Thursday, 8 December 2011

Joiners wanted


The following is taken directly from an article from the 9marks blog by Jonathan Leeman (read the full article here) I've been thinking a bit recently about why becoming a member of a church is important and what the benefits are. I think this article is pretty good but you may have other ideas, feel free to share them.


REASONS TO JOIN THE CHURCH
Typically, I generally encourage a person to join the church...


For the sake of the pastors. It lets the pastors know who you are, and makes them responsible for you (see Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).


For the sake of obedience to Jesus. Jesus did not give you the keys of the kingdom for binding and loosing. He gave the keys to the apostolic local church (Matt. 16:13-20; 18:15-20). You don’t have the authority to baptise yourself or feed yourself the Lord’s Supper. It requires a church to affirm your profession of faith, which is what membership is at its very heart (see Acts 2:38).


For the sake of other believers. Joining makes you responsible for one local congregation, and they for you. You now own or have a share in their discipleship to Christ. That is, you are now responsible for their growth and professions of faith, insofar as you are responsible for the church’s faithful gospel preaching (Gal. 1) and that individual’s discipline (Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5).


For one’s own spiritual good and safety. Suppose YOU ever become that lamb who wanders away from the fold (Matt. 18:12-14). It’s your church that Jesus will send after you (Matt. 18:15-20).


For the sake of non-Christian neighbours. Membership helps to protect and promote the reputation of Christ on earth by guarding the church’s witness (see Matt. 5:13-16; 28:18-20; John 13:34-35). Membership is how the world knows who represents Jesus!


DIFFERENT REASONS FOR NOT JOINING
The more specific counsel that I offer depends on why the person is not joining:


“I’m a member elsewhere.” Sometimes people say they don’t want to join because they are a member of a church elsewhere. If that’s the case, I try to explain that church membership is not a sentimental attachment. It’s a living, breathing relationship. If you’re in a place for more than a few months, you should join the church you attend.


“I had a bad experience with a church.” Maybe a person had bad, even abusive experience with a previous church. When that’s the case, patience and understanding should certainly be shown. Their challenge is like the challenge of someone coming out of an abusive marriage. It’s hard to trust again, and one cannot force trust. But you also know that recovering relational health means learning to trust again, which always involves taking a risk. Bottom line: you should still encourage the person to join, even if your manner and pace might adjust.


“I don’t trust the leadership.” If a person refuses to join because they don’t trust the leadership, then they should be encouraged to find a church where they can trust the leadership and join it. After all, do you really think you’ll grow in Christian maturity when you don’t trust the ones leading you toward it?


“I don’t agree with everything in the statement of faith.” See last answer (find a church where you do and join it).


It’s not in the Bible.” For the person who is not convinced a matter is biblical, I’ll usually ask them to consider Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5. I’ll also explain that, no, “club membership” is not in the Bible, but that church membership is more like citizenship, which is why Jesus gave the apostolic local church the keys of the kingdom.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Say it loud

Jenny Houston is the most wonderful woman I know... LOL.

I'm quiet, I like to keep my inside thoughts on the inside and that's OK.  Some folks like to be private some like to let it all hang out. Some are intro some are extro, people are different.

Where I come from - the glorious Provence of Ulster - public displays of affection are rare; we shrug a lot and get on with things, we muddle through, we keep on keeping on.  Only every now and again will the majority of folks bring out a hug, reveal a tear, allow their emotions to show through but when we do it can be such a relief, like a valve has been opened and some pressure released.

We need to be careful that in our language of banter and brave faces we don't forget that the people around us still need to know and hear that they are appreciated, needed, wanted and loved.  Don't think that just because it might feel a bit weird saying words like 'love' to your spouse or parents or siblings it means we never have to say them.  It's time to start loving-out-loud.

So who do you need to love-out-loud? 

Your wife of husband who defend you no matter what...
Hey Jenny, you're more than I deserve, I love you! LOL
or
Your mum or dad who happily pour their life savings into getting you were you want to be...
Hey mum your the greatest, I love you! LOL
or
Your brother or sister who put up with your tantrums and clean up your messes or put up with your moods...
Hey bro, you my best friend, I love you! LOL
or
Your Pastor who breaks his heart for you when you do things your way...
Hey Frank, thanks for your patience and guidence! LOL
or
Those people who pray and pray and pray for you even when you hardly give them time of day..
There are too many of you to list here but you know what? I love you all! LOL

Don't just love them, love them out loud.

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Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

5 reasons to go to church

There may well be lots of reasons to avoid the big building down the street with strange people going in and out.  You're a busy person, you've got a social life to maintain, a family to organise and a job to fit in on top of all that. 

So why is it worth your while to call in and hang around?  Here's just five of the millions of reasons to go to church.


1) They want you there
Everybody loves to feel wanted and at church that's what you'll be. You'll get a hug, a handshake, a cup of tea... whether you are brand-spanking-new-never-been-there-before or returning after a while away or they just haven't seen you since last time they will be thrilled to see you.

2) They've got good news to tell you
Seriously, the best news you've ever heard - that God loves you and even though you've only done things that deserve punishment He sent His Son to take our punishment so that we could go free, be in a relationship with Him and worship Him forever in Heaven! Now that's good news.

3) They love to be kind
Christians just love being kind and delight in being nice. When they're in good form there are no more pleasant people to be around than church-going, people-loving, Jesus folk.

4) You don't need to be fixed to go there
So your life's a mess, so what? Church is full of broken people but they are there because they know it's God who can fix them, it makes sense you know.

5) You can find your place
There is a place and a purpose for you in this life and it's found in Jesus.  At church the people there will help you find out what it is and give you a wee hand reaching your potential.

You got any other reasons for dropping into church?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

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Monday, 7 November 2011

For flip sake

Jesus is amazing.

There's no two ways about it, Jesus is simply the most amazing person to ever live on this planet.  Even before He walked the streets of Jerusalem He was doing astounding things.  Creating everything for example, that was pretty cool.

I had the immense privilege of speaking at a B.B. enrolment recently and decided to talk about when Zacchaeus met Jesus.  Of course Zac was pretty small which proved to be a problem when trying to catch a glimpse of the Author of Creation when He came to town.

Why? Because of the crowd. Yes, not surprisingly, a crowd had gathered around Jesus because he had been doing amazing things. Just to make sure everyone was still awake I asked the boys in the B.B. for examples of some of the amazing things Jesus had been doing. A little Anchor Boy raised his hand.  Eager to hear the child acknowledge the wonders of Jesus I scurried over to him, microphone in hand and repeated the question, 'What amazing things had Jesus been doing?'

He looked me in the eye and said confidently...

'Back-flips!'

Seriously?
It was funny so we all laughed but that little boy summed up very nicely the danger a lot of us face.  We find the mundane distractions of this world so thrilling that we overlook the genuine awesomeness of Jesus Christ.  We are far more impressed that Gary Lightbody can sing almost a whole song in tune or that Mrs Gaga (she's no lady) can walk about in her knickers bleating on about some Spaniard  (not that I have any problem with Spaniards) or that a over-groomed footballer can do keepy-uppies while tweeting quotes from Chaucer than we are that Jesus, God the Son, after creating the world and all that's in it should come into His creation, suffer and die in order that the same ones who rebel against Him may not only go free but live eternally in paradise with Him!

Open your eyes to the true wonders of this universe and praise the name of Jesus.

Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Psalm 17:7

Monday, 26 September 2011

Prayer...



Just do it!





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Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12

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

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Lazy bones

Beds are awesome.

They support your entire body all at once, they always have time for you, they don't talk back. But they really come into their own when when you are so exhausted you can't sleep, when you are beyond tired and into a zombie-like comatose, when you are so tired that your eyelids, the tiniest of tiny slithers of skin, become too heavy to hold up. It's when you get to that stage that you are able to do the end of day flop unto the deep soft duvet, surrender to your body and slip serenely into deep, deserved, delicious sleep.

But then sometimes it's just nice to lie-on. You've had your nights sleep, you have recovered but now it's just preferable to stay where you are. It's warm and cosy where you are and it's cold and busy where you're going. But hey, you weren't made to lie in bed, you were designed to do stuff, useful stuff so get up and get on.

Of course there are more comfort traps than double beds - there are jobs, relationships, churches, dole offices and many more things that we can lounge about in longer than necessary. They can be really useful, supportive, encouraging and productive but they can become so comfortable or safe that we wallow in them longer than we should. Challenge yourself to get up, shake yourself down and get on with life.

Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.
Proverbs 10:4

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Are you Gideon me?



Below is a video blog by Penn from Penn and Teller, the famous magicians.

Penn Jillette is an out and out atheist, He takes a lot of time arguing that all religions are ridiculous and has even produced a 9 minute video in which he attempts to discredit the Bible (don't watch that one if you are easily offended!).

I got this link through a blog I follow so you may have seen it before, hopefully it will challenge you the way it has me.






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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Name and shame

I love giving stuff names.

Whether it's a new pet, a church organisation or an imaginary coffee shop I get super-excited about what it might be called.  If someone were to suggest doing something a little left-field like, say, buying a goat, I'll not be thinking about how much food it needs or whether it's going to chew more than just weeds, I'm not concerned how much milking we'll need to do or how we'll get rid of the mountains of poo. Oh no, I'm asking, 'What're we gonna call the little blighter?' before not getting one in the end after all (see yesterdays post for the reason why).

Some friends of mine have made an attempt at starting a band.  Just imagine my delight when they came rushing to me to think of a name for it (I might be misremembering that part).  Being Christian lads they wanted something nice and Holy and I was on it.  I was churning out great names faster than Elvis performs weddings, I was on fire, here are some of my favourites:

The Saints
Sons of Thunder
God's Own Anointed Teenagers
Kingdom of Silence
The New International Versions
White Stone
In Tune with the Lord

Some corkers I'm sure you'll agree but they went with none of them, Every suggestion I made was met with a look that said, 'Yeah thanks, em... we'll put it on the list.'

Names are not the be all and end all, it doesn't really matter what people call you, it's what you're like on the inside that's important, right? Well sort of.  Your name is not important but if you are going to put a label on yourself you'd better live up to it.  If my musical friends call themselves a 'Christian' band and then go on drink and drug fuelled benders, smashing guitars over pensioners heads and throwing TVs out of hotel windows then the label means little.  In fact it would be better for them to have avoided that label altogether.

Many of us claim to be one thing and are really another.  Let's make sure we are faithful to the labels we so proudly hang around our necks.

By the way, got any good names for a band?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
Revelation 2:17

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And now, a song about identity...




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Monday, 12 September 2011

Handbrake off


What's stopping you?

You see them in movies, hear about them in songs and read about them in books.  They are the ones living your life, the life you dreamed of in school.  The difference is that at some point you decided that those dreams were only flights of fancy - not for the likes of you.

I'm like that. I have a big old fear of standing out and looking silly, I need a good excuse to do anything in public. For example, The Wife and I thought long and hard before we took a trip to the pound to get Rocky in order that we would be confident that we could justify getting him to the people around us, I even struggle to go into a coffee shop on my own in case someone might think I'm an odd ball.  I'm starting to think that I live my life in fear of other people's opinions rather than by what I know to be right or good or, frankly, what I think is fun.

In our street on Saturday night!
I am like a car surrounded by scaffolding with an ironing-board and T.V. on top of it, I am trapped in mediocrity and mundaneness and it is - almost literally - frustrating the life out of me.

Of course if this is true (and not just a bout of grumpiness) it's entirely my own fault.  I am ruled by God not other peoples opinions or my own fears or the judgements of strangers.  I, we, have a great big bucket of potential to fulfil, we are made for greater things, for harder things, for great adventures whether of the traditional high-octane kind or adventures of the heart, adventures of the soul, adventures in the name of Christ.

Jesus did many a miracle in His day but in John 14:12 He says, 'anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.'  Even greater? Wow...


So turn off the can't do attitude, break out of the Golden cage you've built for yourself and step on to the aeroplane of awesome that is the life God intended for you.  Live fully now.


 'I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'
John 10:10


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Thursday, 8 September 2011

False bottom

People in Rathcoole are generous, that's just the way it is.

We have what we call a trolley ministry in our church.  It's a simple idea, people bring along some extra groceries to church and leave them in a trolley in the front hall.  Once it has built up a bit those groceries are passed on to families who are struggling to make ends meet, it's a nice thing to do and it's what we're asked to do in the bible and like I say, people are very generous.

So the other day I, and the Girl from Down the Street, sorted the stuff into boxes.  There were ten in all, neatly arranged and awaiting distribution like little soldiers waiting for their assignments.  There were all sorts of delights within; beans, peas, pasta, sauces, pudding rice, cereal... even some toiletries and cleaning material, everything anyone could need.

The day after sorting them I rocked up with my trusty steed of a car to load and distribute the loot. All was going well until the last box.  It sat there on the floor, gleaming with pride.  It was a beautifully arranged box with a good even spread of foodstuffs.  It was the daddy of the boxes that day, the supreme receptacle, the King, the overlord, the terminator.. you get the idea - it was a box with some good stuff inside.

Then I lifted it.

The box came up but the contents stayed still.  The bottom of the box was weak and useless, the tape had failed, the cardboard had folded and it's reign as the Don was over.  Shame and disappointment gripped it like a  T-Rex grips a goat, the sham had been uncovered, the end had come.

Such is life.  We fill it with all the funky accessories we value - a job with a good wage, a shiny car, shiny kids and a shiny spouse.  We eat well, socialise well, get lots of high-fives when we 'knock 'em dead' and rumpy-pumpy on our king-sized bed.  We fill our box with all the box-tickers of earthly success; it looks good, it feels good, it smells good.  But then we go to lift it.

It's those times of turbulence that test the strength of our life-box and it will always be found wanting.  The truth is that you can fill your box up with all sorts of cool stuff but it's counts for nothing if you've got the wrong box.

Let me be clear.  Unless you build your life in Jesus it will be weak and it will not stand up to the tests of this world.  That is a fact that is clear to anyone who lives: Life is fragile and can only be got through when it is packed in Jesus Christ.

Which box is your life packed in?


"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
   5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
John 15:3-5


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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Don't fear the tear

It's great to have someone to laugh with.

Those moments when you can let out a big hearty guffaw, loose control and roll about on the floor.  Those special-memory making minutes of side-splitting euphoria are a gift from God, a giddy release from the everyday normal-ness of life on earth.

But friendships and family-ships aren't powered by the breeze of laughter but by the gale of tears.  It's when a heart is breaking and another breaks with it that the strongest relationships are forged.

Don't be afraid to be afraid with the ones you love. Don't be afraid to cry with each other - when you look back, they will be your most joy-filled moments, the moments when you grow, the moments that make you close, the moments that make you a family.

And if you want to be a church family then you've gotta do the same. Take the stuffiness out of your pockets, remove the plastic smiles from your faces and get real with each other.  Open up to your brothers and sisters and let the tears flow, there is joy to be found in the pain.

For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.
2 Corinthians 2:4


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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

She gets it!




Bible Club Leader:   Hands up if you know the answer.  What is the best thing about heaven?


Five year old girl:   Jesus is there!


Amen.





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Monday, 5 September 2011

Million pound ambition

A wee while ago I was asked by an inspirational friend of mine, 'If you had a million pounds what ministry would you spend it on?'  I had no answer.

The truth is that it was never something I felt I needed to think about because it was unlikely that I was ever going to be offered that much cash in the first place.  But still, I had no answer and my mind started searching for one.

How about a groovy extension to our church with some storage space and a state-of-art-coffee-shop? Or developing some sort of techy on-line ministry that would reach the world? Or a team of fifty workers to shake the place up and do all the hard graft for us? 

The possibilities are seemingly endless, especially in a wee church like ours that isn't used to having surplus funds to throw at big projects.  

That fact is though that all the money in the world won't make much difference unless we are in step with God.  If our church has a beautiful building or a big staff or fancy-pants technology but is cold, or hurt, or disinterested then the nice stuff is just lipstick on a pig.

I still have no answer for my inspirational friend, but I know this: I won't be wasting my time praying for a million pounds, I'll ask God for something important instead - The salvation of my friends and family and the restoration of my church.  Make us whole again Lord Jesus.

What would you spend a million bucks on?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Get your motor runnin'

What makes your world rock?

Do you have a passion for fashion or get in a frenzy for football? Do you get dreamy over dogs or go crazy for cupcakes? Is it meeting A-list stars or driving shiny cars?  Is it drinking fancy liquors or seeing pretty girls in their knickers?  What is it that gets you going, what moves you to madness?

We all have something that pushes our buttons, sometimes in a most beautiful and freeing way and other times in a hedonistic, pleasure-fuelled, guilt-inducing haze.

Last night I was introduced to the oratory talents of Louis Giglio and he reckons that we should get a little crazy when we remember the life-changing affect Jesus has on those of us that know Him already.  Not so that it becomes impossible for us to function or so that others might think we should be avoided but just every now and then, we should allow ourselves to get super-excited about the super-exciting, supernatual power of God, a bit like David did when he danced in the streets because his God had brought the Ark back to Jerusalem (read it here!).

Imagine getting excited about Jesus, imagine being that guy or that girl that is not ashamed to express the wonders of God in their life and sing and dance and shout hallelujah.

Sadly in the culture I grew up in it is considered odd to do this.  Ulster says no to letting yourself go.  We must be ordered and serious and reverent.  And indeed we must.  Our God is a God of order, He makes sense and we are to be sensible. But we should not let order rob us of the wonder of worship and the freedom of praise.

Don't pour out your passion onto food or wine or images on a screen. Don't waste your worship on money or drugs or the latest fad on the music scene.  Be excited about being God's and dance for Jesus.

'I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.'
2 Samuel 6:21-22

Monday, 16 May 2011

Looking for love?

People are lonely.

Not all people - but a lot are.  Some people are lonely by themselves, they want to be in company, they want friends but they find them hard to come by.  Others are lonely in the midst of a crowd, very much loved and surrounded by people who are prepared to make sacrifices for their good but then, when they lie in bed at night, they feel totally alone.

Others don't have this problem, they are content with the friends and family they have.  Sometimes these people get annoyed or confused by the lonely people, they find it hard to sympathize.  They look at the lonely people and think surely if they were just easier to get along with or if they weren't so opinionated/obstinate/shy/grumpy/odd/smelly they would find the friendships they are looking for.  And those people who feel lonely when they are surrounded by people who love them, what's wrong with those people? They are ungrateful and undeserving of those people whose love they reject.

I don't know why some people feel lonely or struggle to make friends but I do know that they are lonely and feeling lonely sucks. They need grace and patience from others, they need to be loved even when it is temptin to walk away.

Below is a postcard from the website postsecret.  It shows someone pinning their hopes on another person, that's too much pressure.  Look to God and He will be with you through your lonely times.


One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
   but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The enemy within

It's 2011; people are calm and reasonable, right? Wrong.

I recently had the dubious pleasure of a trip across the water to Old Trafford football ground to watch Manchester United play Everton.  I was travelling with a United fan and a neutral but I, alas, am an Everton man.

Yes, Roger, the Sage-on-the-Hill and myself made use of someone else's season tickets and found ourselves in the largest stand of the largest club stadium in England, just us and 75, 297 others.  Roger was wearing a lovely red number, the Sage was in pastel shades and I was proudly sporting a 1996 Everton home top, all was well. 

All was not well.

While sitting in our seats as the crowd started to filter in we were approached by a little jobsworth steward in a fluorescent jacket who pointed at my shirt and said, 'You can't wear that here.'  I was flabbergasted.  In this day and age, in a time where everyone sits during a match, in a time when prawn sandwiches and G&T have replaced pies and beer, in an enlightened era of cosmopolitan footballers and their A-list wag's, in this time a little ginger man can't sit alone with a different coloured shirt to the 75, 299 around him without fear of being beaten to a pulp if his team scores first!  It's a disgrace I tells ya - a disgrace.

I put a jumper on. Problem solved.

As in football, so too in life.  I am in enemy territory.  This world belongs to the devil but I don't.  I have a different coloured shirt on.  The problem is that the world fears those in God's team but we must stand strong, we must declare our allegiance and suffer the consequences, we must be prepared for a battle. 

Unfortunately we (Christians) have a tendency to, metaphorically speaking, put our jumpers on over our shirts.  We still are on the Lord's side but we just don't shout about it. We still want our enemy beaten but just as long as we don't get a beating along the way.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes
Romans 1:16

Monday, 18 April 2011

Going part-time

This is more of a public service announcement than a blog post. 

I love writing my thoughts down, it's quite therapeutic and, at times, cathartic.  It is also quite time consuming.  You are forgiven if you are surprised at that.  When you read some of the rambling rubbish I churn out I'm sure it seems like it's been thrown together in a matter of minutes but that's far from the case.

I am reasonably slow of thought and putting a post together can take me quite some time and, at the moment, is taking me more time than I have.  The upshot is that I am going part-time. 


I'm much too much of a megalomaniac to stop posting altogether so instead I'll put a post up when I'm particularly exercised or enthused to do so.  Updates, as ever, can be found through the might of 'facebook' and I hope you will not forget me in between times.

God bless,

Phil.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Where have all the heroes gone?

(DISCLAIMER: I wrote this while in a bad mood.)

Are people getting increasingly pathetic?

It used to be that when a person committed themselves it meant something.  It was a promise and a promise was a precious thing that should not be broken.  I wonder if that still holds.

Do we molly-coddle our children and young people too much?  Do we indulge them so much that their backbones fail to develop properly?  And at what age does someone become an adult these days?

In days of yore children (there where no kids in those days just children) left school at 12 years old and did one of two things:  they either got paid employment or they worked in the house.  Over the years that age has been pushed up and up to reflect the importance that society has placed on education and I for one think that is a good thing.

The problem is that along with lengthening the period of full-time education the period of childhood has been artificially lengthened in the process.  I fell foul of this myself, I didn't leave home until I married at 28, I should've contributed more to my family home whether with money or with practical things.  In spite of this I still knew what responsibility was, I still knew that if someone was relying on me I had to follow through; if I had made a promise I had to fulfill it.

I'm tired.  I'm busy.  I need a social life.  I'm not feeling well.  These all seem to be acceptable reasons for letting people down, they're not.  (And while I'm at it; 'sorry' seems to no longer be the hardest word.  It's used frequently and disingenuously.)

Not all young people are like this of course.  I know a few who are real corkers, unfortunately they are becoming few and far between.  What do you think?

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.
James 5:12

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Broken

Juliet Turner: Broken Things





You can have my heart
But it isn't new
It's been used and broken
And only comes in blue
It's been down a long road
And it got dirty on the way
If I give it to you will you make it clean
And wash the pain away


You can have my heart
If you don't mind broken things
You can have my heart if you don't mind these tears
Well I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart


So beyond repair
Nothing I could do
I tried to fix it myself

But it was only worse when I got through
Then you walked right into my darkness
And you speak words so sweet
And you hold me like a child
Till my frozen tears fall at your feet


You can have my heart
If you don't mind broken things
You can have my heart if you don't mind these tears
Well I heard that you make old things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Scrubbers unite

There's nothing quite like a thorough spring clean.

It's been a long winter with cold days and dark nights.  You go out in the dark and you come home in the dark.  Housework is not the priority and you go into 'ticking-over' mode.

Then spring arrives. The days lengthen, your mood brightens and you're up for some rigorous scubbing.  You pull out wardrobes and fridges, dust the top of lampshades and rearrage the book shelves.  Things need sorted and you sort them.

Time for a spring clean of the heart too.  You've been tired and let things slide.  You're still not talking to that friend because the first conversation will be too much hassle, you've indulged in something wrong but comfortable, you've been doing the same old things without any thought as to whether they are the right things for you or not.

Take some time with God, let him clear all the cobwebs and help you get back on the right track. Spring cleaning can feel like a real chore but imagine if it never got done!

Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Monday, 11 April 2011

Real men make lemon curd

My masculinity has been questioned.

Volunteering to do dishes, making lemon curd and watching Glee have all, in the last few days, been used as evidence as to my declining manliness. Today I plan to do some DIY, growl at some children and high-five a binman to redress the balance. 

But what really makes a man a man, or a woman or a woman?  What makes a man a gent or a woman a lady?  Do these things really matter?

What do you think?




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Friday, 8 April 2011

The prodigal dog

Rocky got knocked down yesterday.

He got out of the house via the front door (special thanks to the silly man who left the door open) and scarpered.  This is Rocky's way, when he's out of the house he just runs and runs, he pays no attention to anyone.  I feared he wouldn't come back.

Having not seen what way he went I jumped into the car and drove around Rathcoole asking anyone if they had seen a wee black dog with white markings.  No joy.

After a bout 10 minutes or so I went back to the house to see if he was around there and lo and behold, there he was in next-door's front garden.


The vet's

I was delighted to see him but soon realised he was in a bad way.  He was covered in scraps and scratches, lumps of hair were missing and he was bleeding from several places.  Into the house we went and he was clearly in pain.  So a trip to vet's, an examination and an x-ray later and he's now in recovery in the doggy hospital.  He 'gotta qwere whack' but he should be OK after a couple of weeks was the assessment. Let's hope so. We hope that whoever hit him is OK too, it can be a real shock to hit an animal.

Rocky ran away from home, made a mess of things but came back.  That is the key thing, the wee dog knew where home was.  He shouldn't have ran away in the first place but when he was at his lowest point he at least had the sense to come home. 

In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable about two sons.  The lesson of the story is that God loves us.  If we run from Him and live our lives how we want, He won't reject us when we realise that life without Him sucks.  He will love us simply because He loves us.  And if we work hard and do all that He asks but only do it to get His blessing and not out of love, He won't reject us when we realise we can't earn God's favour through good works.

God is patient, merciful, forgiving and loving.  If you've run away from Him, run back home now!

'While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.'
Luke 15:20

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Thursday, 7 April 2011

Friends

It was a good day.

The sun was out, the sky was blue, there was not a cloud to spoil the view.  Rocky was in good form.  He had been out for a long walk and swim with the Sage-On-The-Hill and Dennison the Menacin' and now he was out again shortly after.  Little did he know that he was on his way to a playdate with Bailey. 

Roger and I were slightly concerned that they would not get on as well as they might but it turns out they get along just dandy.  Rocky had a quick sniff at the little one before continuing with his usual manic ADHD walking style.  Bailey was just happy to keep up.

Bailey got all the atttention from the many other dog-walkers in the park (do these people have no work to go to?) and Rocky was content to step in every inch of dirty puddle he could find.

Isn't it great when we all get along, when the tension is resloved when peace breaks out.

Who are you not at peace with? Friends, family, work colleagues?  Is it not worth fixing the broken relationships in our lives?

Do it.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34

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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

There will be blood

Today Rocky and his nemesis will meet for the first time.

The summit will be hosted on neutral territory and there will be a chief negotiator present for each side.  Will it be peaceful? Will there be reconciliation? Will there be blood?

If, when we're all out for our walk, both parties are determined to be stubborn, determined to stand their ground and be top dog dominating the other, then a healthy relationship will not be possible.  Similarly when we come to God, unless we relent and recognise that we are not the rightful Kings of the world or even the rightful rulers of our lives a good relationship with God will not be possible.

We want to be the ones to decide how we live our lives but that directly challenges God's right to do so.  This is not a point for compromise.  We cannot dethrone God and expect the world or ourselves to survive the consequences.

Hopefully Rocky and Bailey will realise that it will be best for everyone if the respect each others roles and choose to love rather than hate.  Hopefully we will all recognise God for who he is and live a full and joyful life rather than one at war with the creator of the world.

To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
Deuteronomy 10:14
 
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Here is an 14 year old clip of a modern classic worship song sung by 45,000 people.




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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Inked

I'm getting a tattoo.

(I'm not getting a tattoo, but let's just pretend.) A Tattoo is for life, unless you have a lotta lotta money to have it removed which I don't, so my (imaginary) tattoo will be permanent.

It has to be something that will be relevant my whole life long.  I have no heirs so I won't getting etching the names 'Princess-tiddlywink' or 'Matthew' just incase they never arrive.

I could have 'Rocky' emblazened up my side in Chinese heiroglyph or 'Crusaders till I die' in Hebrew from my ankle to my knee but that would be a little wierd.

Another option would be a full face tattoo of a clown so I always looked ironically sad even when making others laugh or have eyeballs tattooed on my eyelids so I always look awake.  So many good options.

The (very slight) danger is that I may regret some of these things in years to come. I may change my mind about having a permanent red nose or have doubts about the name 'Matthew'.  So is there anything that would be for me as permanent or more permanent than a tattoo?  Just one.

I am God's.  That is not going to change.  Not because I have incredible self-will (because I don't) and not because it is so great being God's child (although it most certainly is) but because God choose me, He saved me, He is refining me, and He will sustain me.  God is bound by His own word to never let go of the ones He has saved and I am one of those ones!

If I trust in myself I am beat.  But if I trust in God I am forever safe.

So what will my new tattoo say?  In bold lettering, so evryone can see, it will read:

 This man belongs to God. 

-

You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
John 10:28-30

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Monday, 4 April 2011

You ain't got no alibi

81,729,433 and counting.

That's the number of hits Rebecca Black's song Friday has recieved on Youtube.  I am not a musical expert, I can barely sing in tune but in my opinion the song, while catchy, is pretty weak.  Some people are calling it the worst song ever and I find it hard to disagree with that.

However...

This little girl (13 years old) is having a go.  She has a decent voice and she's made a video that I would've been pretty chuffed with at 13. The reason I'm even mentioning her is not because I love or hate the song but because of the response to her on the world-wide internet.

The girl has had over 1.6 million dislikes on Youtube which is fair enough as that function is well known to anyone uploading to that website.  But some of the comments are wrong, cruel and unnecessary.  In my opinion the worst comments are the ones calling Rebecca Black ugly.  She is not ugly by any stretch of the imagination.  But who is, what makes a person ugly?

I would suggest that beauty comes from the heart and so does ugliness.  Be careful that your own heart is not ugly.  Are you proud, boastful and unable to take criticism?  Do you think of yourself better than you ought, better than those around you?  Do you feel free to criticise people you don't know, to ridicule their looks, personality or talent?  Do you feel superior and condemn others when the only thing stopping you from behaving as they do is the grace of God?

Are you ugly? Am I?

The only person who can make us beautiful is the Lord Jesus Christ.  He died to take away our ugliness and make us beautiful in the eyes of God. If He has done that, made us beautiful, then we have nothing to boast about because it not a result of our effoerts but the unmerited grace of God.


So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them; 
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27





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Friday, 1 April 2011

Everybody needs good neighbours

At last, a good news story from Rathcoole!

For years and years all the press associated with the great estate of Rathcoole has been negative and the main culprit for that have been paramilitary groups who are keen to establish a power base for themselves built on drugs and money.  That has been an ugly reality for a long time but it is not the whole story.  The estate has a great sense of community and a kind streak running through the middle of it.

'The present sight is unacceptable'
This week it was reported in the local press that Rathcoole is to have a new group of residents.  Deputy Mayor of Newtownabbey, Tommy Kirkham, has been  instrumental in donating a piece of land in Rathcoole known as 'The Diamond' over to a group of Irish Travellers who have been evicted from numerous sites in the area recently. (Read the full story here.)

The Diamond football pitches are still used regularly but the Deputy Mayor said, 'There is enough capacity at the Diamond to accommodate both the existing football commitments and our homeless friends from across the divide'.  He goes on to say that recent television programmes like, 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding' raised his awareness of this 'great sub-culture and religion' and believes the encampment in Rathcoole will be a welcome addition to the community there.

This is a surprising but exciting development in Rathcoole, bringing two diverse people-groups together.  Mr Kirkham played down the £3 million of government funding for the scheme which will be channelled through his office.  I for one am looking forward to meeting  and interacting with our new neighbours.

I'll leave you with a quote from the head of this particular group of Travellers, Mr. B. O'Boyle, 'We wish to thank Mr Kirkham and the people of Rathcoole for their very kind invitation.  We would like to invite them to visit us in our 'vans, get to know us and enjoy a drink together.'  And why not?

 ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:34:36
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And now a video from the home of good news stories.


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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Fail

Watch this amazing stunt and be totally amazingly amazed.  (No sound neccessary.)


Sometimes we get very excited about the plans we have that God is sure to bless.  Sometimes they fail and it's quite frustrating and a little embarassing.

It's not God's fault that they fail.  God's plans will succeed but if we simply have a bright idea and ask God to bless it because we want to look good then we will fall flat on our faces and we only have ourselves to blame.

God is both good and able, He will bring blessing where it will benefit the people who love Him.  We need to search for His will and do it His way.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:9-11

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The mighty Rend Collective Experiment with You Bled


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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The rival

There's a pretender to the throne and she means business.

For the last six months Rocky Salvador Houston (I just made up the middle name but I kinda like it) has reigned supreme as the the undisputed 'king of pets' in our world.  This was widely acknowledged by anyone who's met him and doesn't have a pet of their own.  His ponchant for leaning, tail-chasing and sitting down almost half the times you ask him too is legendary.  It seemed that his position was secure. Until now...

There's a new kid in town.  Her name is Bailey and she is Roger's new dog.  She's a cross between a Shih Tzu and a West Highland White Terrier. Roger calls her a Shestie or a weshtoo or something (I call her a mongrel, Rocky calls her 'lunch').  She is inferior to Rocky in everyway, of course.  She is small and fluffly (pfff), she can't jump onto the dining room table from a standing start, her poos are tiny, and worst of all - she's a girl!

I'm sure you'll all agree, she's rubbish.

The wife and I have a dog, he is our 'first-love' in the pet world (sorry Trevor, you're a very close second) and no-matter how cute and lovely any other dog may seem, Rocky is ours and will remain number one.

God demands the same courtesy.  He is Number One.  No matter how nice chasing after other things may be, no matter how shiny and bright the latest distraction may seem, God requires us to keep Him on the throne in our hearts.

But why?

Because nothing else, no-one else, no material possesion, human being, clever idea, amount of money or flattery of fame can ever love us with the immeasurable, unequalled and overwhelming love that God has for His children.

Settle for nothing less than the King of the World on the throne of your life.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Exodus 34:14

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Monday, 28 March 2011

Bin and gone

It's time to put the bins out.

Every two weeks all the dross and stink from our home gets wheeled out to the front of the house and a team of under-appreciated and underpaid people rock up and take the mess away.

There is stink in our hearts as well.  Happily, you don't have to wait for a slot in a two-week cycle to get rid of it.  Just hand it all over to Jesus.  Ask Him to take away the sin and the guilt.  He'll do it and you'll feel peaceful, clean and free.

Jesus is the only one able to wash out that messy heart of yours so invite Him to do it today.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

Friday, 25 March 2011

I could be your hero, baby

Superman, Batman, Spiderman and I all have something in common.

I'm not talking about the beautiful love interest (high-five to the Wife) or the oddly dressed and slightly camp side-kick (high-five Rocky).  Oh no, I talking about the secret double life.

That's right folks, by day I am a mild-mannered, bible-thumping, blog-writing, ginger-haired ordinary, run-of-the-mill kinda guy.  But at night I change into a crime-fighting, Lycra-wearing superhero with dayglo tights and my undercrackers on the outside.  I can scale tall-buildings (with the help of a lift) jump higher than a house (houses can't jump) and strike terror into the hearts of bad-guys everywhere...

Oh no wait, that's not me...em...

Unfortunately my secret double-life is not as exciting as the heroes of old.  In fact it's not even always a positive side of me.  The things I do in secret are often done that way because I am ashamed of them.  Am I the only one? Are the rest of you completely good and upright in private as well as public?

The bible says broadly two things about our secret private lives.

1) It's shameful to even say out loud what some of us get up to behind closed doors. (Ephesians 5:12)
and
2) We should be spending our private time with God instead of indulging our pride by praying, fasting and giving in front of everyone for all to see. (Matthew 6)

In short, we are being told to keep our private times pure by devoting them to God instead of shameful 'deeds of darkness' and keep our public lives humble by not boasting or showing of how flipping utterly wonderful we are.

I don't need to be a superhero, I've got one of them already.  I just need to remember that His vision of me is much clearer than even x-ray eyes could see and that He demands the highest level of devotion from those who rely on Him for their safety.  In Jesus' case hero worship is entirely appropriate.

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.
Romans 13:12

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:5-6

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Thursday, 24 March 2011

A question of faith

High school pupils aren't scary.

I have had the immense privilege of helping out at the 'scripture union' in our local secondary school.  I love it.  It gives me the chance to talk about the nitty-gritty of a life of faith, it challenges me to know my stuff and to communicate it in a way that isn't just a repetition of phrases that churchy people alone understand.

We've been doing a wee series recently of trying to answer questions they have about God or the Christian faith.  The questions are thoughtful, intelligent, challenging and important.  These kids should not be dismissed lightly.

It's got me thinking that it's something we could maybe do here, in the blogosphere, as well.  I know you lot are pretty shy when it comes to asking questions but I'm sure there are a few of you out there with things on your mind.  Now I am not the source of all knowledge and may not answer the way you would like but what have you got to lose? Ask the question you have about life, death, the end of the world, dinosaurs, terrorists, Jesus, Jehovah witnesses... whatever you like.  I'll answer those with broad appeal here in a post and of course you have the right to reply.

Either comment on this post or send me an email to myquestionis@rathcoolepci.co.uk. The authors of any questions will be held in the strictest confidence of course.

It is of course God himself who instructs us.  He sends the Holy Spirit to guide and impart understanding.  It is on God whom I will rely on to keep me honest and on the straight path.  I trust and pray that He will guide us all through the scriptures so we would all come to a fuller understanding of God and His love for us.

I look forward to hearing from you!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; 
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Psalm 32:8

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A reformed woman

Classy she ain't.

The Wife and I have a routine.  Everyone has one if they want to successfully negotiate the tricky procedure of getting from sleep to work in the correct time.  Our routine is made more simple by the fact that I live where I work.

It goes something like this:

The alarm goes off and the snooze button is struck. Repeat twice.
The wife (grumpily) gets up and heads for a shower while I pretend to get up but really just lie on for another five minutes.
Then through a mixture of guilt and duty I get up and head downstairs.
I let Rocky out for a widdle and head to the kitchen to make the Wife her lunch.
By this time the Wife has vacated the shower and I hop in, hop out and get dressed while the Wife is doing something chemical with her hair.
All this culminates in us both arriving, washed and dressed, ready for breakfast.

A well-oiled machine.

Yesterday morning was no exception.  While we were fixing breakfast my better half spied the sandwiches I had prepared and let out a little yelp of excitement. 'My favourite!' she said, 'I love that smell.'

'Of the mustard?' I enquired, confused.

'No, the Spam,'

Who would have thought some reformed pigs bits could make such a pretty woman so very happy.  Spam. it turns out, is her favourite thing to put in a work-day sandwich. A woman of simple tastes; I'm starting to understand why she married me.

We should find more pleasure in simple things.  Our genetically modified generation are always looking for stuff that's bigger, brighter, faster and more enhanced than ever before.  Look at things in their raw state.  Marvel at the purity of nature, the wonder of family, the beauty of a human thought.  See how the sun and moon maintain their orbit and be enthralled by it.  Look at what God has made and how he has made it and be satisfied because it is truly satisfying.

In the words of King David, the second king of Israel:

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Psalm 34:8




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And now for some cheesy mid-week misic. The Afters with Light up the Sky.