Saturday, February 28, 2009

Suffering and Spiritual Growth Part 4

This is quality stuff I wholeheartyedly recommend to you. Watch the whole playlist

For His Name's Sake

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lead Me, Guide Me- Pastor E.Dewey Smith Jr. Sings

As I mentioned in an earlier post I enjoy the sentiments of this song. I've heard it before a few years ago and it left an unforgettable mark on me just because of it appeal for help. I didn't realise how much a part of the hymnody it was for some folks and had never heard the verses before. So coming across this particular post was cool in a number of ways. It was cool to see good ol' fashioned church in the 'Pentecostal' tradition doing things as only they know how. It was cool seeing the verses and getting a hold of just how much the songwriter needed the Lord's guidance in all aspects of his life. It was cool seeing some typical points of that kind of church life from the music, arrangement, Pastor Smith's vocals and encouragements during the song - quality stuff.

And thus I implore you enjoy this here song.

For His Name's Sake

Lead Me, Guide Me

Apparently some people believe Elvis Presley is still alive. Some people are not convinced that the reports of his demise 32 years ago were legitimate and there have been reported sightings of him all around the world including such exotic locations as Milton Keynes, Tamworth, Stockton-on-Tees and Kettering. OK so I've made that up ... or have I?

He might have had a huge impression on the rock world, but I was never that fussed about the brother myself. I do appreciate his efforts at maintaining a spiritual consciousness of some sort even if it was severely compromised by his ill-advised lifestyle. The gospel tunes he recorded were interesting. This one I love in particular because I love the sentiments of the song in terms of looking to God for guidance and leadership. That resonated big time with me.

So Elvis was good for something even if he has left the building of life.

For His Name's Sake

Sweet Sweet Spirit (High Quality)

Elvis Presley, eh? Who would have thunk it? I can imagine in the middle of his set looking at rock classics that put him on the top of the tree in the industry he slips this track in there and it bamboozles people waiting to see him swivel the hips making his issue about jailhouse rock.

I love acapella when its done like this, although the Gaither Vocal Band and Ernie Haase's Signature Sound do a great advance on this arrangement.

Fine stuff indeed.

For His Name's Sake

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shine Jesus Shine - Music Video

In my more cynical moments songs like this would get a pasting for being typical cheesy Christian singing that wasn't gutsy, real and raw gospel music.

Thank God I didn't remain in ignorance. Don't get me wrong, it's still cheesy, but when we consider the lurical content and the ethose of the song looking at Christ shining through everything I can't really complain at that. Such is my accommodating nature to it, that is why I've posted it up here now. It forms a part of a good set of songs that are the back-drop to a serious session of writing that I'm on until about the midnight hour and then I can work on the proper blog entry for the night!!

Shine on ... hold on ... wrong song ... you get what I'm saying, though.

For His Name's Sake

My God - Stuart Townend

This is a good soulful, powerful, rich gospel song. I've loved what Townend does with things like Beautiful Saviour and now I'm enjoying this particular effort and the direction the lyrics with that wonderful rejoinder that our God takes the broken and makes them whole. Amen.

For His Name's Sake

I Will Serve The Lord

There are difficult decisions to make in life. From where you will take up your life after full time education, to who will be your spouse to the career path that you take. Even now I face a number of important decisions about the priorities of my life that will affect my family, my local church and my livelihood. In the past I've had to deal with a lot of inner conflict about what the motivating factor would be for the decisions I make. As of late those queries have more and more been submitted to the ethos of this song summed up in the title. Yeah I'd love a great life as defined by my peers, but more importantly because of who He is and what He has done in my life especially as typified through His Son then my choice of motivating factor is already taken and determines all my decisions. That's just me, I trust you'll at least consider this perspective.

For His Name's Sake

We Will Stand - Russ Taff

Gestures can be powerful. I live for the day when I am a part of a truly multi-cultural community of grace - not theoretically or universally - actually in the local area mixing with people from a plethora of backgrounds with that enriching plethora of stories.

So these kind of gestures mean much to me and I believe the day will come when the church reflecting the challenges in Corinth, Rome and Ephesus will be that beacon of what it is to be one in Christ.

In the meantime, enjoy the gesture.

For His Name's Sake

Russ Taff - Bethlehem, Galilee, Gethsemane

Russ Taff. Top dude. Love his attitude at the Gaither Gatherings. Love his attitude as part of the Gaither Vocal Band and his support of them even after he left. What strikes me about the guy is that he's a guy not afraid to declaire his passions on what he believes and this song sums it up for all true believers today. Great stuff. Enjoy.

For His Name's Sake

Russ Taff Interview

Hearing testimonies like this are the reasons to become a Christian and stay that way whenever you struggle.

For His Name's Sake

Mavia Dyer, The Gaither Vocal Band and Team

I want to put on the record my appreciation of Mavia Dyer.

When I was growing up in my secluded place in my isolated street and isolated church and isolated town, my brother and sister were in equal parts my best friends and dreaded enemies. The manipulation and word games we played against each other sharpened us up a treat to deal with the stupid outsiders.

A positive outlet of the process was the way we worked together on projects. We did alright as the Wellingborough FYC (church youth group) getting good funds in through sponsored events and more importantly successfully winning the national quiz two times out of three attempts.

Our best work together was as singers. We all loved music and immersed ourselves in listening to it and then when we sang together we were gifted to be able to know parts and harmonise so well. The way we were it was a simple case of people knowing their parts, there were no egos or prima donnas. We were too young and in-bred to ever be competitive against each other in public. In private even that competition was reinforcing the status quo – Ruth as the oldest was in charge, David and I were on a par however much I wanted to believe otherwise. When it came to the public stuff there was a solidarity and unity bred from sticking together and only having each other for so long. We knew our parts and were able to convey them in straightforward but faithful ways.

Ruth and I in particular are not outstanding singers (David definitely is), but because we know how to play our parts we were recognised even by the National Church Choir (
Merrybells) and the National Youth Camp Choir and if we wanted to go further the opportunity was always there. It was all based though on that love for singing songs together reflecting whatever diversity and harmony we could. It’s a principle we took to the choirs we served on. We just loved getting our parts right, seeing how it fitted into the larger picture of the song and being guardians of the mood and feel of the songs. Such was out knack and capacity that you could throw a song at us and we would have worked out the parts almost automatically. We were trusted to help our parts get the song as well when we sang on those choirs.

We were not being flashy or arrogant and were definitely seeking to be team players. Indeed as an expression of our natural reclusive, retiring selves if there was the opportunity to just blend into the background we would do just that. Even now I prefer being out of the limelight and being part of the backing staff and team who get the stuff done behind closed doors. As God would have it, though, one of main strengths requires coming out of the shadows and actually at times stand out and stand alone. Yet I’ll always treasure those times just being part of a team contributing to something far greater than the sum of its parts. One thing that doesn’t leave me now even as we sing in church settings is listening for the parts and seeing those harmonies and how it can enrich a song in ways that others may not consider.

So what does Mavia Dyer have to do with this? Hold that point, I’ll explain … in a moment.

You might have gathered as well that I’ve been making a big deal of the
Gaither Vocal Band in a couple of the latest YouTube posts that have graced these here pages. I got into Gaither really unbeknownst to me back when I moved up to Stoke-on-Trent. Some of my times in the weekends were spent in Nottingham and we borrowed some videos which featured some of the Gaither gatherings. Their songs had a haunting, powerful effect on me that left chills in my spine with the way they lovingly rendered songs of God’s love for us. I’d never heard anything like that before.

I was into them for a while, but from 2003 onwards I never really paid too much attention. Then last year I got back into them and particularly took interest in the Vocal Band. I love the concept of a group of guys getting together and harmonising so well. I am still desperate to get their new Reunion DVD. It’s like what makes Doctor Who of such a fascination to me, the fact that you can recreate something with new characters in the main parts and how GVB having gone for so long had had various members even with a recent re-jig in membership and can still retain something faithfully rich even in a different way.

I love the whole thing. I love the constant presence of Bill Gaither. I love the long-running members and how they give way to others who stay for a period. What each individual has to offer and how they put their own mark on the whole story. I check the latest developments in the story and tell you I am desirous to be involved in something similar. Not necessarily in the singing sense, just setting up a team project that sees different parts contributing to something far greater than its individual parts but where each part is crucial to its production.

It is with these sentiments that I post
the latest GVB offering which outlines what we’re on earth to do as followers of Christ – make music with our friends. That music may not be literal music, it could be working on a fashion assignment together helping with clothes and the like. It could be catering and using those culinary skills to bless others with fabulous memorable meals. It could be designing and maintaining a web-site or group blog that gives a platform for the many writing, design, editing, formatting talents of all who contribute. It could be any of these and more covering sport, arts, food, basic relationships. It just leaves such a deep impact on the heart of those as we enjoy what we have to offer and are built up by it in the love of a God who put us together.

Church gatherings can be too large and impersonal to have those kind of experiences, but there are so many chances to do it in small groups and same interest parties and the like. I can see why Jesus had 12 men around him to conjure this camaraderie and then had his close mates in Jim, Jonny and Rocky. Each contributes something unique, something priceless, something innovative, something that builds on the others and makes a glorious living monument to what love for God and each other can produce.

So where does Mavia Dyer come into it? Herein dearly beloved I now bring the strands together of another glorious gift from God.

I am not an expert on Mavia Dyer – I only really met her and began to get to know her since last August. The nature of our church life is that there’s more than enough business to go around. MD as I prefer to refer to her – cos I do most of the stuff writing so it’s about initials y’know what I’m saying – is what I call a great utility player. She’s a more than capable administrator, she is a budding photographer in her own right, she underrates herself seriously as a writer but I trust that will change in the days, weeks and months to come. She’s a willing supporter in any endeavour to which she commits herself. She brings a level of seriousness and at the same time fun and laughter when she gets involved in something and has a truly sweet personality.

She is already a crucial part of the church and many strands of the church will already testify of how much their life and projects have been greatly benefited from her input. I’m sure her friends from her time before Stoke-on-Trent would be able to give her tribute to something similar.

This is what tips it overboard to allow me to write about her at this time, was her presence at church in the praise and worship. She’s been on the P&W team since she’s been here so it wasn’t as though she did something hugely out of the ordinary. What it was that for some reason the P&W decided to camp next to me beside the screen and as we were singing MD and I naturally sang around each other in our various harmonising parts and the fun on her face enjoying my little twiddles and vocal doodles reminded me of my time with my brother and sister.

She’s one of those unassuming characters not looking to draw attention to herself and not looking make a fuss even though she has her standards and principles. These are the kind of people I’m attracted to do because those values are very much home values for me and although they may not want to have a fuss made over them I take great pleasure in turning to God and saying thank You so much for blessing me so richly and the life those who know her with your daughter MD. She just fits in so smoothly and neatly with whatever is required of her vocally and without a fuss and in doing so makes a good song that much better, that much deeper, that bit more than just a one-dimensional effort.

Where others may be more naturally talented, MD puts what she has to good use. Where others could make a bigger noise, MD just gets on with it and ensures she’s done her bit to contribute to that memorable bigger memory. That she loves Jesus and wants to serve God with her whole heart makes things so much more rewarding for those associated with her and my heart’s desire is that she may reap a huge bounty of blessings from God in every aspect of her life as she looks to find and occupy her place that God has set for her.

She reminds me in her actions that we are all a part of the same Body of Christ – each with different functions but inextricably connected to each other and thus responsible for each other and when we work together on something for His honour and glory as we do our bits in obedience to His command He commands His blessing on that expression of united strength and all of a sudden that which is good becomes great. For those who never experience such a thing in your life as the beauty of unity I really recommend you try it. You may get hints of it if you are part of a sports team or fan of something or someone, but there’s something far deeper and satisfying when that shared interest in the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

God bless team, God bless GVB, God bless MD and God bless you who read that you can join us on the most exciting, rewarding and fulfilling journey to ever embark on – the journey of life with Christ.

For His Name's Sake

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gaither Vocal Band - Loving God, Loving Each Other

The sentiments of this song are crucial to a post I'll put up soon. In the meantime I absolutely love this song and hope it is a blessing to you.

For His Name's Sake

Friday, February 20, 2009

Moving Swiftly On

My sleeping habits lately have left quite a lot to be desired and here I am again late night blogging as if I’ve got nothing better to do like get some grub and curl up next to my beautiful wife and catch some sleep. Yet here I am. I enjoy writing and I enjoy blogging and I want to keep the rhythm going.

The reason for the lateness of tonight’s blogging takes some historical context. Before leaving home for university in the Autumn of 1996 I had not done packing and moving before. Our family had moved once since I was born but thankfully I was around 6 or 7 at the time so I wasn’t really going to give a helping hand with lifting the double bed, the fridge and the large television! Getting the stuff to leave for university was a bit of a chore, but thankfully there wasn’t that much stuff to bring, mostly my clothes and books.

Such was my time of accumulating junk during my time at university that subsequent moves from halls of residence to a private rented landlord back to other halls of residence proved to be more and more inconvenient as more awkward moves were required. By the time I got back to Wellingborough and then moved to London the car was heaving under the weight of stuff I had to take with me, but that was alright because when I moved that would be it right? Oh, no I’d move at least twice in the six months in London, but that’s okay because it’s not as though I’ll be doing any moving right?

It really got crazy when I moved to Stoke-on-Trent in 2000. In eight years I moved almost the equivalent to once every year. Now by this time what had been clothes and a few books now includes furniture. That would have been bad enough but during the time in Stoke-on-Trent there was the ever present danger of helping others move from one crib to another and the joy of seeing how on earth did that couch that is in the living room get there when it can’t fit through the door and how are we going to unscrew this large wardrobe and put it back together again when we get to wherever we’re going?

I’d like to tell you that because of all those experiences I have got used to moving and have made my peace with it as inevitable in the life I live. I’d like to tell you that but in doing so I would be a liar. I hate moving. I’ve hated moving since the clothes and a few books and I hate moving when it’s an awkward wardrobe and even worse long sofa. Absolutely, positively possess an unrelenting hatred for moving. Indeed nothing helps me to appreciate simple living more than carrying around a whole heap of stuff into the umpteenth home that I have to live in. I’d love it if I literally could just my backpack, slap the laptop in there, a few pieces of clothing, some important books and that would be me.

David Banner didn’t have it all bad being able to move around America with just a satchel of ever conveniently stretchy jeans and a top that will be shredded before his next stop is over. At least he could travel simple. Me on the other hand – three children, one wife who happens to be a woman which means tons of stuff, no not as bad as other women, but bad enough. Who’s packing that up? Who’s shifting it in whatever transport is available? Who’ll unpack it and leave it to the self-same wife who is a woman to sort out? No siree Jim-Bob I do not have any love left for moving – if it can be avoided I would avoid it.

Your word of encouragement may fall in line with the sentiment that it cannot be avoided and like a journey involving a hill I should just get over it. Thanks for those sentiments, they are really appreciated in as much as anything that isn’t appreciated is appreciated. So you can guess what I’ve been up to that leaves me still writing this blog entry way past 2am. A dear sister of the church has been on the move and so as to support her in that move muggins has been hooked into helping the process that from 9pm would only take two hours, right? (You should get the drift of where this is going) Despite all that I plod on with the help without grumbling or complaining because what I’m doing I do out of a love for God and a special part of the family.

One of the things that makes moving bearable is the camaraderie with others. Doing these kind of things with friends is a glorious expression of what happens when brothers get together and work on something – indeed as Col. Hannibal Smith said I love it when a plan comes together. Just like life, it has its moments which are not always enjoyable but I get the impression that God doesn’t always want me to enjoy the process, but enjoy Him during the process, which is expressed in the context of loving relationships. I know that there are more moves ahead, but I hope that they are in the company of good friends to help get through them.

For His Name's Sake

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It is a pity I didn’t get to put on a post yesterday (Tuesday). I had just established a good pattern and rhythm of writing that saw me do the LJN around the midday hour and get the blog post here done by midnight. It was a rhythm that worked well and suited my needs and got me in the pattern of writing more often. It’s just a pity that I stayed up so late on Monday night/Tuesday morning that the whole of Tuesday went out of sync and so I was unable to catch up as it were.

Thankfully the rhythm has been somewhat re-started today and it’s good to be back in the groove. I love the writing thing that I have been on recently and I would love it to continue. Just want to make the time now to get my other scheduled posts up, but as ever time is a challenge in getting the right opportunities to work on those articles.

What will make it even more challenging this week is that I’m scheduled to be talking again this Sunday, so that will take whatever brain-space is left from other responsibilities. So the likelihood is that I’ll only be able to put those posts up later on Sunday if possible. That should be fine though seeing as though I intend to stay up on Sunday night into Monday morning to watch the Oscars. I wasn’t going to watch the Brits anyway and conveniently we had a cell group session tonight which reinforced the valid explanation for missing out. It is fair to say when it comes to pop music I’m not really that bothered anymore, whereas when it comes to cinema that’s more of a big deal.

I love cell group sessions just for the platform it gives to all participating to engage in the discussion and uncover something else about them that enlightens me about life and the character of God. I think it’s five sessions that I’ve been a part of … maybe six … lets mark them out – the first featured Olivia, Sarah, Authrine and myself and was about the time of looking at God the Father – since then we’ve looked at the Son, the Spirit, the Fall and now the Plan so I make that five sessions in total … could be six. In any case each session has been so riveting and enthralling and engrossing that I just hope that it will be the springboard for people to grow in faith and invite others to taste and see that God is good. I should tell you more about Sarah and Olivia – they make for fascinating reading in themselves. Now in addition to them there is Moses and Fred who are right characters however contrasting they are in nature. It is a joy to be a part of the group and I am enriched and encouraged in my walk with God.

More so today after what has proved to be a difficult afternoon in particular. The morning wasn’t so bad enjoying a journey to Wolverhampton and a fruitful meeting and another engaging journey back to Stoke-on-Trent in the company of my boss. He’s a good boss to have and the fascinating insights he was giving me in terms of the British Empire strategy made the journey finish all too soon. Then, though, I had to grapple with some correspondence and that as well as the atmosphere at work and some inconvenient developments made things awkward for me during the afternoon.

Thankfully I was able to complete one piece of correspondence but it seems as if just as one is done another needs to be done that makes things trying in terms of getting other priorities seen to. Thankfully again (I don’t want to stop being grateful for His many benefits) I am hoping to have a life-mapping session done soon to really be able to sort my stuff out and help me to see the woods for the trees in getting God’s perspectives on what He wants me to faithfully persist in and where He wants me to hang fire or drop loose completely. New seasons and new responsibilities are often hard for me to acclimatise to, but God’s grace remains ever present and so He guides me through.

In all this I am particularly grateful for the key relationships that have supported me in the time those that inspire, encourage, renew and give insight into what I’m doing. Never more than now am I glad to belong to God’s family full of bright and gifted brothers and sisters ready to help a brother in need. Well that should do it for tonight. Tomorrow (or today if you want to be fussy) is promised to no one, but in case I should be in receipt of it then there are plenty of challenges that lie ahead balancing one thing and the other, but again thankfully the grace of God will provide cover, refuge and guidance for all I am to explore for His great name’s sake.

Thank God for God!

For His Name's Sake

Monday, February 16, 2009

That's Just Stupid

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:1-3 ESV)

GOD sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He's looking for someone not stupid-- one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. He comes up empty. A string of zeros. (Psalm 14:2, 3a MSG)

This evening the word ‘stupid’ has cropped up frequently in my thoughts and some of my conversations with others. Obviously I am not the target of such an accusation in these conversations or thoughts, but the prevalence with which the word appears suggests that stupidity has been the name of the game tonight.

Now stupid is a word that our daughters are not allowed to use with each other or in any given situation. As is often the case with the parental prerogative though, despite not being able to say it themselves, we can justifiably use it as sparingly as we do. Thank God for parental privileges, eh! Don’t worry, either. Despite being bereft of that word both Deborah and Abigail have taken on with great gusto the use of the ‘disgusting’. Such is the mixture of disdain and relish with which both use the word that I’m not altogether sure whether I was saving myself the hassle with the ban on the word stupid.

In any case as I journeyed through the stupid phase I got to the point where I discovered something that really did epitomise stupidity. For all of my best endeavours to support people out of stupid decisions, thoughts and acts, it would be really be stupid of me to a) get hung up on the person choosing to stay in the stupidity and b) take drastic action to remove the choice from the individual so that they were kinda forced to go along with my radical rescue package that of course would help everyone out.

Reference is often made to the so-called Prodigal Son and how he came to his senses and made the decision himself to return home to get some grub. I’d argue that circumstances forced him to that decision, and more importantly, it was not anything as such that the son did that restored his fortunes but the gracious loving act of a compassionate father to reinstate the dead, lost son to his place in the family. The point is that for all my informed opinions about people and their decisions, the stupid person lives without God which is all of us, but for the grace of God and so it is only because of Him that I enjoy whatever good things I have in life.

All of that to say that what keeps me from beating the bush about the stupid things other do is being reminded of the stupid things I have done and the arms of the waiting father rushing to greet me and Himself set me up straight with the robe and the ring. I have seen the loving Father do that to so many other people and it is as ever for me to look to Him and trust Him to do what’s best in all things and ask for mercy that will allow me to avoid making some of the stupid decisions that I have made in this short time I have had knocking about this glorious dust-bowl we call earth.

God have mercy on our stupid souls.

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24 ESV)

For His Name's Sake

For The Atheists

This is an interesting plug for those who are confirmed atheists.

For His Name's Sake

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It’s Just Another Sunday

Today was a good day. God has given me quite a few of those in my lifetime and I don’t often publicly state my gratitude for them. So here it is.

What made it good was that it had all the ingredients for a good day – bad points, turnarounds, good words and good company. I was saying to Authrine previously how much I felt Sundays suck. It flatters to deceive. I think I can get some kip, a bit of a rest, catching up with some stuff gathered over the week and some quality family time before church. The reality is it often just about offers enough time to turn my head and get in a decent conversation with Authrine before family demands and other requests mean that the time will be gone before church.

Today we were scheduled to meet some new family friends and there were some difficulties in terms of timing. It can really put me off and a miscommunication could have spoilt things. Thankfully the friends were brilliant. They were gracious in timing and flexible in their menu – I am undoubtedly the second fussiest eater in the world. Their company was fantastic and it was good getting to know them as we shared a bit about ourselves and the girls got to have fun with the toys available as our new friends have two children of their own. There is something about Christian fellowship that enriches conversations. It’s not about being contrived about where Christ fits in, it’s about how naturally He pervades through everything. It really brought joy to the conversation even when it became tender, vulnerable and transparent at times. I absolutely loved it and look forward to more experiences like that with them and other good Christian brothers and sisters from the large Body of Christ of which we’re a part.

From there the next highlight was getting to walk to church with my brother. I enjoy having my brother about, as you know, and so it proved with the walk and talk we had. Something I enjoy about rich conversations is that like the Garden of Eden they are served by different streams that get you buzzing. We talked about things from perspectives that were often left unresolved, but just having the talk was good in itself.

Sunday evening services are great because of their chilled format. You get contributions from others and then a stirring word to wrap up things neatly. You can find out a sample of how things go from last week’s session and I’m in the process of putting together tonight’s session which should be up by tomorrow.

A day like today proves several things to me. One, God is better than me. I mean that in the sense that where I see something of annoyance, God says He has a pleasant gift to make them seem as nothing. Second, my wife is a truly beautiful woman who is very different to me. We don’t often go out together or as a family in those kind of settings and when we do it’s often fascinating to see what kind of dynamic we’ll have and how that will affect the conversation. Today Authrine again revealed how she views our relationship that always makes me sit and reflect on things. Third, conversation is good especially when it’s life enhancing, life-refreshing and life-appreciating. Finally God started something that He has every intention of finishing and even if it takes 5, 10, 25 or 50 years, it’s worth sticking with the process because the end bit is always far better than the beginning.

Right-o – that should suffice for today. The working week lies ahead with its various challenges but I trust God to be able to make a success of it and should my life be spared to see the end of another week I hope to come back with even greater testimonies of His wonderful love in my life and the life of those in my circle of influence.

For His Name's Sake

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Quick Weekend Note

The teaching today worked out alright. What I enjoy most about the opportunity to teach is the creativity it calls for from me in making connections to some of the key points. It’s a conversational approach to the teaching ensuring that within it people are engaging with the material. It’s not always easy to discern whether people get it, but the test f the pudding is in the eating apparently.

My brother’s around so that has made the day that much better as we have been able to talk and catch up on a lot of stuff. He is such a gifted creative songwriter and producer that I’m eager for his stuff to get the airing it deserves. In the meantime he has a
MySpace page that I strongly recommend you check for yourself especially The Last Time sample which is seriously underrated.

That really is it for today. Hopefully I’ll be working through some of the outstanding articles in the next day or so and with Oscar night nearly two weeks away I want to share that elusive review of The Dark Knight among other reviews.

For His Name's Sake

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Brief Note On The Gospel: When A Plan Comes Together

It gives me great pleasure and I glorify God that with this post this year’s blog postings already exceeds the posts put up in the entirety of last year! It’s not even half way through February yet and God has allowed me to be faithful in this note-taking ministry. I trust that this is just the beginning of even greater consistency in posting insights as I get them and better ones as well as I co-operate with God through His Spirit.

I love the phrase ‘practicing Christian’. It suggests so much. It suggests that you’re actually putting things together for a proper performance. Secondly there is the element of actually like a doctor doing what you’re there to do – be a Christian. There’s a lot of timidity in some circles from professing being a follower of Christ. That’s understandable because it does come across as rather arrogant and proud to suggest that you are indeed a disciple of Christ. Yet for all that I profess to follow Jesus Christ. I fail often, but His grace allows me to eventually get over it and get back on the path for His Name’s Sake.

Part of that following sees me being given great opportunities to share and facilitate sessions to explore what it is to follow Jesus. We’re currently going through a 26 week series looking at the basics of belief and in that overall series we’re doing a trilogy on the tragedy to triumph story of the bigger picture of God’s plan of salvation. Last week as you know we looked at the bad news which left us on tenterhooks with just how bad the situation is. I’m a bit concerned by portrayals of Christianity that neglect the bad news. I’m not convinced by the ultra optimistic view of humanity that says that we’re alright really. The mission of Christ to humanity doesn’t make sense in that way of thinking.

I don’t need to make too much of the bad news – the reality of the world outside paints the picture so easily for me. The real delight is in the midst of that to present the good news. This is what we’ll be looking at tomorrow should God spare our lives and I’m getting really excited about it. I’ve had it in mind ever since the series began because it links with the theme of my heart for the last three years which has been about what is the gospel. I hope to post some of the notes and slides from the presentation at some point tomorrow evening, all being well.

What I wanted to do is share some of the very brief points that I’ve made that have formed the basis for the session – a basic outline of the plan of salvation. These notes are in line with my cultural connection which on this occasion is the 80’s cult classic – The A-Team where Hannibal Smith’s catchphrase was so appropriate – “I love it when a plan comes together.”

How the plan comes together

Father creates perfectly – culminating in Man created to reflect Him

Man disobeys and falls into sin, corruption and death – meriting the wrath of God

Father sends Son to live blamelessly – reflecting initial perfect image bearer

Son offers His life as the ransom/payment for sin – taking on God’s wrath

Father raises Jesus from dead by His Spirit

That Spirit is given to men to raise them from death to life by faith and repentance

That which was initially created perfect and corrupted, is seen as perfect again as it is processed to fulfil this picture of perfection

This is such an amazing and glorious picture of the real love of God that this is why He rejoices for every lost one who comes home and why we too should love for the joy of others returning and being shaped into the image of the loving, forgiving, redeeming, restoring, sanctifying and glorifying God. It’s good news to me and I trust it will be good news to you.

For His Name's Sake


Today (Thursday) I came across a valuable lesson of God in appreciating things from a different perspective – through re-evaluations.

My dear friend Steve Wood is a Liverpool fan. You will be aware that I too support Liverpool, but this brother really does worship Liverpool Football Club. I am but an amateur in comparison to what this brother does. I got to catch up with him for the first time in a fair few weeks. He gave his refreshingly optimistic opinion that Liverpool are still up for winning the league. His rationale was fair – apparently if you look at the run-ins to the end of the last three seasons Liverpool have done better than Manchester United. Indeed over the calendar year 2008 Liverpool accumulated more points than Manchester United and where they let themselves down was in having such a shocking middle of the season that by the end we were just too far away. Now we are still within touching distance of the Red Devils and are yet to play them at Old Trafford and so if we were to follow the pattern of the last few years then winning the top trophy is not beyond us.

Now that’s Steve’s view of which he is certain and that is what makes me love the guy – that sense of certainty. I remain to be convinced myself and as I’ve shared elsewhere I am of the opinion that the trophy won’t be leaving the cabinet room of the Theatre of Dreams.

Having said that I’m still not convinced that Stoke City will stay in the Premier League but I have heard two decent comments which have suggested that with their decent home form and the fact that they have played the tough sides they have a great run-in that could see them stay up. So the ideal situation for all parties concerned is for the Reds to clinch the top trophy and for Stoke City to somehow miraculously stay up.

I am putting it on record that if Tony Pulis manages to keep the side in the Premier League he should get Manager of the Year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Stoke City play the ugliest football in the top division and would find it fitting that they return to the Championship from an aesthetic perspective. I appreciate the fact, however, that for the sake of regeneration in the city and general morale it is in the best interests of all for the club to stay in the Premier League. There again I was reminded then of other views of looking at thins that can better inform the way that I look at things.

Then the conversation with my dear friend Steve touched on the achievement of David Beckham in equalling Bobby Moore’s outfield record caps for England. I am not a Beckham fan and feel he’s overrated to the extent that I felt it was an indictment on English football that the brother has got so many caps. Steve and then another top bloke Steve Bailey chipped in to suggest that actually Beckham could only make it if there was something there. It is true that he is a hard worker and I conceded that there is something for marketing people to put their hat on and there is good reason why he has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid and now AC Milan arguably the three biggest teams in Europe (although I’m sure Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich would want a say in that).

Although I maintained my difference of opinion it did make me think. At the end of the day it’s not Beckham’s fault that he’s come about in this time in history. He has created a lot of seminal moments in English football history over the last ten years. It is not Beckham’s fault that no other English right-sided midfielder has been able to make a case to be in the side. It is not Beckham’s fault that no other England player over those 10 years has impacted football with his style of play like Beckham. The brother has worked hard and got his results. It’s like the Madonna factor – it’s not natural talent, flair or gifting, it is about making the most of what you have and putting it to good effect to the appeal of those who look on. I cannot begrudge a brother that.

On further contemplation and reflection I do not begrudge him that. I congratulate him on his significant achievement – good for him. So what that proved was that the measure by which we assess things and people has to be carefully considered because it maybe a case that for this season and in this time particular players rise to the top. It does not have to mean they are the best in the world or the best ever, but credit where it’s due. That again allowed me to be careful how I perceive things.

The final episode that reinforced this was a training session in which I participated this evening. It was looking at mental health and engaged in wits definition, its mentors and where it has grown. That required quite a number of difficult terms and potentially long-winded explanations. Thankfully people engaged with the session to prevent it becoming too tedious.

Yet I have to confess that I found the session somewhat boring and mundane – there was something about the presentation material that was not engaging and the content itself, although highly informative, was just dull and far too wordy. (Yeah, you read that right, Mr. Wordsmith who was born with a dictionary in his mouth and a thesaurus in his ear found something with too many words.) Usually such an experience would leave me rather cheesed off at a waste of an evening.

As I walked home, though, reflecting on it I heard God point out that walking with Him is not about doing everything that’s glitz and glamour and razzmatazz. God is not only found in the exciting and the thrilling. Just because it’s loud and bouncy does not mean it is straight from above. It is in the mundane and routine that God can speak and as followers of Him we need to look for Him there. Even in that which appears mundane and boring I must look for God’s presence there and rejoice in it so that I can see life in something that on the face of things appears lifeless.

God was at the training session – there was a lot that I was not aware of like an accurate definition of schizophrenia. It also highlighted how relative the issue of mental health is and how based it is on political and social trends. It also highlighted the anthropocentric nature of mentoring and the mental health care situation which promotes a level of relativism that is subtle but dangerous when left unchecked bringing to the fore again some of the reservations I have about the modern trend towards the therapeutic as the answer for all ills. It then challenges me to find the godly alternative – indeed the original way designed by the Heavenly Father by which we can find and relish wholeness in body, mind and spirit and how communally we can express that through the community of grace.

All of which re-emphasises again how important it is to see things from a different perspective so that we can get the depth and richness from something that we would have missed out on had we left it to our own stuck-up, prejudicial ways. Thank God for the light. Thank God for hard-working men. Thank God for shining even to make the boring and mundane the source of the profound by His Presence.

For His Name's Sake

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That's A Wrap

So today was a packed, packed, packed day. Community Cohesion Day featuring pupils from Mitchell High School. Engaging with them at a lunch held at NORSACA where I got to appreciate a lot more what it was to be organised and what it is not to be organised. Then off to a partnership meeting with youth leaders from across the city putting on events that engage young people both in and out of the Christian business. From there I collect my beautiful daughter from school and settle her to watch the new line-up of CBeebies. I’m off back to the YMCA to engage in an interesting conversation about driving with Her Majesty and our friend Gyaps. This was the prelude to a wonderful Chill, Chat and Connect session where topics ranged from relationships to Charmed to single parents and loads of quality stuff in between. To wrap things up neatly in this packed day I enjoyed a superb cell group session where testimonies of God’s goodness in trying times was the order of the day and again we get so much beautiful awareness of God’s goodness. God’s really busy doing good stuff in people’s lives and it’s almost though He wants me to be part of the action. There’s so much that could be said, but I’ll leave it at that for this blog post.

For His Name's Sake

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time, Team and Trust

Good. Those 24 hours were necessary to get a better grip on what I was going to rant on yesterday. I love football. I’m not ashamed to say that. It has been a glorious expression of many of the better qualities of life to me and has not been so much of an escape as an affirmation of some of my better capacities. As a result sometimes football informs my faith and nowadays my faith tends to inform my football. Often I would refer to Manchester United in derogatory terms for they are the foresworn enemies of Liverpool Football Club. Now I’m a lot more comfortable having a rapport with people and using the enemy lines to affirm our shared interest in the beautiful game. Facts don’t get in the way of enjoying things and now I don’t have to get involved in bitter rivalry, rather I can have fun and actually not take things so seriously.


On Monday, however, that fun aspect went right out of the window. Tony Adams and Felipe Scolari were summarily dismissed from their managerial positions at Portsmouth and Chelsea respectively. These were managers who were not given a full season to establish their credentials at their clubs. These are managers who have suffered because of the frightening and unrealistic demands of the clubs in question. I can tell such was my rage at such ludicrous decisions that I went on a five page bender of text spilling my guts on how it upset me.

Now 24 hours later processing this through the lens of faith, here is really my issue. To do anything right and for success in anything in life calls for three T’s – Time, Team and Trust. All three are necessary and work together to produce the goods. Without one of these ingredients the cake deflates. What is apparently the case in these situations is that the managers have been denied one or more of these assets. The most important one though is trust. You’ll notice how much easier it is to say you love someone than it is to say you trust someone.

Trust is not an empty sentiment. Trust is the intentional whole-hearted investment of something of worth into someone to produce something. I trust you, therefore I invest myself in your heart and expect you to produce confidentiality where necessary. I trust you and prove it by giving something of worth, something useful for the task at hand. Now what happens when I don’t get what is necessary, when it can be given, is that I’m disabled from the task at hand. That trust that is necessary if something is going to be productive. The time then follows because of the understanding in the relationship – what can anyone do in six months? What can anyone do in three months? In a football club where it’s taken people years to be successful. These decisions are so counter-productive and if you know your best people are against you that breaks up the whole thing about team. So you don’t trust, there’s no team and there’s little surprise that there’s no time. This however breeds a dangerous environment for anyone coming in there.

With the reports about the players not being supportive either, this is not the type of condition that you would want to expect people to thrive in. So for both Chelsea and Portsmouth the developments are retrogressive steps which they will live to regret. I feel for the fans especially of Portsmouth – the Chelsea ones have been spoilt by Mourinho and are now deluded. I especially feel it for Tony Adams who has appeared to be such a decent guy and if you really want to trust the guy you’ve got to give him time to set his business his way and if you don’t have the time – don’t hire the guy!! As for Scolari – that poor brother is just another victim in the quest of the new Jesus Gil – Roman Abramovic – to conquer all. He will learn eventually that successful teams are not made that way by which time the club will be seriously ruined. This is all because he doesn’t take time to build team based on trust.

May we learn from these experiences and thank God who trusts us with life and His Son and His Spirit to produce in due season.

(For the full splurge of writing that I had on yesterday see what I put
over here.)

For His Name's Sake

Monday, February 09, 2009

So Much To Type

I don’t know what it is about today but there has been so much to type about that I’ve been putting down words and words and words and so the task is to now try and edit down.

First of all a bit of an insight into how
today’s LJN came together.

Today’s LJN is inspired the episode of The Koala Brothers that I watched on behalf of my daughters as they were either getting changed for school or messing around. Obviously they don’t make children’s programmes like they used to so the only reason I put it on is for the entertainment of the daughters. However, there are times when God is talking through even children’s television.

So this episode of TKB featured Josie who appeared to be a kangaroo. She’s an industrious helper in the shop but for some reason was not able to tie her own trainer-laces. As a result she was falling over regularly despite friends tying the things for her. She was too embarrassed to learn to tie her laces and so tried to avoid moving to let them get loose. She was invited to an afternoon meal by TKB and went with a friend only to get her laces loose and when the friend went to help only messed it up worse because she herself didn’t know how to tie laces. Rather than looking for help when it came along she passed it by and thus risked missing the meal.

Thankfully TKB sussed that something might be up and proceeded to look for their friends. On finding them they were able to sort out the laces and even get to the heart of why Josie couldn’t tie her laces. The solution was linked to a cake box that Josie had put together and wrapped in a box with a bow tie. TKB were able to get her to look at her shoes like the cake box and so tie them successfully. The moral of the story was that often we are able to solve our problems when we look at them from another perspective.

Now this is so true for me as a believer indeed my journey has been one where I recognise that progress has only been made when I choose to look at things different to how I have before. Just because there’s movement in a journey it does not mean there’s progress just as age does not mean wisdom. So just in the same way the Father promises to lead us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake almost as if to suggest although He remains the constant there is no prescribed way that gets us through the journey.

To be fair to the other stuff I have to say I’ll save it for another blog post. This is such a positive reassuring knowledge that whatever path I choose to take I’ll get helpful signposts from the heavenly Father back on the way I should go.

As a clue to what lies ahead it has something to do with this crazy world of football that I enjoy observing and get so sad seeing the stupid things that men do. Anyhow – be prepared for changes as we follow the paths that He has set for us all.

For His Name's Sake

Late Night Movie Tip And Other Stuff

No you won’t recall because you haven’t read the review yet, but when you do read the review, you’ll discover that one of the prayer points we want people to hold is for Slumdog Millionaire to win the Oscar for Best Film. That reminds me to get that entry up and running which I hope to get done before the next weekend. In any case, this is a good omen as they say for the big prize in two weeks time or so.

Trust me that review is coming soon as is the book review on The Call and Tim Chester’s book. On that by the way, the reason I’ve taken it off the list is not because I don’t rate it anymore, but it’s just easier for me to have one book recommended highly at this time and that would be Guinness’ effort as will be clear when you read the review. Just to keep you informed I have just finished Michael Parkinson’s autobiography ‘Parky’. Not sure if it’s worth a full blown review like I’ll give the other two books. I read it because as an interviewer and a journalist Parky’s done some of the stuff I aspire to do – i.e. write, interview, do radio shows, look at media business opportunities, do documentaries. He has some fascinating insights to share on his experiences in the businesses. He gets to tell us about himself in what he has to say about the people and events that have surrounded him. He does come across as a bit cantankerous as though he hankers for good ol’ days that were old but not necessarily that good. For all that if you have an interest in the guy it’s a good read. Other than that not really one you’d want to spend time with.

Having completed that in fairly good time (maybe took a week, perhaps 10 days) I’ve moved onto reading Bobby Charlton’s autobiography covering his England years. What’s drawn me to it is this is the guy who still holds the record for most goals scored for England and is hugely feted as this country’s best footballer. Part of the World Cup winning side in 1966 his story would be interesting to see the journey he and his country took in claiming that most prestigious of titles. I’m into reading about winners and what made them winners to see if there’s anything I can pick up. That’s why I read the Bible so much. Reading what I have has been illuminative already with Charlton heavily affected by the 1958 Munich air disaster that claimed the lives of some of his close friends and colleagues and which he survived. It more than clouds the early parts of the book, but through that he also exalts the power of a team when it is all functioning together as it should. My kind of statement again about being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing to function right and thus contribute to the whole machine functioning well. If it works for my physical body I have no reason to doubt its effectiveness in groups, churches, workplaces and other organisations.

Also coming up is the reason why The Gospel in 3-D is the web-site of the moment. All that to come hopefully before week is over, giving me plenty to do and keeping me off the streets, which is a good thing for the pleasant citizens of Stoke-on-Trent. Keep praying for muggins so that I’ll be faithful to that which I’ve been called to do only for …

For His Name's Sake

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Blog Portfolio of Your Man CD

I love the writing thing as I may have mentioned before. What I’m looking to do to keep practice of the gift is to be writing as often and as disciplined as possible. As I mentioned at the beginning of the month contributions to this blog and the Among Friends blog have been alright this year.

Here’s just a bit more on
Life’s Journey Notes. One thing I definitely wanted to work on this year was the initiative known as Daily Thoughts. This started at the YMCA but there was interest from wider afield so to meet the demand as well as the email distribution it was the opportune time to do it through the blog. There was an issue with the concept of daily thoughts; chiefly being that it wasn’t always possible to do it on a daily basis. So as things settled down from the hectic beginning of the year I was committed to doing the email but not putting myself under the daily pressure. As I thought it through up came the concept of being on a journey and as with a lot of journeys it’s good to keep a note of what is going on in the journey, hence Life’s Journey Notes. I’ve been really glad that since it started this week ironically there’s been a daily dose of the notes. I like the rhythm and discipline that comes with it and I would love it to continue.

I was also aware that hardly anything had been done with the
church blog since August and so noticing that some of the good stuff that we do from week to week can be posted I have done just that following today’s session. On it you can see some of the slides that formed the basis for the lesson I did today, to engage with what we have looked out leave a comment. I really enjoyed the teaching session as we made a start on this tricky subject and note what we’ll be looking at next week! So writing and blogging wise it’s been a good week and I hope that it will continue.

For His Name's Sake

Psalm 23

So I went crazy tonight/this morning and to bring it to a close a brilliant reflective look at Psalm 23.

God have Your richest blessings on the words, sounds and pictures shared with others for Your everlasting credit and glory.

For His Name's Sake

Made to Worship

Indeed the whole deal is to get back to what we are called to be from our Creator.

For His Name's Sake

Clean Slate

I hope people get a chance to see God wipe the slate of everything that plagues their lives.

For His Name's Sake

Your Cell Phone vs. the Bible

Good pause for thought about what's really important in life.

For His Name's Sake

Living Water

This is a fascinating clip to watch to make the most of the living water.

For His Name's Sake

He Is...

This is just in case there were any queries as to who He is.

For His Name's Sake

Who Are You

This is a really neat idea on the series. Very clever.

For His Name's Sake


Simple and very powerful.

For His Name's Sake

The Bible Contains...

I really loved this summary of the most important collection of books ever written.

For His Name's Sake

The Crowd or the Cross

I am a huge fan of the song When I Survey The Wondrous Cross and so to see it put to such good use on a video like this really inspires me to follow the Way of the Cross.

For His Name's Sake

That's My King!

This is a good way of introducing you to someone I hold very dear.

For His Name's Sake

Friday, February 06, 2009

Ravi Zacharias Sermon Jam on Sin

I am putting together the final pieces of my presentation for the teaching of the lesson in the morning on the Fall of Humanity. I'm very excited about it as the first part of the trilogy of the story of salvation.

As I research and immerse myself in preparation I've come across some quality material that I'll be blogging tonight. This is the most recent one that I've come across. It's really cool the way the editors put together the various sayings to the music loop background. Quality stuff.

For His Name's Sake

Are We There Yet - Extended Notes

As you are aware by now the blog/email subscription formerly known as Daily Thoughts has been re-named Life’s Journey Notes (LJN). It still retains the ethos of getting a message cross in 100 words or less. In most cases the outcome follows a process of longer jottings about the issue in question. So those 100 words may very well have been 110 maybe 150 and in some wild cases a lot more before the pain-staking editing process comes in to bring it in line. From time to time the material that inspires that particular thought might actually be worth looking at in full ad that was definitely the case today. What follows are the thoughts that were cut down to make the finally LJN which you can read here. That is, unless you’ve come here from that thought in which case this will give some insight into some of the process that produces the final product.

We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. (Hebrews 12:2a)

The scenario is typical. The family are out on a holiday and the beleaguered parents are cooped up in the car with their three squabbling, quarrelling offspring. As they get stuck in the motorway pile-up the children shift their focus from each other to their parents and ask that question again and again ‘are we there yet?’ For the umpteenth the father says that they will be there soon and need to look out and play ‘I Spy’ with the glorious countryside. Sometimes there is impatience on our part for a lot of things – are we comfortable yet, do we have enough money yet, are our children well behaved yet, is our spouse together yet, can I get over this annoying habit yet, have Liverpool won the Premier League yet? Often the somewhat depressing answer is in the negative, but having a destination in mind should not lead us to be frustrated or morose. The goal is the bright light at the end of the tunnel that draws us on and the journey is about seeing the light shine even in the darkest places and holding onto that faith that says that we will get there – even if we are not there yet!

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the journey business. One school says it’s all about the destination and nothing else matters. The end justifying the means there is little time for reflection and contemplation and much push for reaching the finishing line as quickly as possible. The second school is more obsessed with the journey and is all about enjoying the journey and making the most of what we’re going through and where we’ve come from and how we can make progress and nattering about other people’s journeys and how the process is the thing. As ever, a healthy approach would be somewhere in the middle. Life would be pointless if there was no destination especially if the only one was death. It would also be soul-destroying if nothing on the trip mattered except reaching the destination. This is where the key verse comes in as the Light that shines is also the one who leads us and makes our faith complete – we can trust Him on the journey and He is our destination.

For His Name's Sake

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Completing the Task at Hand

I have fought well. I have finished the race, and I have been faithful. So a crown will be given to me for pleasing the Lord. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8a)

I just wanted to do a quick note now in case I don’t have the time to post anything later on. Today’s been an interesting day and this time has also been most intriguing. All the children stayed at home today, the weather had a large part to do with that, but as well as that was the fact that both Abigail and Kevaughn are now suffering from the chicken-pox that affected Deborah over the previous two weeks.

Despite that the time spent at home was not painful at all and in between everything I was at least able to set out some of the assignments I had to complete for various purposes. There’s nothing like a job well done and I get immense satisfaction from starting something I’m very passionate about and completing it. It’s one thing to contribute to something and see that flourish, but there’s something even greater in terms of satisfaction when the initiative is your own and you get to see it through to the end. I look forward to having that sense of accomplishment in Christ when I come to the end of life’s journey to be able to say those words of Paul.

I’ve just come to the closing stages of an article that I’m writing and it’s just so refreshing to get to the end of it knowing that I’ve put in a good effort into its construction. You should remind me to write something about my working process, because it is fascinating, honest. The whole thing about setting up the right atmosphere and the twirling, whirling and then concentrated output for a time before back to twirling and whirling.

In any case, I just wanted to post that at this moment. There is a film review, book review and web-site review that are due your way in the near future. In the meantime remember to keep your eyes focussed on what you’re meant to do and look forward to that feeling of satisfaction on a job well done.

For His Name’s Sake

Life: In It To Win It – Not Just To Avoid Defeat

I don’t know what it is with me recently but I’m finding that my writing groove can pop up late at night. It’s almost 1am as I start writing this and I’m sure I’ll cat at least the beginning of Criminal Intent when it starts at 1am. Here I am though having had me late night meal and settling with Robinson’s Summer Fruits diluted by Sainsbury’s cheap Ginger Beer.

I’ve just watched the highlights of the FA Cup replays that have happened this week especially tonight’s games. Wonderful comeback from Derby County and I hope Nigel Clough is given time to turn that club around. Congratulations on Aston Villa winning as well, I really hope they go far.

Liverpool losing a game isn’t actually that regular a feat. For all the griping that I’ve had about the brother and all the draws we’ve had we haven’t actually lost a match for quite some time in fact since we
lost against Tottenham back in November. That’s 16 games undefeated which is nothing to easily dismiss. Neither is the number of draws in that run, but that’s beside the point. We actually haven’t lost a game in a while. So to lose is actually disappointing.

Check me, though. I wasn’t gutted. I wasn’t despondent. Most importantly I wasn’t surprised. This will get to the heart of what I’m getting at in this issue. It’s one thing to be hard to beat; it’s another thing completely to be feared because of the ability to win games.

Teams against Manchester United are afraid of getting beaten badly and so put up salvage jobs. Teams against Arsenal used to in the same way be afraid of being trounced and so put up virtual 10 man defences. Mourinho’s Chelsea at its peak with Robben and Duff as well as Drogba and Lampard also frightened the pants off of teams aware that they would grind them down. Be that as it may, for the impressive record Liverpool has this season and the wiles of Rafael Benitez, few are the teams that dread facing them. indeed none of the teams in the Premier League fear us. This is because we start from a position of being hard to beat because we don’t want to lose.

It is a similar case to the source of how Blackburn has remained unbeaten since Sam Allardyce took over. That’s the reason why he should have been manager from the start of the season when Hughes went to Man City. Allardyce will not give you glittering, quick passing, mass-scoring football, but he starts from the position of building a team that is hard to beat because they first of all don’t want to lose. That was at the heart of his success at Bolton. The only reason he failed at Newcastle was because applying those principles at a place like Newcastle with what’s expected of their teams and especially some of the team selections and formations made it hard to stomach. Now I can appreciate the fans not necessarily going for him because of that. Yet it didn’t make him a bad manager and his time at Blackburn should prove that.

That basis though – hard to beat because we don’t want to lose – is not the basis on which leagues are won. Chelsea was hard to beat not just because they didn’t want to lose but because Mourinho developed a system that kept them solid with creative outlets to set them on their winning ways. This was not just expressed through Robben and Duff but through releasing Lampard to blossom into the free-scoring midfielder that he is. Similarly Manchester United have prided themselves on a tradition of good attacking football which has been pushed through McClair, Hughes, Sharpe, Scholes, Beckham, Cantona, Cole, Sherringham, Solskjaer, Yorke, Van Nistelrooy, Rooney, Ronaldo and one of the most consistent proponents of attacking football over his tenure the much admired Ryan Giggs. Their defensive records haven’t been that shabby but up until their recent record breaking run it wasn’t the highlight of a Man United side. So their ethos was always going out to win first. That’s why the last ten winners of the top trophy have more often than not been the best attacking sides in the League. The blip in this pattern in the Premier League years was Blackburn Rovers, but even they had Shearer, Sutton, Wilcox and Ripley which not a shabby attacking force.

This is all that to highlight a genuine philosophy in life; succeeding not beginning with avoiding losing. To succeed is to begin with the intent on winning and building the basis on which to win. Being hard to beat and having strong defences may assure you of safety and sustenance to an extent, but it will not win you the major trophies in life.

Liverpool will find this out when it comes to winning the top prize you have to go out to win with every game. I look at the side’s set-up and it’s not that way built at all – our attacking outlets are Gerrard and Torres. Rieira or Babel provides width and Kuyt works hard on the other flank but the main approach play is fairly one-dimensional and predictable. Shut that down and you’re at least preventing the team having goal-scoring opportunities. You may not score yourselves, unless it’s from a set-piece, but you won’t fear an onslaught of a particularly offensive team.

To win in life go out with your best attacking plays and creative outlets. Sure, have a strong defence but like all successful teams only use that as a platform on which all the attacking prowess is on display and able to attack through various avenues never being stifled in one outlet but causing a threat through a number of plays. You’ll notice that it’s when you try to save your life – avoid defeat – that’s when you lose it. When you lose yourself though – that’s when you gain everything. Life is not about avoiding defeat – it’s about giving your best even if it costs you so that you can gain all the more.

For His Name’s Sake

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Where On The Web With DMCD – January 09 Edition

Every time I come to write something, there is always so much that I could write. Sometimes I feel as if there are things to update you on in various aspects of life. Sometimes there are current events that birth a stream of thought worth more than just a note. Sometimes it’s good to share a YouTube posting that really got me. Sometimes it’s just good to write.

As you must surely know by now I do more online than just blog and watch YouTube. (Indeed I’ve got a unfair rep just because I use videos as part of soundtrack at work, but that’s again about
getting to the heart of things.) God has blessed us with Google Reader – I have yet to be informed of an equivalent or better form of collecting regular posts on other web-sites and blogs in one useful post office as it were. I enjoy getting to read on a variety of topics what’s going on in our wonderful world. In January I noticed that I didn’t get to share with you some of the interesting stuff I was reading and so, just for you because I love you and everything here’s some of the things I came across in January that thankfully has a long sell-by-date and is worth you checking as well.

As well as being grateful to God for Google Reader, I express huge thanks to God for having online so many great sources of interest and inspiration that points me back to Him. Special mention goes to people like Jared, Alan K, Lionel, Dan, Dave B, Marcus, Abraham, Prodigal Jon, Adrian and Tim who are particularly consistent in thought-provoking output. They say iron sharpens iron and these hombres really let me know how I have to sharpen my craft.

I do love this time of year for resolutions and the like – Timmy’s
nine things are worth going through.

Prodigal Jon can be very funny and his take on
putting on a Bluetooth earpiece in church. I gotta get me a Bluetooth earpiece!

Alan is great with these Scriptures As We Live It series – this one
about the man at the gate Beautiful is hilarious and tragically true in so many cases.

When I note Alan’s
output over 2008 it makes me sick to know the brother’s been so prolific and consistent in sharing the foundations for his ministry. Absolutely sick. May God have mercy on my soul … and his!

It’s good to contrast the personal testimony formula with the great revelation of
what the gospel has done for us as expressed beautifully by Jared.

I know that the church has gone to the dogs but
this is ridiculous.

now and then, eh?

Dan has some fascinating insights into what it means to be the bride of Christ and how we can
exude that beauty for the church to see, be attracted to Christ.

Good – Josh shows me
16 easy tips to follow to write a book.

Knox does it again. During the service today I was caught up with the level of work it takes to maintain the building and thought to myself if that really is what Jesus calls us to. Then AK (of the Knox variety) places this
scripture how we live it and it all made sense.

This is a
great quote about the gospel – I hope I can remember it for the sections of teaching that will be coming up.

Just as I write this very thought I receive an email about this article about the
true nature of the Biblical church and I say a hearty amen to this picture of a community of house churches coming together.

Tim Challies puts together a great summary of what the
greatest hindrance is to the gospel today. Good reading.

Ahhh this is what I’m looking for – a series on the whole free will issue!
Part one, part two and part three can be found at the click of the button.

Amen to
this comment.

money doesn’t manipulate us does it?

We are indeed
climbing Jacob’s ladder, but hopefully not necessarily in the way described.

I’m wondering how to be a better manager of people and
this young man may have some useful tips for me.

So with Compassion 2009 in full swing this article about
the Prodigal Father is just spot on

Marcus on Digital H20 has done a four-part series on what puts people off committing to their church. It gives good insight in an issue that’s serious for our time if people realise what being a member of the Body of Christ actually means.

Part One –
Do People Know God?
Part Two –
Do People Grasp That The Gospel Is All Of Grace?
Part Three –
Do People Know What The Church Is?
Part Four –
Are People Growing As Disciples Or Have They Stalled?

Another great example of good writing is Jared re-adjusting our position in the
David and Goliath story! Here I was thinking I was the brave one with the stones ready to knock off Goliath’s head. What a pity. Still at least I still get to play Joshua in the walls of Jericho tumbling down!

101 Ways To Have A Cheerful Happy Life – this is
one of the rejected entries, which was not allowed on the grounds that it was definitely not in line with the ethos of the comment.

Marcus makes a good point about the
approach to Bible study. For me it is about what is the purpose of any exploration of scripture and I get the impression it’s about finding out about who God is especially as expressed in Christ and what that then means for us.

James Grant provides
this opening insight into a wonderful opening of state by another guy which has a brilliant bit featuring the insights of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

Prodigal Jon eh? What a gift! Check this out about the
bless her heart syndrome.

For His Name’s Sake

A Tribute To Another Angel

There’s a verse in the Bible that we should be hospitable to strangers because in doing so we maybe entertaining angels unawares. The deal is that they are angels and we’re not aware of it. In my case though, I have been tremendously blessed by a number of angels who have made themselves available to me to assist me on my faith journey. I’ve mentioned my MMU angel Charlie O’Dell who not only saved me from a fate worse than death in my time as a temp at the university, but also does make exceedingly good chocolate cakes hence my efforts at renaming her Charlotte Kipling, which looks better in print than I thought it would.

I want to use this time to give a tribute to another special angel heaven-sent to ensure that this pilgrim wouldn’t get lost in the journey. Her name is Josephine Boakye-Mensah and I have faithfully promised not to show
her photo here. Although Josephine is her name on our first encounter she informed that she is from royal lineage from her people back in Ghana. Noting her somewhat regal posture and disposition (she is very polite … at first) I immediately recognised my place and referred to her since as Her Majesty (HM for the benefit of this article).

HM works at the North Staffs YMCA as you know I do and was there before I started by about a year or something silly like that. Today (OK technically its yesterday but I just missed the deadline! Sue me!) HM celebrates her birthday and I want to mark the occasion with this tribute to the outstanding qualities and characteristics of this angel.

It is so important to build good relationships in organisations wherever you can find them. In fact when Jesus was commissioning His apostles He informed them that they should look to knock about with a person of peace. Likewise in this challenge of CSD work at the YMCA I needed a person of peace on whom I could depend – HM fitted that bill and more. What has marked the relationship has been her openness, ear to hear, mouth to talk where necessary and heart to really appreciate what’s being shared with her. I’ve often just used opportunities to pour out my heart on certain frustrations and challenges and she has not been judgemental or condemnatory. She hasn’t sought to push her own agenda or side-step the issue, but given me the space to explore the issue and share some of her own insight where needed. She doesn’t have to agree with me either and our frank difference of opinion invigorates the relationship. Not only that but through her I was able to start a relationship with the church in which she is a key member and that has been so refreshing and fulfilling for me.

HM is a good friend in the sense of not only being someone there for me to off-load but also being able to share issues she may have as well. That reciprocal nature of the friendship has made me trust her arguably more than I trust anyone at the YMCA and there are some really quality individuals who work there (remind me to tell you about Simon Lovatt – now there’s a man of peace). When you can talk to someone in confidence and likewise be able to offer room to share in the selfsame confidence good things can come out of that for all parties concerned and that has been the case in the time that HM has had angelic oversight over me.

She has a great sense of humour – she knows when to at least give the impression that she may have laughed at my jokes if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s royalty and it wouldn’t be the done thing to laugh. She has a great sense of discretion. She has bags of wisdom for situations and is gifted in areas of administration and encouragement when she wants to.

In fact I get excited considering all the servant-hearted efforts she puts in, it will be quite something when she identifies for herself the specific vocation that God has in store for her. I know with her real growing relationship with God that she will be a power-house for letting the love of Christ shine through her even more than she presently is. That is my one heart’s desire for an angel who has been so kind and generous to me that she will receive favour from God that will illuminate the path she should take to further her walk with Him and also enlighten her to the other gifts that she has for the task at hand.

She is a blessing to my children who have all met her and rightly acknowledged her royalty (well Abigail still has to get used to that, but then she still has to get used to me actually being dad and not someone she just says ‘no’ to a lot). She is a great blessing to the North Staffs YMCA. I thank God for friends like her and trust that she likewise will be blessed with the angelic support which she has selflessly offered to me.

For His Name’s Sake