Reflections of a Broken Man

On Seeking Approval by StephenMac
August 18, 2009, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**Currently listening to Don’t Wait – Dusk and Summer, Dashboard Confessional… on an incidental note, this morning’s chapel song had a very DBC feel to it…**

At college, I am surrounded by super-intelligent people… Most times, I don’t notice it, but last night at dinner, I really did. I was having a conversation with a very distinguished scholar, and I couldn’t help but feel completely humbled by the simple fact that I got very lost in the conversation… I genuinely had no idea what was going on. I returned to my room, procrastinated by opening up the blogs that I subscribe to, and finding a discussion on “who did Christ die for?” – a simple question – but had nothing more than a superficial appreciation for the answers provided in the debate. This past day, I have felt out of my league for the first time in a very long time…

But that’s not my worry… so I’m mediocre… this I’ve understood for a while… Some men are born to mediocracy, others have mediocracy thrust upon them, and I’m both… But what really stunned me was my reaction this morning in class… This scholar visited our class, and I found myself trying to answer every question, trying to prove the fact that I had listened, that I had understood. I found myself seeking the approval of the lecturer…

There’s a certain shame that comes with realising that you’re a try-hard… And there’s something hypocritical about preaching against this a mere two days before. Physician, heal thyself.

How can I preach “You’re a failure, but Christ is your success, and you’re in him” when I can’t even appreciate that myself?!? To preach Christ-esteem is one thing, to still have low-self-esteem is another…

To seek the approval of men is nothing short of shameful and futile, and to ignore the self that Christ gives me is foolishness and leads to despair, disappointment, and pointlessness.


Why I Blog by StephenMac
March 24, 2009, 7:07 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Define the Great Line by Underoath**

My MarsEdit trial has ended so I am back on Windows Live Writer after I sold my soul and installed Windows on my mac…

There has been a lot of talk recently around the place about a greater “web presence” for our community. I’m all for it: I think that to reach people like my and those in our generation, we need to use the web. But somehow I found this blog as part of the lists of “students who blog”. True enough, but I specifically did not respond to the email because I did not want this blog to be a “college blog”.

I was discussing this with one of my friends, and I was asked why I then blog. Why? What do I hope to achieve? What is the purpose of ROBM? So I thought that I should probably clarify myself…

I think, therefore I blog. For me, blogging is sometimes a way to be able to collate thoughts and have them in text, to be able to better understand what on earth is going on. Hence the Reflections part of the name. But, as she asked, why not simply write things down in a word document? For me, blogging includes a level of openness, of being able to write, to share, to wear my heart on my sleeve to use yet another cliché. It is a chance to get things out there, while maintaining a level of anonymity that otherwise would have made the whole process impossible. And finally, it is a chance to speak to those who have similar tings on their heart, for those who love music and want to know what songs mean, for those who desire more than the superficial from their speakers, but want to be moved, provoked, challenged, by their music. And so I will provide reflections on song lyrics, and should do so more often.

Finally, I end with a postscript of EBHG. It stands for Ever By His Grace, a tag that I picked up off one of my dearest friends, who would sign off his emails with that, reminding me that whatever we do, it is continually by God’s Grace. The ability to blog, to hear the thoughts of others, to share with them my life somewhat, but to eventually tell them that there is real meaning, and real hope, and real life found only in Christ, is purely by the grace of God. These reflections are sometimes an attempt to point you to the reality. They are broken, as the man who writes them is fallen and broken, but the reality they point to is not.

And so I write,

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.


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.


Alas and did my Saviour Bleed by StephenMac
January 18, 2009, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Reflections, Sermons | Tags: , , ,


I posted this song after preaching on getting Christ right… we sang it immediately after the sermon, and it just seemed to hit the right notes (excuse the pun). I remember hearing that there is something about the traditional hymns, that in a few short verses, they convey sooo much theology; something that is curiously lacking much of the modern Christian music. This song, arranged and performed by the Morrows, is also really awesome musically. It’s expresses both the grief of the death of Christ, the shame that we feel as sinners, and the joy and hope that we have because he died and rose again, that we have because we are redeemed.

I feel somewhat vain posting sermons online, as it sometimes feels like I do it for my own gratification, but some people actually find it useful. But that’s God’s hand at work there, not mine. So may God use this his way:



Alas, and did my Saviour bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For such a one as I?
His body slain before its time
His head was bathed in blood
He bore the mark of wrath divine
While in my place he stoodcross copy

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in
When Christ, the mighty Maker died
For man the creature’s sin
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown
And love beyond degree!

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt my eyes to tears
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe
Here, Lord, I give my self away
‘Tis all that I can do

Words: Isaac Watts (1674-1748);
Additional lyrics: Michael Morrow;
Music: Traditional, arranged Michael Morrow
©2008 Michael Morrow

*h/t for pic… slightly edited*