The West Wing

Last week I have finished series 7 (the last one) of (imo) the best scripted and acted TV series. It has been a tearfully sad affair (well, almost). An end of an era. Several initial remarks:

  • It has opened my eyes to the intricacies of the political world – US and global –  (as fictional as the series might have been). As easy as it seems for us to see what politicians should do – it is actually far more complex.
  • It has mesmerised me with the strength of relationships between the team members in both the Bartlet and Santos teams.
  • It seemed that most romantic relationships (apart from the Bartlets) are a bit of a mess – see Josh, Donna, Toby and CJ. Even the Santos’ marriage would have been seriously ‘on the rocks’  if Sorkin would have written another series… The toll the high-powered jobs takes on the ‘love life’.
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Modern Day Saints


People who knew Henrietta Mears say she was a woman of vision-one who wasn’t afraid to trust God no matter how difficult the circumstances. They also tell of her single-minded devotion to God-a trait that developed very early and remained until her death. 
Billy Graham once said of her: “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence [on my life]. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!”       On March 20, 1963, Mears “slipped through that veil between present and the hereafter. . . . ” Someone remarked, “It was nothing new for her to meet her Lord alone, for she had often done so. This time she just went with Him.” 

What a statement about someones life… No dilemmatic sacred-secular divide in her life. A true image of an inspiring Christ-follower and a fitting epitaph of a life lived with simplicity and significance – google her name and find out why. It reminds me of the superb Biblical CV of Enoch – ‘Enoch walked with God’!

For What It's Worth…

(AP) Change for a million?

That’s what a man was seeking Saturday when he handed a $1 million bill to a cashier at a Pittsburgh supermarket. But when the Giant Eagle employee refused and a manager confiscated the bogus bill, the man flew into a rage, police said.

The man slammed an electronic funds-transfer machine into the counter and reached for a scanner gun, police said.

Police arrested the man, who was not carrying identification and has refused to give his name to authorities. He is being held in the Allegheny County Jail.

Since 1969, the $100 bill is the largest note in circulation.

Police believe the $1 million note seized at the supermarket may have originated at a Dallas-based ministry. Last year, the ministry distributed thousands of religious pamphlets with a picture of President Grover Cleveland on a $1 million bill.

Ouch!

“People do not drift toward holiness.  Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith and delight in the Lord.  We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith.  We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”    D. A. Carson, For the Love of God

In some ways this qoute is inappropriately used out of context (I will try to get the book from amazon) but it conveys so much truth about the state of my heart. It painfully exposes the wrong leanings and attitutes towards selfishness and sinfullness.

It reminds me of the prophetic voices of the past that so inspired me in my early years: Tozer, Ravenhill and Keith Gren. Oh how we need His grace and Spirit to transform our hearts, minds and lifestyles!

Discipleship and Pain

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’   John 15:1-2

We were reading this passage on Thursday night at LIFE Group and these verses brought a fresh revelation with regards to the life of discipleship prescribed by the Master, the Lord Jesus.

It seems to present pain and suffering as a present reality in either case:

  • when we are NOT fruitful: i.e. not fulfilling our mandate
  • when He wants us to be MORE fruitful: i.e. increase our effectiveness

These sayings of Jesus make me realize that spiritual growth happens in the context of pain (pruning) – an image so alien to our contemporary secular image of success (success = comfort and pleasure) as well as the current Christian assertion that spiritual growth is measured by how rich, healthy and jolly we are…

Yet Paul and James rejoiced, and encouraged us to have the same attitude, in the midst of the trials of pruning. But that joy must be so different than the on that the world is supposed to deliver (but never does). Popularity, power, possessions – they all promise much and lure us in yet always leave us empty and cheated.

“Joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God.”    
Teilhard de Chardin

How Can God Guide Us?

Guidance for a Christian is best understood in the context of a relationship with God rather than a random approach (fortune telling). The decisions that we make affect our life and our faith should affect our decisions.

  • God Has A Plan: Proverbs 16:9; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 12:2
  • God Promises to Guide: Ps. 32:8; 23:2,3; John 10:3,4; Luke 9:59
  • We should Ask God: Is. 30:1,2; Lk. 1:38; Ps. 37:5
  • Jesus is our Example: John 5:19; Luke 4:1

HELPFUL CLUES:

  • Through the Bible: Psalm 119:105,130-133; 2 Timothy 3:16
  • Through Prayer: 1 Samuel 23:1-5; Acts 13:1-3
  • Through Common Sense + Ordinary Circumstances
  • Through Supernatural Means: 1 Samuel 3:4f; Acts 11:27f; 12:7
  • Through Godly Advice from Others: Proverbs 12:15; 15:22; 20:18

QUESTIONS TO PONDER & DISCUSS:

  • Does it make a difference how I approach love relationships/marriage as a Christian? What role does guidance play in this?
  • What should I do with my life?
  • Should I follow a career or serve God full time?
  • How do I know that God calls me to do something/go somewhere very specific (i.e. a mission)?
  • What if I get it wrong?

Maturity

I came across this quote by one of my favourite Christian leaders/thinkers on a ‘hot’ topic that is very intriguing to me these days; he was writing about the importance of maturity in discipleship. Here are some of the qualities of maturity – in his view:

‘The marks of maturity? Self-sustaining in spiritual devotions. Wise in human relationships. Humble and serving. Comfortable and functional in the everyday world where people of faith can be in short supply. Substantial in conversation; prudent in acquisition; respectful in conflict; faithful in commitments.’    Gordon McDonald

It suggests that we ought to become self-motivated – not having people/leaders/pastors constantly pull us towards Christ and the fellowship. It has been my feeling that sometimes – like you would do with the education of a child – you have to expect to see people take some responsability…

People with an apron arround our necks and not a bib (imagery  that I have used in one of my recent messages, though I should have lost the apron sooner….).

My Identity in Christ

One of the most important parts of our discipleship is remembering our identity. I found these some time ago and hope that they will shape our thinking (Romans 12:1-2) and lifestyle:

I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)

I am God’s child (John 1:12)

I have been justified (Romans 5:1)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)

I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)

I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)

I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)

I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)

I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)

I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)

I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)

I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)

I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)

I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)

I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)

I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)

I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)

I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)

I am included (Ephesians 1:13)

I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)

I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)

I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)

I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)

I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)

I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)

I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)

I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)

I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)

God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)

I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)

I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)

I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)

I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)

I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)

I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)

I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)

I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)

God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)

I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)

I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)

I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is (Ephesians 3:18)

I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)

I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)

I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)

I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)

I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)

I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)

I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)

I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)

I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)

I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)

I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)

I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)

I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)

I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)

I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)

I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)

I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)

I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)

I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)

I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)

I am growing (Colossians 2:7)

I am His disciple (John 13:15)

I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)

I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)

I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)

I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)

I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)

I am promised a full life (John 10:10)

I am victorious (I John 5:4)

My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)

I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)

I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)

I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)

I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)

I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)

I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)

I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am safe (I John 5:18)

I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)

I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)

I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)

I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)

I am overcoming (I John 4:4)

I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)

I am protected (John 10:28)

I am born again (I Peter 1:23)

I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)

I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)

I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)

I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Life as a stage

I know it isn’t really theologically kosher but reading this made me think…

‘If death means just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character… would you slow down, or speed up?’      Chuch Palahniuk (aka writer of ‘Fight Club’)

What do you think?

Vital Building Blocks in Community

Here are some of the qualities we explored during our last meeting @ LIFE Group @ CFMC

  • Humble: Romans 12:3b; 10b; 16bc
  • Associated: Romans 12:5 last; 10a
  • Complementary: Romans 12:6a
  • Active: Romans 12:6-8; 11-12
  • Authentic: Romans 12:9a
  • Holy: Romans 12
  • Generous: Romans 12:13a
  • Hospitable: Romans 12:13b
  • United: Romans 12:16a
  • Forgiving: Romans 12:14,17,19