Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fullness of Life?

Following on from a conversation I was having the other day, I have decided to blog about the following passage of scripture:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

I realise that taking part of a verse like this completely takes it out of its context, so I should probably just add that Jesus says this to the Pharisees when He is talking about Himself as a gate for the sheep – the idea being that people will follow Him because they recognise His voice.

My questions relate very specifically to this idea of having life to the full. In-particular, what does is mean to have life to the full? The Bible is very clear about the need for followers of Jesus to be unworldly. There are many passages I could quote here – let me name a few:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

“Do not be overawed when a man grows rich,
when the splendor of his house increases;
for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.
Though while he lived he counted himself blessed— and men praise you when you prosper” Psalm 49:16-18

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he, (Jesus) told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." 'But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' Luke 12:14-20

So I guess from these examples we can assume that ‘life in all its fullness’ does not necessarily mean a life filled with worldly possessions.

So what does it mean? That we can have life in all its fullness without having ‘stuff’. That God is enough in Himself to completely satisfy us and to give us a rich full life? So why do we crave stuff? Why can you be living your life for God – truly loving Him and yet feel that there is more, that you are missing something – or even more difficult to understand – that you are simply bored with your life?

I guess the only answer I can see to it is that these people aren’t being completely satisfied by God – most likely because they aren’t giving Him enough of themselves in the first place. Is that right? If so, how can this problem be solved? “Give God more of yourself” is not enough of an answer without there being some practical way of working that out in each person’s individual life. If someone is bored, how do they become not bored?

It makes me wonder whether the problem is really spiritual. For someone who is bored – can the answer to that be found in the world? If so how do you find it, and how does that then relate to the Bible passages earlier that say that ‘stuff’ is meaningless?

Additionally, I went to the commissioning of some new Salvation Army Officers at the weekend, and one persona testimony really made me think. She said that before she accepted Officership in the Salvation Army to be God’s call on her life and followed that call, there was something missing in her life. Now that she has followed her calling and found her vocation, she feels fulfilled. I am really pleased for her – don’t get me wrong, but I just wondered how long that would last? It’s easy to say when it’s all new and exciting, but is it really the thing that will satisfy her and allow her to feel that fulfilment for the rest of her life? For those that haven’t found that fulfilment then, is it all about searching for the thing that is going to fulfil you? Isn’t that what we say people are doing when they are searching for meaning in the bottom of a bottle, or in drugs etc. Don’t we say to them that they can find their fulfilment in God?

We talk about God being like the missing piece of a jigsaw – (the jigsaw representing life) but what about when someone has God and yet still feels like there is a missing piece? Does it go on and on until we are finally with Jesus forever – face to face, able to be in His complete presence?

I guess the questions boil down to one main point (as per usual!) if Jesus came to give life, and life in all its fullness, how does it then follow that some people who have given their lives to Him, given up stuff for Him, work hard for Him, and have a relationship with Him can still find themselves with lives that feel anything but full? What does He mean when He says, I came to give life, and life to the full?

I would like to finish with a disclaimer! I am not bored of life - anything but! In fact life is so full sometimes that my head thinks it might explode! Its more just that after a conversation, I realised that I really didn't fully understand this, so hoped that others might be able to help!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Child of the 80's - yup - well and truly!

Ok - unusual blog for me! But I saw this on facebook and I got soooooo excited! Sorry for all those non-80's people! But this is soo cool!

Description: You know you were a kid in the 80s if any of these are familiar.....

Um Bongo, Um Bongo, They drink it in the Congo Yup

Friendship bracelets were ties that couldn't be broken. Yup

You know all the words to "Ice Ice Baby". Nope – but remember the song!

You wanted to be on "Jim'll Fix It". Yup – Lee wrote in like every week!

You can remember what Michael Jackson looked like before he had plastic surgery. Yup

You had one of those T-shirts that changed colour with heat (Global Hypercolour). Nope

You know the profound meaning of "Wax on, Wax off". Huh?!

You were upset when She-ra, Princess of Power and He-Man got cancelled. Yup but He-Man was the best!

You remember Madonna in her cone stage outfit. Yup

You knew "The Artist" when he was humbly called "Prince." Yup

You wore fluorescent-neon clothing... (if you can call it clothing!) Yup! And shell suits!

You remember when Amiga was a state of the art video game system. Yes yes yes – Oh how I miss it!

You remember M.C. Hammer. Sort of

You can still sing the rap to "Fresh Prince of Bel Air".... Yes – I really can!

You can remember when it was Jazzy Jeff and The fresh Prince and NOT just plain Will Smith! No!

You own any cassettes. Yup!

You carried your lunch to school in a Gremlins, ALF or ET lunchbox. Yup, I think I might have had Alf – I also had my little pony.

You have ever pondered on why Smurfette was the ONLY female smurf. Didn’t really watch the smurfs

My Little Pony, Gummy Bears and Transformers are familiar to you. Yes, yes! Transformers, robots in disguise! And Lee used to sing My little pony, skinny and bony at me!

You had a Swatch Watch. Don’t think I ever actually had one? Did I?

You believed that "By the power of Greyskull, you HAD the power!" Yes yes! The power of greyskull!

Big wheels and BMX's were the way to go. Yup

You sang to Kylie and Jason! Yes!

You owned Polly Pocket or Micro Machines. Polly pocket – yes! Why were they so cool?!

Partying "like it's 1999" seemed SO far away. Ha ha! Yes it really did!

You knew that Transformers were "more than meets the eye". Yeah!

You were led to believe that in the year 2000 we'd all be living in space. Ha ha! Not sure I ever believed it!

Girls - You wore biker shorts underneath a short skirt and felt stylish. Yes – so that I could do handstands in the playground!

You recorded songs off the radio. Yes yes!

You wore those wide, colourful shoelaces. Oh yeah!

You never questioned why the A-Team were always imprisoned in places that had sufficient tools to build an armoured tank. Absolutely not – the A-Team were simply incredible – you didn’t question them!

Dungeons & Dragons was your favourite understand why they couldn't leave the unicorn. Wasn’t my favourite, but I remember it.

You did the top toggle of your coat up around your neck without having your arms in the sleeves, and you knew you looked like a superhero. Yeah! And those toggles were well cool!

Your new winter coat was best used to demonstrate that your wings were like a shield of steel. What?!

You remember watching a house inhabited by a jester, a pantomime horse and a woman who sneezed, and thinking that this was perfectly normal. Nope! What was that?

You tried to convince your Dad to fit a strip of red lights on the front of a Capri so it looked like KITT. No – huh?! - Oh night rider! I loved night-rider!

You had more than 10 sweets in a 10p mix-up. Yes – so true!

You hid behind the sofa whenever you heard the word "Exterminate!". Yeah! Exterminate, exterminate.

Boys - You wore pale grey shoes with white towelling socks. Ha ha!

You held a chicken in the air or stuck a deckchair up your nose. What?!

Your best mate had a Soda Stream at home and you were jealous. Not my best mate – but my Nan had one and we seriously loved it! Those were the days when soda streams had glass bottles – none of this plastic rubbish!

Any elderly Scottish lady sounds like Supergran. yeah yeah yeah!

You remember playing British Bulldog, Yep!

When 'Computer' Tennis, Pac-Man and Donkey-Kong ruled yeah!

You remember hearing the tune then running out to buy an ice cream cone on a warm summer night - 99's, screwballs or a cider lolly. Yeah! (Not a cider lolly, but the other two definitely!)

Water balloons were the ultimate weapon. Yeah!

Important decisions were made by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo." Yes yes yes!

Incidently, I can't believe they haven't mentioned great things such as 'Thundercats - HO!' and Bananaman and Knightmare, The care bears and all the other great shows!

Monday, July 16, 2007


I decided recently to start trying to read through the Old Testament. Having tried this on numerous occasions before and only making it as far as the first couple of chapters in Leviticus, I decided that this time I would start at Joshua. I will come back to the fist five books if I make it to the end of the Old Testament! Anyway – I am in Judges right now and have recently been reading about Gideon. I find his story a very interesting one. Gideon is often used as an example of one of the ‘unlikely’ people that ended up being used by God to have a massive influence on Jewish history. There are a couple of things about his story that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind so I thought I would blog them!

First the Bible bits!

With the tip of the staff that was in his hand, the angel of the LORD touched the meat and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!" Judges 6:21-22

Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised- look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:36-40

My first pondering: Gideon saw the angel, spoke to the angel, watched the angel perform a miracle and finally believed he was an angel. Then proceeded to test God again TWICE just to make sure! I know this is a question which is commonly asked but it does make you wonder – is it ok to test God? When Jesus was being tempted he quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16 saying do not put the Lord your God to the test. Yet here is Gideon testing God and God responding to him. I think my opinion on this is that we should try to trust God always, and the ideal is that we would never need to put Him to the test in this way – but He understands that we are human and have fears and so He may well respond when we test Him.

If Gideon had woke up in the morning to find the test failed how would he have known whether that was because God refuses to be tested, or because God actually wasn’t going to help him? Making it more relevant, if we tested God about something we may think He is saying to us, (rightly or wrongly) and God responded – we would know it was God speaking. BUT if he didn’t respond, we may still be unsure right? Does it mean for definite that God wasn’t speaking, or just that He doesn’t want to have to prove Himself like that?

Clearly the best option is to not test God in the first place, but then how can you KNOW that it is God speaking, and not just some random thing going on in your mind? I have thought about all these things before, but reading about Gideon just rose these ponderings in my mind again.

Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, 'Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.' " So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

But the LORD said to Gideon, "There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, 'This one shall go with you,' he shall go; but if I say, 'This one shall not go with you,' he shall not go."

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the LORD told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink." Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place." So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. Judges 7:1-8

Second pondering: “The Lord said to Gideon”. Ok, so I could have picked on a number of people in the Old Testament for this one, but since we are with Gideon lets stay there! What on earth does ‘The Lord said to Gideon’ mean? How did the Lord say stuff to Gideon? We know before God spoke to Him through an angel – a visible presence – but what about now. We aren’t told of any angel this time! Ok so clearly we can’t know the answer to that one, but that is so frustrating! If it was just some voice in Gideon’s mind or some feeling inside him, I can’t imagine that he would have been quite so willing to believe it as he seemingly was. If Gideon was lacking in trust before, he is certainly proving himself now! Surely he couldn’t possibly go from seeing and speaking with an angel, then testing God twice, to suddenly being prepared to act on a voice in his head?!

I know it shouldn’t really matter – we don’t need to know the answers to these things, but if God gives us specific instructions these days through our minds or through feelings then how can we learn to believe them to be actually from God? I know God often uses the Bible, a verse here or there which seems to clarify what He is saying, or other people who will do the same, but its just so easy to identify those things as coincidences rather than the voice of God. Isn’t it? How can one be sure?

I can picture the response to this right now - its about faith Kirsty! I know that, and I agree. But what if you put your faith in hearing a message from God and then it turns out you were wrong?!

There is sooooo much more that Gideon’s story has to ponder on, but for now I will leave it at that! I have to get through the rest of Judges at some point!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Performance or Worship ...Part 1 - maybe!

Right. The time has come to blog about a subject which has been on my mind for months. This may have to extend to a 3 part blog or something like that because over time, this whole concept has interested me in many different aspects of life. This post will be devoted mainly to its application to worship – in particular ‘times of worship’ within a church context. Now clearly worship is much more than just singing songs in church – I realise that, but it is that bit of worship that I am focussing on right now, and I can’t think of another way of expressing that – so for this blog whenever you read worship – read ‘sung worship’!

To give a bit of context, I sing in the worship band at my church along with Dawn. I love being part of the worship band, for a few reasons:
  1. We have fun
  2. I love singing, (though I am not the best singer in the world, I still love singing! What a revelation!)
  3. I am convinced that all the members of the worship band understand that what we do is way more than just play an instrument, (or sing), and even rehearsals become worshipful experiences almost every week.

So what’s the issue? Well I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about standing on the platform to sing when I am worshipping – in full view of everyone. I know its not wrong – but it often feels really funny to me. Even though I am often truly worshipping, it can feel like it comes across as a performance. From many discussions we have had, I know that other members of the worship band are concerned that we never try to put on a performance – but rather that we aid worship. Therefore, we try not to worry too much if things go a little wrong, if we miss a key change every now and then and so on. It is nice that this is the aim – but I wonder how often it comes across as a performance rather than worship.

I thought about this a lot this weekend while I was away with the songsters, (the senior choir at my church). We went to the Salvation Army in Swindon to lead their worship for a Saturday night, and the two Sunday services. I happen to think that Romford songsters are always very careful to make what we present worship rather than a performance – thanks to the great leadership of Sharon.

All of this sounds really good – but I struggle mainly with the concept of how ‘good’ we are at what we do. I know it sounds arrogant and is probably a biased opinion, but I happen to think that we have really been blessed at Romford with many people with great skills to aid worship. I think the songsters are really good, so is the brass band, and the singing company and the young people’s band. The worship band are getting better, (I think), Doxology are brilliant. But not only just to do with music – we have people who are brilliant at drama and dance and speaking, and putting meetings together which are interesting and inspirational.

Of course the church isn’t perfect and there are many things which could be better, but this is really my point. Most of the people involved in the above ‘stuff’ go to rehearsals to enable us to get even better, or if not driven by rehearsals, people try very very hard to make sure that whatever is done on Sundays is of a high standard and is enjoyable and interesting. I just worry about how easy it can be to fall into the trap of making every Sunday a ‘show’ rather than worship. (Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that actually happens – but you will see why this is a concern for me in a moment!)

I once went to a friends church to watch a talent show. To be honest, it was pretty poor standard, (I know how awful this sounds), but I would have been embarrassed taking a non-Christian friend to that – I don’t think it would encourage them to come back! I feel so guilty writing that because I know that we believe that in God’s eyes it was wonderful, (providing it was all coming from the heart!) and so it shouldn’t really matter that it wasn’t great in the ‘world’s standards’. But I am also so conscious of trying to make things culturally relevant, and being able to capture people’s attention, in order to get them interested in the message.

Where is the balance? How can we ensure that we don’t get so caught up in ‘putting on a good perfomance’ that it fails to be worship, and yet ensure that we are good enough to attract people’s attention, and to keep people interested and wanting to attend?