A Bit of a Break

I have decided to take a bit of a blogging break for the summer. This is so I can spend some time doing other things and also be refreshed when I come back to blogging a bit later!

On that note I leave you with a funny video on what Christians say and also a drawing of a Coffee Koala…:

 

Meaning of Life and Death

I recently watched the Dawkins series on the meaning of Life on channel 4. I found it quite interesting, Dawkins is a very eloquent speaker and asks some good questions. He looks at three parts of the meaning of life – sex, death and getting out of bed in the morning – ethics, morality and meaning in life. I like Richard Dawkins and I think he is being genuine in his questions and he seeks answers from different areas – religious people and scientists. The conclusions that Dawkins brings is that basically the reason why atheists can get out of bed in the morning is because there is much beauty in life to enjoy, so get up and enjoy life knowing that you have come from a fish and you will carry on for generations in your DNA. There is no god, no afterlife, no reason of hope – but just enjoyment free of guilt, the creativity from arts and science to keep our minds alive and the knowledge that this life is it so make the most of it.

I wonder how people found this? This is a genuine question because I think on one level Dawkins is right. If you are an atheist then that’s what you must do with life – enjoy it till the end and when death is on your doorstep you are not to fear because your genes will carry on in your offspring.

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (Isaiah 22:13)

Dawkins is right, there is nothing more to hope for than that and there is nothing more you want to hope for is there? But it leaves me with questions. I think back to my atheist self before I was a christian and I remember trying to embrace this, this enjoyment of life and be happy with the idea that there is nothing after. It left me feeling empty. My heart yearned for more, I cannot deny that I was not satisfied in Dawkins approach – I wonder how many other people aren’t either. When faced with death, I wonder how things would change in the way you think? I guess the question is whether Dawkins is right or not regardless about our wishful thinking! For me, I went out and examined what other people were saying and I was persuaded by a man called Jesus Christ – if you watched this program and felt an emptiness and yearning for more like I did, then come and investigate this guy Jesus Christ.

The other thing was that Dawkins is in a very good position and so are most of us. Rich, affluent, good education – dreams and desires are in our grasp and we can pick and choose what we want in life. It’s easy to fill our hearts with the comfort the world offers and dismiss the idea of anything after. We have had our fill and can do with no more – god is crushed under our affluence. But what of those that are not rich or affluent, who struggle each day, who have terminal illnesses – their hope is simply to just enjoy their life even though they may not be able to? Again it feels so empty. Richard spoke to a sweeper guy in India and he says that his sweeping gives him purpose in life, which it may – but I wonder if he hopes for more? You see Richard offers empty darkness at the end of life, a nothingness that engulfs you and if this life hasn’t worked out then its just the pattern of evolution and you need to get over it. I think that way is too easy to say from someone in a nice suit and a big house.

But Jesus offers hope, a man who has walked in the dust, walked among the poor and ate with the outcasts. He humbled himself from the riches of glory to the dust and dirt of the earth. And He offers us eternal life, even if this world is crap we can come to him and receive life in him that is overflowing in goodness and hope. Those that are ill will be made well, those that are poor will be rich, those that suffering will be comforted. It’s easy for the rich to cast such remarks about eternity even though I have no doubt there is time when they will ask… “is there more than this?”… I asked that and found the answer in Jesus.

The Joy of the Lord

“It is the consciousness of the threefold joy of the Lord, His joy in ransoming us, His joy in dwelling within us as our Saviour and Power for fruitbearing and His joy in possessing us, as His Bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change.”Hudson Taylor

Have you ever tried to concentrate so hard to have joy in the Lord that you thought you would explode? Maybe you gave up. Days where you feel like you cant put any more effort into trying to muster up feelings of joy. Remember that verse – The joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 8). And you think – HOW DOES THAT WORK!? How do I get that joy?? How do I get that strength? I dont feel joy and I dont feel strength.

Maybe we are working this from the wrong place. We always think this is talking about us but what if it wasn’t about your joy in Him? Or the effort you put into doing things for him?

What if its about the Father’s joy in us through Christ? What if it’s about what Christ has done and not what you are doing or have done? I dont know about you, but its a relief to know that its all about Jesus and not me and the Father gets Joy from his son and from all all those that are in His son. I think Hudson Taylor is right – Our joy in Him is fluctuating and unsteady, but his joy in us doesnt change and doesn’t that give us strength? When my joy dips to a low I have no need to muster up energy to find joy, but I can rest in Christ whom places great joy in me.

So the Joy that Christ has in me is my strength. Rather then the Joy I have in Christ is my strength. The joy of the LORD is my strength. Not the Joy I have in the LORD is my strength.

It changes things. This isnt dependant on me but the Lords Joy in me… and all those that are in Christ, the Father says to them:

“This is my son, whom I am well pleased” Mark 1:11.

The Advent Hope

Ok so I know that Dec 1st isn’t the real day of advent and today is the 2nd of Dec so I have totally missed the mark, but we only have 24 days till Christmas and it’s quite exciting! Pilgrim Kath has started blogging about advent (starting on the right day of course!), worth checking out.

Nasty November has finally finished and its been a slog! Late dark nights, early dark mornings can feel like you are in a constant vacuum. November feels a bit like Genesis 3. We have passed the summer of Genesis 1 and 2, walked with Lord in the cool of the day with the sun warming our hearts. Then we find we walk into Genesis 3 and into a winter that feels like Christmas will never come. But there is hope even in Genesis 3:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

We step into December’s advent and we remember to look forward to the seed, the promised offspring that will fight a battle on our behalf and he will be born of a woman. There is always hope in the darkest of times, even when we think – Is Abel the promised seed? Is Moses the promised seed? Is David?… no and it always seems like hope is dashed from beneath us. But there is a true and better Abel, Moses, David and as we enter this advent time with its chocolate, tinsel and laughing fat red man, we can know that our hope is set firmly in the true and better offspring who wont fade away or be eaten up.

Introverts in the Church (pt1)

I have been reading a really interesting book recently called “Introverts in the Church” by Adam S.McHugh which is what it is about: introverts in the church. His website is here. The book has been somewhat a comfort to me as its revealed a lot about what I find uncomfortable with church and general Christian gatherings because I am more introverted and find some activities more draining then others. So I want to share with you some of what the book has been saying and also some of my own thoughts, if you are an introvert and find some things uncomfortable and you have not known why, you should have a read of this book! If you are not an introvert, you should read this book anyway, it may be really insightful for you.

Firstly it is good to identify what is an introvert and what is an extrovert. Most people may think that introverts are shy, timid, awkward people and extroverts are loud, life of the party, flourishing in conversation and life. Although perhaps some of that is true, actually it is more to do with energy and where you get your energy from, for an extrovert they tend to get their energy from people and are able to be in social situations for long periods of time and find it gives them abundance life and energy, they find that being on their own for long periods of time is a nightmare and very draining and lonely. Where as an introvert it is the opposite, introverts can spend long periods of time on their own, thinking, gaining their energy from being alone where as being in a social situation for long periods of time can be draining and just sucks the energy out of them.

I wonder where you fit? Perhaps you are a bit of both or perhaps you fit perfectly in one camp. Maybe think about how you feel after long periods of social interaction  – are you full of energy or drained?

I know where I fit. I fit into the introvert circle, I find long periods of social interaction quite draining and things like coffee time at church can be quite overwhelming for me. I love time to be on my own to reflect, read or write. There is also a dialogue going on in my head and it takes me forever to think and speak, so most people think I am quiet when actually I am just processing everything in my head. These are some of the things that this book addresses and it really hit the mark for me and showed me why I find some situations in church or in Christian circles quite difficult. (not just true for Christian circles of course)

And the main reason why it is hard is that most churches that are more charismatic lean more towards those that are extroverted. The book explains this is a huge factor in American churches, but it is also true for British Churches and I don’t just mean the church I am at now, but a lot of charismatic/evangelical churches across the UK are more geared up for extroverts. You may think I am being unfair and disagree with me, or you may be reading this and some of the pieces fit together as to why you have been feeling on the edge of church community.

An interesting quote from the book:

“Sometimes our value for community life can become a substitute for our relationship with God. Psychology professor Richard Beck says that for some churches spirituality is equated with sociability. The mark of a progressing faith is familiarity with a growing number of people and participation in an  increasing number of activities.” pg20

I think there are huge expectations in churches for the congregation and also for the Pastor to be a continual social butterfly, tending to all the needs of the church, being able to attend all the social activities, being very sociable during church time, attending various groups and activities, being able to serve in as many areas as possible, being able to worship in a loud outward way with no room for quietness and reflection… it makes it hard for introverts to fit in, in a way that doesn’t make people think you are anti-social.

Another quote from the book:

“Emotionally one would have to say that evangelicalism is a much more “up front” form of piety, and very talkative, whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of quiet reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a non-alcoholic cocktail party. There is a chatty, mingling informality to evangelicalism, where words flow like wine” pg 21

I don’t think this is always a bad thing and churches can lean-to one extreme or the other. Which makes it difficult to fit in and be able to use your gifts in either extreme. What is needed is a balance and space for both types of people, however its difficult to get there if the church itself still thinks Christians need to be extrovert type people to serve well and effectively and the whole ambience of church is for the expression of extroverts rather than introverts…

Tomorrow we will be looking at this some more…stay tuned! Would love to know what you think, please do comment!