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Christian Vision For men

Pacemaker

pacemaker-blogAre you making a good pace in life towards your vision?

Some of us over 50`s need a pacemaker, or a heart bypass, or a stent to keep us going.
As we get older there are major hurdles that we continually have to take steps to overcome. Things we are going through: ill health, moving house, financial problems or depression.

The reason I am writing this is because I need my pacemaker changed. We only have one heart and if it stops we have problems! It concentrates the grey matter to count your blessings and realise that every day is a bonus.
After a while we get complacent and take things for granted again. Or we get dragged down and need the batteries recharged.
It reminds me of someone walking along the beach, there are two sets of footprints in the sand, then they become one set. It is that time in life when we need Christ to lift us up and carry us to the safe shore.
The challenge is knowing we have to go at his pace and be in step with what he wants from our lives as a pacemaker or a peacemaker for Him.

What a difference a letter makes!

I have no idea who stuck the wings on

Stuck-the-wings-onWe hurtled along the runway at nearing 300 miles an hour, with a roaring and rumbling which is typical of nearly 300 tonnes of metal, passengers and baggage trying to defeat gravity in a desperate attempt to lift itself from the ground. There was a bump, and my stomach tried to leave its normal location, as the nose lifted, the rumbling became quieter and the Boeing 777 clawed its way into the sky. I knew it was clawing its way because the engines took on a howl as they worked hard to lift 300 of us eventually towards Japan. There was a whine and a thump as the wheels locked home, the engines eventually became a comfortable hiss and we were on our way.

An hour or two earlier I had handed a good number of my possessions to a lady who promptly allowed them to disappear into a mysterious cavern along with another 3000 bags. Possibly more considering the vast numbers of cases of the family in front of me at the bag drop.

Before that I had been happy to give up a cold windy station in North Yorkshire for a 140 mile an hour train, driven by – well I don’t actually know the name of the driver. Come to that I don’t know the lady who kindly took my bags, and even though the captain of flight 005 did tell me his name, and that of his co-pilot I was more engaged with the menu for the flight meals at the time. (sorry captain)

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I look out of the window, from 35,000 feet and I have no idea who stuck the wings on this plane. In fact I have no idea about any of the people who have been involved in my journey. But I am trusting each and every one of them.

The driver of the train to be alert to the track, the lady at the drop off that she labelled my baggage correctly, the pilots and crew of the plane, and those who built it, who knows where and when.

I have no doubts that the wheels will come down and lock into place when we need them, that the pilot will land us accurately and safely, that the engines will howl once again to aid the slowing of the plane. I trust them all.

How easily I trust. But does this level of trust really translate into trusting God as much?

I don’t think twice about trusting my life in the hands of the airplane pilots, but I make such a fuss when I am trusting God; Can I? Can’t I? is He listening? Has He seen the difficulty I am in? Will he answer my prayer?

I just jump on the train, thankful it has arrived, but I dither and doubt Gods will for me when His opportunities come along.

I simply hand over personal stuff to check in staff, but I weave complex and deep prayers over the smallest detail when I need to make a decision about my giving.

If I can so easily trust those who “stuck” the wings on this plane, shouldn’t I be able to trust even more a God who promises to look after his people with care compassion and perfect love?

Truth Under Fire

Truth Under Fire

Earlier this week, on the 26th of October, the Union Flag was lowered at Camp Bastion. The next day the last of the British troops left Helmand Province. Over the coming days and weeks many newspaper articles, television documentaries, and pub conversations will assess the overall value of the British military campaign in Afghanistan. “What did we achieve?” “Was it worth the cost?” “Will our efforts have a positive result on the country next year, in 5 years, in 20 years?”

The British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, has said that some mistakes were made in our 13 years in Afghanistan but that many good achievements have been made also.

The stories of tragedy, heroism, dismay, and hope have been coming to us for over a decade and soon it will be the job of historians to disseminate all of what we know and present the case for the success or failure of the overall mission.

This won’t be an easy task but it is driven forward by a strong collective sense of a nation seeking to know the truth of a situation for many so far removed from their day to day lives, yet so frequently punctuating their evenings through news broadcasts.

It’s because conflict is so costly that we won’t accept cheap answers. When lives are on the line suddenly quick-fire soundbite-replies to the big questions don’t cut it. When casualties of war mount up there grows a vested concern that truth not be listed among the number lost.

It is right to probe, to strain, to strive for the truth in these situations. With knowledge comes understanding and we hope wisdom for the future.

War has a way of framing questions rather bluntly. It also reveals how casual we can become with the search for truth in other, less immediately affected areas of our life.

Conflicts are violent and immediate and the questions we ask surrounding them are marked in the same way. Yet our own lives also have huge questions that perhaps don’t strike us with the same urgency. What we live for, what rules we live by, what hope we look to – these massive questions that religions seek to answer are treated rather shallowly.

They’re not so ‘in our face’ but surely they are of equal value to the questions that we ask of conflicts? Perhaps even more so?

Yet instead of investigating, searching, and seeking to discover the truth for these big questions so often we are satisfied merely to find what works for us and leave the bloke next to us to find his own way too. We wouldn’t want to interfere too much in his life and we certainly wouldn’t want to invite too much attention from him!

In our pseudo-civil attempts to restrict any meddling in our private affairs we end up demoting truth from her true authoritative position. If all we want is something that works for us then we answer the largest questions of life with simple pragmatism, disconnected from what may be true. Or another way of thinking about it is that unhappy with the prospect of having to bend our lives to a superior truth, we decide to make ourselves the sole arbiter of what’s true for us.

Can you imagine if we treated the Afghanistan conflict in the same way? If in the House of Commons instead of debate and counter-point, each Member were granted their own viewpoint regardless of its correspondence to the reality of the situation? This nation would deride the self-serving views of our politicians swiftly and trust would be destroyed.

Questions surrounding the things most valuable to us deserve the best answers. The struggle with the biggest questions of life is a noble quest and to shortcut the search by setting aside truth for personal preference risks a betrayal of the truth and an act of personal deception.

Shame

In an attempt to better understand some of the roots of the conflict in the middle east and further afield, I have been reading a book called ‘Touching the Soul of Islam’, by Bill Musk who worked for Church Mission Society, Interserve and others.
The following summary table outlines his understanding of some of the key differences between Western and Eastern cultures. It’s easy to see how some of these very fundamental differences lead to clashes of values, misunderstandings, fears and conflict.

I am particularly interested by the Western focus on ‘guilt’ which tends to relate to particular actions done or not done (‘sins of omission or commission’) as opposed to the Eastern focus on ‘shame’ which is more of a consciousness of something not right about the whole person. Shame is a very biblical concept, not surprising then, considering its Eastern roots.

In the course of speaking to people about the need for forgiveness, many people do not seem to consider their guilt particularly serious, especially in comparison to certain others who really have problems with bad behaviour! A greater focus on the holiness and loveliness and kindness of God, his awesome nature, will perhaps lead us to a sense of shame in relation to him – didn’t Job compare himself to a worm in the face of God? Shame humbles me to see my need to be restored to God, which goes way more than this or that sin needs forgiving, and to see that Christ in me is the only hope. If we ourselves or we’ve got friends, family or neighbours seeped in Easter culture, perhaps we could run this table by them and better understand some of our differences and what we in the West might need to learn afresh.

Table: East and West

Important Themes in Western Cultures Important Themes in Middle Eastern Cultures
‘Reality’ –centred conceptual framework ‘value’ –centred conceptual framework
Primacy of the individual Primacy of the ‘group’
Liberty to develop independent life Place in web of social relationships
Equality of the sexes Differentiation of the sexes
Task-oriented roles Gender-associated roles
Achievement due to self-effort Honour from variety of sources
Guilt: result of breaking law Shame: result of failing someone
Emphasis on youth Emphasis on age
Materialistic/humanistic in focus Theocentric/God-oriented in focus
Love matches lead to marriage Status matches negotiated for marriage
Rights of each individual paramount Duties towards family/clan paramount
Open-ended attitude to economics ‘limited good’ attitude to economics
Contract relationships important Oral/trust relationships important
Public and private worlds separate Public and private worlds integrated
Accumulation of private wealth lauded Generosity/hospitality on demand lauded
Future oriented Past oriented
Freedom-focused behaviour Status-focused behaviour
Personal preference primary Conventional appearance primary
Competition on basis of individual merit Advancement on basis of who-you-know

Making Friends

Recently Rick Warren posted an article on his Facebook Page called “Why I do what I do” which was summarised as a life-long call to “Reach one more for Jesus”. He explained his approach:

“My definition of “Reaching one more for Jesus” is this: You build a bridge of love between your heart and theirs, then you let Jesus walk across. You cannot bring enemies to Jesus. They must become your friends first. Before people trust Jesus they want to know if YOU can be trusted”.

Even if your friends do not become followers of Jesus, having friends is still a good thing, for you and them. However making new friends is a real challenge for most of us.

The following is a transcript from a Friday night comedy chat show – “The Last Leg” screened 15 August on channel 4 with guest star Carrie Fisher, who is best known for her role in Star Wars..
This conversation was prompted by a report published by the charity Relate where 1 in 10 people answered a survey saying they did not have a friend.
[suggested by-line:10% of people have no friends].

Adam: “Sometimes it is hard as a bloke, to meet other blokes, especially at a certain age when you think you’ve met all the blokes you’re ever going to meet.
Josh: “Where’s this chat going Adam?
Alex: “It is quite weird, as you get older … if you meet a bloke that you like, you don’t kind of go…
So, when can I see you again?” “Would you like to do this again, sometime?
Carrie: “What do you do, though?
Alex: “I don’t know. I just…hide. It’s weird isn’t it“.

This somewhat awkward discussion on live TV highlights the challenge that men face in making friends. A lot of us only have friends who are the partners of our wives friends or work colleagues.

Our male culture simply lacks the language and social protocols to indicate you would appreciate becoming friends with someone.

add-as-friend-buttonSo how do we go about making friends?
My observations on this subject are:
– You gain friends by being a friend.
– You gain friends by spending time together, by regular contact over a period of time, working together on something or having a shared interest or project.
– You cross the line to being friend by helping or doing something for someone.
– Men don’t usually ask for help or directions, so you may need to ask for help or be first to offer assistance – use what you have – loan tools, books etc.
– Have fun – laughter and shared memories build friendships.

You also need to be friendly – no one wants to friends with a miserable old git, or worse a miserable religious old git who is against everything, especially fun.

Why put ourselves through this potentially daunting process?
Firstly, for our personal well-being. We all need friendships and social interaction.
Secondly, to reach men with the gospel.
That said, our friendships must be genuine, not a means to an end.

I recommend “Just Walk Across the Room” by Bill Hybels – this shows us a cringe free way to share our faith. He also states that it is ok to have friends who never come to faith.

I have just finished work after 43 years and my one of my new goals is to gain new friends to replace the interactions I had through work.
(I may join a local photography group or volunteer for a non-Christian charity?)

So over to you…
How do you make new friends?
What works and what doesn’t work?

Please contribute by replying in the comments section below as we need all the help we can get.

Code Ode: Office Clear Out

Then God said “Let us make human beings in our own image, to be like us…
Genesis ch 1v26.

 

We are people and people are completely different from
everything only because God is a person.
This is so deep you could fall in and drown.
At the heart of everything
Beneath everything
Behind everything
Fundamental to everything
Before anything
There was and is a PERSON.
This PERSON gave rise to PEOPLE (oh, and THINGS).
It’s not as The World thinks, the other way round. It’s
not “In the beginning was A THING and eventually things stumbled into being
really, really complicated things which got labelled “people”.
(And I’m not arguing with genetics or a long development
process). I’m saying a PERSON is more fundamental than a thing. Before any
elements – A PERSON.
If you don’t get this, you can still think and hope and
believe that life has meaning and that you matter. But you can’t justify it.
Fine – until, if your THING, thing is true and somebody in
power decides you don’t matter squat and ruins your life – well tough. Get over
it. Get over ‘justice’.  Get over human
rights. It’s just a weak THING trying to win against a strong THING.
That’s it.
You matter because the PERSON responsible for the Universe
invented somebody(ies) like Him to matter. It affects every thought. I even
thought about it when I cleared out my office after 35 years:–
Recite this out loud.
“We’ll supply you with bin liners—black
Except for confidential stuff, a sack
That’s white so it stands out to go for shredding.”
Light is doomed and dark is saved? We’re heading
Where our norms could all be torn apart.
But, sack that I thought, to sack I’d better start.
Paper phantoms, long and best forgotten,
Briefly gasped in memory’s air—at bottom
Of a sack reburied deep and quickly;
Some achievements, solid, firm and thickly
Bound in satisfaction, warm and wistful,
Together with red herrings by the fistful,
Herculean labours, plots and schemes
Recorded side by side with idle dreams,
Business cases on which hung careers,
But that day, the sum of all my fears
Was, would I be tried by paper cuts
In addition to my allergy to dusts?
A table top appeared naked, raw
From under layers, forgotten more than stored,
Of documentary strata, decades deep,
The deposit from the thought,”Er—better keep”.
What sedimentary rock could then be born
If armies clerical, bored and forlorn,
Laid down committee minutes endlessly?
Work of administrative centuries,
Sustained by coffee lakes and tea in seas
Until at last scraped off by glacial me.
“Here we have a specimen of Beaurocracite,
Pure grey except for flashes there which might.
You think be gems, but no—Pompossistone.
Gems are there,
but rare
From the Protocolaceous zone.”
A discarded plastic bag, decades decayed,
Disintegrated at first touch and made
A plastic snowflake mini-storm—
Decades’ dandruff.
A life’s career worked for good or ill,
The final purpose, apparently, to fill
(Although to breaking) those few liners, black.
It seemed a poor product looking back.
Even they would be redundant all too soon.
The next career’s clearance from that room
Would happen in a twinkling, in a trice
From a microscopic memory device,
Its pattern of electrons clicked away.
“But you’ve had a lasting influence”, they say,
“On people’s actions, attitudes and aims”.
What if that’s just electrons , all the same?
Busy being them inside their skulls
Or stored inside some server near to Hull.
I’m thinking (it’s the ground of every thought)
We’re people, in His Image, or we’re nought.

Epidemic of Loneliness

benchman #05According to a recent article in the Guardian, being lonely is a higher risk factor for heart desease and stroke than being obese and smoking.

As far as the local church is concerned, we need to encourage it to look out for lonely senior men in residential homes and in their own homes and just be there.
Simple things like fixing a light bulb, taking them to the pictures or the pub or a local football match. Get the youth club involved in this ministry… you can skip a generation. Residential homes are very feminine in culture as there are so few men there so these guys feel sidelined.

TLC is just common sense and imagination. Many old boys, like me!! just want to do stuff for their community but don’t know where to start. So the church could network. Churches need challenging to have pastoral teams for senior men. This would highlight this neglected topic.

Age is only a number… some oldies want ADVENTURE! Most men prefer action rather to chat. There is only one no no… Don`t invite them to church unless they ask…men who want to sing hymns are in a minority and join a male voice choir! Yes I am in one!!

Some churches run holiday clubs for seniors. This stimulates new friendships and activities such as furniture workshops.

Toms Story

Alan Scott is the Lead Pastor at Causeway Coast Vineyard who has written an article called “We are losing a Generation” I recommend reading the whole article (link at bottom), because Alan challenges us to not only look to the young in our churches but also to the older generation.

The following is an extract from his article:

What if God wanted to use those who are elderly to reach those who are emerging?

Toms Story
“Most of us have heard the “toms” story; a young entrepreneur had a dream to awaken social conscience through the brilliant business idea of “toms” shoes, one for one, where people in underdeveloped countries can have free shoes. It caught our imagination and fuelled great compassion and innovation. It justifiably gains attention. It’s a brilliant story/movement.

I also love the other Tom’s story. I am talking about Tom in our community who came to faith less than two years ago. He encountered the Kingdom as God healed his body. It was enough to recalibrate his heart, and at the age of 81, Tom believed.

A year later Tom applied for our Encounter school of mission. When I heard he had applied I was surprised. The course is specifically designed to create a climate of risk. Upon reflection I realised that although it was a little late for a gap year, Tom was perfectly positioned to live a life of risk. Aged 81 there weren’t many people who didn’t know Tom in our town. He had already established a fine reputation. He had a lot to lose. Yet he embraced the risk and at 82 years old stepped into learning again.

He started the course in September with one goal: to lead someone to Jesus.

In February 2014 God granted Tom the desire of his heart. As I write, Tom has now led 11 people to Jesus, many of whom are part of the emerging generation who we are desperately creating programs and tinkering with theology in an effort to reach. And I wonder if while we keep searching for methods to engage a generation, God might have His women and men, like Tom, already in place to bring life across all generations.

I can’t help wondering whether the young are tired of the advertisers and the media, tuning out the voice of their fathers, but still open to the voice of grandfathers like Tom. It may well be a romantic notion, yet what if God wanted to use those who are elderly to reach those who are emerging? What if God was turning the hearts of the Fathers towards the children? What if those who have gone before us are carrying something for those who come after us?

[Alan brings his article to a close with these words:]
“And to my friends and mentors who are journeying faith in their old age…

Please don’t pass on the baton just yet. Your race is not yet run and we need your voice now more than ever. You are alive at a time of unprecedented amounts of people living longer because God wants to reveal his salvation to the old as well as the young.

Please don’t bury your promise with you.

We are losing a generation but we don’t have to, and it was never meant to be that way.

Studying Apologetics Online

Apologetics is a key tool in sharing the Christian faith. That’s why we’re keen on it here at the Demolition Squad. When Christians give a defense of the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15) they are providing reasons for belief in Jesus Christ. Many people questioning Christianity have good questions that should be met with good answers. The apologist seeks to provide good answers to people to remove obstacles that would prevent people from coming to faith in Jesus.

RZIM AcademyA great way to learn how to tackle these questions well is to take a course in apologetics. But for many of us it’s not practical to take time off work, or attend evening classes. This is where the RZIM Academy come in.

RZIM bring a talented international team of apologists together who have been travelling the world, teaching, equipping, and defending the faith in churches, universities, business, and government settings. By bringing this course online RZIM are opening up their wealth of experience of skills to a wider audience making it easier for Christians to learn and grow in this area.

As an online course the RZIM Academy offers you the chance to learn at a time that suits you. There’s fresh content each week to be absorbed but when you do this is up to you.

Key Features

  • 12 week core-course
  • 26 lectures provided from trained and experienced apologists
  • Online discussion forums and blogs
  • Study on your own schedule each week

Apply Online

If you’re interested in learning more about this course take a look at www.rzimacademy.org

The next online course starts on November 10th and registration closes on November 6th.

Who Are We?

We are all body, mind and spirit connected to a family. There have been lots of programmes on TV , the 100 years anniversary of the first word war, computer links, as well as local computer and history groups all enabling us to learn more about who we are and find lost family members. Personally our family records go back over 400 years, after that your names have to be recorded in the Lord of the Manors records, and that is difficult to find and follow.

Our bodies can be kept in trim by walking going to the gym or having regular exercise. Not always altering the features of the generational likeness as shown photographs. (‘Isn’t she like her mother’).

The mind boggles at the DNA profile which can now tell us where in the world we originate from. With help of the internet, the local libraries and various historical groups we can build an intellectual picture of our past and potential capability.

With our spiritual ancestry it’s different. We may be able to find out how part of ‘church’ history might have been influenced by a member of the family, and we learn from their example. However our spiritual walk is a personal one starting and finishing with us.

We need that introduction to Christ. The Bible gives us his genealogy , and examples of how to live our lives with the Holy Spirit to be our guide. There is no pressure of looking up and finding personal records but know that our spiritual father listens to and answers prayer to guide us through a new life with unlimited ancestry and his healing power to mend broken relationships

Authors Note
I had more or less completed the above and wondered what scripture was relevant. Then I read my daily reading, Bible in One Year , which the following was part. Ancestry is only mentioned once in the New Testimony.

One who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” Heb 7:16:

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