Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just wanted to wish everyone who comes to my blog and reads it, a very Happy Christmas and a very happy and peaceful New Year!!!  Don't indulge too much, but do enjoy yourself!!!!!!

Tim

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Dynamic Struggle

We all have struggles in life; it’s nothing new to humanity.  For the Christian, we might struggle with the ideal of perfection whilst at the same knowing that we will never be perfect this side of Heaven.  This can create a dichotomy, as although we are meant to strive towards perfection, we know we will never attain it in this life, and we know that we will never attain it without leaning fully on God.  No matter what we do, we will make mistakes, no matter how much we watch ourselves, no matter how good we might be, no matter how hard and long we might pray, we will mess up; it’s that simple, and perhaps that annoying too.


We struggle with our growing godly selves, and our old sinful natural selves.  In our natural state, without recourse to God, we cannot do much else but sin, and even live in sin.  What might feel right, may just be very wrong to God.  As Christians, we need to put on the new clothes each day, and learn to leave off our old clothes, so to speak.  In short, we are in a battle, and because of this, we need God’s divine help and guidance each day, to walk in victory.  You cannot do it on your own, no matter how good you may be or how good you may think you are.  We struggle because we are daily caught in this battle; we struggle because we want revenge, but are supposed to forgive; we struggle because we hate, and we are meant to love; we struggle because we want everything, and we are meant to be grateful for what we already have; we struggle, well simply because we struggle.  There is a struggle created by the pull of the world and all its disorder, and the pull of God’s perfect will.

A Purpose in Life
I have found in my own life that when I have a purpose, even if that purpose in life is merely to serve God and live as a Christian each day, I have a reason to get out of bed.  God will give us a purpose and a reason in life and will bring meaning and purpose to existence itself.  Without God, and without His purpose, we can drift, and sometimes unhappily from place to place, and from one unhappy encounter to another; I know, I have been there.  So, we definitely need a purpose in life; it doesn’t have to be to become the richest person in the world or have the biggest corporation, at first it can simply be to find out what God’s will is for our lives; that’s a start.  Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be ‘suffering saints’ any more than being some kind of ‘holy Joe’, you can still be an ordinary person whilst learning to serve God; I have found in my thirty or so years as a Christian, as a person with God’s call very much on my life, that He wants us to be ourselves, to be real to ourselves, real to other people and most of all real to God Himself.  In short, I feel we don’t have to put on ‘airs and graces’ with God or anyone else for that matter; we don’t have to speak ‘posh’ if we don’t normally, we don’t necessarily have to be pretend to be something we’re not; I believe God takes us as He finds us, as long as we are prepared to listen and learn.

Obedience to God
For many of us who have grown up in liberal Western societies, wealthy Western societies throughout the world, or who have just been fortunate enough to never know real want or real hardship, we can be grateful to God for this. But, sometimes, when we have been brought up not to know real trouble in our lives, we might think that we know best, we might think that we can do what we like, maybe as we always have done.


For some, and certainly for me at one time, being obedient for any reason let alone to God was something that I struggled with and didn’t come easy at all.  In many cases I had always had my own way.  Again, there was a struggle with what I wanted, and what God wanted from me.  I can tell you this for sure; God does want us to be obedient to His will and He wants us to be obedient to His laws and ways and precepts.  We cannot live in any kind of sin, we cannot live disobediently to God; sooner or later we will pay the price.  For some people obedience is a struggle, and perhaps for others it comes easier; but whatever the case, if we want to be good servants we have to learn to be obedient. 


Forgiveness is the Key
I believe one of the ways we get closer to God, and become more like Him, is when we try to take on His attributes; in short, we become more like God when we try to live like Him and modify our behaviour accordingly.  One of the things that separates sinful humans from God can be our unwillingness to forgive; for whatever reason.  I am certain many Christians will say they forgive, but when it boils down to it, they haven’t forgiven at all.  I have struggled with this myself and have found it far easier to live in a state of hate towards other people than living in a state of forgiveness; I don’t think I’m the only one however.  But in the final analysis, a Christian must learn not to live in a spirit of hate, but in a spirit of love and forgiveness.  For most people, and certainly for me, this doesn’t come easy.  But in the long run I have found it is truly for the best. 


When we harbour resentments, really for whatever reason, even for a good reason, we only damage ourselves; we can make ourselves ill and unhappy, and I have found that hatred is like a drug in that we need more and more of it to justify that very hatred we might have.  Hatred can’t be fulfilled, it just gets worse and worse.  Love can be fulfilled, and we were created to live in harmony with our fellow humans; not easy, but possible.  When we learn to forgive, truly forgive, we are taking on an important attribute of God; love is bigger than hate, and forgiveness is bigger than vengeance after all.  So forgiveness is the key, the key to salvation and the key towards God and a better way of life.  When we learn to forgive truly, we close a door on a part of us, a part of us that is hateful and vengeful, and we move onto a better life, a life lived through God’s values that will bring us closer to our destiny, whatever that may be. 



I may add that learning to forgive others helps us to forgive ourselves and will bring happiness into our lives, sooner or later.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Getting Older

Getting older, getting old.
As life rushes by, we wonder what it’s all about, we struggle to make sense of it all,
and we come to the end of our understanding; we are baffled by it all, in the end.

We are all whole universes; whole universes of trouble, whole universes of love,
whole universes of complexity; when we die a whole universe dies with us.

In the wee small hours we sit, and hope that life goes on forever. We watch our movies, drink our
beer, and think our thoughts, lost in space and time.

Those moments, when we are lost even to ourselves, when everything seems possible and nothing
seems impossible, are fleeting, but they are what keeps us going.

Feel like I’m living on borrowed time, all the time, feel like I’m living on borrowed time.

All the dreams I had when I was young; did they just disappear into the ether?

People move in and out of your life as you get older. New things appear, and old things go, go the
way of all things, to be forgotten, as we no doubt will be forgotten.

Who wants to get older, and give way to the younger? We all dream that we will live forever; but we
don’t.

So, we get old, and we can’t do a thing about it; we are on a long journey, and we will find ourselves
at the end of it. 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Somebody Has Got to Do Something!

I have written on this topic before, but I feel I need to write about it again; whilst the majority of people in the Western world are not particularly wealthy, we find again and again that prices of this, that and the other are going up, whilst wages are being frozen, people are losing their jobs and there is real uncertainty in many people’s lives in just how they are going to make ends meet and what plans they are to take in life.


The people who helped cause the financial meltdown and the subsequent economic chaos we find ourselves in are living privileged lives, sheltered from the very mess they helped to create.  When the banks messed up, we bailed them out.  So, in effect, they failed but didn’t fail!  Nice for some.  Many millions of people in the United Kingdom are feeling the serious consequences of this economic mess, and are having to make all sorts of budget cuts to all sorts of things they were used to, and we are seeing that things like gas and electricity, the price of petrol, the price of food, transport and many other things are going up month after month, whilst wages and benefits remain the same, or in some cases are being cut.

Shouldn’t a Christian stay out of politics and economics, you might say?  Well, I believe we must speak out where there is injustice, and I believe we have the right to challenge, in a lawful way, the way our country is run.  It is not being run well at this time, but no matter how hard the ordinary person is squeezed, the wealthy and powerful and those who rule and make laws seem to live well beyond the means of the ordinary person.  And whilst many of us are dreading the next round of price rises, the people at the top seem not to care, primarily because those at the top have wealth and high-paying careers to shelter them from the worst of it.

All over the world people are campaigning against sharp practises by the wealthy, corporations and governments that don’t care or who seem impotent to do anything really radical, like tackle the high prices of goods and services, the price of utilities, and the rising tide of unemployment.  The ordinary person has no real say in how their countries are run, if they ever did, but at this time the gulf between the wealthy and powerful and the person at or near the bottom is very wide indeed.


There is a moral dimension to all of this, and if we are to be honest we need to look at and explore the moral dimension.  From one angle, price rises are wonderful; if you are benefitting from them, that is!  From another angle, the price rises are something that many millions of people around the world are dreading.  I refer specifically to the UK: it wouldn’t be so bad if it was just food and household goods that were increasing, but it is so many other things as well, like the cost of petrol, the cost of public travel especially train travel, the ever-rising cost of utilities like gas and electricity prices; there seems no end in sight, and yet our politicians, of whatever political persuasion, and the people who run and own these companies seem unable to do anything about it, and seem less to care, perhaps because they are all wealthy and well-provided for.  It’s the same old story, it seems.  So let’s come back to the moral issue at stake.  The moral issue is that these price rises are, when it boils down to it, an issue of greed.  And I believe implicitly that God does not countenance injustice and does not turn a blind eye to injustice for ever.  Some people may get away with their sin this side of Heaven, but will certainly not on the other.  There is immorality, greed and injustice woven into these price rises and they are at worst making some people’s lives worse than they really need to be.  There will be an answer to this injustice; mark my words.  


It seems that, as ever, we in Britain have the highest prices for food, general goods and services, train travel, petrol and gas and electricity prices; why is this?  Will we ever get a real answer from any politician about why we are always paying more for almost everything than any other Western European country, without the usual bluster and waffle and patronising tone all around?  We can but hope.  But deep down, if we are honest, we know that we are being ripped off and taken for a ride, often by the very people who are supposed to be fighting our corner.  If we can’t get rid of capitalism and I personally don’t want to, then it needs changing.  Firstly, if you have and make lots of money, you can pay more tax; if you are poor or make little, you pay less tax.  It’s that simple really.  We need to redistribute wealth fairly this way, unless we want anarchy on the streets; not in a ‘hippy-dippy’ or Communist way or anything that has links to any political ideology, just a fair and simple redistribution that makes sense and is easy to administer.  Secondly, we need to truly work together, governments, bosses, corporations, businesses and the regular person on the street in making our finances work, and perhaps we all need to stop living beyond our means and stop living on borrowed credit.  Thirdly, we all need to find a purpose in life; I believe that goes beyond normal concerns but is very much the most important consideration in being human.  

There is another problem I feel with Britain too; it seems that too much power and wealth and influence is concentrated in the hands of a relatively few people and also especially in the South East of England.  This reflects history and tradition, but isn’t it time we began to live in a modern nation, one that is based on genuine equality and fairness, as opposed to privileged status and unfairness?

When people give to charity, people from the Western nations to countries like India, Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America, no one questions the fact that richer people are giving to poorer people; why should they?  But why, when people are talking about redistributing wealth from the richest to the poorest within wealthy Western nations, is there a complete reluctance?  Why are many wealthy people in the West so greedy and selfish?  The only aim of charity, in any circumstance, is to redistribute wealth and resources from those who have to those who don’t have.


What is the Christian answer?  Well, as I wrote, I believe Christians need a purpose in life, even if at first that is just being obedient to God and walking in His ways.  We also need to ask why there needs to be, in some circles, absolute unlimited wealth, and for others near-wretched poverty. Just what is the purpose of such wealth creation if it only benefits a handful of people?  If a person is living in poverty, or struggling financially in any way, then maybe, and for the first time, they need to pray and ask God for help; He really can help!  I’m not being religious here or anything like that, I’m just telling you the truth; God can, and does, work in the real world.  For Christians, we need to lean hard on Jesus and to ask in prayer that we can satisfy our need before our greed and we need to be honest about ambitions and understand quite simply that if we make a lot, we need to put a lot back, and if we don’t make a lot or if we are struggling and poor we can as I said ask God to make our lives better without the need necessarily to have millions and millions of pounds, even though I believe there is nothing fundamentally wrong with being wealthy provided you use some of that wealth  wisely and to help others and you are prepared to pay a fair rate of tax.

Finally, I don’t believe it’s necessary to be wealthy to be happy, and it’s not necessarily a prime requisite for being a Christian either.  True happiness, and contentment, go beyond wealth creation and is a spiritual kind of wealth, one which lasts and no one can steal from you.  I’m not suggesting either that being poor or wretchedly poor makes you super-spiritual in some way either; who wants to live in poverty after all?  It’s beyond that too.  God will provide, and is able to provide all your needs, regardless of whether you are rich or poor.  It’s having faith in God that enables us to see the bigger picture, and will teach us that money is not the most important thing in the world.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Struggling with Addiction

Trying to combat what a person is addicted to is one thing, perhaps more importantly tackling the reason, or reasons, why a person is addicted is another.  Lack of self-worth, a fear of being seen as boring so they do what they think is exciting, or what other people may see as exciting and interesting; drinking too much, taking drugs or whatever else it is a person can be addicted to.  Addiction might seem to be the antidote to a person’s empty life, but any addiction at worst can be empty and unfulfilling in itself.


If we are honest, an addiction, and even an obsession, with something is not normal behaviour.  Being addicted to something will not make any other problem go away, it will just exacerbate that problem; you will still have the same problem, and now you might have an addiction as well.  God has the answer for the addicted person.  Someone might ask God: “Change me, and I’ll stop!”, and God might reply: “Stop, and I’ll change you!”  Like with depression and any other serious illness, addiction can be healed by God, but I believe we must want to stop before we do stop.  It’s that simple; and that hard.  I don’t believe God wants anyone addicted to anything, but if we are we can certainly seek help from Him.

I had my own form of addiction; but I prayed for help, and I leant on God, and I was corrected by Him, until I learnt to change.  It wasn’t an easy process, but I think I had to go through it to understand just how God does work with people who are afflicted by addiction.    

Why are some days better than others?  Why are some times in our lives happy, and others seemingly filled with worry and anxiety?


Saul, the Religious Zealot
We can even be addicted to religion, when I think as Christians we should be temperate and moderate in most everything we do, except in revering and loving God, having a genuine zeal for His purpose and of course caring about other people; that is vital in a fallen world.  God has the knack of shaping us for better purposes, and can turn our lives around.


Saul was a religious zealot; he was so zealous in his wrongdoing, that we might say he seemed almost addicted to it.  But he was ignorant of his wrong standing with God.  Before I really turned the mess that was my life over to God, I can claim ignorance too; and I was a mess, a mess of contradictions.  I think almost every Christian who gives themselves wholeheartedly over to God has lived in ignorance of God, whether that was just because they didn’t believe there was a loving God there, or because they were caught up so tightly in something that God to them was an irrelevance.  Saul, the zealot and murderer, the religious ‘addict’, became Paul, the wise and chastened Christian, who moved into a new phase with God, and never looked back.  As Saul, he was addicted to religion, as Paul, he became a Christian whose best expression was talking about Jesus, writing about Jesus and wholeheartedly serving Him for the rest of his life.  Even the most chronic addict can learn to leave the addiction behind, and simply walk with God. 

Boring? Yes, but Happy
Once upon a time, a long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, I was a different person.  I enjoyed drinking to excess, especially with my mates on a Friday and Saturday night, and not worrying about anything.  I led the life that so many young people do, in fact.  But, having a calling from God on my life quite simply meant that I was misbehaving, and not being obedient to Him.  This disobedience led me to living a dissolute life, and not really being a Christian at all.  That type of life, that lifestyle, does not last for ever; what we can readily take and put up with in our early 20’s, we can’t really take as we reach our 30’s.  That’s how it was for me anyway.  And then, for some reason, I also started to develop what I would later know to be depression.  Living a fast life with no cares or worries, may seem exciting at first, but in the end I think it always catches up with you; it did for me.


After my riotous living, and as I ‘discovered’ God again in my early 30’s, I learnt to cut down my drinking, and tried, not always successfully, to see God’s point of view.  In some ways, I have had a very bad relationship with God, frankly because I was such a fool and never seemed to learn anything!  Looking back, I cringe at my mistakes but at least I try not to make the same mistakes again; that’s a start.  As for addiction, well that’s a thing of the past.  I have to work at my relationship with God, and like most everyone else I have other things I need to do, so I don’t have time for riotous living of any kind anymore.  Boring?  Perhaps, but definitely happy!

Feelings, Just Feelings
Anyone who has suffered with depression, anyone who has struggled with feelings of worthlessness, or felt that they weren’t particularly cared for and loved, will tell you that those feelings can be so powerful and overwhelming that they can, and will, affect your life to a very great degree.  How we feel about ourselves can affect our whole outlook.  With depression, this can be to an extreme level.

I now believe that most, if not all, people struggle with issues such as these but that with God’s grace, guidance and help, we can overcome the worst of troubles.  When God enters our lives, however He does it, He will want to change us; from a sinner to a repentant Christian; from a sick person to a healed person; from someone without purpose to someone who has a divine purpose; from a loser into a winner, and from someone without help to having the best help in the universe.  He will make a difference!  He has taught me to live beyond my feelings; that just because I am down doesn’t mean it has to affect my life and not even my whole day.  We all feel down at times, but instead of reaching for the bottle or wallowing in self-pity, we should reach out for God and His grace and help.  It is tackling those emotional issues and coming to terms with them and asking God into that suffering, that might very well see an end to addiction and the reasons for addiction.  We must learn to ask God for help in every area of our lives.  In the end, some people might be addicted to something to shield them from the sometimes harsh reality of the world; I have found in my experience that God is all we need to face the world.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Struggling with Depression

 I have struggled with depression, on and off, for over half my life now; however, it hasn’t been a serious problem for a number of years, and with God’s grace, I don’t think it will ever be a serious problem again quite frankly.  Of course, I still have moments where I am down, but they are rare now and they don’t last, and I have learned not to take every setback or problem, or personality clash or just a bad day for whatever reason, as a serious problem anymore. 

I have understood that depression is no mere run-of-the-mill illness; it’s not like a cold or a sprained ankle; you can’t just take a tablet and then all is well.  It is something that seems part and parcel of human experience, or is for some people anyway.  I believe that depression at its worst is a kind of spiritual malaise that often doesn’t have a physical cause, or a cause that anyone can really put their finger on or adequately explain.

At the same time as struggling privately with depression, I have found in my experience that anything new coming along, whether it’s a job or a course you are embarking on, or a stressful situation of any kind, or just anything which changes your routine, feels as if you are being pulled in a number of different ways; this is how it has been for me, and how sometimes it still is too.  Trying to explain depression to someone who has never had depression is like trying to describe a foreign country to someone who has never been there; we can do it as best we can but it’s at best second-hand knowledge; only when you have been there can you then fully understand.


I was lucky to get professional help when I suffered extremely with severe bouts of depression; but sometimes with the best will and the best help in the world, all I could do was ‘ride out the storm’ so to speak.  It’s often something that just happened, and all I could do was buckle myself in and wait for it to pass.  Today, I haven’t suffered a severe bout for many years, and I attribute this to God and His grace and mercy in my life.  Also, I have a slower pace of life, and I take each thing that happens very much in my stride.  If it’s something bad or in some way negative, I deal with it as needs must, if it’s something good, I simply accept it and am grateful.  I have developed a philosophical outlook to life, which holds me in good stead now, whether I feel down or not.

Part of my healing has come because I at last understood that depression in part can come from turning your back on God, and refusing to live obediently to Him.  Yes, I know, that sounds strange.  I am not saying that God strikes someone with depression for disobedience but simply that refusing to live in God’s ways can just bring this illness on, and perhaps for many reasons.

Jeremiah, the Reluctant Prophet
It has been said that Jeremiah, that quite famous prophet of Israel’s ancient past, was a reluctant prophet; it seems that he wasn’t particularly comfortable with God’s calling on his life, but at least tried to live out that calling.  It didn’t help matters that what he was preaching was not what the Israelites wanted to hear.  The more he preached, the more miserable he became, and the more unpleasantly aggressive reactions he got from those not wanting to hear his message too.  So, in some cases he was preaching a miserable message and making himself more miserable in the process!  But it was God’s will for him to preach unpopular warnings to a largely backsliding Israel.  So, it was Hobson’s choice for him really; if he didn’t preach, he would be in trouble with God, if he did preach he would be in trouble with his kith and kin the Israelites.  Maybe Jeremiah suffered with depression of one kind or another.


I have been a reluctant Christian; for a number of reasons.  Like Jeremiah I have God’s calling on my life, and like him I have been reluctant many times in my life to live out my calling.  As a result, I have had a half-hearted relationship and walk with God; also living in sin at times didn’t help matters either.  Partially because of this, I think I developed depression as a result of my chaotic inner and spiritual life.  I don’t come from a Christian background at all, and none of my family are Christian in any way; I don’t really go to church but am now in the process of finding a place where I can fellowship with other Christians; I am a dyed-in-the-wool Christian and try to live my life by godly principles and ideals but I am also in many respects an ordinary bloke and not particularly a ‘holy Joe’ of any kind.  I have struggled with depression, both when I wasn’t really living as a Christian and when I was.  I find that now the worst aspects of the illness have gone, and occasionally I feel a bit down or a bit stressed but that’s about as far as it goes.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men May Oft Go Astray
Like many people, I have dreams and ambitions, and I have had dreams and ambitions in the past too.  And like many people, I didn’t fulfil or achieve some of those dreams and ambitions.  Some of them were big, and others less so.  It is never good to see our dreams vanish, or disappear when harsh reality bites or just pop like a soap bubble; it can be depressing.  But, like most things that happen to us whether good or bad, we can learn something even from this bitter type of failure.  We can learn to get real, for a start; real with our ambitions, and real with God too. 


Failing at something we wanted to achieve can actually open doors to other things, even if it might be at first a better reliance on God and a more philosophical outlook.  It can also cause us to reflect on what we truly want out of life, and also what God wants for our life too.  These things can be at odds with each other, or they can be in harmony with each other.  There’s no reason why a Christian cannot have ambitions to own a business or succeed in getting a job or being an accomplished writer or athlete or musician, or whatever else it might be.  Sometimes, whatever we desire can somehow fail, or we change our goals or we just don’t want a thing anymore; such is life.  Sometimes, we do fail at something, and whatever it is sets us back.  Again, such is life.  It’s at these moments that faith can be tested.  I now believe that God is the best source for giving us, shaping and holding onto any ambitions we might have.  I might add, it also seems sometimes that life itself can get in the way of our dreams and ambitions; such is life it seems.

God’s Healing
A big part of God’s provision in any believer’s life is healing; healing in all senses of the word; healing illness, healing emotional troubles and past hurts, and healing in the sense of cleansing a person from sin, from sinful lifestyles and forgiving sin so that we can move on to a better life free from the mistakes of the past.  But in the correct sense of the word, God has the power to heal us and free us from illness so that we can be healthy both spiritually and physically.


Through His healing process, He draws us slowly towards to Him so that we rely solely on Him; as we get healed little by little we also learn to trust Him little by little too.  And if He can heal us, from maybe long-standing health issues, what else has He the power to do?  Well, if God had the power to create the whole universe, and everything in it, from scratch, then most everything else will be a doddle for Him.  God has the power to heal us, and He has the power to change us, from a sinner to a repentant sinner, from a repentant sinner to someone who actively wants to serve Him on a daily and on-going basis.  God can heal us of the worst things; He can and will, if we let Him and trust Him, heal us from the worst depressive states.  If we trust Him with everything else, why not our health too?  He has healed me, and He has taken what was bad and shaped it into what is good.  No, my life isn’t perfect, whose is, but I go forward now in the assurance that God is with me, and Jesus is just a prayer away.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

It’s OK to Be You

For a long time in my life, I have in essence ran from myself and tried sometimes to not be me.  If you understood what I mean, then you know where I am coming from; if you don’t understand what I mean then I will try to explain.


For many reasons, I have often felt inferior; firstly I suppose because of my working class background and growing up as a kid in a run-down dilapidated house with no bath and an outside toilet and a leaking roof, amongst many other things.  I agree, this isn’t the worst poverty anyone could endure, but bear with me.  Secondly, I hated school and was bullied somewhat, although not seriously, and found year on year in my senior school that I was getting worse and worse grades and so got less and less interested and finally left at fifteen; a bad mistake some might say.  Thirdly, I have since my late teens felt a failure and felt that whatever I turned my hand at would not succeed, and so in the past I didn’t even try; and having ambition?  It didn’t even register.  Fourthly, and this may seem beside the point, I have had a long series of bad and even unpleasant encounters with the opposite sex, so much so that I have had a problem with women for a long time and once could even have been described as women-hater; I’m coming to terms with this now and am asking God to help me deal with it.  I hasten to add, I never was or never have been a violent person in any way.  Finally, although there may be other things too, I have had an on-off relationship with God throughout my life.  This has resulted in me finding myself estranged from God many times, and being punished by Him in various ways for my disobedience, culminating in my life stopping and starting until I learned to put my faith, and my obedience, in God.  You may ask ‘why would God punish you and disrupt your life, if He is supposed to be a loving God?’; I suppose my answer simply would be, that sometimes God has to take drastic measures to bring someone in line, even if it might seem to mess up their life.  Sometimes, God’s punishment is the kindest thing He can do to make changes in your life; at the time though it might not seem like that at all!

We all struggle, in one form or another.  I think it is part and parcel of the human experience.   Some people are gifted academically, but they might struggle with getting on with other people.  Some people might be good at making money, but struggle with subjects like maths and English.  Some people might be good to know and lovely people through and through, but let people down by being late all the time or not turning up.  We all have gifts and talents as human beings, and we all have areas in our lives where we are not so good at things.  In short, we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses at the same time.  And sometimes, we can be over-confident, and sometimes we can lack confidence; I think somewhere between the two is the best way to approach life and whatever comes our way.  

As a Christian then, I have had my ups and downs; but who hasn’t?  I can say this though; after many hard lessons, I have finally learned something!  Seriously, I have learned and understood that God is the best source for help with any troubles I have and the best source for any kind of help I may need, and He is utterly reliable and completely unfazed by whatever question or problem I might bring to Him, or advice I might need.  He is always there, day or night, and however I feel, whether it’s grumpy or happy, or even downright miserable, He is always the same yesterday, today and forever.

As I am a bit older now than when I was a teenager, I can afford to be somewhat amused at the way I was when I was a youngster; I made so many mistakes, said so many stupid things, did things that made my life worse and even occasionally got in with the wrong crowd.  Those days are gone now, and I am in a different phase of my life; maybe it’s the same for you or perhaps you are just embarking on your ‘salad days’ as I did all those years ago.  Some things have changed; I am more mature, my character is more rounded and I am more thoughtful and considerate of other people.  Some things are still the same; I still make mistakes, and I still fail from time to time.  But I am moving forward in my life, trying to make headway and get on in life as best as I can.  And God?  Yes, I think I am in a much better place with Him than I was even five  years ago, and it gets better every day.  I now believe firmly that my place in life, first and foremost, is to be a committed Christian and to put all my wants, desires, ambitions and even passions to God first, and to ask Him to smooth my way and make my paths straight.  He has a knack of bringing it all together in a way no human ever could.  


‘Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings, to open gateways before him so that their gateways be closed no more: I myself shall go before you, I shall level the heights, I shall shatter the bronze gateways, I shall smash the iron bars, I shall give you secret treasures and hidden hoards of wealth, so that you will know that I am Yahweh, who call you by your name, the God of Israel.’  Isaiah 45:1-3

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

So; Just What is the Point of Being a Christian?

One of the reasons why I like Atheists is that they ask questions that some Christians will not ask.  If we as Christians are prepared to ask tough questions, even questions we feel are hard to answer, then we can at least have answers for anyone who wants to know about our faith.

Before you try and change the world, perhaps you might try and change yourself first!  With God, we can change, and we can change for the better too.

So, just what is the point of being a Christian?  Is it to be a better person?  Yes, I think so.  Is it to give us purpose in what can be a meaningless life?  Yes.  Is it to understand that we are part of a community?  Yes.  Is it so we can get closer to God, and walk in His ways?  That’s the way it is for me anyway.


God moves in mysterious ways; I have understood that much about Him!  When we try to fully understand Him, or put Him conveniently in a box, He always seems too big for any definition we might have for Him.  What church or cathedral could contain Him, when He created the whole vast universe?


If God has called you for whatever reason, the point of being a Christian might at first just be being obedient to that call and learning in every way to be a Christian.  Being obedient to God’s discipline and teachings is a great part of Christian living, perhaps the most important part.

The point of being a Christian for me is finding God in the everyday, a God who is big enough to create everything but intimate and tender enough to make a difference in our everyday lives.  He is the God who can be relied on, the God who can be trusted, the God who, when everything and everyone can let us down, is always there for us.  When we strike up a friendship with Jesus, every day is special and every day can be different.


St Paul knew just what was the point of being a Christian after spending a chunk of his life being a Pharisee.  Being so wrapped up in religion, he eventually saw the error of his ways; and likewise so can we all.  I think we are all trapped in our error until Jesus shows us the way.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Yearnings

Have you ever just felt like getting away from it all?  Just walking out in the country on a lonely path leading who knows where?  Or walking along a deserted lonely beach far off the beaten track?  Or just exploring a town or city or village you’ve never been to before?

 
If you have, I don’t think you’re alone.  Some people are practical, pragmatic and hard-headed; and others are dreamers and might have their head in the clouds!  I suppose that’s me really.

So much of what we dream about, often doesn’t make it in reality; we do a ‘reality-check’ on so many things, and often they just don’t make the grade.  We accept that there are some things we just can’t have or we just can’t do.

I will always be a dreamer first before anything else; I think God doesn’t mind to be honest; dreams make the world go round after all.  He dreamed the world into existence, then it became reality.

Where can God be found?  In quaint churches?  Or huge cathedrals?  When we pray privately in our bedrooms?  God is everywhere, and nowhere it seems. 

We yearn for so many things, and perhaps for so many different reasons.  We yearn to find work, and struggle when we don’t; we yearn wistfully for a better life, and then we can’t find it; we yearn to make sense of it all, and find that we just can’t; we yearn to understand God, and are confused when we don’t; we yearn for things that can’t be put into words, unutterable yearnings that maybe only God can really answer.

We yearn, because we are human.  I am a Christian, and I struggle with thoughts and ideas about God; surely, as a Christian, I should have it all together, I should be sure in my beliefs and know everything there is to know about God and everything there is to know about the Bible?  I wish!  If you’re struggling understanding God, you are not the only one!


We yearn to be better than everyone else, and we fail.  Does God want us to continually strive to be better than everyone else, or does He want us to run our own race?  We can’t be anyone else, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves with anyone else; we can only be ourselves.  There is something precious about being you, and only you can be you, and there is something precious about being me, only I can be me!  We are unique, and precious to God.


We will always yearn, it’s a part of the human condition; God can answer our deepest yearnings.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Hoodies-4-Jesus

Many of us who live in big cities tend to dress informally, with jeans and trainers and sometimes sportswear like tracksuits and baseball caps; some people might label such a person as looking like a drug dealer or a street thug, or even a Hoodie!  But for many, it is just a way of dressing and nothing more.


I am a Christian, and I often dress like this; I don’t see any problem with being an ordinary bloke and being a dyed-in-the-wool Christian; there is no reason I see to pretend to be something I am not; I think God wants us to be who we are, even if we look and dress like Hoodies sometimes; Hoodies 4 Jesus no less!


Some people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds lacking in self-worth may mistakenly think they need respect from other people; but the sad fact is that no one needs to’ get respect’ from anybody else for any reason.  We need to respect others first, even if generally people don’t respect us; how can you respect yourself if you don’t respect others, and how can you respect others if you don’t respect yourself?  There may be a thin line between needing and demanding respect; we all need to be respected and loved but this should come naturally from family and friends, even from neighbours and acquaintances.  You don’t get real respect from people by threatening them in any way.

In my walk with God, through good times and bad, when I’ve been a good lad and at other times when I wasn’t really walking with God at all, there has never been a problem with how I dress.  You can wear a hoodie and be a Christian!  You can wear a baseball cap and be a Christian!  You can be trendy and be a Christian; but it doesn’t matter if you’re not trendy!


God wants us to be real, not false in any way.  There is so much scope in Christianity just for being who we are; God is big and tough enough to take on our individuality, and He is big enough to accept us as we are.  I’ll leave the final word to the Good Book: ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Hebrews 13:2

Saturday, 27 August 2011

From One Degree of Glory to Another

We are always changing; changing the way we look, changing the way we think, changing the things we read about or are interested in; it seems that as humans we are always undergoing some form of change.  Nothing stays the same, and everything it seems is in a state of flux.


Sometimes we say something, or do something or even write something that upsets someone or gets someone’s back up; I can say this about me only too well; I have often at times put my foot in it, or opened my big mouth when I should have kept it firmly shut!  With the best will in the world, and even when we truly had no intention of doing so, we make mistakes, we mess up; to err is human after all; and to forgive?  I think that is truly divine.


One of the major themes of Christianity seems to be that of change; we are all caught in our sin until God in His mercy releases us from these bondages of sin; Paul, the most famous Christian of antiquity is the perfect example of a man caught up in his own zeal, but at least like many people there was a degree of ignorance to his sin.  When God finally caught up with him, Paul underwent a radical transformation; from being a zealous sinner to a genuinely righteous man of God.


As time passes, for most of us, we can reflect on what we were like when we were younger; if you are like me, you probably cringe at some of the things you said or did as a youngster!  On reflection, we most certainly don’t make the same mistakes again; being a Christian is just the same; whatever sinful life you had before, you endeavour wholeheartedly to put it behind you, to put it behind you for good.

So, we are changing all the time, and hopefully for the better!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Disclaimer!

If, during any time, I upset anyone, or have upset anyone by what I have written, I unreservedly apologise!  I think I can be quite radical and, by some standards, controversial too; but in this I am only trying to be honest, rather than nice.  I am not being controversial for controversy's sake, just trying to explore themes in as truthful a way as possible.



You may have noticed, if you have read a few of my posts, that I am a little obsessed with the English Class system!  I make no apologies for writing about this as, for some reason, it seems to be one of the few contentious issues in English life that few people, if anyone really, will tackle, talk about or debate in any kind of genuine fashion.  I don't know why this is; perhaps for some people it's too near the knuckle, and from my point of view perhaps this worldly system that creates winners and losers, people who are seen as socially acceptable and other people who are not seen as socially acceptable, is still a way of grading English people at this present time.


 
Coming from the background I do, I feel that as a Christian I must at times write about this painful issue for the many people who have felt they were not included or were passed over in some way because of this system. In the final analysis, whether it's class in Britain, or racism in America, or religious intolerance in some countries or even blatant sexism anywhere, we as Christians should be prepared to look honestly at the societies we live in, and also the world at large, and be prepared in our own small way to challenge such prejudice and injustice where we find it; it's as simple as that. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Rebel Without a Cause?

For a long time, and even though I am now in my 40’s, I have struggled with an inferiority complex; it’s not always with me, and I am not always thinking about it, but it has been with me for a number of years.

It might have something to do with my background, which is very Working class and quite poor, although not poverty-stricken.  If the society we live in devalues some of those people who live in that society, whether through class hierarchy, racism, blatant sexism, religious intolerance or whatever that helps create the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’, can we then honestly wonder when parts of that society are lacking moral vision, self-worth and are basically in many ways dysfunctional?  Not all people for sure, but many who for whatever reason don’t make the grade.


Christians must ask such questions and think about such issues because they affect millions of people, and ultimately they affect the societies we live in, sometimes in many ways.  There is injustice in the UK, even though I believe there doesn’t need to be.  Much of the injustice is really economic injustice; some people have more than they could honestly spend in a hundred lifetimes, and others are continually struggling with poverty, or near poverty.  When you are poor, it can and often does affect all kinds of other issues in your life, and it limits your life chances too.  I hated growing up poor, living with the usual inevitable reality that if there was something I wanted or something I wanted to do, if it involved money then I had to forget about it.  As a result of this, I have endeavoured all my adult life never to live beyond my means, and to learn for the most part to be frugal, and to save and not waste money.  I’m not rich, but I’m not particularly poor now either; my needs are met.

As an adult, I wouldn’t say that I am now so poor, but I am certainly not wealthy now that’s for certain.  I live within my means; I think all people should regardless of their financial position.

There are serious issue around the debate of poverty in the UK.  Our society became wealthy simply because some people viciously exploited other people.  In the, not even so distant, past, this was only too evident in the slave trade and the opium trade and the Scramble for Africa and the factory system, to name but four.  In these ‘trades’ or circumstances , some people made absolute fortunes whilst at the same time making many other people wretched, people who were ruthlessly exploited with no concern for the repercussion for such actions.  The Class system in Britain was formed in such exploitation, and racism in America likewise.  The end result?  Injustice, which still plays a part in many wealthy societies.


If we are looking at injustice in the UK, then all sorts of questions could be asked; whether they can be answered, is another question, but I believe that if we sweep it all under the carpet, hoping it will all somehow go away, we only store up problems for the future.  We have lived in this falsehood in the UK for many years; we are not the only nation practising double-standards, but English prejudice and hypocrisy is one I understand the most coming from England myself.

For the most part, class is just not an issue debated in British, certainly English, society.  There could be many reasons for that.   Also, class in Britain ‘straitjackets’ people; it makes people who might not be particularly anything pretend to be Middle class and put on a phoney accent and false airs, or pretend to be Working class and put on a false accent; whichever way, it can take away a person’s unique individuality.  Aside from this, it creates prejudices and animosities that really should have no place in a modern dynamic society like the UK.

The recent riots in England I think suggests that among many people there is a lack of morality and consideration for other people, but this affects the whole of society; the people in power really don’t seem to care about ordinary people; this basic lack of care trickles down to all levels of society.  In higher up circles, those who are wealthy or powerful or influential in some way, the people at the top are cushioned from the indifference they create by high salaries and living in pleasant leafy suburbs and having nice careers to fall back on.  At the bottom of society, where reality bites, this can create people who are amoral and who are only in it for themselves; but how is this any different from most of the people who rule us?  When we take away the very thin veneer of respectability from society, and look underneath, the reality isn’t a pretty sight.  There is indifference and lack of care for people who are poor and struggling in life; and this, eventually, causes problems.

Most people don’t have a purpose in life; they are not set on any course or have any vision; they drift.  Most people might not be rebels without a cause, but rebels without a course; a course in life.  Speaking for myself, I find that God gives me a reason for living and getting up in the morning; I have purpose and it does make a difference.

When I turned my back on God, many years ago now, I was a rebel, a rebel without a cause, and without hope really either.  Individuals, and nations, abandon God, and godly values, at their peril.  I know that if you don’t believe in God, a God who created everything, that this won’t mean much to you, but it’s what I believe, through experience of Him in my life.  God’s laws are there to lead us to a better life, one where we are actually free, not hindered by unhelpful sin or a lack of values.  Some people might say that we are free when we can do anything we like without regard to other people or God; the riots proved that this is nonsense; when people disregard other people, chaos ensues.


Without God in my life I was struggling to make sense of it all, and struggling to make sense of the emptiness and futility at the centre of my life at that time.  It took me a long time to realise that what I was missing was the God I had abandoned.  We might think we are free to do what we like without God, but it’s not real freedom, and in my experience it leads nowhere; to unhappiness, bitterness and regret.  Thankfully, God is merciful; He knows we are sinful and can make mistakes, even big mistakes, and I’ve made some beauties in my time!  But that was a long time ago.

If I can walk humbly with God after all my waywardness, rebellion and stupidity, then anyone can.  I believe even that God has called me to write about Him to other people who may be in the dark as I was, not because I am some wonderful holy person, but because in many ways I was the exact opposite of that; a messed up, confused and unhappy person forever wondering who I was and what I was supposed to be.  Now?  I just try to serve the Lord.