Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Doing the Washing up

O.K. so yesterday I went round to a friends house and we were chatting about a variety of things. Before I left I suggested that he prayed about some of the things we'd been talking about. His prayers are the most informal I think I've ever heard which is very refreshing, however, in the middle of his prayer I was shocked to hear him pray something along the lines of 'Please help Ben to do the washing up'. Possibly the funniest and strangest thing that I've been prayed for in a long time.

However, on reflection I can't help but feel glad that some people still pray about things that matter. My prayers are so often dominated by things I want to see happen or stuff I want to see God doing without prayers about God actually changing me and those around me so that we are nicer people who actually care for those around us. After all isn't this guy's prayer just a specific version of Paul's prayer 'that your love may abound more and more'?

I do pray that God would be changing me and those around me in real and practical ways so that we become more like the people he wants us to be! So to the washing up bowl I go and pray that God would be working in me and those people around me so that we all become more committed to other people's good than our own comfort!

Friday, 20 November 2009


This blog is called reflections of a mule.
The word mule was a word we used at university for someone who does nothing or wastes time (no insult meant to the mule species who I'm sure are very active and industrious). The word muling was therefore all too often used (to my shame) to describe what our plans for the day were or what we were doing at any given time.

The question remains what does a mule think about? What are the reflections of a mule? I thought I would share some with you.

1. Football formations. Be this inspired by the team I play for, the team I support or the computer team I manage (o.k. so I am currently playing football manager) I spend a decent amount of time thinking about this.

2. What I'm going to eat. I spend a fair amount of time each day thinking about when my next meal is and what it's going to be. It's just too much fun.

3. Computer Games. What I need to do or could do in order to win/succeed at whatever computer game I am into at the time.

4. Things I need to do. I spend a lot of time trying to think about all the things I need to do in order to try to ensure that I can do them.

It is hardly surprising that with all these things floating round my head I rarely think about anything useful and I often feel like God is absent from my thoughts and therefore life. Someone said to me maybe if I stopped filling my time (or perhaps more importantly my mind) with things such as computer games maybe I would enjoy the better relationship with God I so want.

Monday, 16 November 2009

What can church do for me?

I have often suggested that this sort of question is the wrong sort of question to ask about church. After all if a church is not simply a club you join but actually a new family you become a part of then it is not all about what it can do for you. In a family it is not only about what the family does for you but also what your responsibilities within the family are. In the same way we don't want to have a consumerist approach to church where it's all about what I get rather that what I give and how I can serve.

However, having said all of that I do think that asking the question how can church help me is a great question to ask. My worry is that is we never ask what church can do for me then church attendance becomes something we do out of habit, tradition or simply to make us feel better rather than something we expect God to use to develop us into the people he intended us to be! So we keep going to meeting without ever really thinking how God can use it to change us or expecting him to use it to change us!

Last week at church I encouraged people to ask the question 'How can church help me to know God better?' I long to know God better and I believe that God can use not only his Bible and his Spirit but also the body of believers to help me do this. I'd encourage everyone to ask themselves this question, think about it and then sit down with someone from the church to talk about how we can make it happen. I'm sure that anyone from the church would be excited and encouraged by a conversation like this.
So I've spent some time thinking about this and here are a few things church could do to help me know God better.
1. Ask me how I'm getting on. I'd love people to ask me how I'm getting on with God at the moment. What I'm reading in the Bible at the moment? How am I praying? How are my relationships with other Christians. I know conversations like this are hard but in my experience God uses these to help me connect with him.
2. Live the gospel in our relationships. The church would help me know God better if in the way we related to each other we demonstrated our love of, and commitment to, the gospel. As relationships within the church show that we think that sin is serious and a terrible thing but that forgiveness is wonderful and freely available, I get to see God and know him better.
3. Talking about the Bible. I love talking about the Bible. I love working to understand it and chatting about what it means for us and whether it makes any difference. I, therefore love opportunities to discuss God's word with other people. By giving me opportunities to do this both formally (in meetings) and informally (in conversations) the church would help me to know God better.

There's a few thoughts from me. I shall continue to think as God continues to use his people to help me know him better!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

If it makes you happy...

When I was growing up I remember a song being played on the radio which had the following very memorable words
'If it makes you happy,
Then why the hell are you so sa a a d'

Every now and again those words come back to haunt me. Every now and again when I have a day off and I spend it doing exactly what I want, these words seem ever so appropriate. Maybe it's the catchiness of the tune, maybe it was the fact that they were repeated ad tedium that makes them stick in my head but having not heard the song for years they are still there. How can I spend a day just doing what I choose to do and at the end of it still not feel happy?

It strikes me that I am not alone in this. I find a lot of people unable to do things to make themselves happy despite having that as their primary focus. So many people's primary focus is making themselves happy and yet they fail to even achieve this.

Jesus said that he came to bring a new full life for people. The kind of life which only flows out of right relationship with God. However, some days my decisions show me that I prefer my old empty life to the new full one which Jesus offers! It frustrates me no end when I see people unwilling to give Christianity a go because they're not willing to give up a life which doesn't even make them happy. However, every now and again, I spend whole days doing exactly the same!
I need God to continue to transform my heart, soul and mind because I have become a consummate pro when it comes to deceiving myself!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

How can you believe God's in control?

When you look around the world it at times seems out of control. I mean I'm no economist but it seems bizarre that mankind creates something called money which then manages to get so out of control that we become a victim to the very thing we created. As if we cannot even control a system which we created. However, as the recession has shown many people have become victims of the forces of economics.
Then the Bible asks us to believe that in this chaotic world God is the ultimate ruler. The Bible tells us that everything in creation is subject to him and so when all around us seems to be in turmoil we're still meant to believe that God is ultimately in control. The world doesn't look much like it subject to God. It looks like it is going it's own way. Much of the world doesn't even believe in God never mind feel subject to him. How can we believe that in a world which is so chaotic, in a society where so many people are going there own way and rejecting God, that everything really is under God's rule.

I read these words today in the Bible
'As it is, we do not yet see everything subjected to him. But we do see Jesus - made lower than the angels for a short time so that by God's grace He might taste death for everyone - crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death.'

Here's the answer to that question. We believe the world is subject to God because we see Jesus dying on a cross to take the punishment our sins deserve. Those verses clearly say what I feel which is that everything doesn't seem subject to him. However, they go on to say that we can believe that this is the case because we can look to Jesus. You see God doesn't say 'I know it doesn't look much like I'm in control but just believe that I am despite the evidence.' No God says 'I know it doesn't look much like everything's subject to me but remember Jesus. Remember that Jesus came to earth and did things which no-one else can do. Remember that he died for your sins and as you remember that allow the thing which is undeniable (Jesus life and death) to convince you that this thing which seems deniable (that I'm making everything subject to me) is true.'

People tend to think that Christianity is about bullying yourself to believe something which is unlikely. However, what God says is that there was a person called Jesus who lived, did inexplicable stuff and died for you. As you have seen me working there now trust me in the places where you currently can't see me working.
So we don't see and understand everything. But we do see Jesus and in that God has surely given us enough evidence for us to trust him with those things we don't see and don't understand!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

How could God write the Bible?

Last week I was doing a Holiday Club for primary school aged children in Accrington. During the first day of this I was trying to explain that the Bible is not just a book written by a few insightful people a few thousand years ago but that it's actually God's means of communicating with people. I was explaining that the Bible is God's book, written by him which records his dealings with humanity throughout history.
After doing this, quite expertly and clearly I thought, one of the children put their hand up and asked me the following question...
'How could God have written the Bible if he's dead?'
Now needless to say I was a bit taken aback by this question. I hadn't really envisaged having a follower of Neitzsche in this group. So I responded by saying that the Bible doesn't really say that God is dead, in fact it says that he's alive. The girl responds by saying
'I know he's sort of alive but he's also a little bit dead.'
Now after this clarification I was obviously fine.

Whilst this ended up a quite humorous, and very interesting discussion it did get me to start thinking. I guess many people's problem with the idea of God doing stuff is that he seems a bit dead. You see for us life is so bound up in the physical and as God is not currently physically in front of us then the idea of him being alive and doing stuff seems bizarre.
The strange thing is that the Bible says that the exact opposite thing is true. It's not that God is a little bit dead but rather it's that we're a little bit dead. We're alive physically but spiritually we're dead and so we are incapable of recognising spiritual life. This means that God seems a little bit dead when actually he is more alive than we can possibly imagine. However, humanity has always been better at seeing the problem in someone else rather than considering that it might simply be that we don't see and understand everything completely!