Frothy coffee?

frothy-coffee-time

I am not a coffee drinker (tea only thanks) and I cannot understand the desire to consume, what appears to me, a cup of foul smelling mud.  What I understand even less are the options available if you have the misfortune to stumble into an expensive coffee outlet.  It seems so complex, so varied, so many choices.  I have become convinced that coffee drinkers are making up their beverage of choice just to sound sophisticated “I’ll have a triple espresso skinny latte with goats milk froth and java beans on rye with added sprinkles and a dash of fairy dust”.

The other day, I spotted something that confirmed my despair of coffee drinkers.  I was at a ministers conference and we were having a hurried tea break (words used deliberately ) and a colleague had one of “those coffees” when he scalded himself “it’s hot work getting through all this froth” he said.  It seemed to me, a casual observer, that in a second he had expressed (or espressoed) the problem that so many people face in life.

Life is full of froth.  What looks great on the surface is merely air and bubbles with no substance.  Our celebrity culture, the politics of the day, the media it’s all froth and it’s hard work getting through the froth and to the substance that you want or need.  There are some words from the Psalms that have really interested me;

Deep calls to deep

In the roar of your waterfalls

All your waves and breakers

Have swept over me

(Psalm 42 vs. 7)

 I have looked at what these mean in various commentaries and the commentators come up with a number of interesting explanations.  In my opinion, this Psalm is a call for a longing for depth in intimate relationship.  It’s a longing for God, a cry from the heart for reality with God, being known and fully known.

There is a word that is re-appearing in Christian writing and thinking and it is the word “soul”.  This is not the place to explore fully what this means but, my brief explanation of it is;

The very deepest part of us

 It’s our souls that long for the most intimate of all relationships, a relationship with our creator, God.   I believe that is what the Psalmist, poetically, speaks about in Psalm 42.  He wants to cut through the froth and move into the relationship that will truly satisfy him, a relationship with his creator.

I really think this is helpful.

From time to time I need to reflect on my own life and the froth that is within it.  Sometimes, I need to clear the froth out of the way and get to the soul of the matter.  I need to clear the froth out of the way and reconnect with my creator.

Perhaps, today, as you sit down to your beverage of choice, can I invite you to reflect on the froth in your own life and get down to what really matters?

psalm42-7

Covered in dust?

walk

There are a couple of phrases that I have hearing recently that have really struck me.  I don’t want to get political but, Donald Trump’s reference to the media being the enemy of the American people was pretty unavoidable the other day!

The other words?

They were prayed over me and I have been reading them in other contexts too, it’s the saying;

be covered in your Rabbi’s dust”

Now, there is a bit of controversy over these words, is it a true saying or an urban myth? (I suspect it’s true, it’s based on something in the Mishnah and has been attributed to Yose ben Yoezer).  Irrespective, the thought behind it is that you can walk so close to your Rabbi that you get covered in the dust churned up by his feet along the road.

That’s a nice thought, isn’t it?  If I am that close to Jesus, I can get covered in the dust from His feet.  Well, perhaps isn’t  that nice, when Jesus says things like;

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

(Matthew 5 vs. 43 – 44)

pain_web_1280x720

 

It becomes easy then to point the finger at those who proclaim out loud who their enemies are.  What about us?

I may not have “enemies” in the sense of people that I want to fight.  But, I do need to examine my own heart and my own attitudes if I want to be “covered in the Rabbi’s dust”.  Because, when I look at Jesus, I see that He kept on loving all the way to the cross.  Even when His closest friends let Him down (or betrayed Him in one case), the authorities hated Him, even one of those crucified with Him heaped insults upon Him, He was still able to pray;

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

(Luke 23 vs. 34)

In my opinion, what Jesus does is demonstrate radical love and, if we are to be covered in the dust of the Rabbi, we have to learn to do the same.  As somebody once said to me

Christianity aint for wimps!

The greatest act of love is, not loving those who will love you back, it is in loving the enemy and praying for those who persecute you. The Kingdom of God calls us to live to a different standard not just loving those who will love us back, but loving our enemy.

What does it mean to love our enemy?

It means we don’t bad mouth them or misrepresent their beliefs and views.  It means we do things that will bless them and their lives. It means we forgive, and pray for, and treat them as we would have them treat us even if they are not treating us that way.

Imagine what it would be like if everyone reacted to their enemies with acts of love and goodwill in the face of how they were treated. There would be the possibility of true peace and justice.

Nothing wonderful ever happens when you exchange good for good.  But something miraculous happens when we return good for evil, when we love an enemy, when we pray for those who persecute us we create room for God to act and work.

I don’t know where you are in your lives at the moment.  But, I do know where I am and I do know where I long to see God act and work in my situations.  Maybe, you long for God to work in yours too.

So maybe, it’s time to get radical.  Maybe it’s time to get dusty!

16806772_1446302832055486_3501568245596803611_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Afresh

rubbish-tip

What do you see in the picture above?

Rubbish, heaps of old rubbish.

Discarded bikes, empty packets, broken items, no good for anything.  Only fit for the rubbish tip.

Yet, I wonder if there is perhaps a little more?

Perhaps, if an artist were to look at this picture, what potential would they see?  Maybe a masterpiece, maybe something that challenges peoples understanding, maybe something incredibly beautiful

homeless-pic

What do you see in the picture above?

Homeless, rejected, alcoholic, failure.  Only fit for the streets, getting nothing more than they deserve?

Yet, I wonder if there is perhaps a little more?

Perhaps, if we asked Jesus what He sees, we might hear words like, beautiful, friend, somebody worth dying for, somebody that can be redeemed.  Maybe a masterpiece, maybe somebody that can challenge our perceptions.

mirror

Look in the mirror.  What do you see?

Perhaps, we need to ask Jesus for His vision today

mt

Mr Tumble

something-special_onward_journey_image_bid

I have been thinking about friendship recently and my thinking has been helped by this character!

Yes, I am a granddad and I have come under the influence of my 18 month old granddaughter who loves Mr Tumble.  For those of you reading who have no idea what I am on about, I recommend CBeeBies!

During the show, Mr Tumble sings as song, the lyrics are

Friends friends, what can you do with friends?

He then goes on to list a number of activities such as dog walking, paddling in the sea and so forth.  Activities are much better with friends! I know it’s a kids program but, I think, he has something.

One of the sad things I see in society is that loneliness is on the increase, I believe, the qualities of friendship are being lost.  Yes, we have “social media” but, that produces with it a degree of anonymity.  Just because you have X number of “friends” on Facebook (other social media platforms are available) doesn’t make them real friends and the truth is, we all need friends.  REAL FRIENDS

Sometimes, I read a few verses in the Bible that really shock me, and that’s what happened today.

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.

(2 Corinthians 2 vs. 12 – 13)

What shocked me was that the great Paul, a man who was so skilled at preaching, had an open door before him.  Yet, Paul couldn’t preach because he was desperate for news from his friend, Titus (regarding the Corinthian Church).  No friend, no preaching!  He decides to leave this open door and go and seek his friend to set his mind at rest.  It’s interesting that, throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul refers many times to Titus and their friendship.

If you read the book of Exodus, you find that Moses needs the support of a friend (his brother), Aaron, to enable him to stand before Pharaoh.  David and Jonathan’s friendship carried on even beyond Jonathan’s death in the beautiful story of Mephibosheth (read 2 Samuel 9 for that).  I am firmly convinced that Jesus selected the twelve as friends as well as disciples.

Have I made my point?

Just in case you still have doubts!

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

(Proverbs 27 vs. 17)

iron-sharpens-iron

Friendships achieve much together.  It was out of friendships that the ministers in Clacton engaged in mission on the streets.  It was out of friendship, that new ideas were born and we worked closely together.

So, here is a fact of life for you.

Friends do move on.  Life goes on.  Friends move away, retire, get new jobs and have other responsibilities.  One of the reasons why I like social media, I can still keep in touch with people who were friends years ago.

Just because, old friends have gone, doesn’t mean that we cannot find new ones!  But, it does take effort and time.  Along the way you may face disappointment and hurt.  Maybe you will even have to face things in yourself that you don’t like.  But, friendship is worth a try.

Let’s face it, if we in the Church cannot give it go, how can we expect the rest of the world to follow?

A man who has friends must himself be friendly

(Proverbs 18 vs. 24)

 

 friends-bible

Sat Nav or Bible?…Or Both?

sat_nav_232505

One of the things that used to really get to me, when the kids were little, was the sound of the voices coming from the back of the car “are we nearly there yet”.  Usually, this happened, when we reversed off the drive and could carry on for the entire length of the journey.  Even now they are all grown up, if they want to irritate me, they will sit in the car and whine “are we nearly there yet” – bless ‘em.

But, I wonder sometimes, if we do much the same with God?  We focus on where we want to get to and what we think the blessings ought to be when we arrive.  God, I believe, is focussed on the journey.

Sometimes the Bible does give us a specific word or a verse that really blesses us in a situation.  Sometimes God wants us to engage with the journey and the words of the Bible encourage to see the journeys that others have been on.  In my opinion too many Christians use the Bible like a SatNav, they want to program in their destination, throw the book open, and it guide them to where they want to be.  II Obadiah 9 vs. 76;

And lo the Lord spake unto the people “thus says the Lord, this year we holiday in Skegness”

(For the record, I happen to be quite fond of Skegness)

I read something this morning written by Selwyn Hughes that really spoke to me.  He said;

Perseverance produces character and character is a big word in God’s economy.  Concentrate on being who God wants you to be and God will place you where He wants you to be

In other words, look at the journey don’t just focus on the destination.  You can trust God, He will get you to where you need to be when He needs you there but, in the meantime enjoy the scenery and see how God can and will grow you.

Because I, your GOD, have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go. I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic. I’m right here to help you.’

(Isaiah 41 vs. 13)

 

o-father-holding-sons-hand-facebook

 

Don’t worry….. Be Peace Filled?

dont-panic1

I have been wrestling with a couple of issues recently. 

Now, in the grand scheme of things, the issues are probably not that big, but they have been enough to unsettle me.  When I get unsettled, I struggle to sleep.  I play out in my mind the conversations I am going to have, what they will say and how I will respond and what they will say and so on and so on.

In John’s gospel, Jesus says;

“Do not let your hearts be troubled…..” (John 14 vs. 1)

IF ONLY!!!!! I am one of life’s natural worriers!!!  IF ONLY my heart didn’t get troubled

“My peace I give to you” (John 14 vs. 27)

So where is it then?  I need to sleep and I cannot because I AM NOT AT PEACE!!!!

Then, it hit me this morning.  I sat down for some time with God and my Bible and read these words;

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3 vs. 15)

What often happens, in my thinking at least, is peace becomes equated with the “everything is lovely” feeling.  To be honest, I never find it, because it is impossible (this side of glory).  This kind of peace relies upon all of the external factors getting themselves in line; People co-operating and doing what I want, to make peace.  Peace, of this kind, relies upon “all the ducks being in a line” when and where I want.  That’s why it’s impossible – I was never qualified for herding cats!!! (sorry about the mixed animal metaphors, I had more important things on my mind!)

But, here is what I reflected on, there is one person I do have a say in as to how they respond in a situation – me! 

Let the peace of Christ rule in MY heart

Sometimes I have to have the courage to place into Gods hands my concerns and worries, acknowledging that I cannot control them, or make them better by myself.  I ask God to help me respond as Jesus would, and I allow Him to guide me.  It’s when I hand myself over to God, it’s then I find peace.

Will the conversations happen? 

What will they say if……?

I don’t know, and that’s okay.  So long as I keep my heart centered in God, and allow no anger, bitterness or resentment to control me I will have peace whatever may happen

Here is the prayer I wrote, maybe it’s something you need to pray today…

 

Lord, today let your peace rule in my heart.

Today, may I center myself upon you

Today, whatever the world, the flesh and the devil may throw at me may I look to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith.

May I rest in His arms and find the peace that passes all understanding

AMEN

 

peace-of-god

 

 

 

 

 

Un-blocked

blocked-well

 

There is a fascinating story in the book of Genesis chapter 26.  Isaac had become rich and powerful, his flocks and herds were numerous.  As a result, the Philistines became jealous of him, and they filled in the wells that Abraham had dug.

In Britain, we don’t really appreciate the value of water.  It falls from the sky with an amazing regularity (particularly in summer).  In the Middle East, water is at a premium.  For Isaac, it was vital that his flocks, herds and servants got the water they needed and so, the wells had to be unblocked.

What interested me about this story was, that as soon as the first well was un-blocked, the shepherds of Gerar claimed the water, “it belongs to us” (vs. 20).  Something similar happens in verse 21 with the second well.  Finally, the third well is re-opened and there is no quarrelling;

He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”(Genesis 26 vs. 22)

These words, gave me some real hope today.

I think, at times, we all go through those periods when we feel as though there is so much to do, and we don’t have the emotional, spiritual, or physical capacity to deal with what we have to do.  At those times, it feels as though “the well is blocked”.

Like Isaac, we need to un-block the well and that, surely, will make everything better again, wont it?  What I saw, in this passage, is that it was not until the third well was opened did Isaac’s flocks and herds get what they needed!

Too often, I open the first well and then grow frustrated because I am still thirsty!  Sometimes, God calls us to persevere, to not give up and to keep digging.  I see this as a promise that, eventually, we will find our Rehoboth.  The thing is, not to give up!

I don’t know about you but, I need to go and get a spade and do a bit more digging!

gen_26_22_rehoboth-192201926_std

 

 

A Glimpse Behind The Mask

1536474-icon

I wonder how many times you have been asked the question “how are you?” and you have responded “I am fine thanks!” and, underneath , you are anything but!!!  We all do it.  We don’t mean to tell an untruth but we all, to a certain extent wear a mask.

If, a couple of weeks back, I published my most important blog, today, I am publishing my bravest blog but, I wanted to share something that is really on my heart at the moment.

So, I am going to invite you to glimpse behind my mask.

This morning, we had our men’s prayer breakfast and I let those who were there, see behind the mask.  I shared about something I, and I suspect many others, suffer from – disappointment.

Let’s face it, life can be disappointing.  As a friend once observed, anyone who has been in ministry for more than a couple of minutes will suffer from disappointments.

People are a major source of disappointment.  Those who promise to be with you, let you down.  Those who are friends, until you lead in a direction that leaves them unsettled.  Colleagues who say one thing to your face and something else behind your back (yes that has happened to me!).  I am sure I am not the only minister alive who has found themselves counting people and been disappointed with the response an event has received.

If I am going to be truly honest, there are also times when I get disappointed with God.  My wife has been battling an illness for some time, we have prayed for healing.  Friends have prayed for healing.  We believe God heals, WE could accomplish so much if she was well.  Sadly, to date, there has been no healing.  I am disappointed.

Of course, it’s not only ministers who suffer from disappointment, everybody does and I am sure you could list all of your sources.

The problem is that disappointments can dig their way deep into our hearts.  I think of this as a sort of equation

Disappointment  → Disillusionment → Discouragement

 When we are discouraged, it can lead to a loss of faith.

So, if disappointment is inevitable, how can we stop it from leading onto disillusionment and discouragement?

Firstly, be honest about it.  Sometimes we just have to tell God about how disappointed we are.  I love the story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road.  Full of disappointment, they meet with a stranger and share with him their disappointment;

And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free!

(Luke 24 vs. 21 – emphasis mine)

 Okay, at this point they don’t know it’s Jesus.  But, no matter what our disappointments are, we can share them with Jesus.

b2f81cd76ef7098a644095999f28965f

Secondly, don’t be overwhelmed by disappointment.  The problem with disappointment is, it will distort our vision.  We don’t see things as they truly are.  It may be a limited number have responded but, they could be the ones God wants to work in at that particular time.  Or, maybe, there is something God wants to teach you through that disappointment.  Remember, in the Emmaus story it was only when the bread was broken that the disciples’ vision was renewed.

If disappointment threatens you, ask God to give you a renewed vision.

Lastly, never give up on hope.  Remember, God can bring about more than we can dream or imagine.  In the Emmaus story we read;

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

(Luke 24 vs. 32 – 34)

I love the way that, with hope restored, the disciples have to run back to the place where their disappointments began, and sought to encourage anyone else who was struggling with their disappointments.

Now, I have to say, I don’t get this right all of the time.  I am a work in progress but, I hope this helps you.

workinprogress1

 

 

A Lesson in Lion Taming

This week, I had a lesson in Lion Taming.  Just before you think I have a lot more courage than you had given me credit for let me explain….

 

lion_tamer_1_small

 

It was an image like this that I saw at a conference this week that really inspired me.  The theme of the conference was leadership and the image was used in relation to the issues surrounding “trust”.

As our speaker observed it takes a lot of training, maybe many years of preparation before the lion tamer is in the position of being able to trust the lion enough to put his head in its mouth.  However, all it takes is one quick snap (or snack) and the trust is lost – in the case of the lion tamer, for ever!

I wonder, who do you trust?

We live in days of heightened anxiety and one of the many effects of anxiety is that it undermines trust.

In days gone by, there were certain professions that seemed to inspire confidence and trust.  However, I believe, that the world in which we live is rapidly losing trust in many of our professions and in many of our cherished institutions.  The Psalmist said;

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. (Psalm 146 vs. 3)

There has been much said about politicians on both sides of the pond in recent months.  Now, the point of my blog is not to promote political debate but, it would seem to me, that many are using the weapon of fear at this present time.  Fear raises anxiety and anxiety undermines trust.

Even those politicians with the best of motives will, inevitably, have to compromise and end up letting down some of those who have placed their trust and hopes in them.7

So, who can we trust?

 

The media isn’t exactly untarnished.  The Internet and social media is not always reliable, the rise of “fake news” and the rumor mill this inspires are proof of this.

Abraham-Lincoln-Quote.png

 

Our friends, perhaps, surely we can trust them?  Experience shows that even our closest friends can let us down (they are human after all).

Now, you have already worked out where this is heading.  I am a minister.  So, of course, I am going to tell you that you can trust God.  I may even trot out that well known verse Proverbs 3 vs. 5.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; (Proverbs 3 vs. 5)

The problem with this is that it can seem rather glib particularly at those times when God seems absent or hidden from our view.  Can we really trust Him when He doesn’t appear to be present or He seems distant? Maybe, for you at this time, you can really identify with the Psalmist when he cries out

My God, my God why have you forsaken me (Psalm 22 vs. 1)

I take great encouragement that Jesus Himself quoted these words from the cross.  But, as Jesus was to prove, the cross does not have the final word!  It may be that God seems absent for you, at the moment, but as Carl Sagan said;

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

As John Ortberg observed, God is a lot closer than you realise or think.  You are not abandoned,

Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Deut 31 vs. 6 Heb. 13 vs. 5)

In my times of struggling and wrestling, I have had to cling onto these words and CHOOSE to believe them whether I see the evidence or not.

So, the lesson I learnt about lion taming is a simple one, you only put you head in a lions mouth if you truly trust the lion.  In case you are wondering, this wasn’t a practical lesson.  There is no way I would put my head in a lions mouth – I ain’t that daft!

More importantly, who is it you really trust?

 

 

4c26ab3fbc5e2c7dd28e5380012dda3e