Thursday, 31 July 2008

From the Shadows to Substance

In the present culture we are often encouraged to embrace mystery at the expense of the work that Christ has done for humankind in redemption. Of course we can never fathom the depths of God and must recognise our lack of knowledge, but this should not stop us living in the blessings that He has revealed to us in Christ. Paul's ancient words seem right up to date here in these words to the Colossians. AK

'I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God's great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we've been shown the mystery! I'm telling you this because I don't want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or "the Secret."

I'm a long way off, true, and you may never lay eyes on me, but believe me, I'm on your side, right beside you. I am delighted to hear of the careful and orderly ways you conduct your affairs, and impressed with the solid substance of your faith in Christ.

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that's not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It's not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you're already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it's an initiation ritual you're after, you've already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ's cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

So don't put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ.

St Paul

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Embracing The Pain-A personal letter from George Verwer

Continuing on the theme of suffering and trial, I decided to 'post' a letter from George Verwer which I only discovered on his website tonight. George also encourages people to send it to their friends.Certainly Christians and non-Christians are hurting and have often been hurt by friends or family and even those from their Church. Sometimes the pain goes very deep, especially if they have been 'wounded in the house of their friends'.Christ himself was not exempt from this. He was not only betrayed by Judas but also saw his closest friends run away durin the time of his greatest need.

It is a sad fact that Christians will sometimes take their hurt and resentment to the grave. Though it is hard to do, the Master tells us we must forgive those who have sinned against us.If we do forgive, we can then by his grace, be released from the bondage of resentment and bitterness that had held us in its grip.It is also a truly Christlike thing to do.

May God through His Spirit encourage us to look inside our hearts and let the Him come and minister to us.AK

I have a great burden on my heart and want to share it with as many as possible.

I am burdened for people who are really hurting in a major way. We all have hurts but there are so many who are hurting much more than others.

Often, when we want to help or minister to such people it is not possible because their hurts have created a barrier or wall and people can't get through it. Some Christians have been hurt so much by other Christians, that they will not go to church or fellowship with other believers. For them, it is all too painful.

There are many great books and passages of Scriptures that can help such people but they might not know about them or be hesitant to read them. I am reading such a book right now, Life of the Beloved by Henri JM Nouwen and it has ministered to me in a powerful way. He speaks of finding the courage to embrace our own brokenness and to make our most feared enemy into a friend, even claiming it as an intimate companion.

Shortly after reading this, I had a very painful experience with a friend who was deeply criticising one of my closest friends. It could have really upset me and ruined our time together, but instead, I embraced it as allowed by God and part of what life is all about. Great joy and peace flooded my heart and I was free. I know it doesn't always work that way and that others have hurts 100 times greater than mine, yet they are not too big for God.

How can we who are forgiven of our sins and delivered from hell, not truly forgive with all our being those who have sinned against us? We know that all sin and we teach and preach about it - so why are we surprised when people sin against us?

We all fail. We all sin. Can we not see our own sins that are so often part of the hurt and pain that we are now living with? Oh, how easy for the self-life to blame others and fail to see our part in the situation. In some cases people are blaming God and that becomes even more complex. Whole books like, Disappointed With God by Philip Yancey have been written to help deal with this.

My brothers and sisters, there is great hope for all of us. God has used us and He has a great plan for our lives in our pilgrimage to become more like Christ, which should always be our great goal!

Let us embrace the pain and hurt and allow it to make us better people for His glory.


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Thought about giving up lately?

Following on from J.C. Ryle's 'zealous Christian', I have decided to quote a little of the trials of Paul which he describes to the Corinthians and might be regarded as 'the true marks of an apostle'.How can we think God has deserted us when we have to suffer a little inconvenience-a damaged bumper,a rise in the price of petrol,a failed exam,being called a name? He calls on Christian's, certainly Christian leaders, to follow his example.

Christ's grace was sufficient and His strength was made perfect in Paul's weakness.But we are often too soft, I include myself here, compared to these giants of the faith.It is hard to read these words and not feel ashamed of our lack of endurance, faithfulness, integrity, patience, passion - and love. AK

'For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all,like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men...To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things'.1Cor.4.9.11-13

'We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything'.2 Cor.6.3-10

Monday, 21 July 2008

'The Zealous Christian'

I remember the first time I read this passage by J.C.Ryle, which had been quoted in a little booklet called 'True discipleship' by William McDonald.The whole book had a remarkable affect on me, not least the prose and sentiment of this passage by Ryle, which cut me to the heart, and challenged me to be more zealous for God. May it also be an inspiration for those who read it. AK

A zealous person in Christianity is preeminently a person of one thing. It is not enough to say that they are earnest, strong, uncompromising, meticulous, wholehearted, and fervent in spirit. They only see one thing, they care for one thing, they live for one thing, they are swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether they live, or whether they die-whether they are healthy, or whether they are sick-whether they are rich, or whether they are poor-whether they please man, or whether they give offense-whether they are thought wise, or whether they are thought foolish-whether they are accused, or whether they are praised-whether they get honor, or whether they get shame-for all this the zealous person cares nothing at all.

They have a passion for one thing, and that one thing is top please God and to advance God’s glory. If they are consumed in the very burning of their passion for God, they don’t care-they are content. They feel that, like a candle, they were made to burn; and if they are consumed in the burning, then they have only done the work for which God has appointed them. Such a person will always find a sphere for their zeal.

If they cannot work, or give money, or a man cannot preach, then they will cry out and sigh, and pray. Yes: if they are extremely poor, on a perpetual bed of sickness, they will make the activity of sin around him slow to a standstill, by continually interceding against it. If they cannot fight in the valley with Joshua, they will do the work of Moses, Aaron, and Hur, on the hill. (Exodus 17:9-13) If they are cut off from working themselves, they will give the Lord no rest until help is raised up from another quarterand the work is done. This is what I mean when I speak of zeal in Christianity.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Dan Kimball - They Like Jesus But Not The Church

What do you think of Dan Kimball's video? Do you agree with him that people are put off by the Church and Christians-but love Jesus? Is this a cop out to excuse the way they live or a genuine reason for not becoming a Christian?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Larry Norman and the Jesus Movement

Larry Norman the prophet and evangelist of what was known as the Jesus People died in February this year.His father was a cross- cultural missionary and Larry too was certainly a missionary to his own generation and became fully 'incarnated' within it.What better way could he reach them? I'm sure the Christian mothers and fathers of his generation thought he was too much of a hippy and not enough of being a nice church going boy to be an evangelist- but he was reaching the hippy generation in a way that others didn't. I remember hearing him in Belfast around 1974/75, but was ticked off by the leader of the fellowship group I belonged to.I'm still glad I went to hear him!
Check out
his classic 'I wish they'd all been ready'.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

'The Outlaw' by Larry Norman

Some say He was an outlaw that He roamed across the land
with a band of unschooled ruffians and a few old fishermen
no one knew just where He came from or exactly what He'd done
but they said it must be something bad that kept Him on the run

Some day He was a poet that He'd stand upon the hill
and His voice could calm an angry crowd or make the waves stand still
that He spoke in many parables that few could understand
but the people sat for hours just to listen to that man

Some say He was a sorceror a man of mystery
He could walk upon the water He could make a blind man see
that He conjured wine at weddings and did tricks with fish and bread
that He talked of being born again and raised people from the dead

Some say a politician who spoke of being free
He was followed by the masses on the shores of galilee
He spoke out against corruption and He bowed to no decree
and they feared His strength and power so they nailed Him to a tree

Some say He was the Son of God a man above all men
but He came to be a servant and to set us free from sin
and that's who i believe He was 'cause that's who i believe
and i think we should get ready 'cause it's time for us to leave

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Preaching Christ in a postmodern world -Dr Graham Cole interview

Dr Graham Cole, Principal of Ridley College Melbourne, has looked closely at the challenges post-modernism raises for Christianity. Perspective contributor JOHN DIACOS asked Graham how post-modernism should influence our approach to preaching. Though he speaks out of an Australian context it may equally apply to most Westernised countries be it North America or the United Kingdom.

Over the last 30 years, there’s been a perceptible shift in the way Australians think. Truth is increasingly no longer measured by what is objectively verifiable or reasonable. Reason has been replaced by experience. Opinion, rather than objective data has become the measure of truth, so what is true for you may not be true for me. It’s all part of the movement that’s been tagged “post-modernism.” Dr Graham Cole, Principal of Ridley College Melbourne, has looked closely at the challenges post-modernism raises for Christianity. Perspective contributor JOHN DIACOS asked Graham how post-modernism should influence our approach to preaching Christ.

Perspective: Graham, in simple terms, how would you define post-modernity?

Graham: That’s one of the key issues – how exactly do you define post-modernity? Probably the most famous definition is that of John Francois Lyotard: “incredulity towards meta-narratives”. In other words, there is no big story and “reality” is defined in terms of who you are and where you are and when you are. The enlightenment or modernity could be seen as the religion of Reason. But post-modernity, for want of a better view, is a rejection of modernity’s confidence in Reason. At the same time post-modernity continues the enlightenment’s or modernity’s rejection of the other big R, Revelation. Post-modernity champions a perspectival approach – that reality is matter of perspective.

Perspective: So fundamentally Post-Modernism is relativistic.

Graham: Yes, Richard Rorty, who’s an American philosopher, thinks that “truth is what your friends let you get away with”.

Perspective: Do you think Australia is becoming sufficiently post-modern, or under the influence of Post-Modernism, that requires us to alter the way we preach?

Graham: I think the influence of Post-modern ways of thinking is everywhere. It’s debated in the Universities. It’s there in popular culture. It’s in films and popular music. So, I think it has increasing influence. As for altering the way we preach, I think we need to be more sensitive that we have audiences now which are shaped this way. The apostles were audience sensitive, and so Jesus was preached differently in the synagogue to the way Paul preached on Mars Hill, for example. So too, our preaching needs to be aware that the entry point may differ from audience to audience. Although the end goal will be the same, ultimately we are to preach Christ and him crucified.
So in light of a post-modern audience, the preacher may change style in that he uses more illustrations and may appeal more to metaphors and images, but in the end still aims to present all mature in Christ as Paul did. So again the message is the same in the end but the entry point may be different.



Thursday, 3 July 2008

'Things in life aren't always quite what they seem' :Scroobius Pip Vs Dan le Sac and St James

My daughter sent me these lyrics for my blog -a contempory Hip Hop song. It has things in common with the wise James( known by the early Church as 'Camel Knees' as a result of the amount of time he spent in prayer).My own generation tend to unjustly judge the motives and actions of the younger without full knowlege of the circumstances.Only God truly knows the heart.We often lack compassion and judge before we hear the whole story-this is often evident in the fighting and sectarianism between communities throughout the world, not least in Northern Ireland.With our tongues can also stir up trouble between friends,families,communities and churches.James gives us good advice : "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."James 1:19. I know I've been challenged by these words myself-self righteousness is an occupational hazzard for those who profess Christianity!If you haven't read James in a while it is well worth reading- but beware:he doesn't pull any punches!.AK

Things in life aren't always quite what they seem,
there's more than one given angle to any one given scene.
So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene
on any one given angle
to any one given scene.

My name's Mark, I go to Uni and College,
don't socialise that much,
I just revise and use knowledge.
At times I find that I become a virtual recluse
and let my belt of interruption hang decisively loose.
But I came here to learn, that's the life that I choose
and if people think I'm boring then they can bring their abuse.
See, a lot of people think I'm boring and say that maybe I'm a weirdo and maybe I'm gay but that's cool,
'cause when I get a good job and good pay I'll get a house for just my brother and me some day.
That's the reason I'm here,
just to build for my future.
If it means better grades I'll even sleep with my tutor.

Thing's in life aren't always quite what they seem,
there's more than one given angle to any one given scene.
So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene on any one given angle to any one given scene.

My name's Paul, I've been a guard for six months and the shop that I guard is better than most dumps and I like it here, my boss is a pro, he's taught me tricks of the trade other guards wouldn't know. He's taught me in this game there's some rules you gotta bend and not to forget these thieving pricks ain't your friends and appearance is key there's a message to send and above all it's your fellow guards to defend. Today my boss was stabbed by some low-life psycho, He's in hospital now so every night that's where I go, he's on the brink but he's showing no fear though 'cause if he dies there, he'll be dying a hero.

Things in life aren't always quite what they seem, there's more than one given angle to any one given scene. So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene on any one given angle to any one given scene.

My name's Keith, I ain't so much a racist; but if one reached out their hand I'd decline their embrace. I work security in a shop, in charge of 5 other guards, I got all their respect 'cause I run this shit hard. I nicked one kid today, didn't show enough respect and attention. I grabbed him by his neck as my form of redemption. Didn't do no harm, just made sure that it hurt, it ain't going by the book but believe me it works. Then I sent him on his way, this little sh1t knows the score now. I saw a little bit of fear, he won't darken my door now. That's what I do, stop these kids from decline, do what their parents won't do. Put down some boundaries and lines.

Things in life aren't always quite what they seem, there's more than one given angle to any one given scene. So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene on any one given angle to any one given scene.

My name's Billy. I've been beaten since I was three, Mum died when I was born and Dad takes it out on me. He ain't a bad man, He just gets drunk and feels alone, I tend to go for walks and hope he's asleep when I get home. Don't like to talk about it though. As I said, it ain't his fault, it only happens when he's drunk as a last resort. Wanted to get him a gift, to show my support, but had no money and I stole and I guess I got caught. At times like that, I tend to switch of my mind, stare blankly into space and let what happens unwind. I seemed to anger this guard, he put his hands around my neck, he said it's time for me to learn some manners and respect. It hurt. But I've had worse before, it made me realise life is just a series of wars. I went straight home that day and locked the bathroom door. Took a blade to both wrists, they won't hurt me no more.

Things in life aren't always quite what they seem, there's more than one given angle to any one given scene. So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene on any one given angle to any one given scene.

My name's Mark and today I was told my brother is dead. I returned home from university, tears on his bed. On his pillow I found his suicide note and read what had happened that day and what had mucked up his head! The anger I felt there are no words to express, I filled with so much rage there is no way to digest. I grabbed a knife, I went to town, it was time to regress. Back to an eye for an eye, last breath for last breath. I went straight up to the counter, I said I'd like to speak to the guard who nicked my brother on Tuesday of this week. As the girl knocked on the door and disappeared out of sight, I put my hand in my pocket, gripped the knife tight. This was it, as she pointed me out to the guard, My hand began to shake I held the knife so hard. As he approached me, there was nothing to say. I stabbed that mucker eight times, before they could take me away.

Things in life aren't always quite what they seem, there's more than one given angle to any one given scene. So bear that in mind next time you try to intervene on any one given angle to any one given scene.