THE VALLEY OF VISION

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Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

(my) TIPS FOR CHOOSING A CHURCH

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Someone asked me recently about choosing a church when moving a new area.
Here are some of (my personal) tips for choosing/finding a church.

It needs to be unashamedly Christ-centred and Christ exalting. If they talk more about themselves, their denomination and their projects – rather than Jesus – it’s not good sign…

It needs to Biblical – holding on to the authority of Scripture. Preaching and teaching God’s word vs. human ideas or ideals.

It needs to be Spirit-led – ministering in His power rather than just running activities.

It needs to be missional – reaching people with the Good News of Jesus, both through word and deed. The Good News incarnate into our communities.

It needs to love people and value community – rather than just having a life based on attending services like a gig. Small groups are a sign of health in this.

It needs to be relevant but not hip. Making things clear and linking them with our day-to-day lives and issues without becoming obsessed with style and trends.

It needs to value discipleship – the transformational call of Jesus who loves us as we are but loves us far too much to just leave us as we are.

You will never find a perfect church and you need to make compromises often. It’s just making the right compromises. Prayer, thoughtful reflection and conversation with spiritually smart people are always helpful.

Always go with looking for a church with the heart of a servant rather than that of a consumer.

Church is never about a building, a brand or a project. It is about the people who make it up and their values and lifestyles.

Find that place where people most resemble Christ and where you can grow in Christ-likeness!

If possible – just like your produce – local is best!

Hope this helps.

GARANTIE

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Cand strig spre cer in neagra noapte,
In disperare ingenuncheat,
Si-astept măcar o simpla soapta,
Eu știu ca El m-a ascultat.

El vede lacrimile-ascunse,
Si-aude glasul stins.
Ridica sufletul ce doare
Si trupul in durere prins.

Cand toți in jur par muti si surzi
El nu m-a părăsit nicicand
Si știu ca-n fiecare zi
In El pot sa m-ascund.

IN MEMORIAM: JIM ELLIOT

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Jim Elliot, inspirational missionary martyred today in 1956 in the Amazons. Some of his diary excerpts to wet you appetite:

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (1949)

One treasure, a single eye, and a sole master. (1948)

God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus. (1948)

Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be aflame. But flame is often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul? Short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.’ (1948)

As your life is in His hands, so are the days of your life. But don’t let the sands of time get into the eye of your vision to reach those who sit in darkness. They simply must hear. (1948)

I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth till they were older. God is peopling Eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women. (1950)

The will of God is always a bigger thing than we bargain for. (1952)

Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a mile post on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.

 

CRACKING SERVICE

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Another hospital visit where, aside from the many great blessings of the NHS, I witnessed what great service really looks like.The ‘orthopedic practitioner’ was a young-ish guy that was just brilliant. He was genuinely compassionate, as if he was treating one of his closest relatives. He was inventive when he had to improvise. He was not afraid to share something of his personal experience of pain with an injury.

It did not make the pain and discomfort ‘go away’, but boy it made a whole lot of a difference in how the patient felt regarding how they were treated.

You might say – ‘what’s so novel about that?’ And you could well be right. But this struck me at a couple of levels.

First, it’s worth blogging something positive regarding how we are treated. Too often we are enraged, bitter and disappointed – and often for a justifiable reason. And yet we seem to be so slow in offering praise where praise is due.

Secondly, I could tell that for this man – this wasn’t just a job. This was his vocation. This was his dream. It was the reason he would get up in the morning and for him this was his way of changing the world. And I admire that. Too often, too many of us run around like in impersonal army of robots, simply doing what we have to do to earn the cash that pays the mortgage and feeds the kinds. And I know many people who are in jobs that ‘stink’. And they keep at it – which so great.

Yet I wonder if there could be a way to inject some passion and servant-spirit in whatever we do. Or even better – for those who are Christ-followers – serve as unto the LORD, making our job an opportunity for worship.

2012 IN 100 WORDS

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I have started this little exercise a few years ago but haven’t done it recently. Browsing over past ’100 words’ I found it pretty amazing.

Maybe it will inspire you to do the same. The 100 words are personal really, yet not a secret. Don’t try to deconstruct or interpret me by them. They really only make sense to me, and some of them are quite ‘random’.

I wrote them, ‘shooting from the hip’ – no editing, filtering and image manipulation.

Here they are – they year remembered in 100 words:

Blackberry
angels disguised as humans
Almera
mentoring
heart-bypass
pastoral care & good mental health
circles that complete the rows
Evernote
‘ftw’
Jubilee
Rising Brook
‘awkward’
early nights = early mornings
M – Barnabas
heat
spiritual warfare reality
family priority
Hans Zimmer
someone like you
Missional multiplication
weekly template
grace
year of elections
Instagram
Thomasz Stanko
Murdoch Media Fiasco
Charles Simeon
Musketeers
rain
Community & Care Remix
Kony
hospital pain & despair
The Music Room
Scholes
Kirkby Lonsdale
cycling mania
simple church 0.2
HCSB
Olympics
leaning to the right
preaching downsizing away
The Hunger Games
disciples vs. converts
first love rekindled
hipster

(ALMOST) INVISIBLE MAN

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Yesterday I happened to be around the local hospital and on the first day of the year it seemed eerily quiet, almost tranquil as opposed to the normal hustle and bustle. As I was…busy… trying to sort something out and get to a rest room, outside the door, there was a homeless busker.

He seemed cheerful and maybe a bit merry but was polite and chatty. He was probably the first person in flesh and blood to wish me a happy new year, apart from my family, this year.

Yet, I was in a rush, and to my shame, I just ignored him.

Not even an almost embedded in my DNA, British polite smile…

Nothing.

I had no time for him.

Not even for a thank you.

To be fair, I don’t think he minded. His calloused emotions are probably accustomed to rejection. I was just another one of those guys…Busy…

I never thought much until I was reflection on it before going to bed.

And I must have physically blushed with embarrassment. I was ashamed of my ignorance and carelessness.

I should have been greeting him, yet he greeted me. I should have looked him in the eye, shaken his hand and said thank you.

I am glad I know a God who forgives, gives grace and many second chances.

It’s a timely reminder at the start of a new year – of how I DON’T want to live.

God, help me to see people more than I see things. Help me to be less self-obsessed and more attentive to the world around me. Help me to be so full of the Holy Spirit and grace that people mistake me for Jesus more often. I can’t do this – but you can!