Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To Hell With Hell

Don’t know if I’ve talked about hell before, and this is not going to be an explanation of what it is and it isn’t. This entry comes about though, as I am reliably informed that people seem to think that their existence here on earth is hell. I can sympathise to a degree with their plight. A lot of people around the world are living in varying degrees of hardship, persecution, torture, suffering and torment that few would be able to cope with. For all that though, I still think this is a cheap view of hell, even as we have a pretty cheap view of heaven as our mortal finite concepts and imaginations only give brief glimpses and hints as to what beauty awaits us should we be found in Christ on His return.

In any case, for all the misery that people are enduring to different extents in different contexts I get the impression that the role of a peacemaker (part of the deal of those who follow Christ) is to bridge the gap between the perception of their hellish existence and a path of seeing it from a godly perspective which doesn’t always alleviate the physical circumstances necessarily but allows the spirit of love, joy, peace and righteousness to inform the view of that circumstance. In this way it’s the chance to see the answer to the prayer of the heavenly kingdom seen on earth as we replace the person’s sense of hell with our best Spirit-driven efforts to announce and reveal heaven on earth. So to hell with the hell that people endure and let the righteousness, beauty and joy of the presence of Christ pervade the lives of those to whom we come in contact through our word and witness. That means it’s as much a glass of water, a listening ear and relief of pain as it is the proclamation of God’s love expressed in Christ’s sacrifice.

Now let me get this clear. My heart does break at hearing the kind of things people have to go through and the lack of love, respect and basic necessities people endure through, but it’s very true to me that while there’s life there is a glimmer of hope in that situation. That is why it’s not hell to me. Also when I note how some cultures and communities rise above their plight and are able to carry on and persevere through the trials – check those who went through slavery – then there’s no reason to accept the status quo. Real hell would be not even having that opportunity or glimmer to see things from God’s perspective. Real hell would be never having a chance to see that brighter future in Christ. Real hell would be eternity without God.

This though also runs into the issue about what heaven is like and the arguments that people put to me as to why it would be boring ig everything was perfect and how we need the evil to appreciate the good. I’ve never found these arguments to be particularly convincing. Sure if I never had a problem I wouldn’t know God could solve them, but that’s only because I wouldn’t need God to solve them and presumably our relationship would revert to how it was with Adam and God pre-Fall and what Jesus indicates in His time on earth. I so want to open up people to the fact that we were not meant to be this way, and this way is not going to stay with us forever. There’s got to be something in a perspective on perfection that helps us realise ourselves and just how hard the discrepancy is. I believe that is available in and only through Christ.

I also think this informs us as to the whole issue of living this life to see the kingdom come but also living in the light of the fact that this is not our resting place, this is not our abiding home, but there is one to come and we so want to see it and invite others to live today in the light of that eternity.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Monday, August 25, 2008

For A Laugh

I cannot recall the last time I watched an entire stand-up comedy show on television. You know the likes of Richard Pryor, Lee Evans, Bill Cosby, Billy Connolly, Jack Dee or whoever. Now on one really wacky outing I purchased a Robin Williams stand-up routine on DVD. That was years ago and not too long after I gave it away. I remember back a few years and a friend treated me to go to a theatre and watch Harry Hill and that was good.

One of my good friends at the moment is
Andy Kind who is a stand-up comedian by trade – and a good one as far as I know. I admire stand-up comedians and one of my current heroes looks to them as almost modern day prophets who can actually convey a lot of observational truth on the state of the world.

Tonight for the first time in a long time I sat through a stand-up routine –
Chris Rock: Never Scared. Chris Rock is not Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy or Bill Cosby. I can see why he’s so popular and highly rated, he’s a clever guy. I didn’t find what he did laugh out loud hilarious and watched on with some bemusement as to how the audience was ‘rolling in the aisles’ at the material. I guess my American cousins would wander why I find some of the stuff I find so hilarious that way. For all that I understood why it was funny and yet beyond that I saw how the material when you scratched the surface and sometimes raw on the surface was social and political commentary that was thought provoking as well as humorous.

I still need to understand why there’s a need for such a propensity to profanity. There’s something as well about the return to sex-related jokes that seems to always be a winner. Talk about basic instincts – it’s as though because it’s so raw and so close to home and so in touch with the human experience that it’s the easiest thing to get a laugh out of. Right there with the profanity and the vulgar there’s a reference to sex and violence that depicts a lot of society and cannot ever be addressed without the push to make us laugh about it.

I don’t want to have to filter so much rubbish to get the gems from such a performance. I would love to see people just being creative without having to hit those marks. I would love to admire the cleverness of these men and actually take a journey that’s positive and life-affirming and building, possibly towards the heart of the gospel and kingdom living. I understand that because of the way of the world this may not be that likely, but that’s why I pray for comedians like Andy Kind and his mate Tony Vino, so that they can push through some light in the dark world of comedy.

Isn’t it ironic that something that produces a reaction that should leave us feeling better about ourselves, something that is so appealing in a child – laughter – isn’t actually used as a medicine to heal but a method to make us laugh at how ridiculous life really is. When I read about laughter being a good medicine and contrast it with what it takes to make people laugh today I so long for people to enjoy the real fullness of joy to be found in God’s presence where you can have a laugh and it’s at no one’s expense, but for everyone’s uplifting.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Learning Life in the Spirit

So you’re still waiting for the Dark Knight entry. You think I’ve forgotten it. You think I’m not going to do it. You’re wondering what’s taking so long. You’re wondering if it’s going to be worth it. Well keep waiting then in the fullness of time all shall be revealed. Needless to say, I have not forgot. I am going to do it. It’s taking so long because it’s a teabag of an idea that needs to soak in the hot waters of my mind a bit more before the brew is complete. Whether it’s worth it or not will be up to you to decide, but it’s not designed to be my magnum opus, just some thoughts on the movie. Anyway …

Today I’ve started reading two books that threaten to further destabilise any hope I had of retaining my old superior ways of engaging with God. The first book looks at the problem of legalism and how it negates the New Covenant relationship I have with Christ based on grace.

The second book is called Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Dr. Jack Deere. I’m not one to completely take on board the thoughts and views of any writer, speaker, teacher or preacher. I endeavour to separate good from bad and allow good to challenge, provoke, stimulate and encourage me as it should. I don’t always succeed in the endeavour and sometimes I completely miss God in the whole affair. One thing I have picked up over time, however, is a growing awareness of my serious character flaws that God has healed although my journey towards its realisation is still in progress.

One of those areas is my pride often revealed in my desire to be right about the Word. It only crops up all too often, however, that the more I read the Word the more I realise that I don’t know the Word at all and that it’s best to just submit myself to this fact first and foremost and then allow that to reshape me. One particular area is in regard to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

It is a contentious area of teaching and application and open for much abuse and neglect. Something I am only too aware of now is that I ignore the ministry of the Holy Spirit at my peril. Likewise I pontificate about the ministry of the Holy Spirit at my peril. One thing I must endeavour to do is earnestly search the scriptures and God in prayer to understand more of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and the life of the church and apply that whenever I can.

I believe it is through the Spirit that God calls me, equips me, inspires me, provokes me and transforms me into the image of Christ. I believe that the power that raised Jesus from the dead can enable me to live above sin. I believe it is that same power that can conquer deep-rooted sin in my life and release me from bondages that I realise now prevent me from really operating in the freedom in which Christ has set me free. I believe it is this same power that convicts and converts me periodically – sometimes daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes minutely, sometimes seasonally. And yet for all that I believe I am only too aware that there is so much more for me to understand and to know – not just head knowledge, but whole life application – that will allow me to consciously, deliberately and intentionally engage in life in the Spirit that sees me producing fruit that lasts and brings honour to the Father in the name of the Son.

I feel daunted at times by the size and implications of all this, but then I am reminded of the holy love that sent Jesus to die on the cross for me and I realise that this journey is one of righteousness, peace and joy – to embrace and live life in the Spirit is to truly respond to the love so amazing and so divine that demands my soul, my life, my all.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stevie Helps Me Love My Enemies

Your patience on the Dark Knight review is exemplary and so to help you exercise this patience further I ask that you hold out a little longer. The reason for the delay is … well you’ll see when I eventually come out with it, it’s worthwhile.

Anyway I’m here at the laptop and it’s past the midnight hour and I had Stevie Wonder in my head since I got back home from a study session we have on Wednesday nights on spiritual warfare. I was singing
Send One Your Love and then segueing that into From The Bottom Of My Heart (trust me, if you arrange it right you can segue the two almost seamlessly). So no sooner had I got on the ol’ laptop having made the wife a cuppa and did some petty little domestic stuff in the kitchen.

I, of course, get me blog out of the way, that is the
brand new blog entry on the Stoke COG blog, and then after during all that I get me Stevie Wonder playing a wide variety of tracks like I Go Sailing (brilliant track – check the lyrics for some powerful stuff about where to get a real thrill for me), Feeding Off The Love Of The Land (this has got to me one of the greatest conscientious songs that mankind has ever penned) and With Each Beat Of My Heart (grossly underrated love song that outweighs most stuff that’s been put out by anyone … ever). Just the tip of the iceberg really of the great stuff I’ve been listening to.

Anyhow I was listening to this live version of
For Once Of My Life that he does with Diana Ross. As I watched it something that came to me was that I’d like to know how to love like Stevie Wonder. I don’t mean that in a fawning way as though the sun shines out of his posterior, but there’s something really big-hearted about a brother who can extend love and graciousness to a number of people who wouldn’t necessarily be the top of my list of people I’d like to do business with. That must really be love for the enemies in action right there. Embracing, encouraging and edifying someone whose character you’re not too keen on has to be something spiritually gifted from above.

This is not all that unusual when I consider that Jesus expressed this same love to enemies of God, i.e. us in extending sacrificial love, befriending me and highlighting the grace of God in the cross, so it shouldn’t be a problem for me to reflect that in a love that’s as much for the enemy as is it for a loved one.

Now all I need is a lot of help in living that out!! Still I can do all things through Christ.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Monday, August 04, 2008

Fishing For The Journey's End

Having a chat with a good colleague at work – just discussing fishing and how pointless it is to spend all that time to catch fish only to throw it away again! Not even to eat the thing! Other pointless pursuits I highlighted included F1 and the inanity of going round a track in a car making noise and getting nowhere.

I did concede that others may consider me sad for taking pleasure in 22 men kicking an air inflated ball of leather around grass in the hope to get it between three sticks and in a net. For all that though, football makes sense where fishing doesn’t. On the same topic hunting is a bit pointless as well if the best you’re going to do with the catch is to stuff it and mount it. What’s the point? You’re better off doing it for the reason we used to do it – because we need to catch the thing to eat it.

The thrill of the hunt is pointless if the result doesn’t match. That’s also my issue with people who say enjoy the journey as though the process is the thing. The process is not the thing; the process is pointless if it doesn’t have an outcome. The journey doesn’t make sense unless there’s a destination and if the destination is an anti-climax to the journey then the journey likewise feels a bit of a let down. I’m all about the destination. I’m all about having a point of doing the things that I do.

The beauty of following Jesus is that not only is He the goal – the destination of the journey – but he’s the journey as well!! I get to know Him on the journey so that I can reach Him at the end of the journey. That to me makes sense, especially in the light of having a destination that culminates and highlights what the journey was all about rather than being an anti-climax.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Sunday, August 03, 2008

About Authrine

Yesterday my wife celebrated her birthday.

She is not getting any younger, but someone’s forgot to tell her looks. Even last week someone thought she was in her early 20’s and was stunned when she informed them of her real age. I am incredibly blessed among other things to be married to a woman who looks so young and sometimes acts that age as well.

I never blogged about her yesterday because we spent most of it together … if you know what I mean … and for the first time in ages I went out for a meal with the wife of my youth and it was fun. Authrine was and is first and foremost my friend. Sometimes in the hurry and scurry of life with her priorities and my priorities and our schedule it’s a challenge to remember that, but last night afforded me the chance to be reminded of that and that was great.

I had the privilege of giving a tribute to my wife at our family service yesterday and God has been so good that it was effortless to talk of how blessed we are to have Authrine in our lives. She is a tenacious, compassionate, large-hearted, loyal, creative bundle of energy who leaves an impact on the lives that she hits and most of it for good. She’s not perfect but I’d spoil her if she was. I’ve seen her really blossom in the time that I’ve been with her to this point and because of her commitment to Christ I’m assured that she will just go on from strength to strength in her walk with Him and reflecting a character like His.

I know it’s not been easy for her over the last 8 years in England for one reason or another, but I do know that it’s been great for her in stretching her faith and her wings to be able to soar in friendship, service and love for others. My prayer for her life is just for her to continue to grow and never rest on her laurels but pursue peace in herself, with her church, friends and family and finally with those blessed by her acts of service.

Thank you Lord, for her, help me to support, encourage, cultivate and celebrate the most beautiful woman in the world.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Friday, August 01, 2008

And So In Closing

I first got into emails in 1996 and when I ended them I thought it was a bit boring just ending correspondences with ‘yours sincerely’ and even ending it with Christopher Dryden. So I got into a whole pseudonym business and ended it with ‘later, ned’ then I got out of that phase and currently as you may notice I end my posts on this blog and on most of my personal emails with For His Name’s Sake, Shalom, da man cd, which at least removes any sense of ambiguity. So I had a good chuckle reading this post about the ways we end our emails as super-spiritual Christians! Good ol’ Prodigal Jon – even if you’re not a Christian it’s worth having a chuckle at some of his insights on what we Christians get up to and what kinda traditions we’ve built around this following Jesus business.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd