“They say I am going to Hell”

It’s day one of a few days off, and as I was walking down the mall at my favourite shopping centre, I over heard from inside a shop (lush,) (that sells soaps and bath things) two colleagues speaking.

What caught my attention in the seconds it took to pass their shop was the comment, “they say I am going to Hell.” I carried on walking maybe got a 100 yards when something in my gut compelled me to turn around and head back to that shop, I had to let them know, that not all Christians think their going to hell that god loves all people no matter who you are or where you have been.

I wondered round the shop, wondering how to begin, and smiled inwardly when the aforementioned shops colleague asked, are you on a mission for something! And I began, and what emerged was a good conversation, we talked about the media, philosophy, religion, sexuality, and the policy’s of the shop he proudly worked with.

This openly gay man said he felt sorry for people who opposed the bill in parliament, that more than anything it was a step in the right direction for equality, he realised that the media had hyped it up, that whilst not being religious, he did believe in God, who I reminded him loved him. A little while later I left. Feeling that today I had served The Lord, perhaps helped someone realise that sometimes our prejudices define our religion rather than the other way around.

Its interesting also, that when I am on my holiday, and my mind is not full of meeting, and to do lists, I hear Gods call, and have the time to actually do what he wants me to do. Tell a people who in the words of the man I spoke with, feel marginalised, and feel that yesterday was a step in the right direction for equality above any other politics or religious rhetoric. Sentiment I think Jesus would whole heartedly punched the air and said yes with.

I do wrestle with how this will be worked out in practice, but feel I need to draw close to the one who declares that there is no one who can escape the love of God slave or free. A love that we see so clearly in the actions of Jesus, who touched the leppors, welcomed the women, and when to tea with outcasts calling each to follow him.

To conclude, I live in a country that is religiously marginalised, I work for a church that is shrinking, and so societal changes have a more direct influence on us, and give us something to wrestle with, perhaps differently than if I lived in a nation where what I believe is not a marginalised view point.

Lord let me seek you
Lord let me hear you
Lord renew my mind and heart, instep with yours.

Amen

Facebook offers eternal life!

Recently in my preaching I have been reminding people of their place in heaven (eg that they have one). In funerals I talk of the room Jesus prepares, a room of peace, healing and eternally in Gods presence.

Whilst on Facebook, I read a status update on a page of a colleague of mine, who used to work for Samaritans with me. I hadn’t heard from my Facebook friend for sometime, and began to read her sisters post, and as I read, I discovered something, that actually my friend died over a year ago. I knew she had been ill but hadn’t realised how ill. The post itself finished simply “stating another Christmas without you! Missing you.”

I saw Facebook in a new way, it offers those of faith and of none, a place to hold onto a loved one, speaking to them, in some kind of digital eternity. If I didn’t believe in heaven, this would be a source of comfort, to help me hold onto them.

But the heaven of the bible is not a kind of digital status chamber. It’s living, in a new way, its I believe, vibrant and colourful, we become fully as god intended, we are made whole. We won’t be stuck with ageing bodies but ones that are new and eternally ageless. I am reassured that scripture doesn’t say anything about eternal church services, heavenly worship will be so much more, much much more.

Turning off your beloveds Facebook or Twitter account, or the digital footprint they leave behind, has become one of those big decisions, like when to get rid of their clothes. Or delete their emails.

Holding onto the digital footprint of your loved one has the potential to be helpful and destructive, holding onto God as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and trusting eternal designs to him. Is where I find peace, for my friend who died, and for those whom I miss.

A Little Bit Of Patience

As we pray how often do we expect and indeed want instant answers to our prayer requests? It is hard when we have to wait, when this doesn’t happen, doubt can creep in and uncertainty about whether God cares. But perhaps sometimes, we need to take a longer view. Have you ever considered whether or not you are ready for what you prayed for?

Are we ready for the responsibility, of wealth, marriage, children, that awesome job or something else. Is there perhaps some thing in, God not answering immediately, that God is trying to actually say something. Could he be saying we aren’t ready? Or there is something else I need you to do before you will get your hearts desire, if your hearts desire is his of course!

Some numbers, 5 years ago I prayed to become a father, and am radically different to what I was all those years ago, the journey has made me better prepared as a parent. 10 years ago I prayed and felt called to be an ordained minister and that took a very long time indeed, but no doubt a better minister for it. (At least I hope so!!)

Just because God doesn’t answer something straight away, doesn’t mean he won’t answer it in his own time. and as you wait, after you have given that hoped for prize to God and said that prayer, try to get on with your life, because living your life might be just what God wants you to do, so through this living, you might find he answers your prayer after all.

Lord give me the courage to be patient, the wisdom to see the big picture, and openness to allow you to search me and mould me as we journey onwards. Amen

A Brown Taped Bible

A Brown Taped Bible

Sitting across from me is a bible. I know it’s a bible, because of where I am, but if I was somewhere else like a coffee shop or library I wouldn’t be sure. This bible isn’t shiny or new, it’s bent from usage, it has seen hard times. The cover mended so many times, it’s now completely covered in brown tape obscuring its title and its potential.

I wonder if you or I might be a little like this bible, bruised and battered, tired and weary, needing rather than another strip of tape to patch us up, instead we long for renewal.

Underneath the tape of that covered bible sitting on the table, beats the heart of the living God and that is no different for us, who are bound in tape. We know the riches of Gods word, we know the inner reassurance of his presence (I pray), just somewhere along the way, tiredness has crept in, weariness as settled on our spirits and we have forgotten?

Perhaps forgotten to look up, to look up into our heavenly fathers eyes and see our reflection, and let him breathe into us his refreshing spirit. That our bonds might fall away. That we might again walk on the edge with God holding onto his hand seeing others how he needs us too, being ready to speak his word bringing refreshing, renewal and challenge.

So my prayer…
Lord God, send your renewing spirit, where cynicism had left us cracked and dry, where life has left us jaded, thirsty and hungry, cloth us once again with power from on high. Fill us with your refreshing, that our journey might be a source of inspiration, our words reflect your mercy and grace, and help us to live anew whilst holding your hand.
Amen

Paralympics

I have followed the Olympics closely, loved every moment, followed the event via twitter, and it’s apps, as well as followed it on the. I am somewhat disillusioned by the quality of cover I find for the sister to the Olympics, the Paralympics. I can’t say I have watched it before, but I find that the Olympic apps don’t provide coverage but there are separate apps, which don’t seem as easy to navigate.

My mum is disabled as is my father in-law, I myself have an hearing impairment, so I perhaps am sensitive may be overly so, to what as I see as a subtle and not so subtle difference in the response between the Olympics and Paralympics.

After all paralympians have to train as hard as their Olympian counterparts and have to in some sports manage their disability and aides and still focus 100% on competing competitively both individually as well as in a team.

Have you noticed that when a Paralympican is announced so is their disability, Olympians don’t get that experience. Olympians can have wall to wall coverage by British media, their brother and sisters in sport find that there coverage is minimal.

Yet both men and women are apparently valued equally, if this is the case i would love to live in a society that showed it, that didn’t just speak or legislate but live equality. The kind of equality Jesus showed, to young and old men and women, disabled and able bodied he simply called all to follow him and showed then how. Even though the church doesn’t sometimes discriminate, I find that the love of God doesn’t, after all how could God discriminate against his own image, in which we are made.

Biblical Meat Cleavers!

John 3:14-21

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it maybe seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Tough passage to read, even tougher to hear standing next to my non believing friends as a preacher shouts it, in anger. Did John imagine that this passage might be used as a scriptural meat cleaver by some, to carve up humanity? As I read the passage I cant, not hear the anger, because that’s how I have heard it read by others, a grand judgement and tearing apart of humanity. I wonder could John be writing for an effect or some reaction, to compel his readers, to find and know God, just as advertisers do today, connecting with our base motivations, anxieties and fears, for the product they want us to buy.

As I read more closely, I have in mind the God, who sent his son to die for all, and the declaration by one of Jesus disciples, that the love of God is not something you can be separated from, neither in death nor life, or demons or angels… I discover, buried in the words of judgement, an image, of the non believer who despite “standing condemned for their unbeliefare not made to grovel before God in fear, aren’t prostrate, nor are in chains. Yet they stand, with the company of Heaven before God. I imagine shoulder to shoulder with the so called saved, as we wait for heavens mercy poured out on us. As it was on the cross and cave.

We will each stand before the Lord as people who have all denied Jesus Christ in some way. Who have not let him into every area, corner, or crevice of our lives. We, like the disciples of old, have not always listened to, or allowed ourselves to be lead by the living God.

Collectively humanity, is scattered on the road between complete unbelief and face to face with Jesus. Yes there is a clear choice, but lets not forget whose in charge, in my view, of deciding eternal things. It isn’t you, or me, or the church, but Jesus. Lets remember as we speak to others of the grace and love of God. That the one we worship, treated unbelievers and believers alike with dignity, mercy and love. Whether they were before him on the mountain when they were hungry and were feed regardless of their number or level of faith, in the streets needing help and received healing as they needed it, around the meal table, as a rejected people drawn to Jesus, because he connected with them, or in the persons home at a bedside of someone who was sick, discovering restoration.

Lord God give me the quality of mercy for others that comes from your heart, rather than my own. Amen

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How Time Fly’s

It has been a while since I posted last! Some one noted that my blogs are getting shorter and shorter, which relates to time, in that I never seem to have enough of it! I fear that I have become a slave to time promising to people, optimistically, that busyness wouldn’t overwhelm me but it has.

Though just at the minute I feel though I am coming up for air, placing (or trying to) prayer at the centre of what I do, rather than my diary. It was a good lesson to learn, the other is this that before i am Reverend, or church leader, or even husband, I am indeed and fully a disciple of Jesus.

disciple who wrestles like any one else, with work life balance, a disciple who doesn’t all ways get it right or pray enough or read the bible enough. A disciple who has been given huge responsibility which he tries to live up to, and trusting that the lord hasn’t made a mistake in sending me! ministry is pretty awesome really, I can go from comforting a widow to visiting the sick and then jumping around like a loon at messy church, but God is present in all those occasions, same God, comforter, helper, and a God who loves life in all its fullness.

Early skirmishes with the schedule

Just a brief update today. My battle rages on with my schedule, it is now 2010. Am hoping that for a quiter February,  hoping thr is here and its all a bit hetic, My aim for this next little while is to regulate my time better, not try and run at light speed all the time. This may mean spending time with my wife more, relaxing with good friends and playing on my xbox and watching TV a little less, well I’ll give it a go, it is lent soon after all!

December And Still Swimming

Hi readers, (if there is any one actually reading of course) I am nearly 3 months, over 400 emails in and am still smiling. There have been moments of stress and over work, and exasperation at my general rubbishness at diary management, I have also been ill and lost a weeks work at the beginning of December, just when I didn’t need to!

In summary I am still a newbie at this malarkey, but and am working hard. God has been good to me and I know his nearness. I hope people have enjoyed and been challenged as I have worked for and with them. My hope is that in the past few months people have perhaps, in a small way, grown in God and that this thing people call their ministry is actually bearing some fruit in the lives of others.

Alongside the work I am reminded of the need to walk closely with God though this can be hard at times with so many distractions!
Merry Christmas

Andy

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