Only An Excuse

excuses

My pastor from church sends out a daily text to a number of people, a little snippet or thought for the day to encourage and equip the reader. One of last weeks texts included this quote from Willis Whitney – “Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to; all they need is one reason why they can.

As I read it, it really struck home to me and challenged me big time. Even now as I write this blog I know that I need to go for a training swim as part of my Grand Challenge later in the year but hundreds of excuses are flying through my mind as to why I shouldn’t head to the gym and swim at least 60 lengths.

Often we know that we should share our faith with our work colleagues, guys in the gym, mates in the pub and even our family members but when it comes to it we can all think of thousands of reasons not to.

“What if they laugh at me?”
“What if they ask me a tricky question that I don’t know they answer to?”
“They wont listen anyway!”
“The probably wouldn’t be interested anyway!”

These are just some of the obvious ones that immediately spring to mind, I could go on and on with excuses.

But, as Whitney says in the quote above we only need only need one reason as to why we can and that reason is faith. Throughout scripture we read about ordinary men doing extraordinary things all because of their faith. They knew that with God all things are possible, not in their own strength but in His.

One my favourite portions of Scripture is Hebrews 11, the faith hall of fame, hear we read about spiritual giants and the great things that they accomplished, all because of their faith in God. Its inspiring reading and its my go to passage when the task ahead of me seems too big.

Not only do we have faith that enables to do amazing things, we also have permission from Jesus to go and join him in the adventure. As we read in the Great Commission, Jesus confirms his authority and gives us His permission to go out into the whole world.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

So lets be inspired by the faith of the great men of Scripture and use faith as our one reason as to why we can.

I am off for that swim!

Making the Man (Part VI)

making-the-man#6 Decline of compassion

I remember being in Brazil and chatting to a wealthy Christian friend of mine and asked him about the poverty all around us. In the region of Brazil where I was living you couldn’t go out without being pressed right up against abject poverty and misery all around you.

People begging, people holding terrible wounded and diseased body parts desperate for money. Stopping at ANY traffic light you are approached by at least 2 street sellers whilst you watch a street performer juggling or spinning a plate for money at the traffic light. (Bit of a different Brazil than the postcards!)

This mate of mine looked me in the eye with a hint of remorse and said ‘mate, to be honest I just don t see them anymore.’

Whilst I was shocked, I also could start to understand how this guy had arrived at this conclusion. There was just a huge disconnect in how he could help, having grown up around this his whole life it no longer seemed like something to be fixed, so it was filtered out. Compassion had almost gone, and a sense of concern for the needs of those around had gradually been dissolved.

But this is the obvious way in which we can sense or not sense compassion, I think they Bible has another way of seeing it. But first there was a great moment in the film Superman returns between Lois and Superman. Superman takes Lois into space and asks her this:

Superman: Listen; what do you hear?
Lois Lane: Nothing.
Superman: I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.

Nice one superman but Jesus did it better: ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Matthew 9:36

We might look out and see comfortable people, lives seem to be in order with a new car on the drive and two holidays a year. But the thing is Jesus saw though all of that veneer! A spiritual condition and spiritual need that the Bible identifies as sin. This may seems bit weird but I think when we look out we don’t have much compassion that moves us to pray in this way because we don’t see the same thing. We see stuff that indicates someone who isn’t in need (materially) so no compassion for the eternal path they are on! Does that fit?

I am doing it all the time, but the truth is without Jesus there is spiritual poverty and that needs to be seen, embraced and moved a heart of compassion for the church to respond.

Creativity

God created the universe and He made man in his own image……. this is mind blowing!

Therefore may I suggest that we think outside of the box and focus on how each one of us could be more creative this week.

This may be with our hands such as photography or gardening, Churchill relaxed by building brick walls!

We could be more creative socially…start a prayer triplet. Visit an elderly man who may be lonely and take him for a pint at your local. Go for a long cycle ride with a mate or your son.

Someone challenged me to focus on my ministry of being a husband. That is very creative and involves every heading that I could possibly mention in this short blog!

One of my friends observed that many men who have very creative jobs want to switch off their brains on Sunday at church. Is this is a cop out? Sometimes the best refreshment is to do something as challenging, but completely different from, our normal tasks. It is important for church leaders to challenge men with creative activity rather than them becoming passive spectators.

It is good to do what you are passionate about and invite others to join in. I think CVM call this level one! This is not a big deal, just start in a small way with one other person.

I`m a retired civil engineer and I have found voluntary work socially very demanding and creative. And a joy!

Making the Man (Part V)

making-the-man#5 Decline of self-discipline

As you might expect from Proverbs in the Bible, is this wisdom about self-control and discipline: ‘A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.’ Proverbs 25:28

Cities of that day had just about all their defense in the walls, you just need to read up about Nineveh and how arrogant they had become trusting in what they thought was an impenetrable wall around the city.

If you imagine a field and around it is a wall, at certain point part of that wall is attacked. The wall might get damaged and some repairs go up and the wall is back again. The attack can hit that same spot again, then again and again. Each time work is done to repair but the repairs are getting less and less and the strength and integrity on the wall is compromised. After time that wall has gone and the space has now been occupied, that section of land is no longer owned and the enemy can enter the field at any time whenever they want.

Imagine that field is you and me, our lives. Self-control keeps that perimeter up, of course we pray, accountability and meeting with other Christians too, but outside of those moments when you are at work or in private it’s the self discipline keeping it together.

When sin starts to hit that wall it can turn up in lots of ways. Subtle glances at the attractive women you know, or the channels late at night or the whispers of more money and power if the rules are moved a little. After time and without warning the walls have been breached and that section or area in your life is no longer surrendered to you. It rampages your field without invite and stays for as long as it likes.

I think self-discipline and control is like a muscle that we build, strengthen and notice. Ignored it wont grow but focused on and built up it will start to work, even when we don’t realise it. Kurt Hahn identified this as something g lacking in the society of his time in the young men of his time. Has it changed for us today? Had it changed for you personally today? As Christian men and brothers we can train together to build a core strength of a spiritual self-discipline. Where iron really does sharpen iron, maybe you’ve got a wall to reclaim!

Getting your teenagers through their exams!

From a Dad of twins who survived last year! by Lee Jackson


I’m the author of a few books. Three of them have been about teenagers, two about how to help them do well and pass exams in schools. I’ve helped teenage students for years, as a youth worker and for the last eight years as a motivational speaker working in schools up and down the UK. What made the timing of writing my book so perfect and ironic, is that I wrote it as my 16 year old identical twin girls were in the middle of their final GCSE exams! Yup, no more theories for me, no more let me speak from my ivory tower ‘professional experience’. This was real. Right now, last year i was the Dad of GCSE taking twins. A Dad who is supposed to be an “expert” in motivating teenagers for success! No more dress rehearsals. I’m going to find out if “my stuff” actually works for my teens! Gulp.

I’ve known and worked with CVM for many years now and thought I’d just share a few tips for you guys at this key time, with exams only weeks away, and the pressure on teenagers at an all time high, its time to share the good stuff that gets us all through…

5 Top Tips for Dads with teens revising or taking exams…

1. Be a ‘coach’ not just a ‘manager’

I really believe in changing our view of parenting into becoming our child’s ‘coach’ not just their ‘manager’. People who manage tend to manage ‘stuff’ not people and, like me, you’ve probably been on the wrong end of a bad manager at some point in your working life. They can be negative, jobsworth and not much fun to be around but a coach is a different thing altogether.

Coaching our teens gets the best out of them. We become an encourager not just a nagging voice. In the world of sport coaches are everywhere, they help the teams and athletes be the best they’re capable of being. A good coach will of course have to tell you off when you’re not doing so well but really their job is to encourage and to keep you on track so you can do more than you think you are capable of doing.

My friend Matt is a top-flight basketball coach I’ve seen him win games and lose games but what I see most in him is the ability to steer, adjust and encourage his players to get through, overcome, and even enjoy the tough games that they have to play. Even when players are taken off the court they’re not shouted at but given a reassuring hi-five. They don’t get a lecture because in 10 minutes time they may have to go on again. I think that parenting is always about choosing the right battle at the right time, because there are many battles and we can’t fight them all. Exam time particularly is the key time to let some things slide and to focus on what’s important – getting them through their exams in the right frame of mind with full support from us and our families. Exams are a just a season they don’t last forever (thankfully!) and they just require focus from everyone.

Coaching phrases to use when talking to your teen:
“How do you feel today?”
“How do you feel your revision is going?”
“What do you need from me at the moment?”
“You’ll be fine, you’ll make it, we’ve just got to get through this time together.”
“It won’t be long now, just get your head down for a bit and keep on going – you’ll make it.”
“Remember afterwards you’ll enjoy maybe one of the longest holidays in your life!”

2. The big fear
As I study people, the ‘self-help’ industry and motivation there are two things that come up time and time again. Self esteem and the fear of failure. Self esteem is the lens we look through as we see the world and our relationships and that often can be affected by the fear of failure. We all suffer from it in one sense or another. Can you remember a time or event where the fear of failure has taken over? I teach presentation skills a lot and it’s often the biggest fear in that context, and it can last for a lifetime. Your child maybe suffering from it too. If they are reluctant to start revising or to work hard, it’s often, but not always, rooted in the fear of failure. When I’m working in a challenging school I see this a lot. The students can almost persuade themselves that if they do no work at all then when they fail it’ll be somehow easier on them. But if they really put the effort in and then still ‘don’t make the grade’ it’ll be a disaster for them. So they figure out that not trying is less embarrassing. It’s scary being a 15/16 year old! We can help our teens with this by letting them know that as Zig Ziglar once said “Failure is an event not a person.” I fail, you’ve failed, we all have. In fact I spoke at an event last year all about failure. I even collect stories of people who’ve failed, but most of those stories finish with the time they picked themselves back up again. Failure is part of life. It’s a learning point for our children’s future. We all may fail, but we need to learn to have the grit to get back up again. GCSEs can teach them that. If they give them their best shot, they often get better results than they thought they would. That’s because working hard is a life changer.

3. Work hard pays off
They’ve been told it a thousand times by teachers and by you – that’s because it’s true – hard work (esp. smart work) works! It gets us from where we are to where we want to be and is much more reliable than a lottery or an X-Factor audition! Controversial American author Larry Winget has written a book called “It’s called work for a reason” and while I often cringe at his blunt, brash style he has a point. If we are lucky enough to have a job that we enjoy then that’s amazing. I love my job, but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sitting here at my computer writing this doesn’t magically happen, I’ve had to lock myself way and get it done. I love communicating with good people like yourself but I don’t enjoy being stuck on a computer typing when I could be out in the sunshine. But today I am. It’s called work for a reason. The trick with teens though is to tell them this without sounding like a song on repeat (we used say ‘like a broken record!’). Show them how hard work has worked for you and encourage them to keep on going like you’ve had to learn yourself. GCSEs or A-levels is a season of hard work, it doesn’t last forever, and as one headteacher said to me the other day “Lee, at the end of the day I get 13 weeks of holiday a year, I try not to forget that.” A school year is about 37 weeks, so encourage them to work when they have to and enjoy the breaks when they come.

4. The ultimate revision technique…
So, what overall revision technique is proven to work when getting ready for gcse exams? In my Collins study skills book I talk about the gift of time. We all have it, we can all use it well if we choose. No matter who we are in life: ‘important’ ‘vip’ ‘famous’ ‘rich’ or just ‘normal’, we all have the same amount of time in the day (86,400 seconds to be precise). One of the keys to good revision and study skills is to use time well and to start early. It’s proven to work. In fact in 2013 Prof John Dunlovsky the co- author of the snappily titled “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology report”(!) mentions ‘distributed practice’ as the best technique,(to you and me that’s starting early and revising regularly). He says it is the “most powerful” of all the strategies. Simple and effective.

5. Good revision – in a nutshell for your busy teenagers…
• Find out when the exam is
• Find out what you have to revise for it
• Make a quick revision plan (don’t spend more than 30 mins doing this!)
• Start revising, use a timer if you need to to get going …
• Start early, don’t just cram the night before, spread out the subjects
• Read your books/notes, then make your own revision cards/post-its/mind-maps
• Take breaks and reward yourself
• Test yourself or get others to test you
• Do past papers in timed exam conditions
• Ask for help / feedback from teachers
• Switch off your phone so you can focus – you can do it!!
• Prioritise the key topics as the exam moves closer
• Prepare your brain and body the night before an exam with good food and a good night’s rest, then glance over your notes before the exam in the morning
• Take the exam
• Reward yourself knowing you’ve given it your best shot
• Enjoy the results you get
• Smile smugly and enjoy your long sunny holiday :)

This is an excerpt from Lee’s short, readable and down-to-earth book available in paperback and Kindle now.

About the writer of this blog
Lee Jackson has written many books for blokes, adults and teenagers including “How to Enjoy And Succeed at School and College” and is one of the most experienced motivational school speakers in the UK. He has worked in schools for over 23 years and works in every type of UK school and college.
His website is http://leejackson.biz
His twitter account is @leejackson

Searching for Love

Searching for Love

Love is one of the strongest desires of the human heart. We sing about it, paint about it, and write poetry about it. Our TV shows talk about it. The Internet is full of it, and magazines tell you how they think you can achieve it. I have Shakespeare’s sonnets on my iPhone and The Notebook is available to stream online at any time should you so wish.

We love to talk of love and yet we live in a time when the largest single cause of death for a man under 35 in many Western nations – including ours – is suicide. Deep loneliness abounds. How do we explain this?

The world we live in today is more connected than it has ever been. We can send messages to other side of the world in just a split-second. I can chat to colleagues 10 time zones away effortlessly. I can stay connected with all my secondary school friends on Facebook and Instagram.

My favourite comedian – Billy Connolly – when he as filming a travel show for TV and was left alone on a polar cap for a night quipped, “There’s a difference to being alone and being lonely.”

Now wouldn’t you agree that there is something wrong in a world filled to the brim with messages and promises of love when at the same time there’s a vast amount of people drowning in despair without it?

A Shift in Culture

Things are changing in our culture. We get married later, if at all. It’s easier than ever to hook up … and break up. And who of us likes break ups? So we seek alternatives to mitigate the pain.

Maybe if we avoid the commitment we’ll avoid the grief. So, no-strings-attached then. We’ll move from romantic encounter to romantic encounter and avoid the sting that comes from hanging around too long. Except that this doesn’t seem to fix the problem either.

The British feminist author, Natasha Walter, wrote a book in 2010 called Living Dolls. In her book Walter explores the pressures many women face in this hypersexual culture to conform to image. Walter asks if our supposedly more enlightened culture is in fact in many ways robbing women, not empowering them.

More than ever, men and women today are incredibly free to do what we want with out bodies. Old cultural and social restraints have been replaced with an ‘it’s your body, do you want’ approach. But this new liberation hasn’t led to satisfaction for many. In the book, one 17 year-old girl, Carly, tells her story.

“It’s all casual sex now, nobody talks about love,’ she said … I wish I could have a real connection with a man. But there’s no courtship any more. That’s all dead. It’s just immediate. There’s no getting to know someone, you’re expected just to look someone up and down and make the decision just like that, are you going to have sex or not? There’s no time to build up to a connection. The idea is that you have sex first, but how are you meant to create the kind of excitement, the emotional connection, after that? I want to have an emotional connection with a man. I want it to be there with the feeling that I am equal to him. I do think I’m as a good as a man. But I don’t want just this no-strings sex stuff.”

Our appetite for our desires to be fulfilled can lead us to look for fulfilment in the wrong areas. Our desires crave fulfilment, but we must use wisdom to discern what is best for us. Our appetite for food, for example, cares not how it is fulfilled – only that we do something to address the hunger. But we know that if we choose the giant bag of Jelly Babies over a well-balanced meal, we will pay for it in the long run.

Life can leave many with an empty feeling inside, causing us to reach out for connection, only to find that our efforts for love and intimacy in the end leave us feeling even emptier.

In our deep desire for love we can rush head long after the feeling and in the process we can get make some bad choices. Bestselling author Tim Keller, says that:

“Our fears and inner barrenness make love a narcotic, a way to medicate ourselves, and addicts make foolish, destructive choices.”

Many of us will have at times made bad choices and experienced broken dreams. Small or large, things don’t always pan out the way that we want them to.

Broken Dreams

I have my broken dreams too. Today, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman whom I love greatly and who also loves me.

Before I met my wife there were a few other relationships which ultimately didn’t work out. Upon reflection they didn’t work out in part because in some cases I wanted too much from them.

I knew that I wanted love but I whilst maturing well in a few areas of life in love I was a like a toddler.

Foolishly thinking that my romantic gestures were genuine I didn’t realise that all my efforts were really just a way of showing love in order to receive love! I was living for those moments of acceptance based on how I made someone feel.

Well, I couldn’t keep with this. It wasn’t long before cracks began to show.

I longed to be loved. But like a 14 year old with a poster of a Ferrari on his wall who’s suddenly given the keys to an F12 Berlinetta there’s a world of difference between desiring something and knowing what to do with it when you have it.

Many relationships don’t last because we want too much from them. Perhaps you can relate? Out of desperation to be loved ourselves, we love someone expecting total fulfilment.

But hang on a moment? Have you seen these people we love?! Even the best of us let people down.

The reality is, that when we love something or someone who is not perfect and expect perfect fulfilment from them, we will always end up hurt.

Unmet Longing

One of the things that I get to do from time to time in Oxford is to take people around the former home of C. S. Lewis. Lewis – perhaps best known for The Chronicles of Narnia – lived in Oxford from 1917 until his death in 1963.

In part I think Lewis connected so well to his readers because his rich imagination tapped into our deepest longings, creating characters we could connect with.

Lewis knew of unmet longing. He once wrote:

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.”

So what do we do when our deepest longings remain unmet?

Lewis tells us that we have three responses to this longing for satisfaction from within:

1. The Fools Way

We blame something or someone else. “We reason that it’s not us that’s broken, but the objects of our desire that are faulty. Because whatever we are longing after is clearly not delivering, it shows us the problem is with the object of our affections.

So we ditch the girlfriend we currently have for another. We buy a better car. We take a bigger holiday. Upgrade to the stronger drugs.

People can live in this cycle of repeated disappointment for a long time, moving from one let down to the next, always believing that something will change and never stopping long enough to observe what is really happening.

2. The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’

We blame ourselves for not having our longings met. Clearly, I’m the problem: me and my desires. So, I’ll just grow up and get over myself. I’ll get over my silly desires.

This way of thinking actually spawned an entire worldview: Buddhism. The four noble truths of Buddhism tell us that life is suffering and suffering is caused by desire. To cease suffering, we must cease desiring.

It’s because we love that problems arise, so we tell ourselves to dial back those expectations and reign it all in.

3. The Christian Way

There is a third way. This option that doesn’t shift the blame or give up the game. The core of the Christian message is a message of love. That love is true, love is real, that love is to be given and to be received.

But in addition to that our desires to love and to be loved serve as a clue to a deeper love.

Lewis explains:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Lewis suggests that instead of thinking our desires are wrong because they are unmet, they are not fulfilled because ultimately we’re looking in the wrong place.

We All Want To Be Loved

Just before Helen (now my wife) and I first started going out and I was thinking, “hold on a minute, there’s something more going on here”, I found my senses went up couple of levels.

Suddenly I was paying closer attention to what she was saying and how she was acting. I was looking for those little clues that maybe these growing feelings of mine were mutual. As my heart began to catch up to the reality of this beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring and increasingly friendly person I started to wonder if she felt the same.

Well, soon we found ourselves on our first date. A quiet, little drink and then an artsy-cum-reflective-cum-depressing Italian movie. Winner. As I saw her come through the door to meet me my senses went into overdrive. My heart level was raised. My skin was tingly. The setting for our date quickly faded away and I just saw … her.

And then she said it. “Hi friend.”

It was brutal. Our date hadn’t even started and here at the outset Helen was clarifying that I was firmly in the friend zone. The drinks hadn’t been ordered and the intimate walk to the cinema in the drizzle hadn’t happened. I was shot down before I even took off.

But then I manned up, drank my drink, and soldiered on. ‘Damned if that would stop me’, I reasoned to myself. ‘To heck with it. I like this one!’

The date went well – really well. She even said yes to another one.

Well, the next week as I was picking Helen up from her house her housemate came home. I was sitting in another room and through the door I overheard their conversation.

“Hi friend.”

My heart soared! This is a greeting. This is a strange-Helen’s-house-friendly greeting! That’s all. I’m not in the friend zone!

The game was most definitely on.

Loving the Unlovely

It is a wonderful feeling to know that we are loved, but it is also scary. Being vulnerable doesn’t come easy to many. We wonder, “What if they find out who I really am?” “What if they don’t like what they see?”

For many of us we’d rather not be known, that be known and be found out to not be good enough.

The Killers put it this way in Sam’s Town: “I’m sick of all my judges, so scared of what they’ll find.”

When C. S. Lewis talks of our desires pointing the way to another realm he is talking of us – you and I – being wrapped up in a greater purpose. He is suggesting that we were made to connect to a greater source.

Our blog articles have been giving reasons to suggest that there is a greater source – God – and that we know him through Jesus Christ.

You might say that it’s all very well connecting my desires here to something – to someone – beyond this world. But how do I know that I will be accepted? Have you seen me?

The Bible tells us that God created us in love, to show us his love, and that in our mess he still chooses to love us. He came to earth as Jesus in order that we might know that He loves us. He died on that cross to fix the problem that prevented us from being in a loving relationship with him: the greatest single loving act the world has even known or will ever know.

The French emperor, Napoleon, said this about Jesus:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him.”

All You Need is Love

The Beatles sang that ‘All you need is love’. They say this:

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn
How to be you in time
It’s easy.

All you need is love …

They’re right. But where does that kind of love come from? A love that saves? A love that allows you to be all that you can be?

Something phenomenal would have to change in us to give us the ability to love, truly love, without return, and without fatigue.

Something has happened: his name is Jesus Christ.

The Bible says:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10, NIV)

God says, there’s nothing you can do to make yourself good enough for me. So I will make the first move.

The Bible tells us that God first loved us. Exactly as we are.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV)

Religions and belief systems across the world tell us we must behave this way, do this act, think this thought, or think nothing at all!

Whatever it is it’s that the onus is on us. We act first. But Jesus says come to me because I have first loved you.

What is love? Love is a commitment to the highest good of another. It is a commitment expressed primarily to you by your Creator who thought you up and brought you into existence in order that you might know Him and His love for you.

This love, which the Bible describes as the love of a perfect father, was committed to you from the beginning of time and has remained committed to you throughout your entire life. It is a total, unrestrained, nothing-held-back, inextinguishable passion towards you and He wants you to know it.


This article is an edited transcript from a talk Jonathan has given at several universities across the UK and Europe.

The Play Button

My nostalgic side has been over stimulated recently.

There has been an interesting TV series “Back in time for the weekend” which started with the 1950’s through to the present. It showed how much technology has changed our lives over a few decades.

The speaker at our church a few weeks ago began his talk by apologising to “those listening to the tape” for having a cold, concerned that they would hear him ok.
No one will be “listening to the tape”.

(Our talks are uploaded as a podcast which can be played using iTunes or via our church website. We have not used tapes for years).

I recently watched an old Bond film where James and Q used a computer to create an identikit picture of one of the baddies. They started by loading a large reel of computer tape.
I remember arranging for data to be written to similar computer tape reel, to be flown out to Sweden, where it was transferred to an 8 inch computer cassette tape and then flown back, so I could load it on to a telephone exchange.

As well as punched cards and computer tapes, I remember using various sizes of floppy disks.
These disks, like tapes are no longer used. It is now rare that I use a CD or DVD.

If we want to save information, the symbol used is an image of an obsolete computer Disk.

We have just had a new washing machine – made by a company better known for its smart phones and TVs.

To start our clothes washing, you press the “Play” button.

roger-washer

Our latest technology is using the familiar symbols of some of our oldest technology.

The symbols that were used on the big mechanical buttons of reel to reel tape recorders are still in use on anything where were we need to press play including our new washing machine.

People are using devices and applications which use symbols based on real things they have never seen.

What lessons can we learn from my nostalgic ramblings?
• The principles and purpose of things does not change but how we access it does.
• We need to keep up to date – our language and communication needs to be current and relevant if we wish to engage with younger generations.

There is one thing that does not change…

There should be a consistency that runs through us all.
For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.
Don’t be lured away from him by the latest speculations about him. The grace of Christ is the only good ground for life.

Hebrews 13 8-9 MSG

 

Making the Man (Part IV)

making-the-man #4 Decline of craftsmanship

In 2014 the National Audit office suggested that for every £1 spent of public money towards apprenticeships the economy gained £18. My guess would be that equipping, training and developing people with a skill/trade is a good way to secure them work.

When I worked in Brazil at a drug rehabilitation project, and other projects a lot of emphasis was placed on bible teaching and training but very little into developing skills and a craft that could sustain the men in the project after they left.

As you might expect when men left the project, with little skill development they soon found themselves returning to a default place where nothing had enabled them to change their situation.

Now, obviously Kurt Hanh was looking at this decline in craftsmanship in a particular era and with a focus on industry but I think we can apply a spiritual lens here too. If we consider this in a church context, it is so important for us to encourage and identify skills and ability in our younger men and invest and nurture this development. We can encourage and invest in bible training, discipleship courses, leadership programs and more. But I want to extend the term ‘craft’ here, I know it doesn’t fit perfectly but stay with me. As Christian men perhaps our ‘craft’ or our transferable quality and skill or ability or however we word it is the ability to wait on the Lord.

Look around you at the development of technology and the speed at which our society moves today. I remember needing to make sure that when I went out I took 20p to call home from the phone box. If we wanted to fast forward a track of music you had to wait for the tape to get to the bit you wanted and then you would go past it.

We live in a society of immediacy, ‘if you can’t have it now it’s probably not worth having.’ And this can so easily be taken into our churches and our relationship with God. Perhaps, the ‘craft’ we have as Christian men that is so desperately needed today is the ability to wait upon the Lord.

The problem is, for us to model this we need to live it. Are you a man who shuts himself in and waits on the Lord? Do you set time aside alone with God in the stillness and just wait on God? Not your agenda but His, not your timing but His. What a wonderful thing to be able to teach and show to the next generation of young men, rushing through life, but perhaps we need to get this learnt first.

MATURE OR RIPE?

Having just attained the grand old age of 60, I was asked what it was like now that I was “mature”. I thought about this for a moment and the first thing that came into my head was cheese! But not just any cheese – a really rancid, mouldy, smelly cheese! One that would seer the sense of smell out of any pair of nostrils! Not a good image! And then someone said that I was not mature but “ripe”! And you know the same image came into my mind. What is it with me and cheese?

Many words in the English language can have different connotations and can conjure up different pictures in the mind – often quite opposed images.
If I was to consider myself mature I would rather think of being a fine wine from which others can derive pleasure from the occasional sip.
And if I was ripe it would please me to know that the harvest of fruit from my life was helpful and encouraging to those around me.
I certainly don’t want to be the cause of any great stink!

Making the Man (Part III)

making-the-man

#3 Decline of imagination

So I am 36 (and a half) and would still argue that I fit into a generation that operated a ‘free roaming’ adventure and imagination. We went out on a Saturday afternoons and explored the woods with catapults and Swiss Army knives creating imaginary enemies and setting traps and dens to build on the game. Imagination was alive and really fuelled afternoons of action and danger (some accidents too.)

We can often hear and even say that ‘the youth of today just have lost all that imagination we had!’ Now this spark of creativity and imagination, which some research does show a decline in certain areas of childhood today, is argued to actually be innate by the experts and it just needs to be nurtured for it to thrive. I personally don’t think technology is the beast that is suppressing this creativity in youth either, as lots of young people are incredibly creative, perhaps it’s just the way this is expressed has changed.

The call into the wild where I would find and shape the best and strongest stick to be my imaginary sword has maybe now become things like creative mode in Minecraft!

So what? What’s this got to do with you and me? Well if there is a creative vacuum in our younger men today I want to take some responsibility for it and action to counter it. I believe we can model a wide range of imagination right in the heart of our churches to young men. (Of course this doesn’t exclude the young girls, my daughters would ensure that, but this is about boys becoming men!)

Remember we are looking at men disengaged with the church, faith and discipleship. We are seeing men falling away from church and statistics that show young working class men being the most unreached in the UK

Can we enable environments to create imagination? Can we be Christian men who don’t complain about the youth of today not being as imaginative as us, but be ready to explore and nurture their own avenues for imagination?

What’s this got to do with Christianity and evangelism to men? Lots! If we miss this and fail to invest in these ways in the young men in our pews we will be missing a generation of men in church. When these young men get to 15, 16 the social call on their time and lives will continue to rob churches of their influence, creativity and voice and that will be a travesty of our doing.

We can inspire, we can help these young men create, build, explore, grow and know Jesus and who he says they are in incredible ways. That’s worth investing in! What have you got to lose….? Only the leaders, evangelists, preachers, Christian husbands and dads of tomorrow.

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