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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.

The Workplace – Sexual Purity In The Workplace

I was shocked to learn that over 65% of marital affairs begin in the workplace and I began to pray about why this might be. Suddenly the answers hit me like a brick.

Firstly, we spend the majority of the week at work away from our partner and if your house is anything like ours you can sometimes feel like ships passing in the night. Secondly, we often work closely with females at work, which inevitably leads to a personal relationship developing. Next the excitement that you once had in your marriage, the longing looks, the thrill, the excitement that you used to have at the beginning of the relationship with your wife starts to happen with your colleague. Then finally we have the secret meetings for sex, the danger and thrill that this gives.

Sounds great doesn’t it! But is it really?

Can we live with the guilt and shame that will burn deep within our conscience as we embark on this affair?
Let’s not kid ourselves here, our wife will find us out eventually!
Do we want to destroy all that we have worked or even fought for?
It’s not only our family that we are potentially destroying but also the other person’s.

If we do eventually separate from our wife and begin a serious relationship with our new partner, how long until that relationship becomes stale and the excitement seemingly disappears, the longing looks stop and the initial thrill is gone? We are then back with the same superficial problems in the relationship that we had with our wife. What then… another office romance??

I am not naive enough to think that this is a problem that only married guys face, many of my single Christian friends struggle in this area too. Society’s constant obsessions with sex are around us everyday, the opportunities are boundless but we are called to be counter cultural and abstain from sex before marriage and my friends tell me that this is much easier said than done! So what advice to single guys- pray! This may sound like a simple Christian response to any situation but we can never underestimate the power of prayer. Secondly, find a battle buddy, someone you can meet regularly to pray with and most importantly share your struggles and successes with whilst at the same time keeping each other accountable.

There is so much that I could write on this issue but the space constraints of this blog don’t allow for it. However, if you are struggling in your marriage and the thought of an affair keeps coming back and the temptation grows, I would like to share with you more practical steps to help you overcome this:

Pray regularly with and for your wife
I can’t underemphasise the importance of praying with and for your wife. Too often prayer is our last resort out of a problem when it should be our number one priority. Praying with your wife develops a special intimacy and problems in your marriage are often dealt with before they have time to take root.

Keep open communication with your wife.
Make sure to have couple time and dates regularly. Time with your wife alone every day can be a time for reconnecting and recharging your emotional batteries and intimacy.

Keep commitment to your marriage.
Keeping your marriage strong needs investment and commitment. It is like taking care of your own lawn. You need to water and trim your lawn to make it healthy and don’t linger by the fence because it is greener on the other side.

Keep your marriage in mind and a high priority.
Control your thoughts and keep your thoughts on a professional level. Your thoughts may not become an action; however, thinking about intimacy with your colleagues or physical attraction may increase chances of acting on those thoughts when there is an opportunity.

Establish clear boundaries for work.
If your colleagues know more about your personal thoughts than your spouse and when there’s more companionship and intellectual sharing and understanding at work than in the marriage, that’s a warning sign.

9 Coffins

Image from BBC news article:

As I approached the roundabout I could see the helicopter through the top of my windscreen. It was hovering, purposefully, keeping a keen eye on something yet unseen by me. I next caught sight of the police bikes. Two of them, both with their riders with their hands in the air bringing the oncoming traffic to a halt. I sat in my car, waiting, and with the other drivers around me wondered what was going on.

Would there be a glimpse of someone famous? A dignitary, perhaps royalty, or a senior politician maybe?

The sirens came next and more police bikes sped through the gap before fast-response cars followed. It was then that I saw the first hearse. It took the roundabout at speed, and was followed in quick succession by eight more. With only a length between each of them it was like watching an ominous race.

They sped off followed by more chase cars, all under the eyes of the men in the sky above.

9 hearses; 9 coffins. 9 of the victims from the Tunisia beach attack. I was suddenly only a few feet away from this shocking episode of evil.

One moment the victims were holidaying on a beach and now under comprehensive escort they were travelling the A40 at record pace. The hearses caught me by surprise. But I remember thinking that no one would have been more surprised than the victims themselves.

We’ve just remembered 7/7 in the UK. The memories from that fateful day are still fresh. The images bring it all rushing back. In a world where atrocities seem to take place at an alarming rate, the horror of evil actions remains shocking when observed by those near to them.

We feel the wrongness of these situations. We think of the pain of those caught up in the events. We mourn.

When the immediate grief subsides people caught up in suffering move from looking for comfort to looking for answers. ‘Why’? And, ‘how’? And, ‘could it have been prevented?’ And so on.

In this tragedy – as in many – there are tales of heroism. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The acts of evil, punctuated with humanity’s finest qualities. The good alongside the bad.

It really can be quite hard to make sense of it all. Humans have the capacity for incredible acts of love and we have the capacity for incredible acts of violence.

Hope and Answers

Everyone who lives has to face the suffering of the world. It is a worldwide problem; it is a human problem.

What we believe about the reality of the world goes a long way to how we answer the problems that we face. Diagnosing the malady correctly is the first step on the road to health.

The Christian understands the world to be full of both happiness and suffering. Human beings have the ability to create, bring life, love well, and serve others. But at the very same time the heart of humanity, of each one of us, has been corrupted, led astray, and all kinds of wrong happen to us, stay with us, and come out of us.

Humans are valuable because they are made by a loving God. They are not a random collection of atoms. We are not accidents. And like tarnished silver, our value is not lost when our appearance has been marred.

At the very same time the Bible does not shy away from the reality of evil. It is full of brokenness. It is full of hurting people. The Bible is not shy to call good, good, and evil, evil.

And the God of the Bible did not remain distant from the suffering of the world, but entered into it and suffered himself.

The world is far from perfect. It is in fact broken. For those that agree with this, the effort must then be placed on finding the solution. The fix. Is it more knowledge? Is it a greater collective human effort? We will do anything: work harder, sacrifice more etc. Our history is full of incredible efforts to this end but while they may have bandaged some wounds, they have not brought lasting health.

We have tried so much and we are left collectively exasperated and worn out. Who or what can we trust to bring us hope?

When we have exhausted the search for answers from within perhaps we should turn to answers from afar and when we do we can look, searchingly, at the life of a man who lived 2,000 years ago who suffered greatly for the people he loved and then astonishingly after a brutal death was raised to life once more.

It’s preposterous. It’s extravagant. It’s utterly different. But isn’t this exactly the sort of answer we need for the problems of the world today? When all that is obvious to us has been tried perhaps it’s time to look beyond our own horizons.

The problems that we face have proven to be huge. The answers that we require will need to be bigger still.

The Workplace – Loving Your Work Colleagues

One of the most challenging aspects of any workplace can often be the people we work beside, the people we have to spend the majority of our week with. Often we are thrust together with people who we would normally not choose to spend a few hours with, never mind a whole day! How we treat, interact and respect them speaks volumes about our spiritual maturity.

We are instructed to Do everything with love 1 Corinthians 16:14. “Do everything” — that means in the office, in the workshop, in the shop, in the car, on a sales trip — whatever, whenever!
Even when our colleagues are grumpy and rude, even when they don’t like you, even when they make fun of you, even when they put you down for being a Christian, you must still be a friend to them, and treat them as you would like to be treated.

As Christians our main goal is to become more like Jesus, more like God. We could argue that the number one reason God put you on this earth is to learn how to love. God is love, and he wants you to be like Him. It’s easy to love people you like — the people you find it easy to get along with. So if God’s going to teach you real love, its important to realize that he’s going to put you around unlovely people.

In my experience, it’s not really that hard to love the unlovely. A kind word, a friendly smile, a pat on the back, a genuine compliment, a word of encouragement and a listening ear, are all relatively easy to give yet we often underestimate the power of such simple acts.

There have been numerous times when the unlovely person started to open up and become lovely, often revealing the heartache, family struggles, fears or insecurities that have caused the unloving qualities to surface. So often people’s lives change when somebody takes time to pay attention to them. There is not a person on this planet that isn’t starving for attention. But a caring person is hard to find. The Apostle Paul said, “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare” (Philippians 2:20). I would love to sit down and learn from Timothy!

People need affirmation, attention, and affection. Learn to care about the people you work with and show them God’s love.

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2

The Workplace – Integrity Matters

As we saw in the previous blog, one of the big challenges we face in the workplace is trying to maintain our integrity in all that we do, say and think. From my experience the temptations are all around us in the workplace and quite often we don’t even realise it.

Issues or areas that damage our integrity at work can include the following: How do we treat other co-workers, especially those we manage? Do we treat them the way we would like to be treated? Are we open and honest in all that we do? Do we take few things from the workplace, even something as trivial as some paper? Do our actions always match up to our words? Do we always do what we say we will do? Do we lust after the young girl in the office, joking about her looks with fellow male colleagues? Do we judge anyone female who visits our workplace first and foremost by her looks?

The list could go on and on and if we are all honest, we all fall down at least one of those points I have raised on numerous occasions. Another big challenge I found is that as Christians we are often expected by non-Christians to have higher levels of integrity than those around us. When, not if, we slip up the judgemental comments come flying in thick and fast.

So what can we do to maintain our integrity not only in the workplace, but also in all areas of life? From my experience no self-help book or the latest motivational speaker could do it, the only resource you need is the Word of God A.K.A The Bible. Once your start reading, understanding and applying the Bible to your life then your character starts to develop and with that character development comes integrity.

God is much more interested in your character than he is in your career. But God does use your work and your workplace to develop your character. Your workplace is in some ways a life course in character development.

Do you have a boss who drives you crazy or puts you under pressure to lie? Think about this, God can use a boss who tests your patience, and he can use a workplace that you’re unhappy in to develop and grow your character. He plants seeds of love, joy, peace, and patience in your heart, and then he fertilizes those seeds while you work.

You may be at work and wonder, “How come this is going on? Why is this such a difficult place to work? Why do these people not like me? Why can’t I be happier at my workplace?” You’re really just asking the same question that Solomon asked: What’s there to show for a lifetime of work, a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone? Ecclesiastes 1:3 (The Message)

The answer to Solomon’s and many of our questions regarding the workplace is character. You’re not going to take your career with you to Heaven, but you are going to take your character. And while you are here on Earth, God is developing your character and testing your faithfulness. Will you be faithful to do the right thing, even when you don’t feel like doing the right thing?

Stephen McGuire

The Workplace – Your Boss Is Not Really Your Boss

One of the big challenges that I faced in the workplace, especially within a sales environment, would be the pressure put on by my boss to lie, or exaggerate the truth a little, just do or say anything to get the sale especially if there were a few zeros on the end of the selling price. At times I found this a real struggle and it would have been easy to simply do as I was asked and damage my integrity in the process. We will think about integrity in the next blog but today I really want to think about who our real boss is?

You see the Bible tells us that the boss at work is not really your boss, your boss is Jesus.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Many people I talk with have a real dislike for their job and I often hear statements like “it pays the bills”, “it will do until I can find something better” or “I get no job satisfaction”. When we constantly think about these things our attitude towards work can really suffer and become very negative.

However when we flip it around and realise that no matter where you work or who you work for, your real boss is Jesus then our whole attitude towards our work can change. It is much easier to be enthusiastic about our job when we know that we are doing it for God. By understanding the truth that anything we do from sweeping the floor to running a multinational company can be an act of worship, we can change our whole mind-set and approach our job with a fresh enthusiasm and a positive attitude.

When we change our thinking and attitudes towards our work it won’t be long before the “here’s the grumpy Christian coming” comments change to “here’s the guy that is always happy and positive at work”. This change can have a huge impact on our evangelism in the work place.

It doesn’t matter if you’re vacuuming the carpet, repairing a car, serving in the military, or managing an office, any job can become an act of worship if you do it enthusiastically for God, 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Demolition Squad at The Gathering 2015

The Demolition Squad is looking forward to attending The Gathering next week. With over 2,000 booked the weekend promises to be a lot of fun.

Areas of Operation at The Gathering

The Demolition Squad will be involved strongly across the whole weekend, with Saturday being the busiest day.

The Just Looking seminar on Saturday afternoon

Just Looking is the seminar to come to with your questions about faith. I’ll be presenting a case for why I believe Christianity most makes sense of the way things are, and then there will be a good amount of time following to engage in Q&A. Just Looking will be in the mess tent, so grab a drink and join us.

Apologetics Clinic

Outside of the Just Looking seminar the Demolition Squad will be hosting informal ‘clinic sessions’ where we will discuss various tough questions of the Christian faith. This is where you have a part to play. We want to talk about the questions that you are facing most often as you engage in evangelism. Come and find us on the Friday in the Mess Tent and tell us your top question. We will then put together a schedule for the Saturday where will tackle the questions that occur with the greatest frequency. Additionally, you can leave a comment on this blog with your question for the Saturday clinic.

This will be a relaxed environment where everyone who wants to will have a chance to input into the discussion.

Say Hi!

Throughout the course of the weekend, outside of the seminar and the clinic sessions, the Demolition Squad table will be manned at various points. Do come and say Hi. The Demolition Squad is a branch of CVM that exists to help equip you – the guys on the front line – to be able to defend and commend your faith to those around you. Drop by and let us know how we can serve you, in your context.

Your feedback and input is a vital contribution to help us ensure that we are serving your real needs, and not what we simply think your needs are. We use these meet-ups to help us tailor our online content, as well as seminar and talk ideas for the year ahead.

Well, I’m off to find sun screen (in faith) and a hat … See you next weekend.

The Workplace – An Exciting Mission Field?

The workplace; a place where we spend most of our week, a place where as Christian men we can influence our co-workers, suppliers and customers with the Gospel. Or is it? Are we really showing God’s love in our attitudes, work ethics and conversations? Do we struggle to live by our Christian values when the boss asks us to lie to a customer or a co-worker upsets us?

Work in Britain is getting tougher with record levels of stress, anxiety and low morale. However research reveals that most Christians in the workplace get little or no support from their church communities.

Over the course of this blog series we will be looking at various aspects of the workplace and how we as Christian men can actively live out our faith at work because importantly, being a Christian means living in the real world and not hiding away.

So what is my experience of living out my faith in the workplace? Before joining CVM full time I worked for the same company for 19 years, starting as an apprentice in the workshops and finishing in the sales department selling multi-million pound cranes and access equipment to the oil and gas industry.

For the first 7 years of my career I wasn’t a Christian and I was a typical Jack the lad at the time. The rave scene was massive and I loved everything about it, the music, drugs and alcohol. I was always up for the night out; the ones you couldn’t remember were apparently the best. I didn’t treat girls as they deserved to be treated, they became conquests rather than people. You get the idea…..

When I gave my life to Jesus and I got to know Him more, I knew I had to change the way I thought, spoke and acted. My conscience became much sharper and I started becoming more aware of how my thoughts, words and actions impacted on others. I would read the Bible and be challenged by passage like Colossians 3.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:5-10

I knew I had to change, I had to be different, and I had to be prepared to share my faith. But, this was much easier said than done and I came across numerous barriers and problems.

For the first few months I had a real difficulty in work colleagues understanding the change and there was always the constant pressure to slip back into my old ways. This often forced me to isolate myself at first and perhaps stay away from nights out etc, however I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to influence others or share my faith by doing that.

Over this series of blogs we will examine some of these challenges and hopefully share some practical ways in which we can overcome them.

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