“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
Matthew 6:12

In the revenge movie Man on Fire the lead character, Creasy, states,

“Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the
meeting.”

However I don’t think this is strictly true. In Jewish Tradition the
day before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) Jews will seek forgiveness
from others. Simply put you don’t ask forgiveness of God until you’ve
asked forgiveness of people on the day before.

The same ideas are taught by Jesus in the parable of the unforgiving
servant (Matthew 18:21 – 25) and seen in The Lord’s Prayer. Forgiveness
is not just what God does, we also need to forgive others and in
addition we need to seek forgiveness with those around us.

Perhaps this week, motivated by God’s amazing forgiveness, ask God to
challenge you on who you need to forgive and who you need to seek
forgiveness from. It’s not easy, it’s probably one of the hardest
things to do, but if the church is to live in peace and love it’s
essential.

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You also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house… 1 Peter 2:4                                                                   

The World is filled with stone monuments. Some made to honor gods and some to honor mankind. Some of the most beautiful ones are here in Indonesia. 

The Old Testament is filled with stories of erecting stone monuments (Noah -Genesis 8, Abram- Genesis 12, Jacob – Genesis 33 etc.) to remind all who saw them about the goodness and faithfulness of God. 

God’s amazing actions don’t end after the 22nd chapter of Revelation, He continues in His wonderful Faithfulness, Grace and Love to move in our lives. Yet it may seem impractical, let alone a strain on our backs, to build piles of rocks in order to tell others of how great God is on a regular basis. Can you imagine the paperwork required for planning permission ? However Peter reminds us that we are “Living stones” (1Peter 2) building a spiritual monument not a physical one, with Jesus as the capstone testifying to the world of the Glory of God. 

As you go about this week consider how your actions, thoughts and words can act as a monument to honor God; that in the spiritual realm you are part of the building process, which is creating the most stunning edifice that the world will ever see, built on the firm foundation which is our faith in Jesus

One of the first tricks I picked up in training as a teacher was the beauty and the simplicity of the “poster lesson”. When you couldn’t be bothered to plan a lesson at one in the morning, just simply putting on your lesson plan “class will make a poster of what they have learnt” saved so much time and so much effort. I could sleep easy knowing that there were no differentiated worksheets to be made and photocopied at 6am.

However during the lesson, after giving them 60 minutes to create a poster, you would notice how much time was spent by the pupils on the title and on the pictures, so much effort was put into having the perfect bubble writing and complementary colours… and the boys would find some way to incorporate guns, tanks or phallic objects into theirs. If you weren’t careful by the end of the lesson you would just have pieces of paper which would ornately say “The Reactivity Series” and nothing else… some may put that down to the fact that they haven’t been taught anything – that may also be true.

I think this goes a way to show that our society is obsessed with perfection; having a perfect title to a poster is better than having a complete poster… from looks to exam results to a nine dart finish we are all completely fascinated with getting everything right and nothing wrong.

My question is does this leech into our view of what God expects and our own understanding of what faith is?

Attending a “proper” church we have a time of confession and I end up praying the same prayer every week, “Lord I’m sorry about this, and I’ll try hard not to do it again this week.” I fear that my end of life report card will reflect my old school reports which were peppered with that very familiar phrase “could try harder!”

In very subtle ways this really weighs down on me, when I put discipleship (the process of being more like Jesus) in terms of my own actions I begin to feel down hearted and discouraged by my faith.

However is that what God intended when he said “…go and make disciples…” such a lukewarm attempt at being like Jesus which actually causes people to feel worse about their standing with God rather than better. (I enjoy the same irony when I go to the gym, my self-image gets worse even though I go there to improve it.)

But when I read the Scriptures, especially Romans 8, I see something different. Suddenly I’m shown how amazing God’s actions are in my life. Beginning with being told there is no condemnation in Christ and ending with the label that we are more than conquerors, I get very excited. No longer is it up to us to change our lives but we have The Spirit living in us. Wow!

I’ve always thought things would have been easier if Jesus had stuck around, sharing our faith and generally being a Christian would be a lot more straightforward if we had God in human form kicking around… Though fig farmers would be in fear of their livelihood. However Jesus said it was better that he go and for The Spirit to come… I think that puts into perspective how important The Spirit working in our lives really is and perhaps we need to appreciate more of what The Spirit has planned for us in our lives instead of ignoring it and just trying harder.

A phrase used a lot to rebrand the Christian faith is “that it’s not a religion but a relationship” something that’s quite provoking and has everyone diving to their copy of The Shack to discover more about the true character of God. However I’ve discovered recently that in Christian circles our view of God isn’t the only thing that is shaped by the notion of relationship but also the view of others, I’m suggesting that our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is like a…. relationship.

When attending a new church looking to settle you bring along an imaginary checklist, unless you want to be seen as obnoxious; then you actually bring a checklist. You decide what style of music you like, how many lights the service uses, what version of the bible you like to be read to by, how good the coffee is and how long the vicar just stands and recreates a filibuster while trying to pad out the service.

After you’ve found that perfect church that ticks all the boxes you let your guard down; you begin to bother to remember people’s names, explain exactly the origins of your accent and begin to volunteer/press-ganged to do things around the church. At this point in time you begin to feel out your community.

In my many day dreams I have about going to a new church (they normally occur during boring church services) I believe that God has so predestined for me to be there that fitting into a new group of people will be like Cinderella slipping her foot into that missing glass slipper. (More from Cindy later) You want there to be that one empty chair round the log fire of fellowship that a number of your peers that all have the same similar taste in music, film and sport are huddled around and the cherry on top would be that attractive single God fearing girl that your parents have so fervently been praying for also goes to that small group.

But it doesn’t happen like that, people hope it does but it doesn’t. The consumerism in our society has people moving from church to church trying to find that place where they feel they fit in and has the right type of people that suits their needs and if you can’t find one… you can always just start your own. But let’s not just take it out retailers; they get a bad rep at Christmas time anyway, I read an article a few months ago describing the misconceptions that romantic films can create, that people tend to think that relationships don’t require work but just happen… like Cinderella and Prince Charming. I always wonder what happens after the fairytale ends, I feel that the social divide between Charming and Cinderella would probably bring the relationship to an end around the 6 month mark.

Fellowship needs work, in fact are relationships with others are actually relationships and we need to put some effort in. We need to give time to making friends and just being a big family together. James Mumford (a non singing son of Mumford) said that you have to learn to love it, you can’t choose your family. I need to prioritise spending time with my spiritual family, fellowship isn’t a switch that you turn on and it happens, it’s something that grows from spending time together, staying for that extra coffee at church, going to the pub when you rather go home and deciding to serve alongside others when sometimes you would be served yourself.

But once you have fellowship with one another, it’s an amazing tool and support in the walk with our Lord, and I so desperately need help with that.

After a year of this blog, and 35 posts later, I’ve decided to semi-retire from blogging 

Thank you to all those have supported/humoured me in this project, it has meant a lot.

Peace

JT

I spent the last night at my house in Chorleywood in very much the same fashion as I spent my first night, in an empty house with a sleeping bag and rucsac full of my belongings. It’s funny how things come full circle. In the 359 days I’ve spent there so much has changed yet I feel I’ve come to a similar juncture in my life.

I once read an excellent dissertation on the concept of time in the Bible, and how things are not seen as linear; having a beginning, middle and an end but a circle, having a beginning, middle, beginning. My spiritual mentor at Lougborough described discipleship as an inward spiral; you keep going round and visit the same situations but closer to God.

In the Bible when momentous occasions occur they made physical markers to remind them of what happened. I try to take that principle in my spiritual life too, on the anniversary of my baptism I ask myself what I’ve learnt in the year and what I what to learn in the next. I play out a conversation in the head of me speaking with me a year ago and me in a year’s time, giving and receiving advice from my younger and older self. It may lead to me become bipolar but I find it helpful.

A moment about coming full circle in the Bible has haunted me this year. When Moses encounters God at the burning bush he is sent by God to free his people from the grasps of Pharaoh. Obviously Moses has his doubts and queries God on his choice of servant. However God replies with this,

“I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

To be honest if I was Moses I would not be entirely satisfied with this as a guarantee, his sign that God was with him would be that in the future something would happen, they would return full circle and meet with God there. Not really a sign but yet another promise.

This is what faith is; trusting in God. Every circle of our life that we embark and complete we see that God has been with us, never has he lets us down and so we should believe that he will still keep up his promises in the future.

God’s statement to us is that when any chapter in our life finishes we will still be worshipping him for who he is. An amazing promise yet a hard one to implement.

At times the way may seem dark but we need to remember the faithfulness of God. We sing “You were, you are and you will always be” What an amazing statement, God fulfilled his promises in the Bible, he is with us now and will continue to do the same. Great is his faithfulness.

So as I come full circle on one chapter of my life I realise God’s faithfulness and provision, and though at times I’ve wondered what He was up to I leave Chorleywood praising God for his faithfulness and look to learn to trust Him more in the next chapter.

To the cross I look.
To the cross I cling.
Of its suffering I do drink.
Of its work I do sing.
On it my Savior,
both bruised and crushed,
showed that God is love,
and God is just.

At the cross You,
beckon me,
draw me gently,
to my knees and I am,
lost for words so,
lost in love I’m,
sweetly broken, wholly surrendered!

What a priceless gift:
undeserved life
have I been given
through Christ crucified.
You’ve called me out of death.
You’ve called me into life.
And I was under Your wrath,
now through the cross, I reconcile.

Jeremy Riddle

I keep having this vision of a church congregation sitting in the dark.

As I started this year my loving Mother gave me a book called Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby, a very thought provoking bible study on being able to determine God’s call. A perfect companion for me to work through on this year of discovering what I want to do with my life… so I thought. However it very quickly and biblically points out that when God calls people their lives get turned upside down. Just thinking about a few characters of the bible; Noah, Abram, Moses, David, Nehemiah, the Disciples or Saul, their lives completely changed from what they were doing to what they ended up doing for God’s Kingdom.

As a wise commentator said,

Is this the God of the Bible, did God appear to Abraham and give him a spiritual hug? Moses? Gideon? Paul? God met people where they were at, that much is true, but revealed to them His plan for His kingdom, demanded a change of lifestyle to be involved with.

When Jesus first appeared to Peter, he didn’t reveal his majesty by catching that load of fish and leave him to it, no, he called Peter and told him his purpose for bringing God’s kingdom, which ended in his martyrdom.”

So what does that mean to us? I think when it comes to deciding what to do with our lives we do wonder around the desert looking for a bush that’s on fire to tell us what we should do. However I think we end up sitting in dark churches if we do.

Sometimes we think it would be a lot easier if God just came out and told us what to do, what job to have, who to marry or to even get married at all! We are all called to some fantastically challenging, Kingdom changing things (walking humbly with our God! What does that actually practically look like day to day?), that’s what God gave us his word for… to instruct and call us on how to live our lives.  Perhaps we would like the specifics, but faith is stepping out not knowing all the details. We can trust that God is proud of us and loves us no matter what we do.

We would love the glamour and appreciation to be called by name to do something in a face to face meeting with God, but we are already called to do the little things in our lives to transform this place to God’s kingdom. Sometimes we sit in churches waiting for God’s call… and none of us feel called to change the lightbulbs.

I’ve been looking after my sister’s guinea pigs for a month now, 4 weeks of filling water bottles, filling food bowls with pellets (a certain irony appeals to me that their food pellets and their droppings are nearly exact in appearance) preparing fresh vegetables and of course cleaning out their cage!

So why do we tend to have pets, apart from those of us who have them for practical reasons like gun dogs or sight dogs, why do so many of us choose to have a pets and the financial, emotional and physical burdens that come with them, forgetting the time they take up? Many of my friends are contemplating getting pets at the moment; it’s become more of an adoption process than a purchasing one.

I think it boils down to a need for us as humans to love and to feel loved. That’s why we care for these animals, to have an outlet of love and to hopefully feel loved back. For me that’s why dogs are more popular, because they show blind devotion back to you, cats are a little more picky!

Where do we get this overwhelming urge to love from? Of course I’m going to say God, one day the point of my blog will be yoghurt or dental hygiene, but for today it is God. We’re told that God is love, and I think all aspects of love that we experience in our lives teach more about who God is and how he operates. So with the more we love, the more we learn about God. I see people around me really grow in their knowledge and understanding of God because of marriage, children and yes even pets after experiencing new aspects of love.

Perhaps we all need to experience a little more love in our lives. I’m told that a person requires at least one hug a day to sustain them, perhaps it’s time I at least tried to reach my quota.

Well my i-blog got as much response as a sermon at an Anglican church… was I a fool to think that apathy wouldn’t leech into cyberspace? (Feel free to leave comments on this question)

For those still lacking the energy to scroll down the page to the previous entry, I posted two questions…

i) With so many religions and “gods” out there, how do we know that we’ve picked the right one, and how can we show others ours is the right one?

ii) Does God have to make use of a “Hell” to be a just God?

Well to summarise my own feelings, with those of Wilson, O. this is my reply to the questions.

i) With every “evangelistic” preacher I meet they state their belief about what makes Christianity unique to other religions. I’ve heard that incarnation, grace, the cross, Pentecost and the Holy Spirit are the single reason why our faith is different from “the others”. Perhaps we should audition them on a Pop Idol/Britain’s Got Talent Contest to see which one is truly the unique reason why we’re different. The point I’m making is that it doesn’t matter; God is there not to fill a want but to fill a need. Shopping religions just doesn’t make sense to me, if you are trying to tailor make or find a faith for yourself then you are doomed to fail. Our emotions, decisions and state of mind change so often that they can’t be relied on. Thankfully God doesn’t alter and is faithful, and faithful to those who seek Him. My own belief system is based not on science but my experience of God. As a gospel song goes, “I know my saviour lives, because I spoke to him this morning” I have enough faith in the promises God makes that if you search to fill the need your spirit/soul has… you’ll find the God of the bible. What makes our God unique is that he is God.

ii) I think the second question is a lot easier to answer, O. Wilson (via C.S. Lewis) simply put it “If God will not force man to accept salvation, there will always be the possibility of a man not being saved, and so he cannot be in the eternal presence of God”

The way that I was actually asked the question was “if God exists and sends people to Hell, maybe I don’t want to follow him” I have never understood, or try to understand devil worship… but those who acknowledge that there is a Hell, yet still give two fingers to God I think have major screws loose in their head. You can argue theologically, philosophically or just say God can do what he blummin’ well wants to do and you come to the same conclusion… Hell can exist. William Barclay says that we have two choices in evangelism… to show people the Glory of God or hold them over the fires of Hell. It’s up to us to choose which we think is more loving.