Reflections of a Broken Man


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…

EBHG

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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.

EBHG



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

**EDIT**

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:
http://www.mediafire.com/stephenmac

EBHG

*h/t http://morrowmusic.com/#3*

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 http://s3.amazonaws.com/creativemyk.com/2190.jpg for pic… slightly edited*



Home by StephenMac
January 12, 2009, 10:43 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

*currently listening to “Define the Great Line” – Underoath. I think it matches my mood this morning… The Leeland album I recently acquired just doesn’t seem to feel right at this moment*

Yeah I know, it’s been a while since my last post. And the last one was merely the posting of lyrics, so it doesn’t really count as a post either…. I seriously play too much WoW

It became apparent to me these holidays, Christmas/New Year, that I lack love. I’m told to love my neighbour as myself, but what does “love” actually mean? Love is not that soppy bull that society would have us believe. Love is not that lustful crap that magazines and TV shows and movies and games want us to have. Love is care. Taking time out to make sure that you are serving others. Loving your neighbour as yourself means that you are spending your time/resources/etc on other people, just as much as yourself. I was chewed out (and rightfully so) for being unloving.

I did not love my family, becuase I didn’t spend time with them. I did not love my church family, because I would leave my sermons, my leading preparation, my kids talk, to the last minute, forget to turn up on time, and do things really poorly. I did not love because I spent time doing the selfish or mechanical things, and not the selfless and personal things. Like leaving setup for evening service so that I can be welcoming to the new person, who obviously needed someone to talk to. But I didn’t. Because I suck.

I tried this week… I really did. I planned things in advance. I made sure that I set time out to be prepared. And still I screw up. I was not loving, and the evening service reflected a loveless place… Church should not make me feel like crap… and yet…

I feel responsible. But I don’t know what to do. I know there are a million and one things that I could improve. But sometimes I feel that it would require me to put every spare moment I have into it. Maybe I should. But I then feel like I miss out on other things… the fear of burn-out haunts me…

Why do I feel like crap? I think the root cause of it all is my lovelessness. There is just so much that needs to be done. I need an attitude adjustment, but I fear for myself (selfishness).

“When life is in discord, praise Ye, the LORD”

EBHG



When Life is in Discord, Praise Ye The LORD by StephenMac
November 1, 2008, 8:27 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**Currently listening to: Never Take Friendship Personal – Anberlin**

OK, time is 10:13pm Friday 31st (delayed upload). I’ve just returned home from one of the worst weeks. Nothing, it seems, has gone right. But no, I think that I can only blame myself. THe reason for this most recent outpouring of despair is that I have just return from youthgroup. This is the ministry that I helped to set up two years ago, and that I have grace to continue to work in it. Yet while God has afforded me this opportunity, in fact it should be recognised as not actually requiring me, but I am able to share in His work only by His grace. So why does it cause me so much pain? Sure I see that my kids (the primary school aged peeps that I get to hang with each week) are growing, and that is really awesome. I can’t believe the way that God is working there. SP0003723LBut the older group whom I’m sometimes involved with, as I was tonight, cause me nothing but trouble. Well, not all of them, a select three.

But not them, me. This morning, we heard God’s word from Colossians 3:5-14. The message: rid yourselves (put to death) sexual misconduct, but also filthy language. And so sure enough, I therefore tonight lose my temper and swear. Bad language is a habit that I haven’t ever been able to kick completely, but never to my youth group kids before. And as I was driving home this evening, I’m wondering what is it that causes me to sin so badly?!? To forget what I had heard mere hours ago, and do the complete opposite?

This evening, I seriously wondered why I am in ministry. I still have no idea what I want to do after college, but nothing has torn me like this. Nothing gives me great joys, but seriously low lows. I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I have no idea how to handle these pressures. And this current context is light compared to what full-time paid ministry will be. If I’m screwing up so badly now, how would I ever be able to handle it in the future?

Life is chaotic at the moment. Exams, ministries, social stresses. One of the youth group kids told to stress less. God bless him for that, because if they can notice it, then it must be pretty bad. I remember that someone told me that if life isn’t difficult, if you aren’t struggling with your Christian walk, then perhaps the Devil is leaving you alone, because you are where he wants you to be. It’s only when you’re on the right path that temptation comes to cause you to stumble. Perhaps there is more wisdom that I previously understood in the Anberlin lyric:

When life is in discord, praise Ye the Lord
Paperthin Hymn

EBHG



Inner Circles and Church Politics: Against Factionalism REDUX by StephenMac
October 8, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

**currently listening to “New Surrender” by Anberlin! Came in the post today! Joy upon joys**

Thanks to Jax for his comment on my previous article:

Historically, the organisation to which you refer has been one of the reasons why Sydney didn’t go the way of Melbourne. It would seem that this is dirty work but someone’s got to do it.

And the diocese is probably not the only arena in which this kind of political battle, for want of a better way of referring to it, is going on in. There’s lots of other organisations in which orthodoxy and politics have gotten mixed up. Sigh.

bishop I don’t deny the great work this org has done. I think that I am bemoaning the need for someone to do the “dirty work” in the first place. Jax also points out that in lots of other organisations outside the diocese “orthodoxy and politics have gotten mixed up”. This too I don’t deny. It is the current reality of living in a sinful world, I think, that when sinful people come together, they compete against each other for power, and as such band together in various ways to ensure that they get it. As a student of politics, I think I can make a good case for politics being the product of living in a fallen world. We find politics in more than government, we find it wherever sinful, prideful, selfish people come together and interact with each other: in business, in sport, in social groups, virtually everywhere. Politics in this very general sense is the interactions of individuals with regards to power (the ability to affect decisions).

In this way, does politics have a place in the church? On the level that the church is meant to be discordant with society, to be a light in a darkened world, should church be political? Not in the governmental sense (should church affect policy) but intrinsically? And if non-evangelicals (“them”, and already we have made a division in the body of Christ) play the realpolitik should we? Do we fight fire with fire? Where do we draw the line?

Speaking from personal experience, I have seen how politics within church has caused division. My one year on a parish council (albeit in the year we were without a permanent minister) ended with divisions within the council. With the coming of the new minister, the first thing he notices is that our church has great rifts within it. The forming of groups within the council in order to ensure the “correct” (as we saw it) running of the church led to divisions within the church.

Politics is inherently divisive, and as such, I am still reluctant to call it a necessary evil. Just because “they” play it doesn’t mean that I should! So how do we deal with this?

EBHG



Inner Circles and Church Politics: Against Factionalism by StephenMac
October 2, 2008, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

Not sure if this blog fits here, or in my politics one… we’ll see.

The Context: I heard a talk today at college about the politics within our diocese. I’m a politics student… I’m a theological student… could you think of a better mix? But as I listened, I became aware of how anti-diocesan-politics I am. The reason is twofold:

  1. Church/diocesan politics by its very nature is divisive. The concept of politics is inherently tied to competition, almost always for power. In short, politics does not cause division, but rather is symptomatic of and continues to maintain division.

    As I listened to this talk, I realised that despite the great work that one particular organisation did in maintaining orthodoxy behind the scenes, this organisation seemed to be incredibly political, and therefore incredibly divisive. The question is, where is the balance – where is the middle road between church unity, and maintaining of orthodoxy. The line of this organisation was that they were determined to  keep certain other factions out of power in order to maintain the reformed evangelical nature of the diocese. But even that is divisive… so what is the solution?
    cslewis

  2. When listening to this talk, I noticed the great number of names that were being dropped – archbishops, deans, principals, and so on – who were part, or had been part, of this organisation. Personally, it sounded pretty cool, to be part of an org from which the greats had hailed. Then a thought hit me… this is exactly what C.S. Lewis wrote against. Cameron writes:

    I refer to our passion to belong to some ‘inner circle’ of people that hovers temptingly beyond our reach. When gripped by this passion, to be excluded from these circles drives us slightly mad, and to enter them leaves us smugly exultant… C.S. Lewis called it ‘the quest for the Inner Ring’.
    Politics, in this sense, is divisive. It sets up an ‘in’ crowd (those who have power) and creates an outsider crowd (those without power).

I’m still unsure on how to deal with this issue. The idealist in me says: THIS SHOULD NOT BE… The realist in me says: DO IT FOR THE GOOD OF THE DIOCESE. If humanity is inextricably political, should we use all means necessary to work for orthodoxy?

EBHG