Friday, 31 December 2010


Tomorrow it will be a new year.  But what will set 2011 apart from all other years, what will happen in this coming year that will be a landmark in your life.

There are eleven things that could, for me, make 2011 a very good year indeed.

It could be the year that:

1 - A close relative gives their life to Christ
2 - Children in Rathcoole are celebrated instead of ridiculed
3 - I become more like Jesus
4 - Loyalist and republican paramilitaries disband
5 - Money is not the primary concern of most people
6 - Our churches learn to love better
7 - I am a good steward with my time
8 - North Korea becomes open to the Gospel
9 - I become a better husband
10 - Holiness becomes a priority in the Church of Christ
11 - Revival comes

Of course all these things are up to God not me. But hey, if you don't ask you don't get.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6

Thursday, 30 December 2010

New Year Revolution

Is it really possible to change yourself?

They say a leopard can't change it's spots and every year millions of people prove that proverb when they make resolutions which don't last a week.

Have you decided what yours will be this year? Let me help you.  Eat less chocolate.  Exercise more.  Visit granny more often. Work harder.

Or maybe you're a religious type and you want more worthy goals.  Read your Bible more. Pray more. Give more to Church.  Give more to Charity.

All these things are good so why is it that so few of them last?  Simply because we try to do them by ourselves, under our own steam, by our own power.  We do not have the power to change ourselves we need someone else to do it for us.

We must work with the Holy Spirit to meet goals worthy of God to work towards.  Important as the things mentioned above are they should not be our primary target.  Our resolution should be this; to become more like Jesus.  This will remain a resolution of ours until the day we die.  This is our life's work.

Of course this is impossible without first having the Spirit of God within us.  That is the first step, that is a revolution of the soul.  When we accept the lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit lives in us then we can begin a new life never mind a new year.

If everyone seriously worked towards this goal, if everyone became more like Jesus every day, how different would the world be?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Turkey curry anyone?

It's all over for another year.

All that's left to do now is eat the left overs, pack away the decorations and grumble about the weight we've all put on.  All the fuss and hurry, all the hassle and stress, all the buying of presents and learning new carols has passed.  So the question must be, was it worth it?

In our case I think it was, we had a great Christmas day and a great boxing day.  There was the occasional moment of food based stressed (cremated parsnips anyone?) but overall things went well and we had a lovely time.

Unfortunately that is not going to be the case for everyone, as much as we would like it to be life is not suspended at Christmas.  People still fight and annoy, people still get sick and die, things happen that range from the inconvenient to the tragic. Unfortunately life and death and loneliness don't stop on Christmas day. (If any of you have experienced a Christmas like that and you would like prayer then don't be afraid to email your requests here).

And now the sales.  Everything is reduced, bargains are to be had.  This is the time when people queue for three days outside a shop so to get some cheap white goods or a half price frock.  It is silly season when people spend money they don't have on stuff they don't need just because they are told they are getting a bargain.  As my granny always said, 'It's only a bargain if you need it.'

The Irony is that people seem to quickly forget about the free gift offered to them,  a gift which is backed by a massive advertising campaign at this time of year.  The free gift of eternal life through Jesus.  A proper gift with longevity.  A gift that will never break, or decay, or loose it's shine.  The gift of salvation is there for everyone, for you.  Snap it up.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

A star will come out of Jacob
Numbers 24:17

Well this is it, the day before the day before Christmas.

I've been banging on about Christmas so much it seems strange that it has actually arrived.  All the preparaions are well underway and excitement has reached fever-pitch.

This is the last post I'm going to write until next Tuesday so I simply want to wish you all a very happy Christmas.  I know for some Christmas can be difficult as you are reminded of people who are not around anymore. But it can also be a time of remarkable joy, of memory making and of refreshment and I hope it is that for you.

To finish for Christmas I thought it would be nice if we all took the opportunity to send a little message to each other even if it's just to say Happy Christmas. If you have anything you'd like prayed for you are of course very welcome to share that either with a comment or, if you'd prefer, by email.

What-ever you do this Christmas and whoever you spend it with I ask you to please take a little time out to remember the Lord Jesus.  He left Heaven to come here to earth so that He might rescue us from sin.  He came to be with us.  There will be a lot going on over the holidays but a quiet moment thinking of, talking to and worshipping this great King will be time well spent.

Have a super Chistmas, have fun, eat lots and be grateful for all you get and then, when it's all over, sleep well.

Happy Christmas,


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Second best?

3 weeks done.

Well not quite, that's the problem.  I am a little behind in the 90 day challenge.  I've been busy you see, Christmas and all that.

Of course that's not really the problem at all. I've been busy doing good things when I should've been busy doing the best thing.  I have not been prioritising my bible time.

Our God is a jealous God, He'll not be pleased that I have been spending all my time with others and neglecting my Him and me time. So today this is all the blog you are getting because I'm off to spend some serious time with my Lord.

If any who are up to speed want to share that would be very good indeed.


And here is a Christmas Carol from Third Day

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

After three: one, two, three...

Last night the wife and I had Christmas dinner with our friend Roger.

It was a traditional meal with all the trimmings.  We had chili, paprika chicken and a pasta dish and to be quite honest it was all delicious.

After dinner we ended up flicking through some tunes off the old computer and somehow began playing the intros game.  You know, the one were you have to be the first to guess the tune.  There was a slight twist as all the tunes were TV themes.

I love stuff like that, I don't care if it doesn't seem very rock 'n' roll.  To me this is the perfect game because if you are good at it - brilliant, if not you can just let on that you have more of a life than the others and what are they watching so much TV for anyway.

One of our number really excelled, suddenly he found his gift.  It seemed almost supernatural, he was guessing TV themes for shows that he had never watched, had never heard of and I'm sure for some of them, didn't even exist.

He was machine gunning the answers out.
"The Littlest Hobo"
"Grey's Anatomy"
"Steptoe and Son"

It was endless.  The rest of us just sat is stunned admiration, we were filled with awe and wonder (and after a while maybe even a little fear).

Of course some of the tunes were instantly recognisable and we all were able to join in with the answers and, on occasion, we even sang along.  Now this might sound all very naff to you but lets be honest, who doesn't want to sing along to 'The Fresh Prince of Bel Air', or 'Neighbours', or 'Friends'.  It's almost a reflex, an in-build compulsion.

In the midst of all this awesomeness a pattern started to emerge.  We knew a bit of a lot of songs.  We knew the hook or the chorus or the tune, but very few of us new all the words to the songs and on occasion when we were pretty confidently belting out a musically suspect cover version of a popular classic we found ourselves getting the words wrong, words we were convinced we knew perfectly for a couple of decades.

This week we celebrate Christmas and for many it is an intro that we know and love.  We've got this bit of the story down pat.  Little baby born in a manger, Angels, Shepherds, Wise Men, Herod etc etc.  We sing the intro every year, we love to be reminded of happy times when we heard the tune before.

 How many know the rest of the song.  How many know the complete story. A perfect innocent child, born with no sin to live in a world of sin.  A baby born to die.  Born to be punished for the crimes of others, for the crimes of us. Born to save us, born because of His great love for us. God, not somewhere else, not looking on dispassionately; but with us, God with us.

The intro to the Gospel song is a truly beautiful one but the song needs to be heard in full to truly appreciate the beginning. 


Here's a little treat, something for you to join in with. You know you want too.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Derek the snow-giant

Snow-giants aren't too well known, they keep themselves hidden away and only come out of hiding once or twice a year.

Some Snow-giants are cruel and heartless, they have the power to make people late for work or cancel plays and concerts.  Snow-giants can be so cruel that they just love making people slip and fall and look really really silly when they are out in the street.

Derek was different from the other Snow-giants.  He was kindly and loving.  He loved to see kiddies playing in the snow, sledging, having snowball fights and making mini replica snow-giants in their front gardens.

Derek was a real people person
 The problem with Derek was that whenever he had nice kind thoughts towards something he would warm up and start to melt a little so being nice was quite dangerous for him.  In order to keep himself safe, Derek had to stop thinking nice things and instead join in with the other snow-giants and be cruel and inconvenient like them.  This made Derek sad but he figured it was for the best.

One day when, when all the Snow-giants where having there annual winter conference in Newtownabbey, Derek was out blocking a main arterial route into the city when he spotted a Snow-giant he had never seen before - a girl snow-giant named Tracy.  Tracy was very beautiful indeed, she had a wonderful wide girth, eye's the colour of £2 coins, lips of purest coal and a Kashmir scarf from Marks and Spencer.

Immediately Derek started to melt and he dashed into a nearby back garden before Tracy noticed but it was too late.

'What's wrong Derek, why are you hiding? Don't you like me?'  Derek was so touched by her venerability that he started to melt some more leaving a little puddle by his base. 

'Ah, I see', said Tracy, 'You just needed the loo, my mistake.'

Derek was so embarrassed and ashamed that he could not let Tracy go still thinking that he was incontinent rather than in love.  He slid after her and called out, 'Tracy wait!'

She turned and looked at him with those golden eyes, Derek melted faster, starting with his heart.  He could see the confused look on Tracy's facey.  But then she began to realise what was happening.  She had heard about the danger of warm feelings and, as a well behaved girl had always controlled hers but this was different from anything she had seen.

'Tracy I, I...'  Derek's head started to become runny and one of his eyes was sliding down his cheek.  He was finding it hard to speak because one-by-one the pieces of coal that made up his mouth where dropping down to his feet.  He only had time to blurt out, ' I think I love you!'

At this Tracy was overcome with emotion.  All kinds of new feelings started welling up inside her.  She thought about fighting them but before long she just gave in and she started to melt as well.

Derek saw Tracy start to melt, she felt the same.  They slid towards each other and embraced and they melted into each others arms, happy and content and free from their bondage of hate.

The steam from there bepuddled bodies was too much for the other snow-giants and, seeing the joy on the faces of Derek and Tracy, seeing the happiness that love can bring, seeing that it is better to sacrifice for love that live in selfish preservation they gave in to the feelings they had been battling for so long.  They turned to each other, some as friends, some as family, others in romance and let out the warmth that was within.  Soon all that remained were large puddles slowly drying in the winter sun.

All the people where glad to see the back of the Snow-giants and their cursed snow, little did they know that their lives where made easier by Derek and Tracy, the first love-puddles.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Snow is falling

Today is the type of day Shakin' Stevens lives for.

It is cold and miserable and slushy and cold and slow and cold. Did I mention cold?  Despite all this I still love the snow. 

The thing that makes snow so very wonderful is that it makes everything so pretty. All things are white (apart from a little yellow spot near each lamp post - thanks Rocky) and that beautifies them.  It takes away all their impurities, it covers up all the blemishes, it makes everything clean and fresh.

If only the stains on our character and on our hearts caused by the dye of sin could be covered over and made clean in this way, if only we could be made as white as snow.  Oh wait...

Come now, let us settle the matter,”
   says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
   they shall be as white as snow"
Isaiah 1:18



You see Bing, dreams can come true.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Simply having a wonderful Christmas crime

A car was hijacked on the Lisburn Road, Belfast, last night (read the BBC report here).

Clearly this was a very shocking experience for the twenty-five year old driver.  He was punched in the face and thrown out of the car before it was driven off at pace. However it was probably even more shocking for the driver's nine year old sister who the hijakers hadn't spotted in the back seat.  In fact they didn't notice her until after they had backed the car into a wall and driven a distance down the road.  It was only then that they turfed her out of the vehicle.

Is this a modern day commentary on what is happening to Christmas?  The three thieves who took the car certainly could not be described as wise men but lets think about this story.

Christmas has been hijaked by people who are in a hurry.  In a hurry to eat, to have fun, to make money and to spend money.  It seems to me that they have forgotten there is a child at the heart of all this. Not a helpless child but one who would become the Saviour of the world.  A child-King born in a manger.

I fear that at some point the hijakers will remember that child, stop the runaway car-crash that Christmas is becoming and throw Him out of the vehicle altogether.

But them maybe I'm just too grumpy and cynical.

The 12 Days of Christmas by Reliant K. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Week 2. Done.

Another seven days have past and the 90 Day plan has taken us through the books of Leviticus, Numbers and most of Deutoronomy.  We are almost at the end of the Torah, the Law books.

Some of these books have a pretty bad reputation, they are seen as boring and irrelevent and I wasn't really looking forward to them too much.  Having done this weeks reading though I've got to say that I enjoyed it very much.

It maybe helped that the finish line was only a couple of days away for each book but I think the main thing was that when you are still very aware of what went before (because you read it the day before yesterday) it's easier to understand why the different laws were given and why the ancestry etc is so important to the Israelite people.

In yesterday's reading there was a verse that really stood out to me.

You must not worship the LORD your God in their way.
Deuteronomy 12:4

Not only were the Israelites to worship a different God from the ones worship by the inhabitants of Canaan but they where to worship Him in a different way.   God is unlike other gods, He is different.  Other religions are lost in superstition and despair whereas the God of Israel brings hope and deliverence.

We too are to worship God in a different way than the world worships her idols.  Our God is not a popstar or a shiny car or sport. Our God is different, He is alive and full of power, He is holy, He should be treated that way.

There are many other things that could be learnt from the weeks readings, maybe you'd like to share them?


Some mid-week music now, as is our custom.  Here's Jars of Clay with a new take on a Christmas classic.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

You better watch out

Voting has all all but closed on the Santa poll so I thought it might be good to reflect on the whole issue again.

Most of you who voted have gone for the 'He's OK in the right amount' option.  Fair enough.  Over the last wee while I've had some interesting discussions with a number of people about the big fat imaginary lump of a man.  I have been sent video clips and newspaper articles, I have been supported and criticized, and quite frankly I've thoroughly enjoyed it all.

But can any good come of this discussion?  I certainly cannot change the opinion of anyone, I cannot force a parent to unveil Santa as a fraud nor would I want to.   The point of the discussion is simply to recognise the issue and encourage us all to have an opinion on it.  It is not healthy for any of us, least of all Christians to blindly accept cultural norms without running them through our Christian sieve as it were, to test them and ensure they do not force us to compromise what we know to be right.

In all the conversations I've had about Santa in the last month or so I have found no-one who accepts Santa as completely harmless and entirely positive.  The concept of Father Christmas, it seems, is something to be cautious about at the very least.

The fact of the matter is that Santa is present in our culture, we cannot eradicate him and so we need to deal with him.  How you do that is up to you but I urge you sincerely to be very careful with the Santa myth.  Ensure that Jesus remains distinct from him, That Jesus is the be all and end all.  He is the great gift -giver, He is the one that hears prayers, He is the one that brings joy.  It is not good for your family or your kids (whether present or future) if you put yourself in debt and danger just to hold up the pretence  that Santa is capable of delivering every present they want.

Children need real love at Christmas more than they need gifts.  Their family and friends are the ones who can give them that, not a figment of someone else's imagination.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12If you want to read an article by Mark Driscoll on the subject click here (thanks Nic).  you can also watch the most excellent video below (thanks Rick)

Monday, 13 December 2010

From the Cardle to the grave

I don't know who Matt Cardle is.

Well of course I know that he won The X Factor but that's about all I know.  He was in the final with some teen band called 'no direction' and another female contestant.

I also know that little Matt is going to release a cover version of a song by Biffy Clyro - whoever she is - and he hopes to get to number one.  Some people are all annoyed by this and have started an internet campaign to get the original version to number one instead as a victory for 'real music'.

I think all this is great I just wish I knew what they were all on about.  As a cool down-with-the homies kinda dude I should really be keeping up with all the latest 911's, picking up the word on the street and slammin' some beats on ma ipod - Tuune!  But the truth of  the matter is that I am a little out of touch with popular cultural trends.

This was very apparent when I went to see The Messiah on Friday night and actually quite enjoyed it, changed times.

The question is, does it matter?  If the trendy young things are into different things than I was at their age does that mean we've nothing to learn from one another? I hope not.  I have the genuine privilege of spending a bit of time with some young people through stuff I do in church.  I can honestly say that just because their taste in music is awful and their fashion sense is virtually non-existant doesn't mean they are a bunch of wasters.  In fact quite the opposite.  I learn a lot from their new outlook, their fresh approach to each other, their capacity for handling technological advances, their desire to work hard and their graciousness to accomodate people like me.

This lot were too grumpy to win

Wisdom can certainly be increased with experience but it doesn't start in old age.  In fact their is no shortage of old fools about.  Of course some of young people think they know it all - they don't - but some older people think they know it all too - they don't either.

If you think people judge you because of your age take heart in what the Bible says. It teaches that you shouldn't be belittled because of your age but it also says you should set an example to others through your behaviour and attitude.  Be good young people, be wise, be courageous, be Godly so that we can learn from you.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

Friday, 10 December 2010

Sicky bad and boke-ing

My poor wife is sick.

She felt unwell yesterday evening and then around half 9 it all came out.  Being sick is a realy horrible thing as you all know, your body trying to rid itself of whatever poison it has picked up and it does it pretty violently.

It's amazing the inbuilt protection systems that our body has. Pain, fear, our conscience... Sometimes we don't like to be protected in that way because of the pain or the emotion or the guilt, sometimes we even wish that we could be 'cured' from the effects of the very things that protect us but where would that leave us?

Our bodies and minds are very well designed.  They were undoubtedly created by someone who knew what He was doing; they are not an accident and they are not the result of ramdom chance.

I hate to see my wife sick but I'm glad she is in the care of a God who can design her body in such a way that it can protect itself against germs and bugs - even my computer can't do that!

 Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5

Thursday, 9 December 2010

We're all in this together

Last night Rathcoole Presbyterian Church delivered about 2000 Christmas cards to homes in Rathcoole. Why? To wish people a happy Christmas.
Is there still room for uncynical acts of goodwill in this day and age? Sometimes I wonder.  Churches get so caught up at times in advertising and invitation that it must seem very contrived to 'people out there'.

So how do we know if we as a church genuinely care about people or if we are only interested in bums on seats?  If someone tells you that they are a Christian do you  celebrate with them or do you automatically wonder what church they go to and if you approve or not? When talking to someone who is not yet a Christian are you happy to promote a church local to them or do you make it out like yours is the only Church worth going to?

I know that all churches don't behave in the same ways and doctrines can be different too but unless those differences are causing a church to step outside the teaching of the Bible then we should be happy to see it grow and see people come to faith through it.

I bring this up because I am guilty of it, I loose sight on occasion that this is the Lord's church and it is his battle we are fighting.  It must be very displeasing for Him to see His bride at war with itself, especially when it can be over such petty issues or jealousy of another's apparent success. 

Let's instead delight in doing good for people, share the Gospel when and where we can and let's not turn everything into an exercise of self-promotion.

If you are not a Christian and you look on the church as a squabbling self-interested hypocrite-filled organisation then I apologise that we have caused you to feel that way.  The truth is that the church is full of people who are very far from perfect and if it weren't for the grace of God we would be nowhere.  The good news is that if you are imperfect God can save you by grace as well and you can come and join us on our struggle to be better, it helps when we do it together.

   I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6

Everyone is special in their own way, we make each other strong. We're not the same; we're different in a good way. Together's where we belong.


If you'd like to see a photo of me looking like a homeless ex-con click here and if you'd like to read an interview all about my good self then click here. Much obliged.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Extraordinarily ordinary

7 down 83 to go.

Yes we now have the first week of our 90 day challenge over us.  The books of Exodus and Genesis have been read and the great stories that we learnt in childhood have been remembered and some the the ones they forgot to teach us too. 

We had the weak Adam and his ambitious wife.  The dysfunctional families of Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob culminating in Joseph who himself seemed pretty annoying in his younger days.  Then after a few centuries Moses entered the fray.  Here was a man who didn't want to be the one, he didn't want to speak on behalf of his God and set his people free. 

All the while these very human people were messing up, taking backward steps and, on occasion, being first-class idiots, God was there.  He was patiently working His plan through the great patriarchs of old who were, on close examination, not much different from the likes of you and me.  Fallen, in need of grace and doing anything good only by the will of God.

It is simply fantastic that our God can use ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things.  I've never been so pleased to be an ordinary person.

Next up is Leviticus.  This book gets a pretty bad rap at times.  I can understand why; this is not a story book and in some ways it does not feel too relevant in our modern age. However it is extremely relevant.  Leviticus is a book which shows us not just the law of God but gives us an insight into the reasons for the laws.  The protection of the poor and the rights of women are recurrent themes as with the promotion of habits leading to a healthy lifestyle.  There is also a strong emphasis on the importance of holiness.

Over and above all this is the sense that the standard is too high.  People can not live up to the standards of God and need regular atonement for their wrong-doing through a system of sacrifices. Unfortunately even these sacrifices are not good enough to last beyond the second they are offered.  If only there was a sacrifice that could be offered once, that would last for all time and that would cover everybody's sin!

Unlike the other high priests, he [Jesus] does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrews 7:27

I have been relearning a few things through this process already:

* I do have the time to read the bible but sometimes I lack the will to prioritise it.
* Every time the Bible is read something is taught.
* Reading the Bible does not stop me sinning.

What have you learnt?


Some mid-week music from Mr Jeremy Camp and his far from ordinary facial hair.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Last night, as Rathcoole was covered in a layer of icing, the Christmas feeling was starting to hit.

We had some visitors, there was Roger and the Special One and the Special One's Better Half.  Unfortunately one of our number had been detained by Peter Kay but we'll not hold that against him.  After a brief chat about how I had missed the most important part of the Downpatrick Christmas tree saga - the fact that Jedward turned on the lights (thanks to the well-informed Special One's Better Half) - the six of us decided to indulge in all things festive with a film that celebrates the true meaning of the season - Love Actually.

Ah what a heart-warming tale it is. Love, loss, and inevitably, love again.  Staring the annoyingly handsome Hugh Grant, the charmingly handsome Colin Firth, the awkwardly handsome Martin Freeman, the ruggedly handsome Liam Neeson and Alan Rickman.  Not to mention Tiffany from Neighbours, little Keira Knightly and the fabulous Emma Thompson.

This film is set in a perfect world where it doesn't matter if you catch your brother sleeping with your wife or if your gay best friend fancies your bride, or if you're a bumbling Prime Minister who slags off the US president, or if your husband is buying expensive gifts to his secretary or if you are a porn star. It's all OK just as long as you have love, actually.

Despite the cynical, heart-string pulling, implausible storyline, I quite liked it, actually.  It's one of those films that just makes you feel nice inside (in an amoral, whats-the-world-coming-to kind of way).

In a way the message is exactly on track.  It matters not what way you have lived your life because love can conquer all.  But it's not the love of a beautiful woman it's the love of God and your loving response to that love.  That love will quite literally cover a multitude of sins, it is all around us, it must be that love, that love changes everything.

This unique love is a perfect one.  Not marred by betrayal or jealousy or hurt. It's a love of the Holy for the unholy, it's forgiving, redeeming, sanctifying love.  It is miraculous and it is mine.  Maybe it's yours too (you'll understand why I feel this way about it), if it's not and you want it, you can have it.

If you are alone or just lonely, if you are heart-broken or a heart-breaker there is a love that will change your life for ever.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
John 4:10

Monday, 6 December 2010

How lovely are your branches?

The good people of Downpatrick were distraught this week when a sub-standard Christmas tree was erected in the town.  Oh dear.

To be fair the tree was pretty pathetic.  It was a scrawny beast with neither shape nor make - a truly ignoble fir.

In this age of austerity I suppose the council was trying to do the citizens a good turn by getting a Christmas tree from the dump instead of an imported Norwegian job costing thousands.  I mean what do people want - hospitals or Christmas decorations?

To be fair the thing wasn't in a great location. It was plonked between a toilet block and a postbox.  Apparently this was the only place available that wouldn't be a health and safety risk to pedestrians.  And to make absolutely sure that there was no danger they erected a large industrial fence around it.  Season to be jolly?  Somebody was having a laugh.

Thankfully, due the media getting involved there has now been a new tree put up in it's traditional spot in the centre of Downpatrick.  Of course at the moment that area is a construction site but no-one seems too worried about that. 

So everyone goes away happy, all is right with the world, Christmas is Christmas again.

It's amazing how some little things in peoples lives can get them so het up.  Of course it happens to all of us, it happens to me frequently.  I get all riled up about all sorts of nonsense and then other big things don't even register.  I think sometimes it's easier to give out about ineffectual things because we feel at least we have a chance to be heard, to do something about them.  When it comes to the big stuff we have no say.  We don't have control over world politics or famine, or persecution, or the weather.  We don't have the ear of the President or the Queen or the Prime Minister.  We have no-one to give off too about the state of our schools or the deficit or bankers bonuses.  Or do we? Any suggestions?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Ephesians 6:18

Friday, 3 December 2010

Never too old

Old age is a gift which, sadly, some are never given.  Even more sadly some chosoe to squander this gift.  It's not always their fault; our society says that when you finish working for money you are done, over, useless, put out to graze, washed up... you get the idea.

That is shameful.

As part of the 90 day challenge we've been reading about the trials and tribulations of Abraham.  Now you may think of Abraham as a holy man, close to God and close to perfect.  He was certainly close to God but perfect he was not.

There's lots to say about the man but the best thing to do if you want to know all about him is to read Genesis 12 -25. (Another top tip is to get yourself along to Rathcoole Presbyterian Church to hear Stewart Glendinning preach about him.)  There is one thing that I have to mention though...

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
Genesis 17:1-2

Ninety-nine! After this promise to Abraham he had several children, almost sacrificed one of them, met some angels, witnessed the destruction of two cities, talked with Kings, buried one wife and married another.... In short, he had a busy retirement.

Don't get me wrong I know that not everyone is going to find themselves in the same situations as Abraham, not everyone will even make it to that age, but anyone who says they are too old to be useful to God needs to read about Abraham's life and think again.

Abraham did some of his best work as an old guy, not to mention all the physical activity he found time for.  In God's eyes it seems that saying 'I'm too old' is a sign of immaturity.

As we age there are certain limitations imposed on us by our ever weakening bodies, this seems to start about the age of 18.  But when we have Christ we are more than the sum of our parts, we are more than our weaknesses, in fact God says, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In summary you 'can do all things through Him who gives [you] strength'. Philippians 4:13


Check out this awful song.  This is the original version of the Bluebells hit, 'Young at Heart' by Bananarama.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Snowed under

You may have not have noticed but there's a bit of snow about.

It's not too bad here in Rathcoole but in parts of Armagh, Ireland and Britain it appears to be quite rough. Roads are blocked airports are at a standstill and schools are closed.

As a result a lot of people can't get into work, instead they work from home.

Many think 'working from home' is just a euphemism for enjoying a bit of a skive.  Sending a few emails and then spending a couple of hours watching Bargain Hunt or Jeremy Kyle with a toasted bagel and a cup of coffee.  But is it really like that.

Given the chance would you skive of work and never let on?

As someone who is based at home I know the temptation only too well.  I need to set myself rules like 'no TV during the day' and try to get a routine together.  For me being busy is liberating because the fight against procrastination is won by the necessity to get things done.  It's the days when I need to do preparation in the 'study' or come up with new ideas etc that are the danger days.  I'd appreciate your prayers for my concentration on those days.

To be able to work when no-one is looking is a measure of character.  To be diligent with tasks with no deadlines, to do what you should not just what you are required to.  If you had a snow-day how would you spend it, would you waste it or would you fill it with something useful?  How much of a day off would you spend on facebook for example compared to how long you might spend in prayer?

This is a challenge to me, maybe it is for you too.

Lazy hands make for poverty, 
but diligent hands bring wealth.
Proverbs 10:4


One thing you could do on a free day read that day's portion of the 90 day bible reading challenge.  Yesterday's (day one) was very enjoyable and didn't take too long in the end. Of course it's easier to break a habit than make one so we've got to keep at it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Givin' it 90

The bible is the greatest selling book in the world ever - fact.  Most of us have one somewhere in the house, some of us read it regularly, some semi-regularly, some never look at it at all.

It is a book of many stories but they are all part of one overall story. A story of unrequited love of the Good towards the bad.  A story of redemption and reconciliation. A love conquers all story with violence, political intrique, lust and betrayal.  A story which spans countries and lasts for centuries.  A story of frustration and hope and one which ends with a climax to match no other.  A true story.

Some of you I'm sure will have read every word and are doing that continually, I applaud you for that. The bible as well as a story is a book packed with timeless truths, a book that you can live your life by.  Reading the bible is the clearest and most understandable way to know it's auther - God Himself.  He is the author of life and He has revealed Himself through the bible.  This is His story.

I have read it, every word.  But recently my reading has been somewhat unstructured, I drift a little from passage to passage, I lack a little discipline. So I'm going to do something about it and I would like you to join me.

Using the 90 day reading plan spoken of by Caroline Moore in last Friday's post I will attempt to read the whole story in three months, and Caroline is going to do it with me.  Want to join us?

This is not a sponsored event, or a gimmick.  It's not to show-off or to raise our Holy rating.  God will not love us or you more for doing this or love us less for not doing it.  Instead the aim is to immerse ourselves in God's word.  To enjoy the simple story of love that will not fail.  To jump into the Word of God and roll about in it, to indulge ourselves with God's words.  Walking and talking with Him as He personally guides us through the Great book He has written.

It works out at around 15 chapters a day.  That's a lot and I'm not sure I could keep that up for ever but for three months I know it's possible.  The idea is not to read 15 chapters in the time it would normally take to read one or two but rather to jealously make time for it, prioritising.  Like you do when you're reading a page turning novel or engrossed in a box-set or in the mood for a lovely daydream.

I'll put up the bible readings on a weekly basis (They will be at the top of the sidebar they way they are now), we can do it together.  I'll keep you posted from time to time on how we are getting on and, if you wish, you can do the same.  If we fail we are not failures but if we succeed we will benefit enormously.

Today is day 1.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, 
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105


Some mid-week music now; The mighty Third Day with Lift up Your Face.