31 August 2014

Meek, Not Weak

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."
Matthew 5:5 (NIV)

I was reminded earlier this week that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Having the discipline to keep yourself in check; keeping your feelings on track. Part of that is learning how to be meek.

The trouble is, so many people now misunderstand that term. Sure, we know from popular culture that Superman's alter ego Clark Kent was 'meek and mild-mannered'. And we know from an old children's song that Jesus was 'meek and mild'... In fact, long-term readers of this blog will realise that I touched on this before; see here.That's when I talked about my passionate, 'positively assertive' self that I frequently have to keep in check...

The whole problem with meekness stems from a simple confusion - we often confuse 'meek' with 'weak'. That's because nobody wants to be seen to be weak...

As I was chewing this over, I received an email this week from Rick Warren which listed the many benefits of Christian meekness:
  • The meek will be satisfied (Psalm 22:26)
  • God will guide them (Psalm 25:9)
  • They will become wise (Proverbs 11:2)
  • They will be filled with fresh joy (Isaiah 29:19)
In fact, the Greek word used for meekness is πραΰς, which literally means "God's strength under God's control." It's not weak - not weak at all. In fact, Rick described it like a wild stallion that has now been tamed. All that strength that was there beforehand is still there, but it's now under control.

Awesome, isn't it? And I'm told this is a key way to relieve stress and eliminate worry in your life.

God's absolute power - under His perfect control...

Wow.

30 August 2014

Talents

Over the summer break, the Corps leadership started on a series of studies about the parables of Jesus. The first was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). The study certainly sparked a thought or two in my mind! Read the passage here.

In fact, the sums mentioned here were of a staggering amount - a 'talent' is the equivalent of the sum a man could make in over 20 years of work. However, it's soon clear that Jesus is not talking about money - and it is this interpretation which seems to be the origin of the word 'talent' used for an aptitude or skill.

I've spent some time since that meeting considering the servant who had only one 'talent'... In this parable, this servant didn't do anything - instead, he simply buried the money, keeping it safe from robbers but not using it to its full potential. This may seem strange to a 21st Century audience, however burying treasure was commonplace at the time.

The point is, although this servant was afraid to lose the master's money, he was also too afraid to take a risk. Instead, he looked after himself - burying his 'talent' so as not to lose it.

I'm aware of this teaching as being an encouragement to Jesus' followers to use their gifts in the service of God. The Lord wants us to use this, to multiply what He has given us.

However, if we don't share our gifts, if that 'talent' is buried, unused - the Gospel is not shared. It is simply wasted opportunity. Faithfulness is what Jesus requires of us - and all who are faithful will be fruitful in some way. And our eventual reward will be based on that faithfulness, and not results.

29 August 2014

Changing Faces

There's been quite a lot of stray thoughts bouncing around in my head following the airing of the season première of Doctor Who last Saturday...

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is now a much older man; however, the reactions of those around him to this regeneration have proved most interesting... particularly the reaction of Clara (Jenna Coleman), his assistant. You see, she had got used to The Doctor being a much younger man - if only younger in appearance, in his manner, in his personality. She has trouble coping with the change. Despite the fact that the change happened right before her eyes!

At the end of the episode the Doctor does manage to convince Clara that he is, after all, the same person as the one she knew. Despite a change of face, of personality. Even a change in his speech - he now sports a fetching Scottish accent!

You know, we all wear different 'faces' in our life. Different roles; different jobs. Some of us even get a chance to change our name. Our appearance changes as we get older... many fail to cope with this!

I even listened to a documentary over the recent holiday period about someone who suddenly woke up and found that she spoke with a foreign accent. Apparently, it can happen! See here!

Change is a part of life. However, never forget - it's who we are inside that counts.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

(William Shakespeare, "As You Like It")

28 August 2014

Maintaining Privacy

"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation." - Saki

This blog entry was inspired by a Bible Study session that the Corps offered recently on integrity. And the questions that buzzed around in my head afterwards were simple: should I lie to protect my own privacy? Surely everyone needs the right to privacy?

This has struck a chord with me personally. Yes, I've been teased, even ridiculed, for a couple of the things I have done in recent years. You know, things that were important to me. Friends and colleagues actually called me foolish; family members belittled me for taking a stand; failed to back me up when I stood up to be counted. I've even blogged about it before, here...

So, I must admit, that's why I avoid the criticism. If it's tricky, I don't tell them. Is that telling a lie? I'm simply carrying on doing what I think is right. And if I do deceive, am I doing it for the right reasons - simply trying to protect myself and my family?

So, where do I go from here? OK. I'm told I shouldn't lie - it's far more preferable to simply tell people "I don't want to tell you" when they ask. Or words to that effect. Perhaps I need to start going more public with it, open up, and hang the consequences...

Mmmm ... not sure how that one will go down ...

Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Leviticus 19:11 (NIV)
Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.

27 August 2014

August Anger

It was very early in the month of August. And I sat and watched the fight unfold before my eyes. A group of four Christians, in reality people that I know pretty well, were squabbling over what was, in hindsight, a minor detail.

Things got heated incredibly quickly - voices and tempers were raised. I wasn't personally involved - but I felt every verbal blow acutely. I felt the pain, even from a distance of thirty feet away.

Some weeks have passed since that event and I still have trouble getting that image out of my mind. However, I've used that as a prompt. Throughout that period I've prayed into it; for the individuals involved. I have even spoken to the injured party, who thought nothing of it. He had simply shrugged off the injury. I couldn't.

I know I am sensitive to that sort of thing. That's how God made me. I am beginning to accept that - and am ready to see where that leads me.

The first place it has led me in back to my knees. Because in 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul told Timothy to be cool, calm and collected - and to keep going. Read it here.

There's also a choice involved. You can be bitter - or you can be better.

Being better means praying for those who hurt you, abuse you. Forgiving them; being a blessing to them. I've read a lot about forgiveness in the past month, too.

Forgive 'em. Leave the rest to God. He'll take care of it.

26 August 2014

Z is for Zacchaeus

This is a traditional Christian children's song - and my only chance to round off this year's A-Z nicely. The song recounts the story of Zacchaeus as reported in Luke 19:1–10.

Unless you know of any other Worship Song beginning with Z? :)

25 August 2014

Y is for You Laid Aside Your Majesty

Written by Noel Richards, this song contains such a powerful and very personal message about Christ's great passion for each and every one of us.

Have you ever considered why everything just keeps coming back to who this Jesus person was? Find out why by clicking here.

24 August 2014

X is for eXalted

He is Exalted is a song by Twila Paris, a singer/songwriter from Texas who has released a total of 22 albums in a busy career. She is also a published author with several books under her belt, dealing with personal worship and praise.

23 August 2014

W is for We Are Marching

"Siyahamba" is an African song that became popular worldwide churches in the 1990s and 2000s. The title means "We Are Marching" in the Zulu language.

22 August 2014

V is for Victory

We Have Sung Our Songs Of Victory (How Long) is a song by Stuart Townend. It's a plea to the Almighty to move in power in our land.

Stuart has shared in interview about being extremely conscious of a tremendous responsibility to point people towards God. "Am I not only talking about his love and faithfulness, but am I talking about his mercy, his justice, his compassion and his heart for the world? I think it’s important for all of us who are involved in church music to be thinking through those things and thinking: am I presenting a fully-formed picture of who God is?"

21 August 2014

U is for Unchanging (Raise Up Holy Hands)

A Chris Tomlin song, one that I must admit I discovered only whilst doing resource for this very blog entry!

It's growing on me ...

20 August 2014

T is for 10,000 Reasons

Whilst preparing to record his latest album, Matt Redman sat down with his friend, Jonas Myrin, and wrote "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" in about an hour. He admitted in an interview that the words just seemed to 'drop in his lap', with the chorus initially inspired by Psalm 103.

Matt finds the Psalms a deep inspiration for him. "If you wake up one day and you can't think of a reason to praise Him, there is something wrong with your spiritual outlook."

19 August 2014

S is for Soon And Very Soon

Andraé Crouch was born during the Second World War in San Francisco, where his parents ran the local dry cleaners.

Brought up in an active christian family, Andraé soon became a key figure in contemporary Christian Music during the 1960s and 1970s. 'Soon And Very Soon' was produced during the height of his musical career.

18 August 2014

R is for Refiner's Fire

Purify My Heart (Refiner's Fire) is a song by Brian Doerksen. I understand that the title is inspired from a number of pieces of scripture about refining - including the following:

Zechariah 13:7-9 (NIV)
‘Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!’ declares the Lord Almighty.
‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.
In the whole land,’ declares the Lord, ‘two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it.
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.
They will call on my name and I will answer them;
I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”’

17 August 2014

Q is for sQualor

"From The Squalor Of A Borrowed Stable (Immanuel)" is a song by Stuart Townend. His song starts with the familiar Nativity story, but it emphasises some of the shocking detail that we often seem to overlook – it's actually the account of a mother giving birth in a cold stable – why would God choose that setting for the birth of the Messiah?

16 August 2014

P is for Peter And John Went To Pray

A children's song now - entitled 'Silver and Gold' in some songbooks - and one where the author's name seems to be unknown! The song is based of course on the account related in Acts 3:

Acts 3: 1-10 (NIV)
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.


15 August 2014

O is for Only By Grace

A terrific song, written by Gerrit Gustafson.

Lord, if you mark our transgressions
Who would stand?
Thanks to Your grace, we are cleansed
By the blood of the Lamb…

14 August 2014

N is for Nothing’s Too Big

"Nothing's too big, big, big, for His power; Nothing's too little, little for His care"

A family-friendly worship song by Doug Horley (Duggie Dug Dug), a British singer-songwriter. Doug's songs have been used by churches all around the world.

13 August 2014

M is for More Love, More Power

Written by Jude Del Hierro in 1987; a interesting song emphasising the power which flows out of passion. There are two Greek words which are often used in the New Testament for power:

Exousia (ex-a-see-a) (Acts 1:7) - meaning authority.
Dymanis (do-na-miss) (Acts 1:8) - meaning power (from which we get the word 'dynamo').

Acts 1:7-8(NIV)
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

12 August 2014

L is for Lord, I Lift Your Name on High

According to Wikipedia, Rick Founds wrote this song on 1989 as part of his morning devotions, strumming his guitar at the same time. He was thinking of the "cycle of redemption", comparing it with the water cycle (the journey water molecules take as they circulate from the land to the sky and back again).

11 August 2014

K is for King Of Kings, Majesty

A powerful song, emphasising the awesome majesty of God, and written by Welsh songwriter Jarrod Cooper. In addition to being a songwriter, Jarrod is an author, conference speaker and broadcaster, as well as running a multi-site church fellowship of his own.

10 August 2014

J is for Jesus, Be The Centre

A song by Michael Frye now, one that means a lot to me. I find it useful to remind myself that Jesus should be at the centre of my life. In fact, the real truth is in realising Jesus' place at the centre of all things. Many people choose to deny this, or be ignorant of this truth, but scripture continually points us to this.

John 5:39-40 (NIV, words of Jesus)
"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."

9 August 2014

I is for Indescribable

A song written by Laura Story, a young lady who admits that she never realised that she could sing - so much less write songs - until she was in her 20s. She's very honest and humbled by her talent. In a interview that I read on-line she admitted, "Mine is not the perfect voice or the perfect life. My life is as messy as the next person's, and God is using me to speak to the Church. For this season of my life, God has really blessed me with some insight into who he is and what that has to do with me. For some reason he just gives it to me in song form."

The song has most notably been made famous by Chris Tomlin.

8 August 2014

H is for Hosanna (Praise Is Rising)

Written by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown, and inspired by the events depicted in Matthew 21.

Matthew 21:8-11 (NIV)
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’

The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’

7 August 2014

G is for Glorious Day (Living He Loved Me)

This is an old song, given a new lease of life by the band Casting Crowns, and taken from their 2009 album "Until the Whole World Hears".

The lyrics are based on the hymn "One Day", which was written in 1910 by John Wilbur Chapman; adapted by Mark Hall and with a new melody by Michael Bleecker. Worth a listen.

6 August 2014

F is for Faithful God

Written by Chris Bowater, this song of devotion reflects a little of the songwriter's own story.

The son of a church pastor, Chris's early life was spent playing jazz in the nightclubs of Soho. At the lowest point in his life, he cried out in dispair to God, and asked Him to help - if He could help. He could help - turning his life around in a very powerful way.

God is faithful, indeed.

5 August 2014

E is for Everlasting God (Strength Will Rise)

This song was written by Brenton Brown and Ken Riley and was released in 2006. The song is still very popular, having once been hailed as one of the most performed songs of any genre in the USA. I understand that Brenton Brown initially started writing this song during a period when both he and his wife were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which left them both physically and mentally drained.

The song is based on various verses of scripture, but it's largely inspired by the following:

Isaiah 40:27-31 (The Message)
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

4 August 2014

D is for Day

Colours Of Day (Light Up The Fire) is a song by Sue McClellan, John Paculabo and Keith Ryecroft. Popular in schools and chosen by many people for use at their wedding, it effectively conveys a great truth: that we need to be out and about in the world, telling people about Jesus wherever the people are:

"Go down in the city, into the street,
And let's give the message to the people we meet
"

3 August 2014

C is for Come And See (We Worship At Your Feet)

A Graham Kendrick song now, first published in 1999. It is said to be "a meditation around the Cross", allowing us to consider our own personal feelings as we each come to the foot of the cross, the site of Christ's great sacrifice.

2 August 2014

B is for Behold What Manner Of Love

The song was written by Patricia Van Tine, in 1978. The words of the song are a paraphrase taken from of the third chapter of John's first letter...

1 John 3: 1-3 (NIVUK)
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 August 2014

A is for Ascribe Greatness To Our God, The Rock

Written and composed by Don Moen, this song has a particular significance to me; it was used at a tent mission that I was invited to attend by a work colleague back in the early 1980s. The words still stick with me. I can see that this occasion was the first step of a spiritual journey that eventually led me to making a commitment to Christ in 1988. The lyrics of the song are inspired straight from this piece of scripture:

Deuteronomy 32:1-4 (ESV)
"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.
For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he."