I Predict A Riot

The Kaiser Chiefs saw it coming a while back but the rest of us were taken by surprise as we witnessed the scenes in London and the rest of the UK this August.  Here in Northern Ireland there was a smug reaction and a lot of wallowing in self pity as we watched the politicians, the police and the press grapple with violence that has typified our summer period for far too long. 

There are many contributing factors which motivated the looters and rioters but I was struck by the quote above in last Saturday’s Guardian by Jack Levin (Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University in Boston.)  The strong desire for acceptance among young people is a force that is being abused by many in our world – the riots were just another expression of the lengths young people will go to in order to feel a connection with someone other than themselves.  Levin likens rejection as a teenager with receiving the death penalty.  This may seem too strong for some people but I think he’s onto something here..

We need to tell the next generation that in Jesus they’re accepted by the Only One whose assessment of them really counts.

I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God…  Jeremiah 24:7

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Rest:Review:Refocus:Ramore

So this week has been spent on two staff retreats.  The first one was led by Ken Newell at Drumalis Retreat Centre in Larne for all our staff in Carnmoney.  The day was structured around three main sessions. REST / REVIEW / REFOCUS.  I’m not really the contemplative type.  I prefer multi-media presentations, smoke machines, lights and loud music!  But these two days comprised none of those things and I loved it.  Ken’s ability to slow us down and encourage us as a team was superb.  He just has the kind of humble presence and authority that makes you want to listen to every word..

“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Jesus

It is brilliant to receive this invitation from God and be able to pass it on.  The following day the interns and I headed up the north coast to unwind and retreat.  Hollie and David have been a great team this year and we really enjoyed getting some time away to reflect on God’s hand upon our lives.  I stole Ken Newell’s “rest/review and refocus” structure but felt compelled to add an additional R – Ramore Wine Bar !  (tobacco onions for me please..)

These times are so crucial to get perspective and refreshment.  Note to self- do this more often!

Disappointing People to The Glory of God

disappointing peopleSaying the word ‘no’ can be a problem for lots of us.  The phone request, the email, the text message and the person who grabs your arm as you leave the meeting because they want you to join their team, attend their event, help with a project they’re planning or see if you’re free in the next week for a coffee and chat.  Immediately we feel bad because we realise refusing this person is going to make them disappointed and so rather than reply negatively we bow to the demand, attend the event, turn up at the meeting or arrange a coffee that we’d really rather not drink!  We fool ourselves into thinking that saying yes all the time is the “Christian thing to do” and that we’re being very selfish when we say no to the requests.

This is wrong.  There, I’ve said it.  Saying yes to all these requests is not a selfless thing to do it’s a selfish thing to do.  We say yes because we don’t want to disappoint people.  I agree to do stuff so that other people will like me.  Our motivation for agreeing to requests is often rooted in a desire to have other people think highly of us.  In the Sermon on The Mount  [that we’ve been looking at in Carnmoney recently]  Jesus instructs His followers not to be preoccupied with what people think of them.  He makes it clear that the life motivated by pride is rewarded by people but the life motivated by humility is rewarded by heaven.  Martin Lloyd Jones puts it like this

There is no reward from God for those who seek it from men.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:1 Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

For God’s glory and your own joy – feel free to say ‘no’

You can listen to the full message on Matthew 6 by clicking here

Would you like some cheese with that?

At university a group of us used to regularly keep each other in check when we noticed a hint of negativity creeping into our our attitude.  The way we did this was by asking the question..

Would you like some cheese with that?

“Cheese with what?”  came the reply from those who were ignorant of our code.  “Whine.  Would you like some cheese with that whine?”  All of us can become negative at the smallest of things and at times we are guilty of losing perspective on what really matters.  The bible gives us medicine to take which will cure us from this unhealthy attitude.

This is the day that the LORD has made

let us rejoice and be glad in it.

cocking upThis is not just a song or verse to sing on Sundays but every day and in every circumstance.  This morning I  got into really bad form because I’d asked someone to do something and they messed up, I didn’t fly off the handle or anything, I simply realised that I was in a bad mood because of what they’d done.  The challenge of the verse above is to rejoice at all times and banish the negative attitude. When the person at the express checkout is fumbling with their purse, trying to find their credit card or when the car in front is driving slowly for no apparent reason.  I need to discipline myself to say “this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’

Negativity is a sign of arrogance because we have to feel superior to someone to stay annoyed with them. Instead we should recognise that we all mess up.  This will bring humility and an ability to show patience with others when things go wrong!

In my bible reading notes Don Carson said this

every generation of Christians has to learn that whining is an affront against God’s sovereignty and goodness.

If you catch me being negative, please feel free to ask if I would like some cheese with that..


Talking Brown..

Poor old Gordon Brown has become embroiled in an election scandal because of a few careless words in the ‘privacy’ of his chauffeur driver car.  He’d been meeting and greeting in Rochdale when he made the blunder.  After speaking to Gillian Duffy he got into the car and called her a bigot.

“That was a disaster – they should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous…”
Asked what she had said, he is heard to reply: “Ugh everything! She’s just a sort of bigoted woman that said she used to be Labour. I mean it’s just ridiculous. I don’t know why Sue brought her up towards me.

Of course the press have had a field day.  They absolutely love it when public figures get caught off guard.  Gordon’s microphone was still on and the comments were reported to Mrs Duffy.  He returned later in the day to apologise for his comments and said there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ on his part.  It’s not the first time a public figure has been caught out by a microphone picking up comments that were meant to stay private.  In 2004 big Ron Atkinson called Marcel Desailly ‘a nigger’ after the game he was commentating on and microphones which should have been switched off picked up his comments.  Prince Charles famously muttered under his breath about BBC’s Royal Reporter Nick Witchell during a ski slopes photo-shoot in 2005 with sons William and Harry.

“Bloody people, I can’t bear that man. I mean, he is so awful, he really is..

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Our words reveal the true nature of what’s going on beneath a toothy grin and a baby cuddling election campaign.  Every preacher dreads leaving the tie mic on after the church service in case what they’ve said from the pulpit is completely undermined by a thoughtless comment about a member of the congregation (or a pee) in the minister’s room!  When our words and actions don’t match up to the public persona everyone gets let down.

TigerWoods

Billy Payne is the President of Augusta National Golf Club and just before the Masters he said this about Tiger Woods’ spectacular fall from grace.

He forgot that fame and fortune comes with responsibility not invisibility …  he disappointed all of us, our kids and our grandkids.  Our hero did not live up to our expectations.

The thing is – no matter which hero you chose they will not be perfect. John Terry lost the England captaincy for inappropriate sexual behaviour, Andrew Flintoff was lost at sea on a pedlow and Britney Spears lost her marbles – attacking a car with an umbrella.  None of our heroes live up to the expectations we have of them.

None except one.  Jesus Christ stands out in all of history as the one man who could never be caught out by a rogue microphone.  His inner life matched up with his public ministry.  When His life came under scrutiny and investigation by Pilate the verdict was..

I find no basis for a charge against him.

He is unique.  He is the only one who consistently lives up to our expectations.  In church recently we’ve been singing these words about Jesus from a Ben Cantelon song called Remain

You are God with us
You’re victorious
You are strong and mighty to save
For your word stands true
There is none like you
And when all else fades, you remain

He is the Only One we can depend on. His words are backed up by His life and the only scandalous thing about Him is that He would take my place on the cross and receive the punishment for every careless action, word and thought of mine!

Mike Yaconelli

Mike Yaconelli‘What if youth group was a place where students diligently sought God’s voice in their lives? What if youth group was a sanctuary, not a stage; a worship centre, not a program centre; a listening place, not a lecturing place? Yes, I do believe that youth ministry should be the most dangerous place in the church. Yes, I do believe that when Christ runs loose in the youth group, everyone in the church is in danger. I’m convinced they’ll leave the comfortable kind of Christianity in which people are normal and predictable – and run after the abnormal and unpredictable Jesus.’

Mike Yaconelli 1942-2003

Hard Graft vs Holy Ghost

This Palm Sunday at Carnmoney we were thinking about Jesus and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane and a couple of things struck me quite powerfully as I studied this passage.

Firstly the sovereignty of God extends to the bleakest of circumstances imaginable.  Even though His closest disciples fall asleep, even though Judas betrays Him, even though He’s sweating drops of blood and longing for the hour to pass from Him, even though it seems as though His life is in the ‘hands of sinners’ God is in control.  God said through the prophet Zechariah “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.”

boxer knockoutGod’s hand is in control, even when we see the horror of the cross.  And so even when my circumstances are unpleasant, I can be sure that He is working out His purposes through my life.

Another thing that really impacted and challenged me is that being determined to follow Jesus and be faithful to Him is not enough.  Peter confidently declared even if all fall away I will not’ Unfortunately quite soon after he made this statement, Peter fell asleep instead of praying, his determination was not matched by dependency upon God.  Determination minus dependency equals failure.

Hard Graft will always lose in a punch up with the Holy Ghost.

The last thing from this passage which really encouraged me was the fact that this scene took place in a garden.  The Divine unity of Scripture is revealed in a very plain way.  The beginning of the Bible has a scene in the garden where Adam fails a test.  He chooses to do his own will and disobeys the direct instruction of God.  Here we see Jesus contrasted with Adam.  Jesus obeys God in the garden and passes the test, whereas Adam disobeyed God in the garden and failed the test.  The consequence of Adam’s failure is that sin and death enter the whole world.  The consequence of Jesus passing the test is that forgiveness and life are available to the whole world.  The bad news of Genesis is defeated by the good news of the Gospel – and that’s what’s so great about Easter!

You can listen to the message from Sunday in full by clicking here.