A Photo At Last – My Dad!

The man amongst men – my dear father!

Morning Thoughts – A Prayer On Perspective

I’m reading R.T. Kendall’s In Pursuit Of His Glory an autobiography covering his years at Westminster Chapel. It’s a good read actually, so I’m glad I read it. Whilst reading it I came across this prayer which I thought was so cool I’d share it with you.

O God, I asked for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for help that I might do greater things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men most richly blessed.

(A Confederate Soldier.)

4 His Name’s Sake
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Thank God For … My Dad

Today is my dad’s 73rd birthday and sadly I won’t be able to call him to offer many happy returns, but this little tribute is my own way of saying happy birthday.

The more I get to know people, the more I appreciate my dad. I know that not everyone was brought up by their dad and even those that were didn’t have the best of relations with them. Now my dad isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and for a brief season in my life I was only too aware of his imperfections. Yet the fact remains that my dad’s presence has been there for me all during the years of my growing up.

It was my dad’s example that encouraged me to get into reading and from there launched a whole range of opportunities for me that allow me to where I am and achieve what I’ve done in life. Now my dad is no great scholar but his simple perseverance in reading every night was something that struck me as a good thing to follow. When there was anxiety and chaos flying about my dad was the epicentre of calm and peace.

My dad wasn’t rich, but in that he taught me that I could be content without money. My dad didn’t have hundreds of friends, but in that he taught me that I could be content without popularity. My dad didn’t have a lot of qualifications, but in that he taught me I could be content without formal education. My dad worked hard and taught me that contentment can still come when I do that. My dad was committed to his family and taught me that contentment comes when I put my family as a priority. My dad is a consistent, humble servant and taught me that contentment comes through being faithful.

Not once in my childhood do I recall ever feeling insecure because of my parents. There was never a time when I thought either would leave me. My dad’s faithfulness to my mum is amazing, and his faithfulness to his children is something I hope to emulate. His dedication to church is the standard I’ve set for myself and his humility and ability to withstand great pressure is still to me the epitome of what makes a great man. His love of God has been unquestioned by me, I just know he loves the Lord and I believe that’s seen in the children he’s brought up who are all at heart God-fearers.

Last year in August he spent some time with us whilst on his way to Ghana for my sister’s wedding. The time he was here was illuminating, my dad shared who he was in a way that amazed me and got me thinking how incredible it is for God to have turned a man’s life around so much. As my dad told me about his life before us I couldn’t believe it was the same man who was contently sitting in out front room entertaining his first granddaughter with a glee I’ve come to cherish. The reality is that this is the same man who’s gone through so much and endured so much and still has the presence of mind to remain humble and thankful.

I give God thanks for my dad and I love him with all my heart.

4 His Name’s Sake
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Morning Thoughts – What Is Peace – Part 02

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
When I read that at first I thought it was just talking about people who stopped arguments and generally wanted people to get along. Thinking about peace a bit more and reading that this is actually talking about people who actually make peace – not just stop quarrels – I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s a bit more to it than meets the eye.

In being a bridge for people to cross over from shattered life to a whole life we actually make peace. In being a bridge that builds relationships between people and between people and God we actually make peace.

This is not natural for us because by nature we look out for own interests and when we’re hurt we retreat into ourselves, protect ourselves and never really give ourselves to others. As a result we never really build relationships; we become easily offended, hold grudges against others, tell others that you can’t trust anyone – in other words we’re not natural peacemakers.

In as much as we act like this we don’t really reflect the nature of God who through Jesus broke all barriers and boundaries to express His Kingdom and rule of righteousness which is based on peace with God and each other. Again it goes a lot deeper than the rational and emotional approach to peace. It strikes at the very core of the spirit that was created to interact and engage with the Creator. And once we experience this peace – once we taste of it, it becomes only natural to want to share that with others. It’s like good news, you really want to tell everyone because it’s so good.

So when we forget about ourselves to look out for the best interest in others we reflect the same character as Jesus Christ who didn’t come to be served but to serve. That’s how we can be called the sons of God.

4 His Name’s Sake
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Afternoon Thoughts – What Is Peace Part 01

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)
WARNING: I could have edited this entry, cos I appreciate it’s not a short one. But on careful consideration I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it too drastically. Stick with it, bear with it and I believe as a charismatic preacher would exclaim – you shall receive a blessing.

Herein begins a little series on the biblical definition of peace. This little series is motivated by my job at the YMCA. I don’t think I’m divulging state secrets to state that the post of Christian Spiritual Development Worker is to assist the Stoke and North Staffordshire branch in expressing the concept of Shalom.

The Chief Executive – Mr. Daniel Flynn, top bloke – has the vision of the whole organisation being based on helping people on their journey experience this shalom – wholeness. Hence there’s the services offered to support the educational and vocational development of the customers (the term of the residents), as well as support for the housing needs development of the customers. Noting the holistic nature of man there’s the pursuit of not just developing their mental capabilities and physical capabilities but also their – much neglected – spiritual capabilities. Hence my post and the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ in allowing people to realise and fully develop those spiritual capabilities, which in turn fully enrich all the physical and mental capabilities. So because of that kind of jazz, the peace thing is a big deal and it got me thinking … what is peace? So we turn to ‘exhibit a’ for insight into what it is.

It’s fair to say that if you were one of the 11 disciples listening to Jesus during this discourse you’d be a bit concerned. First of all Jesus has repeated for our hearing that He’s going to die, and die soon. Plus by His intimations the manner of His departure will not be … fitting for the Jewish Messiah (John 13:21). Now He’s talking about going back to the Father which is a bit baffling as we don’t even know the way to this Father. So in His reassuring way, He’s telling us that it’s alright, although He’s going away He’ll send another Counsellor to remind us of what He’s taught us. Still through all of that we’re still hung up on the death business, which is where this verse comes in as so important.

First of all there is the reassurance of one thing we need in a time of bad news – peace. On hearing of a loved one dying or about to die there is a natural state of turmoil – emotionally we go to pieces, mentally things do not compute in every way it appears as if our lives have become an internal war zone. So peace, well that’s good thing to have. Not only that but Jesus gives a particular kind of peace on offer – a distinctive peace in contrast to another brand of peace on offer.

Allow me to suggest what we could consider the world’s peace – no one fighting, no harsh words said to each other, a level of understanding and harmony between parties. That sounds alright doesn’t it? Sure. Problem – it doesn’t actually solve anything. More accurately it doesn’t hit the heart of the issue to produce these nice sentiments. The world’s kind of peace is something that they hope will be brought about intellectually, politically, rationally, socially through programs, policies, discussions, summits, etc. All missing out on the key to real peace. Which is why the Prince of Peace comes into offer a distinct kind of peace not based on any of the world’s values, but essentially based on who He is. His peace.

His peace is based on a unified relationship with the Father that allows Him to be obedient to Him in everything because He has access to the One who knows the beginning from the end. His peace is based on a relationship of wholeness with a whole God and a Holy God who created us in His image to be whole. Something that’s possible when we have His Spirit living inside of us.

The crucial missing element to world peace is the link to the God of peace – Yahweh Shalom. And it’s this peace that is guaranteed by Jesus in his last chat with the disciples before the cross. Without the God of peace every other effort remains shallow, futile and hollow. Ceasefires mask the war of words beneath. Policies of racial harmony mask the deeply engrained years of hatred, ignorance and misunderstanding motivating individuals, families and communities. Indeed world peace cannot reach the heart of man, and yet until it does so real peace can never begin. That is why the peace that Christ gives us is so distinct and amazing.

Acknowledging Christ’s sacrifice – believing in Him – gives us access to a sense of wholeness and rightness that this world just cannot comprehend – hence the peace of God that passes understanding! It strikes the very core of our being that was separated from God but through that sacrifice reunites us – reconciles us. He is our peace who has broken down the walls of division to make us one with God and then one with each other.

Such knowledge as a result should affect our approach to life – as Jesus goes onto encourage. We don’t have to be anxious and we don’t have to be afraid. Literally everything is all-right – peace with God makes everything all-right, even if it doesn’t seem all-right. Even if external circumstances suggest chaos, upset and anarchy, God’s reality, assuring us of a real relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, suggests otherwise. God’s reality states that we are now in contact with the Sovereign Being who is far greater than any external circumstance and by grace, through faith now resides in us to allow us to live in this reality.

That wonderful peace, that glorious peace is so fulfilling that it motivates us to share this with others and live in it constantly in the hope that more will share in it not just now but with the promise of it to be there eternally.

4 His Name’s Sake
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Book Review – Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

It surprises me sometimes how quickly I read a fairly lengthy book. Dever’s book on the church isn’t a heavy-tome, but neither is it a light read.

What I found attractive about it was the commitment to move away from number-driven approaches to church growth that often compromises the Word, but a more doctrinally robust approach to assessing church health.

It was also interesting to note that the book was birthed out of a series of sermons that Dever preached to his church over a period of weeks. The content and structure does lend itself very much to sermons without compromising the ease of readability.

The nine marks themselves are interesting, especially seeing as though they’re based fundamentally on the first one which is the importance of expositional preaching. I myself am very keen on this type of preaching, I believe it’s important for the church to be reminded of the requirements laid out in the word. Yet to start off on this point made me consider whether this would really be so high on the priority list, especially from a biblical survey perspective. Minor quibble aside, it’s a strong argument presented persuasively in a manner that’s easy to grasp.

Through the nine marks many occur which aren’t just biblical sense but passionately proclaimed in each chapter. There are areas where the reasoning is not so strong and based more on church history than the bible – especially church membership. That is not, however, to detract from the way in which Dever does appeal convincingly to these ways of assessing a healthy church.

Outstanding marks to really contemplate include Mark 2 – Biblical Theology; Mark 3 – The Gospel; Mark 8 – Discipleship and Growth; and Mark 9 Biblical Church Leadership. The appendices are also worth the read to see just how many lists of church growth methods have sprouted up since the book was initially published as well as an insightful list of resources and material useful for further study.

There are some books worth reading to stimulate a greater love for the church and God’s purposes for it and I believe this is one of those books. The heart in which Dever writes it makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want us as the Body of Christ in local expression to miss out and mess up what we’re meant to be, and that passion is contagious. I’m glad I’ve got this book – not just borrowed it from a library – and I would strongly recommend it as part of any believer’s collection.

4 His Name’s Sake
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Morning Thoughts – Mind Your Language

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

This verse is often used to ‘encourage’ people not to swear or use abusive language. What really is abusive language though? It’s easy to tell people not to swear, it’s harder to show people how to speak positively. Some of the most hurtful things that are said don’t contain an expletive at all! It’s easy to want to give people a piece of our mind or tell them what they can do with their suggestion. The real challenge is to check if we can consistently say things that help to build others by what they need for their own good. This kind of way of living isn’t easy or natural, but it is beneficial.

4 His Name’s Sake

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