Apparently I’m not Worthy, or am I?

As I walked past it I couldn’t resist the urge to try to pick up Thor’s Hammer. I knew it was fake, just a prop in a cinema foyer but I just had to try.

As I posed for my picture holding the handle of Mjolnir, someone walked past and said

‘You’re obviously not worthy.’

In the Marvel Universe, only someone who is worthy enough may wield Thor’s Hammer and this is shown at the beginning of Avengers Age of Ultron as some of the Avengers take it in turns to try to lift it (see the YouTube clip below). As they all fail, Thor, effortlessly lifts the Hammer and tells them it’s because they are all not worthy.

Throughout the Marvel movies, it is never made clear what ‘worthy’ means. Later in the same film, Vision lifts the Hammer (okay, so he’s worthy. Got it) but Captain America (the ultimate boy scout and person who always does the right thing) cannot lift it (Marvel, have you really thought this through?)
(As an aside, Captain America lifted the Hammer more than once in the comic series so perhaps it’s just the film makers who haven’t thought it through!)

Okay, so if anyone can lift the hammer they are worthy (okay got it). But then there is Thor’s sister (the villain in Thor Ragnarok) who catches the Hammer near the beginning of that movie (so is worthy about power rather than morality or is this just a massive plot hole?)

What does it mean to be worthy?

One things for sure, if you say ‘you’re not worthy’ to a room full of your friends in the real world then you probably aren’t going to have many of those people as friends for much longer.

I hate the fact that some people perceive Christianity as being like this. These people think that we are a bunch of stuck up people who believe we are so much better than everyone else in the world who are clearly ‘not worthy!’

Nothing could be further than the truth! Christians believe that God saves us by grace, that he knows and loves us even though we haven’t earned or deserved his love. We Christians are a group of people who know what it is to be forgiven and loved unconditionally.

In other words Christians are people who realize that we aren’t worthy of God but we are grateful that God accepts us and sees us as worthy of his love and presence anyway. God loves everyone, not juts the Hammer carriers or people who can draw a sword from a stone!

I couldn’t lift Mjolnir but I know that God loves me and that he accepts me and anyone who turns to him.

You can turn to him as well! So, what s stopping you?

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For God so loved the world that he gave …?

I used to be passionate about just sharing a gospel message but now I have become more passionate about sharing Jesus.

When God wanted to demonstrate his love for the world, he sent his son, not a message. A letter, text or email would have been easier but for God words were not enough.

In John 1, Jesus is called ‘the word’. Do you see, God’s primary message, his key communication is his son not a set of words or instructions. What we see in Jesus, how he lived, treated people and what he taught and did shows us who God is and what he is like.

I want to share that Jesus calmed a storm and that he can still say ‘peace be still’ to volatile situations and stressed out people today.

I want to share that Jesus cares for the lowest of the low and that he values people who are seen as worthless by others.

I want to share that Jesus was known as the friend of sinners and that no one is excluded from his love.

I want to share that Jesus, the creator of the universe is with us always and that we never have to be alone.

I want to share the Jesus is the light of the world and that we never have to feel trapped in darkness and despair.

I want to share that although Jesus is like a lion that he chose to become a sacrificial lamb.

I want to share that we are loved with an everlasting love.

I want to share that Jesus overcame death and this demonstrates that he has the power to overcome anything.

I used to mainly want to tell everyone that we are all separated by God because of sin but the good news is that Jesus gave his life to open the way for us to know God. I still want to pass on this good news but my passion now is primarily to share Jesus in all of his fullness.

After all ‘For God so loved the world that he gave us a gospel message his only son’ (John 3.16)

Jesus is God’s gift to the world and it cost him so much to come here so let’s share about him with others.

Jesus is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive so let’s tell people about him.

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The one about the lighthouse

Honest about my faith

The captain pondered his problem as he tried to keep his boat on course in the storm.  He knew that his ship couldn’t survive much longer at sea in the gale force conditions but it was also pitch black and apart from the occasional flashes of lightning, he couldn’t see what was ahead.

The captain  knew that if he stayed at sea that his boat would sink but he also knew that on the way to land that he could hit rocks and his boat would never survive the impact.

He was in a no win situation and so he had decided to take a chance on trying to get to shore.

lighthouse storm Image from bible-daily.org

The captain was sinking deeper into despair when he saw the light and he turned his boat towards it. As he moved closer he realized that he could see a lighthouse and he remembered the stories that he had heard…

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Do we want to become more like Jesus?

Whenever we on a walk in the countryside, my daughter looks for two long sticks to carry.

Looking at this picture, can you guess why?

My wife uses walking poles when we are on longer walks and my daughter just wants to be like her.

As I walked behind them both a few days ago I began to ponder this and I took this picture.

I began to think about how we should be becoming more like Jesus.

As we travel through life, will we aim to do so as his followers who want to live in a way that please him or will we simply worship him but generally live as we please?

My daughter spends a lot of time and energy getting her sticks ready (a good Gandalf like staff can be hard to find!). Will we spend time and energy living like Jesus (don’t worry, the beard and sandals are optional!) or will we simply live in a way that pleases Jesus when it suits us and is convenient?

At the end of the day, do we want to become like Jesus or do we want him to become like us? Do we want to live in a way that pleases him or do we want him to act n ways that please us?Do we want to focus on and worship Jesus or would we like our lives to be the centre of his universe?

This should be our aim, that we are able to say;

Imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11.1)

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When God says Tune in Next Week

Thomas couldn’t believe what he was hearing, the other disciples were saying that Jesus was alive but how could that be? Thomas listened to them and then he famously replied:

“I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” (John 20 v25b)

The next few verses talk about the encounter that Thomas had with the risen Jesus which led to his belief and his statement of faith and worship: ‘My Lord and my God’.

I’ve read about this so many times and have even blogged about it (read more about what happened and my thoughts about it here: Stop calling him Doubting Thomas, God doesn’t like it!)

As I read this passage a few days ago something new struck me. Thomas’ encounter with Jesus begins with the words;

‘Eight days later’

Is it just me that finds that odd?

Thomas says he would believe when he saw and touched Jesus and as I read the passage, it feels like Thomas needs Jesus instantly but Jesus took over a week to go to him.

When Jesus set out for Jerusalem the other disciples were afraid but Thomas said ‘Let’s go too so that we can die with him’. John 11.16

Did Thomas have survivors guilt? He had intended to die with Jesus but he had actually survived by keeping his head down. Was he feeling guilty, is that why he wasn’t with the other disciples? Was this overwhelming sense of doom and gloom the reason why Thomas found it hard to believe?

Jesus taking over a week to arrive reminded me of the cliffhangers that TV episodes often end with. These cliffhangers used to be followed by the words ‘tune in next week for the next exciting installment of …’. You remember the sort of thing;

The hero has just fallen over the cliff edge (NO WAY!!) and the end credits roll. ‘Tune in next week to find out what happens next!’

You have just watched someone who you thought was one of the good guys betray their team and kill someone who you thought was their friend (DOUBLE NO WAY!!!). ‘Tune in next week to find out what happens next!’

You have just heard Darth Vader say ‘I am your father’ (EXTRA HUGE NOOOO WAY!!!!) to Luke and you have to wait more than a year to see what will happen next!

Let’s be honest, most of us hate waiting!

Sometimes we come to Jesus like he is a vending machine.

We expect to push his buttons in order to instantly get what we ordered.

Thomas wants to see Jesus in order to believe and Jesus answers his desire but he does so on his term sand in his own time.

Jesus knew what Thomas was thinking and he knew how long that he needed to process what was happening before he was ready to move on. Jesus taking over a week might seem cruel until we remember that God’s timing is perfect and that he knows all things.

Thomas had put his order in with Jesus but instead of simply fulfilling it instantly, Jesus gave Thomas what he really needed.

As Jesus appears, at just the right time, everything comes together for Thomas and he believes.

How about us? Are we waiting for something from God? Have we ordered something from him? Do we feel like he is saying tune in next ‘week/year/at some point’ to find out what happens next?

When we are disappointed with God, it is often because we have forgotten that he is the all-knowing one who knows what is best.

We want things on our terms but God wants what is best for us and sometimes that means that he won’t do what we are asking when we are asking.

Will we still trust God when he isn’t doing what we are want him to?

Image made using https://imgflip.com/memegenerator

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Holy Week: What is it all about?

Christians often call the week leading up to Easter Sunday, Holy week. So many things happened during that week that are amazing and inspiring but also confusing and odd. With these things in mind I have written a series of blog posts that can be used to help think through Holy week. I hope that you find them useful.

Honest about my faith

Happy-Easter-HD-Wallpaper-2015Christians call the week before Easter Sunday Holy week. This week coming is a time when we especially remember the days leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I have written two different set of reflections. The first looks at the events of Holy week in order asking what was going on at each one. The second considers questions and thoughts that arise out of the Easter story.

The Events of Holy Week: ‘What were they all about?’

You may already know about the events that happened, but have you ever wondered what was really going on? What were all these things really about?

You can read through all of these together or you can use them on each day during Holy week as a series of reflections.

Palm Sunday: Palm Sunday: What was that all about?

Monday: Trashing the Temple Courts: What was that all about?

Tuesday: Trying to…

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A Million Dreams or Making Do?

In the film ‘The Greatest Showman’, a young Barnum sings the song ‘A Million Dreams’ to Charity. He has a terrible start in life, living in poverty and coping with the death of his father but despite this he sings:

Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

(You can listen to the song through the YouTube link below)

Confronted with tragedy and pain, Barnum chooses to dream and to believe that there can be something better and in the film he does achieve great success.

I really enjoyed the way that the plot asked questions about what this ‘world we’re gonna make’ was really all about? The film is a great exploration of whether success is about having the most money or the biggest crowds or whether is it about people and relationships?

I was at a meeting recently when someone said ‘we’re all having to make do with less resources‘ and this got me thinking about our attitude to life.

Barnum has nothing, he has no resources and yet he dreams of the possibilities and sets out to pursue them.

Most of us have some resources and yet we can all too easily focus on what we don’t have rather than on what we do! Instead of dreaming dreams and imagining possibilities, we can end up looking down before we have even tried.

How about us? Do we know what it is to dream of the possibilities or do we feel stuck and trapped?

Jesus said,

‘Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18.3)

Children know what it is to dream and the dream that is the Kingdom of God is the biggest, and wildest dream of them all. The Kingdom of God is a place where there is no suffering, crying or pain and as we look at the world around us it feels unlikely if not impossible.

As I learn to believe with the faith of a child though I can believe that the Kingdom of God is ‘the world God’s gonna make’.

Is our faith really in God or is it in the Resources that we do or don’t have?

Do we lie awake at night seeing the dreams and possibilities that God has for us? Or do we lie awake at night worrying about what we don’t have?

May God give us a childlike faith again that we might see what he is calling us to and that we might be inspired to step into it whether we have the resources or not!

The opening lines to the song are:

I close my eyes and I can see
The world that’s waiting up for me

May God give us a vision of the Kingdom of God as we look to him in prayer.

As we see the possibilities, may God give us the courage and the faith to work with him to help build his Kingdom.

As he thinks of his dreams, Barnum sings:

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

God, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We believe that your Kingdom is real and we look forward to sharing in it as we build it wth you.

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There’s a hole in my roof

Sadly we have had some vandalism at the church and a part of this has involved some tiles being ripped off the roof. This vandalism has resulted in a lot of time and effort being spent on repairs and securing the grounds to try to prevent access to the roof for the young people who  have caused the damage.

As I was pondering this hassle recently, I remembered the home owner who offered Jesus a place to stay (read Mark 2). Pretty soon, his house was packed with people who had come to see Jesus and to hear what he had to say but then things suddenly got weird!

We can only imagine the shock that those gathered felt as they  sat listening to Jesus only to realize that parts of the ceiling were crumbling and falling around them.

Some people had brought a paralyzed man to Jesus so that he could be healed but when they couldn’t get him into the house, these resourceful friends made a hole in the roof and lowered him in.

It’s an amazing story where Jesus heals the man and also talks about forgiveness and the new start that he offers to us all.  The crowd must have been astonished and the man and his friends were ecstatic but how did the home owner feel?

Was he frustrated? He had welcomed the Messiah but instead of receiving blessing, peace and prosperity he had ended up with a hole in his roof!

There is a disneyfied version of Christianity that says that if we follow Jesus then all of our dreams will come true and only nice things will happen. Bizarrely the gospels show us that the opposite is often true!

If you follow Jesus then he will turn your life upside down and you might even end up with a hole in your roof!

Christianity isn’t about us being wrapped in cotton wool by God, it is about God wrapping us in his love as we follow him in a broken, messy and fragile world.

When things go wrong in life, do we feel let down by a disneyfied god that some people have created in their minds or do we look to God to lead us forward?

That home owner had a hole in his roof but he had also experienced a healing and had been promised forgiveness which would lead to a new start in life.

We don’t know if he was just frustrated and angry or whether he was ready to follow Jesus in a great adventure whatever the consequences!

How about us? Are we really ready to follow our Lord and Saviour or are we just looking for a calm and quiet life?

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As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you

There is a special bond between a mother and a child and God wants us to know that he loves us with that same intensity, passion and devotion.

God says:

‘As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you’ (Isaiah 66.13)

God offers us love, comfort and care, but how will we respond?

Will we be like the stroppy toddler who throws a tantrum rather than seeking comfort?

Will we go off and cry alone feeling far from God?

Will we turn to God and allow him to give us the comfort and love that we need?

It starts with surrender.

God wants to love and to comfort us but will we open up ourselves to receive these things?

You might also like to read Tissues for Mothers Day

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The Shock of Finding Snow after we thought that all the Snow had Melted

Yesterday my wife and I went for a walk and we were astonished to come across snow. Most of the snow where we live has melted and most of the places we went on our walk were also snow free. There were however one or two spots where the snow was being stubborn and was persisting and was apparently refusing to melt.

As we trudged through the snow along the edge of one field I felt like it was hard work and so when I came to a gap in the hedge with a snow free path on the other side I tried to walk through the gap.

As I stepped forward I sank and my leg ended up knee-deep in a snow drift. It turns out that there was a ditch between the field we were in and the path on the edge of the next field.

When Tracey had finished laughing at me, she took this photo and then helped me out.

I was astonished that on a day when virtually all of the nearby snow had melted that there was this patch of snow that was so deep that I could sink up to my knee in it.

As I walked along I pondered this and it occurred to me that because the snow had filled the ditch so deeply that it would take longer to melt.

As I continued along, I remembered God’s words:

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36.26 NLT)

Like a large amount of snow which takes a long time to melt, we can have hard hearts that seem like they are never going to soften.

When we are negative about something, it is all too tempting to surround ourselves with like-minded people to ensure that we remain in our negative state of mind together.

God doesn’t want that for us though, he longs to melt our hard hearts  and to give us tender responsive hearts in exchange.

Life can wear us down leaving us cynical and pessimistic. If this is how we are feeling, are we willing to surrender these feelings to God and to allow him to bring about a change n our lives by his Spirit? Are we willing to discover the life and vitality of the child like faith that Jesus wants us to live with?

Perhaps our hardheartedness is to do with unforgiveness? Someone has deeply hurt us and as much as we know that we should forgive, our hearts have become increasingly hard over time.

God, would you melt our hearts.

Perhaps our hard hardheartedness is to do with fear? Perhaps something went wrong in our past and it stops us from taking risks and stepping out in faith for God today.

God, would you melt our hearts.

Perhaps our hardheartedness is to do with a resentment towards God? Was there a prayer he didn’t answer in the way that he wanted? Perhaps we feel let down by God because he didn’t do specifically what we asked? As we confess these feelings to God I pray that we would gain something more of his perspective.

God, would you melt our hearts.

Perhaps our hardheartedness is to do with independence? We are quite happy to pray to God and to hear what he says as advice but we don’t really want him to be our Lord in every area of our lives. We would rather stay in control.

God, would you melt our hearts.

I could go on with examples but it is probably more constructive if we all pause and consider if you are hardhearted in any way?

If you are, there is good news! God wants to melt your hard heart and to replace it with a tender responsive heart that is open to him!

You can explore this in a reflective activity by freezing a tub of water with some string/rope in it. This will result in an ice block with string that can be suspended from a  tripod or something similar. Place tea light candles on a tray or dish (with raised edged to catch the water as the ice melts) and invite people to consider the ice block and what is making their hearts hard. When they have talked with God about this they can light a candle as a prayer that God would melt their hearts.

You could also use a video such as this one or make your own. As you watch the ice melt, pray that God would melt our hearts and replace them with tender and responsive hearts by his spirit.

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