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It’s a lock in!

I remember being in Brazil working for Teen Challenge, and a group of us wanted to reach out to blokes in Prison. The part of Brazil I was in had 9 prisons and one was just for the corrupt police.

We got an invite to go in and lead a service for the fellas, I decided to take my brother in law with me, as he was visiting at the time. ‘It’s safe mate, nothing to worry about, we go in, do a talk and out, job done’ I told him, simply relaying what had been told to me. Error.

My brother in law and I laugh about it now, but as we entered the prison it became obvious this was a prison built for 100 and had over 1000 inside. The inmates had keys and controlled the prison from the inside with official guards holding machine guns sporadically appearing on the walls above.

As we walked in we immediately felt like we had made a terrible mistake. Greeted by the wildest looking fella we had ever seen I started to walk away quickly, head down but pretending that I was mildly confident and supposed to be there. My brother in law got left behind, and I heard a yelp like a puppy calling for it’s mum. A mixture of fear, pride and desperation reunited us and kept us going further into the complex.

Inside the chapel we prayed, read our Bibles and avoided eye contact as best we could and took part in the service. You see we had stepped so far out of our comfort zone that it gripped us both with fear but adventure, worry but then courage, an overwhelming urge to scream but a strength and boldness that prevailed.

If we want to be bold men of God, courageous, adventurous, and fearless as we go forward these are not things we can order online and wait for them to arrive. Take a deep breathe and ask God to put you in places that are going to get you trusting him, relying on him, speaking about him, calling out to him and ultimately, seeing him be glorified!

Brocken spectres, mountains and the unexpected

I love chilling out in the mountains and relaxing with God. So when both activities happen at the same time I am in my element!

God seems to be asking me to relax with him more and more. I just sit down and enjoy his company, praise him for his creation and even share a joke with him.

Last week I was having a chuckle with God down the garden and a sparrow came and perched on my elbow, that is certainly a first for me!

I love the unexpected in the mountains, twice I have seen a brocken spectre…….that is when you see a large shadow of yourself on a misty cloud bank below you, when the sun is directly behind you.
The first time was on the top of Crib Goch in the 1980’s and the second time was about 4 years ago when I was on a cycle ride in the Yorkshire Wolds.

In my experence the best views in the mountains are unexpected and happen when I have left my camera at home!

The Christian life is about having a close friendship with God, this includes relaxing with him and expecting the unexpected?

Code Ode: Incarnation

In the beginning was The Word and The Word was with God and The Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him, nothing was made that was made…

And The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us…
John chapter 1

Recite this, slowly, out loud:

Being’s being,
Meaning’s meaning,
Lord in Persons three–
A thought, became a word
Proclaiming, “Let there be”.
The Always, Lord of Time,
Beginning’s Owner, Name unsayable
Beyond “He is”;
His, creation’s game, unplayable
By any other,
Sprayer of a million, billion, billion stars
Across forever,
Never losing count of countless worlds,
Exhaling star-birthing clouds, a sigh
Four trillion Everests high,
Folly, wiser than all wise,
Made meat upon this speck of dust
And come to die.

Couch to 10K and beyond

So I have decided to set myself a physical challenge, to compete in a half Iron Man, it is called the Gauntlet, and from the moment I had the idea my body is telling me this was a stupid idea.

The Gauntlet is a 1.9km open water swim race, then a 90km bike race then a 21km run. If I am being honest here, I can do all these things, swim, ride and run but in very short bursts of explosive power. Basically what I am saying is that I am so far from being ‘race ready’ the whole idea is laughable. But I am going to have a go.

I downloaded an app as you do, watched videos and started the normal process of psyching myself up for the physical and mental challenge of getting up from sitting in front of the TV with my real Ale to put my running gear on. It’s a start.

The point in all this is I am up and having a go, and my app gives me motivational messages as I am hitting the pain barriers to fitness, you know, the normal things; It’s cold out, TV’s good tonight, I deserve a night off, I’m in my PJ’s now etc.

The last message I received read: ‘Keep going, you are doing more than the bloke sitting on the sofa’ the point is a good one, and it is true. I might be slow, and look like a bloke trying to run with stones in his shoes, but I am having a go and not the bloke watching the world go by whist sitting on the sofa.

The same is true about how passionate I am about sharing my faith. About investing in my kids understanding of Jesus. About spending time with Jesus in prayer. About being the best husband I can be. You can sit back on the sofa and do nothing, which is sometimes good don’t hear me wrong here! Or you can do something, and my challenge is simple seek first the kingdom of God, let your something make a difference for eternity!

I don’t want to be a bloke who is sitting on the sofa watching the world go by, I want to have a go and use my faith in Jesus to shape what that ‘having a go’ will look like. Perhaps an easy start is to be a motivator, to encourage, build up, congratulate and cheer each other on. We can see all around us how easy it is to criticise, judge negatively and pull each other down. So if you see a bloke running that really doesn’t look like he has a clue what he is doing, cheer him on, I would appreciate it!

Serving

As we get older can we say ‘we have had a life of service’, ‘given a cup of kindness’ or supported and encouraged someone?

It brought it home to me, relating to one of the key events in my life, when we read about St. Paul going to Rome, and he was shipwrecked and helped others to survive. The boat had 276 people on board. I can equate to the situation as a guardsman in National Service being one of about 200 soldiers, on the troop ship Devonshire, sleeping in hammocks, going across the Bay of Biscay. The smell of vomit, dysentery and sea sickness having its effect all in a confined space, always stays with you.
We also serve being employed, a member of an organisation, and having the right heart, being thankful servants. As we mature we can see how the roles are reversed and people have served us when we were, charge hands, managers, company directors, church leaders, trustees etc.

Whatever the position we have held or are asked to undertake we are all servants and it’s the quality of serving that matters. I wonder what the next challenge will be? I hope that I can listen to the Holy Spirit, as Paul did, to serve in order help others.

Short Answers to Big Questions

Big questions require big answers, but sometimes to get going we all need a pointer in the right direction.

Andy Bannister and Nathan Betts, who work for RZIM Canada, have created a series of videos answering dozens of the hard questions that Christians are asked about their faith. They have already produced 30 answers and the series continues to grow.

They manage to pack in some wonderful responses into just 3 minutes. We have really enjoyed this series and see it as a valuable tool to aid people in sharing the Good News of Jesus.

VIDEO: Isn’t Religion Just A Psychological Crutch?

Demolition Squad: Survival Guide

Here at CVM, we’re busy putting the finishing touches to our first book specifically tackling the common objections to Christianity that we face here in the UK.

Due to be launched in the autumn, this short-read will help you to continue useful conversations with people who have their own big questions about Christianity. We take the questions seriously because every question comes from a questioner who we really want to see meet Jesus for themselves.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Big Questions Videos Produced So Far

1 Isn’t religion just a psychological crutch? Vimeo YouTube
2 Islam and Christianity: Is it the same God? Vimeo YouTube
3 Isn’t faith just for the stupid and gullible? Vimeo YouTube
4 What does it really mean to be human? Vimeo YouTube
5 Why is the Bible against sexual freedom? Vimeo YouTube
6 Is it arrogant to claim you have ‘the truth’? Vimeo YouTube
7 Why choose Jesus and not Buddha or Muhammad? Vimeo YouTube
8 Prove to me that God exists! Vimeo YouTube
9 How can you believe in God without evidence? Vimeo YouTube
10 Is atheism a religion? Vimeo YouTube
11 Do all good people go to heaven? Vimeo YouTube
12 Why did Jesus have to die? Vimeo YouTube
13 What about those who haven’t heard about Jesus? Vimeo YouTube
14 Hasn’t science buried God? Vimeo YouTube
15 How can you really know what is true? Vimeo YouTube
16 If God, why is there evil? Vimeo YouTube
17 Who made God? Vimeo YouTube
18 Why believe the Bible rather than the Qur’an? Vimeo YouTube
19 Why would a loving God send people to hell? Vimeo YouTube
20 Isn’t belief in the Trinity irrational? Vimeo YouTube
21 Why is there so much violence in the Bible? Vimeo YouTube
22 Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Vimeo YouTube
23 Does the Trinity even make sense? Vimeo YouTube
24 Aren’t all religions basically the same? Vimeo YouTube
25 Why do bad things happen to good people? Vimeo YouTube
26 Does religion poison everything? Vimeo YouTube
27 Why are Christians so judgemental? Vimeo YouTube
28 Can we be good without God? Vimeo YouTube
29 Hasn’t Christianity done more harm then good? Vimeo YouTube
30 Is life really meaningless without God? Vimeo YouTube

Dodge Vipers

I recently went to a pageant of power – a day of bikes, cars, planes and boats, it was awesome. As we walked around the paddock of show cars, I thought that the way all this stuff had been preserved was amazing, the money spent was incredible.

As each car hit the track people went running to catch a glimpse of their favourite sports car or classic, fire spitting, race tuned F1 car.

I love this stuff, the smell of burnt fuel and tyres, the noise, it just connects with me. I remember being at a wedding and the bride and bridegroom arrived in a Dodge Viper, blue with white go faster stripes, brilliant. Everyone cheered and they pulled up and went into the rest of the ceremony, I was all over the car.

The guy who owned it was there, and I did the normal noises- pointing at all the shinny bits and gasping at the engine bay. What amazed me wasn’t that this guy started to tell me about the car, and how it was his dream to own one, but what it cost him to get it.

He had re-mortgaged his house, his wife had spiralled into depression and the marriage, as he explained, was not going well, but he had made it! I stood amazed.

We won’t all be experiencing this sort of thing, but our lives can quickly be about what our treasure is, the house, the new car, the holidays, the clothing or watches. All great stuff, but when it’s your treasure your heart will be locked up in it.

Jesus talks about treasure, that where our treasure is,that’s where our hearts will be too. (Matthew 6:21) Our devotion, our time, our focus, our priorities, our energies, our thoughts, our identity.

What does that look like for you?

Image credit: Photo by Netsnake / CC BY 2.0

Choices

So I have this app on my phone that I love using, it shows me any car for sale, spec, price, photos the lot. Recently I have been setting a budget and seeing what I can find, the trouble is I have a few requirements.

I want something fast, let’s just put that out there right away. I don’t like top speed but mind boggling, eye popping acceleration is something I do like. The problem is I want this acceleration but I am also trying to find economy. I would like a sporty looking interior but I want a seat that feels like an arm chair. I want exceptional cornering ability but I don’t want to feel like I am in a car with wooden wheels and bouncing over every bump in the road.

When we talk about Jesus – He has new life waiting for you, He died on the cross, paying the price for our sin and now we can go free because of him! That is amazing. Jesus defeated death and being raised to life again means you can be confident in facing death that it’s not the end, you go on! WOW!

Now here’s the rub, this is a bit like me wanting the fast car, the sporty interior and the fast cornering – those are the good bits. What I have started to realise is that I often want the crown but don’t want the cost, I want the good but the tough bits I want to ignore. Following Jesus will, at times, take me to the wire – my faith, trust and obedience will all be impacted when Jesus my captain takes the driving seat in my life.

Go and take a look at Luke 9:23…

Trickle Down

In 2011, 60% of the world’s 1 billion ‘extremely poor people’ lived in 5 countries- India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This statistic indicates that ‘trickle down’ is not a very effective agent of economic development!

From my own experience of working in the developing world as a civil engineer I have observed that the ‘people friendly’ grass roots projects are the ones that help the poor. They are the ones that are community led and encourage development of talent and long term thinking

About 6 months ago my wife and I moved to a church that was ‘Trickle up’ rather than ‘Trickle down’. We feel liberated, loved and very blessed! Lots of churches talk about ‘Every member ministry’ and think it is a good idea, but do they do it? It is very demanding because as church members, we each take on responsibility and like a family we don’t always agree. The leadership team become facilitators and encourage the development of ministries as well as washing up the tea mugs.

There is a CVM/One Voice day conference on ‘Every member ministry’ at York on the 10th October 2015. See here for details

The conference will also explore other aspects of ‘Trickle up’. So come and explore with us and wash up the tea mugs!

The Workplace – Telling Your Work Mates About Jesus

I am constantly being asked “How can I tell the guys at work about Jesus?” I am asked this question so often that you would be forgiven for thinking that it should have been the first blog in this series of blogs and not the last. It wasn’t a mistake that I have done them in this order and that this is indeed the last one in the series.

Let me explain, as Christian men we would love to see our mates at work give us the opportunity to share the Gospel with them but let’s be real and honest about this and think about it from our colleagues point of view.

If you are known as the guy who is always moaning about your work, never having a smile on your face and constantly having a go about the boss behind his back. Then the chances are your colleagues won’t really see you as being different and that Jesus does have a positive effect on your life.

But, if you’re the guy who is always happy and positive at work no matter what the job is or the circumstances because you know that your real boss is God and your work is an act of worship then people will notice the difference and ask why.

If you are known as the guy at work with no integrity who never does what he promises to do, who is known to “borrow” a few things from work and never return them, then the chances are your colleagues won’t really see you as being different and that Jesus does have a positive effect on your life.

But, if you’re the guy who is always tries to do the right thing and is much more interested in your character than your career then people will notice the difference and ask why.

If you are known as the guy at work who doesn’t treat colleagues very well and never really shows anyone any love or compassion, then the chances are your colleagues won’t really see you as being different and that Jesus does have a positive effect on your life.

But, if you’re the guy who treats everyone at work, even the people you don’t get on with or like very much with love, respect and compassion then people will notice the difference and ask why.

If you are known as the guy at work who is always chatting up the girls, flirting or having an affair with a colleague, then the chances are your colleagues won’t really see you as being different and that Jesus does have a positive effect on your life.

But, if you’re the guy who honours his wife and does everything in his power to protect the sanctity of your marriage then people will notice the difference and ask why.

You see if we are to earn the privilege to talk the talk about Jesus we first have to walk the walk. We have to demonstrate that Jesus has impacted and changed our lives for the better, like only He can.

I am in no way suggesting that we need to be living perfect lives because as we all know that’s impossible and is the reason we need God’s amazing grace. However as we strive to become more like Jesus and show our colleagues a different way to live then the opportunities to share our faith will become much more abundant.

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