That’s My King!

July 9, 2007

It was a good weekend overall in the end – we headed up to the North Coast  of Northern Ireland yesterday with the whole of the Johnston clan – it was a good family time.  My energy levels were lower than normal, and my feelings of helplessness for others, for our church, for myself were frequent…and so waking up this morning, I was praying that God would strengthen me for the week to come, that divine appointments would be made readily available, and that I could be used in great ways for the Kingdom.

And three hours into the working week…I have already messed up here and there….

But I did come across this amazing video which I have seen a couple of times before, which serves to focus our minds and hearts on who we are serving, who we are living for, and who we have got on our side, as Christians.  I hope you gain as much encouragement and strength from this video clip, and from being reminded of the awesome majesty of Our King! 

Keep looking heavenward folks.

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The weekend has arrived.  At some points this week it felt as though it would never come…

It has been an unusual kind of week…one filled with many conversations, divine appointments and catch-ups with a range of different people…and each conversation has left me feeling challenged, convicted, saddened, joyful, and impatient…all in varying degrees.  Here’s a brief insight into some of the conversations…

Work continues to be a challenge, requiring an ever changing attitude as each day brings new adventures, new pressures, new situations in which I could choose to blow a gasket, or I could choose to take a big deep breath and act with grace, compassion and patience.  It is not easy.  And I have messed up as per usual on numerous occasions.  I have failed over the last three months to take time to reflect on my experiences…I have forgotten to listen to God each day on what He wants me to be doing, how He wants me to be acting, who He wants me to be reaching out to…instead I fear I have got consumed in ME – what am I getting?  what am I achieving or not achieving as the case may be?  why am I not being listened to?  what am I not able to change things for the better?  Me, Me Me…And then I have a meeting with my business mentor and friend – an amazing man who is experienced in the business world, who is a passionate Christ follower, and who has a gift to ask the right questions (albeit pointed at times), to listen for the right amount of time, and to give guidance and space for me to reflect…and the result?  A challenge and conviction to change my attitude, to trust God more, to lift my gaze from my belly button and look to heaven, to start doing something about my quandries and difficult situations, rather than taking a tail spin downwards into self-pity and me-centred griping.

I had an amazing meeting with an old friend that I hadnt seen in about 7 years – a true blast from the past this week!  And the more I think about, it has been a real divine appointment.  I had the opportunity to spend a good couple of hours with this guy, listening to his successes and adventures in life, sharing a wee bit about where I am at, and enjoying some engaging conversation about my faith, my belief in Jesus and the need to be living for Him.  And it was then that I was introduced to the concept of agnosticism (is this the right way to spell it?), the view that Christians are just positive thinkers, that the Bible is made up of many wonderful, but grossly exaggerated stories, that there could be a heaven but definitely no hell, and that church is actually more like a middle-class club, where you are judged, where masks are firmly in position (never allowed to drop) and where you have to put on an act to fit in….I was deeply saddened and challenged by this conversation as well…it definitely got me thinking about what I believe and why I believe it…and it also provoked a deep desire within me to reach out to this guy, who has been very successful thus far in his young life, and share with him more about the reality of being a Christ follower, and what a church of believers should be about.  It got me thinking about my own church – are we a bunch of middle-class, mask wearing, judging, hypocrits?  It scares me to think that we might be?  What impact is that having on those that might want to step into the church, but are too scared about what they might come across?  We have a lot to do.

Today I met up with a guy that I knew from university days.  We chatted, we caught up, we prayed…and we discussed everything from working life to church life, from our spiritual journeys to the challenges that women can pose, from the thorns in our sides that can so easily entangle, to the need to keep faithful to God and his leading.  This young man, a teacher – has served God faithfully during his first full year of teaching…he set up a men’s bible study for teachers, he was not afraid to have conversations with students and his fellow colleagues about his love for Jesus, and he was determined to make a difference to the lives of many that he was interacting with on a daily basis.  I was encouraged and challenged to do likewise.

And then I have also been struck by the number of people around my age that are deeply struggling with illness – I have questioned at times why this can be so…and than have had to catch myself on – who am I to ask such questions.  Major illnesses, mental pressure, stress and anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, unhappiness…so many hurting people…so unsure as to how to help all of them…so much to do…where do we start?

I guess the Sunday School answer is right at the foot of the cross…laying all of these things before our Father God…for only He can give us the strength to get through each day, to give us guidance and direction when we’re not sure where we are headed, to give peace and rest when health begins to suffer…but it’s difficult sometimes.  My hope is that we will all become more real than we have ever been before, not being afraid to drop our masks completely, sharing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, loving one another wholeheartedly…

So much to do…

July 4, 2007

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For those of you that know me well, it will come as no surprise when I say that I am a BIG Max Lucado fan – in fact, some would think that I am on commission when it comes to recommending some of his books.   He is a truly gifted writer, and for those with a simple mind like me, he paints some wonderful pictures to help explain parts of the bible and the teachings of Jesus that previously I have not been able to fathom.  You can check out more about Max Lucado on his website which is updated daily:  www.maxlucado.com It includes daily thoughts for the day as well as daily one minute podcasts that are easy to listen to.  I am also signed up to his monthly newsletters, with longer articles and excerpts from his many books…and is one of these that I wanted to share with you below…enjoy.

Diving into Life Headfirst
by Max Lucado

Steve Lyons will be remembered as the player who dropped his pants.

The White Sox were playing the Tigers in Detroit. Lyons bunted and raced down the first-base line. He knew it was going to be tight, so he dove at the bag. Safe! The Tiger’s pitcher disagreed. He and the umpire got into a shouting match, and Lyons stepped in to voice his opinion.

Absorbed in the game and the debate, Lyons felt dirt trickling down the inside of his pants. Without missing a beat he dropped his britches, wiped away the dirt, and … uh oh … twenty thousand jaws hit the bleachers’ floor.

Within twenty-four hours of the “exposure,” he received more exposure than he’d gotten his entire career: seven live television and approximately twenty radio interviews.

Fortunately, for Steve, he was wearing sliding pants under his baseball pants.

Now, I don’t know Steve Lyons. I’m not a White Sox fan. Nor am I normally appreciative of men who drop their pants in public. But I think Steve Lyons deserves a salute.

I think anybody who dives into first base deserves a salute. How many guys do you see roaring down the baseline of life more concerned about getting a job done than they are about saving their necks? How often do you see people diving headfirst into anything?

Too seldom, right? But when we do … when we see a gutsy human throwing caution to the wind and taking a few risks … ah, now that’s a person worthy of a pat on the … back.

So here’s to all the Steve Lyons of the world.

Here’s to the Miracles, a choral group out of Memphis, Tennessee, made up of the mentally retarded and the stout-hearted. Just see if you can listen to them and still feel sorry for yourself.

Here’s to the hero of the San Francisco marathon who crossed the finish line without seeing it. (He was blind.)

Here’s to the woman whose husband left her with a nest of kids to raise and bills to pay, but who somehow tells me every Sunday that God has never been closer.

Here’s to the single father of two girls who learned to braid their hair.

Here’s to the grandparents who came out of retirement to raise the children their children couldn’t raise.

In the Eye of the StormHere’s to the foster parents who took in a child long enough for that child to take their hearts—then gave the child up again.

Here’s to the girl, told by everyone to abort the baby, who chose to keep the baby.

Here’s to the doctor who treats more than half of his patients for free.

Here’s to the heroin-addict-turned-missionary.

Here’s to the executive who every Tuesday hosts a 5:30 A.M. meeting for Bible study and prayer.

Here’s to all of you reckless lovers of life and God, who stand on first base because you paid a price to get there.

So what if you forget about pleasing the crowd and get caught with your pants down? At least you’re playing ball in the pros.

Most of us aren’t even in your league.

From In the Eye of the Storm

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I love quotes – sometimes as I am reading through books, quotes seem to jump out at me when I least expect them to…and they get me thinking…and from time to time I write them down.  I have been reading a great book recently called “The Irresistable Revolution – living as an ordinary radical” by Shane Claiborne.  It’s a deeply challenging read…and as I have been reading it, a multitude of quotes have been leaping from the pages.  I wanted to write down a couple this evening in my blog, and share them with whoever cares to read this.  If you have any thoughts, or any other quotes which you want to share with others, feel free and write a comment or two.  It would be great to get a trail of profound and thought provoking quotes going…you never know, they may bring encouragement and challenge to others.

 “Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member.  Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier.  Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual.  But the one who has love, courage, and wisdom, moves the world.”  Ammon Hennacy, Catholic activist, 1893-1970.

 “…In college, one of my professors said, ‘Don’t let the world steal your soul.  Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.'”  Shane Claiborne, The Irresistable Revolution

“…we live in a world that has lost its appreciation for small things.  We live in a world that wants things bigger and bigger.  We want to supersize our fries, sodas, and church buildings.  But amid all the supersizing, many of us feel God doing something small and subtle.  This thing Jesus called the kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos.  Little people with big dreams are reimagining the world.  Little movements of communities of ordinary radicals are committed to doing small things with great love.”  Shane Claiborne, The Irresistable Revolution

“All power in heaven and on earth is given to me.  So go and make followers of all people in the world.  Baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.”  Jesus Christ (Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 to 20)