Thanks for making it fun to be a Newcastle fan again.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. [Philippians 3:7-15]
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Hebrews 12:1-3]
I skipped church last Sunday morning and went for a wander instead.
I read more of a book i’ve been reading, I thought and prayed, for a good while I simply sat there, not thinking, not waiting for anything particular, simply being, and losing track of time.
I believe prayer is everything, I need no convincing, but its tragic how easily I can get develop a bored and lazy attitude towards it, being subtly persuaded to believe that for the most part we can get by alright without it. Foolishness. A few paragraphs I read that morning (p71) brought back some perspective:
The feature that is supposed to distinguish Christian churches, Christian people, and Christian gatherings is the aroma of prayer. It doesn’t matter what your tradition or my tradition is. The house is not ours anyway; it is the Father’s.
Does the Bible ever say anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, “My house shall be a house of preaching”?
Does it ever say, “My house shall be called a house of music”?
Of course not.
The Bible does say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Preaching, music, the reading of the Word – these things are fine; I believe and practice all of them. But they must never override prayer as the defining mark of God’s dwelling. The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than on ten of my sermons.
Faithful Father, forgive me for my pride and the foolishness of my self-sufficient and independent spirit. Cure my blindness, open my eyes, convict me of my sin and of my need for you. I’m sorry I forget so easily Lord, teach me to fear you.
A few months ago my pastor recently asked a group of us to come up our “5 rules for life”. Some people liked the exercise, others didn’t, some found it easy, others more difficult. Personally I enjoyed it and found it really got me thinking. 5 wasn’t enough but I managed to keep it down to 7. Naturally everyones were different, for me they ended up focussing on my particular weaknesses. Anyways, the 7 I settled on were:
1. Always pray, always praise
These are non-negotiable essentials for me. I need connection to God. Sin is inherently self-focussed but praising draws me out of myself and lifts my eyes, to behold something much bigger, far more glorious and beautiful. I was created to praise, I guess it makes sense to make a point of doing what I was designed for. Its not all about me – helps keeps things in perspective.
2. Just do the right thing (especially when it hurts)
One of the most God-glorifying opportunities I have. This is where the rubber hits the road and the world around us sees our faith for what it really is. For me when its hard to do the right thing, its all the more important that I do it.
3. If God speaks, believe and obey – don’t get stuck on the why
I like to feel in control. God offers me wisdom, insight and instruction for every circumstance. The question is do I trust in his wisdom and love for me enough simply to obey without my needing to fully understand why? Do I believe that he truely knows best… enough to let go? Always a challenge.
4. Never base a decision on fear. If in doubt, do it
I am a recovering coward who desires to love better. 1 John 4 paints a clear picture that fear and love cannot exist together. Subconsciously fear paralyzes me given the opportunity and so i’m always striving to recognise how the devil would use it against me to hold me back. It requires me to be brutally honest with myself and my motivations, knowing I exercise courage in the face of fear, not in the denial of it. My perogative is inaction over over-action hence the “if in doubt do it”.
5. Destroy idols ruthlessly, show no mercy
Idols are awful things, promising satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God. Our hearts covet many many things. In Psalm 86 the psalmist prays for an “undivided heart”. I ask for the same. But as God faithfully reveals to me the idols I worship (and they get everywhere!), I must fight against them, fighting always to de-throne myself and to allow God sovereign reign over my heart.
6. Why not me
I can often find myself thinking stuff like “Why should I have to do that?”, “Why me God?”. In sin my heart demands its rights relative to others. However, if I instead turn it round and ask myself “Why not me?”, “Why shouldn’t I do it…” I can have no complaint given what Jesus teaches about serving. I can never serve enough. Another bad tendency I have it to quickly disqualify myself and deny my gifts and abilities. My pastor suggested I should take “why not me” as a reminder not to.
7. Don’t worry, you’re not here forever
This is one of my greatest comforts. Don’t get me wrong, I love life but I groan with creation in longing for perfection. Heaven is up ahead and so even when life can appear to really suck, I can lift my gaze to the horizon I can joyfully slog it out while I wait. Its my inheritance and where my hope ultimately lies. Nothing else will last. Ultimately, its all good! :)
For years i’ve activly sought to learn the secret as Paul talked about of being content in every circumstance. I’ve made it one of my most consistent prayers knowning it to be the only place where my soul will find true rest. I’m regularly frustrated at my inability to let go of the idols i’ve carved out for myself to worship. I hate and fear them but at the same time love and cherish them.
I’ve recently been flicking through “The pursuit of God” by A.W Tozer again. I’d definitly recommend reading it (its pretty short too – less than 100 pages!). Here’s a snippet which talks about the blessedness of possessing nothing. Its incredibly insightful and carries much truth, challenging the idols we allow to go unchecked but speaks also of the liberation and freedom we find in worshipping God alone.
Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first perpared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In Genisis account of the creation these are called simply ‘things’. They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy tome come. Within him was God; without a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.
But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.
Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Man have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there is in the moral dusk subborn and agressive upsurpers fight among themselves for the first place on the throne.
This is not mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symtoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstorous substitution.
I don’t think we should think too narrowly on what constitutes “things” – seems to be basically anything we hold onto too tightly. Many things compete for “first place on the throne” or our hearts. It may be our material possession, our reputations, a desire for vocational success, our friendships and relationships. What ever our “things” are, whatever idols we struggle with letting go of, God’s desire for us, rooted in love, is that they be exposed and that we be free of them :).
This deserves a proper post, hopefully later in the week. The next few days are a bit mad so a photo will do for now.
I do a lot of writing in notebooks. As a method of communing and enjoying intimacy with God i’ve found it invaluable and have been massively blessed by it over the last 4 or 5 years. I’ve learned much about who God is and who I am as i’ve spent time scribbling down all kinds of thoughts and prayers, growing comfortable in his presence. I’d recommend everyone do it.
Libby (aka my sister) marries Dave in a few weeks. Recently I found an entry I wrote the day they got engaged, now over a year ago. Its a tribute and a prayer which seems fitting to share. I’ve not edited its content at all. It wasn’t written for an audience so its quite likely some bits might not make sense. I don’t care :).
Lib got engaged today. They were both so happy it was beautiful. They’re both so right for each other and will be a mighty asset to the kingdom. I pray for your protection father, keep them strong, may they never loose heart, a lifetime of fixing their eyes on Jesus. Let them run that race together, doggedly, and with perseverance. May they know the sufficiency of your love and grace, may they find rest in your arms and peace in your presence.
If you kept a record of our transgressions who could stand father, but with you there is forgiveness and therefore you are feared. Oh Lord I praise you, I love you, for we are cleansed. You present us faultless to the father. Its only through your grace. I am simply blown away by your goodness, that you would do what you did to bring me to your side. Its outrageous, its madness, your love is a mystery and I will never understand why you love me as much as you do. I don’t get it but thats ok, you simply want me to accept it, to receive your embrace. You heal me Lord, you fulfill me, you complete me and in your sight my identity will never change. You elevate me to a place impossible for me to fall from. I am in awe of you Lord.
Unless I know your love for me, how can I reflect it to those in the world around me. Teach me more of your love father, Rest in your presence and fullness of joy. I’m enjoying your love right now, I thank you for moments like these, time just to be a son in the presence of his father. I love you. Amen.
If i’m stressed or tense I find drawing helps me chill out.
Often its a case of just needing something else to focus on, something very different. I was away on holiday a few weeks ago, it all got a bit much, I got grumpy, and so instead of continuing to take it out on my wonderful family and stewing in self-pity I started colouring! 30 minutes later I was the epitome of peace and tranquility once more :). Yeah it is a bit weird but i’ve the ability to be a complete muppet sometimes – and its better for the planet that I coax myself out of it ASAP!
My career has taken off. I papped a premiership footballer in Manchester Airport last Sunday as he watched the Wimbledon final in Terminal 3. Seizing the opportunity I whipped out the trusty but seriously crud 1.3 megapixel camera embedded within my phone and took these beauts. I don’t think anyone actually reads this thing but in the off-chance you do and want to have a stab at who it is i’ll give you a bit of time to have some guesses. Some larger images: