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Christian Vision For men

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:

Code Ode: Prat and Pride, Part 2

Pride.

(Re-read, Code Ode; Prat and Pride Part 1, Prat.)

(Read Luke Ch 15, v 24-32)

Recite this, out loud, walking along, to the rhythm of your footsteps. Best by far in a Ray Winstone / Bob Hoskins accent. (If you are reading this on your phone, turn it on its side).

So there’s cat’rers – a mobile disco.
They’re largin’ it well hard.
Next thing that we get is,
Oh no, it’s only Big Bro,
Parked up in the yard,
Face like a dead lettuce.
A bloke there’s hangin’ about.
Oldest gives him a shout.
“What’s the blimmin’ row?
What’s happenin’ in the ‘owse?
What’s this going off in
There – they tell me nuffin’. “
“Yeah guess what?” He says.
“Your brother’s back here safe and sound.
We’re partyin’ – innit.
Your dad he’s pushed the boat out,
Got cat’rers – a disco round.
Come on – join in it!”

But the oldest goes bananas.
Has a tantrum in the car.
Says “That’s beyond the limit
The party – you can bin it.
No way I’m joinin’ in it
Dad’s gone a step too far”.
They fetch the old man out.
Says “What’s this all about?
Get out the car and come in, son.
For Pete’s sake give us a grin, son.”
But he doesn’t wanna play.
He’s got to have his say.

“I’ve had the best intentions,
Stayed and slaved here all these years.
Not carted off – not me.
You’ve never even mentioned
Having my mates round for beers
And you doing it for free!
Now this prat of a son of yours
Takes what you’ve built over a lifetime,
Says ‘Thanks I’ll have a nice time’;
Blows the lot on slags n’ whores.
He comes crawling back to you,
Broke – with his cap in hand.
What do you go and do?
Hire cat’rers, – a flippin’ band!”

“My son, just keep your wool on.
No need to be so full on.
Come on now, shake my hand.
Together we’ll always stand.
(It’s a disco s’not even a band).
Come on now, say no more.
Everything that’s mine is yours,
But we had to paint the town red.
He’s back alive – it’s like he was dead.
We had to have folks round.
He was lost and now he’s found”.

Then my mate Josh piped up,
“God’s like that geezer – with his sons.”
I said, “You’re getting all hyped up.
I think you’re having me on.”
He said, “No – not nearly – really.
Open your eyes – you’ll see it clearly.
And now I think it’s your round!”

CHANCE TO BUILD A MUD HUT

CVM intern, Sam Lomas writes about his short term mission trip to Swaziland with Samaritans Purse

You’ll never fully understand overseas mission until you’ve been and done it for yourself.

Nandos. Not the first thing that comes to mind when traveling to a tiny country in Southern Africa. But there I was, sat in Nandos eating a chicken burger less than 10minutes away from the Swaziland border. Pre-trip training complete, malaria tablet swallowed, money exchanged and bags packed. Having never been on a short-term mission trip before I felt a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

Day one of the trip we travelled to a school, where the local churches had come together to build toilet blocks for the students. Arriving at the school with paintbrushes ready to paint the new toilets we had our first taste of African timing. The toilets hadn’t been built yet! No matter, we left the paintbrushes in the van, picked up shovels and pick axes and got stuck in, mixing the cement and digging foundations. As this was our first contact with local people we were all a bit nervous. We didn’t know how they would respond to us being there. The ice was quickly broken though thanks to our poor technique cement mixing and lack of experience using pick axes – confirming their stereotype of westerners not being very good at physical work!

During our time in Swaziland we were able to visit a number of different water projects. The first we visited, the church had organized a water committee and they had been able to cap a natural water spring about 1 kilometre away. A well had been dug to store the water and fences put up to keep cattle from contaminating the water source. The fresh clean water was then piped down the hill into the village and out of a shared tap. Easy access to clean water was such a game changer for this small rural community. In the past, cattle would drink from the same water source as the locals which contaminated the water, making the children seriously ill and gave all who drank the water sickness and diarrhea. Since the new system was installed they have had no cases of diahorrea.

Visiting a child led home was a stand out part of the trip for myself and most of the team. We had heard the statistics (1 out of 10 homes in Swaziland are led by children under the age of 11) but now we had the chance to see it for real. Up close – in your face. The home we visited had burnt down while the children were at school and so they now had to live out of a tent which had been given to them by aid agency World Vision. The girl aged 18 was head of the family, and was responsible for looking after her two younger brothers aged 16 and 13. After being shown around their somewhat shattered home and seeing what little possessions they had, we congregated inside the tent where she answered our questions. She said she was worried that she might not be able to provide for her brothers, not knowing where their next meal would come from. She also said she was scared of abusive men who live in the area. Before we left she told us that she loved going to church and had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. The team was broken emotionally. Silence echoed on the bus journey back to our accommodation that night.

Never in my life did I think I would get chance to build a mud hut. But by the end of the trip I’d had so many new experiences that I was used to just getting stuck in. An elderly lady’s home had blown down over night. Fortunately her daughter had moved her out of the house and into her home as she had serious concerns for her mother’s house and its stability. When we arrived at the location to build the new house we were greeted with singing and prayers of joy. It was quite something. Feeling very unworthy and unable to grasp just how much it meant to these people for us to come and be with them, we rolled up our sleeves, got alongside each other and began the build. Some mixed dirt and cement; some placed rocks into the wooden frame of the house, and others prepared food for dinner. As the day went by one thing became very apparent. These people were so full of joy and happiness you wouldn’t believe it. Through our eyes they had nothing; the house was tiny and made of mud. Food was hard to come by and money was scarce, and yet they were happier and more at peace in comparison to how we are back home.

How could they have so little and yet be so joyful and full of life, so confident and publicly unashamed to be Christian? It was clear that we could learn a lot from them. Later when I opened my bible, there was a passage that stood out to me.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In other words… Forget about everything you own and possess. It counts for nothing and never will. No wonder they were joyful. They understood that they had no less than us.

The last day before leaving Swaziland was a Sunday. This meant attending a local church. As guests to the church one of our team members was asked to speak on our behalf. He spoke about what we had seen and experienced in Swaziland. He then went on to speak a little about the UK and what life’s like. They struggled to understand how so few Christians there are in the UK, and were seemed surprised when we asked them to pray for us, as we share our faith with those around us. The children would ask, “Don’t your friends want to go to the heavens?” Stunned by such an innocent question, it was just another reminder of how important telling our mates about Jesus really is.

If there is one thing I could say to you now it would be to go and do it for yourself. Reading about mission trips, listening to presentations in church or just watching comic relief it’s all good but you’ll never fully understand until you’ve been and done it for yourself. CVM have partnered with Tearfund and Compassion challenging men around the UK to ‘speak up and stand up’ for those who cannot themselves. Whether it’s sponsoring a child or signing you and your mates up for a short-term mission trip, don’t hesitate to act.

Short-term mission trip

Sponsor a child

Bless children, who have nothing, this Christmas

Lift the label

Lift-the-label-blogIn seeking to understand something of the background to the current problems in the Middle East, I’ve been in a dialogue with a friend about Islam and its relations to Christianity and Judiasm.
I’ve also been reading a book called ‘Touching the Soul of Islam’ by Bill Musk, in an attempt to understand something of the cultural differences between East and West that incline us towards particular religious beliefs and practises taking hold in our respective spheres.

One thing that worries me, not just in this debate, but more widely, is a tendency to tar everyone to whom we attach a particular label, with the same brush.

So Evangelicals’ are spoken of as if our beliefs and practises all the same and likewise Muslims’ or Jews’ or Scholars’ of a particular tradition. I’m also still shocked by how many people I meet believe that Roman Catholics are not Christians! I recently read ‘The Chosen’ by Chaim Potok in which the differences between Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews are explored, my eyes were opened to understand a little more for example, of what goes on at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Let’s not get lazy, the world isn’t black and white, shades of grey make it hugely complex and hugely rich in diversity. Perhaps we could ask ourselves: ‘If we had to, by what labels we would like ourselves to be described?’ – then most of us would realise how complex we are and everyone is.
Fearfully and wonderfully made, Praise God.

Code Ode: Prat and Pride, Part 1

Prat

Read Luke Ch 15, v 11-23

(Recite this, out loud, walking along, to the rhythm of your footsteps. Best by far in a Ray Winstone / Bob Hoskins accent. If you are reading this on your phone, turn it on its side).

My mate Josh down the pub,
Got a story about this bloke;
He’s minted. Now then,
He’s got this, fam’ly business.
He could give them anything ,
He never stinted–on them.
Got blokes , working for him,
Bespoke, load a’ stuff, and so
He’s got these two sons. The oldest,
A straight-down-the-line
Sort a’ bloke. Not rough, yer know?
The other – was a bit of a lad, a bit mad.
Could be a prat, I’m told,
Bad news and how!
Saw what the old man was worth,
Said “I want some a’ that, pot a’ gold,
An’ I want it now!”

So he kicks off – like chronic.
Father has to give in–to him.
Put hisself and the business on the line.
He risked everythin’–for him.
Packed in, pulled out, retired.
Split the lot between the two–of them.
Soon as the youngest got his share,
He decided what to do–right then.
Cashed in his bit.
Loads of the ready was what
At his insistence, he got.
Right up the young prat’s street.
All them breathin’ down his neck –
Wanted freedom, distance–a lot.
He voted – with his feet.

Goes abroad to some hellhole,
Where he was into
Everything, real deep.
‘Everything’, I mean you could buy
Anything, dead cheap.
Talk about a walk on the wild side,
More a marathon run–then some.
Enjoyed hisself to death,
Laid everything in sight.
Sure, he was havin’ some–great fun.
“I get tarts for free, (and high class pros,
I pay for, as well.)”
If you asked him. “Any regrets?” “Regrets!
On what score? Like hell!”

Then the money ran out,
He got no clout, no more.
S’no use to shout.
He found out, for sure,
Without a doubt
What a bunch of louts
His friends might
Really be. – They headed out
Of sight, off site.
Then the economy goes down the drain.
It goes well, insane.
There’s no welfare state, there mate.
So earning a living’s
One hell, of a game.
Some of the things he did! –
Lowest of the low, he was–gettin’.
Sometimes he could have ate
The leavings off folk’s plates,
But he couldn’t, cus they wouldn’t–let ‘im.

Then (Josh said),
A light bulb went on – flash!
In the plonker’s little head.
“I’ll put an end to muppetry.
I’m bonkers, must be said.
In this puke hole, I’m well up-a-tree.
Here I am – me,
My father’s son, I’m starving
And even blokes what work for him,
Aren’t short of grub,
Not even one, they’re larfing.”
Although it took a while
The big idea hits him.
Genius! – With style.

“I’ll go back home!”

But there’s more to it than that.
He saw for, the first time in his life,
And since he set out on the roam,
He was – a prat.

He had to confess.
He’d been a right bar steward, no less.
“I’ve stuck two fingers up to Dad.
I must’ve driven him up the wall.
And if there is a God,
Where He’s concerned
I’ve stuck two fingers up, an’ all.
I’m not fit to be my father’s son,
No more, I know the score.
The time for grovelling has come.
It’s all your fit for chum.”
So, sty-fell-ing a sob,
He decides to say “I’m sorry.
I’m not fit to be your son no more.
Just gizza job.
Any job, ‘cause basically I’m poor.”

So he goes home.

Now the old man’s front drive’s
The length of a small runway.
When father sees him, at the gate,
Well, there’s only one way.
When he sees him comin’
The old man sets off runnin’.
The old man–there’s no way he’s fit.
And running, rich old guys avoid
If they can–get away with it.
The son – he starts in.
“Dad I’m not fit to be – ‘”
The old man interrupts him.
He starts up – and butts in.
“Come on don’t be a mug.
Come on don’t make me laugh.”
He gives him the old bear-hug
And calls in his chief of staff.

“Get him kitted out
In the Armani and the Gucci.
Come on now!
The best that we have got.
This here is my son now.
He’s got to look the part
He’s got to have the gear.
We lost him now we‘ve found him
We’re having the biggest party,
You lot have seen all year.”

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