hope

God, Jesus, Love, Theology

The Hardest Lesson I’ve Ever Had To Learn


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Broken-down World

The sting of injustice is never pleasant. Like an incurable disease plaguing the entire world, all of us can see injustice functioning on a global scale every single day. We witness Robert Mugabe, corrupt Bankers, terrorism, famine, Rogue Traders, lazy Landlords, disallowed goals that have crossed the line, recruitment processes that look legal but that are internally rigged, false imprisonments, false biblical teaching, the ivory trade, endangered tigers, abuses of power, human trafficking and a whole other nightmare of unimaginable dysfunction that, somehow, manages to endure.

Despite the rare pockets of glory, our best efforts to act justly and the promises within the redemptive mission of God, we still live in an unjust, broken-down world.

Global becomes Personal

Global injustice like this is meant to provoke us into faith-filled action and to woo us into the caring shelter of God, but, like a nauseating hors d’oeuvre before our eventual main course of numbness, it has a nasty habit of shutting us down. (more…)

Bible, Theology

The Cinderella Gift of Discernment


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An Unlikely Bride

The Disney fairytale Cinderella is a story about an unlikely bride mistreated at the hands of her guardians but who eventually rises from the doldrums of her slave labour to become the star of the ball and the stunning wife of Prince Charming. The tale is a love story of redemption, beauty, justice and power, all punctuated by the sweet grace notes of gospel-joy.

More specifically, as the supernatural source of Cinderella’s salvation, The Fairy Godmother’s presence in the story is a poetic type of the gift-giving Spirit of Power in the life of the Christian. Cinderella herself typifies a specific gift of the Holy Spirit that we’re urged to long for – a gift that enables our tasting and seeing of the joy to be found only in God. (more…)

Culture, emotions, Jesus, Mental Health

In His Wings


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A Process of Healing

‘But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.’ Malachi 4:2

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Four years ago I started praying for answers to major family difficulties that Nick and I had been facing at that particular time and that now, years later, seem ridiculous to still be praying about. I had (and still have) quite a naïve view of prayer and was holding out firmly for the moment when it would all make sense, when there would be full resolve and I could finally say “this is why this and that happened”. (more…)

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – The Church


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The Revealing Spotlight of Some Might Say

I have been genuinely amazed by some of the responses to our article last week.

Some have said that Mairi and I are ‘unbiblical’. Some have said that we are selfish. Some have said that we’re damaging others and one person has even suggested we’re not saved. Some have claimed that they’re ‘praying for us’ and, literally seconds later, have decided to damn us. (I’m pretty sure the world record was set during the week for the most laughable prayer ever muttered: “Oh Jesus, would You bless Nick and Mairi in this blog series…but then again, I think they might be only after applause…so they must need telling off…they need warning…smite them, Lord!”).

It has felt like the downing of a large cocktail of sadness and bewilderment to us as, in one fell swoop, some have wanted to gather stones to smash our skulls while offering sham pseudo-prayers, as though their ‘blessings’ concealed the pile of rocks behind their back.

Welcome to the number one problem facing the unsaved world…

The Church of Jesus Christ.

Popular Assumption(s)

The immediate assumption in saying this is that we don’t love the church or recognise our own contribution to its imperfection. Or that perhaps we don’t understand the relationship between love for Jesus and love for His body. This is just silly. Is it unloving for a young person to have a conversation with their parents about why they should or shouldn’t do X, Y and Z; is it really unloving to ask some questions about why church does what it does and, just as importantly, does not do what it should? (I will get to this).

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: leaving a church, (as opposed to leaving the church), and having a pause for reflection and enquiry, is not even close to being unbiblical or unwise. If you genuinely believe that it is, you need to ask yourself (biblically) why this is the case. Why is it better to attend a church that you fundamentally disagree with rather than having some time out to seek God for a better, more authentic way forward? I had no idea that our salvation, our wisdom and our security was as frail as this tissue-paper existence, did you?

The Kingdom cf. The Church

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how this blog series was going to take shape. All I knew roughly were the areas that I wanted to write about (the Bible, church leadership and culture, marriage, the kingdom, millennial discipleship) but I wasn’t quite sure where to start. But the comments and emails sent to us this week, both positive and negative,  have convinced me that the Church is the starting point.

Reading some of these responses has been like the sudden lifting of a ginormous red curtain on a theatre stage, revealing not a modern version of the cave of Adullam (church leaders reading this – please, this is too easy a conclusion), but a significant part of the church for whom denominational ‘expression’ is not compatible with their Bible nor with the longings of their heart for the dynamic power of the kingdom of God.

I think Mairi and I have discovered that we’re actually characters written into this play.

Have you ever asked yourself, what has what we call ‘church’ got to do with the kingdom of God? What I mean is, how do they relate? Do we even know? Why do we not even ask?

bodiam-castle-castles-united-kingdom-impressive-hd-wallpaper-142943922017

Signposts

As signposts towards this mysterious, illusive reality of the kingdom within this series, last week I promised to include weekly annotations in a notebook entitled every day is a school day. This is important because, ultimately, this is why I’m writing – to discover (and help others to discover) the kingdom of God.

This week something amazing happened:

A friend of ours, a senior leader of a church in Edinburgh, called me on my mobile out of the blue. I couldn’t take his call because I was rushing out of the house but I assumed that he was phoning because he’d seen my blog about our decision to leave our church. When we did manage to speak, it turned out that he hadn’t read my blog at all, (he hadn’t even seen it), but that Mairi and I had been on his mind and he’d wanted to call to see how we were.

Within the maze of publicity that I was already navigating, this phone call subsequently struck me as a glaring kingdom signpost: the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to go out of their way, (for reasons known only to God), at a very specific time, to reach out to two people that He’d put on their mind. I was reminded of Cornelius’ encounter with an angel as the Holy Spirit connected him with Peter in Acts 10.

Can you see the difference between the two realities that I’m describing? On the one hand, we have the hurtful immaturity of the so-called ‘brethren’ and, on the other, the mind-blowing activity of the Spirit of God. One takes life, the other gives life. One is false, the other is true. One is earthly, the other is eternal.

Resolving

This signpost underlined for us that much of what goes on within church is very difficult to resolve with the kingdom of God as we see it clearly displayed and taught in the Bible by Jesus. How can the revealed attitudes of some this week be united with those of others? The truth is they don’t relate in any way.

Into The Pray was born because it has become our concern that much of what is called ‘church’ actually does not relate in any way to the kingdom of God. I’ve touched above on specific areas that I’d like to dig down into over the five or so pieces within this series. Similarly, continuing next week, I’m going to specifically focus on why church does what it shouldn’t and, just as importantly, does not do what it should.

Culture, Marriage, relationships

For If You’re Married, Or Would Like To Be


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Mairi and I have been married for just over three years now so we are by no means marriage experts. Month by month, year by year, we’re working lots of things out as we grow in love, learning to trust Jesus more and more and, rather than trying to figure everything out on our own, continue surrendering to Him as the One Who makes all of this work in the first place!

Back in 2013 in the run-up to getting married, one of the pieces of advice we heard time and time again was that the first year of married life would be the hardest. I understood what the advice was about – i.e. preparing us for the reality of living together and doing life well every day as a couple, rather than only dating and being engaged – but the advice also bugged me because it sounded a lot like the joy and wonder, mystery and celebration of marriage was being reduced to degrees of ‘hardness’ – a fait accompli that we needed to accept that this excitement and joy that we were experiencing was quickly going to be smashed to smithereens by the hard slog that married life actually was.

I didn’t buy that for our marriage and I really hope you don’t either. (more…)

music

Citadel


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Citadel

G’day one and all. It’s summer so I hope you’re either reading this blog with a fresh cold drink on a glorious day off in the sun, or recovering with your iPhone in a cosy pub somewhere with a Ploughmans after a climb up a high, high mountain – a happy day.

It was a happy day much like one of these that I remember this instinct to write turning into focus in my head for one day after I got back from holiday. Well, this one day happens to be today – thank you for reading.

Citadel Festival

We’d been stood for literally 5 hours waiting for Sigur Rós to emerge from behind the scaffolding and smoke as we dwelt in London’s Victoria Park to see one of the best bands in the world. Crisp cider in hand and a rucksack-full of fresh fruit, we shouted, clapped and screamed through a couple of bands (including the very cool Caribou) before the Icelandic legends struck their first open chord. It was such a great day: Sigur Rós were more amazing than I’d expected (and I expected), Caribou were coolness personified as sundown came and went and the incomprable Nathaniel Rateliff just made everyone very happy.

Then it struck me – this is the way it’s supposed to be.

Sure, there were a couple of wollies who wanted to bypass festival etiquette by trying to barge to the front, yes there was a heady smell of weed everywhere and yes a few people fainted and had to be thrown over the security fence like a mannequin to receive first aid. But by and large everyone was loving it – the sun was shining, immense bands were playing 6ft away and everyone was treating everyone else respectfully and having a whole load of fun.

Numb

But as the beats per minute looped on and on, there was another world not very far away:

Terrorism, greedy banks, dividing countries, Dictators, sex scandals, wars, rumours of wars, crumbling economies…I think we’re all a little numb from not only the accelerating pace of the atrocities and stresses that seem to punctuate our days, but the peculiar numbness that comes from the constancy of dysfunction of society’s fraying – something’s not right and we know it somewhere deep inside, wondering, as we all do, if it will ever come to stare us in the face more closely to home.

It’s called fear.

This momenatry oasis of Citadel’s summer festival was respbite from the evil that is far too dominant in all of our worlds. But it was more than a mirage.

Maybe most folk weren’t thinking about the countires under attack from terrorism as Sigur Rós played another G#m and lit up the sky. But isn’t there a tiredness in all of us with evil and murder and atrocity? A kind of internal fatigue that comes when we hear of yet more carnage and flagrant disregard for the sanctity of life and yet we don’t know what to say…so normally we don’t – we just sigh and hold our nearest and dearest a little tighter. Or perhaps we drink too much so as not to think about it. Or end up taking drugs and fainting and being thrown over a metal blocade like a rag doll.

Neighbours

We all have to deal with the outrage and the fear and we’ll all deal with it in different ways. But there is one consequence of the accumulation of these sad days that should be the same for all of us blessed with rational sanity: we should all be learning to love the sanctity of life that we’ve been given, the peace in cohabiting respectfully together and the grace to be thankful for every tiniest blessing along the way.

Humanity isn’t created for guns and race wars and genocide and atrocious greed; humainity is created to dwell together in unity and to revel in the unity found only there.

When the Pharisee tested Jesus with a question about the law, the Messiah replied

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (See Matthew 22:37-38).

As I wrap up these musings about the struggle of good and evil in our days, and the small glimpses of how things are supposed to be despite them, perhaps these freedom words about loving God and loving each other as we should could be more of a comfort than we might have ever thought.

(more…)

Bible, Prayer, Theology

The Humanity of Prayer


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We were flicking through movie rental options on TV the other night when we stumbled across Kevin Reynolds’ 2016 film Risen – a film about the resurrection of Christ as seen through the eyes of a Roman Military Tribune, Clavius ((Joseph Fiennes).

Inititially I thought the film was going to be lame but was surprised by the way the film grew on me, particualrly when Jesus featured, as played by Cliff Curtis – I’d thoroughly recommend renting/buying the film!

Barging into the Upper Room

There is one particular aspect of the film that continues to speak to me powerfully:

As the Bible says, when Jesus rose from the grave, after Mary Magdalene had recognised Him by the grave-side, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Walls, Roman Soldiers, constanty conspiring Pharisees and the frightened bewilderment of His people weren’t a problem – Jesus met with his friends to prove his resurrection glory and to encourage His grieving mates. (more…)

Bible, Creativity, Prayer, psalms, writing

A Normal Oblivion


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Bed-side

Imagine being woken up tomorrow morning by voices in your head, or voices that you thought were in your head. Imagine groggily coming round, sick in your stomach, disoriented by fear because of the sonic traffic that the voices in your head were creating: unfamiliar tones, unrecognisable expressions – a mystifying medley of unearthly voice. Imagine waking tomorrow morning to experience something akin to a dream and yet that was not a dream; something understandable and yet utterly bewildering.

You would be afraid. (more…)

Bible

Observe the Potter


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I read something this morning that I was blessed by & ordinarily I’d have tucked the accompanying thought away but felt I needed to write an impromptu post instead – I trust this will encourage some of you. (more…)

Addiction, Exercise and Health, Prayer, spirituality

Dependence


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Did you know that it’s possible to be addicted to exercise? In fact, exercise dependence is widely recognised as a form of compulsive behavioural addiction – a psychological state that is damaging to physical, mental and social health.

The basic principle of establishing whether you’re addicted to exercise, or not, (or to what extent), is to answer a series of questions which pumps out an overall score of your psycological state.

*Google: exercise dependence and HAD test.

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