I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU

There’s no better time than to prove one’s friendship than during the difficult seasons of life. They can be amazing opportunities to allow God to use us, our talents and our time to encourage others. Mots of us are not born ‘carers’. Sin, the virus we are infected as soon as we step into this world, makes us bent towards selfishness and self absorption.

I believe that we are all on a steep learning curve. Advice may help. Books and sermons might equipp us but really there’s no greater teacher than experience itself. During the past few weeks, I have learned new things, in the midst or worry and helplessness. I have gained a fresh personal insight on how difficult it is to care and support those arround us.

God used the readings of the Psalms and he book of Job as a theological manual and almost on a parallel track the difficult season in our family’s life. Here are some of my discoveries. They are not maybe pertinent or helpful to everyone, but maybe you will find them inspiring. These are the lessons God has thought me.

Beware of the two dangers, most commonly affecting us. The first is ignorance. I can just not listen, discern, watch or notice the difficult situations someone might be facing. The opposite danger is just as bad. I can be too intrusive, over involved, and preachy. I am sure I have been guilty of both extremes.

When you don’t now what to say, say just that. Don’t sugar coat the situation with your own over enthusiastic positive spin. While it might be true, it might not also be timely.

When you don’t now what is the best way to support someone, just ask them.

  • Ask them whether they want a meal or a lift.
  • Ask them whether they want company.
  • Ask them if there is anything specific you can pray for them.
  • Ask them if their situations has financial implications, and if you can help.

Ring or text for an update. Their mind might be frazzled and confused and your initiative will be an encouragement.

Use a Bible verse discerningly. The Word of God is very powerful but make sure it is God leading you to send them that.

If you’re part of a Church, gather your small group for prayer for them.

The list could go on, and as time goes by I might add things.

What has staggered me is the way God can use even adverse circumstances redemptively (His speciality) to bring encouragement even in the most adverse circumstances.

He longs to do this, and in an unfathomable way, he wants to use means you. It’s all a question of availability more than ability.

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A DAY TO BE THANKFUL

I know that Father’s Day is probably a fake comercial invention sparked by some egalitarian brain and some card company. i cant be bothered to Google it up. It comes and it goes. We dutifully buy some tack for our dads, get angry at their absence or maybe shed at tear for their departure.

If you have a dad that has been arround and is arround, let me tell you, you’re unique and that’s a bonus worth celebrating these days. But this post isn’t about dad but my Heavenly Father. hHe deserves my thanks, and not just today…

Father God I thank you that you are my Creator. In your amazing intelligent design you knitted me in my mamma’s womb and with all my shortfalls I still am the very best unique version of ‘me’. I thank you that you sent your only SON to pay the ransom for my sin and enable me to come back home. To you.

You did not lecture me.
You did bestow upon me favour I have not merited and could have never earned.
You surprise me daily with your often understated yet very real love.
You have a patience that betas ‘hands down’ even the amazing patience of driving instructors who see a daft pupil at the steering wheel of a vehicle for he very first time.
You counsell and comfort me through your Spirit.
You have adopted me in your family and have given me an inheritance beyond my wildest dreams.
You are so holy and majestic, yet so gentle and welcoming.
You are so otherworldly that I should call you Sir, Majesty, YRH, but you aske me to call you DADDY.

I thank you today and every day you will grant me breath…

And I pray for the fatherless today, for those who never knew their dad, for those with dads arround but robbed by that thief Alzheimers of their real self, for those who hate their dad and what they did to them and the family or those who maybe are missing a great dad so badly.

Father reveal yourself (again, afresh) to them today! Let them see and know how great you are! Let the, feel your loving kindness and mercy even now.

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JOB PONDERINGS

No, it’s not about my vocation. Nor is it about the crazy hunt most of my dear friends are involved in these days.

It’s about the remarkable Bible character.

You know the story. Job has it all. Riches. A fine family. Good health. Impeccable reputation. All the things we secretly and unconsciously add as valuable puzzle pieces that make up that grand concept of happiness. To add some more pizzazz – he also loves and worships God with a heartfelt devotion.

But that’s what brings him trouble. Satan starts a wager with God, as he assumes that Job’s devotion is just linked to his happiness. God knows his man and is confident to accept the wager, still boundaries in place. In a matter of minutes and days, Job’s life as he knew it treacles away…

Philosophers and theologians pondered long and hard over this, waxing lyrical over the meaning or meaninglessness of suffering. I was struck at a fresh re-reading recently by these thoughts:

  • Theology is never as simple as maths. Job and his friends had a formula worked out, based on what they knew from Scripture. It was correct. But they didn’t have God ‘worked out’. He moves in ways that are mysteriously beyond formulas and axioms.
  • Job’s friends tried to counsel without stopping to take in silence their mate’s plight. They rushed to speak and were all too ready to point out flaws they never examined. A whole waste of words. And God accused them. Ironically it was the prayer of their ‘flawed friend’ that saved them.
  • God was humble and confident (the un-elegant ‘big enough’ could describe that) to respond to Job’s challenge – proving that He adores a relationship with His servants. Although He pointed out Job’s flawed folly – He did it lovingly.
  • Don’t draw conclusions until God puts the full stop. As it looked like things were degenerating with the spiraling speed of a descending roller coaster – everything changes in the end as God restores and enhances Job’s living.

WORTH THE HYPE?

Rather than attempting to do a a wordy review, which I am sure many others could mange to craft far better than I ever would, I just want to highlight why I enjoyed it so much.

1. It reminded me of a childhood story that has all the essential themes of a hero/heroine engaged in a battle between good and evil.

2. It really was a page turner for me, written at a brilliant pace, without any unnecessary detail (to my shame I could never finish The Hobbit because of that).

3. It is written in a pictorial style. This has got to be one of my favourite features of this type of fiction. I genuinely created a movie in my head as I was reading it. (it would be interested how my mind’s images match the vision of the director).

4. It describes a dystopian society segregated in two. One that seems to resemble a Victorian age poverty stricken society, the other something futuristic out of a polished sci-fi movie.

5. It does have the obligatory love interest and ‘relationship’ lark. The way it is described and handled had me far more interested than the Twilight saga, which I found a tad female reader oriented. This is far more restrained and uncertain. Which keeps you guessing….and wanting to read more.

6. It is ├╝ber contemporary in conveying the modern obsession with a voyeuristic media. As a reader you find yourself both appalled at the crassness of the spectators while you yourself are an involuntary participant, as you read on.

7. It has an ethical moral edge. It gets people talking and debating. It has the innocent wrapper of a teenage adventure while describing a totalitarian political regime with all the spin and fears known to any of those who experienced such a life.

8. It has a likeable set of heroes. Both Katniss and Peeta are vulnerable, humble and unsuspecting heroes. They are the outsiders that manage not to take themselves too seriously. So far, not many reasons not to see them as almost role models (manipulation and survival killing aside, of course).

9. The motivation of Katniss is truly heroic. She dos what she does out of love and care for her family. You could not have a greater reason to cheer for her.

10. You just know that after reading the first book you WILL want to know if they will have a relationship, what about Gale, will their rebellion create ripples, and how will the despotic government react?

This thoughts are based on just reading the first book in the trilogy.

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SHOCKING SERVICE

We all enjoy a good service in a restaurant or a shop and often that can be the single most effective way of making sure we go back. Businesses know this only too well and that’s why some excel and others fail. Customer service can make or break a brand’s reputation, and often that is irreversible.

Yet it isn’t about that kind of service that I want to write on this day during Holy Week when we remember one of the most remarkable episodes in Jesus’ life and ministry. As the disciples were all gathered for the Passover festival and He was supposed to be the centre of attention, as their teacher, He did something staggering.

He chose to act as the house servant, doing the obligatory job for his master’s guests. He washed off the dirt and dust from their feet, readying them for the meal. This was inappropriate and surprising. Yet it wasn’t just a PR stunt, like many that we see in today’s savvy marketing strategies. It was an incarnational, literally hands on demonstration of what Jesus was all about.

He did it because He knew they would remember.
He did it because He was modelling a different kind of leadership.
He did it because He loved them and cared for them.
He did it to establish the value of humility and servanthood for His kingdom.
He did it because He knew this would become an example for many generations to come.
He did it because He was not arrogant, snobbish or image driven.
He did it because in His weakness there was greatness.

Let’s make it personal. Don’t leave this episode just for the paintings and commentaries. Let it become a motivational reminder that causes people just like me and you to become part of a new revolution. A revolution that chooses to despise arrogance and pride and embraces a humble selfless sacrificial servanthood. Just ask the Spirit of God to open your eyes and ears, move your heart, inspire your mind and use your hands and feet to encourage and bless others. And then, just do it!

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PRAYER

Prayer is desirable if you are a Christ follower. You read about it in famous biographies. You hear it mentioned in conversations and you hear it preached on Sundays. No one I know would claim to be excelling at it and almost everyone I know would blush at their prayer ‘ratings’ (no such thing exists or should exist).

We all struggle to pray. The barriers may be different but the reality is similar. Some of us are lacking faith, others motivation and more often than not a basic sense of priorities and discipline. And no matter how many books you read and how many experts you listen to, it remains a struggle.

As I keep learning, one thing seems to become more and more obvious. In times of hardship and challenge, my prayer life awakens. I guess it becomes instinctive. I am cornered and I have run out of ‘other options’… I have come to an end of all my resources, people cannot help and ordinary means just won’t do. And that’s when I am most active in prayer.

Jesus was so different. He listened and prayed as he went on about His daily business. He also withdrew from the noise and the hype. When things got tough, he was sweating drops of blood agonising in preparation in prayer for the coming ordeal of interrogation, torture and crucifixion. Even on the Cross, He prayed. Always. Constant. Praying.

How rude, I think, to treat this privilege so glibly. How insensitive to be so ignorant of the One who invited me to call Him Father. How selfish in my pragmatism. I confess, that at times I feel like a ‘user’ in my prayer life.

Yet the mind blowing truth is that He always welcomes me back. No lecture. No extra homework. No pre-conditions. Just ready to listen to my heart’ pleas. Like a deeply caring Heavenly Dad. And that isn’t because of me or because He is naive. It’s all because of His Son who made this relationship possible.

So, as we spend time pondering the events of Holy Week, return or turn to prayer. It will change your life and others’. Also, please join me in praying for my friend H, in her mid-twenties, with a severe brain haemorrhage in a critical condition, in hospital.

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GOOD INTENTIONS, BAD EXECUTION

Today Starbucks have introduced some changes. One of the most publicised, is that they want to use your first name. Of course to demonstrate an intimacy and a closeness. They think about these things, you know…. The sofas are stained and the tables are often chipped rather than pristine in order to, wait for it, make the place feel more homely. This was the whole 90’s obsession with making the coffee shop a ‘third place’, somewhere in-between home and work.

Nice, you might say. Yet the cynic in me finds it so faux. They probably try to emulate what some of us older ones have experienced in an era long gone. I still remember making my first trips to the corner shops where the ladies working there knew my name, and probably a few funny stories about me – from mum and dad, of course. This all happened over time and through conversations, the way intimacy should happen.

I still love the idea of people getting to know me and vice versa. I guess if you’re a chronic loner you might wince at that… Yet, like everything else in our fast paced culture today, we create artificial, fake shortcuts that mimic the ‘real thing’.

Why not give the baristas extra pay, and extra training? Why not hire people for whom this can be a vocation (don’t scoff…) instead of a promotional slick video or glossy brochures?

What troubles me is that we make the same mistakes on the church scene. We love the slick and superficial and struggle with the raw and the long-term… Image over intimacy… Efficiency over authenticity.

BTW, they also offered anyone who tells their name to the barista a free late (lol, not really proper coffee in coffee-snob-land), to sweeten the deal. No, I passed on it. I like free things but ain’t that much of a cheapskate. Ooo, I just got a couple of vouchers for 50% off lattes, for ‘my friends’, too.

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NEW 10 COMMANDMENTS FOR SMALL GROUPS CARE

Years ago I used an image to express how I see the complementarity of Sunday celebrations and Small Group ministry in the life of a local church. I saw them as the two wings that made healthy ministry ‘fly’. You take one of them away and will probably end up with an unbalanced and unhealthy life.

This is one of the many reasons why I champion our LIFE groups here at CFMC, where I have the privilege to serve and encourage Gods people. I see this as equally important to the teaching ministry I am so passionate about.

Here are my 10 suggestions for brilliant ways to encourage and equip both members and leaders to serve in an atmosphere of authentic support and accountability.

To me, it is simple. Leading a small group is about loving God and loving people. the rest should flow out of that. You care by:

Inviting or calling people to join your group so that hey don’t stand alone.

Welcoming them, as if you had Jesus over, being warm and attentive, always.

Listening to them, knowing who they are and what makes them tick or worries them.

Communicating with them, asking questions, making comments, engaging in small talk.

Noticing them, appreciating their presence, missing their presence.

Encouraging them, taking time to stress their progress and contributions.

Correcting them, just he other side of encouragement, always redemptive and constructive.

Equipping them, giving them a break to use their gifts and serve in a safe place.

Teaching them by using your words (from the Word) and life as an example to follow.

Praying for them, to grow, to be bold, to be strong, to be effective, to be faithful.

 

READY OR NOT?

The only imminent and inevitable truth about our lives is that death will knock at the door for every single one of us. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. I don’t know to whom, first…

It’s damning and almost ironic that we either chase or worry after so many things that aren’t really that important, while death remains one of the ultimate taboos of the modern Western world. We avoid thinking about it and we certainly don’t want to talk about it. And too right. at least we are honest about it for once. We are either scared or confused, therefore we prefer to pretend it isn’t there.

Woody Allen said, ‘I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be here when it happens.’ Lars Ulrich from Metallica had it at all yet he realised that ‘death is the only thing that I cannot control in my life’. From time to time, the unwelcome shock of having someone we care for I’ll, or the death of someone famous, it causes us to freak out and become restless. But only for a while.

Sunday morning I was speaking on Jesus raising Lazarus from the death and proclaiming something sensational. He said ‘ I am the resurrection and the life. whoever believes in Me will never die but even if he dies he will live forever.’ This truth is the anchor that brings hope in a world so marred and frightened of death.

Yet as He declares that fantastic promise, Jesus throws in the 65,000$ question: ‘ Do you believe?’

I know I do.

What about you?

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