Do You Believe? Film Review and Also A Valid Question.

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One of the things that I absolutely love doing with my kids – especially since they are all now grown up – is to settle down and watch a movie together.  Especially Christian movies.  And a few weeks ago one of my daughters flew in and has been home with me for the past few weeks.  So watching movies – especially Christian movies has been one of our favourite past times during her stay.  That is when she is not painting and decorating rooms in my home for me.  Something which was her suggestion and definitely my blessing.

do-you-believe-9781501111983_hrLast night we sat and watched the film, “Do You Believe?”  Based on the novel by Travis Thrasher and made by the same people who brought us “God’s Not Dead.” Another excellent  movie.

This film focuses on the lives of 12 people and how God speaks into each and every one of their lives in a unique way.

And unlike a lot of Christian movies – especially older ones – it does so in a very real and relevant way presenting them in both real-life circumstances and with excellent acting and character portrayals.

And I have to tell you that, as someone who has watched many a Christian movie, it is such a blessing to see them acted out well.  But then, with a cast which includes such names as Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, Sean Astin, Senyo Amoaku, Ted McGinley and Mira Sorvino (among others), what would you expect?

To be completely candid with you I am reluctant to say very much else about this movie.  Other than to tell you that it is – in the opinion of this writer – one of the finest Christian movies that I have seen of late.  And that I would strongly recommend it to anyone.

There are of course one, maybe two, parts which I personally wasn’t all that keen on. But these were fleeting and certainly not key to the main message or challenge of the movie.

A challenge which actually comes at the beginning of the movie – is followed through throughout the movie and very real and relevant to each of us – especially those of us who already believe in Christ.

And it is set by a street corner preacher who opens with this one simple but far reaching question, “Do you believe in  the cross of Christ?” and follows up with the equally far-reaching and extremely challenging question, “If you believe, then the question is – What are you going to do about it?”

And it is a question/challenge which has not left my heart since we watched that movie last night.

Recently, the church that I attend held a Youth Mission. And we had a wonderful team over from a church in Mississauga, Canada to help our own youth ministry and young adult ministry team lead this.  And it was so clear to see – from their words, their actions, their presence, and indeed their decision to come all this way – self-funded – and give of themselves and their time, that they have – at least for this time, decided what they are going to do about the fact that they believe in the cross of Christ.

And of course the question that they now face – now that the mission is ended and they return to their usual every day lives, is the same question and of course the same question which faces each of the youths and young adults who attended the youth mission and each and every one of us…

If you believe, then the question is – What are you going to do about it?

You see, giving up your time, attending a youth mission – whether that be as a participant or as a leader/worker – are all good things and indeed giving your life to Christ, or re-committing your life to Christ, is also wonderful.  But saying you believe and actually living it out can be two different things can’t it?  And believing in Christ is a belief which requires a continual response.

For me personally, this is a question which, I know, is going to remain with me for a while.  And why shouldn’t it?  Are we not as Christians called to take up our cross daily and follow Him? (Paraphrased from Matthew 16:24)

I have asked, and am still, asking myself essential questions and accepted a number of personal challenges as a result of this film and the questions and challenges that it poses.  And I would venture to suggest that most Christians who watch it could face similar questions and challenges.

Especially in a world where an almost ‘anything goes’ mentality seems not only so rife in the world but also to be seeping into the hearts and attitudes of some believers.  And where Christianity and faith are coming more and more under attack.  And – let us be open and honest here – where; the bible, church attendance, and a disciplined approach to discipleship seem to be falling in importance even in the believer.  Despite – it has to be said – God’s will and His warnings against allowing this to happen.

Matthew-16-24-Take-Up-Your-CrossOf course the cross of Christ is – albeit extremely, tragically and yet wonderfully important – just a part of the overall picture, and a personal relationship with Christ Jesus is the essential part.  But is a personal relationship with Christ even possible without recognition and acceptance not only of the cross of Christ but also the fact that we each are called, as I said earlier, to pick up our cross and follow Him. (Paraphrased from Matthew 16:24)

At the end of the movie the following scripture (albeit from a different bible version) is displayed.  And it is another intrinsically linked challenge.

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And I think that we all as believers would do well to reflect on this.  i know that I for one am.  it is a call to action.  A call to put our love – a love which comes from God Himself through Christ and the Holy Spirit – into action. Action which calls for both obedience and sacrifice.

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And so I strongly recommend this film to you and leave you with that question and challenge which form the core of this film and the focus of my prayers at this time.

 “If you believe, then the question is – What are you going to do about it?”

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Why I will be voting ‘No’ in the Marriage Referendum on May 22nd

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11055265_10206768083750708_3478284355684919107_nThis morning I posted the following picture on my Facebook page.  And the first comment that I received was from my Niece in England and contained a simple one word question. Why?

It was a simple enough question and I have no doubt – knowing my Niece as I do – one which was sincerely and respectfully asked.

In fact, I would hope, that it was also asked because I am known to her as being a loving and fair man and so my displaying such a picture – and thus being of such an opinion – may have seemed a little confusing.

And I have to say that I am glad she asked the question and did so in a respectful way.

The answer to the question, ‘why did I post the picture?’ is very simple.  It is because I am personally convinced that a ‘yes’ vote would be a huge mistake for this nation and because I have seen many a ‘yes’ vote poster out there but very few ‘no’ vote ones.

And actually many of those ‘no’ vote ones which I have seen seem to have been vandalised.  (It appears to me that some of those who passionately claim to be for ‘equality’ in this issue, don’t extend such belief in equality to equal rights to sharing your opinion – especially if you opinion differs from there’s.)

The answer (or answers) as to the question, ‘why am I opposed to a ‘Yes’ vote and so passionately for a ‘no’ vote in this coming referendum?, is perhaps not so simple.  But I will try to explain it (or them) as best I can.

Firstly I question the legality of the proposed amendment.

This issue centres on Article 41 of the Irish Constitution.  That article is headed under the ‘Family’ section and begins with the following words…

1. 1 The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.(1)

So let’s consider that for a moment.  ‘The Family‘ is recgnised by ‘the State‘ (of Ireland) and for that matter (under state law) as the ‘natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society.’ and as a ‘moral institution possessing inalienable (a right according to natural law, a right which cannot be taken away, denied or transferred) (2) and imprescriptible rights,’ (Rights which again cannot be taken away) (3) antecedent and superior (prior to and above) to all positive law.

Article 41.1.2 Talks about the State guaranteeing to protect ‘the Family’. Article  41.2.1 and 41.2.2 speaks of women and mothers and the protection of their rights within this. And Article 41.3.1 (still under the heading of ‘Family’ makes a very interesting and key statement as follows…

3.1  The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.(5)

Now I am no lawyer and certainly the law – let alone constitutional law is not my area of expertise but it seems to me that the institution of Marriage under the terms of reference this constitution was written (I believe it was enacted 1937) would have been the union of one man n to one woman.  And the thought of it being anything other than one man to one woman at that time was simply unthinkable or at least unacceptable.

So if, in it’s very constitution, ‘The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage,’ (which at that time could only have been the union of one man to one woman) and recognises that it is on this union ‘which the Family is founded’, and thereby swears or promises ‘and to protect it against attack’. Then I just cannot see how it can allow such a change to its constitution.  Because (as far as I can understand it) such a change is, by very nature of the fact that it seeks to change the terms of reference or definition of ‘the institution of marriage’, an attack on the institution of Marriage as it is understood and referenced at the time the constitution was enacted.

And so, in my (admittedly limited) understanding of the law I cannot help but question the legality of such an amendment.

But of course my opposition of this suggested amendment to the constitution goes beyond my questioning the legality of such an amendment.

11055265_10206768083750708_3478284355684919107_nThe picture I posted stated “We already have Civil Partnerships don’t redefine marriage’.

And the fact of the matter is that this is very true.  We do already have Civil Partnerships and and a ‘yes’ vote in this referendum will redefine marriage.

The Referendum Commission’s own website makes the following two statements – one immediately after the other…

  • The Constitutional status of marriage will remain unchanged.
  • A marriage between two people of the same sex will have the same status under the Constitution as a marriage between a man and a woman.(6)

The only way that both of these statements can seem true is if the very definition of Marriage is changed.  And the fact is that if the definition of ‘marriage’ is changed within the constitution then the very definition of ‘family’ will also ‘de facto’ change within the constitution.

And we must ask ourselves the question – where does all this lead?  Polyamorous Marriages? (Three person marriages?)

You may think that I am perhaps being a little dramatic, a little absurd in my suggesting that this is a possible outcome. And trust me, oh how I wish I was!

But if you do think I am being a little dramatic, a little absurd, pop over and check out the Telegraph’s article published yesterday in which Natalie Bennett – the Leader of the UK’s ‘Green Party’ (and remember the UK legalised Same-Sex Marriages last year) stated that they were ‘open to three-person marriage’.

And then try to tell me that the very institution or the very definition of ‘marriage’ or ‘family’ isn’t under attack.

I have heard any arguments encouraging a ‘yes’ vote in the Marriage Referendum and I respect everyone’s right to an opinion and indeed their right to share that opinion. I simply can’t agree that a ‘yes’ vote would be good for this nation.

Yes of course, as a Christian I have my own Christian beliefs which are integral to who I am and thus yes, of course, these are very applicable to how I see this issue.  But my opposition to this suggested amendment really does go beyond my faith-based beliefs.

In his fairly recent and very relevant article Keith Mills wrote about “Why I’ll be voting ‘No’ to Same-Sex Marriage, even though I am gay.” and it really is well worth the read. You can see that article for yourself here.  (Hm. Perhaps I should have entitled  this post, “Why I’ll be voting ‘No’ to Same-Sex Marriage, but not only because of the fact that I am a Christian.)

Much is said about ‘progress’ and ‘individual liberty/choice’ in this day and age.  And certainly – here in Ireland – I am aware that the separation of church and state, coupled with the recent loss of influence and even credibility that the church has encountered over more recent times, could lead some folk to see this purely and a church control verses individual choice issue.

But in my opinion this really would be a mistake and there is a very real danger – if this is indeed shaping the way you were thinking of voting – of throwing out the baby with the (holy) bath water.

The impact of such an amendment will, in my opinion and if this amendment is allowed to go through, be far reaching and extremely costly (not just financially in the cost of the amount of additional current laws and pieces of legislation which will have to have their current wording changed) to this nation and to society here in Ireland as a whole.

And whilst advocates for a ‘yes’ vote would like us to think that the redefinition of ‘marriage’ and ‘family’ and the acceptance of ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ would be a good thing, I simply disagree.  And yes I have of course heard their suggestion that it isn’t about ‘family’ or ‘children’ and their insistence that ‘and anyway all the research shows that children of same-sex marriages fair just as well as children of traditional marriage.  But again that simply isn’t the case.  This does impact on ‘family’ and on our ‘children’ and let’s be of no misunderstanding here, our children’s children.  And for the record not all research suggests this.

In a recent study suggests that kids do best with mom and dad, as is evidence in this article LifeSiteNews .com.  It makes for very interesting reading and you can read the whole article for yourself here.

I have also heard it argued that this referendum is about ‘equality’ and about changing the rights of those in the minority in order to afford them the same rights as the majority.  But I am sorry I simply don’t see it that way.

I listened to a lady on ‘The People’s Debate’ a week or so back, stand up and say that she is heterosexual and that one of her siblings was homosexual.  She explained how her homosexual sibling loved someone of the same sex and simply wanted the same right as she herself had – to marry the person she loved.

But there is a flaw in that argument.

Currently both of them do have the same right. That right being to marry the person they love providing that the person they love is of the opposite sex.

In order for them both to enjoy the ‘exact same right’ and for both of them to marry the person they love it is not the rights of the homosexual sibling which would have to change, it is the rights of both of them – by the redefinition of ‘marriage’ – which would have to change.

The fact remains that we do have Civil Partnerships here in Ireland and so, for the reasons I have given above, I personally cannot support such an amendment and must vote ‘No’.

 

Reaching Beyond The Desperate Mind

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depression-1As I look at this image I see not only the man sat – with head in his hands – but also the dark empty space around him.

And, in truth, I know that darkness, oh how well I know that darkness.

And, in truth, I know that emptiness, oh how well I know that emptiness.

Not always, and not sometimes.  But certainly all too often and certainly here and now.

And yet my darkness is far from empty. Other than the immense emptiness that at other times is filled with knowing – with truly knowing – that that Father is there and that He will bring me through this.

No.  My darkness is filled with tortured thoughts and voices, statements which are launched from the merest of truths and yet twisted and corrupted and polluted beyond all recognition of  that which they once were and that which they should be.

Why?  Because that is how some mental illness works – especially when it is psychosis linked.  Why now?  Because my mental health has descended into yet another chronic episode which it seems – at least within the perception of this distorted reality – seeks to consumes me.

Certainly the internal and seemingly external dialogues – barbed with their poisonous lures and harmful taunts and jeers and self-sabotaging motivated suggestions – would have me harm myself or even meet my end.

And I wonder – as you look at that image, as you consider the me within that inadequate representation – how would you fill that emptiness?  What words, what statements, what lifelines of hope would you want to write within the darkness that seeks to consume me?

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See I know the scriptures, I know them well.  I have repeated them as much as the voices and thoughts have repeated their psychosis-fuelled sieges.  And I know the Father’s love.

And likewise I know that He will yet again bring me through all this.  But knowing and believing are sometimes two different things aren’t they?  See I don’t doubt God, I don’t doubt His unending Father-heart-felt love for me.  I don’t doubt His immense power or His immense strength and I don’t doubt that He is much greater, much bigger, than my mental illness.

But in His greatness, in His immensity, and even with the mental illness being so much smaller than that, I am growing smaller by the moment and my resolve grows even smaller and weaker along with me.

And yes, I also know that so much of this is also a spiritual battle.  The enemy seeks to strike when we are at our weakest and after all, does he not come to kill, steal, and destroy?

So why am I writing this?  Why am I sharing this?  Is it a cry for help?  Who knows, perhaps it is.  But not only for me – all though Lord knows I need it right about now. No, it is for all of us who suffer with mental illness and yes even and especially those of us who are Christians and who also suffer with mental illness.  For all too often we are judged the worst and sadly all too often by those who have the least right to do so.

Perhaps it is a way of desperately trying to distract my mind from these harmful thoughts.  I admit it – yes that is all part of the motivation behind this post.

But it is certainly not my main motivation.  For that lays with a desperate longing for all those with a faith in Christ Jesus to recognise and accept – and to reach out and minister – to the needs which are all too often held within the silence of a the Christian who suffers with mental illness.

The fact is that I am so desperately tired and so desperately weak right now.  I am all cried out for one night and I have nothing left to give this night.  Nothing left to offer and nothing left to hold onto – save the precious grace of our Lord and the endless love of our heavenly Father.

And whilst I know that They will never fail me,  I have no confidence  that I will not fail Them.  And the truth is that if I don’t write this post now, I don’t know whether I ever will.  And yet this is such an important message to get across.  If not for me, then for tens of thousands or more like me.

Tens of thousands or more who, just as I do tonight, don’t only need words.  Who don’t only need quotes and encouragements.  But who need held.

Held from the harmful objects around them, held from the snares that their minds offer up.  Held from falling even further.

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If we – the individual Christian and the Christian church – truly are to be the hands of Christ, the surely we should be reaching out for and to those who, at times, cannot reach out for themselves.

-oOo-

Addendum (added the next morning):

Dear reader,

It is now the next morning and once again the good Lord has brought me through it all. And once again – having managed a couple of hours sleep – my thoughts are a little more rational and there is a little more clarity. (I personally find that in episodes such as this, the mornings are in the main much better and things worsen as the day goes by) And having read through what I wrote last night I feel – in the interest of fairness and honesty – that I need to add and clarify something. And I apologise for not doing so in my original post.

I personally attend a wonderful Christian Church who are so very supportive and so very loving.  And there are indeed those within my church who (because I have opened up to them) are aware of my struggles with mental illness and who do go out of their way to love and try to support me through such times as this latest episode.

However, there is so much truth in my statements, “the needs which are all too often held within the silence of a the Christian who suffers with mental illness” and “who, at times, cannot reach out for themselves”.

For as loving as my Church is.  And it really is exceptional in the way that those who know approach, understand and love me even with my mental illness.  When these deep, dark, psychotic episodes come, it is I who lack the ability to call on them from within that need.  Predominantly this because of the way my mind is thinking but also because generally it is the middle of the night and I just can’t bring myself to burden them.  And yes I know – in the rational, the rational which seems to have no place within such episodes – that they would say that I would not be burdening them

And that really is the point, isn’t it?  Even with the love and support of a good Christian church I struggle and fail to reach out for help when I most need it.  So what hope is there for those who do not have this love, this support from their church?  Those who feel condemned or criticised as a result of their struggles with mental illness?

I accept that not all those who suffer mental illness experience psychosis as I do.  But I would be very surprised if there was a single person – who suffers mental illness – who hasn’t also experienced some level or form of hopelessness.  Even within the body of Christ.

Should ‘Je Suis’ Ever Lead To ‘Je Déteste’?

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7776133298_je-suis-charlie-750x410I would imagine that the above image – or at least the sentiments expressed within the above image are known by a lot of folk.  Likewise, I imagine a lot of folk know some, if not most of what inspired and generated such an almost globally recognized and almost globally felt response.  And certainly I do not believe that my adding my voice to the many, many people who have come out in support of what it stands for will make much difference at all.  And in all truth that is not the purpose of this post.

Additionally, this post is as much about the sentiments expressed in this next image as it is about the sentiments expressed in the first one.

je-suis detesteYou see whilst our media, Facebook pages, twitter feeds, and inboxes may well have recently been understandably flooded with the first image, the resultant backlash of what has happened has often – or so it seems to me – led to the sentiments of the second image.  And that saddens and disturbs me greatly.

As a Christian I am absolutely convinced in my faith and likewise I fully believe that the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God.  Additionally, as a Christian I am so very troubled and disturbed by so much of what happens in this world and, of course, also appalled of what happened in France as well as what is happening in many places as a result of religious or faith-based beliefs.

But no matter how troubled, disturbed or appalled I am, I cannot reconcile hatred when it is targeted at people or when it is applied unilaterally to other belief systems where only a small minority – even a growing minority – are responsible for those actions.

As a Christian this is not my understanding of either Christianity or of God’s will.  And I have to be honest here, as disturbed and saddened as I may be by what has happened in France and what is also happening elsewhere, it also greatly disturbs and saddens me when Christians – especially those claiming to be Christian leaders – foster, encourage or ignite hatred towards any individual, or group, in the name of God.

Of course I understand passions and outrage at such acts as I have mentioned above and of course I am think that we need to take a stand against such actions.  But surely, how we take that stand is just as important as the fact that we do take a stand.

Romans12Is this really our calling?  Is the question that I always ask myself whenever I see threads or.  Should love for one person or group – or even love for Christ – ever lead to hatred of another person or group?

Should ‘Je Suis’ this person, ever lead to ‘je déteste’ of another.  I really don’t believe it should.  And I truly believe that we grieve the Holy Spirit, and dishonour Christ and our Heavenly Father, when we as Christians allow it to.  And I believe that this is even more the case when we encourage others to do so.

Matthew

 

 

Concerning Tongues!

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And so to start…

First the introduction and considerations:

Introduction:

I “came to Christ” (for want of a better phrase) some 24 years ago now and since that time I have been involved with many churches, several denominations, several inter-denominational groups, and some non-denominational groups and have seen a great many changes, trends, focuses and fads within “the church”.

Not least of all of these has been the whole question of speaking in tongues and over that time I have personally seen the subject of “tongues”, or “glossolalia” to give its Greek construct, be treated as…

A badge of superiority.

Something to be cautious of.

Something to avoid.

Something considered as “being for the early church only”

A stick to beat “non-tongues speaking Christians” down with.

A treasure to be quested after.

and a simple gift of God.

I have, in my humble opinion, seen and heard this gift wonderfully used and tragically misused, and I find that once again it is a subject that has come up in my conversations with other Christians and so I thought it would be fitting if this was the subject of my first post here on this blog….

Considerations:

So what exactly is “speaking in tongues” and where does it come from?

What it is:

Well here is but one definition of “speaking in tongues” and this comes from http://www.biblestudy.org…

“SPEAKING IN TONGUES (also known as just “tongues”) is a phenomenon within Pentecostal and Charismatic circles in which individuals speak, either in their private prayers or in a public meeting, in what appears to be a language, a “tongue” unknown to them.”

Now I should perhaps be a little candid here and say that whilst I understand where the definition is coming from, I do personally find it a little off, somewhat simplistic, and a little lacking in one essential area…

I personally don’t believe that it is, in this day and age, ONLY used within “Pentecostal and Charismatic circles” so let’s remove that part from our definition.

I would personally like to see within the definition an indication of where this gift of tongues comes from and so let’s write that in. (In their defense they do go on to reference scriptures and it is after all a God-based site so perhaps they felt that the fact that it is a “gift of God” is implicit?)

Additionally since I have personally seen and heard singing in tongues I think the word “speak” should be changed to “communicate”.

So what is the result of these re-writes to that definition?

“SPEAKING IN TONGUES (also known as just “tongues”) is a gift of God through which individuals communicate, either in their private prayers or in a public meeting, in what appears to be a language, a “tongue” unknown to them.”

Ok so in terms of “What it is” I hope that we now have a simple but effective definition. And I hope you agree.

Where it comes from:

As for where it comes from, well for the Christian at least, tongues comes from the bible and from early church history and is referenced in Mark 16:17, Acts 2,Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6,1 Cor 12, 13, 14, to name but a few and possible (it could be argued) such passages as Isaiah 28:11, Romans 8:26 and Jude 20.

Which leads me to this belief:

So in truth I believe it has both biblical precedent and credibility, modern-day usage and church credibility, and a very real place in our personal and our corporate worship.

But are there not other questions to be asked here?

Yes of course there are. Questions such as, “How should it be used?” “Why isn’t it being used?” “Why do some of us receive or experience this gift when others don’t?”

Personally I think all of these questions are valid – And I invite your comments on/answers to these questions.

But even more importantly I would l to invite your reflections, considerations and comments to this one larger question – to this…

Question From A Simple Soul: “If indeed speaking in tongues “is a gift of God through which individuals communicate, either in their private prayers or in a public meeting, in what appears to be a language, a “tongue” unknown to them.” How can we (the modern-day church) expect to be given and to receive this gift of God when so often through our attitudes, our words, our actions or indeed our in-actions, we fail so clearly to communicate to each other within the church and to those outside of it, in the greatest language of them all – the language of His love?”

I would dearly love to receive your answers, thoughts, and comments on this. Because for me, the greatest “tongue” of them all is not the one that comes from our mouths to the ears of God or to the ears of others, whether spoken quietly or loudly, publicly or privately, in a language unknown to ourselves. It is the one that comes from speaker’s heart to God’s heart and to the heart of others. The one that speaks so gently and yet so boldly, so humbly and yet so strongly, the one spoken in a language that whilst once unknown to them is now so graciously given to them and now so wonderfully known to them and which is so freely available to all.

God bless you.

Set Apart – But from what and to what or to where?

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Introduction:

I wonder if you have ever looked up the definition of the word Holy?

Websters defines it as..

Set apart to the service or worship of God, hallowed, sacred, reserved from profane or common use; holy vessels, a holy priesthood.

Spiritually whole or sound; of unimpaired innocence and virtue; free from sinful affections; pure in heart; godly; pious; irreproachable; guiltless; acceptable to God;

“Now through her round of holy thought, the Church our annual steps has brought”

Now some may answer, and rightfully so, that the answer (at least in part) is already given.  “Set apart TO the service or worship of God.”

Surely therefore we as Christians are to be “set apart” from that which is NOT in the service or worship of God and relocated to that which is?

But does that mean we cut ourselves off from anything and everything that is not in the service or worship of God?

I personally believe the answer here is a resounding no.  Are we not commissioned to “go into the world” to spread the gospel of Christ?

However we must, I believe, be very careful what influence and effect “the world” has on us as Christians and we must therefore remain “in Christ” and close to Christ if we are to fully minister effectively whilst at the same time protecting ourselves and our walks.  Which I think leads us neatly into the “to where and to what” part of the considerations.

John 15:19 reads, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (NIV) Whilst Colossians 1:24 reads, ” Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

For we Christians there is a strong unmistakable truth that this can only happen through Christ. So if we are to be set apart from the world and set apart to the service and worship of God surely we are to be set apart into the body of Christ. – The church.

BUT don’t we need to recognize the draw and the attraction of the world?  Don’t we need to be ever mindful that we have prior to our coming to Christ have a long and undeniable relationship with and familiarity with the world?

For many, many moons – even decades -, it could be argued, the church has preached a message of “Don’t!”

Don’t do this! Don’t do that!  This displeases God.  That displeases God. This leads to death. That leads to death. A message of condemnation and of  a gospel of sinfulness if you will.

But God is a loving heavenly Father and the gospel of Christ, whilst acknowledging the traps and pitfalls and indeed our own sinfulness, is one of acceptance, reconciliation and of love.

A message that clearly states You can BELONG! God desires for you to belong!
I am convinced that this message of “Don’t” should be a message instead of “You don’t have to” and of “there is a better and a right way.”
However, if we are to preach this message, this gospel of reconciliation, this gospel of belonging surely we must also provide very real, very tangible and attractive alternatives.

I am convinced and convicted that life in Christ IS and can be attractive and is God’s desire and will for us. BUT I have to ask this simple and yet far-reaching question. This…

Question From A Simple Soul:  “If indeed we are to be set apart from the world and set apart into the body of Christ – the church. Should not that state of being “set apart” be noticeable, tangible, attractive, appealing, sufficient to our needs in Christ?”

God bless you.

End of World Predictions – Are we asking the wrong questions?

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Introduction:

Here is an interesting little exercise for you. Open up a new window, load up your favorite search engine and type in “End of World Predictions” then hit the search button and see how many results it offers. I did it with Google and here is how many “About 6,290,000 results (0.12 seconds)”

Quite a staggering number isn’t it? Now in reality it has very little significance to anything other than demonstrating the level of interest or fascination folk have with this subject – or possibly it could be the number of guesses that could be made to the actual date before someone comes anywhere close to the real answer 🙂 .

See here’s the deal. End of World and End Times predictions and prophecies and indeed the interest in when Christ will come again has been with us for ages and could easily be with us for years to come. In fact there is nothing new in this. The bible itself contains relevant prophecies in both the Old Testament and New Testaments and in the New Testament records the disciples asking Christ when He will return again.

A little History:

According to my research, in our more recent history we have seen predictions such as:

St. Clement 1 in about 90 AD predicting the end of the world “at any moment” .

The German emperor Otto III in 968 AD interpreted an eclipse as the prelude to the end of the world.

1033 Saw an anticipation of the end of the world as it was (supposed to be) the 1000th anniversary of Christ’s Crucifixion. (Although it is very unlikely Christ was even Crucified in 33AD since we know that He was crucified at age 33 and that the calendar changes mean He was born before 1 BC)

1284 Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end by adding 666 years onto the date Islam was founded.

1794 Was the year when Charles Wesley (Methodist Church founder) thought it would come.

1832 Joseph Smith founder of the Mormons (LDS) predicted it.

1843 -44 Millerites believed it to be happening. (It’s failure to do so led to what became known as the Great Disappointment.)

1850 Was when Ellen White – A founder of the Seventh Day Adventists believed it would happen.

1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994; have all been predicted by the Watchtower Society.

Other Predictions that have been made include the years 1970, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 81, 82, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, of course the Millenium predictions of 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010 and of course Harold Camping’s prediction of May 21st which I believe has now been amended (since it never happened on May 21st) to October 12th.

What the Bible Says:

As I said before, the New Testament records the disciples asking Christ of these things….

Matthew 24:1-3
Signs of the End of the Age

1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

2 Do you see all these things? he asked. I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. Tell us, they said, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

In response to this question Christ spoke about what was to come and in so doing also made this statement…

Matthew 24:36

36 No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Considerations:

So, faced with so many failed predictions and with this very clear statement from Christ, are we not left with a very clear indication that perhaps, just perhaps we are NOT meant to know the date?

Question:

Does this mean that Christ/God wants to leave us unprepared?

Response:

I believe the answer to that question is a very definite NO and in fact the very opposite is true. We only have to look at Christ’s words in the rest of the passage to see this and in fact Christ Himself commends us to be very prepared in His words as recorded in verse 42..

42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Now “End Times Students” (for want of a better label) will no doubt suggest that this very piece of scripture encourages them to study and focus so much of their efforts on understanding and preparing for the “end times.”

And certainly I can to some extent understand the premise on which they base their argument. But you see I have a slight difficulty with this argument when the amount of energy and focus applied to understanding end times seems so disproportionate to the amount of energy and focus applied to serving Christ in the here and now.

I personally think that the Bible is very clear when it comes to focusing on today and trusting in God concerning our needs and indeed our future. After all, are any of us promised a tomorrow on this earth?

1 Peter 1:24

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

24 For, all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,

I understand and accept that I have over-simplified things a little but I truly believe the basis of my considerations are legitimate…

None of us truly know whether we, or our loved ones, or our neighbor, or the lady in the local store, or the troubled teens in our parks and street corners, or the homeless person huddled in the store front will have a tomorrow. So does this not require us to sincerely and seriously ask ourselves this

Final and all important question….

Regardless of my interest or understanding in the “end times” am I, here and now, truly living and loving as Christ intended and requires?

Godsoft announces new and improved users experience program!

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Introduction:

OK so I made that up (the title statement I mean) just because it is fairly topical right now and it encapsulates what is on my heart this evening. (But hey isn’t that the purpose and idea of a headline?)

Let me explain…

Because of my interest in computers and IT I was made aware of Microsoft’s Window’s Users Experience Team’s latest work on “Windows 8” (Video concerning it available on my Facebook page.)

In essence it seems that Microsoft is developing a new program code named Windows 8 that is, in my opinion, a reaction to the “touch-based” popularity and mindset that is so prevalent today. It responds to (and in some ways thus plays into) our desire for things to be:- touch-based, beautify, fast, fluid, easily accessible, simplistic, speedy, instantaneous, user- interface based, and user-experience based.

But as I read and viewed the information and video I had for the new Windows 8 program something struck me.

These are not just buzz words used within retail and IT worlds and sadly nether are they limited to computers and Information Technology. It seems, that they have also made their way into many peoples’ expectations or desire for their church or even their faith.

Here’s a little exercise for you. Load up your search engine in a different window and type in “Christian Church”. Then hit search and visit the first 10 websites that you are offered for Christian Churches in the western world. Whilst visiting their sites, take a look at the presentations offered. How slick are they? How fast? How graphics based or media savvy are they? How much emphasis appears to be given to “user experience” compared to discipleship or discipline?

See here’s the deal. I am a web-designer and so I am very well used to designing web-sites (including church web-sites) that are appealing and indeed I understand the need or desire for them to be appealing BUT there has, in my opinion, to be a limitation and balance and indeed caution employed in how far we go in making ourselves and indeed our faith “appealing and acceptable” to people.

You see when I read the bible and I learn of the lives and faith of our forefathers of faith one thing strikes me as being extremely obvious. Faith is NOT about such things as being touch-based, beautiful, fast, fluid, easily accessible, simplistic, speedy, instantaneous, user- interfaced based, and user-experience based.

Can faith, can Christ, will Christ touch you? Absolutely!

Can it be, is He beautiful? Absolutely!

Can things happen speedily, can prayers be answered quickly? Yes of course BUT NOT always and often times they don’t or aren’t!

Should faith be fluid? Yes but in it’s expression and practice things can seem and even be protracted.

Is faith always easy? NO of course not! That is why it is called FAITH.

Is God always accessible? Yes but does He always appear that way to us? No not always!

Is Faith, is God/Christ simplistic? Well think about this for a moment or two if you will. Faith is an interaction between you and the most wonderful, immeasurable, complex, powerful and yet most compassionate being ever. Neither YOU or God are simplistic so why would faith be simplistic?

Is it user-interface based? Well actually it is GOD based and thankfully HE desires to interact with us through His son our Savior Christ Jesus and through the gift of the Holy Spirit..

Is it user-experience based? NO! NO! NO! NO! It is God experience based. Because for us to expect or desire it to be user-experience based would be for us to make our needs greater than God’s and that is a perversion of the truth.

You see I believe the Bible says it very clearly when it speaks of the world’s ways being alien and often contrary to God’s ways and this is just one clear and obvious example of that.

Christianity is not about end user gratification, experiences or ease but about recognition of who God is and submitting to that and His will in our lives. Our mortal and our eternal lives.

So I am left asking myself and I ask you this question…

What is it that I, what is it that YOU have come to expect and desire from church, from my faith? A so called new and improved “users experience program” or God’s will and a relationship with Him through Christ and God’s Holy Spirit on God’s terms?

The Odd One Out

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Introduction:

Here’s a bit of fun for you. Below you will find a similar statement that appears almost word for word in 7 different passages of scripture. All you have to do is spot the odd one out.

  1. Leviticus 19:18
    love thy neighbour as thyself:
  2. Matthew 19:19
    love thy neighbour as thyself.
  3. Matthew 22:39
    love thy neighbour as thyself.
  4. Mark 12:31
    love thy neighbour as thyself.
  5. Romans 13:9
    love thy neighbour as thyself.
  6. Galatians 5:14
    love thy neighbour as thyself.
  7. James 2:8
    love thy neighbour as thyself,

Found it yet?

Ok so I have been particularly unfair in my question, since the answer to the puzzle lays not in the English translations that you see before you but in fact within the original languages.

You see in respect of the Leviticus reference the word used for “love” is the Hebrew word “‘aheb” and all of the others are the Greek word “agapao”.

And here is something interesting for you to consider. In terms of meaning the two words appear to be different.

The Hebrew word “‘aheb” as used in the passage from Leviticus refers to the kind of love which Strongs defines as being “to have affection for,” or “to love like a friend” where as all the others refer to the Greek word “Agapao” which Strongs implies is different to the “phileo” kind of love that would perhaps be more in keeping with the love used in the Leviticus reference.

It is in fact the kind of love that C. S. Lewis and many other scholars declare as being; a higher, more sacrificial, selfless love, intimate love, moral love, spiritual love, Christian love.

Now I by no means claim to be a great biblical or Greek or Hebrew scholar and in many ways I like so many others are finding my way through the scriptures, Christianity, love and faith but this difference does indeed intrigue me and offers me many questions on which to reflect.

Reflections…

1. Whilst I believe it to be true that the “Agapao” kind of love that I have already touched upon above is present in the Old Testament, it appears to me that it is almost always presented in God’s love to us rather than our love for each other.

2. IF the Agapao kind of love we have discussed is indeed a higher, more sacrificial, more spiritual kind of love, does it not make sense that outside of God Himself this would only be present POST Christ’s presence and His and the Holy Spirit’s residency in our lives?

And if these factors are true, (and I offer them merely as suggestions not as hardened facts) are we truly able to continually attain such levels of love without the presence of Christ and God’s Holy Spirit within our lives?

See here is the deal…

I started this posting by asking you to find the “odd one out” and then offered you the answer that the “love” referred to in the passage from Leviticus was actually the odd one out since all the others referred to a different kind of love.

But the sad irony of it all, I would suggest, is that whilst “Agapao” love was included in all of the other 6 references, and whilst certainly history has included men and women who have demonstrated instances of an “agapao” type of love, it is in fact a type of love that is alien to our self-natures and the world’s teachings and a type of love that is seldom we truly seen within our lives today and thus actually it is that “agapao” type love that is the odd one out!

As I sad before, I would by no means consider myself to be a great Biblical or Hebrew or Greek scholar but I do study
each of them and I am left with the conclusions that I offer here. I am also therefore left with the following all important question…

Ultimate Question…

“Since we are called to demonstrate an “agapao” love to one another and if attaining that is only possible through Christ and through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives, should we not all be seeking and striving for a closer walk with Christ and all be seeking more and more of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives?”

God bless you.

2 become 1

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I have decided to amalgamate my ‘Questions of a Simple Soul’ and my ‘Musings of a Simple Soul’ blogs into the one ‘Musings of a Simple Soul’ blog.

I have become very much aware that actually having the two blogs, which effectively deal with the same subjects, is counter-productive and I need to focus my efforts more by just having the one blog of this nature.

Because of this I am going to be posting the few posts that have appeared on the other blog.  The only drawback that I can see from this action is that comments made on that blog will sadly be lost.

If you have commented on that blog please accept my apologies and please know that you comments were and are appreciated.

Kind Regards and God bless you.

Kevin.