Monday, 29 December 2008

Noticing God – a New Year Resolution


I never realised how many babies there where until my wife got pregnant.

Nothing prepared me for the sheer quantity of pregnant women & small children in crazy, non-steer yellow trolley-truck thingys that I suddenly saw in Tesco’s. And since September I’ve noticed nappy adverts, “Baby on Board” stickers & the price of toys for the first time.

These new observations have astonished me. Have I been blind to this all along or had it just not registered?

This has led to a first New Year Resolution in ages.

You see I’m not that big into NYR’s. I don’t understand why resetting the calendar fills us with so much unfounded hope that we’ll shift the bingo wings, befriend sunrise for jogging & meditation and procrastinate less on FaceBook… I mean give me two weeks & I’ll be back to a low-veg diet, booing joggers, snoozing instead of praying & addicted to WordTwist.

However, NYR’s are a good reminder that we’re not perfect; that there’s stuff about our lives that needs to change; that we want to be better or at least different. And this year rather than set a pie-in-the-sky high bar challenge, I’m trying to involve God in the NYR process - which leads me back to the baby observations.

I feel that God is calling me to notice Him more. To realise that He is around (even when I’m blind to His presence) and make a conscious effort to look for Him in everyday life - including the irritating teenager, the traffic jam situation or the failed ministry opportunity.

To steal a John Ortberg title, “God is closer than you think” so my NYR is to look a little more intently for His daily presence in the mundane, monotonous & frustrating, rather than just in the spectacular & unique.

Anyone else got a NYR?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Light


“Those people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

We talk a lot about light at Christmas.

This isn’t just because we’re restricted to a few hours of daylight in this season (at least in the northern hemisphere), but because we remember ‘The Light of the World’ entering our sphere in human form.

Infinite God, Creator of the universe, the All-Powerful One came down and lived among us. He limited Himself to a human body; a body that felt pain, got tired, cried & couldn’t control His infant bladder.

I find this a weirdly wonderful concept.

Christ’s life, death & resurrection is the light by which Christians try to live.
Without this we stumble, fall, get hurt and experience the dangers that come with the darkness.
With Him we can see, we can live and experience the comfort & safety of His presence.

Christians are also called to be “the light of the world” reflecting God’s goodness & greatness, showing the way to The Way, leading our friends, family & communities to the Saviour.

I find this a terrifying, but also weirdly wonderful concept.

May you stop long enough to allow Jesus to bring light to your darkest areas this Christmas and may you let Him shine through you to bring this beautiful light to others.

Merry Christmas.



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Monday, 15 December 2008

"The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no-one to thank." G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 12 December 2008

Designer Dogs & Dirty Water


So I'm just back from a few days in London, the Big Smoke, with my wife.

I normally hate the place. Too many people bustling about, invading my personal space & using elbows as leavers to bump me out of the way. So rather surprisingly I actually really enjoyed this trip.

We saw "Wicked" at the West End (highly recommended, especially to Wizard of Oz fans), posed beside wax celebrities in Madame Taussad's, sailed over the Houses of Parliament in the London Eye, reset my watch by Big Ben standards & relived childish nostalgia in Hamleys.

However, one of the most striking moments of the trip was standing in Harrods, in the Pet Kingdom section, listening to "Do they know it's Christmas" playing on the radio.

Something just isn't right when you're offered the opportunity to spend (literally) hundreds of pounds on toys & designer clothes for your dog, while various pop stars remind us about needs in Africa. Never mind their lack of snow... their lack of clean water & sanitation is a much more pressing need.

Check this video out... I found it challenging.



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Friday, 5 December 2008

For Dumb Fish



I’ve only been fishing once before. It was cold, quite boring & I wasn’t too successful.

But I do know something about fish… they are stupid!

In fact, they are perhaps the most stupid animal God has created. Their very existence has been summarised like this “they see food; they want food; they eat food.” All very well except humans have deployed this strategy to catch & fry little fishes for thousands of years. See it…want it… get it… destruction.

We can be pretty dumb at times too… especially men.

Lust has promised us freedom & happiness for years, but has only ever delivered us into slavery. The results are easily evidenced in the rise of sexual addictions, the sexual emptiness in so many relationships & a global porn industry worth over £30 billion.

We live in the world of see it… want it… have it. But like the fish, our promising morsel of satisfaction becomes the bait leading to destruction. So if you’re struggling with lust in its various forms you’re not a lonely traveller. Here are some practices I’ve picked up along the way to help me in the battle with lust.

Make a promise: like Job make a covenant with your eyes not to sin. You do have the power to avoid glaring at the bosom, logging on to dodgy web pages & putting yourself in uncompromising situations.

Find a friend: the word accountability is used often & practiced little. Find someone with whom you can share your struggles, your battles and your victories.

Live a life of gratitude: all sin stems from dissatisfaction with what God has blessed us with. If you want to fight sexual temptation, start by opening your eyes & thanking the Lord for who & what He has given you.

Hope these help.

From a dumb fish.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ripping off Jesus

Jesus gets a bad deal each Christmas.

I often wonder how I would feel if people turned up to celebrate my birthday, but gave gifts to everyone except me!

Bart Simpson once remarked that “we should get back to the true meaning of Christmas… celebrating the birth of Santa.”
I laugh, but seconds later a nagging thought enters the arena, perhaps that’s not a million miles from the truth.

Immanuel – God with us. The greatest gift we could ever receive. A mind-bogglingly brilliant present. God became flesh & moved into our neighbourhood. Not to be served as a king, but to live as a servant.

The Magi set a great example for us. They were overjoyed to meet Jesus; they bowed down & worshipped the baby, & gave him the precious gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

As we celebrate the gift of Immanuel this year, can l encourage you to consider what you will give Jesus this year. Here are just some suggestions…

The gift of availability – hang out with Jesus; listen, journal, enjoy time with Him, read the Christmas story (do it together; let the kids join in too!)




The gift of love – respond to those in need at Christmas, help feed the hungry, clothe the homeless or buy a bog in the developing world (http://www.musthavegifts.org/)



The gift of time – visit your elderly relative or play a silly game with your kids.


The gift of togetherness – join with His people to worship the King, enjoy the carols & share some craic over a mince pie.


The gift of appreciation – reflect on all the many blessings that Jesus has poured out for you this year & thank Him for them.

I wish you all a joy-filled Advent & Christmas season.