As I was driving through London on Sunday I was vividly reminded of all the traffic. In Ashford traffic is an annoyance but compared to London it is a pleasure ride. People here complain about the ring road or ‘rush hour’ but in context to the greater cities it is not worth the complaint. So there I was in London with trusty Sat Nav and vigilant wife guiding, directing and warning me as we meandered through the streets to get home. It took a long time and what I observed made me think.
Many people pushed through without regard to anyone else. Some in the middle of the oncoming traffic turned around and went back the way they came… no doubt to encounter an even longer queue elsewhere. Others were kinder letting us out of a parking space on the A1 or forgiving us for making a mistake and blocking a turning. On a previous journey through London I mistakenly went through a bus lane. It was so brief but I received a fine in the post. I write to appeal but grace was not forthcoming. Once we got through and were heading out on the A2 and M2 back home I reflected on the journey.
When driving you really need to put others first. If you look out for what others are doing or need to do I found my driving improved. I was more aware of my own driving by observing the environment around me. By being vigilant my wife and I wee able to stop when something unexpected happened and speed up when things cleared up. I realise that should we do this in life perhaps we wouldn’t feel we were in so many jams. If we put others first and perhaps we can better appreciate our own living and how it impacts others. If we draw on the vigilance of others who journey with us we can better navigate our way through the streets of life.
I love London. I love the lessons city life can teach me. What would be great is if London could love one another with the same intensity that it seems to love traffic jams!
New Year – a time of hope and fear for the entire world. Hope is set with resolutions and promises whilst bitter realities bite like the wind on a winter’s day. Hope and fear battle for our attention and we usually give into one or the other. Yesterday we watched a film where the main character was told the one thing greater than fear is hope. Many of us will sigh with a wonder when we hear these words but I was struck by the fact that I really didn’t know what they meant. Especially considering the hope that they referred to was not real. It was a possible hope set against a very real fear.
Not wanting to be a ‘Scrooge’ at New Year but I feel that the promises and resolutions are similar in that they offer hope but they subside to the reality of temptation and failure. Is this hope we seek fictional so that fear is forgotten. A vain rally against the tidal forces of a dark world?
There is a real hope beyond the vanities we profess at New Year. A true hope that establishes itself in the deepest part of our lives if we submit to it. It is not an easy hope – we must fight for it and give it room to grow. Our hope is based on nothing less than Jesus Christ and his righteousness. I cannot promise to be good because only God is good. If I am good it is his goodness at work in me and I will give him the praise for it. His promise for a New Year is the same yesterday, today and forever – ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’. He promises that though life will be hard for all of us his power is at work in us and is available to those who trust him. If I want to be a better person in this world it has to be Christ at work in me.
I start this New Year with a plea. It is not to myself nor to the world around me. A plea that humankind needs to make – not with fireworks or speeches but a simple plea that resonates the truth about our souls and our future. A plea that speaks of fear but promises hope. It is a plea that is for the rich and poor alike, the wise and the foolish and those of us in between. The plea is this – ‘LORD Jesus, rescue me.’
I hope and pray that this New Year will be one in which we do not gratify the fear in the world but submit and confess to the Hope of the Nations.
As someone who believes in vision I find this a thought provoking article.
Vision has to be one of the most overworked words in Christian vocabulary.
Saying “I have a vision” rather than “Here’s an idea” is an attempt to invest something with a greater weight of spiritual authority. In reality it takes time to evaluate whether it really was a God-given vision or simply a bright idea that went nowhere.
A long time ago I heard Floyd McClung say God-given vision is born and sustained by a combination of two things; intercession and involvement. And as the years have gone by, I have seen those twin principles confirmed. Prayer and, in particular, sustained prayer is the ignition. And a getting-your-hands-dirty kind of involvement earths dreams in the real world.
John Maxwell has some helpful things to say about vision*.
The credibility of the vision is often determined by the credibility of theleader
We need to be believable people that inspire…
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Do you have trouble with confessing sin? It’s supposedly an easy idea – confess and be saved. Some churches encourage you to have someone you can go to (like an AA sponsor!) when you have or feel you want to sin and share with them. I love that idea – it’s just the shame I feel before I get to that person. Do you ever feel to ashamed to tell someone your sin? We have God before us always and we can tell him but some sin – if not all sin – needs to be brought into the light. In the light sin can’t hide but be dealt with and eliminated.
But what about the shame of telling someone – looking them in the face and confessing. Actually there is possibly another way of helping you and me to confess even as we are being tempted. It occurred to me a few weeks ago as I surfed on the internet. Theoretically I was looking for study material but in actuality I was being distracted by my favourite sites on my bookmarks bar. It dawned on me that sin works in a similar way – we are going along life happily with Jesus as our centre then out of nowhere comes the distraction, the enticement, the fall…I began to write down what was happening to me. I wrote out what I was doing and what the distraction was. I named it, and prayed about it. I began to realise that writing down the sin or distraction before it took hold of my heart was an effective way of taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10). Write down how you feel when you are being tempted. Write it down and give it to a trusted Christian friend or mentor to pray through together. perhaps you are alone and need to read aloud what you have written as a prayer. Share with God the confession of your heart. Place it at the foot of the cross and walk away. I wonder if this was what David did in his Psalms – declaring his pain, sin and redemption in word and song. Don’t let the sin or shame stop you from bringing it to the light – write it, confess it and let the blood of Jesus do its work. 1 John 1:9
Just a short note today as I read the news from friends around the UK who are engaged in Evangelism. I was reading through a journey my friend, Hector, took to South Wales. Hector is in the latter end of the prime of life and hasn’t let up in sharing his faith.
It amazed me the story he was telling because he would speak to everyone and anyone he met. It was amazing and encouraging to think how many people are out there ready to talk but just don’t have the means. Hector was unperturbed by indifference and even sarcasm. He actually used certain comments to open up the word and share his testimony – Here’s a quote from his news – “a man in the next avenue saw me coming and said aloud – for no apparent reason – ‘Money, money, money is the main thing.’ I questioned him as to its true value, and told him Jesus died and shed his precious blood on Cavalry’s cross to redeem us, and the Apostle Peter says ‘Not with silver and gold.’ A long conversation continued with me giving him my testimony of Christ Saving Grace. He took tracts, please pray for his salvation.”
Hector lives the Word he has believed in – I wonder how many times we wish we could have said or done something that might have made a change or impact on someone’s life. The good news is that we can. I can. Just this morning as I walked passed a neighbour I chatted with him. We didn’t talk much but the connection was there and now when we see each other again we will speak again. There are people in need everywhere and all we need to do is live the word we believe in outwardly. We might be nervous or unsure but we know it is not ‘we’ who do the saving work – it is Christ.
I hope this encourages you today as it has me.
There’s my short note for Monday!
Many will have heard of Canterbury Cathedral, but have you heard of Ashford Cathedral?
It has a tall spire that you can notice far away, you hear the bells of car horns as they rush to park and you even see the clatter of folks giving their money in the offering boxes – the more you put in the longer you get to stay!
The thought occurred to me recently as I sat in a restaurant at the designer outlet in Ashford eating with my wife. A man next to me had been spewing some vulgar words which I tried to phase out but then all of a sudden insightfully commented that the outlet centre was now the new church based on a religion of economy. I was quite taken up with the thought which I usually hear at a Christian conference in London. But here in this little restaurant a jewel of insight is revealed.
We already have the theory that materialism is the new religion but do we often observe it and even make the most of it as a way of sharing our faith. I did not have the courage to speak to that man despite the obvious opportunity and I can see Paul shouting at me “That’s your cue!” Paul used the many gods and religious nature of the Greeks as his canvas for presenting the Good News about Jesus and perhaps we need to begin to consider shifting our focus to these ‘marketplaces’, ‘temples’ and ‘cathedrals’ – let’s consider that the human race is still as religious as it always has been, it’s just the focus of worship has changed.
There is also a warning here isn’t there. I was doing a kids club talk and we were enacting the story of the wise and foolish builders. We thought about what we build our lives upon and concluded that Jesus and his promises is the only steady rock we can be sure to build anything on. This ‘economic religion’ has a very sandy base – one wrong day in the stock market and ‘CRASH!’ it falls down flat! Perhaps we need in our witness to the world demonstrate the shakiness of financial foundations for a temple to be built upon. Rather we build on the rock that is and has been for millennia a sure foundation on which the poor or the rich, the weak or the strong can have a place guaranteed in the kingdom to come – a kingdom that knows no end.
I recommend going to Ashford Cathedral – or perhaps there is one like it near you. Listen to what people are talking about, identify what people crave and look for that opportunity to offer something better. I’ll end on this – when I was in Leighton Buzzard my good friend Colin set up a market stall which had the sign ‘Free Books’. It was stacked full of Christian Literature. The buzz word for the folks who came was ‘free’ and they came hungry to the altar of ‘economy’. The buzz word for us is ‘Jesus’ and we draw people to altar of the cross to which the greatest treasure is offered – the price already paid.