religion

Jesus, second coming, Theology

Ready: The No. 1 Hallmark of a Healthy Christian


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Your Spiritual Spring Clean

“I will agree with something Godly, righteous and true, nod my head, allow my heart to rise, even say ‘amen!’ out loud and then…do nothing.”

Last week I encouraged you to go away, get alone with God and begin a conversation with Him about how you might begin to convert thoughts and ideas from this series into practical steps towards actually changing your lifestyle. I suggested you share your thoughts with someone you can trust so that these blogs might catalyse lasting change in your life with ramifications rippling into eternity.

Did you do actually that?
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Jesus, Jesus Come, second coming, Theology

Ready: Introduction


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What’s This All About?

Most of you who read Firebrand Notes on even a semi-regular basis will know that about eighteen months ago we produced a film/music project called Jesus Come. Not only were Mairi and I really pleased with the way the project turned out, we passionately believe in the message that it carries: that the world is in a desperate, desperate mess (more than we can see) and people are hurting (beyond our capacity to understand); Jesus Christ is the only hope to bring justice and order and He is coming again.

For generations, the church has flitted between the excessive polarities of, on the one hand, talking about the Second Coming too much (while doing very little) and, on the other, focusing on an ‘attractional’, ‘relevant’, seeker-sensitive model of church (while failing to teach disciples to live in the reality of His coming).

In both cases, the gospel is generally more of a fix-my-life-make-it-better prescription than it is an invitation to surrender, suffer, die and live in the evangelistic power of the early church.

Houston, we have a problem.

What Is The Problem?

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faith

An Atrophy of Faith


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A Brave New World

An amazing Brazilian couple we’ve recently made friends with came over to our house last night for dinner. Monday evening isn’t exactly the usual time of the week for having friends over but it suited our guests who have a very hectic working schedule that involves them both regularly working into the early hours of the morning – via pretty unsociable patterns – and Monday was a day off. Having only previously met and talked briefly at church, we were about two minutes into conversation over dinner when it dawned on me that this beautiful couple sitting opposite us were mighty in faith!

About a year ago they had made the decision to radically relocate their lives, along with their two children, from Brazil to Scotland simply because God had asked them to. Now we were enjoying dinner together as they both shared stories about the goodness and the power of God in their lives. With all of the many challenges you can imagine in moving from one country to another (employment, schooling, food, weather, culture, language, friends etc etc), they are now prayerfully waiting on the Father to show them how He wants to use them in this brave new world.

Faith is a Muscle

In the natural world of exercise and health, when you regularly participate in resistance training your muscles get bigger (hypertrophy); when you don’t get involved in said resistance training your muscles waste and become weak and small (atrophy).

I had worked in the world of fitness and health for more than ten years so when my new friend used this phrase (faith is a muscle) to explain his understanding of the key difference between the Brazilian and UK churches, it struck me powerfully. But mainly it registered forcefully with me because it was a phrase that had come out of the mouth of a believer who was truly living by faith in front of my very eyes!

It was also because I am someone who does regularly lift weights to keep in good physical condition that this metaphor had a profound impact on me: it’s all very well training and looking after your physical muscles but if you’re not exercising your muscle of faith you’re weak on the inside. I hate the idea of being weak and flabby in the physical so how much more horrible is the thought of being a weak and flabby spiritual man of faith?

Primed by the miraculous, awe-inspiring stories of our friends, I wanted to start exercising faith there and then!

Comfortable Christianity

Thinking about this simple analogy for the spiritual life of faith, how healthy is your faith, would you say?

Chat to someone about it.

Do you feel like you exercise your faith regularly or perhaps you feel a little out of shape?

People don’t exercise in the natural for lots of reasons many of which are often very valid but perhaps God is asking you to talk to Him about starting to exercise your faith in a new way?

What does the Bible say?

“…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:17

Why not drop us a line or leave a comment to continue the conversation?

 

heaven

The Places We Call Home


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Space

When you’re relaxed and at peace, when things are sweet between you and God, (currently not just fundamentally), you tend to notice things. This is because the spaces that you need in order to hear, and the discipline that you need in order to listen, are too-often rammed with the traffic fumes of anxiety and fear, idleness and unbelief.

I was with Mairi walking through a small Scottish village on the Eastern coast of the UK a few hours before Christmas last year, passing through plumes of our own breath and treading the seasonal crispness under foot. It had been a stressful end to a stressful year and we were easing in to a couple of weeks away from the front line.

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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

The Apprentice: I Genuinely Believe


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I’m sure a lot of us are looking forward to this coming Sunday and the final of the twelfth series of Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice. I for one am going to be genuinely nervous for young Courtney as he attempts to string four or five words together before his buffering kicks in like a pre-broadband dial-up. Seriously though, I wish the lad well – wouldn’t he be the most unlikely winner ever?

Watching the semi-final last night, one main thing struck me and actually spoke to me quite powerfully: No, not the unbelievably unprofessional business plans that are handed to Claude and Karren every single series; no, not the unbelievably stupid personal content on the candidate’s CVs; no, not the unbelievably fabricated facts and figures that the young entrepreneurs think will hold water.

The thing that struck me most (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, Theology

Into the Pray – Marriage


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If you’ve read the other 5 posts in this blog series, you’ll know that it’s a series that’s been born out of a deep distress with how a lot of church (fundamentally) functions today compared with how we see the Church (fundamentally) functioning in the Bible. It is also a blog series that’s been born out of a deep love for the church and a longing for her to be all that she is meant to be.

Before I write the final post in the series next week, I wanted to flag up a uniquely distressing aspect of the ‘schmorgers board’ of church life that I referred to in one of the earlier posts a few weeks ago. (more…)