FRIDAY FAST-FORWARD

A CALL TO ANGUISH
So very rarely you can speak in the Christian world of a ‘legend’… Yet David Wilkerson is most certainly one. This is a stirring and challenging message: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGMG_PVaJoI&feature=player_embedded#!

TOP 5 REGRETS OF THE DYING
I am not fond of this site – it was forwarded by one of my favourite BBC radio presenters – but I found these regrets to be very believable. Which ones apply to you? I would encourage you to meet the One who defeated death and said: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’.
http://wisdomalacarte.net/blog/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying/2011/08/

PASTOR IN THE PRESENT
This is an intriguing interview with Eugene Peterson, mostly known for his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. Here we can find some very insightful remarks regarding pastoring – many of which fly in the face of modern pastoral models. A good read for leaders and church members alike.
http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/summer/presenttense.html?start=1

BOOK A MINUTE
This is one of the traits of modern life. Everything must be faster and shorter. It does make you wonder if we will end up communicating in ‘statuses’ and 140 characters:
http://www.rinkworks.com/bookaminute/

REMINISCING
I love Laurynn Hill’s voice. Such a pity that her life seemed so marred with ‘issues’: Maybe one day what she sings will become real and she will return the favour by singing for the creator that gifted her:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Pk5YMkEcg&feature=related

 

FRIDAY FAST-FORWARD

THE VANISHING PASTOR
I am always intrigued by the whole subject of discipleship / mentoring in the Church. This is a newly launched site and here is one of the first articles:
http://www.gospelcentereddiscipleship.com/the-vanishing-pastor-a-plea-to-disciple-by-pastoring/

A PROACTIVE PLAN FOR GETTING THINGS DONE
Michael Hyatt blogs smartly about organisation – using his experience as a busy guy involved in the publishing world. Very helpful and customizable tips:
http://blog.pastors.com/blogs/pcom/a-practical-plan-for-on-purpose-living-hold/

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
Sounds like a song title, and seems to be so often used as good advice. Yet it can be a dangerous contemporary mantra. See here why:
http://www.boundlessline.org/2011/08/listen-to-your-heart.html

MANLAND @ IKEA
blokes belong to two categories when it comes to shopping: those who hate it and those who tolerate it. IKEA, clever as ever, have come with a solution:
http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity/ikea-introduces-manland-the-creche-for-retail-weary-men/story-fn9ql3sf-1226127519690

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK
Just watch and discover – you would love it, trust me:
http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html

VINEYARDS IN THE DESERT

I am very grateful to my friend Mirjam for her guest-posting with transparency and kindness:

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

The still small voice caught my attention. I had read this verse so many times but that day God opened my eyes to something new.  Although the devil may be allowed to tempt us, it is not outside of God’s will and control. I was excited about that. ‘Do you want me to share it with someone?’ I asked God. Maybe someone in the church needed encouragement? I did not get an answer. Little did I know that God was speaking to me.

At that time our little son was about two months old and I was settling into family life, which I really enjoyed. Joel’s beautiful smile brought great joy to us every day. He was a wonderfully easy and content baby and everything seemed perfect. But deep down I sensed that something wasn’t quite right with me.

One Sunday night, I heard God’s still small voice again. He spoke gently but firmly through a song. As I was singing the words “He has delivered me from all fear”, God put His finger on the issue of fear and trust. Do I really trust Him at all times? I knew I had to surrender my life afresh to Him and that’s what I did. I left church that night having great peace in my heart. I had no idea that my life would be turned upside down the next day.

The following Monday night was the beginning of an incredibly painful and difficult journey. I was tormented by irrational thoughts, and fear gripped me. I felt increasingly hopeless and worthless, and I could not control these feelings. Within a couple of weeks I was completely helpless. Darkness had closed in. I found myself sitting in my GP’s room crying for help. There was no doubt I was suffering from severe postnatal illness. I was in the midst of the wilderness…

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” (Hosea 2, 14-15)

God spoke again through a verse on the wilderness but this time He gave me a promise. I would have vineyards in the wilderness and I would be singing again. All I could do was clinging onto this verse while I was battling with overwhelming hopelessness, fear and depression. The valley was so dark that I was wondering where God was. I could not see or feel Him but I clung onto His Word, which was my only hope. As I was lying on the bed paralysed by anxiety and depression I could only repeat the verses I had memorised: ”The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?” God heard my cry. He loved me even though I was unable to do anything. I felt I could not connect with anyone, not even with God. When I opened my Bible, my vision got blurred, and when I tried to pray, my mind went blank.

After what seemed a very Iong time to me, I started getting better slowly but I was still battling with irrational thoughts and fear. Sometimes I felt so overwhelmed and helpless that I could not face getting through the day. But almost every day God provided a friend who would encourage me. He seemed to know exactly who and what I needed. When I was able to read again, the Bible was always next to me because it was the greatest source of encouragement and strength.

When I was better and stable, God started showing me that my heart needed healing and restoration. This was the beginning of a painful but extremely liberating journey, which is not over yet. God really proved to be my counsellor and often spoke through dreams or through His Word. He gently put His finger on the wounds and started healing them. He started bringing forth streams in the wilderness so that new life could grow. Out there in the wilderness, in the loneliness, in the quietness I met Him and got to know Him better. I’ve learnt that His healing work is always complete because He reaches out to the depths of our hearts. Today I’m able to thank Him for His faithfulness and for allowing me to be there because there I will have my vineyards and there I will be singing joyful songs of praise.

“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” (Isaiah 51:3)

I have started singing again although I am still in the wilderness. I believe that God will keep his promises. I am looking forward to the garden and praise Him for his perfect work in me.

Mirjam Dixon, May 2011

FRIDAY FAST-FORWARD

HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PASTOR’S PREACHING
Nancy has a few very wise tips for preparing yourself and listening carefully in order to maximise your intake from a sermon. If my people would do it – I am sure my sermons might be more memorable…J
http://www.truewoman.com/?id=1799

DIVIDED
An interesting documentary presenting the ‘failures’ of modern Western youth work and some possible solutions. Intriguing… Worth a discussion perhaps… Watch it here, until the end of the month.
http://vimeo.com/29026767

WHAT WE LEARNED IN SKIPPING SUPERMARKETS AND RESTAURANTS FOR A YEAR
Brilliant Time article that comes as both a challenge to our consumerism and a resource in these times of recession. Plenty of lessons methinks.
http://moneyland.time.com/2011/09/15/qa-what-we-learned-skipping-supermarkets-and-restaurants-for-a-year/

MAN BIKES ARROUND THE WORLD WITH 2$ IN HIS POCKET
I love this story for too many reasons.
http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/08/update-man-bikes-around-the-world-with-2-in-pocket/

TONY BENNET & AMY WINEHOUSE – BODY & SOUL
Seemingly Amy’s last video and another reason why she will be missed. Classic.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OFMkCeP6ok

FIRST THINGS FIRST

‘ The thing you should want most is God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need will be given to you.’   Matthew 6:33 NCV

In the very busy and demanding world in which we live, we so desperately need to learn to prioritize very well. If we don’t – we run the risk of responding to the urgent rather than the important. The consequences of such a response are often confusion, frustration and disappointment…

It is so interesting that Jesus links in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel that priorities and worries are linked. He seems to be aware that the danger of worry could be a daily reality for many people and therefore offers a solution to all of us ‘worriers’ out there….

Often we need to take a step back and assess what we are really living for and what motivates us in our everyday life. Are the values of the Kingdom of God: love, peace, kindness, generosity, humility & integrity high on your agenda today?

A great promise is attached to Jesus’ challenge. It isn’t a blanket promise. Neither is it a promise of instant prosperity. It is a promise made by a loving Father that knows what His children need and when they need it most.

Lord, help  me to see what is really important in Your eyes. Help me to avoid wasting my life and let me discern what to live for. Teach me to have a kingdom perspective in everything that I do. 

FRIDAY FAST-FORWARD

Back in business – here are this week’s favourite links I have come across:

A CELEBRATION OF ‘SMALL’ CHURCHES – this is a brilliant article by a smart contemporary church growth consultant. It should encourage any church leader that isn’t involved in a mega-church (which, as far as I am aware, no one reads my blog).
http://blog.pastors.com/blogs/pcom/small-churches-are-normal-by-rick-warren/

SIX ESSENTIAL COMMITMENTS FOR LEADERSHIP – Rick Warren providing a thought-provoking and practical check-list for any (Christian) leader. Good to use for self-examination and re-commitment, which can also be possibly used as devotions for leadership teams.
http://blog.pastors.com/blogs/pcom/six-essential-commitments-for-leadership-by-rick-warren/

10 COMMANDMENTS OF STEVE – whatever you think of Steve Jobs (loathe him or love him), he has been extremely influential as a leader of (arguably) one of the most recognizable brands in the world today. This infographic is quite revealing.
http://osxdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/10-commandments-of-steve.gif

9 HABITS THAT MIGHT DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD – This is quite interesting in bringing up some ‘healthy’ actions might be having a negative impact. I bet you might be really surprised by some.
http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/9-habits-that-may-do-more-harm-than-good

BIZARRE 9/11 STORY OF THE WEEK – out of all the moving or strange stories of the tragedy of the Twin Towers – this seems so unusual. If it was you – how would you live afterwards?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14729359

 

THE FIGHT

Two events collided and provoked this post.

One is the heart-breaking story of guy who has battled drug addiction for the past 20 years or so. In the past few months, after being released from prison, he seemed to finally be willing to experience a change in his life. As a church family, many have stepped in with love, time, financial and practical support. It was an overwhelming display of affection and generosity.

He had been in this place before and then, just as things started changing, he bailed out and returned to his safety net – his addiction. At the back of my mind there was that niggling thought. Yet, when it comes to transformation, I believe with all my heart that before God there is always another chance and it is never too late. He was doing really well, got a place to live, a job, reduced his methadone intake. His drug counselors were really pleased.

Sadly, in the past few weeks, he regressed (is that even the right term?). I am genuinely ‘gutted’… There will be plenty of those who perhaps will view this episode with cynicism and frustration. The reactions to Amy Winehouse’s death proved that. And, to be fair, they are perfectly entitled to their feelings. Particularly if they have someone who is/has battled addictions in their family and is/has wrecked their own lives and others around them.

I realized once again how powerful addiction is. It enslaves. It mocks. It humiliates. And ultimately, it destroys lives, families and even communities. Please continue to pray for my friend – he needs people who never give up on him.

The other colliding thought was a brilliant chapter in the book ‘The Pursuit of Holiness’ by Jerry Bridges, entitled ‘Habits of Holiness’. I remember reading recently about neurological studies that point to the fact that often addictions form ‘paths’ in our brains that make it harder and harder to escape them. Pardon my lack of technical nous in the area, but you get the gist: the more we ‘use’ (whatever the addiction), the more we need. I guess subconsciously we all knew that. The addict lives with the mantra (and this was said by a money addict: ‘How much is enough? More.’

In this chapter, Jerry makes several helpful suggestions regarding sin/addiction and holiness:

  • Negative frequent repetition must be counteracted with positive habits frequently repeated
  • Never let an exception occur – don’t say ‘just this once’
  • Diligence in all areas is necessary to insure success in one area
  • Don’t be discouraged by failure
  • I would add my own – don’t try to do this alone. You need God’s help and the support of those around you

 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’   HEBREWS 12:1-3

TAKE A BREAK

‘Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest’
Matthew 11:28

We are all searching for rest in some way or another…For some of us it might be simply the desire to have a break from the madness of our jobs, family life and even Church life. We just want to relax a little. We want some quiet, some peace, some tranquility.

For others it might a search for spiritual rest. We are looking for that ‘something’ that would give us a sense of purpose in life. We are looking for something that would offer us a shelter from the storms of life. we are looking for that which can fill the empty void from deep within our souls. That which we feel but probably cannot even articulate.

Jesus extends his personal invitation to come to Him – and if you know anything about how he treated those that needed rest…you would realize that it’s a fantastic invitation! He often shocked his entourage with His gracious care for those despised, rejected and broken-hearted people whom He encountered.

And the surprise is that you don’t have to be anyone special or have great credentials. All He asks for is that you hand over your burdens… A great exchange. Your mess, tiredness, sinfulness, frustrations and hurts. Bargain or what?

Jesus I don’t have a lot to offer to You today, perhaps. Only plenty of worries, tiredness, frustrations and disappointments. But You have promised rest for people just like me. I come just as I am. Please grant me your rest today.