BRT – Galatians

  1. 1.10 “If I were trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ”…This verse challenged me about my expectations of being a Christian. I find it so easy to slip into thinking that I deserve a comfortable life. But actually being a Christian, does make people who don’t know God uncomfortable, and therefore can lead to being mocked. I often try to get the best of both worlds, pleasing people and serving Christ. Whilst there is definitely a degree of tension in this, trying “as far as possible to live at peace” with others, I doubt that it should ever come at the expense of limiting our service to Christ. I need to be cautious when people like me, and ask myself the difficult questions: am I serving Christ wholeheartedly?
  2. 2.1 “I took Titus along also.” I have just recently had to give a sermon (a practice one on a passage in Titus), what I got from this verse and that sermon is how invested Paul was in Titus (and also Timothy). He showed them how he did ministry, how he served the Church. In fact, 2 Corinthians 7 talked a bit about how Titus witnessed Paul rebuking the Church in Corinth, and then later in Titus 1 is instructed about rebuking. This verse got me thinking about “Who will take me along to learn?” and also “Who will I take along?”. I love the pattern of discipleship/teaching demonstrated in this small verse.
  3. 4:18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always….Am I zealous to God, what does this look like? And also, what are the things I am zealous/excited/passionate about which aren’t serving a good purpose.

Why so serious?

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It has been a few good days since I last blogged, the main reason for this is because it is a half term holiday. So a lot of my schedule has been temporarily put on hold. My wife is a teacher and so we’ve tried to make the most of this week-off, in order to catch up and spend time together. We spent the first few days meeting up with our parents and siblings.

On one evening we were at my parents and my wife asked my Mum, a good question,  “What is God teaching you at the moment?”. Inevitably that resulted in the question being turned back on her and then my Dad and myself. So what was my answer?

Not to take myself too seriously, learning to laugh at myself – particularly around people I don’t know too well. Be willing to look the fool.

I think it’s quite self-explanatory, but here are some examples. Around community group and other various Christian meetings (or even social gatherings), I like to appear “clever” and “thoughtful”. So I am often quiet and withdrawn, admittedly a large part of this comes from my inclination towards introvert-ism, however there is also a sinful cause that I want to have a particular appearance. I want people to think I am clever, thoughtful, “mature”. I believe this is rooted in/from pride.

In worship I may feel like clapping, singing very loudly, raising my hands – but I don’t want to have the appearance of one of those “emotional Christians”. At work, I want to have the appearance of being a “hard-worker”, who doesn’t joke around but always works hard. (Again, there is an element in this which comes from my desire to “whatever you do, do as unto the Lord”.) However this striving for a certain image, severely restricts my ability to form meaningful friendships at work.

Aside from feeding my pride, this attitude affects my relationships: as I limit the sides of me which I allow people to see.  It affects my ability to evangelize: because telling someone about Jesus risks looking stupid.

Jesus as God, You did not take yourself too seriously or consider Yourself above “looking-like-a-fool”. Thank You for giving up Your heavenly position in order to rescue me. I ask that I would receive and grow a healthy perspective towards myself, as a result of looking towards You, and be able to laugh at myself more readily. Help me put to death pride in me, and let me only ever boast (inwardly & outwardly) of the Cross! Amen 

 

BRT – Acts of the Apostles

My 3 favorite things from Acts were:

  1. 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Over the past few weeks I have been really appreciating the prayers of my friends (mostly from Navs) and also from Church. I mentioned it in a post a few weeks ago. But experiencing being prayed for is really encouraging to me, and also the fact that I get to pray for other people. This week I have been challenged to make an effort to pray “earnestly” for my friends as they finish off their exams… One other thing about this verse is that the Church collectively prayed. How cool is that! And what a privilege to be the subject of those prayers, and also stand side by side with other brothers and sisters and pray for others in their difficulties. “So [x was going through a tough time], but [there was a group of believers who were praying earnestly to God for them].” I get to be that “But” when I stand in prayer. Ramble over.
  2. 18:18 In this verse it explains that Paul had his hair cut because of a vow he had taken. It was this verse that really captivated my imagination for most of this week. I kept thinking about how Paul had made a decision/commitment to God from the heart and he was expressing it physically. It made me think of stories I’ve heard where people become a Christian and then change their name. I understand that Godly change doesn’t work outside-in, but starts from the heart and changes our outward life. Whilst I haven’t got any idea of vows I would like to make to God, it does make me wonder if my outer life displays the decisions I’ve made in my heart.
  3. 19:30-31 I was struck when reading through Acts this week by Paul’s enthusiasm for the Gospel. Here we have a riot in Ephesus where a bunch of people have gathered in a theater to stop Paul from ruining their businesses with the Gospel. They are so riled up that in v35-40 the city clerk has to step in to calm them down to prevent a Roman intervention. What is Paul’s attitude, he wants to use this opportunity, while the crowd are all gathered together, to preach to them. His friends and officials have to hold him back. I was challenged because when it comes to sharing my faith, I cannot remember a single time where I have had to be “held back”. I want that kind of passion for God’s work, that I forget about my own safety, dignity, reputation etc.

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Kneeling on Campus

All my recent talk about how good Sainsbury’s has been for me, has been part of what God’s been teaching me lately. Because my exams are finishing soon, and I am starting my work with Navigators next year, I have applied for various summer jobs. The plan is to work full time and earn money to help support myself. I have had very little success to be honest!

But a couple of weeks back I got an interview, for an audit administrator/receptionist role and got really excited (by the possibility of dressing in a shirt and tie, being payed more, working in an office again!). It seemed one of those “respectable” jobs that I’ve mentioned in previous posts. But due to different things, mainly my impatience in waiting for a reply, I didn’t get the job… This was highly frustrating and depressing. Primarily because it meant I was back to square 1, AKA: working full-time over the summer at Sainsbury’s.

Sorry if this seems all over the place.

I was on campus the day after I got rejected from this job, just sitting on a bench listening to music, having one of those peaceful times with God. I was mulling over my unsuccessful application and watching people walk past, some hurrying on their own, some enjoying the sun and good friendly company. I see a lady walk past. I think, from her uniform she is a cleaner, and I see from the cross around her neck she is probably a Christian (a big assumption these days). She is walking down the path, when suddenly – without warning – she bends down. It looked like she’d dropped something, knees bent (but not quite on the floor) for about 10 seconds.

She got up, took about 6 steps and went down again. I wondered if she was praying. Got up, 3 steps this time, and down again. At this point, I noticed I wasn’t the only one staring. Others were looking over their shoulders quizzically. What is going on? I’ve made up my mind she’s praying.

There was something very attractive about this act, something like what I think the Bible means when it talks about Stephen’s face shining (Acts 6:15). Seeing someone not give any care for what people are thinking, (warning: another assumption) deciding that: on my way out from work I am going to be praying. I will pray for my colleagues, for the success of the Uni, I will praise God in an environment that rarely acknowledges His power. For some reason this scene – combined with the music I was listening to and my attempting to hear God’s voice in this situation – restored a lot of peace about my work at Sainsbury’s.

Praise God for these special moments! Thanks for sending that lady along that path at that time, while I was thinking those thoughts and listening to that specific song. I thank you that even when I do things that might seem really weird, You could be at work in them to encourage someone else. Help me to remember this and obey. 

Undignified Zeal

So recently I have felt a desire to read through and begin typing up some of my old journals so that I have them electronically preserved and easier to read. Whilst attempting this tedious task, I have laughed quite a bit as my very excited past-self recalls different church meetings, worship band practices and meetings with my mentors at the time. It’s striking how passionately I write about God, about Church, about my quiet times and my ‘unsaved’ school friends. To me now there is a part of it which seems foolish.

For example my journal entry for 7th January 2009 reads:

LORD SET ME ON FIRE FOR YOU!!! Today I want to hear God. I want to be set on fire!!! So Lord God Almighty I pray that I will meet you today! Lord let me see visions, encourage me. And give me strength to face my temptations…Amen.

The Glory belongs to God forever and ever. Amen.” – Galatians 1:5

Fill me up with Your Holy Spirit fuel. I want this worship club to get started NOW! Lord HELP ME!!! Light the fuse! Amen

One of my close friends and mentors has moved to America recently. This guy taught me a lot about living after Jesus, dying to self, boasting about weakness and examining my heart. So when I remembered a couple of days ago that he used to blog I had to check it out. After doing a bit of searching I found it! It dates all the way back to 2006 back when he was my age, I have noticed that he too wrote in a very excited  manner about God and what Jesus was doing in his life. Maybe I wasn’t sooo crazy!

Whilst I have long heard how important it is to be able to relate to the world and it’s people, (and not just listen to Christian music – for example) I think due to  my desire to please people I have lost some of my original fervor. Even now I look upon my old self as weird, as too excited, (what I imagined the adults surrounding 14 year old Paul thought as well), but truthfully there is a deep part of me that longs for this zealousness – even if it seems weird to those on the outside.

Whenever I read the story of David dancing half naked down the street, I often compare it to my own expression of worship on a Sunday service. Hands in pockets, sometimes eyes are closed and if I’m standing at the back I might even raise one hand. I would hate for someone to make even a comment on my worship. It didn’t always use to be this way, when I used to lead worship at a previous church I was frequently greeted by “remember you’re supposed to be leading people”… “try not to get too carried away” etc. Whilst they do have a point, it’s no good if the worship leader is singing out of time, I envy the self-abandon I had then.

I know ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether my hand are in my pockets whilst I silently think about the words or if I am standing on a chair waving both my hands above my head shouting “JESUS is LORD!”…at the end of the day it is more important that my heart seeks to bring God glory, and has the willingness to express worship both ways.

My prayer is that God would allow my heart to be able to say, like David, as a response to what God has done: ‘I will  become even more undignified/contemptible/foolish than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes’… Lord give me the willingness to die to my pride.