Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Power of Encouragement

Recently I came across this video, I was going to write a blog on encouragement, but Michael Zigarelli touches on it so well with the bible! I want to highlight some features though (spoilers tee-hee). An aspect I want to touch on is the aspect he covers from Proverbs 3: 27: 
One thing that stops us from this is underestimating the power of encouragement. I want you to think back to a time when someone really affirmed you, encouraged you or have given you a well done - not limited to when you have 'deserved it' for the time being, but just for being you - and remember how it made you feel. One thing that recurs in the bible many times is the human desire that is a longing for relationship, we see this in many parts of our lives today. I personally see it as, perhaps, a fundamental part of us, and encourage you - pun not intended ;P - to make a habit of encouraging other people. Take Michael Zigarelli's example for instance, make something of it, put one coin or a good substitute in your pocket and encourage one person a day. If you achieve that then try to have that coin, or what have you, placed back into the initial pocket. 

There are many things that discourage us, and in particular it's the things we compare ourselves with that trick us to think we need to become like them in a certain manner, when it should really be looking to God and thanking him for who we are. It can be hard to do that if the people around us don't give us encouragement; this is why we should tell our folks or flatmates we appreciate them putting up with us, tell your friend that they are looking like they flourished from God's good soil or something - don't underestimate the power of encouragement, and here's a witty quote that sums it up by John Maxwell: " does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.” 

Here's the video for those interested! Chea :)

Monday, 3 November 2014

Things to look at - November 14

Some things to check out when you're not busy with exams...


Beth shared this on Facebook a while back, but it's definitely worth a listen.

Citizens - An indie band out of Seattle.

Also, here's a song written in our very own NZ, I've been listening to lately.

And the one we sang on Saturday with some te reo. Remember, it's cool to korero.It has a long intro... so you might wanna skip a bit! Edge Kingsland have some other good stuff too.

Lecrae on being a man!

No video I'm afraid... but there is audio of John Lennox doing 2 q & a sessions around answers to hard questions... John Lennox is one clever guy and is a great defender of the Christian faith. Definitely worth a listen to. It's 2 hours long, but something you could listen to for a couple of questions and then head back to.

There are some other videos here if you prefer to look!

The Incarnation (spoken word):

This is Odd Thomas of Beautiful Eulogy fame doing an awesome spoken word on the incarnation. I think we might have our Christmas video sorted for church!

Another cool video (and there are other's too) is an animation of Genesis 1-11.

You've maybe seen it already, but an interesting critique on technology

I haven't checked out that much of it... but what I've seen seems cool, especially if you're a fan of spoken word.

Great resource for apologetics (answers to tricky questions) stuff:
You can choose the level appropriate for you too! Very cool.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Swimming Against the Tide: Part 1

Lately in our church we just finished a four part series on love, romance and sex (don’t worry, this isn’t one of “those” blogs!). The series itself was excellent at unwrapping those particular topics (it can be found here) but one thing that also stood out to me is that in practically all aspects of christian life, we are swimming against the tide of our secular western world. Pursuing God and doing things his way and the way he designed them is so counter to what our culture would say. We live in a fallen world, a world that is lost and confused, a world that says identity and satisfaction can be found in sex, money, status, possessions and self worship. Since the fall of man, so many wonderful things that God created for his purpose have been twisted and moulded to fit man’s own selfish wants and desires. So as Christians walking in this broken world, seeking Gods kingdom come and the ultimate reconciliation of man to God, how do we go about living our day to day life against this ever rushing tide of secularity and worldly influence? I was pondering and praying about the ways in which we can go about this and on the drive home from college today, 3 things stood out to me in my mind, the first of these I’d like to share today.

Part 1: A strong personal relationship with the Father

As we look at the life of Jesus in the bible we can soon notice the strong connection he has to his father in heaven. In Luke Chapter 5, news of Jesus’ teaching and his miracles is starting to travel abroad and crowds are starting to gather in wait for him, then in verse 16 it says 

“Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.”

Jesus was a rather busy man back then, healing the sick and teaching the good news all over the place, yet still he understood the importance of quiet time with God. In order for God to use us to win this broken world back for him we need to be like Jesus and take time out to spend with our heavenly Father. Even when we get busy and overloaded with the stresses of life, we need to do what Jesus did and take time to withdraw and spend with God. There’s no use trying to swim against the tide of culture and worldly influence if we don’t have the presence of God and the Holy Spirit with us, it would be like an athlete trying to run a race with no energy, or trying to drive a car without filling it with petrol. The Lords prayer asks God to “give us today our daily bread” He is the bread of life, he is what we need daily in order to live and be more like him. Taking time out for him is the most important thing we can do. 

When Paul writes to the church in Ephesians he says to not get drunk on wine, but keep on being filled with the Spirit. In short, what we put in is what we get out. If we are spending ALL of our time being filled with the things of the world (the wine so to speak) then we can very easily start to drift back downstream and begin to compromise areas of our lives and thoughts. Bearing in mind though, wine itself, like many other things in the world, is not inherently bad when in its right and godly place, but to “get drunk” on these things and engage with them in a way God didn’t intend is what Paul is warning us of. However, If our priority is to be consistently asking for more of the holy spirit, fueling up on the words of the bible and aligning our will with Gods will through prayer, then we will become equipped and ready to go out and be salt and light in the world. 

Something else important to note in that verse is that Jesus withdrew to desolate places, other translations use words like deserted, lonely and wilderness. When Jesus teaches us to pray in Mathew chapter 6, he says to go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father. One important thing I think these passages are saying is that in order to spend good quality time with God, we need to unplug from everything around us and create a space which is quiet and away from the outside world. That means not only closing our door, but also turning off our phones and laptops, switching off Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and all those other things that can so easily distract us with constant notifications, messages, invites etc. With technology the way it is, it’s so easy to be wired in and connected 24/7. More information is accessible at our fingertips than every before and communicating with friends and family is only a few clicks away. Like the wine Paul speaks of, all that stuff is great in it’s right place. However to become addicted and unable to be without these things for long enough to collect our thoughts and begin to draw close to God is a huge danger we face in modern life and even more so in our relationship and our quiet times with God. When we take time out for our Father in heaven we need to make sure we are removing any and all distractions and obstacles that can hinder our relationship with him. Being aware of technology and it’s right place in the kingdom of God is something that as Christians we should be really aware of on a daily basis. By letting ourselves conform to the worlds constant need to be plugged in, we may miss opportunities to plant gospel seeds, do good for others, have important conversations and most importantly, hear from God.

Without spending consistent quality time with our provider and our sustainer, the tide we swim against is one that can seem relentless and unbearable. But by spending time with the Father and learning what it means to withdraw to the desolate places to pray as Jesus did, we soon realise that it’s a battle that has already been won.  

“What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, then who can be against us” 
-Romans 8:31

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What would I change?

This week, while eating lunch a friend said to me 'You can't tell me that when you look in the mirror and find nothing you want to change about yourself?' and it really struck me, and that day I went home and looked in the mirror and I had a bit of a revelation.

I've been reading about creation this week and while looking in that mirror i had a 'OH MY GOSH YES!!' moment about how precious I am to God. I looked in that mirror and saw all sorts of things that are 'less desirable' or not our societies definition of attractive. But I was just so amazed as I remembered that God made trees, some so big they look as if they disappear into the clouds, 
he made mountains that do indeed disappear into the clouds. I can't even comprehend how big they are!

 He made oceans, the sea is so big and vast that we dont, and probably never will know the full extent of it.
 He made animals with necks as tall as me, he made sharks, kiwi's, elephants, horses, lions, tigers, Zebras, Pufferfish...
The list goes on and on and on.
you wot mate?

heeeeey, you sho funnnneeeey!!

Boris the Pufferfish

Yet he called me. He made me so perfectly, and I may not be perfect for a cover on a magazine, (the percentage of people that look like the typical magazine cover type is so small and ridiculous lets face it.) But at times we can get caught up in this desire to look perfect to meet the standards of the people around us. The desire to look the way they expect us to look. But God made us perfect the way we are, and if we're good enough for God then we're good eough for the world around us too. 
So when I look in the mirror and ask myself 'what would I change?' The answer is nothing, cause my Daddy runs the entire universe and he made me like this and I'm proud to be who he wanted and designed me to be. (Bit cheesy I know, but who doesn't like cheese?!) 
Psalm 139, reminds us that there is nothing hiding from God and that he knows it all. he knows how we're feeling, knows about the things we're self concious about, knows our flaws and still loves us. It reminds us that God has a plan and made us the way we are for a reason.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Importance of Being Thoughtful

Sitting in a waiting room the other day, I decided to do some reading. I had downloaded Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' a while back (it was free) and thought I'd give it a go. I got a few pages in and found myself laughing at the following quote:

"But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don't think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful."

It made me laugh and then it made me think... it made me think two things.

The first is the importance of thinking...
Lord Henry's comment about the church is an interesting one - and I'm not talking about the fact that all clergy are good looking (a look at our elders would surely derail that theory!). It's interesting because it makes a good point. It is very easy to become an armchair Christian. One who sits in church and accepts everything that they hear, without thinking or questioning. One who carries on believing the same things without thought or reason for years.

This isn't a good place to be. Augustine said; "I had learned ... that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant."

Augustine was one of the great leaders in Church history. He was a thinker. He wasn't happy just accepting what he was told without first considering it, nor was he happy accepting what he thought without challenging it. We need to be the same. Doubting isn't a bad thing. If harnessed properly, doubt leads to greater understanding. Thomas doubted what he heard about Jesus, but when confronted with the risen Christ, this doubt led to the declaration that Jesus was 'Lord and God'. Our doubt can lead to the same outcome.

It is important for us as Christians to consider what we believe and why we believe it. It's okay to change our mind towards things as we think, research and consider them. It enables us to truly think through our beliefs and therefore stand firmly in them when and if they are challenged.

The second is the importance of trusting...
The quote above is also interesting because it makes a bad point. The bad point is that for something to be true it has to be constantly changing and evolving. That what was thought 50, 100, even two thousand years ago is less likely to be true than something believed now. This is one of the great fallacies of our post-modern world view; That we are the pinnacle of knowledge and know better than everyone else.

The reality is quite different. Look around at our superior civilisation and you quickly see that our modern worldview on a whole number of moral and societal issues is causing a whole lot of damage. It is important not to think too highly of ourselves and to consider the thinking of the past. In some areas this isn't obvious. For example, modern medicine beats middle-aged medicine everytime, I would much rather have anti-biotics than be bled and dung poulticed. But, we can still learn something from middle-aged medicine - herbal remedies are becoming more popular and you will notice that hardly anyone back then died of obesity... our diets certainly could learn a lesson from the past.

Considering the past is especially true of Theology. We are quick to assume we modern Christians know better in many instances than our forbears, but 2000 years of church history can teach us a lot. Many of the ideas we may challenge have been challenged ongoingly for much of that time; free-will vs. pre-destination; paedo-baptism vs credo-baptism. Other ideas we challenge are only coming up now - challenged by our post-modern world view - and it is important that we don't throw away 2000 years of thought and tradition just because it doesn't sit neatly in our current world - which like every other world view is temporary and incomplete. It is important for us to view the thoughts and bibilical interpretations of church history as a great starting point for our thinking, and often we will find that they become the end point too.

So, yes there is a huge need for us as christians to sit and consider our faith. To reflect and question what we believe and why we do things. But there is also a need to trust God and Christian traditions, because we don't necessarily know best! I highly doubt that when I am 80 I will agree with everything I think now, but if I do, I hope it will have been after much thought.

If you're interested in having a think about what you believe and why, consider taking TF2 in the coming year. Registrations are coming up and it would be great to see a whole bunch of young people growing in their knowledge and faith together. Follow this link if you're keen to find out more. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Christians and Politics

So, it's election time and I'm gearing up to vote. Those of you who know me, know that I pay attention to politics and that there are certain parties that I have more time for than others'. Election time gives me an opportunity to voice any dissatisfaction I have with the current governments by voting for someone else. It's not much, but it is my right as an individual within a democratic nation. A recent discussion on Facebook has made me consider my perspective on being a child of God, but also being a member of a democratic society. I'm using three questions to get my point across, feel free to ping any more at me.

First question: Should I vote?
Simple answer, yes. Longer answer...

There is an argument that Christians, being sojourners in a fallen world, should not engage with politics. That God ordains those in power and that we just need to be content with the political lot that they get and leave the politics for the unrighteous. After all, Jesus wasn't political.

Can I first point out, that Jesus was highly political. That his statement 'give to Caeser what is Caeser's and God what is God's' (Mark 12) wasn't a safe, non-offensive, non-political comment. It was highly political (check out Tim Keller on this passage or NT Wright on it). The cleansing of the temple was a political statement of dissatisfaction with the way that the temple (the religious and political authority of the day) was being run. Healing people on the Sabbath was an example of  Jesus undermining the religious and political authority of the time.

Secondly, as Christians when we see injustice, like Jesus, we feel anger and want to see it put right. We can't help but think, "this isn't how it is supposed to be!" When we look around in our country and see injustice, we can't just accept it, we need to do something about it! Part of that is in our own actions; the charities we give to; the people we spend time with; the effort and energy we put into things; the role of the church in helping people. But part of that is understanding governmental policies that have a negative impact on the marginalised and the needy, need to change. That often the injustice we see is part of systematic failure that needs to be looked at. One small way that we can have an impact on this is through voting. Making sure we vote for the people we think will do the best job for those who need it. Making sure that those in positions of influence are held accountable for their actions.

Thirdly, we need to understand that the 'enlightened' world view of a seperate church and state is not necessarily the right one. We've been brought up on it; indoctrinated in the religious and secular split, but is that really how it is supposed to be? We know, as Christians, that Kingdom Principles eschewed through the teachings of Jesus are beneficial not just to individuals, but to societies. We should yearn to see these principles applied to our communities, not just in the Kingdom that is to come, but now, within our government. We want the best for people. When the Clapham Sect - a group of evangelical Christians in England in the 18/19th Century - saw the injustice of the slave trade and the general depravity of society around them, did they just sit by contented in the knowledge that one day God would put all things to right? Were they satisfied in the knowledge that God ordained those in power. No! They acted. They lobbied. They politicked. They voted! And the result was a great many policies that positively impacted English, and world, society. Policies that we still see the benefit of today. They sought God's Kingdom on earth and acted politically to see it done. We need to do the same. The more christians in politics, the better. The more christians voting, the better. The more christians lobbying for kingdom principles to be applied to our society, the better. For everyone!

Second Question: Who should I vote for?

No political party is perfect. Unfortunately they, like us all fall short. That does not mean that they can do no good. My thinking around voting, is that I look for areas where my spirit yearns for something to change and vote for the party that will address that area. Unfortunately, that usually means overlooking policies that I am less happy about - the political spectrum is not nearly as neat as that. There is no poltical party that all christians should vote for. It's a matter of conscience and prayer; which party will have the more positive influence on society. Again, can you imagine how great it would be if more christians were involved in politics and were actively influencing policy?

Third Question: Who is the answer?

I like politics, but I am aware it's not the answer. Jesus is. If I really want to see things change for the better, both here and around the world, then I look to Jesus to do it. Yes, my vote matters, but ultimately I long for revival - when church and state get reunited as people get swept up in the good news of Jesus. When governmental decisions are not made on the basis of fiscal sense, but rather which decisions are the most Christ-like. I look forward to the day when I can vote for a party and agree with everything they put in place, rather than choosing between the lesser of two evils.

I'm not sure this will ever happen on this Earth. But I hold true to the knowledge that on Jesus' return, that is exactly what the world will look like. I just have to make sure that my actions - in the here and now - reflect my desire to see God's Kingdom come. And that includes my voting.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Sane Faith

Recently, I have been reflecting on 'faith'. Is faith wishful thinking; do we have faith in order to believe in the ridiculous? This issue has been raised on various occasions, in which it has affected my Christian life down the track. This misinterpretation means for some people that: faith is merely gap filler, which convinces one to believe in something without two thoughts. This is in reference to how Richard Dawkin's defines faith as "an evil[,] precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument". This misunderstanding has been used to credit the misunderstanding that is 'post-modern spirituality', of which touched on earlier (see here). But is Dawkin's definition of faith true? Short answer, definitely not. The long answer though will need us to explore two of faith's dimensions of trust: in testimony; and in relationship. 

Trust In Testimony - Faith's Relationship With Evidence 

For Christians, their faith predominantly is underpinned by the Bible; this means we believe that the content of the Bible is true, that it is God's word. Just to clarify, the bible wasn't compiled to form a knock-down document to demonstrate proof for God. I am sure that an all knowing and all powerful being would have plenty of other methods if that was his intention. God's intentions for the Bible is difficult to explain broadly, but in one aspect it is his tool for equipping his people, us. The Christian faith's relationship with evidence therefore, isn't one that is underpinned by body of physical artifacts that are sufficient proof for the existence God. Rather, our belief trusts in the testimonies given by God's people, and furthermore, what God's word means to and for us. Think about what proof means for a moment. The problem with proof is that it is so ambiguous to know for sure when something is actually proven. Take this definition of proof: as evidence or argument establishing a fact or the truth of a statement. If you think about it hard enough it is actually a lot messier to prove something. 

One aspect of faith is that it doesn't rely on proof, but evidence - spoken word, testimonies - that testifies to the belief. This idea may send mixed messages, as it has done to me before. Since it can be easy to say faith is an excuse to not bother to weigh the reasonableness or likeness of something. However this is not so, precisely because faith is only more credible when one does weighs the reasonableness of God's promise. Faith's relationship with evidence and the problem with proof may be expanded through this analogy:

Bob has been saving up his money for several years in order to buy his first smart phone. Just after its release, Bob manages buys an I-phone 5.  After a month of regularly using it, he inevitably learns about how many of its features work. 

Thereafter, one of Bob's work mates, Sam, received a text message from Bob saying how he has the new I-phone 5. Sam was amazed that Bob got it so early, and asked for proof that he had it. Sam explained to Bob he has to bring it with him to his house the next day as proof. 

A series of events happen and Bob found that he cannot possibly retrieve the I-phone. Measuring with this Sam's expectation of proof , Bob cannot possibly prove to Sam that he has or at least had an I-phone 5.

When Bob explained to Sam his situation, Sam refused to believe Bob's claim of his possession. After dwelling on his curiosity, Sam challenged Bob to recall everything he knew about the I-phone 5: its functions, additional and defining features, applications, graphics, processor, description of design, faults. He also had Bob ring his family and a few friends, of whom gave a testament to Bob having an I-phone to Sam. Sam was amazed at both the breadth of Bob's account and the additional testimonies. Thereafter, he decided to trust Bob that he had an I-Phone 5.

Sam believed Bob precisely because of the evidence he gave them. Does the fact that Bob cannot provide proof for his testimony mean that it is merely wishful thinking? The evidence doesn't prove its existence to Sam, however, it presents a body of information which demonstrates how Bob's claim is reliable and trustworthy. These accounts of Bob's I-phone demonstrate how believing in Bob's claim isn't wishful thinking. 

One Dimension of the Christian Faith 

This is the same for the Christian faith. When challenges and choices arise or when one prophesies, one may weigh such things with what the bible says. Christians hesitate, we are challenged. This was demonstrated through Sam's hesitance to trust in Bob. Because what are the odds of Bob losing his I-Phone just before he was going to show Sam? Thereafter, Bob's understanding of the I-Phone demonstrated an aspect of truth which made his claim more trustworthy. God provided his word for us to weigh the doubtful. Sam's willingness to seek the truth reflects a part of understanding God's word. That is to say, it is easier to explore and understand what the Bible says with a soft heart. Some people take more time to weigh their belief in God, and that's all good. When a Christian says they have faith, they look back on Jesus' story. They - we - believe in a God who so loved us, that he sent his only son, Jesus, to save us (see John 3: 16). The Bible, shows a God who recognizes our struggles, who suffered for us, and who speaks new life; we believe the Bible shines the brightest and only hope in our broken world. 

So when one asks 'is faith wishful thinking?' The answer should be precisely no! To have faith for a Christian in regards to trusting in testimony, is to be equipped with God's word. This means being steadfast in God's word, willingly seeking truth and challenge your doubts.  

This video is an amazing song that reminds what Christians believe in, so that we may be encouraged in times of hardship. Hit up the beatz, chur!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Lord is My Shepherd

Karen recently finished a painting she was doing for a friend. It was a painting representing Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd. It's been in the corner of our lounge for the past two years, so it's strange to see it gone. The room seems empty without it. I've also noticed that I'm thinking Psalm 23 a whole lot less. You see, every time I looked at it, I thought the psalm. Which was a good thing, cause it's such a great psalm, full of some awesome truths about trusting in God and how He feels about me.

I have a similar thing at school. Opposite my chair, Karen painted me a picture of some hills and mountains and when I'm at the end of my tether (which happens regularly!), I look up to the hills from whence cometh my help. It doesn't magically solve my problems or even necessarily make things better, but it does remind me of my Father. It reminds me of my position as his son. And that's always a good thing. 

I also used to have a dot on my whiteboard and everytime I saw it I would say
Psalm 86:1

Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;

I no longer do, but for a while, it brought God into my work, when otherwise I perhaps wouldn't have.

Other cultures and streams of Christianity repeat psalms or creeds. Some say prayers as they fiddle with beads. Sometimes these things have become empty and religious, but ultimately these things came about because, like me, people wanted to remind themselves of the truths of God on a regular basis. I think there is real wisdom in that.

It got me thinking of other ways I can place truths from the bible into my life in a regular, non-religious way. I once had the Nicene Creed on the back of the toilet door, but I never memorised anything more than the first few lines.

Perhaps there is a way you can work the bible in your life? I could probably do with something around Matthew 7:5 in my car somewhere...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Get some perspective

Life can be hard, (no duh Belle, state the obvious) but I often find myself forgetting that struggles and hard times are all a part of the plan that God has laid out for us. Often I’ll be really struggling with something and I often find myself praying, 'God please stop this, it's too much.' But when I look back on that situation later I have this moment of just 'GOD IS SOOOOOO GOOD’ because often the hardest parts of my life have led to amazing things happening! 

Recently I've been in a production, & an actor’s job in rehearsal is to pretty much do what the director says. So when I'm struggling with something I take a step back and I get some perspective. God is like the director. He has planned the whole show out before the actor has even stood on the stage, God planned out our entire lives before we were even born. The director takes charge of the whole show; the lights, the sound, the costumes, the casting, making sure there's a person in the dressing rooms to keep your sanity intact. The director has control over these things so that the show goes as smoothly as possible. Same as God puts people in place & has everything sorted so you can fufil his plans to the best of your ability. 

when your really close up in a situation, it can be really hard to see whats really going on...
The movie ‘Soul Surfer’ which is an adaption of Bethany Hamilton’s story, Bethany was an up and coming professional surfer. At 13 her arm was bitten off by a shark while she was surfing. Bethany, after conquering many obstacles, is now once again a pro surfer living an amazing and inspiring life.  In the movie they made, her youth leader says:

 “When you’re really close up in a situation it can be really hard to see what’s really going on, stand back and get some perspective.”  

And she’s right, if you’re looking at something really close up, it’s not always easy to see what it is. So trust that God has a plan for even the hardest of moments in your life! :)

... So stand back and get some perspective

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future"

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Revisiting Spirituality (Part 2): Don't YOLO it; YOLTBTSTYLF it!

A Recap: Spirituality, Not Religiosity 

As a brief recap, spirituality is a very misunderstood term, one misunderstood as ridiculous; either as a tool to become holy, or as an 'airy-fairy' false belief system people resort to (see part 1 here). Christianity is also amongst the crossfire: as some perceive Christianity as religiosity; something that has strict requirements to follow in order to become 'holy'.  

Recently I have been reflecting on YOLO (you only live once). I love this term, you know, it kinda feels like the 'push' or 'kick starter' before a bungee jump. I often use it if I'm not sure about doing something, and 95% of the time it gets me to do a particular thing without looking at its consequences. But the idea behind YOLO can distort how I live with God in a world that is 'fun'.          

“Let us eat and drink,” you say “for tomorrow we die!” - Isaiah 22: 13(NIV)#YOLO


One thing about Christianity is that we do not indeed to strive for God's promise. You may have heard this time to time, and I indeed forget it time to time, but one of the many major things that differs Christianity from other faiths like Islam, is their promises. 

(5)made us alive with Christ... (6)And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus... (8)For it is by grace you have been saved... 

We are made with, raised with and saved through Christ - all are in past tense! For many religions it is 'follow, strive, invest and then, become holy', but for Christianity we who accept Jesus as Lord are 'holy', therefore it is the other way round; we want to 'follow, strive and invest'So for Christianity, we have are inheritence now, and later. The now being our assurance!

The Spirit is our assurance (see image; Eph 1: 13-14), God gave us not something, but someone to look after us until we are in heaven. In part 1 (see here), I referred to the fruits of the Spirit: essentially, the desires of the Spirit which overwrite our darker desires; nurturing our spirituality. But also, God gave us his Spirit to dwell in us to remind us of his promise, eternal life - salvation. Recently I have been pondering how this has huge significance on our day-to-day lives.

Eternal Perspective

You know, it is weird, when the bible refers to Christians as 'saints' and 'righteous'. Because in the world we live in it is so easy to compare ourselves with others and feel insecure. I don't know about you but I don't look in the mirror and go 'look at this beautiful saint!' You know, righteousness is alot more down to earth than you may think. Essentially, it describes a person who is right with God (through accepting Jesus Christ as lord); living in and by his promise. But this idea of righteousness is so distorted, moreover, it is - for everyone; non-Christians, Christians, old age society and post-modern society - often limited to a 'great' man like Moses or an old dude who has dedicated his whole life to a religion in a run down chapel. But it isn't an earned thing, it doesn't put people on a higher pedestal in a 'hierarchy' in order to get closer to God (see Eph 2: 9). It is this misunderstanding that managed to translate itself into how I perceive the life I live and its many choices.

I read Romans 8 recently, and never have I been so challenged! It describes the promise we have not just later, but now! Even more so, it provokes my spirit with joy to reach out to the world. Cause if I have an eternal life after this one then YOLTBTSTYLF! You Only Live Twice But The Second Time Is For Life, so why not?

Imagine you are in heaven 3000 years from now, you would probably be like 'remember that time 3000 years ago when I was scared to talk to that guy about this eternal life?' Oh yeah, imagine I also said this in a joyous tone of voice - as Jesus' promise isn't a conviction to reach out to people, but a fire, a reason, something that gets us pumped to do it! Don't feel compelled to force yourself to talk to strangers, but simply, if someone asks about your faith or asks what you are up to in the weekend - just YOLTBTSTYLF it - tell them you went to Church, tell them about your testimony, Jesus says to plant seeds not to tear roots (Matt 13: 29).  They may laugh or persecute you, but in a millennia or so you'll be like #YOLTBTSTYLF that! 

Revisiting Spirituality: Nurturing an Eternal Perspective
When we spend time with the Spirit, our fruits develop in which it reflects a healthy spirituality. Moreover, when our fruits develop, when we feel secure in our relationship with the Spirit - no matter if we read our bible everyday or not, sinned that day or not - it develops an eternal perspective. I write this as an encouragement! Because isn't it awesome that God didn't just give us a piece of paper saying we are saved? That instead, he actually gave us a living person to assure us of his promise, a person to develop a relationship with and count on! So don't YOLO it - I might aswell do this cause I'll die; YOLTBTSTYLF it!