this world put together...

I was thinking of questions that I could ask, for instance - why is the world obsessed with money? Is it so they can get more stuff... and then what? What do you do after you get stuff - more stuff? Until stuff collects dust and we get bored...
Does having money truly satisfy? How do we see examples of it not in our culture - particulary looking at those in the media spotlight?

When do you have enough to be satisfied?

What do you think it would be like to have a treasure that will be truly satisfying and never fade nor corrupt?

Jesus says some amazing things about money, that you cannot serve Money and God. What do you think would be better to serve?

What I love about the Gospel is that it says that money will fade and wither and that there is no certainty in money and that when we become christians we no longer have to be enslaved with money, because our Father provides for all our needs and therefore we do not need to worry. It is essential to realise that money is important in our society, but it should not be an idol nor something we should strive to get more and more of to make ourselves happy. No, we have an amazing God that will provide abundantly when we need things and He is our source of delight!

What a fantastic message to bring to the world... will they listen? Imagine if they did? No longer would there be need to search for happiness in money.

I tell you something, when I was in Peru I saw some of the poorest christians I have ever known - yet they were in fact the most rejoicing Christians because there depedancy for everything was on the Lord... what an amazing witness to us and what an Amazing God we serve...!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Encounter with the Cross

An encounter with the cross is intended to result in lifestyle change. Christians are to live a new Christ-centred life. That life is characterized by self-giving love, the quality most needed for citizenship. Christian freedom is not freedom from everything which might limit our choices. It is freedom from sin for the sake of service. It is not the life of licence, which so many call freedom today.

(Graham Cray - Disciples and Citizens)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The writers room...

This is something that I found really interesting, what does a writers room look like?

A guy called Eamonn McCabe took some pictures of famous writers rooms, which range from neat and tidy to a complete mess! Its just fun to watch...

Check it out here.

I am pleased my desk doesn't look like this yet.....

Monday, March 16, 2009

BE - Engaging :: Love Actually

At the very start Hugh Grant opens with a statement about Love...

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends

LOVE... that fuzzy feeling inside, the warmth felt in your fingers and is all around apparently. We have 8 different lives, all entwined and all showing expressions of love. Love that was never meant to be, love that is in marriage, outside of marriage, adultery, love that is painful, a love found in a different country, first love, forever love, forgotten love, lost love. The theme of Love rings out for sure.

Everyone wants to be LOVED. As humans we crave Love from each other and feel lonely when we don't feel loved.

If you could pick a story line that most expressed the type of love that you desired what would it be?

Would it be the Love of an old couple, yet one being tempted into adultery?

Would it be the Love of the woman longing for a relationship and yet when its in her grips, she loses it because her brother is more important.

Would it be Love that is lost because your partner dies?

Would it be the Love of a man seeking his destiny as a writer and then stumbling across Love accidentally.

Would it be the innocence of First love of a small boy, who runs around an airport in eager expectation of telling the young girl that he loves her...

Or perhaps it would be the Love of a man running to every house to find his soul mate.

None of them seem perfect or seem to satisfy. Yet the world is talking about Love in the middle of suffering, pain and war. Because we can Cling to Love. Yet Love as shown in this film is not perfect. In fact there are lots of imperfections here, lots of hurt and pain and miscommunication which adds to the humor. There is emotional ties in Love, which get attached and crossed over with people. It is bound to get messy.

However the great news of the Gospel is that we are made for relationship...we can see that in this film. All the scenes are about relationships and how we yearn for perfect relationships. Wouldn't it be amazing if you could have a relationship with someone and there not be any hurt, any Gossip, any harmful acts...but it be pure, loving, patient, kind and fulfilling. Is that not what people want?

What if you could offer people this love from God? As we look at that list above, I don't think I would want to be any of them. But I would want a Love that is fulfilling, one that I didn't have to prove myself for or run around to get. A love that is always there, always faithful, always forgiving and goes that one step further and presents us as perfect - seeking to serve us and love us. I am amazed at how we go searching for love and yet have it right here in front of us - the Love of Christ resounds in the Gospel and this is a love we can offer to the broken hearted. The Cross is a place of great love and sacrifice, one that we can continue to cling to and know that it will never fail us.

So as we watch this film, let us think what Love truly is and how each scenario paints a picture of 1) a world craving for love and 2) Perfect Love is found in Christ alone...

If Christ is out of the picture then we can see the foundation of Love crumble...but with Christ in the picture then the picture is complete. We no longer have to go searching for Love, for it is right there in front of us!!

Lets think - How would you express this to your not yet Christian friends? What love are they craving for? How is that satisfied in Jesus?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Living the Gospel out at Work

Ian Coffey says...

How, then, does the gospel of Christ touch my world of work? It has a lot to do with being called to follow Christ. …

William Tyndale, the man who translated the New Testament into the English language, wrote these words: “There is no better work than to please God. To pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler or an apostle is all one. To wash dishes or to preach is all as one as touching the deed to please God.”

Rightly, Tyndale is saying that our aim should be to serve God wherever he has put us and to give of our very best.

(Working it Out - Ian Coffey)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

BE - Engaging :: The Culture around us

This is where we are right here right now. Emmersed in our culture, filtered into our mindsets and standpoints. It is useless to think that our culture doesn't effect us, it does. It effects how we think, learn and act in many different ways.

In many ways our culture presents a world view that contradicts our christian mindset, but where does that leave the Christian? On the outskirts of postmodern living, tongue tied in relativity and losing faith in a multifaith society...

Christians need to wake up and start engaging with the culture around them. Learning to discover what is society portraying in their media and art, what are the cries of desperation that society to is longing for, what are the morals, what is the crutch and framework of their ideology?

With those questions in mind, I want to ask:

And how does this fit in with the Gospel?
How can the Gospel relate to what society craves and the image that they are displaying?

I want to be like Paul as he looks around in Acts 17 "
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship" Paul is observing the culture, observing the idols and then from there he can begin to relate to them, to preach the Gospel in a way that is relevant and captures them so that they realise that the idols they were after are worthless compared to God.

We can do this now. We can pass along and observe the books, films, magazines, adverts, conversations, art, music and fashion and see the objects of worship. Learn to observe and not to hide away from culture.

So what I have decided to do is a series in BE-Engaging and look at various books, music and films and see what they portray and the messages that have been given out through them and the see what the Gospel says. How can we preach the Gospel to the world when a thousand other messages are coming to their ears??

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You won't Run but Drift...

Last night at ECU, Stu Alred from New Frontiers Exeter came to speak on Hebrews 1. I think Stu has such a gift in preaching and I could listen to him for hours. He has such a passion for the Word of God and always has a focus on Jesus while his nose is in the text. ECU are privileged to have such support and feeding from great teachers from the church and Staff Workers. Yet even with great teaching, great events there is a danger for every Christian. Stu hit this nail on its head by drawing our attention to 2v1 - "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."

Are YOU paying attention?!?!

What I have noticed is how I passively breath in the Gospel and not pay attention to its heart pounding relevance. Right now I am not prone to run from Jesus, that is the last thing I want to do. People would notice if I sprinted away from the Gospel. But drifting is easy, its silent and slow. Like wood on the sea that slowly drifts away from the safety of land. It just starts with one thing, like spending less time in the morning praying or reading your bible, skipping church to have more sleep time, focusing more time on your degree, work, ambitions and then suddenly you look around and you are so far from Jesus and you have no clue how you got there. It would be like waking up from a drunken haze to find yourself in the gutter.

So Stu challenged us with a question - "What are we placing higher then Jesus?" Is it religious experience? Angels? Friends? Career? Popularity? We all have something we place higher then Jesus because our focus is so easily distracted, but what is making us drift from Jesus? Drifting is Dangerous.

So lets get our eyes back on Him. Lets rub our noses in the ink of the bible and let that ink smudge on our faces. Lets have our hearts beat with eager excitement of the great treasure that is Christ. Lets not drift, but lets cling to the Cross. Let us flee from temptation into the Loving arms of the Father, Gazing on His Glory.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Being Church in our culture

How can we be church in our culture? How can we relate to our culture today?

Tim Keller is a brilliant speaker - having a gift in apologetics.

Click on the link below to listen to Keller speak on how the church can be relevant in our culture today, looking at:

First, more Christians living long-term in cities; second, with a better understanding of the gospel; third, living as dynamic counter-cultures in the city; fourth, integrating their faith and their work; fifth, radically committed to the good of the city as a whole; and sixth, contextualizing the gospel message."

Check it out here.

Monday, March 09, 2009

From Joy to Joy and Faith to Faith

I am currently reading Desiring God at the moment, which Bish recommended for me to read about 4 years ago and I have now finally opened the book! I am enjoying it and finding it encouraging/challenging.

I want to share a quote with you:

"When Christ calls us to a new act of obedience that will cost us some temporal pleasure, we call to mind the surpassing value of following Him, and by faith in His proven worth, we forsake the worldly pleasure. The Result?! More Joy! More Faith! Deeper than before. And so we go on from Joy to Joy and Faith to Faith." (John Piper - Desiring God ~ Page 74)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

My 6th Mission Week....

Last week was my 6th Mission Week since starting Uni in 2004... I was a CU Guest at Marjons, which is a small Uni in Plymouth. I learnt alot of things this week that I want to share with you.

  • 1. The Gospel is true...
  • 2. Small Cu's are great and they have such a family feel about them
  • 3. I have never met so warm and loving Christian Students before
  • 4. Seeds are planted and God grows them.
  • 5. People are hungry for the Word of God. They can't stop talking about it.
  • 6. God answers prayers.
  • 7. It is good to encourage...always find the good.
  • 8. 8am prayer meetings arn't too bad.
  • 9. Talking about Jesus is the best thing ever.
  • 10. Listning to people is key. Listning and comforting when all they want to do is cry and talk. Then pray.
  • 11. Jesus took on the punishment I deserved. This is AMAZING.
  • 12. I love students
  • 13. I love seeing student passionate for Jesus and still going for it when they have little resources.
  • 14. You don't need a huge CU to have a Mission week.
  • 15. Not everything is black and white - we need compassion and love.
  • 16. We are working with real people, with real needs and hurts. They don't need church jargon or do's and don'ts - they need to see how God loves them and that the Gospel is real for them.
  • 17. It is good to see students have Joy in what they do and joy in having fun, going out and being with their non Christian friends.
  • 18. I LOVE my job.
  • 19. I really want to do this job forever....
  • 20. This is my 6th mission week....and its been my favourite one!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Stay Free :: Stay in the World...

I am going through a series of studies with a student on how to stay Free. To stay Free from Sin and to stay Free in the Gospel. It is a good reminder on many levels.

One of the sessions was on staying in the world. The temptation as a Christian is to try to seperate from the world, thinking that our christian bubble is Holy and that the secular world in unclean. But Jesus makes amazing claims that actually its not what is outside us that is unclean, but its the heart that vomits up all unclean things (Mark 7). This puts a twist to things - what does that mean for us as Christians?

We are called to be in the world but not of it, not following the fleeting desires of the world, not laying up treasures on earth. And yet here we are in the world and there are some good things here. If we believe what Jesus said to be true then we know that the things outside of us are not unclean - the food we eat, the music we listen to, films, books, sex, drink, relationships, clubbing etc... God created them and they are good. However as Christians we tend not to mix with the secular culture - so instead we take all these things and place them into a Christian Sub culture, we take secular music, films, books etc and stamp Jesus on them claiming them to be Holy and Christian. However I think we are missing the point!!

Is there anything wrong with enjoying good music, films, books in secular culture? I don't think there is - I think we can engage with it and use it to bring about questions, to make us think and to enjoy! There are some great athiest writers out there which we can enjoy. Remember that things outside the heart are not unclean!!

The difference is that we need to stay in the world with the Gospel and live changed lives in it. People will notice. They will notice that you enjoy the same music, engaging with it and yet not compromising on what God has called you to be - Holy and Blaimless. Being in the world means engaging with our culture with what is there and with the Gospel, it doesn't mean we go out and get drunk and have sex with as many partners as possible. It means we live Gospel lives and still enjoy the things God has created, even if it doesn't have the Christian stamp on it.

The source of sin as Jesus says in Mark 7:14-27 is our hearts. Out of our hearts is filth in which we distort the good things that God gives us. What Jesus says should prepel us to repent and turn to the Gospel, so that we may live by Grace and not by rules. So that we may view things as not bad or unclean, but realise its out of hearts that makes things unclean.

If we want to engage with our culture and understand their perspective so that we may bring the Gospel to them and show them that their life without Jesus is not satisfying. Then we need to get out of our Christian bubbble and stay in the world living Gospel lives.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stay Free :: Stay in the Word

Understanding is only part of what we do when we read the bible. The best habit to get into from the start is to remember that the bible is about Jesus.

As I open my study guide on Stay Free... a resource for new christians to go through and I get a chance to go through them with a student. The first one is staying Free and staying in the Word. I am confronted by the quote above - what a reminder!! The bible is about Jesus. It always has been - He has been there since the start of creation, since before that!! This is remarkable because I still always come to the bible and think its about me and its a manual for what I should do and how I should be a Christian. I hear others say that too and then my heart does a quick jump into the truth, that actually it isn't about is about Jesus. Which is exactly why we should stay in the Word of God... We shouldn't stay in it because we have to or because we think it will tell us what to do... but we should stay in it, with our nose pressed to the ink because it is about Jesus and we want to know more about Him!!!

In Chapter 4 of Marks Gospel, Jesus explains how the Word is the seed and how we can recieve the word in different ways. Does that mean anything to us now that we are Christians? Absolutly! We may not be the rocky ground, but we could be the soil that has thorns.

The question to ask is - What will we do with Gods word, how will we respond??

Will we submit to His word or will we reject it? Will we submit to Jesus or will we reject Him? Even as Christians our hearts can be so hard and thats why there is a warning in Hebrews 3:15 ~ "As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Do not harden your heart. Delight in His word, recieve Him with Joy.

But that means reading His word in the first place. Staying in the Word means reading and engaging with the word of God. It means seeing Jesus walk out from the pages, it means using scripture as prayers, song, lamentation and to store up in our hearts. It means knowing Jesus more and asking the Holy Spirit to change our hearts. Don't let it become a chore, don't let it become boring. Read the bible, enjoy it. See that the creator of the world has spoken and is speaking to you about himself.

This is amazing!!! Be hungry for the word of God, not for knowledge but because Jesus is amazing and we want to know Him more.

Stay in the Word.