I’ve just returned from a wonderful day out exploring one of Scotland’s isolated valleys. The sun eventually shone, the path was easy and the peace settled upon us immediately. We encountered deer, mountain goats, hares, oyster catchers and numerous other members of the bird family. It really was idyllic. As we walked along several friends came to mind that I would like to introduce to this valley. I wanted to show them the things we were seeing, I wanted them to experience the peace and tranquillity that we felt. I wanted to talk through things with them, to share the excitement of the moment with them and to enjoy the time together. I love sharing experiences with other people, and this is what this blog is all about. When I discover something new in the Christian realm, a new idea or way of looking at something I want to share it with others.

The initial goal of today was to hopefully see some Golden Eagles. We failed. We didn’t see a single eagle, but we discovered so much instead. I hope you will find the same here. I don’t know what has brought you here, what you are looking for within this blog? You may well find it here, but I hope you will discover much more besides.

I’d like to invite you to journey onwards with me, to draw nearer to God and to enjoy the view along the way.

Please do get involved and post comments. I'm also happy to try and answer any appropriate questions you may have.

Monday, 28 February 2011

A warning against Idols!!

Some verses to remember

Exodus 20:3-5

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them

Exodus 20:23

Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold

1 Samuel 15:23

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Colossians 3:5

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry

Romans 1:24-25

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

A definition to ponder…

That on which the affections are strongly (often excessively) set; an object of passionate devotion; a focus of your attention; anything that draws you away from God.

A question to truthfully consider…

What are the idols in your life?

We no longer carve our idols out of stone or cast them out of Gold. No, the idols we have today are far more dangerous. They come better disguised. We don’t physically bow down to them and set them on alters – but they are the attention of our focus, our worship, our adoration. Some of them, when we think about it, are pretty obvious. Let’s take a look at our live in regards to…













The list could go on and for each individual it will be different. Where is your security? Is it in God or in the things you do? In your work, your ability to earn money, the title you have, the power you yield, the influence you have, the lives you control? Where is your focus? Is it on God or on your family or your friends? What do you spend your time doing? Do you spend it with God or playing on the computer, watching television, playing sport? What is the focus of your concern? Is it the things of God, how you can serve Him better, how you can draw closer to Him or is it on your health, your family, you career, your education, your debt, your possessions? When was the last time you spent a couple of hours watching a good film, engrossed in a great book or watching some sporting event? Yesterday? Last week? My guess is that it won’t have been too long ago. And when was the last time you spent a couple of hours with God? I’m not letting you off the hook here and including going to church, or reading the Bible, or reading a Christian book, or doing God’s work in the community. I’m talking about spending time in God’s presence, listening, seeking, dwelling, soaking. Yesterday? Last week? Last year? Never?

Thankfully my life is so perfect that I spend every minute with God… he says choking on every word. This challenge is far more pointed at me than anyone else. However, as I think it all through perhaps one or two of you might think along with me. If you can honestly say that you have made good progress in putting God first, making him the real focus of your life I’d love to hear from you – you have much I could learn from. I mean that in all honesty – when we find real tangible ways to put God first, to remove idols from our lives we need to share and encourage others. The Christian life is hard, there is no two ways about it. Let us share our struggles but also our successes. Not to brag or to build ourselves up but to share the recipe for success with others to build them up and draw each other closer to God.
Now, the idols I’ve mentioned so far are fairly obvious when we think about them. I just want to mention some that I believe are more veiled and in some ways, therefore, far more dangerous. You may well disagree with me, in fact, please do!! Let me know what you think. I’m wanting to help people think through these issues alongside me so I’ll just put them out there and see what you think…

Church Building projects

The Bible

Feeding the poor


Community projects






Now I guess some of you are now thinking that I’ve totally lost the plot, but bear
with me. Now, most of the things I’ve listed are good and honourable things to do and have a place in the lives of most Christians. And there is the rub, they do have a place, a rightful place but are they in their rightful place in our lives. Are they in the right place or have we elevated them? Where is the focus of our church is it on God or has it become skewed? Has the building project taken over that focus? Has the sermon become the focus of our service and not God himself? Have we subtly, over time changed our focus from God onto His word. Did we start off the community project as part of our worship of God but in fact it is now all consuming and we now live for the community project? Has the grace of God in our lives become more important than God in our lives? These are subtle things. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are working for God, when in fact we are now just working. Surely reading God’s work is one of the best things we can do? However, we can’t put the cart before the horse. We can’t raise the Bible to a position above that which it was meant. The Bible is a tool to point us towards God. It is a wonderful, mystical, marvellous thing for of truth and wisdom and inspiration but Bibliolatry is still idolatry.

We need to be so careful. We need others around us to speak into our lives and keep them on line. We need wise people from outside our churches to examine them and see if they are continuing to keep the main thing the main thing. It only takes a little nudge, a human perspective and not God’s to take us miles away from where we should be. A small shift in focus one day can mean being totally out of focus from then on. Join me in this discussion and in praying that we would be able to identify the idols in our lives and have the strength to do something about them. Pray that you would have wise people around you that you can be accountable to and who can and will speak into your lives. Let us fix our eyes on the creator and sustainer of our faith and keep them there!!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? part two

In part one we talked a little about the need for vision in our churches and also the need for a strategy for implementing that vision. I guess I should have called part two “What gets you out of bed in the morning – this time it’s personal!!”

Do you have a personal Vision? What is God calling you to do on a personal level? Who does God want to be for you this year? What specific part of God’s character does He want to reveal to you to help you on your journey? How can you ensure that you walk with God is better this year than last year? How can you ensure that you continue to become more like Jesus and not less like Him? The Bible gives us a great foundation as to the sort of people God calls us to be; but who does God want us to be as an individual? What does God what to inspire us to be for Him?

Now I’ve bamboozled you with questions I’m afraid I’m not going to go on and answer them for you. I’m afraid there are times when we just have to seek out God’s will for our lives on our own. I can’t tell you what God is wanting from you, what sort of vision He wants to give you – I have a hard enough time discovering that for my own life!!

So, what the point in trying to develop a personal vision? Well, just as a vision drives a church so a personal vision drives a person. Most people enjoy an adventure and what better thing than to be given your own personal adventure from God! When you know God’s vision for your life as an individual what better drive do you need? God may be calling you to something that no other individual in the world, indeed in the history of the world, can do. Now if that doesn’t excite you, check your pulse now, you may well be dead!!!

Now I know it’s one thing to get excited about having a personal vision for your life, it’s quite a different thing discovering what it is. Unfortunately there is no simple formula for discovering it but here are a few pointers.

Let’s start with the obvious!! Tell God that you want to discover His personal vision for your life. Tell Him you’re available and willing and want to place yourself at the centre of His will for your life.

Bible Study
Let’s make sure we have that foundation of God’s will for the lives of His children. As you study ask God to show you His will for your life. Ask that He would illuminate (make stand out) certain passages or even words. When He does write them down, see if patterns start to emerge.

Take the passages and meditate upon them. Learn what the mean using commentaries and study guides. Ask God to show you what they mean and how He wants them to apply to your life.

Know Yourself What is your passion?
What has God given you a heart for? What are your skill? What are you trained to do? What do other people recognise in you? What are your faults and failings? Be honest and open, after all you’re the only one going to see this!! This part of the exercise is part of testing your vision. For example, if you believe God is giving you a vision to be a missionary in Africa working as a doctor and you’re 85 with no medical training a fear of foreign parts and bed bound the chances are you might need to think again about your vision. Unfortunately it’s not always as obvious as that you hopefully it might give you some idea.

Know your gifts?
There’s a famous saying that say that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. God gives us gifts in order to serve Him and those to whom He has called us. So what gifts has God given you? It might be worthwhile doing a gift survey like the one found here… http://churchgrowth.org/analysis/intro.php If you can find out what God has gifted you in it may become clearer as to the vision He has for you.

Write it down
By now you might be starting to have an idea about your own personal vision. Get something down on paper. It doesn’t have to be eloquent, no one needs to see it but you. It may include some Bible verses or just some words that have struck you as you have sought God. Pray about what you’ve written down and ask God to clarify and also to remove anything that He doesn’t want there. Try and get it down to a couple of sentences. Does it make sense? Does it excite you?

Test it!
With all things we receive from God it is good to test them. Is it in any way contrary to His Word? Does is sit well with you? Perhaps you could share it with a close Christian friend or your pastor. What do they think?
So hopefully now you have a personal vision, from God, just for you!! WOW! How exciting is that!! Now the hard part… in part one we said that there is no point in having a vision if you don’t know how to realise it in practical terms. So here we go again and it’s that word “strategy”! I know some of you will hate the word, it seems so practical, scheming almost but it is a word I believe we should embrace. Strategy is where the rubber hits the road – it’s where our vision becomes a reality, where the outworking of our personal vision takes place. So I’ll leave you with yet another set of questions to think about…

How is this vision going to become a reality?

Who would it be good to speak to in order to help me do that?

Do I need to involve others?

Do I need training or support?

What are the practical out-workings of this vision?

What can I start to do today to fulfil this vision?

What long term ideas do I need to think about in order not to let this vision slip?

Who would be great to support me in this vision?

How can I keep this vision alive?

Let me know how you get on – if you have any questions please do let me know.

What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning? part one

I guess most of us go to a church that has a vision statement. It might say something like “Gather, Go, Give, Grow!” or “A Hub and a resource of our village, and beyond, even internationally”! to slightly misquote the vision statements from my last two churches. I am someone who strongly believes in vision! I believe that without vision Churches lack direction and drive. However, I also believe that with vision comes the need for strategy. I have seen churches with a strong, God given, vision but with no strategy to go alongside it. They seem to think that because God has given them a vision He will bring that vision about, they just have to sit back and let it happen. I believe vision is a lot like prophesy. Prophesy speaks to our potential! If God give us a prophesy it tells us what we could achieve, but we still have to put in the hard word of getting to that place. For example if God gives us a prophesy that we will become Lawyer we still need to put in the leg work of applying to university and studying hard etc. If we have the attitude that God has told me I’m going to be a Lawyer therefore I don’t need to work we will fall short of what God is wanting in our lives. If we don;t put in the work, take the exams etc. we can’t look back and say that the prophesy is wrong as we have not worked to our potential.

The same is true for churches with a vision. It’s easy to believe that since God has spoken and given us a vision that it will automatically come about. However, with vision come responsibility and a call to action. God has give us the direction but we still need to plan the route and walk that path. God gives us vision to show us our potential we still need to put in the leg-work. We need to work out the strategy to get there. It’s nice to have a catchy tag-line but much better to have a vision that gets you out of bed in the morning and actually works. When looking at your church and their vision I think of it in terms of, if a stranger came to your church and got involved, after a couple of weeks would they be able to to have a stab at what your vision statement is? If they can’t, is your vision actually being carried out or is your church divorced from their vision?

Let’s have a look at a completely fictitious example. Let’s say God gives a church a vision of… “to feed the hungry, heal the sick. Preach the Good News and drive HGV aid convoys to Africa.” Now, what should the church do with that vision? They could sit back and thank God for the vision and Praise Him that they are preaching the Good News, but that’s only part of the vision. They could pray expectantly believing that God was going to provide them with a group of newly found HGV drivers along with doctors and nurses. They could, as many churches do, do nothing and just wait for God to fulfil it. Or they could sit down and prayerfully put together a strategy. How are we as a church going to feed the hungry, where is the need in our area, who have we got in our congregation, what resources have we got available, who do we know with a heart for these people, what else in our area might we plug into? Having answered those question the church now has a platform to move on from. They can put people and actions together and not only have a vision but start to fulfil it. There is massive potential in your church if only it would unearth it. We’re told to work out our faith in fear and trembling and the same is true of our visions. What do they really mean? How can we work towards fulfilling them? How can we bring them alive and make them the thing that gets people out of bed in the morning?

Some of us aren’t in a position to influence the leadership of their church but what about these questions… How could you help to fulfil the vision that your church has? Where could you get involved? What has God given you a heart for? Do you really understand the vision of the church and if not who could you turn to for clarification?

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Schindler's List

I love to watch a good movie. The difficult thing I find is finding one amongst all the rubbish that is out there. Now, one of my all time favourite movies for a whole host of reasons is Schindler’s List. It’s not an easy movies to watch and can be heart wrenching one minute and soul destroying the next, but I can help but love it. It’s a film that tells of and shows man’s inhumanity to man and yet at it’s heart is one man’s fight against the evil powers that be. I find parts of the film really difficult to watch but there is one part that gets me every time. The film is near it’s end and they have all been told that the war is now over. The Jews are starting to return to their homes and Oscar Schindler is about to leave one of his factories. Now that it is all over he is suddenly struck by what has been going on and it hits him that he could have done more, he could have saved more lives. He looks at his watch and says that this would have bought a few more lives. He falls to his knees overwhelmed by the fact that he could have done more. He doesn’t well up with pride that he saved so many he is overwhelmed with grief that, perhaps, he could have done more. The pain he is feeling at that point is almost overbearing.

You can almost guess what I’m going to go on to say!! We need to live our lives so that we don’t look back with regret. It is almost an impossible task I believe, because like Oscar Schindler there is always more that can be done. However, let that not be an excuse for us. There is always more to be done, but there is usually more that we could do. I’m not saying that we should run ourselves raged and die at 31 of a stress induced heart attack, but I am saying that there is a world dying out there. Both physically and spiritually the work is there to be done. Will we like Schindler put ourselves out to help save many and then still regret that we could have done more? Or will we sit back and wait for others to do it? Will we see the task as too big and therefore give up before we’ve even started or will we be faithful to the work God has called us to do in our little area of life and slowly make a difference?

I love the story of the boy and the starfish…

One day, an old man was walking along the beach in the early morning and noticed that the storm of last night had washed thousands of starfish up on the shore. Up ahead in the distance he spotted a boy who appeared to be gathering up the starfish, and one by one tossing them back into the ocean.
He approached the boy and asked him why he spent so much energy doing what seemed to be a waste of time.
The boy replied, "If these starfish are left out here like this they will bake in the sun, and by this afternoon they will all be dead."
The old man gazed out as far as he could see and responded, "But, there must be hundreds of miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You can't possibly rescue all of them. What difference is throwing a few back going to make anyway?"
The boy then held up the starfish he had in his hand and replied, "It's sure going to make a huge difference to this one!"

There is so much good that each of us can do if we focus on individuals and the small things we can do rather than get swamped by the bigger picture. I am the worst of culprits. I’m with St Paul as I see the good I should do but I don’t do it. Let’s encourage each other to do our bit, however small, to change this world for the better.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Being Prepared

Isaiah 55:6

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

Some people called it a miracle an act of God. I didn't see it that way. I believe in miracles, I believe that God can move in extraordinary ways beyond our comprehension. However, in this instance I think this wasn't the case. One man had the lives of hundreds in his hands. It looked like a certain disaster with the loss of many lives. All power was gone. All hope seemed to disappear as well. A plane with no engines, in a built up city, with no runway within reach. The odds weren't good and the outlook looked worse. Yet one Chesley Sullenberger was at the controls. He coolly and calmly landed his plane, it's crew and 148 passengers safely, not on a nearby runway or open road but on the Hudson River. People called it the "Miracle on the Hudson", but as I said before I don't think it was. Did the passengers on that plane pray for a miracle. my guess is many of them did. Could God have performed a miracle, I know he could. So, why didn't he? Because Captain Chesley Sullenberger was in control. I guess he had about 2 minutes from realising they were going down until they hit the river. Mr Sullenberger didn't have time to refer to the manual, I guess even if he had have done there wouldn't have been much info on how to land with no engines in a river. However, Captain Chesley Sullenberger had been a fighter pilot and he had been a commercial pilot for 29years. All his training, all his experience pointed to this one event. He knew how to fly this plane, he had flown in every weather condition and had flown for thousands of miles. He had trained, he had prepared, he had practise and because of that, he was ready! He got that plane down safely and saved the lives of those 148 passengers and his crew. It wasn't because of some miracle it was one man was trained, experienced, ready and willing.

Now most of us won't be called on in our lives to land a plane on water or to do anything so dramatic. However, as Christians, we are called day in and day out to make decisions for Christ. If we are trained, willing, practised, experienced and ready we will make wise, discerning decisions. If we are not, the chances are our decisions will be far more touch and go. We need to put in the hours to train ourselves in godliness and righteousness in order, not only to be ready when Christ comes or we are called home, but in order to live the lives God has in store for us. I believe that the Holy Spirit will rarely bring to mind a verse that we have not put into our minds beforehand. If we don’t study God’s word, if we don’t put in the effort it can inhibit the work of God in our lives. If we put in the work, if we study, if we pray , if we seek God we begin to know the heart of God. We can live our lives in the knowledge that He will direct our paths and decisions we make when on auto-pilot will be good and wise ones. When the plane of our life faces a sea of uncertainty it will be the hours of training that we have put in that will make the difference to whether we sink or swim.

1 Corinthians 13: 11
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Hebrew 5: 11-14
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter - It's in the Details

There are certain passages of the Bible that you can read time and time again and you read them for the 50th time and something hits you anew. Most of us have read the Easter Story over and over again. So there is probably little I can tell you about it. However, I learnt something new about it this year that I wanted to pass on!

John 20: 3-9

3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

I’ve read this passage many times and the two things that have struck me are these. Why does it mention that the cloth that covered Jesus’ head was folded up separately? Why does the other disciple go into an open tomb and suddenly believe, especially as we are also told that the still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. I think I would have a pile of questions not a belief!! Where was Jesus, who has got his body, why has someone removed his clothes?

Perhaps it’s just me, but even if I had thought he had come back from the dead I would have been thinking - OK Jesus has risen from the dead- and the first thing he did was to rip off his grave clothes but then stop to neatly fold up the napkin that was around his head? So why weren’t the disciples thinking that? They weren’t thinking that because the knew things that I didn’t! The disciples lived in a culture that I simply don’t know enough about.

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, we have to understand a little bit about Hebrew culture of the day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.
Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table.
The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, "I'm finished.." But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because..........

The folded napkin meant,

"I'm coming back!"

So the disciples didn’t think the grave had been robbed - the clear message that had been left for them in the tomb was “I’m Back!!”

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Finding God in the Mundane

If there’s one thing we as Christians do well it is criticise our church services. Not always negatively but we like to think about them, what was good, what was bad, and what was just downright bizarre!! If we’re being good with think in terms of what brought us nearer to God and what we didn’t find helpful in our walk. We greet the pastor at the door and thank him for a good sermon, which normally means that, for once, we agreed with what he said! We discuss the service over Sunday lunch and decide what we would have said or which hymns we would have chosen.

This is a little bit tongue in cheek but you get what I mean.

The more I have thought about church services and sermons and worship etc. I’ve discovered that it’s all about me! I used to believe that a good, well thought out, service would bring me closer to God. A poor sermon was the fault of the pastor and would, in no way, help me in my journey of faith. Now I believe it is all to do with my attitude, my openness, my level of concentration, my expectation, my focus, my willingness to listen and hear. I believe that God can speak to me through anything. I know he can speak to me through his creation. I know he can speak to me in the silence. He can speak to me in the mundane and in the normal. So, why can’t he speak to me through a dull sermon or a slow and plodding hymn?

If I go to church in the right way God will speak to me through anything. If I go to church in the wrong way the best sermon in the world could easily pass me by. It’s not about what the worship team or pastor puts into the service it’s about what I’m prepared to take out of it. I used to work for a church in Paris, France. It was an Anglican Church and during one of our AGMs someone became a Christian. There was no alter call and nobody preached the gospel but God spoke to that lady in the boring business of a church meeting. She was prepared to listen and had the right attitude. That day her life was changed. Can we find the right way to attend church? Are we prepared for God to speak to us in the normal and the mundane? Can we spend less time pulling the service apart and more time seeking God in the service? It’s not easy - some services are, for us, more conducive to drawing near to God. However, are we prepared to put the effort in during the times when it’s not so easy?