The Promises are true!

Just a quick post…today has been an exhausting day. To be honest the whole week has felt pretty stressful. A lot on at work at the moment and a lot of problems along the way…

And I got back from the office after work, dead minded, tired, wiped out, physically and mentally drained…etc. And the thought randomly occurred (#TheSpiritRemindedMe): “Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength.

In that moment I had a choice. Do I switch the TV on, put an audio book on and numb the exhaustion with “rest”. Or do I fetch my Bible from my home desk, pull out a chair and sit in the garden and wait on the LORD?

I chose the later option.

I decided to test the promise…

And I found it true.

He does renew the strength of those who hope in Him. Hopefully this post can remind me next time.

Priority Matrix and Mission

I’ve read my fair amount of productivity, motivation, self help, self-organisation books. I’ve listened to a fair amount of training. And one of the things that comes up frequently is the Priority Matrix:

I think it’s self explanatory, it’s a tool that helps you prioritise a busy schedule.

Well, yesterday I had a bit of a yahoo moment – as I made a connection in my mind: The Gospel Mission is both “urgent” and “important” .

The great commission, to make disciples of all nations, is urgent. We don’t know when Christ will return. We don’t know when our lives will end. But we do know that the time we have is short and so we need to make the most of every opportunity.

But the great commission, is also important. Souls are at stake. God’s Kingdom is so significant, requests for its eminence are top of list in the Lord’s Prayer. The fact that it comes post-resurrection, when all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Jesus, demonstrates it’s importance!

Why is it then that our whole lives do not orientate around the mission of God? Is it because we don’t think it is urgent, we don’t think it is important?

In my job, when I have a task that is both urgent and important, I tend to drop everything. My mind is filled with problem solving the job, I’m talking about it with others, brainstorming solutions. I’m even praying about it.

I understand there is a caveat. We don’t want to “burn out” by “over working”, and not stopping. His burden is light and His yoke is easy. We also shouldn’t worry about anything…etc. But on the other hand, why is it we are so okay to “burn out” and “over work” on other tasks, but not this one?

I wonder what it would look like if a group of five Christians took the Great Commission as the most urgent and most important task in their lives, for even a week? I have a feeling, with five Christians praying, brainstorming, dropping everything, and “doing it now” much ground would be advanced for the Kingdom of God.

A few questions to reflect:

  • What do I need to drop right now, to focus on the Mission of God
  • Who can I partner with in this Mission
  • What specific areas can I be praying for
  • What are my next steps

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out you own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good please.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fail in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Holding fast to the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Chirst that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Finally, for those who would like more understanding about what the Mission of God entails, I would highly recommend the textbook: The Mission of God’s People by Wright. To summarise in one sentence: the mission is: to be a blessing to the nations.

Sunday Summary – 13th September “Lockdown Holidays”

And so it comes to the end of a week-long holiday. Truth be told I’ve not been up to much. A lot of walking, reading, playing games and chilling out!

BBQ with long-lost Friends

My Dad is really getting his BBQ skills practiced this year. It’s odd how an international pandemic has probably resulted with more visits to my parents than before.

However, this time they also had round one of my oldest friends from when I lived in Portsmouth. We went to same school, have a lot of shared memories…and long story short, it’s been probably like 10 years since we saw each other (minus a brief catch up a year or so ago).

Anyway, I failed to take a photo, but it turns out we’d both shaved our heads during lockdown and so we had a surprisingly similar appearance!

We’ve still got lots to catch up on, but him and his wife have just moved to Birmingham for his work, so hopefully will get more opportunities to hang out, if we don’t get a second lockdown!

Walking in the Vale

There is a lovely area 10 minutes walking from our flat, it’s a little “student village”. It’s filled with these beautiful flats, in a massive park with a lake. At the moment, due to COVID, and summer holidays, there are no students. So, this week, I spent most days with a morning walk going round, praying, listening to an audiobook, reflecting on life. (Being all monk-like!) It’s been so lovely. The picture below is the view from one spot I spent ages sitting and enjoying.

Reading: Still going through the Wheel of Time book 3, but also picked up Spiritual Man (Watchman Nee) and finished The Courage to be Disliked this week.

Gaming: It seems there is so little time to game when I’m not on holiday. But this week has had me spending significant hours working through the second Tomb Raider game on the pc!

Editing: I’d intended to spend a large portion of this week editing my book. But, a) it turns out editing takes a lot longer than writing. (I spent about 4 hours on 1,000 words!) So I’m trying to work out how I can integrate the work in normal everyday life. And b) God bought up some stuff to work through which consumed a lot of time this week. I’ve alluded to it here: Identification with Christ.

Painful Splinters: In other news, this week saw two glasses broken in our kitchen. Clumsy! It was my luck to tread on a shard of glass on Monday, where we’d missed in our hoovering etc. Anyway, it took until last night for me to finally get it out. My foot was developing a nice dark blotch underneath the skin. So, took some tweezers to my foot and managed to yank it out! After much puss, bleeding and over-reacting, I got it! Very satisfying! I decided not to take a photo, or preserve the shard of glass. Unfortunately, it has set me a week back in terms of running. So will need to pick that up tomorrow!

Identification with Christ

One of the things I feel being lead into at the moment, in my walking with God, is the theme of identification with Christ. I feel I have only scratched the surface and so this post won’t do justice to the work I think God wants to do in me.

It was a couple of weeks back when I started reading New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. In it he talks about ‘contemplation’ as this mysterious state where it is no longer ‘I’ who live but Christ who lives in me.

My heart throbbed upon reading that.

I’m only a couple of chapters into Merton’s book and still have a lot to learn (it’s one of my slow reflective reads).

And then I was on a walk recently, listening to an audiobook by Watchman Nee ‘The Spiritual Man’. Which had been recommended by a man whose walk with God captivated me in my teenage years. He’d recommended this book to me years back, and I’ve tried on multiple occasions to read the book. And I never made it through the first third.

Not finishing a book is really really weird for me! I usually read over 52 books each year. Most books I start, even if they’re really bad, I finish! And yet, it’s been at least five years since I was recommended the ‘Spiritual Man’. I’d bought myself the paperback, and failed to finish several times, got the audiobook and failed to finish.

But here I am, in a season of my life where I feel God is nudging me towards praying about this theme. To experience and know-deeply, the truth that my ‘self’ is hidden in Christ. And I (almost) randomly put this audiobook on, to accompany my walk one day. It ‘picks up where I left off’ and… BAM!

He’s talking about it too! Living by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Living by the regenerated, new nature and not by the ‘soulish’ intellect, emotions and volition.

It makes me think that God’s been preparing me for this season to teach me something new. Maybe it will sink in this time.

I’m a little nervous, it feels like I’ve got some ‘dying to self’ to do. And I’m scared. What will I have to give up. What will I have to lose. Can I really go on without looking back?

My hope is that God who has started this work in me will lead me through it. I remind myself that my God is good, He cares for me and loves me. Where He asks me to die, I must trust that He will raise renewed.

Anyway, here’s a slightly less coherent blog post than usual. Just what’s going on in my walk with God.

Three Apps for Devotionals

I think most Christians struggle to maintain a discipline of daily time, set apart, with God. Reading the Bible, praying, memorising scripture, even sitting still in God’s presence trying to hear His gentle voice can be a catalyst for sleep!

Thankfully we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, who want to support us in our pursuit of God’s heart. Some of the members of this phenomenal Body, just so happen to be great at technology and programming. We are invited to be encouraged and empowered by the gifts God has given them.

In this post I want to share 3 amazing apps that I have used over the last year to keep me on track during those mornings when ‘I just don’t feel like it’.

Lectio365

https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional

I was recommended this app from a friend in America, who works closely with the 24/7 Prayer movement. It is an app inspired by Lectio Divina, a way of meditating on the Bible that has been used by Christians for centuries.

Each day you are guided through four steps Pause, Rejoice & Reflect, Ask and Yield. (Aka P.R.A.Y). Along the way you’ll be given a Psalm to use as a springboard for worship, and a Bible passage to spur reflection and guide your prayer.

Plus it comes with extended periods of silence, great music, and some weeks you get one South African reader who’s voice is like liquid-gold! #IzweNkosi

Inner Room

https://innerroom.app/

This app also has connections with 24-7 Prayer movement. However, unlike Lectio 365, it does not have a voice or script leading you through daily prayers. Instead you set your own prayer topics, set a timer and pray.

When you start you get some nice ambient music (although you can change between that and electric or acoustic backing track). I love using this on my walk to work, or sitting in the garden.

One of my favourite things about the app, is that halfway through the allotted time a little voice will come on and say “now listen to God”. The music will remain, and it’s such a helpful reminder that prayer is a conversation. It gives you a reminder to listen to God.

Verses

https://www.getverses.com/

I’ll put it out there first, you have to pay for this one. £10 a year. But in my opinion, it’s £10 well spent. You can trial it free for a month first.

Memorising Scripture is one of my weakest points. I love reading through the Bible, I know a fair amount of handy Bible verses throughout it’s pages by heart. But I rarely make the time to memorise large chunks of Scripture. (And I was working for the Navigators for three years – a group famous for the Topical Memory System!)

I’ve tried a couple of free apps, but this is my favourite.

It comes with 5/6 various “mini-games” to help you get to grips with a passage. You can focus on learning a whole chapter, or random verses, (there are even “playlists” to work through). You can create groups, and learn with friends.

According to the CMF website, five minutes a day will maintain 100 verses well in the memory, by reviewing 20 per day in succession. I’ve been working my way through memorising Romans. I’ve got most of chapters 1 & 8 down. But this app keeps me sharp, I’d like to get them all!

Conclusion

Let us not be afraid or slow to use the gifts God has provided the Church. Especially in our digital age. Look for resources on the App Store. We have a great opportunity to draw close to God, and meet Him, with so many advances and aids in our time.

With great power comes great responsibility

Sunday Summary – 30th August “Two Weddings!!!”

I missed last Sunday’s summary, so we’ve got two weeks worth of activities to update on! Let me see how much I can remember.

1) 2x Weddings (on the same day!)!!! Last Saturday we were invited to take part in two “social distancing” weddings!

The first was down in Portsmouth, about a 3 hour drive or. The weather was beautiful and so was the couple! Their approach was a service with only close family members in a Church, then head to the park for a picnic with all their friends. We watched a streamed version of the service on a phone screen in the car, on our way. And then joined them for a picnic!!! (A fantastic way to celebrate a wedding – in my opinion!)

The couple were friends we knew from a Christian camp we’d all been leaders at! The four of us had all at one point done the Chaplaincy there. Giving talks, leading worship, getting gunged(!) and being used by God to impact the lives of young people. I think it was at one of these camps that they first decided to date.

We’d met with them a few times over the last year, to talk about marriage, to laugh about our relationships and do fun personality tests!

The second wedding, was entirely “zoomed”! They’d got married the day before, and were having a zoom celebration with friends and family to share funny stories and anecdotes.

I met the guy when I led the Navigators student ministry at the University. I remember my first meeting with him, he’d come over to our house for a meet-and-greet brunch on freshers week. And I asked him to give me his story…it went something like this: “I became a Christian at Soul Survivor as a teenager, felt God calling me to Somalia, and so that’s where I’m heading!”. So much for small talk!

As soon as he finished University he was headed out to Africa and staying true to God’s calling on his life. Throughout my years getting to know him, we met most mornings before my work/his lectures, to study God’s word together, prayer-walk and hold each other accountable to God’s mandate for both of us.

A true friend. There’s not many people you can pray every weekday together for over a year and not feel deeply connected to!

Just before he went out to the Mission field, he asked us to baptise him…and so we did! Such an honour to have been part of your life mate!!!! Blessings on your marriage, and those impacted by it!!!

This is the group of us preparing for a bath-tub baptism session with two of the ex-students! The now-married guy is the one with the impressive beard!

2) Learned a new game! I guess in comparison, everything else that happened these last two weeks is pretty dull. But it’s worth sharing for memories’ sake. I decided I wanted to learn how to play backgammon. It’s a game my Dad loves playing with some of his friends, but for some reason I never picked it up. I decided another quiet week in lockdown, with a bank holiday on its way, was the perfect time to learn. I’ve spent at least 4 hours now watching professional-tournament backgammon on youtube, and aside from feeling very much like a “waste-man”, I do find it really enjoyable. #it’snotallaboutthehustle!

3) Running and Weightlifting – These two weeks also marked a month of consistent running and weightlifting. I’m really consistent with my weight training, not so much with running. I started with a short 30min run followed by weight training one body part 6x a week. And have now got to a point where I’m about 45/60min runs 3x a week and 60 mins weights 3x a week. I’ve really enjoyed having both the cardio and the strength training aspects in my mornings!

4) Takeaways!!! If anyone says advertising doesn’t work, they haven’t met me. A month ago, I started seeing youtube ads for Nando’s chicken. It’s now become our Friday night treat!!! I’ve levelled up in spice capacity: medium to hot! (Don’t know how proud I actually am of a takeaway each week, but I certainly am chuffed to be able to handle ‘Hot’!)

5) Blog Update… I know it’s not a big deal, and all that. But I’ve now made my first $1 on the blog. It’s a pretty insignificant amount considering what it cost to get a domain name etc, (not to mention my stellar posting!). But it feels like an achievement. So thank you to everyone who has visited this website over the last two weeks! I’ve been very encouraged by your comments and ‘likes’. Thank you

Reflections: A New Bible and a New Season

This week I got myself a new Bible.

Christmas 2011, my Nan gave me an NIV leatherbound Bible. It was the last Christmas gift she would ever give me, passing away the following summer. It would replace the tattered Youth Bible I’d taken to many a Christian camp.

Since then, I have read that Bible through so many times I’ve actually lost count. I’ve even had to tape back in Romans 8 from when I memorised it. Most pages contain, notes in the margins, highlights, emphatic underlines, messy circles and various squiggly shapes. On one read through I even tried to highlight with blue every time there was a lesson on integrity. Another time, I put a red dot every time ‘blood’ was mentioned in Leviticus. These pages are littered with nuggets of gold gleamed from the hundreds of sermons that I listened to. Clever cross references that I’ve come across in books and talks and in my own quiet times.

This book has a weight of history and intimacy, and not just because it contains the very words of God. I have held this book in prayer, in preaching, in worship, in study. I have held this book and prayed my heart out, this book has seen me through my whole time at university and into the first five years of marriage.

Since my “old” Bible had scribbles everywhere, it is interesting that the cover page had not been touched at all. So when I got the new Bible, I decided I wanted to fill it up

Old and New

In the top left, I’ve listed all the people who I’ve befriended and ended up studying God’s word alongside. At the bottom left I have listed the 6 significant mentors I’ve had the honour of meeting over the last 9 years. These people taught me to pray, to read, to study. They inspired me to pursue God’s heart and to encourage others.

Then below these are an extensive list of everyone (I can remember) who has taught me important truths about God. It is a combination of people who I know personally and closely, as well as far off preachers whose sermons I have listened to over and over again, or whose books I have treasured.

In the bottom right corner are all the places that I have been allowed to preach. All the Churches, groups, camps and conferences. Truly humbled to think through this list. I was actually taken a back. How many pastors, vicars, leaders, youth workers, trusted me to speak and teach. Even at the young age of 16/17…How God has grown this gift in me over the last few years. I am especially grateful to St. Christopher’s who’ve undoubtedly had to bear with the good, the bad and the ugly – when it comes to my preaching. And yet, they steadfastly sought to encourage God’s Spirit at work in me.

All these lists fill my heart with gratitude! Surely I have not walked this path alone. God has truly surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses, of fellow travellers, teachers, guides, mentors, friends. He has given me such fantastic opportunities and experiences.

So I would lastly like to thank the Author of this fantastic book. The author and perfecter of my faith. Who has not only spoken to me, but also connected me with the right people at the right time, and spoken through them.

A New Season

So why a new Bible?

Back in December 2019, I felt God leading me into a time of Isolation, an extended period away from Church ministry. No longer preaching on a monthly basis, not helping with youth group, worship ministry, community groups, Navigators, 1-on-1 discipleship…It’s a long story, but now 8 months into this (for want of a better word): Sabbatical, I feel like I might be being nudged slowly back towards public ministry. I think there is still more hidden work to do, and I’m in no rush, but it does feel ‘just around the corner’.

Nevertheless, I wanted a new Bible to represent the new work that God has done in me and has prepared me for in this next season.

Running in the Rain

Just a quick evening post. This morning I skipped my morning run. A combination of mixed motives. I woke up late, decided I couldn’t be bothered to run and I really wanted to use the time to delve into God’s word. So I made running a “write-off” for the day and got stuck in: I journaled, prayed, logged my thoughts in my mini notebook, typed up themes and patterns. Overall time very well spent.

But then, throughout the day, just before lunch, I had a rush of energy and decided I’d go out running on my break. It didn’t matter to me that it was chucking it down. I just went. 7.25km in 39 minutes. Great success.

Came back in from the drenching rain, soaked through to the skin, but feeling like a champion!

While I was in the shower though, I was thinking about how God had totally honoured my decision to study His word instead of doing my exercise. Giving me an extra burst of energy in the middle of the day to revisit what I had missed.

One of the problems people tend to have with spending time with Jesus is that there just isn’t enough time in the day. We need to fit in so many other habits, reading, journaling, side-hustling, exercise, study, our job, our family etc etc…

But I know that this saying is trustworthy and true:

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given unto you” Matt 6:33

Be encouraged today, to prioritise your time with God, and see what happens.

New Book – New Seeds of Contemplation

Can’t promise I’ll be making notes on every chapter, but this is what I’ve just started. It’s a little out of my comfort zone and a little “left field” from what I’m used to.

But it was highly recommended from a friend/mentor I look up and respect! Wish me luck!

Chapter 1 explored ‘What is Contemplation?’. The best summary I found was “Contemplation is the awareness and realisation, even in some sense experience, of what each Christian obscurely believes: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who live in me”.

In other words, its about being aware that Christ is living in us, and this awareness being an experience.

It’s a little over my head, but I’m prepared to engage with it. This will definitely stretch me in my faith!

I’ve included an affiliate link in case anyone is interested and wants to read as well. The book was pretty tricky to get in the UK and I had to wait a month. New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton