Monday, 22 December 2008
brightly, shining unlike any other
light even dares to beam remotely.
The light started to move and
it spoke to me: it said, "You,
follow me, for there is a journey
to be travelling". So I travelled
along the journey. The light that
beamed down on me wa so bright
that everything else around me was
dim and dull. Darkness was at
As the light moved on, so did
my feet. Times whre there many when
I wanted to give up. Oh, the
occasion when I stopped for a rest.
My goodness! I didn't even know
where I was going. The darkness
around me left no indication
towards any direction which was
to come. This was surreal.
Lo and behold! The light leads
me to a place of shelter, whre
warmth is present, as are people
from all sorts of backgrounds. They
each have their own agenda.
Me, I still don't know why I'm
here; for its no longer as dark
but the dullness still remains once
I walk into the shelter.
Suddenly, the light is back -
and its inside this place where
we can take a seat. Over by
the corner, the light is even
brighter, yet its now safe to gaze
into it more without fear of
damaging my sight. Why should I
even worry? It will be healed!
What shines right before me
couldn't possibly contain anymore
beauty and peace and hope
and love; for he is here. The
very one we have waited for!
The light that guided me to
where I am sits before me and
challenges me to kneel.
A wasted journey, this was not,
by any means. This was the walk
that you and I wanted so badly
and now we've done it. He is
here, we are here and now the
darkness is gone. There is visibility
and a clarity of epic proportions.
Nothing in the world is anywhere
near this scale of awe.
What better gift is there; yet
the gift I present in return is
myself; my soul; my spirit.
Down I kneel to place it at
his foot, to keep. It no longer
remains in my posession, for before
it was filthy and unclean. Today,
on this morning, it is cleansed. It
is PURIFIED!! It is his and His.
When I go home, we shall be one
and in union forever more; that will
be the greatest gift on offer.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
period of time and momentarily
walk up and down or drive on
through to wherever they may be
destined to get off at.
One way in and one way out,
the people walk and drive about
but don't stay long. It would be
wrong to spend more than two
minutes at a time.
People come from down below
and others do not even know
what way they're going; they're still
growing older and the young folk
are much bolder, as you see.
A sign says "Everything Must Go"
but none of them inside you know
where they'll be heading. They are
heading off to different pastures.
When someone from the past walks
by, its easier to let on you're shy
or that you didn't see them pass.
Another little memory lasts inside
your head forever.
Production is the key to this:
the travellers score and homebirds miss
the point in why we do not stay
that long or sing a song.
Mission is still possible 'til
six o'clock, before the shops
close down until tomorrow, leaving
shoplifters to scheming and the
junkies keep on dreaming.
Precious moments pass until
the moment comes to last a
little longer than the people there;
they walk on and don't even care,
'cause this is just a brief stop.
Commuters from east will
travel west today and vice-versa;
they will stay for one night only,
heading home alone and lonely
back along Argyle Street.
How they need a rock to build
their hopes and dreams on; solid
land instead of sand but they
just march to their own drumbeat.
One way in and one way out,
the people walk and drive about
but don't stay long. Another
little memory lasts inside
your head forever.
world, literally; the places he says he's been
speak for themselves. That is until the big man
opens his mouth. He's seen and done it all
- supposedly! - no corner of the world has been
left unvisited; no stone in his sight has been
left unturned. He's rubbed shoulders with crims,
he's avoided doing time. He attempts to deal
with cash and, yet, all day long he talks
trash. For some, he keeps them amused for
it prevents a painful sense of bore but, come
time to clock out and leave, my head is
feeling sore! This is not defamation and I'm
sorry to say its no hallucination. "Well, basically,
the thing is, right...." nobody's backside could
be anymore uptight. If anyone else in the world
is a moan, they've now met a match with the
king of groan. The stock goes up and his
shares fall down. I couldn't care less - for
I've more important things to be worrying about.
While we're in the middle of a gloomy recession,
I'm forgetting if I made an impression. While
he's out trying to make some gold, I'm
having to do what I've been told. The bank
manager is getting a migrane and others
are being driven insane! Doesn't matter
anymore, its neither black or white, the
whole situation at hand is not .... alright.
The madness is only going to get
worse, for an old lady calls
about a stolen purse. So, once we
attempt to answer her call, the big
chief says something that makes her fall:
he says, "Listen up, you silly old
biddy; none of this news will make
you feel giddy!" But once we
stop your details from spreading
out, we make a promise you'll not
have to shout. And if you call back
to be told something wrong, they're
singing off a sheet from a different song".
It's become clear to everybody present that the
story goes a little something like this: a fifty-
something year old high-flyer has hit and missed.
What's the point of hanging out where your peers
are young? Because chances are, everything we want
to do, you've already done! What's the matter, has
nobody bought any of your stock? Just like us,
they probably thought it was all a crock. And as
for the family, well that's if they really exist,
its time they lived the perfect life, not down
in some abyss. My senses tell me all's not done
and more is on its way; if that's the truth, then
what's the point in calling it a day? Beginner's level
is for those who haven't got a clue; I'm thinking
maybe this is either applicable or true!
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Daybreak has arrived and the sun
is rising for another day, adding brightness
to the darkness present everywhere you turn.
I've travelled across the city this morning
just to catch a glimpse of what posesses
so much serenity and peace. With and
without my glasses on, the beauty I see
doesn't compare to anything else; for the
rainbow has fallen and the colours rise,
heading to where the opposition reside.
As I get a little closer, I can see
that the water works at the Waterworks
and it longs to cleanse me whole. The
rainbow rises for me today because of a
promise made that I wouldn't be alone.
All tempestous climates have concluded,
thus allowing the sky to be clear again.
Everytime I get a little closer, the
spirit whispers in my ear: "In you plunge!
Return from the waters a different person",
because the water works for those who
test them, and all tests shall be passed.
The flying colours - all seven of them - will
shine brighter than ever before.
My morning couldn't get any better, for
it was faith that got me here. My faith
is fluid too and overflows throughout the
course of the day.
Its now no longer me that just
calls you but you also call me too.
I remember the moment my mobile rang -
and your name appeared on the screen!
My goodness, Lord! What are you playing at?
Your sense of humour has come into play.
Everything now seems to good to be true
but its really nice to know there's a two-way
thing going in terms of contact.
How happy I was to see your
name on the phone; without me making
the initial approach on this occasion.
When we have a little conversation, I can
feel the connection that I've longed to
have since the moment we met. Your name
in my phonebook now has its own ringtone!
The song itself speaks of new beginnings
and the power of mutual faith as the glue.
Oh, the smile that appears on my face;
the spring that is activated in my step!
The feeling that covers me whole.
Next time I see you, I doubt I'll tell
you all this but a wee thank-you for your
acceptance should really say it all.
With one split second, the whole
world could change dramatically and
But, with God by my side, He tells me
which way to go and when. And with one
split second, everything that I worked
towards could turn into something
unbelieveable and beautiful.
But I'm not the type of person to take
a gamble on it all; for I've been told
by He above that I should take some
Someday, I will stand in front
of Him and discuss where I shall go;
with His guidance, He will tell me where
I have to go.
But within just one split second, all my
plans could be rearranged; and temptation
stands right next to me, looking good
and saying stuff that other men could
quickly over come - but I'm not other men.
I'm a Christian and I stand for only One.
Here I am, with a word to say;
with so many thoughts going on
in my head. With my eyes shut
and thinking of what I want, my
desire is to know you more and
to have a closer relationship;
closer than what is there already.
Its times like these when you realise
who matters the most. You matter
to me, so much more than I had
already known. All along, You were
here and, from the get-go, You were
there. Come now; make it real to me.
More real than how I already know.
This is what I long to tell you and this
is the part I keep hidden from the world.
They don't need to know but you do;
You already know, you can already tell
whats going on. I have no choice in the
matter but to communicate it to you as
I should, so I should. Yes, I should.
As you sit down next to me, there's
no-one else I'd rather be next to. No-one
else I'd rather talk to Nobody else I could
share all this business with. Nowhere else
I could turn to with the luggage I need to
unload. Nothing else in this world would
make me feel better than to know you
hear every word I say.
When all is said and done, I will walk
away with a weight lifted off my shoulders
and I will turn to look towards the future days
that lie ahead of me. I will stand firm and
be hapy with how you make me new again;
no wonder everyone that turns to look stands
in awe and amazement. Throughout the rest
of my days, I want to walk by your side and
for you to watch out for me. I know you have
done already but the end is nowhere near.
My trust is in your hands; you will treat it
well and manage it without abuse. What
happens now will be perfect and the way
you want it. That's all that matters to me.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Christ be with his people - the young and the old,
Christ be with the world - their story still to be told;
Christ be on the journey home - his mercies I will take,
Christ be in my heart today - his praises I will make.
God be in the industry - to keep my living strong,
God be in the social scene - prevent me from all wrong;
God be in my house tonight - His presence: let it flow!
God be in His house tonight - and let his kingdom grow.
Off I go to pastures green,
for the best is yet to come.
I'll be sorry to leave you
all behind, but it appears me
work is done. I'll save you
a spot next to me when you
get here later on. But now,
I must bid you farewell, with
the setting of the Son.
My maker called me here today
and I feel in better shape;
the promised land - at last,
I'm home and now I see
my dad! He picked my
number up this morning, so
I could make my way home.
For all the world, and all
its people, be still - the battle
I served a saviour immortal
and now I'll serve him more.
To be home with Him is such
a joy; I remember being taught
this when I was a boy. My own kids
I taught the same to them and
look how well they turned. When
you come home, I'll make sure none
of yout bridges there are burned.
The beauty of His grace is
something I can see but not
something I'm able to touch.
It drops like a bolt out of the
blue; it commands with an all-too
familiar iron-will. It draws me
nearer with the movement of
The beauty of His grace is
never too far away, wherever I
may go. It covers me with an
awesome presence. It looks at me
and makes me nervous. Its
different and fresh, yet comforting
and pushes my senses. I want some
The beauty of His grace is
like the season of winter: whenever
cold and feeling low, a slice of
the cake - a word from the mouth -
becomes my blanket and the core
of my happiness. In the days that
lie ahead, I give my grace back to the
Lord, for His renewal.
The beauty of His grace is
friendly and approachable. Its
inviting and settling, I want some
for myself, but there's plenty to
go around. Never in a lifetime
does His grace compare to anything
else; its beauty only matures
The beauty of His grace is
the last thing I hear before
my slumber. Oh sweet disturbance,
I will not complain, for it is a
reassurance of its presence. Move
with me, beautiful grace; remain
in my life and be fruitful now
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."
Last Christmas' Marks and Spencers advert on the television has the tagline and theme song to it of "the most wonderful time of the year"! By doing this, the company were obviously promoting the more commercial side of the festive season.
For children, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year, as they experience the excitement of receiving presents, the legend of Santa, time off school, building snowmen, and so on. For others, its not quite as wonderful. The amount of shopping that needs done, the food to get in for the dinner, the travel mileage that builds up from all the visits to do....the busyness level all adds up.
In the Salvation Army, we seem to be constantly on the go with carolling every night of the week; we have weekends without weekends; a lot of us end up cold and tired, maybe even ill!
Christmas is different for everyone. For some, its far from wonderful, almost to the extent where there's an emptiness or darkness in life.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,...and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... "
In the buzz and amongst the hussle and bussle, lets be thankful and meditate on who and what really came from Christmas - the baby that was born in the manger. As verse two points out, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light..." Regardless of what the festive season is to us and to who we minister to, "a light HAS dawned" friends!
And then ask yourself the following:
"Who is he in yonder stall,
At whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is he on yonder tree
Dies in grief and agony?
Who is he who from the grace
Comes to succour, help and save?
'Tis the Lord! O wondrous story,
'Tis the Lord, the King of Glory!
At his feet we humbly fall,
Crown him, crown him Lord of all!"
And that my friends is truly wonderful; although its just for this time of year, is it? Its for eternity. I'll leave that with you.
Monday, 1 December 2008
You're having a hard time with your faith. You're wanting to get a move-on in life, in a direction which you feel makes sense - and it doesn't seem to be happening. At all.
Zechariah was a priest (in Biblical times), whom along with his wife Elizabeth wanted a child, however the two of them were elderly. Heartbreaking as you can imagine; they were devout to their religion and followed it faithfully, through and through.
And one day he goes to God's house to carry out his 'duty', his role which has been placed upon him. While he's doing his job, there's an angel standing in front of him.
Think about going down to the church hall for band practice and the past couple of days you've had have been lousyl the worst of the wotst. So you get out your instrument, you start warming it up, you sit down in your seat, ready to play a tune and then you look to your right....and do a double-take - AAHHHH!!!
There's an angel standing next to you. (And we're not talking about looking in the mirror here, by the way!)
How would you feel about that? You would probably be ready for the funny farm! After having a bad week, this is more than likely going to tip you over the edge.
But then the angel speaks - and he, or she, calmly says, "Don't worry - God has heard your prayer. He hears what's going on. Chill."
One of the things about church is we don't always come with great expectations, maybe we can be a bit cynical, but when you least expect it - just when you thing it couldn't get any worse....it doesn't; because the Spirit speaks and moves and acts upon your prayer.
And, like He did with Zecharia (by giving him a son in the form of John The Baptist), I pray His blessings on what your troubles are this evening. For he has everything in hand.
God bless you.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
- sadness in our loved ones
- ultimately not getting what we want
What made Jesus cry?
- in the afore mentioned passage (John 11), other's misfortunes
- someone's death
- others' sadness
- others' loss
- others' pain
Jesus was human, just like you and me. Its hard to be like Jesus at the best of times but in a lot of ways we already are. Jesus has emotions, as shown in scripture. Jesus has passion, as proven when he tossed the tables over in the temples on Palm Sunday. Jesus went through pain, most notably at Calvary. He went through sadness, for example with the death of Lazarus. He went through frustration, particularly with his disciples. He also tasted happiness, lovingness and worship towards his Father.
Some of this may be stating the obvious but these are basics. Do you see yourself in any of the afore-mentioned qualities?
When Jesus was happy, loving and compassionate, he was also forgiving, he led by his and Father's example, and he befriended people who were "inferior" or seen in a generally lower social stature. Do you still see yourself in any of these qualities?
Jesus showed many emotions and our aim is "To be like Jesus". That's a challenge to us all. What we have is good but we must not stop there. We must allow him to continue working on us.
"To be like Jesus, this hope possesses me; in every thought and deed, this is my aim, my creed"
I pray we continue this learning process on a daily basis and let nothing worldy distract or derail us from this journey.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."
Did you all have a good summer?
Its really only been two months since our last rehearsal together but a lot can happen over the summer period, when we're not together as the same group, especially as there aren't as many practices on during the week.
Some corps opt only for the one Sunday meeting. People go on holiday, people stay at home and without the ongoing activities of the Salvation Army during that period, its easy to be exposed to or become aware of things that you wouldn't involve yourself with during the academic year (or season!). The vast majority of us are friends here, so you will have all heard from each other during the holidays at some stage and its important to have that bond and encouragement in the Army. To know that there are other Salvationists your age still wanting to deal with you outside the 'curricular' goings-on.
I'm glad to see you all here tonight, which I'm sure the other locals will concur with. Even though we have a weekend coming up and a lot of you are back at school or in your studies, its encouraging to see so many of you come out on a Monday night to a Youth Band practice. And encouragement is important because, without it, playing doesn't become as dun and out performances can suffer. But the fact is you're all good players; you're all in this band for a reason. We spoke about encouragement and nurturing this evening in our locals' meeting, and our aim is to help elevate you guys further so you can make the best noise possible for the Lord.
Verse 7 says this: "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart" - that's my testimony this evening.
This band's been in my prayers a lot over the summer, as a group and as individuals. We have the weekend, entitled "Vision of Grace" coming up; lets be mindful that we have so much more ahead of us as Army bandsmen/women. My prayer - my vision - is that we become a band of witness, where we do change lives with our ministry; but ew can only do that if we look out for each other first, so our fellowship can translate out there. We need to let the grace spread within before we can justifiably take it out. And, with our eyes wide open, we'll be able to recognise that goal and claim it for the kingdom.
May God bless you.
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me."
We can be a nosey bunch in the Salvation Army, can't we. Little things take our curiosity and this in turn can lead to our discoveries spreading like wildfire in no time.
While its all well and good finding things out, especially when news breaks, its important that we don't let that distract us from our own day-to-day business. Peter had been given insight into part of his future by Jesus, as there were great plans ahead of him as well as how he'd die; but all of a sudden he wanted to know what would happen to others! Jesus reminded him Peter pretty much that it wasn't his business and he had to focus on what lay ahead of him, because he'd only been equipped for so much.
Each one of us are good at what we'vebeen given the task of doing, be it playing, organising things, helping others, maybe even praying or reading out loud! But if thats your gift, don't let anyone else distract you if you feel you you can't do what they do just as well yourself. God's blessed you with a particular calling - be thankful, make the most of it.
"You must follow me" - not what your friend does or anyone else; Christ says "follow me" and he will give you an endless supply to do your role well. I trust we're grateful for our blessings as solders and are happy doing what we do, and my prayer is that we keep Christ and his plan for us at the focus.
Sunday, 12 October 2008
How many of us like to travel? How many of us like to go shopping? And how many of us like to play in a Salvation Army band? Personally I like to so a bit of all three - shopping if its necessary, of course! - but I'm sure you'll agree that all three elements add important elements to our lives.
Each one of them requires us to carry a few bags about, be it plastic bags, backpacks, suitcases or instrument cases, to name a few. That's some of the baggage we tend to carry about with us - but I wonder how many of you are carrying more than that; by that, I don't mean the invisible type.
Sometimes comfort is a dangerous word and can do more harm than good but the Lord provides comfort to those who need it. Who cry out for it. The baggage we cart about may be heavy and get us down but, as verse 29 states, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak".
Youth is no exception from it - verse 30 says "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall" - it an be as much of a victim as the more mature and experienced of us. A lot of you will be familiar with the verse "They will soar on wings like eagles" - imagine that! Being completely free of the problems weighing you down!
"O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer"
We are reminded in our reading that "who hope in the LORD will renew their strength" - make it fresh and brand new. And I pray that as a band and individuals we use the comfort and the strength available to us through God.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Tonight I want us to consider what watching a television programme or a film without the sound going is like.
Some of the older members of the corps may recall the tradition of silent films from days gone by, where nobody spoke audibly but only through text and facial expressions. Male members of the band, when groups like Girls Aloud or Sugababes come on the telly, you may be happy to watch their actions visually but you'll hit the mute button, because their music may not necessarily be your cup of tea!
How about you DVD collectors who, after you've watched the main feature, check out the outtakes and deleted scenes. I'm often fascinated by the differences between the final mater cut and the outtake sequences, which always seem to lack something. Not only does it lack accuracy, as to what the finished item should be, but they often feature no music to go along with the mood of the scene. There's no background noise, where the extras natter away and go about their own business. Only the basics are empathisised in those outtake scenes - where the actors play their parts on a scaled-down basis, while the cameras roll, and ultimately they mess up; hence why take two and take three, and so on, is required before the finished and accurate sequence is in the can.
In the Salvation Army, we make a lot of noise on a weekly basis. We have plenty of sound; whether it be from the music we make, from the social scene among our comrades or even the outreach work we deliver to our respective communites. But I'd like to know if we have as much of a clear-cut view as to what our vision entails folks, particularly if we are to combine our sound to go with it.
Let me ask you:
what if that sound was taken away?
what if the mastered cut we produced wasn't satisfactory for God?
what if God's version of our mission in the Salvation Army became an outtake on the cutting room floor?
Just as our vision as a church has sound, that sound we posess must have vision as well. When we make our music, it can't just be about the here-and-now, it has to also be about where its going. Where we are going with it! When we interact socially with people in our corps and around our division, its all well and good thinking about the present age, for some its about the past (which can't always happen) but as Christians we mus acquire a vision to take our witness further, so it remains strong. And I don't need to go into too much detail about the vision our social outreach centres and workers need but, for those linked with that, I'm sure they'll agree that the vision needed there is paramount! We may find it difficult t full these seats and this hall friends but we can't use that as an excuse not to fill the seats of Heaven.
So what does this vision require?
Foremostly this vision requires unity and harmony among each other:
The text we read from earlier, Paul writes in verse 10 that he was appealing to the Corinthian church to be united and forget about their divisions. Corinth was stuck in a rut, for many reasons, but one of them was down to the divisions and lack of unity needed to move forward in the name of Christ. Are we "perfectly united in mind and thought" friends? If not, maybe the Lord is prompting you to do something about it, so His vision can be fulfulled.
We can't afford to fight or argue with each other friends (verse 11):
Some of you may know I was in a rock band in my late teens. We had a pretty good outfit and some potential on us. The musicianship was good, the banter was good, the repetoire as.....alright(!) But, as time went on, we started to disagree and then we were barely speaking to each other at all and everything else suffered big time because there was no communication. We couldn't even agree to disagree! The foundation was gone. I ask you now, if you want your vision to continue friends, please end your quarrel. Now.
Focus on the one person, the one figure of worship - our Heavenly father! (verse 12):
The people of Corinth weren't going anywhere in their vision becxause they were divided in who to look up to; Paul, Apollos, Peter, Jesus. Who do you follow today? Who is it you strive to be like in your faith? Is it your C.O? Your section leaders? Your Sergeant-Major? Or is it Christ Jesus? Its great to have people to aspire to in many ways but Christ is perfect. No human is better or more worthy of such praise and admiration. Are you focusing on Christ for your vision? If not, you need to ask yourself "why not?"
Paul gives all the credit back to God in our passage we read (verse 14): "I'm thankful that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no-one can say that you were baptised into my name". Paul is not self-indulgent here and he doesn not take any credit to save for himself. He is clear what his vision is to be and what is required to make it work. He knows what type of sound has to be coupled with it and what a positive influence it can have a people. On everyone who is open to it!
You know, sometimes when we go to church, we often hear what we don't want to hear. Its all well and good getting something from what we agree with that takes place, torught either music or spoken work but the challenge can lie strongly in what we were not prepared for. I wonder if I've said anything this evening that you dodn't want to head. I wonder if you're sitting thinking along the lines of "Grrr, that Dan coming out with such a comment...", "Who does he think he is?!" The truth is I stand here before you delivering His word this evening about it. You need to allow the sound of God's voice in your ear and his vision in your heart.
Perhaps you need to sort out your vision; I don't know. But if there's one thing I ask of you right now is take time out with yourself and God. Let Him in and speak to you. You can't hide from it and you can only do nothing about it for so long, because He has the plans figured out - and He's going to have it His way, regardless. Do you need to put the right kind of sound back in your life? Do you need a new idea of what your vision should be? Or do you need both?
Maybe you're sitting there thinking you need neither! Well fair play to you, you really have heard stuff you didn't want to hear tonight! But I sincerely doubt that's the case and, if you need to make a response to that, our place of prayer is open as always. The holiness table is available if you want to stand at it or feel free just to kneel at your seat.
I originally had a slightly longer sermon planned for this morning - but last week the big man upstairs instructed me otherwise!
Earlier we read from the first of two letters that Paul wrote to Timothy and, whilst look at God's word together, I want us to be mindful of three points (they say all good sermons are based around three points!) that I'd like to think about this morning:
Your previous purpose - you aim before you accepted God's grace
Christ's purpose - what he wants for you upon your accepting of grace
And your future purpose - where we go from here in our walk with Him
MY PREVIOUS PURPOSE:
Lets look at the purpose we had before submission to His grace: ask yourself 'Who were you before you came to faith and faith took hold of you?' Verse 13 says: "I was once a blasphemer....a persecutor....a violent man...." Everyone of us who professes to be saved has a part of our lives changed. Everyone of us who claims to know Christ Jesus has sinned and has done things we're not proud of. "...I acted in ignorance and disbelief". However, for some, that may be the way we behave today. Right now.
This letter was penned by Paul, "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the command of God" (verse 1), who Christ gave strength, considered faithful and appointed as an active servant (verse 12). This man, of course, was a sinner before - under the name Saul - and did all he could to tear Christianity down. Yet, Christ changed him; he accepted him wholly and moulded him into his own. If there's any proof of change that He can do, its right here, when GRACE was given to Paul. What Paul did before was his own doing and his own purpose. What he did caused harm to Christians: men died, were tortured and were scattered all over the country.
Consider the effect your behaviour has on your fellow Christians; on your church folk. The wounds it causes, the hurt that comes with it and the picture it paints of yourself. You may even become someone you don't even want to be, because you've lost control. I don't know how you can plan mass hurt around you but it can spread quickly. We want grace to spread quickly instead, right? Who's purpose is it to live like that - your own or Christ's? Ask yourself that one.
Now that we've looked at what one's own purpose without grace, lets look at what is available to you:
"Knock, knock!" He comes calling and He wants to deliver you from your pain and the dire straits you life has become. For, as it says in verse 15 of our scripture from earlier, Christ "came into the world to save sinners" and we must fully put our trust in Him. Now how could one knock that back? When Paul was converted, and Christ's purpose became his, people around him noticed this change. All of a sudden, Paul's a Christian! Were the people apprehensive or wary of this change? Absolutely! But Paul proved it that Christ's change inside can wash you clean. He can transform you, with his grace, into someone that only He knows you can become. A better person, a better Christian, provided you recognise the need for Him to change you.
There's a story - some of you may have heard me tell before - about how a twelve year old boy used to cycle to and from his house. He would speed on his travels, at neat enough 60-70 mph, and would just miss his dad's old saloon by swerving into the driveway every time he would get home. This would happen continously until one day, the boy comes cycling so fast and this time it was too late to do anything by the time he realised that the saloon has been replaced by a brand new Renault Scenic people carrier.
He crashed into the side of it. The dad was less than impressed; he took one look at the side of the car where the bike had crashed into it and he cries out "What have you done to the car?" His son replies "Oops! Sorry dad, I haven't done any damage, have I?" After inspecting the deep scratch in the paintwork, he mutters a "Yes". The boy starts feeling sheepish at this point, he says "I'm sorry dad, I didn't expect it". "I bought it this afternoon and had planned to take the family away for the weekend in it". The boy starts breaking down crying and he keeps saying again and again to his father, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry". And with that, his dad says to him "Its ok son. Just be more careful in future".
The point of the story is that, despite messing up and not thinking about it until after the damage has been done, the boy's father was quick to forgive him because he was genuinely sorry and he had realised what he'd done wrong. God is a father of grace and forgiveness; we mess up along the pathway, he comes over to help us and put his arm around us in our hour of need. Friends, he wants to do that today! Is he doing that in your life now?
Which leads us to where Christ wants you to be today. Forget all the baggage and all the distractions. The faith we have as Christians, we take and put it into action; and be happy to do so because, as verse 16 says, "...for those who would believe in Him and have eternal life..."
Christ's purpose, should you accept it, is in His hands and apart of His plans, meaning not to worry about what anyone else is doing or where they're heading. You follow him and what he leads you to do. Think of those that chose to follow him before: the first four disciples, who were fishermen and Christ called them to be "fishers of men" and to "follow me". Think about a man he healed, in the form of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar who, in Mark's gospel, "followed him along the way" after his healing. Salvation; grace - given to he who asked of it.
Now it is something we can get frustrated with and distracted from. Impulsiveness takes over, indecisiveness sets in. We start to follow a crowd; "What about him? What's he doing?..." You may recall from John's gospel in the closing verses, Peter asked Jesus a similar question about the "beloved disciple", after finding out about his own future. Jesus' response was "...what is that to you? You must follow me!" If the father has grace waiting for you, go get it. Receive it and make it yours.
This morning could be your chance to change your purpose for the better; think of the grace he bestows on you, what He gives you, what He wants to give you and more. He knows your hearts and there's no hiding from that whatsoever. The band are going to play a piece entitled "Grace Alone" and I just want to read you the first verse and chorus which I pray speak to you while the music plays:
"Every promise we can make
Every prayer and step of faith
Every difference we can make
Is only by His grace.
Every mountain we will climb
Every ray of hope we shine
Every blessing left behind
Is only by His grace
Which God supplies
He will provide
Christ in us, our cornerstone
We will go forth in grace alone."
May God bless you.
Give me your spirit and I shall be free.
Free from desire, my own way to pursue,
Free to obey your will, my whole life through"
We're challenged and taught in church to mean the word of the associated music we sing or play, and its a constant challenge as we grow up because we all have favourite songs, choruses or band pieces which we like to sing along to.
But I wonder if you've ever studied the words of your favourite songs and found yourself thinking, "I can't sing this as if its my own testimony". As boys and girls, young men and women, growing up in a Christian environment, our own belief in the words we sing will be challenged on occasion.
Take the words of the chorus you've just read - do you find them difficult to sing or even read out loud? I think its safe to say we all want to be given a piece of His spirit and we want to be set free from evil but its a two-way thing. "Free from desire" - free from worldly and human wantings which distract us and deny us of a fully happy walk with God.
The will the song says we must trive to achieve is God's and do so because we've chosen to believe and follow. Is it an easy journey? No, but the reward of eternal life is worth it and the happiness of being secure in God's love is beyond our wildest imagination.
"Free to obey your will my whole life through"
We have one life on this earth and there is one plan for each one of us. Are you prepared to obey and carry this plan out for Him?
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Its just an old East End building; its seen better days, it could probably tell as many stories outside as it does inside. I don't even know if its a church building or if its connected to anywhere at all but, needless to say, the moment I saw the big white sign, I was struck. And when I moved closer to it, I saw the barbed-wire and I couldn't have been awe-struck anymore!
A couple of things came to mind:
Christ's crown of thorns when he hung on the cross
The old with a touch of the new
The contrast of darkness in the bright, beautiful sunshine
Barriers we put up between ourselves and Jesus.
I know there'll be many more from many other people who walk by this building or look at this photo. For those of you who happen to visit the West Scotland Divisional Youth Band's bebo page, you can now catch it as the front profile image (www.bebo.com/wsdyb). But if you'd like to leave any comments or thoughts about what you see, and what it means to you, get in touch.
Monday, 11 August 2008
Life has it's challenges every so often and one of those challenges we often find in the Salvation Army is keeping on top of things; trying to remain in control of our church commitments, as well as balancing that with work, family and a social life. And really, when each of those areas start to get busy at the same time, its a lot easier said than done.
Time management is as much a part of our Christian life as it is in a professional environment because we have to work with what God's blessed us with, or else He'll take it away from us.
Before the summer break, I was out nearly every night of the week straight; either socially, on my shifts or doing something for the S.A - and believe me, I was knackered at the end of it all. In fact, I was knackered during it all.
Now, you may think "Oh he's a young thing, he's got energy to burn, he can handle it." Well, maybe - but its when you start burning that energy you're also burning yourself out. And that's not good for yourself, nor is it good for how God wants you to lead the life he's given you.
They say its best to fill your week before your week is filled for you. We don't have to be busy to prove anything because we're saved by the grace of a man who died for us in a method that couldn't have scarred and broken a person anymore. But the end result, the ultimate benefit, the supreme reward of our labours, when done right - by fixing our eyes on Jesus - is better than any consolation prize here on earth.
And I pray that, as we "run the race...with perserverance", we will "throw off everything else that hinders" so that when we cross the finish line, the big fresh drink of water we take is that of Christ's blessings.
"When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun"
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
The 118118 number is a wonderful thing, isn't it? You can text a question to find out whatever random information you require and it sends you the answer back in about ten minutes. I was in work the other trying to work out where, in scripture, verse 40 ("If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt...") came from and it wasn't till I text the 118 number and got a reply that I was reminded whereabouts it was.
The reason the verse came into my head was because there was a recent change in the office teams and this resulted in no definite seating plans for staff, people appearing to be out for themselves and grabbing the first chair they saw upon arrival, and, either by design or default, I had to sit further away from the team, even though I often to assistant admin work for our team manager. I have to be honest, this annoyed me.
Where I did end up sitting, I was exposed to even more gossiping, bitchiness and borderline immature behaviour among people on the floor. It was like being back in the school bus. Immediately, Matt 5:40 came into my head; it was almost as if I'd been subconsciously asking God to calm me down, rather than remain angry. And He responded with that verse.
This reminded me of how He's with us in every single solitary step of the way, regardless of what walk of life we're in. He is the ultimate guardian angel and all we have to do is search for His guidance.
Sometimes in musical groups/sections we can be like the afore-mentioned staff. We want to move about seats in the band; we want to sit above someone we deem as inferior, we want to play someone elses part. And from there the bitchiness and politicking begins. We're all aware of it!
If you're sat in a particular spot in your office, thats where whoever's in charge of you has been led to put you, for your own good. If you're a musician, you sit where you sit because you're a good player - otherwise you wouldn't be in that band or at your level in the first place - and you'll get better. With care and practice, you'll improve.
Consider this being where God wants you to sit for now, so regardless of what part you play, it contributes bit by bit to how the piece you're playing is written. To put it into a Christian context - if its a religious piece of music, your individual parts contribute to the Body of Christ. "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts but one body." (1 Cor 12:18-20)
Its easy to get impatient about it, especially if something as simple as a seat, a role or a position is taken from you - but you know what? Maybe that role means more to the person who takes it from you than it actually does to you. They may not have gone the right way to get it but they've obviously put themselves out of their way too, so let them have it. Because God will have better plans for you, blessings that are out of this worldly world. He won't leave you in the lurch and He won't let you go either.
"O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be."
And I pray that, as you play your part well and accept you're where you are for the best reason of all, the blessings that are collaborated together and spread will be for the extension of His kingdom.
Friday, 4 July 2008
My diary over the last three weeks has been like a dot-to-dot, being here and there, doing this and that, and its left me knackered. Whilst I get something out of hanging out with people socially and carrying out tasks involving skills I've been blessed with, its tired me out a bit. I need to use the next couple of months to chill a bit more and add a bit of a balance to what I do daily or I'm going to wear myself out, just like people close to me in the past have.
There's the description of busy people "burning the candle at both ends". I'm not a believer in that lifestyle but lately I've become a victim of it. How ironic, eh. Its now a case of trying to remind myself who I'm following here - is it me? Is it other people? I'm pretty assertive, I can say no to things, but why all of a sudden don't I? Am I insecure about things? Do I feel the need to prove anything? These are just questions I ask myself and I find myself saying "Probably" for some of them.
In truth, I've been a little lost lately, which brings me back to the question of who or what I'm following. And I can't answer with certainty, which isn't like me, but I reckon its me. How other people do it, I don't know and I don't want to know but I should be following Christ.
Check this out:
Matt 4:18-20 - Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. He said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people!" Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
Mk 10:52 - Then Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "Rabbouni, I want to see again."Jesus told him, "Go. Your faith has made you well." At once the man could see again, and he began to follow Jesus down the road.
John 21:22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will for him to remain until I come back, how does that concern you? You must follow me!"
Its time I sorted out my priorities and get a steady balance in my life. Do you need to do the same with yours?
I'll leave that with you just now....
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Picture a deck of cards without the aces or jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing. It feels odd putting them together and looks odd as well. Perhaps we can relate like that spiritually where we've either come this far without recognising our saviour and all of a sudden feel we personally need His presence, or we've tried to live the Christian life for so long and yet something isn't quite right. Something's missing.
By studying the above verses, I'd like us to consider a few points which can lead us from our current state of confusion to where God would like us to be.
"Your old sinful self has died and your new life is kept with Christ in God" (Col 3:3)
Something was missing but is now retrieved; something was dead but is now alive; something was out of reach but now within reach; something was unholy and worldy but is now blessed and cleansed, pure and whole. You could use all the metaphors in the world but, wth Christ, a spade's a spade and once you've got him, then BLESS YOU because that is for eternity.
"He was lost but now he is found !" (Lk 15:24b)
In my job I get a lot of customers telling me they've lost their credit cards; they call up for it to be stopped and have replacements requested and issued. Some don't even receive their new pieces of plastic either because of how they've managed their account, resulting in no replacement sent out or they've simply been lost in the post. Imagine that being the case with God and faith.
Incidentally, the majority of those customers must be really lost without them! All those finances, all those spending plans and so on. Not to different from the prodigal son featured in this passage in Luke's gospel who took his share of his father's fortune and ended up in a terrible rut.
"My son was dead...." (Lk 15:24a)
This is where one ends up at rock bottom, with nothing or no-one. Can you relate to that? There are people out there in the community that can. As soon as you step out the door, there are and they're there in front of you.
Last year at a meeting held in Parkhead Corps, it was revealed in a survey that the area of Parkhead was in the top three poverty-stricken towns in the UK.
TOP THREE! And there we are sitting in the hall every week, in our seats, in our sections, complaining about the temperature, worrying about whether we'll get tea or coffee after the meeting! The Salvation Army has a motto - heart to God, hand to man. Do you think people out in the community worry about the above? Heck no they don't - because they're not that priviliedged!
People who used to come - former attendees, PRODIGALS - may be in a similar position. I often wonder how many of us take the time to actively consider that.
"...but now he is alive again!" (Lk 15:24a)
That's where we come into the picture with a bit of simple interaction - a simple "Hi/hello/you well?" It works, and it makes all the difference! Through us the people get to see Christ and know Christ; maybe again, maybe for the first time.
Great! Yeah? No?
It means we win more for Heaven! Yeah?........No?........
I wonder if there are any prodigals reading this; anyone who's already lost and has been for sometime. I don't know if there is but He does and He knows what's going on with your right now. Don't even try to hide from it.
Does the word in this blog post apply to you? Do you feel that God has opened your ears to what you need to hear? Do you feel that a piece is missing from you and you need to be made whole once again in Christ?
My prayer is that you've been challenged - because the Lord has spoken to me and says we need to take action in piecing hearts and souls together again. And its not that difficult, friends.
Do what you need to do, and do it quick, before the Lord does otherwise.
Sunday, 1 June 2008
My good friend Jonathan and I meet up for lunch and, in the process, decide to take our food to the nearest park and eat it there as the weather is absolutely immense! Picture this - the sun shining, temperature surely hovering around the 20-degree mark, people hanging out in their summer clothes...the hottest season of the year had well and truly kicked in. It was incredible.
So we go to a hot food bar along Alexandra Parade in Dennistoun. Jonathan gets an omlette and I get a fish supper; here was me trying to be healthy too but I couldn't resist. We walk up the road, cross over and walk into Alexandra Park, a lovely big park that felt a bit like the revelation of the Secret Garden to me - I'd gone past it loads of times before and I'd often heard about it but never til this day actually been in it.
After we sat down on the grass, we opened up our food, gave thanks and tucked in; and I noticed that the two - not one, two - pieces of fish that I'd been given were big beasts of things! Seriously, if I was a veggie, I'd have been worried because they looked more like a pair of battered whales as opposed to cod, and they were delicious too. But, all of a sudden, as I took a bite and was looking at the fish, I heard God speaking to me. I mean, how surreal is that? There I was, sitting in the heart of Dennistoun with my mate on a hot summer's day and the Lord was communicating to me through this piece of fish that I had in my hand and I was eating away at it.
What He said to me was that it must have taken a heck of a man to pull out those two big fish from the water.
But how ironic it is for a city such as Glasgow - or any British city for that matter - associated with fish and chips that the real fishing that needs done is the fishing of men. To go out into the streets, the community, the city with the fishing nets God has equipped us with, bring them in to the house of the Lord and, rather than be fed by the fish, feed the fish ourselves. They are the type of fish that need caught and need fed with the gospel.
After we proceeded to walk around the park for another few minutes, we came to the bridge above the motorway and just stood there for at least 10 minutes while the sun baked down on us and the motorway down below was very busy. People were travelling to and from Glasgow, going at ridiculous speeds; different types cars drove past, I didn't even count the range of age groups or backgrounds but I'm certain they were large. And I asked myself, where are they going? Do they even know where they're going? Do they have any particular reason to be driving today? Are they lost?
The fact is that many of those drivers are like the fish that need caught. That need WON for the Kingdom. As each car drove past - and there were loads of them, by the way - I looked at each one thinking God loves him, God loves her; God loves the dude with the new Mercedes, God loves the chap with the old beat up Austin Metro. No-one was exempt from that.
And how many of them know that?
I just pray that we can make a difference out there and be the fishers of men that God wants us to be. Remember when he chose the disciples? Young men who were were relatively nothing in their society, yet this Rabbi, this teacher, walks over to them and says "Follow me....I will make you fishers of men" - all of a sudden they felt worth something. They had purpose.
My question for you is do you realise how much your calling to go out and extend the Kingdom is?
Saturday, 31 May 2008
It could just so be that you're there among those people by design, for Jesus has told you to follow him, follow his plan, by being a witness for him and he has said "Follow me" to your friends or colleagues through you. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". I understand not everyone in here (the practice room) wears senior uniform but, regardless of what rank you are or how long you've been going to the Salvation Army for, you've been "called to live, to love and save the lost". The S's you see on the uniform - 'Saved to Save' or 'Saved to Serve' - states you're exactly that hen you put it on. And even when you don't physically have it on, we must be mindful of the promises we signed to God and remember that we are his for witness.
This requires setting an example, being the type of Christian that "sinners" are comfortable around, so they may see Christ through you. Its not always easy, thats fact, but God is always there to guide you, as are your Youth Band locals and helpers when you need us. Lets be mindful guys that we will stand out to people and they will notice something different about how we conduct ourselves and from there, if we make the most of what opportunity of ministry comes our way, it'll be for the extension of the Kingdom.
Friday, 23 May 2008
Newspapers also have the misfortune of being discarded at the end of the day - for tomorrow, another edition or issue is going to take its place. Its going to be more up-to-date, it'll have jucied headlines, the latest big stories, more pictures with the 'beautiful people' of the day and who may not necessarily be the same ones from the day before. In fact, there used to be a saying years ago, "Today's news is tomorrow's chip-paper" - so really what we see today in the broadsheets and tabloids will be used as either rubbish or other means of recycling or support.
Its funny how we as people can pick these pieces of literature up daily and be done with them at the end of the day. I mean, really - what kind of value will they have if it says Monday on it when its actually Tuesday or even Wednesday? (Having said that, I deliberately kept the special issues printed the day after the total eclipse in August 1999 and the world trade centre disaster in September 2001, respectively) These are just old news; unless info that we've heard about, already know inside out about or forgotten about. Stuff that will either go into the archives for memoir's references, television documentaries or pub quiz questions. Pictures that will go into scrapbooks or framed on walls. In other words, the important or most impacting stories/features will stick with those to whom it mattered to.
Let me ask you a question:-
If or when you bought a bible from Faith Mission, Wesley Owen, Waterstones (!), where does that go after the day is finished? Dad's just given you a devotional reading book for the next three months. Its been published for the months April-June this year. What happens to that issue in July?
Do you take much time to read them, to study them? Or are they just discarded, not to be touched again?
You know, there's times in life where people will use us like today's newspaper. That's right, I said "USE". They'll be all over you in every way; wanting to know whats inside you; what's most interesting about you; what sort of scandal you've got going about you; what you know that nobody else knows. It'll trigger off a liking from another pary but, after a while, once they find a fault in you or they decide they've figured you out, they're no longer interested in you. The harsh reality is you were just a tool for mere amusement that gets warmer once in somebody's hand and, after that party has warmed you up and comfortably placed you in their hand, you're set back down again. Nine times out of ten, that party will move on to the next mug; or they may even just withdraw from the picture without a clue what to do next.
God doesn't do that; He is with us always. He doesn't see us as yesterday's news or as a tool - a toy - for our amusement. No. God embraces us wholly, unconditionally and lovingly. One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples was "...surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b). This was following Christ's commission of his disciples to spread the gospel and multiply in discipleship through him (v.19) and, when he said "always", he literally meant "to the very end of the age".
Its hard to imagine the end of the age, isn't it? It's hard to wrap your head around it; may even seem impossible. However, in the Bible we are taught nothing with the Lord is impossible (Luke 1:37). Especially not the love He has to offer us (1 Cor 13:6-7).
A love that won't end at the end of the day. A love that has no expiry date.
"O Love that will not LET ME GO....
O Light that followest ALL MY WAY....
O Joy that seekest me THROUGH PAIN....
O CROSS that liftest up MY HAND...." (SASB No. 621)
And I know I could add a lot more to that. Can you?
We can have a friend in Christ Jesus.
We can have eternal life
and we can have a faith so strong and overpowering to the point where people notice that you're different from others and that you don't need much else.
Its human nature to want things beyond our control, beyond our reach and that can be testing. I hope Santa was good to you at Christmas and you got at least one thing that you wanted; and chances are that you got that gift because it was within the doing of whomever got it for you.
But what are you going to do now with it? Are you going to make use of your gift, get what its worth out of it? Or is it going to go back in the cupboard and collect dust?
Among your family/friends or colleagues, you'll see that God has given many talens and gifts. As a Christian, its the duty to be a steward of those gifts, from which we either use or lose them. (Jesus himself taught about a man who hid his talents, in Matthew 25:14-30, who had them removed and given to a man who used his and were therefore multiplied) However the greatest gift we could ever ask for in times of trouble and happiness is a gift that
- didn't have to be bought
- didn't have to be put away in the cupboard
- doesn't have to be kept to yourself
"For God so loved the world...."
Sometimes what we have already is what God wants us to have, what he wants us to make use of. Its not until you sit back and analyse what's available to you how special it is.
Talents. Friends. Family. Church. Faith.
Its easy to want what you can't have - but you can have a friend in Christ and thats easy to obtain.
"What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a priviledge to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!"
My prayer is that we make use of the gift that is knowing Him and never take for granted "what a priviledge" it is.
Monday, 5 May 2008
Life is filled with lots of choices and decisions to make and there's times when those decisions can be influenced by others around us. For example, if we're in a certain place and we're carrying out a role or task, its good to know we're being acknowledged, particularly if its a valuable one. When it comes to the stage where nobody is respondant to our tasks, then we may decide to go elsewhere.
Its a self-respect thing, isn't it? But not only that - we want to enjoy what we do and we can really only do that if we're shown encouragement. It makes it that bit easier and more fun to get on with things.
Let's say you're in a job - the money's good, the location's good and the company's good but the work itself isn't nice in the slightest. Or lets replace the actual work with the location, or anything else for that matter. There's a slight drawback there that doesn't make work so comfortable. Now you apply for another job - its an attractive position; in fact its the total package. Its ideal to get to, the wages are a dream, the porspects are endless, the people are the best banter ever and the actual work is just what you wanted.
So you go for the interview. Things run smoothly, things look promising. You're in your present office when the phone goes.... Its your potential employers - "Congratulations! You've got the job!" Marvellous! (I have to point out that the workplace isn't always as easy going as this but I'm taking it as an example.) Now you've to report back to your current boss - "I've got the job and I'm getting this, this and this along with it. Its great." And suddenly your boss turns and says to you "What will it take you make you stay here?" Not to leave but remain here, with us".
"Well you can give me less of that rubbish work to do, I wouldn't be doing that in this new place!" "Oh but that's already in your current job description"
"Well, how about a salary increase? I'm getting offered X amount over there and I'm only making X amount here at the minute." Erm...I dont know, its a bit much out of your current grading, isn't it?"
So that's money out of the picture, still the less glamourous tasks in the way too. What about...."can I not work with Dave or Allen any longer please? I get distracted easily by them and I don't get on particularly well with them either." "What?! You've gotta be kidding - they're the best we've got! The quality would suffer otherwise!"
The writing gradually becomes more and more clear on the wall. An element of empathy can be felt towards the employer as well. Face it - he doesn't want to lose you. And you certainly don't want to leave him either! After all, you've been there for so long and you're so comfortable where you are. Realistically, however, what you've asked for as extras aren't just what you want, they're what you need. And, as heartbreaking as it may be, its time leave that behind. Something new is available to you, and its fresh and exciting. Its giving you what you want.
Paul wanted his audience to accept his teachings. He wanted to take this awesome news, the word that Jesus Christ is saviour. Jesus Christ is King! These were Paul's kind of people - a lifestyle and a way of life which he had grown up in. A frame of mind so traditional that it was merely comfortable in it's ways. These people wanted the Messiah to come; their idea of Messiah was a warrior in armour and on horseback, ready to do battle and save them all with his sword. Their Messiah was going to be their knight in shining armour! And they were awaiting his arrival.
But the fact was he had already arrived! The Messiah which was read about, spoken about, taught about and prophecised about was alive. He died on a cross to save his people's sins - and he'd RISEN AGAIN! The word of Christ has been entusted among many people to preach and Paul was one of them. So he took it to this community but they rejected it and they were despondent of Paul. They didn't take heed to what he has to say. They didn't want to listen to his teachings. They didn't care. They were happy how they were! Their knight in shining armour was on his way and thats what mattered. They didn't appreciate Paul's ministry, they didn't appreciate what he had to offer, they didn't recognise him for being a preacher or messenger of the truth.
The audience that day, present were Paul was, could potentially have been subject to showers of blessings but indtead they put up their brollies and dug out their raincoats. Remember in chapter two of the same book - the day of Pentecost! Where people were saved; thousands! Lives were changed. The spirit was well and truly alive. These people could've had the same experience! And they turned their back on it. So Paul took off. "From now on, I will go to the Gentiles" - and he walked out the door. Those people had a blessing so special, so marvellous and wonderful awaiting them. And God removed it, due to their ignorance.
Do I think it was hard for Paul to do this? Definitely. Heartbreaking and agonising. If you study his epistles to the churches in Corinth and Galatia, there is pain laid bare there because people were blind to the way. But Paul had to make a decision - to either stay where he was and bang his head on a brick wall or take his watering can and soak the garden dripping wet. He took that word elsewhere all over Europe and the church grew. Christianity grew! And the kingdom of Heaven expanded because there were people open to the word; people not too comfortable to raise their hand and say, "Yes, I believe!"
For any female adults reading this, young or old(er) I don't know if in your courting days gone by there was always a strapping young gentleman who persistently requested time to have your company and you kept knocking him back. And kept trying and trying for a date, yet the answer you gave him was a "No" or, worse, you just ignored his existence. After a while, this gentleman comes to the realisation that he's wasting his time and, in due course, another girl takes his fancy and the two of them couldn't be happier together. Girl no.1 had an opportunity, possibly for an extended period of time because the guy just didn't give up, but it started to become apparent that she wanted nothing to do with him, his interest in her was pointless, and therefore the blessing of this young gentleman that was awaiting Girl no.1 was lifted and placed on Girl no. 2.
Now, sometimes in these situations, a lot of "what if"s and regrets set in. "What if I'd gone with Joe Bloggs...", "what if I'd said yes to his request for lunch", "what if I'd actually said 'thanks but no thanks' as opposed to not saying anything to him at all. When Paul quit preaching to those to who the word was intended for, and his blessing was fulfilled elsewhere, I wonder if there were any regrets or "what if"s. I wonder if they were happy; I wonder if they got the fulfilment they seeked. I wonder if they got another chance. That's all we can do now; wonder what happened to those rejectors of the word.
Perhaps God's got a blessing waiting for you today. Do you know that? Do you know if He's got something in mind for you? If so, then my challenge for you is go and grab hold of it; make it your own and be happy with it. "His love has no limits, his grace has no measure..." but you have to want it because if you don't, He'll remove it from you and grant it to someone who does. He did it with Paul's ministry in Acts and He can do it today. Talk to God today about the decision you have to make and be open to his offerings.
Sunday, 27 April 2008
So yeah, no pressure or anything!
Its certainly got me thinking; here's a few brainstormed bullet points I've come up with....
- Jesus is my best friend; he's celebrated with me in the good times, heck he's been responsible for the good times, and he's been there with me in the bad times. Even when I needed my space, he was there.
- He's my tag-team partner; always watching my back, reminind me of important things that I need to do. I remember someone was using my kitchen once to make dinner and, just before I left them to it, Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and went......."Um Dan, you've still got last week's left-over chips sitting in the oven!" AAHHHH!! And what a state they were! So, as quick as a cat, I ran in, chucked them in the bin, ran out again and acted like nothing happened. Smooth. And thats only one example as how he's watching me!
- He's the instant messenger buddy that's always online. He's never busy, he's never away, he's never out to lunch - you know, lol - and he's definintely never offline. He may not always have instant answers to your prayers; sometimes you could be doing all the talking and he's silent. But that's ok; he still hears you. Always.
- He'll hopefully be my boss one day too - for those of you who've read this weeks issue of the Salvationist, it says in one of the pages about how "Bandsman Daniel Wray....has had God reveal to him to be an officer". Amen. Who could want a better boss? Who could give better perks, better appraisals, better tasks? Who could give a better one-to-one?
- He's my dad. He gives me advice, he tells me when I've gone wrong, he doesn't just lend me his shoulder to cry on but he gives me it. And half the time, I don't even deserve it.
- He's my light in the darkness; he even said so himself and his own best friend John wrote it down (Jn 8:12). He said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life". Whenever things are dull and uncertain, he shows the way by one flick of a switch.
- He's my estate/letting agent. He provided me with a roof over my head when I got to Glasgow two years ago. Its a wee flat in Parkhead but its great. I love it. Its all I need. Is it a chic magnet? Hmmm, somehow I doubt it. But I don't need an Imagine or Supernova Heights-type mansion; my friend Jesus will provide me with "mansions of Glory and endless delight" once I get to "sing with the glittering crown on my brow" (SASB 357, v.4)
I'm sure I could say more but I'd be here all day. Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing when talking about Jesus - but there's a four-legged furball that needs some attending to!...
Saturday, 26 April 2008
Acts 19:32b - "Most of the people did not even know why they were there."
We're priviliedged in church to have so many methods of worship. We're fortunate to have activities ranging from:
- youth clubs - luncheon clubs
- home league gatherings - youth fellowships
- bible studies - band practices
- singing groups - outreach programmes
Now they're important ways of uniting people together who share common interests and the social element to that is fantastic because of how it nurtures fellowship; but, from time to time, its common to take our eyes of the main purpose and that can effect how we approach respective activities and view others.
You might be a keen musician and the instrument you practice and the music you rehearse can only progress your skills, make you a better one than you yourself can imagine but, in the context of church and your Christian journey, are you sure its Christ you're worshippin - who blessed us with these gifts and activities - or are you worshipping the instrument you're playing?
Outreach programs - football, youth clubs etc; they're fantastic because they can open so many doors, but is your conduct on the field or pitch, in the dressing room, at your refreshment table afterwards a mirroring of who you're professing to follow in your church?
Diversity's a wonderful blessing and it would be seriously boring without it! But as you grow, if you don't know it already, the music has more to it than playing or singing; the gatherings have more to them than numbers; and how you act and respond to these different ways will become apparent to others.
"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one" (John 17:22). My prayer is that we unite as one, along with our backgrounds and interests, in our worship of Christ. And that its shown through us - for it could change somebody else.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Stories of any kind have a lot of ups and downs, don't they? You can use a number of metaphors to illustrate them: rollercoasters, yo-yo's, ladders, even thermometers.
When I was in high school, the building for our music department had this staircase that went from the ground floor up about twenty feet to the first floor, into this big massive room which was mainly used for classes but also concerts and recitals. The staircase had seen its own share of stories and dramas, such as the teachers telling naughty students to stand outside or they took them out to give them a telling off.
On the other hand, it had some happier moments, such as students walking out of their music exam glad it was over, walking up the stairs to audition for school shows or waiting to be let into the classroom by the teacher, amidst the queue of your class, while messing about with your mates. My personal favourite was giving a Christmas card to a girl a bit younger than me and I'll never forget the smile on her face and apparent gratitiude; it beat anything Santa could bring.
Recently I've been doing a lot more exercise by jogging and swimming. My flat doesn't have a lift in it - its got three flights of stairs and I'm on the third floor. So you can imagine how I feel climbing up three flights after doing my Rocky Balboa-style run for half an hour! Man, its a killer. And whatsmore, heading up and down the stairs in my exercise gear - old t-shirt and shorts - can feel slightly daunting when your neighbours are on the other side of the stairs. I mean, who wants to be in a closed stairway in your shorts when someone you hardly know from Adam is walking by you??
It would be a cliché to say that life is like a staircase; it wouldn't be wrong but I think 'life' is too general a term. That's just me personally commenting. In my eyes, I would say faith is definitely like a staircase. Think about it:
- ok, so there's the ups and downs side to it but thats not all...
- people walk by you regardless of what direction they're going - essentially people come and go as they head either way
- you'll be put in awkward, sometimes even embarrassing, positions that may make some sort of an impact but all you can do is walk on from it
- you'll have some good and bad memories but the bad thoughts will make you stronger and the good thoughts will be like pictures in your photo album. Treasured.
- whichever end you come away from the staircase, you get there by the grace of God. In one piece and just the way He planned it.
And, as I head to my bed, that's how I reckon faith resembles a staircase. Or vice-versa, I dunno lol; too tired to think.
Blessings :) dw
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" '
At 11:59, I was in pain. Surrounded by darkness, in the corner of a dark room. Not knowing what was happening.
At 11:59, my tears were streaming. I couldn't stop crying, I needed someone to hear my cry.
At 11:59, my house was no longer the home it had been. Everything fell apart.
At 11:59, the drunkard lies on the streets with only a bottle to keep him company.
At 11:59, the victim takes some more abuse. Every word or action cuts like a knife.
At 11:59, believers with no sense of direction are lost in the maze. Their map is lying somewhere a few yards back.
And at 11:59, Paul and Silas were put in jail; feet in stocks; bound with chains; guarded like criminals.
At midnight, my pain was healed and the blinding sun shone through my window.
At midnight, my tears were wiped. My voice was heard. My soul was stilled.
At midnight, the house I called home is once again a happy place, a welcoming place, a safe place.
At midnight, the drunkard is taken in; he's given a hug, a warm cup of soup and a comfy bed.
At midnight, the victim is not a victim anymore. The victim is free at last.
At midnight, the maze walls are torn down; the way becomes clear, more so than it ever did.
And at midnight, Paul and Silas were singing, were praying, were witnessing - and, once the ground shook, the prison doors opened and their chains were LOOSENED!
GOD FREED THEM FROM DANGER!!
It was His touch that healed the hurting; His presence that saved the lost; His ears that heard the crying - and His grace that sets me FREE!
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Psalm 105 - "Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done."
A few weeks back, I heard the song "Give thanks witha a grateful heart..." sung three times in the one weekend - once on the Saturday night (at Govan) and twice on the Sunday (at Parkhead), morning and evening.
Just the other wee, a Christian friend of mine referred to Psalm 105, which begins with the lines, "Give thanks to the Lord..." and, unless I'm imagining things, I've heard thankfulness being sung about ot mentioned a few other times in the past month or so.
This took me back about six years ago to Music School back home, when the then-Divisional Youth Officer said to me "Don't ever hesitate to say 'thank you' to someone, regardless of how often or how much it is".
Nine times out of ten, I try making a point of expressing my gratitude and appreciation to people if I feel they've been a help or benefit to me. Bit its only lately I've come to the full realisation of thanking the One who made it all woth while to begin with.
I don't know if you're familiar with the 'Teaspoon prayer' method (thank you... - sorry... - please...), which I know has been taught a lot to younger kids down through the years; but, believe it or not, it actually is the simplest and a very effective application if you're stuck with talking to God. The first part, being the "Thank you...", I guess helps us not forget to be thankful, especially when we have a great God who keeps giving and giving again.
Iwant him to know how grateful and thankful I am for having Him in my life. In my relationship with God, I also want to grow with him and I want to know Him better. Better today than I did yesterday and hopefully even better tomorrow.
"Thank you for saving me, what can I say?
You are my everything, I will sing your praise...
Great is the Lord....for you know the truth has set us free,
You set your hope in me"
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
last night I went to see the film 10,000 BC with some friends and, all the countless other blockbuster references aside (watch it and you'll get my drift!), the one thing about the film that really took me aback was the take it had on when men fearlessly battled for what they believed. When men truly defended their loved ones. When men were men.
And that's what Jesus was - he fought for what he believed against those who didn't believe, albeit in an unphysical manner. He stood by, and continues to stick by, the ones he loves. And yet he remains arguably the finest example of masculinity.
What drives men, more than anything, is emotion (probably not as much as women!) and emotion is the glue that binds them together; the motor that keeps them running; the adrenaline pumping inside them. And sometimes, that emotion can turn into tears; into openly breaking down, weeping like a baby.
Whoever said that "real men don't cry"? After all, Jesus wept.
What is weeping/crying/bawling? Its a release, isn't it? It is the literal breakdown of a mountenous building block; the melting of a mask; the removal of a real guise (no irony intended). One of the most powerful tools that the church uses for stirring emotions is music, which comforts and sometimes confronts us in the form of Christ himself.
But isn't that ok? Yes gents, remaining masculine and strong keeps us being men - however, the same way "Jesus wept", so can we and that can be the missing link between man and Christ.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Jerry Maguire - "Secret Garden" Bruce Springsteen
Highlander - "Who Wants To Live Forever" Queen
Romeo and Juliet - "You and Me Song" The Wannadies
Forrest Gump - "California Dreamin'" The Mamas and the Papas
A Lifeless Ordinary - "A Lifeless Ordinary" Ash
Rambo III - "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" The Hollies
Trainspotting - "Perfect Day" Lou Reed
Control - "Love Will Tear Us Apart" Joy Division
Yellow Submarine - "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" The Beatles
Billy Elliot - "Children of The Revolution" T.Rex
Shrek - "Hallelujah" John Cale
Stardust - "Rule The World" Take That
Clueless - "Change" The Lightning Seeds
The Commitments - "Dark End Of The Street" Percy Sledge
Shaun of The Dead - "Panic" The Smiths
This Is England - "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" - Clayhill
Most of you know two of my main interests are popular music and modern cinema, so its only natural for me to have a selection of tracks that have appeared in movies in my personal electronic track bank.
I didn't know until by just schimming through the songs here how many of them, through one version or another, have appeared on different film soundtracks. It must have come subconsciously to me.
To some people, music is just noise that comes from the radio, which people either sing along to in work or in the car; at times not knowing all the words of the songs, who sings them or even the title of the track to look up in a record store. To others, music is a way of life; picking up an instrument, relentlessly dedicating themselves to playing it, sometimes beyond the brink of obsession, and attempting to be a prodigy in their respective field.
What is music? Its an art. Its a gift. Its a backdrop. Its a collage. Its emotion. Its love. Its anger. Its fun. Its dressing up. Its dressing down. Its going out and staying in. Its dancing, running, lying down, sitting.
What is music to me? Its a soundtrack to life. If I'm not able to give some useless information about songs that I hear, chances are I could pin-point another time in my life when I've heard it before (provided I have!). A few months back on my Bebo I filled in the blanks for 'Soundtrack to your life' questionnaire, where I analysed my life as a film and took different tracks to be associated with specific moments or 'scenes'. The truth is I could probably fill a multi-volume CD box set with the soundtrack of my life so far, and thats only in the last 22 years!
I wonder if you've ever watched outtakes or deleted scenes of films or TV programmes where there is no music in the background, as funnily enough its all dubbed in the production stages for the final scenes. Really takes away from the flavour of it, doesn't it? Not as much life would be apparent; no comforting warmth or realistic familiarity to it.
Imagine if each day was just that: either an outtake or a deleted scene; in another words a big mistake. The script having countless re-writes and all the interesting bits ending up on the cutting room floor. In my experience, the director's extended cuts foten remind me why the classics of today became the trimmed down theatrical versions we're more familiar with; but they also raise eye-brows and a lot of what-if's. What if that character remained in the plot; what if more was done with that storyline; what if the key scene remained as initially sketched out in the rough draft.
Being a Christian, my belief is God had my life planned out from before I was even born (Psalm 139), and I reviewed this about three weeks ago while down south. Everything makes sense; every bit of the jigsaw puzzle fits into place. Every piece of music thats been important in my life has stayed with me down through the years and each track not only allows me to tell a story about them but also tells a story themselves to me.
Without being forceful or even persuasive, allow me to invite you to do this:
Think of the music that you've associated with important moments from years gone by. Revisit the soundtrack of your life. Press the pause button if need be; heck, hit the rewind control! But don't hit stop or mute. Let the music keep playing; let it speak to you; close your eyes while doing so. Turn it up loud; turn it down low.
Perhaps God is asking you to reflect and take time out....