Friday, November 30, 2007

The price of Christmas

Here's a quote from Max Lucado:
The blood of Christ does not cover your sins, conceal your sins, postpone your sins or diminish your sins. It takes away your sins, once and for all time.
If you are human then concealing sin is probably your preferred option. Failing that you might try to diminish them by comparing them to sins that are, in your opinion, much, much worse.

But you can't do either of those. 

A final option is simply to ignore your sin, simply postpone dealing with it.

But God sees, and God has chosen to act on our behalf.

Perhaps we are overly familiar with forgiveness to remember the awesome nature of what God has done for us. It's good to be reminded that we stand forgiven at a high price. In these days of super discounts and cash-back offers, The price for our forgiveness remains out of reach, too high for you or I to pay ourselves. 

That God steps into our history to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves is still the amazing message of Advent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reading Ruth

I don't know how you organise your devotional reading, but I've decided to try a fresh approach for a while, and read the stories in the Bible of people and their lives and how their lives were impacted by God. Now I know the Bible is full of these stories, and I know that the story of the Bible is the story of God interacting with people. But what I'm trying to do is read the stories as biographies rather than part of the bigger narrative of Scripture. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, I decided to read Ruth, starting yesterday. As I recall, Ruth is the only book in the Bible where God is not mentioned in terms of active involvement in the story. He gets mentioned, but he doesn't appear so-to-speak. But that doesn't mean he isn't there.

The story opens unpromisingly. There's famine, relocation, death, loss, despair and separation. Not an uplifting picture. And the author never tells us that it's okay because God has it all in hand and Ruth will marry, have children and become David's great-grandmother.

It made me wonder: How many lives are lived in the gloom of chapter 1 rather than in the light of the hope that unfolds through the story? How many people do I know who, because things are not going well, cannot see the hand of God anymore?

And then I thought, and why can't I?

I am no different, I have good days and bad days. I have days when life and busyness overwhelm me and I'd rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, than what I have to do. But I am not called to give up, I'm called to persevere.

As a follower of Jesus I have a hope that ought to infect everything I do. I can live with hope, I can grieve with hope, I can face challenges with hope, I can face failure with hope. I am not defined by any of these obstacles, I am defined by my relationship with Jesus. I am, first and foremost, "in Christ" . That is who I am and that is what defines me.

And what of Ruth? She got on with life, and as she persevered she discovered God's involvement and care as he met her needs and the needs of the despairing Naomi, and then went way beyond just meeting her needs and gave her a fullness of life no one could have predicted when she left her home to travel with her mother-in-law.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Omnifocus now available

I've been waiting for this to come out of the early beta phase before trying it. I also had to wait for a Mac!

Anyway, Omnifocus is now available and I'm giving it a try.

You can download it from the Omnigroup website.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Goals for reaching others

I was wandering around the internet this morning and decided to revisit the Withreach website to see if there was anything new. I began to read the article about an example of a withreach strategy. What caught my attention was this list of goals:
  • My first goal is to create meaningful conversations.
  • My second goal is to create meaningful friendships.
  • My third goal is to discover the treasures and God-given dreams in those friendships (I see them as prime community assets) and to find out how God is already at work in their lives, and work alongside Him, rather than pre-judge what should come next.
  • My fourth goal is to see how God incarnates the conversation and the dreams of this small group in a way that brings creative transformation to the community.
This struck me as a good starting point for any approach to reaching the missing (that is, those formerly known as the lost). That it doesn't start with looking for an opportunity to share the gospel isn't a problem for me. If I'm in the right place at the right time, that opportunity will come, of that I'm sure.

What I like is the intentional relationship building that is at the heart of these goals. Caring about a person's eternal destiny must begin with caring about the person. They must matter to you if you are ever going to help them see how much they matter to God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


As you know I've been working at improving my organisation and to that end I've used Thinking Rock on my PC to help plan projects and keep track of my to do lists. Since moving to the Mac I've started to use iGTD.

It's taken me some time to adjust to i'GTDs way of working compared to the world of Thinking Rock, but there are some nice touches.  For example I like the way the date  displays as "Today" or "Thursday" rather than just a plain date string. I also like the way you can put stuff in the inbox from other applications. Being a new boy on the Mac block, I'm not really familiar with things like Quicksilver, but there's QS functionality in iGTD too.

Then there's the ability to synchronise iGTD with iCal and even Mail, so that your to do lists are all the same. This isn't for everyone, and it's a bit unsightly to have a new calendar for every context. I'd prefer to have a single iGTD calendar although I can see the point of having a calendar for each context as long as there aren't that many contexts. In fact having started to use this, I've narrowed my contexts down somewhat. I did create a separate iGTd folder for all the context calendars so that I only see iGTd in the list, which looks a little neater.

Another feature I like is the way all my projects get put in alphabetical order. This makes it easier to find a project compare with TR.

I'm sure there are more functions and tweaks to discover as I get to grips with iGTD, but first impressions are that it's a positive alternative to TR.

Are you Church of England?

There are moments when God surprises me as he shows me a glimpse of his purposes through everyday conversations. I live on the church site. The church is 30 seconds walk from the house and there are days when I wonder about living so close. But then there are days when I realise that it's a gift from God to be where I am. Today has been one of those days.

Because we're only five minutes walk from the local school, we open our car park for parents to use at the beginning and end of the day. If I'm outside I chat freely to some of the parents and wave at them as I go out and come in from walks or visits or trips away from home.  I never really know if this has any value or meaning but it's the kind of thing I imagine Jesus would do if he lived in my house! Today was no different except for one thing. A conversation. 

One of the parents was checking the oil in his car while he waited for school to end. We spoke and chatted about cars for a few minutes and then he asked the question: Are you Church of England? That took us into a short conversation about being baptist and then he told me he'd given up going to church when he was 25 but he had never stopped believing in God. He's 40 now and I get the feeling that as he has sat in our car park day after day God has quietly been working in his heart.

I don't know what the outcome of this will be. I took the chance and invited him to church and maybe he will come. I simply don't know. What I do know is that God so loved the world that he went to extraordinary lengths for this parent, his partner and his whole family. And if I have to spend a bit more time in the car park to help him move closer to discovering that for himself then the car park is where you will find me.

Pastoral Care Training

Further to my post recently about Pastoral Care Training, I came across a resource on the Methodist Church website called Encircled in Care. Having bought the pack it does look rather helpful.

The course, for want of a better word, is broken down into three foundation sessions:
Why we care
Developing skills
Good practice
and then there are 9 further modules that look at:
Prayer in pastoral visiting
Connecting care and discipleship
Children, young people and pastoral care
Across the Generations
Extended communion
Health, healing and Well-being
Mental Health issues
Loss and Bereavement
Domestic Abuse

Each session had a Bible passage for reflection and useful handouts, and itt's all on a CDRom too.

I hope to run the three foundations units as an introductory course in the New Year.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The MacBook

So, it's been almost one week in the company of the new MacBook and I think I'm beginning to understand the thing. It's a very different beast compared to a PC running XP. I've eventually found the forward delete key and I'm getting used to using the key instead of the key.

What has been really useful is having two people nearby who are Mac users. Ally has made me a list of useful commands and hints, and Mark, a friend from church, has loaned me two books by David Pogue (Switching to the Mac and Mac OS X Tiger edition). I'm actually running Leopard, but the book is still very handy. Without these I think I might have wondered what on earth I'd done moving away from a familiar interface to this strange new world. There's just so much to learn but I'm surprised how much I've got used to already. 

Something that came with the package was OmniOutliner. I've been experimenting with this today and I'm quite impressed. There are some helpful introductory tutorials on the website (Omnigroup) which helped me get started and I think it will prove to be very useful for all sorts of things. 

So overall, I'm pretty impressed with the MacBook.