Unity. A strange word in some respects. It is often used flippantly in conversation, but what does it really mean? is it the small talk you have over coffee at church? Perhaps a deep theological discussion with someone? Or maybe an activity of some sort? In Christian circles I believe it can mean all these things, but are we really pursuing it as much as we should? Unity can translate as being one, and the Bible certainly maintains that in Ephesians: Ch 4 vs 1-6. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul seems to be talking about bearing with one another, vs 2, and he also tells us to: “Make every effort” vs 3. He’s stressing the importance of unity in your local church, and in the wider church. Unity requires us to not only bear with one another, but also have peace with each other. Obviously this doesn’t mean we have to be best friends with everyone at church, but it does mean we need to look out for each other in love. So what can we do? Speak to someone new, perhaps invite the more awkward members of your community out for lunch. We often don’t always realize how helpful a simple conversation or lunch can be for some people. Being typically British, we often hate being out of our comfort zone, and though we’re known for politeness, we aren’t necessarily known for friendliness. This means we can inadvertently be unfriendly, and stick to our more comfortable social groups. Breaking into these groups as a new member or even a long time regular can be difficult. We need to be more open to new ideas and people, you never know who you’re gonna meet, and you may even find a long term friend or even spouse. I personally hate the idea of ‘groups’ and certainly know the difficulties of breaking into them. I do my best to relate to everyone in my church, and am open to all social groups. I’m certainly no expert, and church favoritism has been something I’ve mulled over a number times. Unity can be a tricky subject if we don’t really know what it is, and if we aren’t open to making every effort to maintaining it. The book of James talks about favoritism in length, and I believe it can creep into our lives more easily than we realize. In summary: do we really pursue unity as much as Paul has pushed it? We can always do better, I know I certainly can.
It was Monday lunchtime.
A warm Bank Holiday, and I was working as usual to keep my array of clients happy. I was tired, and generally a bit worn out after a number of tough jobs and complaints the weeks before.
This only meant my concentration was off as I stopped to pull the grass out of the old rusty mower that I was using at the time.
Bang! I look to see the end of my finger is nowhere to be seen!
Accidents happen everyday, and this wasn’t any different, especially when in a business like mine (Garden Maintenance).
But, it’s what we learn from them and how we react to God, which really matters, and this is what this post is all about. It’s about how we may have to learn from our pain. It’s about when pain teaches..
(1) It’s not the end of the world:
When I was sat in the hospital, it couldn’t help but think that they were certainly people in worse situations than me. Even with the tremendous pain I felt, I knew it could of been much worse. I think of Paul the apostle who went through all kinds of trials, yet he still seemed to be incredibly full of joy and hope. While I was on that hospital bed, It also made me think of the pain Jesus Christ went through during His crucifixion. It was tremendous the pain He went through, and cutting off a finger tip seems like nothing compared! So I think perspective really helps in trials. There’s nothing quite like great pain to make you think of God and ask for His mercy. It’s almost natural, but sadly the mistake we often make is only going to God when it only really matters. Which brings us to the next point.
(2) Seek relief in the Lord:
Being in pain, discomfort or even mental illness can make us seek for relief in all kinds of things, including: food, intimacy, friends, religion and other even more extreme things. But we must learn that God is our only comfort. Even when Job was stricken with illness and calamity, his friends could do little to help. (This doesn’t however mean that friends are useless as we will see in my next point) But what I’m getting at is this: are we actually asking God for help to cope? Or are we going to junk food to fill our needs when we’re down? Will we seek relief from a warm hug or other kinds of intimacy? These things aren’t necessarily wrong. But we need to be seeking for our ultimate relief in Christ. Only God knows our pain fully, only God knows what we need and why things happen. So why aren’t we praying to Him and seeking Him earnestly? It’s a tough subject this, because we all struggle with it. But I think that I learned that I just didn’t rely on God enough during my trial. I didn’t seek help and pray anywhere near as much as I should. Afterall, we as Christians do have access to the King of the universe! But we seek earthly help more than we should. It’s taken time to realise this, and even now I struggle as we all do. But God can comfort us. This isn’t to mean our troubles will go away, but rather, when we see how or why things happen and trust the God who makes them happen, then it makes things far easier.
(3) What are friends for:
Through the trials we have, God does give us people in our lives to help us. I was/and continue to be very blessed by the support of my family, church and my wonderful Fiance. God puts us in community to be a blessing and to be blessed, and that’s what I’ve certainly felt. I struggled at times to accept help due to my stubborn nature, but this helped humble me and remind me of who’s Boss! (God that is!) Friends and family are a blessing, so don’t push them away or ignore the help. Embrace it and accept the love being given out to you. Even if there aren’t many physical people around you, you can still be sure people are praying, and that alone is more powerful than physical presence.
(4) Acceptance and trust:
I think acceptance and trust go hand in hand, and when we encounter trials, this is no different. I’ve struggled to accept what has happened in many ways. It can be easy to wallow in a pit of despair and constantly wonder why this happened. But this won’t help. It never will, because we aren’t in control of our lives, as much as we’d like to be. Firstly we have to accept that God is in control. God decides our lives and we must be responsible with what God gives us. But God being in control should be the best news ever, because God’s will is perfect and fitting for our lives, and He has our ultimate good in His/our interest. All that we go through is for our good. Acceptance can be very hard. Accepting that the tip of my finger is gone forever, and that there’s nothing I can do about it will be hard. But I must and I can accept it with God’s help. We must all accept our circumstances, whatever they may be, and finally we must trust. We must trust that God knows best, and trust that God has our interests at heart. And If this trust is the only thing we have learnt, then we have learnt much from our pain……..
Thanks again for reading and for all the prayers of my family and friends!
I was recently challenged by my friend Eddie Webster to co-write a blog together. So here it is! We’ve decided to write on Self discipline. you can check out Eddie’s blog here: http://preciousgemsinjesus.blogspot.co.uk/ Hope you’re encouraged by the read!
Part 1 – Dependency on God (Aaron)
(1) Paul our example:
To start let’s look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,[b] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Paul talks about running the race and how athletes need to discipline their bodies in order to win and obtain the prize. Exercising self-control in our lives is certainly important, and Paul highlights this need in his life in order to best serve God. We must discipline ourselves in purity, honesty, love etc. How do we do this? Eddie has covered this in his section below as I’m tackling how our dependence on God is vital. So this brings us to my next passage of scripture…
(2) Jesus our example:
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
These verses talk again of the race that we all must run, and this again requires discipline on our side to endure (see verse 1). But verse 2 really sums the vital ingredient; ‘Looking to Jesus’. This keeps us going and our dependence on Him is very much needed. The verse goes on to tell of the sacrifice that He made and that we can depend on His grace. The other striking thing is that Jesus had to be incredibly self-disciplined to do what He did on the cross, and so He is our fantastic example. His dependence on God was also vital to His discipline; continually praying for strength from God the Father.
This is indeed powerful stuff, and we can also see that self-control is given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the Spirit as written in Galatians 5:22-24:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
This gives us no excuse but to rely on God’s Spirit to work in our hearts. We need to believe the truth that we can be self-controlled and pray that we will. We can always find help in this by looking at our experiences and so I’m going to share something which has taught me a lot about this subject which will then lead into Part 2 covered by Eddie.
(3) My example:
Last year I decided to join a gym in order to improve my fitness and help me compete better in my tennis matches. So I started with a personal trainer and we had weekly sessions. I’d never done much gym stuff before, and so wasn’t sure on what to expect, but I soon realised that self-discipline and self-control were vitally important. This has probably been the best lesson I’ve learnt from my gym experience, and it really helped me to learn to push myself and to not let my trainer down. My most helpful tactic for this was believing that God would strengthen me. My trainer knew most of the exercises we did I could easily manage, it was just down to whether I could discipline myself to do it. The strength was there, it was just a matter of whether I could be bothered. God helped me in this because I had to depend on Him. This obviously isn’t a perfect example, but the whole experience taught me a lot about discipline.
Part 2 – Disciplining Ourselves (Eddie)
Aaron so far has been using the analogies of disciplining our bodies and being fruitful in the Spirit to talk about self-control. Through them he has shown us our need to depend on God; the athlete only need to exercise the power of God that is already in him, and the fruit only needs to grow as God brings the increase. So how do we learn self-control? One of the clearest answers to this comes from Paul in Titus 2:11-12:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
These verses are so clear on the relationship between God’s grace granted to us and our responsibility to be self-controlled. The word used for ‘teaches’ in this passage is ‘paideuó’, which is the word used for a child under strict discipline as they mature and develop. So, as you can see, the grace of God trains and disciplines us so that we might mature, with one of the marks of maturity mentioned here being self-control. This is what Aaron has been emphasising in the three examples he gave above; we must look to Jesus and depend on his grace and his Spirit at work in us as we train ourselves.
Further to this, we are also made as new creation’s in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of God’s indwelling power and grace in us we can say “No!” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Our sin does not have to reign in our mortal bodies any longer (Romans 6:12)! Laziness and a lack of self-control can be fought against with the power of God! In Christ, we can live self-controlled, upright and godly lives by God’s power and grace!
How To Be Self-Controlled
How then are we to be self-controlled? First of all, we must take control of our inner self before we take control of our outward actions. This means controlling our thoughts, minds and wills. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, preaching on Psalm 42, speaks of the problem we have with ourselves;
‘The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?…The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.’
Here he was preaching on Spiritual Depression, but we can apply the principle to self-control. Self-control is controlling yourself, not being controlled by yourself. It is to get a grip on yourself and cause it to follow after Christ. This is what it means to hold every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), a principle we can apply to our hearts and wills also. May we then take control of our whole inner beings and make them captive to the power of Christ!
Secondly, as our inner self is renewed we must put off the deeds of the flesh and put on Christ (Romans 8:13, 13:14). This is what it means in Hebrews 12:1 to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. Laziness, selfishness, pride and sexual immorality are a few sins among many which are seeking to stop you from growing in grace. Do not allow their thorny vines to grow around you and drag you back into sinful living. Rather, grow as a branch out of Christ whereby you can produce the fruit of the Spirit and grow into a greater degree of Christ-likeness.
God has given us the power to control and discipline ourselves in Christ, so there is no excuse not to do it! We are prone to becoming downcast because of our failures, but hope in God (Psalm 42:5)! Keep running to him as you wait for the blessed hope of his glorious appearance (Titus 2:13), and always remember that it is his grace that strengthens you as you train in Godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). We urge you to keep on going along the path of sanctification so that one day you will cross the finish line into the presence of God who will reward us. Run in such a way that you will hear those words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matthew 25:23). Run to gain that prize!
– Aaron and Eddie
Ah 2017, where’d it go? I feel it’s shot by as every year seems to. This certainly has been a busy year and here I’ll include some memorable pics as usual. So what’s happened? And have I learnt from it?
This year has had a few first times. I joined the gym and have had sessions with a personal trainer helping me improve my tennis game, and it worked! I finally won my first tennis league which was great. Going to the gym regularly taught me a lot about discipline and self-control which was very helpful. I think April was when things really got interesting though. I went once again to the Banner conference and had a great time. I met some amazing people…including my girlfriend! Yes I’m as surprised as you are! But God is good, and I’m incredibly grateful for what we have and although the long distance has been difficult at times it’s all worth it!
I also got to run the Herts 10k again which was great. I helped on camp again and really enjoyed being apart of it all. I think employing my first official employee’s was also a landmark moment. Not only for my business, but for me as businessman. I’ve made many friends through my work, and I hope that continues. I look forward to the next RRGS Christmas do happening next week!
I also had the privilege of meeting my newest Nephew Harry!
Overall I feel incredibly blessed. God really is good and He’s kept me going all the time. Obviously every day has it’s challenges, and I’ve had tools break, van’s breakdown and some sad times amongst other things. But all in all it’s been a good year.
So what will 2018 bring? Good times? Bad times? Bigger business? Marriage? Probably a combination. It all seems scary but exciting too. So please pray I keep holding onto God throughout 2018 as life continues to get complicated!!
Thanks for reading! – A
Hi again. It’s been a long wait again, so hope it’s worth the wait!
This time I’m looking at taking each day as it comes. It’s a familiar concept, and one I’ve wanted to write on for a while now, Mainly because of how helpful it’s been to me. Firstly I think The Bible supports this idea in a number of ways. Jesus tells us not to worry because each day has enough trouble of it’s own. But how could Jesus say this when there’s ‘so much’ to worry about? Well the simple answer is that He is in full control and God is supremely sovereign. And this should help us in taking life at a day at a time. So how do we do it? And why? Below is what I’ve discovered.
1: Prayer: Praying earnestly is key to surviving the day, and praying about tomorrow can actually help us focus on today. I’ve found it very helpful to pray through the things that are troubling us, one at a time. Breaking up our prayer requests throughout the day can be really helpful and put our mind at rest. Not only praying about these things, but also purposely placing them in God’s hand at the end of every prayer.
2: Enjoyment: Joy can actually be a choice, (at least most of the time) and we can choose to have a happy outlook toward each day, and God commands us to have ‘joy in The Lord’. Also taking on the challenges of the day and choosing to enjoy them can really help. Instead of fearing the difficulties of each day, let’s enjoy the challenge knowing God’s in control and has our best interests at heart.
3: Give God the Glory: Giving God the glory helps take the focus off us, and reminds us what every day is all about. How often do we pray that we’ll glorify God with our day? Our self-centredness gets in the way of focusing on God, and it’s also the most difficult thing to overcome. Afterall, denying ourselves is a totally alien concept, but the reality is that Putting God first and focusing on giving Him the glory should also put us at ease.
4: Taking chances: Lastly I want to highlight the importance of taking chances in life and not letting our worries get in the way. Putting points 1-3 together should hopefully encourage us. I know from experience that worry can stop you doing the beneficial things in life, and remembering that God IS in control really helps. Afterall, what’s the worst that could happen?
5: Summary: So what to make of it all? Well we’ve been given each day by God to glorify Him, and should hopefully be thankful for this blessing. Everyday is a challenge, a chapter and chance. It’s a challenge because as christians life is tough and we face all kinds of trials that toughen us up. It’s a chapter because life is split up into each day. And it’s a chance, because everyday is a chance to glorify God, and to serve him as we take each day at a time..
It’s been awhile since I’ve written, so thought I’d get this out there.
So as I’ve gotten more involved at my church, and since becoming an uncle to 3 nephews, I’ve really enjoyed teaching the next generation of children coming through. Being part of the Kids Club and Sunday School has been a great experience so far and has filled me with real joy, and here’s why:
1 A Learning Curve:
Teaching kids is hard, and it’s no different for me. It’s tested both my own Bible knowledge and how I present myself. Kids watch your every move and you can’t get away with any hypocrisy! This has been a huge learning curve for me, and has taught me a lot. Getting your point across to children can also be hard work, and breaking down the complexity of the Bible certainly isn’t easy. It’s hugely challenging, but a great joy as well.
2 An Encouragement:
Being with and teaching kids is pretty fun and enjoyable, but the real joy for me comes from seeing young children understanding the Bible and applying to their lives. Seeing them defend the faith and discuss God’s Word has been really exciting and a joy to watch. It certainly encourages me to get reading my Bible more when a 10 year old can recite bible verses before my eyes!
Teaching children also gives real purpose, and helps me to study and come up with hard questions to ask. It’s given me all the more reason to understand the Bible. (Although I should want to study it anyway of course!) Knowing that children will inevitably ask you questions and challenge you, it gives real purpose.
4 The Family:
Of course my role is a minor one compared to the parents, and you can see just what it a privilege it is to be brought up in a Christian home, and it’s been a great to see them flourishing under God’s Word. Obviously having more young children in my family, (I have 3 Nephews!) is hugely encouraging as well, and I can’t wait until they will be learning and studying God’s word regularly. The importance of the Family can’t be overlooked, and I’ll likely cover this topic in another post.
5 A Point for prayer:
Having children to teach and facilitate ultimately gives you more to pray about, and this is something I certainly need to work on. Persistent pray is vital and I urge my readers to pray for me that I’ll pray more for the children!
6 Encouragement to Other Leaders:
It’s an amazing privilege to teach God’s Word to anyone, let alone Kids, so I’d always recommend it to others. I never really believed I’d be any use in such an environment, but God can use anyone, and that may well be you! Seeing their sweet and excited faces is such a joy, and to those who teach already, keep it up, it’s an amazing opportunity and service to the Church!
7 Summary/The Next Step
Some of the kids from my small group will be leaving this Easter, and although they’ve been a privilege to teach and I’ll miss them, they move on to where they will gain a better understanding of the bigger picture of God’s plan in His word. So in summary it has and will continue to be a joy and Blessing to teach and I thank God for the opportunity I have and I ask that you pray for me to keep the enthusiasm going!
Yes this Year has just shot by, and here I’m going to sum up 2016. As before I’ll include a few photos. As every year it’s had it’s highs and lows, and some new experiences. Once again I had a cracking time at the Banner Of Truth conference in April, and had the privilege of bringing a friend along this year too.
It’s been my first full time year of work with my van, and that’s been a challenge and a learning curve. Tools breaking down on me etc. hasn’t been easy! But one blessing was having a long term employee/sub contractor working with me in Tom. being a manager and a boss was a new experience and certainly tested me. But having another Christian work for me was great, and through it I’ve also made a friend. I learnt a huge amount and hopefully God willing I’ll have the chance to do it again in 2017.
I had a successful 21st birthday, and got to appreciate the friendships I’ve built over the years, and saw friends from far and wide.
Helping out at my first summer camp was also a great experience and was hugely encouraging. Spending a week serving young people, and ignoring my own wants was surreal, but rewarding.
Overall it’s been a year in which I’ve grown in my faith, and learnt a number of hard lessons. So bring on 2017!
2017 I hope will be a transitional year for me. I hope to continue to build my business, go on camp again, and my main goal is to arrange a trip to Norway. It’s been a goal for a while, to go to Oslo, and basically discover the churches, and meet Christians. I hope It’ll be an encouraging experience. Whilst also being a holiday!
And lastly I want 2017 to be a year for me to grow spiritually, and to create good patterns of life. Prayers would be appreciated that I can do that!
Thanks and wishing you all a happy new year! – AP
It’s been awhile since I wrote last. Just haven’t made the time. But due to recent illness I’ve had the time to research and dissect the latest subject I’m writing on.
This post is primarily about celebrity Christians and what we can decipher regarding what true faith looks like, and how we can both learn and discern from them. So I’ll do this in 3 sections based on 2 people and a conclusion. As always this is pure opinion, but I hope to base this opinion on God’s word of course.
(1) A football faith?
There has been a lot of talk recently about Wayne Rooney becoming a Christian. Sadly, I tend to lean towards being a bit cynical about these things, and often dismiss these claims. (Something I need to work on) But I decided to do some research this time, and find out what I could. The media obviously twist things a lot, but I’ve tried to find the most reliable sources. Wayne has openly said he has found it difficult being a Christian, and but has said he prays before matches, and seems to have a faith. He tweets and says he Believes in God. But He does seem to see it as a ‘personal faith’ and that’s what confuses me. Without knowing him personally we obviously can’t in any way judge too harshly, but I believe we can look at the fruit. Have his actions changed? How has it affected his football? Only God knows for sure, and Being a Christian in the footballing world must be incredably difficult. Deciphering true faith from the nominals is difficult, but what signs can we find for true faith? Let’s check out another believer in the limelight below…
(2) True famous faith?
Some of you may of heard of the tennis player Michael Chang. A French Open champion in 1989 and a great competitor, Michael also professed to be a Christian, but the way he goes about it is quite different. He has a foundation based around his faith, and looks to build on the community and to spread the gospel. He frequently mentions his faith, and openly said he goes into every match placing it into God’s hands. He has even ‘preached’ at universities and colleges in the USA. The biggest difference I see with Michael, is that it’s certainly not a ‘personal faith’ which belongs to him only. He wants to passionately share his faith with the world.
So what am I getting at? Is it impossible to be a Christian footballer? Is Wayne not truly a believer because he doesn’t seem to openly speak about it as much? Well as mentioned before we can never know someone’s true heart, and I do trust we will pray that his faith grows and if it isn’t already, becomes a true faith.
I think Michael Chang is a great testimony to Christian Celebrities, and the way God is using him is fantastic. His passion is certainly inspiring, and has helped me.
But I think lastly we need to keep on praying on for these Christians in the limelight. Let’s keep praying they’ll keep going in a ruthless and humanistic society. And weather it’s true or not, let’s thank God that he is working on the hardest hearts, and that people like Wayne are asking serious questions about eternity..