30 January 2012

Yoked Fellowship

Yesterday's meeting at the Corps explored the concept of being 'yoked'. It's referred to by Jesus in Matthew's gospel:

Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

A yoke is a wooden beam, used to join a pair of oxen to enable them to pull together: this was in common use by farmers around the time of Jesus. I had heard the passage of scripture before, and understand some of the concept about learning from Him by being yoked to Him. However, there was teaching yesterday about us being a 'yoked fellowship' which I must admit to finding difficult, hence unpacking it here.

Being in fellowship together implies that we need to live together, to work together. Paul also uses this example in his letters, telling us not to be yoked together with unbelievers. Understandable, then, because as a team we need to pull together and to pull the same way in order to get things done. The verses are talking about teamwork!

The reference to 'rest' in the above passage may confuse some, as at first glance there isn't anything remotely restful about a yoke. However, it is the sharing of the load that makes the work easier, of far greater efficiency. This lightens the burden; ensures the task is completed more effectively. So, in theory, with all of us in fellowship with Him and with each other, we can all pull together, accomplishing much more than we could as individuals

Reading around the subject took me to Paul's letter to the Philippians, where I then discovered the word 'yokefellow'... which led me deeper into the concept. More later...

27 January 2012

Bad... Or Worse?

I won't go into details about The Problem. But, trust me, it was quite a big deal when it happened.

When The Problem struck on that particular night, I felt so low. It was just before bedtime, so I was tired and more than a little ratty. I hadn't felt well earlier that evening, so this only made me feel worse. As I went up to bed I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for myself.

But in the light of the next morning I remember realising how much worse The Problem would have been if had happened on the following night, one day later! In fact, it would have caused far more issues to me, even to others. At least we had a chance to sort it before that evening...

Thanks to some swift action by myself and my darling wife, it was all sorted by 4:30pm the next day. Well before the evening.

Is the timing actually a blessing in disguise?

Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

25 January 2012

The Pursuit Of Excellence: continued

I've been thinking a little more about that meeting at the weekend on strengthening our faith, in an effect to become more like Jesus (I blogged about this a few days ago).

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.

There's the word 'excellent' again! It's clear that we should be thinking of 'excellent' things (virtuous, praiseworthy). Because if your mind is full of negatives (criticism of others, your own weaknesses) or wrong thoughts (greed, worry, lust) that's what your life will be filled with... whereas if we want to achieve excellence, we need to think of higher things, better things - excellent things.

One further observation: the word 'think' at the end of the verse implies deep contemplation. Some translations show this as 'meditate'. I like the word 'ponder'. Whatever. Let your mind dwell on it. Get your mindset right!

I came across this quote on the web by D. Martyn Lloyd–Jones on Matthew 6:25-34, where he comments on the subject of faith and thinking:

"Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. That is the real difficulty in life. Life comes to us with a club in its hand and strikes us upon the head, and we become incapable of thought, helpless and defeated. The way to avoid that, according to our Lord, is to think."

23 January 2012


Today I was reading the account of Jesus curing the man with the 'dreaded skin disease' (Mark 1:40-45).

The commentary on the passage revealed that this disease possibly wasn't leprosy - skin diseases of various kinds were usually lumped together under the same name - however the end result was the same. The sufferers were shunned, deemed to be outcasts of society. This action was all about religious cleanliness, and not individual prejudice. This was the custom, that was just the way it was.

Imagine, then, the outcry when a teacher such as Jesus intentionally reaches out to touch him. This simple act of kindness is shocking enough - add to that the fact of the eventual outcome and you can see how this caused such a stir.

To many, even the simple touch of this teacher could bring them hope; those who were previously untouchable. If Jesus could reach out to this man, surely then He could do it for others, in all kinds of circumstances. They came in their hundreds...

What is particularly amazing is the fact that Jesus doesn't need to touch him. There are other times in His ministry when He heals just by saying the word (Luke 17:11-14). Unless, of course, there is a real need for that physical contact. As there was on this occasion.

Even one tiny touch, a tiny bit of kindness, can make an incredible difference in some people's lives. Who are the 'untouchable' ones today?

Food for thought.

22 January 2012

The Pursuit Of Excellence

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV)
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Quite a shopping list, eh? These verses were shared during today's meeting - we were reviewing the subject of 'stretching our faith' from this year's Commitment Sunday cards - and there was plenty said during that meeting for me to reflect on this week.

Let's take the word 'goodness' for example: the New Living Translation actually uses the term 'moral excellence'. And, after some further study when I got home, I found a whole host of different words in a variety of scripture translations, all trying to best describe that particular quality:

'virtue' —KJV, NEB, Berkeley
'moral character' —Williams
'manliness' —Helen Montgomery (The Centenary Translation)
'noble character' —Weymouth
'integrity' - God's Word translation
'real goodness of life'—Phillips

It was the word 'excellence' that initially captured my interest. We are often told for our need to strive for excellence in our working lives - so why not in our Christian lives? Actually, the sort of 'excellence' we often look for as Christians is often the same one we seek in our secular lives - a concept all wrapped up in modern day stats, in achieving standards.

After some reflection, I am more drawn to something that is best defined as 'moral character', as we seek to become more and more Christ-like as we follow Him through His teachings.And I like the use of the word 'integrity'... I've blogged on this before. 

Where to start? First thing to have is faith... These things are all built on our faith. 

More later...

19 January 2012

Noobish News

noobish - adjective; a modern slang term, applied to something that a complete novice would do; it describes the actions or manner of an absolute beginner (or a 'noob'). Note: I find it always helps to have a teenager in the house to explain these things!

I started this week at work feeling very noobish. Not because I am a total beginner; in fact I am regularly reminded that I'm now the longest-serving member of staff in my office. No, it's because there's a new regime in place; a new manager in charge; all things are different. In fact, it feels just about everything is new...

Because everything feels so different, it's a little scary. I need to consider my every step.

Wednesday night's bible study was all about Jesus walking on the water - and, in Matthew's gospel, Peter as well. Provided he kept his mind fixed on Jesus, he could do it. You've just got to get out of the boat...

I need to fix my eyes on my Lord - keep trusting Him. I can do it.

To do any less, would be a bit noobish...


Revelation 21:5 (the Message)
The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down - each word dependable and accurate."

16 January 2012

Shhh - It's A Secret! : part two

Following on from last week's blog entry under this heading - and giving me another excuse to use the pic of one of my childhood heroes from the Hanna-Barbera animation studio, Secret Squirrel - here's more from this passage from The Sermon On The Mount about the activities that we are encouraged to carry out in secret.

Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Alongside those acts of charity that we are encouraged to perform in secret - there's also those times each day where we simply need to get down to prayer, to recharge our spiritual batteries, sharing quality time with your Lord. This is also something that we are encouraged to do in secret...

This is not saying public prayer is wrong -  there's a place for public prayer as well as private prayer. Jesus practised both types during His earthly ministry. However, there's something particularly special about the intimacy of your private devotions - for instance, this allows for less distractions. Like our acts of generosity, prayer shouldn't be made public just for show - if you're doing it just because people are looking, you've got the wrong end of the stick.

Also, take note - the verse starts with 'when', not 'if' - it's taken as read this activity is essential.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath, the Christian’s native air, his watchword at the gates of death; he enters heaven with prayer. -  James Montgomery

14 January 2012

Getting To Know The Lay Of The Land

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." L P Hartley (1895-1972)

"I offer a toast. The undiscovered country...the future." Line spoken by Chancellor Gorkon in 'Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country' (but referencing Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1)

Picture the scene. You arrive in a strange town, perhaps a foreign country, never have been there before. It takes you a while to acclimatise yourself. To get to know where the shops are, the best place to get a bite to eat, and so on. To get to know the lay of the land. The customs, even the language used, may be totally different.

We're now at the end of the second week of January, and I think I've got a fair idea what challenges are ahead of me in 2012. Oh, definitely not the same as 2011! It's awesome to see what has changed, how things are different since this time last year, my head is reeling. Including how much my attitude has changed...

So, my sleeves are rolled up. I'm a little taken aback by the speed this has happened but am eager to embrace the challenge. I'm ready for new things.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Shhh - It's A Secret!

(post lost!)

10 January 2012

Living It Out

I couldn't believe it. How could this person think that way? What they said was so obviously wrong - and I tried as hard as I dared to get them to see that they were wrong. Either they couldn't see it or wouldn't have it, whatever was the case they certainly wouldn't back down.

What do you do in situations like that, I asked in my quiet time that evening.

Some people never learn, said the still small voice. And history repeats itself time and again because people never learn. Every generation makes the same mistakes. Be different! And be wise - don't just read about it, let it become part of you, so you can live it out:

James 1:22-25 (NIV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.

9 January 2012


The thought from the daily reading passage leapt at me, as if it was especially meant for me today.

It talked about having a full calendar, busy with meetings, problems to solve, things to do. Despite all this planning, there's always a whole host of unplanned events which complicate the day. During the reading of this passage I took note; this could have been my life over the last few months, full of sudden changes, having to think again, battling frustration...

The reading went on to list a few notable 'interruptions' from the normal routine, times when things certainly didn't go to plan...

Mary's plans were interrupted by the arrival of an angel. Her life would be turned upside down (Luke 1:26-31).

Saul's journey to Damascus was interrupted - his life changed forever thanks to that interruption (Acts 9:1-9).

Man's plans aren't the same as God's plans. But His way is best. Deal with it; roll with it. What He has in plan is awesome!

8 January 2012

Lord, You Have My Heart

(Words that we sang today during this morning's worship. Good things are happening at the Corps!)

And I will praise you Lord
I will praise you Lord
And I will sing of love come down
I will sing of love come down
And as you show your face
Show your face
We'll see your glory here.
(chorus, lyrics by Delirious?)


5 January 2012

It's Not What You Know...

I remember talking to a work colleague last year on the subject of wisdom. Yes, we get quite deep and philosophical in our office sometimes! She mentioned a wonderful phrase which I must admit I had never heard before:

"It's Not What You Know, but How You Use It"

The children are on their way back to Secondary School today after the Christmas break, and I pray that they will not only accumulate knowledge quickly, but will be able to use it well, becoming wise.

And I also pray that I will be wise enough to guide both of them through the years. And, in both cases, wise in the right sense...

Proverbs 3:5-7 (CEV)
With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow. Don't ever think that you are wise enough, but respect the LORD and stay away from evil.

4 January 2012

Choices For Beginners

I sat down with my youngest on Monday and had a pretty good father/daughter chat to her about 'choices'. Somehow, the whole thing has now evolved into a blog entry!

My daughter Kathryn is 11, and we are encouraging her to make decisions for herself - and we obviously want her to make some good ones. So we have started to give her choices:-

Do you really want that extra slice of cake?
When do you want to do your homework?
What about time for practicing your music?
How about making your bed?
What do you think you be wearing on a day like today?
Your choice...

Of course, every choice comes with a consequence... if you take that cake, somebody may have to go without ... however, if you do your homework now, you won't be panicking later when it comes to handing it in! If you don't wear the right clothes, you could well be too cold or too hot... Each different choice brings with it a different consequence.

You know, we all have choices to make... I hope you choose wisely in yours today. 

Joshua 24:15 (NIV) 
"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

3 January 2012

Taking Risks

A discussion during a Bible Study session held last year on the subject of risk-taking has been occupying my mind. It has taken me a while to pull together all the references I wanted to share - and the preparation for this entry took me right back to the economics and insurance textbooks that I studied all those years ago!

You see, each of us have a different perception of risk. We treat it differently. Some people actively seek out risk, and live life on the edge all the time. These are probably the bungee-jumpers, the potholers, cliff-divers. This could also include those who are tempted to gamble. They are known as risk preferrers. Others are less enthralled by the prospect, and are by nature much more cautious (or risk averse). Take investments; imagine a choice of two almost similar stocks, a risk averse investor would prefer the one with the lower risk.

I understand that men tend to be risk preferrers, with women tending to be risk adverse. I'm sure there are a whole host of exceptions to that rule that will come to mind, and I would agree with you, however that is the general trend.

The point was made during the Bible Study is that statisticially there are fewer men in the church than women. Is this because of the style of worship? The length of the meetings? The quality of tea or coffee we drink afterwards? If men tend to be the risk-takers of society, why don't you see them taking a risk and giving the Christian lifestyle a go for a change? It's certainly not easy at times, the challenges are high, the level of commitment needed is total. Plenty of risk here.

I've read around the topic, and one article that I read online said that men live this way, live life on the edge, so they can earn their place in society. They face financial ruin, run the risk of injury or even death to win through and gain the respect of their fellow man. Even in an office environment us fellas are told 'lunch is for wimps'! Men need to win, to be successful. Second place isn't what they're aiming for. Plan A is to succeed and win the grand prize. Winning that big contract, meeting that deadline, pulling out all the stops. How highly do us men rate our soccer stars, putting them up on a pedestal when they win through, win that trophy. How quickly are they dropped when they fail.... how easy the criticism flows when they miss the mark!

Maybe that's the key... I know many male friends who struggle because they've tried - and failed. When you're a winner, everyone wants to know you; when you're no longer winning you're yesterday's news.

But in really not an issue when you respond to Jesus' call. Society criticises, but Christ forgives. His stock in trade is 'second chances'. He offers you new life, a new purpose.

Sure it's risky - but He wants to share the adventure with you, to walk alongside you, to give you advice. To share the highs - and the lows - with you.

Why not give it a go?

2 January 2012

Epic Fail

After it happened, I spent a moment or two taking stock of the situation. How was I supposed to feel?

Indeed, how should I react when someone, and I know full well that they should know better, got it so wrong. Epic fail! A 'schoolboy error' - something so basic, it's crashingly obvious that their mind was not on what they were doing.

Forgive them, said the still, small voice that I know so well.

How often?, I said.

Seventy times seven, came the reply I expected. You just keep on forgiving them.

Okay then, I said. But will they ever learn? And will I have enough patience in the meantime?

That's not for you to know. Just do your bit. Leave the rest to me.

1 January 2012

What's The Use Of Worrying?

"What's the use of worrying
It never was worth while
So, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile."
(lyrics by George Asaf and Felix Powell)

Okay, let's start 2012 as I mean to go on - forgetting the past, and getting to grips with the future. And along the way, dealing with a few deeply entrenched habits. Here's a good one to start with...

Worry, I am reliably informed, can cause you significant health problems. It raises your blood pressure and can affect your digestion as well as your mind. However, there is a good reason why we act as we do in times of stress...

It's an obvious reaction to an unknown threat - the body goes on high alert. The brain considers a variety of possible outcomes, whereas the body prepares itself for 'fight or flight'. If the 'worry' reflex wasn't there, then I doubt if many species on this planet would have progressed very far. It puts us on alert. It's an automatic response.

However, what sets man apart from the animal kingdom is our ability to reason, to choose how to behave. And, as reasoning beings, we can choose to go our own way - or God's way.

Scripture teaches us to deal with worry in a much different way. We are encouraged to pray. That simple act keeps worry safely under control. In sharing the whole issue with the Lord we find ourselves looking at the issue with fresh eyes. And let's not forget the old saying "a problem shared is a problem halved." Who better to share your problems with?

Try the following structure to your prayers:
1. I'm worried about…
2. ... the worst possible outcome would be ...
3. ... the best thing that could happen would be …
4. Other possibilities to consider?
5. All I can do now is ...
6. .... and leave the rest to God!

I've been encouraged by this simple method of listing all your concerns in an organised manner. It makes it so much easier to subsequently hand them over to God.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength." - Charles Spurgeon