Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Updates

December 10, 2009

Well it’s been over a week since the last post, and a lot has happened. I want to just tidy up a couple of issues that I know some of you were concerned about.

First of all, my friend finally asked the question (see Uncertainty) and whilst they didn’t get the answer they hoped for, they have still remained good friends with the other person. So that was good news.

And I finally took the step down the path I was being pushed in, and although I got a little scratched and bruised on the way, I have come out ok. It didn’t lead where I was expecting, but it has led to something new. And that is good news as well, as I was expecting to get really hurt. But I still don’t know why God has made me take this route, I expect it will become clear when the time is right.

So there you go, two stories with happy endings. And the moral of these little tales? I suppose it’s that if we don’t take the chance we will forever be wondering “what if…?”. Will I take that step in the future if a similar situation arises? That I don’t know, it took a lot for me to do it this, but I’m glad that I did. And to all those who helped and guided me on the way, once again I’d like to say thank you.

Advent

November 30, 2009

So today was the the first Sunday in advent. But what does that mean, and how does it relate to our everyday lives?

Advent is the season prior to Christmas, where we are awaiting the Advent or Coming of Jesus. Originally Advent was a season of penitence and fasting, but these days it seems to have this emphasis. Nowadays it’s a season of looking forward to that joyful event of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

It’s a time when everything starts to become Christmassy. There are carol concerts, decorations and Christmas trees appear and the Christmas programs start on TV. More and more often however these things begin to happen before Advent and I think that’s a shame. These four weeks are specially and by making the season long, some of that specialness is lost through over-exposure. (see last year’s post When does Christmas start?)

Is there anything in the Bible that could relate to Advent? Well yes, but it’s not just about Jesus’ birth, it’s also about his Second Coming.

In Luke 21:25-36, Jesus talks about us being on our guard and ready for the Coming of the Son of Man:

Be on your guard! Don’t let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting or drinking and with the worries of life, or the Day may suddenly catch you like a trap.

Good News Bible, Luke 21:34-35

From this we can see that the Coming could happen at any time, and probably when we least expect. And we should constantly be preparing for our time with our Lord

But I also think this could have a more down-to-earth application. This season of Advent could be the start of something new for us. Perhaps we should open our eyes to the world around us and look for possible new paths in our lives. We have just seen that Jesus says we should not be too occupied by the worries of life; perhaps there is a new door waiting to be opened that we have just not seen because we are to busy to notice it. It may well have been there for sometime or it could have just appeared in front of us.

So here’s my thought for this Advent season: take your time and have a good look around you. Take note of the opportunities that may be there – new hobbies, new jobs, new relationships. And ask yourself whether God has put that opportunity there for you to take? If you’re unsure, talk to Him about it, after all He does listen to us and give us signs as to what he wants us to do.

A blank piece of paper

November 12, 2009

Last night we were discussing God’s plans for us and whether we have a free will or not. It was felt that our lives are like a blank piece of paper and it is up to us what we do with it. Some of us may produce fantastic works of art on that piece of paper, some may just make a mess whilst others simply screw it up and throw it away.

However, we did feel that God had a plan for us, and there was a purpose in our lives, however it was up to us what path we took. If we strayed from the God’s plan, then He would do all He could to get us back on it. He would provide us with signs pointing us in the right direction. But sometimes we just couldn’t see them because we either chose to ignore them or they’re weren’t where we were expecting to see them.

Let’s take an example of the man whose house is beginning to flood. First the army come along and offer to rescue him. He says “no thanks, God will save me”. But the water continues to rise and he goes to the top floor and prays for help. Then the navy arrive and again he turns them away saying “No thanks, God will save me from this flood”. The water rises even higher and so he climbs on the roof and prays again. Now the air force arrive in a helicopter. He waves them away saying”No I’ll be okay, God will save me”. But the water continues to rise and he drowns. When he gets to heaven he asks God why he hadn’t helped him. God replies “I sent the army, the navy and the air force! What more could I do!” The man had simply not been looking for God’s help in the right place.

All through life we are faced with difficult choices and we often ask God for help in making those choices. But do we always look for or listen for the answer? Sometimes the answer is staring us in the face, but we just cannot see it.

Is there a way to tell when God has given us an answer or shown us the route to take? Once when I had been agonising over something, I asked God to give me a sign as to what I should do. I’m pleased to say that I did in fact get a sign, and very quickly after I had asked for it. The trouble was it wasn’t very clear as to how I should interpret it. At first glance it seemed to say do one thing, but after careful consideration, it could easily have said do the exact opposite. From this I can only conclude that although He has a plan for us and shows us what He wants us to do with our piece of paper, the final choice really is left to us.

[There seems to be a theme developing on my blog at the moment about making decisions. This is not intentional. It is just happening. I think I’m being told something – but what?]

Regrets, wrong decisions and hindsight

November 9, 2009

Three separate things have led me to today’s post: Firstly, a discussion a couple of weeks ago with friends about things in our past that we regretted. Not the little “Oh I wished hadn’t eaten that extra slice of cake” type regrets, but the big ones such as “I wished I’d never had that relationship”. Secondly, the post I did the other week about heading off down a wrong turn in life. And thirdly a Church service where the preacher spoke about looking back with hindsight at the decisions we had made in life.

Now I’ll start be telling the story which Rev Trevor Gerhardt told us at the beginning of his sermon. There was a man walking through the desert and he was beginning to suffer from dehydration and really need water. Eventually he found a tent with a Bedouin standing outside. He asked the man for some water. “Sorry,” came the reply, “I don’t have any water. But I can sell you a tie”. “I don’t need a tie, I need water!”. “Sorry I can’t help then, but there is another tent about three hours away in that direction” replied the tie-seller. So reluctantly the man continued on his way through the desert. Eventually he came to the second tent, and again there was a Bedouin standing outside. “Water, water, I need water” said the weary traveller. “Oh I have plenty of water, but you can’t come in” he was told. “Why?” “Because you’re not wearing a tie!”

So all through life we are presented with choices, but it is only with hindsight that we can see if we have taken the correct path or not. However, whichever path we take, it affects us for the rest of lives. It’s not possible to go back in time and alter our decision. Once made, the path is set, and even if we decide that we are going down the wrong route, it’s not possible to go back and start again. We just take a different route from where we are now.

So when my friends were saying that they regretted taking certain jobs, or having relationships which didn’t work out, I can honestly say that I don’t. I may not like the way some of my decisions have played out, but if I could alter them, I probably wouldn’t because I wouldn’t end up where I am now. If I had never met/married my ex-wife, I probably wouldn’t have the daughter I have. If I had taken that other job (the one I would have enjoyed more than filling shelves, paid better and had better prospects), I probably wouldn’t have some of the best friends I now have. And if I had not gone to Church on that particular Sunday (and just carried as any other Sunday), I wouldn’t have my other best friends. Yes I admit I have made some really bad/stupid decisions in my life but on the whole, I am happy with where I am now. I have a good set of friends and a daughter that I wouldn’t change for anything.

So I challenge you, next time you’re thinking that you’ve made a really bad choice, and are regretting it, just think about what’s good in you life and imagine if it wasn’t there. If you had taken a different route, you life would be entirely different, and not necessarily for the better.

Baking

November 16, 2008

So today it was my turn to prepare the bread and wine for Communion in Church and I thought it would be nice to have a freshly baked roll for the Minister to break.

Now whilst I do like to cook and bake, I don’t always have time. So today I decided I would use a part-baked roll which would only take 10 minutes in the oven.

I duly placed two rolls on a baking tray and put them in the oven. Almost immediately I started to smell something burning, but I put it down to something at the bottom of the oven. After all, the rolls had only just been put in so it couldn’t be them, could it?

After ten minutes, I opened the oven and took it the tray out to find just one roll. Oh dear.

I looked inside, and there, at the back, was the remains of the second roll.

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It must have rolled straight of the back of the tray as I put it in.

I think I’ll stick to shop-bought rolls next time!

When does Christmas start?

November 14, 2008

I was listening to the radio this morning in work when on came Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You”, and this got me thinking about how long the Christmas season seems to last these days.

When I was younger, the Christmas decorations never went up until the third Sunday in December. This was because my birthday is in December and I was allowed to keep my cards up for a week. So to me Christmas never really started until about a week before Christmas Day.

Nowadays, I put the decorations up at some point between the 1st and the 25th of December – yes, one year I did put them up on Christmas Day! The actually date varies depending upon how busy I am. As I rarely get visitors, I see no point in putting them up too early. But I do make sure they’re up before my daughter comes to stay (unless she wants to help put them up). For me, Christmas begins on the first day of Advent, although due to work pressures, I rarely get into the festive spirit much before Christmas Eve.

But when it comes to the world at large, we seem to be extending the Christmas season every year. The Christmas lights in Brighton and Oxford Street in London have been turned on this week. The shops have been selling Christmas goodies for several weeks. And now the radio is playing Christmas music.

I feel we have lost our way with Christmas. It is no longer about the birth of Jesus. It is now just about getting people in the mood to spend money, either on presents, food/drink or decorations. For a large proportion of people (and not just non-Christians) it is purely commercial

So when does Christmas begin for you? Are you someone who gets in to the spirit early on? Or do you just celebrate during Advent and Christmastide?

Why worry?

May 26, 2008

Today’s Church service included a reading from Matthew 6:24-34 where Jesus teaches about us being unable to serve two masters: God and money.

 

This is one of part of the bible that I really believe in and do my best to put in to practice (I know I should do everything Jesus teaches, but  I’m human!). Some of the key phrases in this section are:

v24-25: “… You cannot serve both God and money. This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body.”

v32: “… Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things.”

v34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings”

I often find myself in a tight financial position, and on the face of it, I will be for some time to come. However, I believe that God will see me through any major problems that lie ahead, just as He has in the past. This does not mean I should be reckless with money. On the contrary, I should be careful and not waste it. However, I believe that God will not let me starve or see me penniless providing I follow Him. I have enough to think about with what is happen today, without thinking if I’ll be able to pay the mortgage in 15 years time. Providing we always put God first and material things second, then we will have nothing to worry about. It is only when we start to put things the other way, and put God second, that we will have problems.

In a similar vein, one of my favourite inspirational pieces of writing that I often read is called Two Days We Should Not Worry About:

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is Yesterday with all its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains.

Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring Yesterday back.

We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone forever.

The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and its poor performance;

Tomorrow is beyond our immediate control.

Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendour or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.

Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is yet to be born.

This leaves only one day, Today.

Any person can fight the battle of just one day.

It is when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities Yesterday and Tomorrow that we break down.

It is not the experience of Today that drives a person mad, it is the remorse or bitterness of something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring

Let us, therefore, Live but one day at a time.

[Author unknown]

So, don’t worry, it could be worse. But with God’s help. it won’t be.

Pentecost

May 12, 2008

I haven’t written anything recently simply because I had no idea of what to say. I would like to be able to write creatively with ease, but I have always had trouble with putting words down on paper – English was not my best subject at school.

Anyway, yesterday was Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit visited the disciples. Jesus had been with them for some time after the Resurrection and had now ascended in to Heaven. On this particular day, they were all gathered together when they were surround with tongues of fire and began to speak in different languages. They were thus able to communicate with and spread the word of Christ to the multitude that were gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Harvest.

We celebrated Pentecost in Church yesterday in both the morning service and the evening Café Connexion. Normally during Café, I’m running the sound and lighting desks. Well, yesterday was a bight sunny day, and so the lighting setup was kept simple as otherwise I would be fighting the natural light entering the Sanctuary. Just as the service was during to a close I noticed something on the wall behind the alter. There, almost like a flame, was a tiny patch of sunlight. It was being cast on the eastern wall by the setting sun and most of the room lights were off. The effect was amazing. There was just this small beam of orange light shining on the cross on the alter and then landing on the wall.

Sunlight on alter cross This picture is not very clear as I had to take it in poor light, from the back of the Church on my phone. However, you can just make out the orange glow in the centre of the frame below the projector screen.

I feel this just shows that the Holy Spirit was there with us in the room.

Guilt

May 4, 2008

Lisa recently blogged about guilt and “that guilty feeling” and this got me thinking. Guilt is usually treated as a bad thing, but can it ever lead to anything good?

We all have principles, beliefs and even laws which which live our lives by. We normally experience guilt when we cross a line drawn in the sand and break one of these principles. Sometimes other people get hurt by our actions; on other occasions only we now we have crossed this line and no one else gets hurt.  I believe that we feel guilty even when no one else knows, because we feel that we have let ourselves and God (for those who believe) down.

Guilt can manifest itself in many ways, but probably the most common are depression and physical pain. We constantly question ourselves as to why or how our transgression occurred and would we do it again in the same circumstances?

It is well known that one way of dealing with guilt is to talk to someone. The Bible teaches us that God will forgive our sins providing that have forgiven everyone else. So perhaps “that guilty feeling” is perhaps God asking us to talk to him and to forgive others. Next time we transgress and cross that line, perhaps we should talk to God. We should accept that we were at fault and (where possible) tell Him that it with His help it won’t happen again. We should then forgive all those who have hurt us in any way and ask him for his His forgiveness.

Once we have asked this, He will forgive us and, from personal experience, a great weight is lifted from us. We can then carry on with our lives being careful not to repeat the error.