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Be Bold, Be Strong for the Lord our God Is With Us

Faith, Youthwork and Family…

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Are you are “melted chocolate teapot” or do you have “log-eye”?

I read this morning that Chris Pratt, the lead actor of Guardians of the galaxy and many other movies, reportedly was “converted” whilst being a waiter and living out of a van! There is a part of me that likes becoming aware that some of the people I see on my screen have a faith in God. However, I also find it odd when people say “you should vote for them as they are Christian!” Just because they claim to follow Christ doesn’t mean their vocal abilities are any better than another person!

If our “faith” has little impact on our behaviour then we fail to be “light” to the world or “salt” purifying and giving our community “the flavour of Christ”. We are called to be set apart, we are “in the world but not of it” so how do we make a difference? If we decide that we are not going to:-

  • swear
  • Tell rude jokes
  • take part in activities that are questionable

Will others not see we are different?

One of my favourite actors has done a few broadway shows and I listened to a recording of one of the songs he sang, I was dismayed to hear him dropping the “f-bomb” in it, I don’t really see the need to swear, there are so many more words in the English language but people seem to resort to the basic four-letter words whenever and how often they feel like it.  I caught myself thinking about whether or not he should have sung/said those things, realising that  I am not “squeaky clean“.

I don’t envy celebrities, as soon as they are semi-famous, people wanna know their business, reporters will look for any “dirty laundry“, one article will say how awesome you are, another one will pull you to pieces for something you did ages ago.  As followers of Christ, we should not judge others, yet we often do!  Jesus loved everyone from the outset, it is not our place to rip someone off a shred, but we are called to challenge others if they are not living as they should, not in public but in private so they can be corrected fairly.

Kim Burrel had been set to appear on Ellen Degeneres’ (or “Ellen Degenerate” as some people apparently call her!) show, however Kim’s comments in her church about the “homosexual spirit” caused that offer to be withdrawn after someone recorded her spiel and posted it online.  Could Kim have had more of an impact if she was “softer” in her approach to homosexuality being a sin and been able to get on Ellen’s show?  Should we all be nicer when it comes to how we talk about sin and everyone’s failure to respect God and our fellow man?

I can recall that in high school, my refusal to swear was something different  to my friends, they kept trying to get me to say swear words and even resorted to German and Spanish to try and trick me!  They made jokes about me getting aroused at images of fully dressed women who had also fur coats on (rather than the naked or half-naked ones my friends obviously enjoyed viewing).  My friends even thought that my unwillingness to cheat in the card game “cheat” was abnormal! It wasn’t a moral decision but the fact that we played with 3 decks of cards totalling at least 156 cards meant i didn’t often need to cheat!

I look back at my life and easily identify times that I could have done better, been nicer, taken more time to think before acting.  I try my best not to be critical of others, but as I have said before:-

The “grass may be greener on the other side” but you don’t know how much work has gone into making it constantly look that way!

On the flip side of that, you or I may look at someone, thinking about how:-

  • useless they appear to be.
  • they really need to “step up” and do more to help their family!
  • they shouldn’t say or do those things you have seen or heard them doing.
  • unloving and disrespectful they appear to be.

Yet as Jesus said “he without sin cast the first stone“, we need to be mindful of our own faults because if we do decide to “pull our neighbour up” on something they have done, we should be prepared for them to do the same! If I am a liar and a thief, I have no right to tell my friend “you shouldn’t be having sex with someone of the same gender!”  Sure we should fight and stand up for our beliefs but there needs to be a balance of love and respect!

Kim saying “homosexuals are gonna die of their sin in 2017” may not have been the best way of handling it, she should have tempered that comment with all the other things God calls a “sin”!  All of us have fallen short of what God expects of us, yet he loves us anyway!  There is more and more hatred & vitriol these days coming from people who should know better!

There are a number of high-profile christians who have been caught out, or have confessed doing things which the bible tells us not to do, but should that mean we dismiss them off hand? If a singer-songwriter who writes amazing songs of worship, commits adultery whether out of wedlock or homosexual, does that mean all their songs are “tainted” with a deceitful spirit?

If someone is holding a position of leadership and they are leading people away from the truth, then sure it is something we need to walk away from, but if what has been said or written by them is “true”, surely God can redeem it?!

I have watched countless youtube videos by people condemning “wolves”, my wife thinks I listen too much to them and not enough of the bible and she has got a point! If we are constantly on the look out for heresy, deceit and evil in our midst, we are doing not much better than those who constantly are after the next “spiritual high”, being as useful as a chocolate teapot and not meeting the needs of those in our community!

This year I am going to try to be more intentional, not sleepwalking through my walk with God, but trying my best to be aware of others needs, the truth of the situations I find myself in and loving others how Jesus would like me to.

What about you? Have you ever been a melted chocolate teapot? Criticising others for their sin-charred kettle butts? Wanna change this year? Don’t make a resolution!  Just do it!

#OnceUponATime #GoodAgainstEvil

A lot of stories, films and Television programmes have the theme of “good vs evil“, some of my favourites have story-lines where the evil person’s plans are yet to be discovered but are slowly uncovered as time goes on. This is true of “Once Upon A Time”, and is true of a real battle that not everyone is aware of or wants to even dwell on.  There is evil in this world, there are people like Adolf Hitler, mass murderers, rapists, paedophiles and radicals who promote & encourage others to kill.  There is also good, love and kindness in the world expressed by people like Mother Theresa, food banks, street pastors and guerrilla gardeners!

The thing that concerns me is how much the human race is oblivious to what is truly going on!  You have groups like Anonymous and Wikileaks who are exposing and trying to fight against the tide of secrecy and corruption in the world, but like in the film “Men in Black” –

the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!

The church should be a place to receive truths and be encouraged to bring light into the darkness of our own lives and those around us, but unfortunately some churches have allowed the deceiver to use small white lies to distract churches from the right path, so that they dwell on things that do not matter or things which are not completely true.

In my blog about “wanderlust and training camps” I compared some churches to communes where we allow Christians to serve one another and close themselves off to the world, the problem is we are in the world not of it”, we are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Ambassadors do not just stay within the walls of the embassy (unless i am wildly mistaken) but they engage with the society around them, maintaining their status and role within that society.

There are two mistakes people can make about the Devil:-

  1. Giving him too much credit- banging your toe on a table leg isn’t the devil’s work it’s just an accident!
  2. Giving him too little credit- if we are doing God’s will and things seem against us they probably are, as the Devil does not want God’s will to be done!

I am really confused how “Christians” in churches can be so willing to believe that gems and gold dust, even feathers can fall from the ceiling, attributing it to “the glory of God” but as someone pointed out, how many people in the bible actually come into contact with the “glory of God” and survived? If they did meet the pure awesomeness of God, they were either forced  to their knees with the realisation of their impurity compared to God’s nature or they were physically blinded by the pure white light, so how come these new “spiritual encounters” involve people being able to stand and hold their phones up to video it?  God doesn’t change so what do they think has changed?  The bible says:-

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

I watched a scene in a documentary, where a really passionate young man walked up to a group of guys playing basketball and asked “Wanna see a miracle?” Firstly, who does that?! (certainly Jesus never did) Secondly, the friends of the guy who was “healed” didn’t know what to do so just went back to playing basketball! So that “miracle” had a massive impact on those guys (not!)  If the deaf guy was really healed, why did he not react in the way others have in the videos you see on Facebook where someone hears for the first time? If your hearing returned wouldn’t you be a little more pleased?

The times that I have felt God “speak to me” or “touch me“, I have not been holding my phone up taking selfies of the experience, I have been so overwhelmed that I could barely stand, I weep uncontrollably, my wife asks if I am ok, I nod and just cry at the depth God’s love and how unworthy I feel of it!  My parents, my wife and I prayed for a friend of ours who was stressed and was struggling with the weight of work he was facing, when we laid our hands on him, i felt an overwhelming sadness, and felt all his concern leave him.

The problem I have is that i don’t want to limit God, but in all seriousness we are called to question everything (despite what some atheists think of us “Brainwashed” followers of some guy called Jesus). The bible says:-

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Don’t be a stupid sheep, follow only the true shepherd and what in his word, which is as true today as it was when he walked this earth, our society may have changed the landscape but we are still followers who need to look up occasionally and check that we haven’t got lost in nice looking pasture which isn’t as beneficial as we thought it was.

If we are truly having encounters with God, our lives will be changed but our focus should always return to our true shepherd.  When we are baptised we are reborn, but that doesn’t mean the false shepherd has given up trying to lead you in the wrong direction, he may not have stopped you publicly declaring that you are one of God’s flock, but the Devil won’t stop offering you temptations to lead you back to the old pastures or new places which seem good but have poor roots and are no good for your future.

Test everything you hear and see, even if it is in a church, Humans are fallible and weak, God is steadfast, trustworthy and faithful!

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