Reflections of a Broken Man

Friday Chapel by StephenMac
February 20, 2009, 3:36 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**Currently playing in iTunes: The Resistance by Anberlin**

I think this year, I might try something different, and rather than merely being a hearer of Friday Chapel Sermons (in one ear-out the other) I want to start thinking, processing, and discussing things from it. I want to be able to pick out what it is that God is saying to me, and then actually be changed by it.

This morning was a good example. We looked at Colossians 3:12-17. We began by asking the question of how we measure success as Christians. Now unless I missed something, I don’t think that this question was ever answered. I think the point that was trying to be made was that when we measure our success as Christians, we often use the “world’s” measures of success, and thus categorise ourselves as failures. We fail at prayer, evangelism, bible reading, moral life, all these things that we can measure, we know that as Christians, we are all poor at doing. And I understand this. But I think I missed the alternative measure of success…

I do remember that the final section was looking at how we should be clothed as Christians, as the “chosen ones of God”, “holy and loved”, we should act in a certain way. In particular, I was challenged by the fact that we need to be doing things with gratitude and thanks to God. I so often complain, whinge, whine, etc… I think that I need to be a lot more thankful and mature in my attitude.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him
Col. 3:17

The last few days I have drafted posts ranting about this or that, complaining about this or that. I’m very glad now that I never published them, because I realise that it’s just another sign of my immaturity.

There is a reason for this thankfulness too… it isn’t merely “that’s what nice Christians do” thing. It’s a response to grace. Personally (not sure if this was the reason mentioned this morning), it seems as though “achievement” and “success” in the Christian life are the wrong terms. Our life is not characterised by how much success we have in living the Christian life (we fail epically on that count), but rather the fact that we are called and chosen in Christ by God. There is no yardstick for that: we are in Christ who was successful, who has obtained all the achievements possible. And so we are to live like that, as people who are holy and loved. And so we are to be clothed in all these things that are mentioned in 12-16. Thankfulness is the result of being chosen, holy and loved.

I think our problem is that we see our lives, filled with daily sin and failure, and we forget that we are forgiven, we forget that we are chosen, we forget that we are holy, and we forget that we are loved. Why else would Christ be on that cross unless we were loved by him? And so we search for tangible success and end up disappointed. Perhaps the first part of thankfulness is being aware of the reality of our salvation. It is tangible. It is real. And it needs to be remembered and acted upon every moment in our lives.


Valentine’s Day by StephenMac
February 14, 2009, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , ,

**Currently playing in iTunes: Drive There Now! by The Almost**

Before I post proper, I recently moved to a mac, and am missing Windows Live Writer… is there an equivalent programme out there for Mac? Google searches have yielded little freeware… currently using 30 day trial of MarsEdit, which has the cool “currently playing in iTunes” feature.

Moving right along. Today is Valentine’s Day, and like many others my thoughts return to the issue of singleness. It was probably not helped by preparing a sermon on Ruth 2 which deals with God’s provision of a husband for the widow Ruth.

I want to make a stand today. I want to make a resolution. Rather than bemoaning singleness, this Valentine’s Day I am going to make a stand for love. Sounds cheesy? Again and again, I am reminded that love is not the lovey-dovey crap that is found in Hallmark cards, that BS that society wants us to believe in. I’m talking about real love, where we take time out to care for and look after others. The book of Ruth can be read as a “romantic comedy” but I think that I have been challenged to see it as a book that reminds me of God’s graceful provision, and that I can reflect that love that he has shown me by loving others.

I resolve this Valentine’s Day not to be depressed by the couples in and around college, whose lives and relationships I often long to replicate should I but have the chance. Rather, this Valentine’s Day, I am going to make a promise: that this year, I will be more loving. I will take time out to get to know my youth group kids. I will take time to know the names of the people in my congregation. That I will be praying for friends, family, brothers and sisters, and not just once or twice, but regularly. I will place the needs of others first, but seeking to see where I can best serve them.

Ok… that sounds quite good in theory, but how am I going to turn that into something tangible? The first thing that I plan to do differently this year will be to make sure that I am planning youth group studies and sermons well in advance, giving them the time and attention that they deserve, esp. considering the very simple fact that it is GOD’S WORD and deserves nothing less. Second, I plan to make sure that I know the names of every person in my youth group, but then also where they are at, what their strengths are, and what they struggle with. And I want to make sure that I am praying for them by name at least each week.

For a person that has just resolved to be more other-person centred, this post is very much me-orientated… oh the irony…

Keep me accountable…


Messes of Men by StephenMac
February 6, 2009, 8:46 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

*listening to mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister album again, or rather, still*

"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
sailing in our separate ships, and in each tiny caravel-
tiring of trying, there’s a necessary dying
like the horseshoe crab in its proper season sheds its shell
such distance from our friends,
like a scratch across a lens,
made everything look wrong from anywhere we stood
and our paper blew away before we’d left the bay
so half-blind we wrote these songs on sheets of salty wood

You caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters
I’d set my course for land,
but you well understand
it takes a steady hand to navigate adulterous waters
the propeller’s spinning blades held acquaintance with the waves
as there’s mistakes I’ve made no rowing could outrun
the cloth low on the mast like to say I’ve got no past
I’m nonetheless the librarian and secretary’s son
with tarnish on my brass and mildew on my glass
I’d never want someone so crass as to want someone like me
but a few leagues off the shore, I bit a flashing lure
and I assure you, it was not what it expected it to be!
I still taste its kiss, that dull hook in my lip
is a memory as useless as a rod without a reel
to an anchor-ever-dropped-seasick-yet-still-docked
captain spotted napping with his first mate at the wheel
floating forgetfully along, with no need to be strong
we keep our confessions long and when we pray we keep it short
I drank a thimble full of fire and I’m not ever going back

Oh, my God!
"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
while watching sink the heavy ship of everything we knew
if ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

brothersister Why am I even posting this song?!? It’s about adultery, and by posting it, am I admitting to that? No… thankfully…

There is something about the futility of sin that this song expresses. I’m reading a commentary of Judges for an upcoming Bible study, and the author mentioned the sheer monotony and repetitiveness of the sin of the Israelites. I think this song follows a similar line, in that sin is futile… we do it, but we understand that it doesn’t satisfy:

you caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters

And while there are a few lyrics which I am still trying to get my head around, I must admit to loving the final part:

If ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

I think that this is the thing I want in my life, that when people see me, they actually see the reflection of the Lord in the mirror that is holding his image. My life should reflect God’s work, God’s person.

Hang on, haven’t I ranted about taking God’s name in vain before? How is this song different? This is not a meaningless or empty use of God’s name… the context shows us that it’s a cry to God…

Oh to be a reflection of the Lord…


New Beginnings by StephenMac
February 2, 2009, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , ,

*currently listening to mewithoutYou – Messes of Men from Brother, Sister*

There is something about new beginnings… whether it’s a new job, new house, new church or new school, there is that air of hopefulness and excitement. Sometimes, there is that tinge of sadness, because the departure breaks something, a connection.

I lead the New Year’s Eve service at the beginning of this year, and I was reminded that as Christians, we have one new beginning, Easter Sunday, that amazing morning two millennia ago. We have no more new beginnings other than that… Our life is measured then in milestones, ticking off the years, days, hours, seconds until Christ returns. We have one beginning, our life in Christ, and one destination, our relationship with him.

And so the leaving of my home at Liverpool South and the entering into a “new family” (well, same family, just different branch) has kinda got me with mixed emotions. Leaving home at Liverpool and moving into Newtown has filled me with false hopes. Resolutions have been made already, optimism is filling my mind, yet I need to remember that it’s not a new beginning, merely another step in God’s massive plan.

So this evening, when I found myself disappointed with the way things were working out, that despair upon realising that nothing special or awesome has occured as a result of this perceived new beginning, I was reminded that life is not discrete units, new books whatever metaphor you want, but all one story, the story of how God is using me and how I am at times disappointing him or pleasing him.

I left Liverpool South on Sunday. I left home. My brothers, my sisters. I don’t think until you leave that you realise how much you are going to miss them. Despite the stresses, despite the pains and annoyances, despite the awesome highs and low lows, God has blessed me (maybe inflated my ego somewhat) by allowing me to see how much of an impact that I had in the lives of some people. Humility, false humility, not sure which, meant that I was genuinely moved by the “toasting” that I received from dear friends at LSAC… And I really wanted more of a roasting, but they were too kind.

Despite the fact that I felt that I had failed so many of them (I don’t even know peoples names…) they were genuinely going to miss me. How much of that is me as God’s creature, and how much of that is God working through me? Should I even differentiate the two? I wanted to scream… I am a broken man, could they not see that it was God who did these things, that had moved their lives, who had built them and encouraged them? I knew who the real actor was, but I couldn’t find the words to tell them. I knew, but I think I liked the spotlight…

I am thinking about next week… I am thinking about how God is going to use me, and whether it will be a new beginning (where I ignore the past and pretend like Liverpool didn’t exist, like my failings didn’t exist) or whether I can get the perspective right and overcome my arrogance, my abruptness, my false humility, and do this thing right, whether I can see this in the big picture of God’s plan, where my past failings are used for God’s glory, and the mistakes I make still have value. I am thinking about whether how I am going to impact these brothers and sisters, and whether they will see me, or whether they will see God working through me. I think at Liverpool, I made it so they would see me, and I don’t want to let that happen again.

I am thinking about relationships… There was a lady at church, a lady who treats me as her son, who prays for me more than my parents do, who is concerned about in things that matter, not the financial or career or success that my biological parents desire for me. She is concerned about the things that really matter. I may have played way too much World of Warcraft over the holidays at the expense of doing homework, but on my last night there, I found that I had two guild members who were praying for me and had found great encouragement in my ministry. I have never met them in real life, I have never even seen them face to face, or even heard their voice, and yet, they encourage me more than most people I know. I am thinking about school teachers, who even six years after I have left their tutelage, are still teaching me and praying for me.

Do you know that encouragement? That despite your failings, your screw-ups, your awful, selfish, lonely and unjustifiable sinfulness, they still care for you and pray for you? How much greater then, Christ’s love who made it all possible? How much more awesome, and genuine, and affective that love, shown upon the Cross.

Hebrews 12:1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.