Friday, 29 October 2010

Bristol...take two!

Bristol training is always great fun, educational and full of energy. It was great being back there with all the other "impacters". Many stories of encouragement were shared and the feeling of unity was really evident again. 

We kicked off our first days training by taking a look into church history. We explored different eras; 100-1054 AD where they early church was having to contend for the gospel against heretical ideas and teachings. We took a look at the work of Athanasius and Augustine, and their fight to teach the one true gospel. 
The next era was 1000-1600 where a reformation started to take place. This involved men/women such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and Lady Jane Gray as well as many others. Calvin and Luther are both very well known for their writing, and I am planning to check some of their stuff out soon.
This was followed by the legacy of the reformers which took place between 1600-1800. Main figures in this time were Richard Sibbes, Jonathon Edwards, George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. This was a time where Britain really started to see revival through the ministry of Whitefield and the Wesley's.
After this evangelicalism started to rise. This was the era in which men such as William Carey, William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon and Charles Spurgeon came to be known. Spurgeon is said to be one of the best preachers to live, his preaches are still available in written form, they are defiantly worth taking a look at. 
We finished up in the 20th century, where men like Billy Graham, CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, John Wimber, Smith Wigglesworth and Terry Virgo were all very influential. 
It is great to see what has happened in the past, and exciting to think about where the church is going in the future as we go towards our ultimate goal, preparing the beautiful bride of Christ. 

Our second day was looking at Jesus through the Gospels and the claims he made of himself. Jon Peel led this session as well as the last one. We took a look at why Jesus called himself the "son of man", "how he was son of God" and why he was referred to as "the word". At first some of the teaching was difficult to understand but I got there eventually and I have my notes to look back over. We also looked at the I AM claims that Jesus made of himself. 
  • "I AM the bread of life" John 6:35
  • "I AM the light of the world" John 8:12
  • "I AM the good shepherd" John 10:11
  • "I AM the resurrection and the life" John 11:25
  • "I AM the way, and the truth, and the life" John 14:6

In the last session Jon talked about the story of the church from Acts and the Epistles. We looked at God's view of the church, its dynamic and lifestyle, its message, its methods, its leadership and how it makes decisions. 
Imagery is often used throughout the bible to symbolise what the church is. Examples of these are...
  • The Bride
  • The Family
  • The Body of Christ.
  • The Temple (building) 
  • The Pillar of Truth.
I really enjoyed all that we learnt this training block. It was great to see all my brothers and sisters again, and to get fired up before coming back to Poole. 

Until next time...                                                                                                                         

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Off to Bristol!

I will be heading off to Bristol again tomorrow for training as part of my FP Impact year. We will be spending three days dwelling on theological issues and other subjects along them lines.
This weeks subjects shall be Church history, New Testament: Four Gospels and New testament: Acts and the Epistles.

I am looking forward to a good week! I shall write of my exploits when I am home.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Saved By Grace- we get what we don't deserve!

 Often, there is a misconception about what being a Christian really is, and really involves. People believe that you must go to church, read your bible and pray. They believe that works such as these can save you, and make God love you more. I once had this view on Christianity. I believed it was just about keeping God's laws and being a good person. Sadly, like many, this put me off for years, before grace was explained to me.

P-J Smyth, a well respected leader among Newfrontiers did a talk at Newday 2007 on the subject of Grace, and it is from that talk that I have taken a bulk of the information here. He put it in a way that really makes it understandable and interesting. As I will only be scratching the surface, why not check out the talk here. P-J is a great communicator, I have been blessed by listening to him over the past few years.

Ephesians 2:8-9...
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
To start with, we have to recognise that we are all sinners (i.e we have all done something wrong in our lives) and have fallen short of God's glory. This started back in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, when they first sinned against God. This sin caused a separation from God and because all sin is against God, it must be punished by death. We are all objects of his wrath. This sounds all doom and gloom I know, but because God loved us (his creation) so much, he provided a way for us to be in relationship with him again.

How did he do this? Through his son Jesus Christ! We cannot bring ourselves any closer to God through our own efforts. Only grace can bring us closer to God, and save us. We can often get into the mind set that God will not love me much if I don't go to church, if I don't read my bible or if I forget to pray to him one night but these things don't matter. They are works and works can't save us. When we believe and put faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the gift of grace which pardons us from our sin. Jesus took our sin on the cross. We contribute nothing to our salvation, it is free, it is a gift! 

Salvation = Jesus + Nothing!

If we don't have to contribute anything, yet we have sinned against God, then surely we are getting what we don't deserve? It's a gift, no one deserves gifts, people give gifts to people because they love them. Birthday gifts aren't earned, they are given out of love for that person, and we receive the gift of grace from God, even though we do not deserve it.
The example of the criminal on the cross next to Jesus is very helpful in showing us this principle. 

Luke 23:39-43...
 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." 42 And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Both the criminals were on the cross for a good reason. They were criminals. They were "bad" men. However, they both had different view points on Jesus. One was being selfish and only cared about himself, while the other knew Jesus was the Christ, the one who had come to save. He knew Jesus had done nothing wrong. All he did was ask Jesus to remember him. He believed Jesus was who he claimed to be and he put his faith in him. This simple act caused Jesus to say " you will be with me in Paradise." Amazing! The criminal had done nothing to earn his salvation, he had never prayed or done any good works yet he was saved. He got what he didn't deserve!

Grace is free to us! We can receive it freely. But although it is free to us, it cost Jesus absolutely everything. He was beaten, abused, taunted, rejected for us! He took on all our sins so that the fathers anger and wrath could be satisfied and we may go free. We must accept and put faith in Jesus to receive this grace. Without it we are still objects of God's wrath. Without faith in Christ we are not destined for eternal life. However in Christ there is forgiveness and mercy in abundance. He forgives any sin, and anyone can come to him and ask for forgiveness. 

So once we give our lives to Christ does that mean we stop sinning? Well, personally I believe it possible but improbable. When we give our lives to Christ, we are dead to sin and alive in him. However, we are still human and in our weakness we still sometimes slip back into our old ways. But, because of God's grace we are forgiven and he doesn't love us any less. Wonderful!

Living in grace...
Now, if grace is properly explained, it should cause you to think "then doesn't this mean I can go on sinning intentionally because God will forgive me anyway?" I will shortly write an article on living in grace which will explain all about how we should now live because of God's grace upon us.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Disciplines of a godly man by R. Kent Hughes

This is my first book review for some time, mainly because the time I have for reading has been reduced by my increasing social life. Anyway, Monday's are my day off and my lazy tendencies had once again been proven as I had no washing. So, what better to do than read while waiting for washing to dry?

Anyway, R. Kent Hughes has written a fantastic book here for men. It goes through all sorts of disciplines that as men we should engage in our lifes. There are six sections within the book based on discipline of relationships; soul, character, ministry and grace of discipline. We all know that discipline is a big part of following Christ, and it can often be one of the hardest things to do. So men, grab a copy of this book and read away. Even for those that struggle to read, this book grabs you, and now sports a study guide which makes it excellent to read as part of a discipleship group.

I have been blessed by reading this book, I expect you will be to.

Also for you ladies, there is a female version, written by Barbara Hughes, wife of Kent. Although I have not read it, I have heard several good reports about it.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Miracle of the week!

I am writing a short post here just to encourage and stir your faith. Yesterday in the office, one of the administrators came in on crutches because she had fallen down some stairs subsequently tearing ligaments in her foot, which in turn also pulled some bone away. Anyway, we prayed for her, and she was then able to moved her toes, which previously she couldn't do. The pain remained so we prayed again and the pain immediately left, she was able to walk, then run, and then jump on her foot. Amazing!
It doesn't end there though, we prayed one more time for the swelling to leave her foot/ankle, and before our very eyes it went...all I can say is I was in shock, but overwhelmed with joy.

God is great!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Crabbing, Tree's and Other Poole times.

Good Morning all, 

I write to you from a sunny, yet rather chilly Poole. The Sun is very high in the sky and shining very brightly, and as i look out my office window several seagulls circle the car park. The Office is unusually quiet as the "big boys" are up in Peterborough today at prayer and fasting. 

I enjoyed a lovely weekend, the weather was fantastic! Saturday morning was an early start, as I was doing the "finding your place course" at church which means i will soon be a member of Gateway. The morning took us through the basics of what church life is like at Gateway and what our mission statement is.

Sunday was brilliant! A lie in, followed by a great church service, student lunch and then an afternoon and evening with two visitors from Winchester, or should i say Eastleigh...

My one clawed BEAST!
 We spent the afternoon crabbing, took a walk in the woods and then had "chats" on the trampoline back at home. The Crabbing session was not as fruitful as previous afternoons however it was still good fun. In total we caught around five, would have been more if the fish didn't keep stealing our bait! We then headed over to Upton Country park for a stroll in the woods, and some tree climbing action. The woods are beautiful, if you ever visit down here, you must take a walk. The girls especially liked the wishing tree, a tree that people over the years have stuck colourful bits of paper on with wishes written on the paper. 

Life in general is going well, its busy, with lots of late nights and early starts. The reality of being in a different environment still has not fully hit me yet but I would say that I am settled and enjoying life. I will soon be going to my second training session in Bristol on the 26th-28th October. I look forward to yet more exciting times, and I am sure I will have many stories to tell.

 More Photo's from Sunday:

Saturday, 9 October 2010

General thoughts: Friendship.

Yesterday, I was preparing for a talk that I was doing at youth in the evening. The talk was entitled Real or Fake and was taking a look at Biblical viewpoints on things and worldly viewpoints.

1 John 5:9 says...
 We believe people when they say something is true. But what God says is more important, and he has told us the truth about his son.
Often we can get caught up in worldly beliefs and this can affect all sorts of areas of our lives. For my part in the talk I have been asked to talk about friendships and popularity, which for young people can be a battle at times. This caused me to take a look at what real Biblical friendship is and how we as Christians can become better friends and not be swayed by the worlds view on it. 

To begin to understand this we need to take a look at one of the best biblical examples of friendship that we have, David and Jonathan.

1 Samuel 18:1-4...
 When David finished talking with Saul, Jonathan felt very close to David. He loved David as much as he loved himself. Saul kept David with him from that day on and did not let him go home to his father's house. Jonathan made an agreement with David, because he loved David as much as himself. He took off his coat and gave it to David, along with his armor, including his sword, bow and belt.
The world often tells us that our friends are here to benefit us, to help us and to love us. Friendship can often be interpreted as a one way thing. We need to assess whether our friendships are all take, take, take and whether we expect our friends to be there for us and to make us happy, without us giving anything in return. 
From the example of Jonathan and David we can see that Jonathan cared about David and loved him as much as he loved himself. They were very close and they cared about each other deeply. As there should be in all friendships, there was mutual encouragement, intercession and affection. Later on in the story, we are told that when Jonathan and Saul were killed David was very grieved so he wrote a song exclaiming how he felt at the time (2 Samuel Ch 1), this shows to some extent how much Jonathan meant to him, and how much he cared for Saul despite the way Saul acted towards him.

Going back to 1 Samuel 18-19, we see that Saul put David at the head of his army, and David achieved much success in his exploits because he trusted fully in God. You would think this would make a king happy, however Saul became bitter, jealous and scared because of Davids success, so he started trying to kill him. This is where Jonathan and David's friendship would really be tested. Jonathan was Saul's son and Saul confided in Jonathan about his thoughts and plans, as did David. So when Saul commanded Jonathan and his servants to kill David, Jonathan's loyalties were tied. What would he do? 
Because Jonathan was fond of David and there was a true love between them, he warned David of Saul's plans to kill him, and told him to hide (1 Samuel 19:1-3). This was very risky business because if Saul had found out that Jonathan was telling David (whom he probably saw as an enemy at the time) he probably would have killed him, despite him being his son. Jonathan could have also seen this situation as a big personal gain. He knew where David was hiding and he could have led Saul to David, which in turn would have led to reward. However, we see a real unselfishness which I believe can only come from love.

The world will often tell us that our own success comes before our friends success, and our friendships with them. We can see this all through society from children ditching their close friends to hang out with the "cooler kids", to businessmen stealing ideas from business partners. This is seen as acceptable, there is no loyalty and love in the relationships. Sadly this also spreads to marriage, we see men and women running off with other people when something that seems better comes along.

As Christian's we should be different though.
Jesus said in John 13:34-35...
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
We can see here Jesus gave us a command to "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." This is clear and direct. Jesus loved his disciples (then and now) with all his heart. Jesus would have never had bad thoughts about people, he would have never slandered, he would have never gossiped. He was perfect. These things are not loving. I myself have struggled with them in the past and still do to some extent. They are not godly, they are worldly and we should be disciplined and avoid them.
Jesus also says "By this all men will know that you are my disciples...". Jesus is saying that if we love one another, people will know that we are followers of him. Demonstrating godly friendship speaks a lot about the church, the body of Christ. How can we demonstrate his love to us if we do not love each other?

I hope that you were challenged by reading this, I know I was in the process of writing it. Let's have good godly friendships with each other that demonstrate the love of Christ...our saviour!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Who really are the world's strongest men?

We all have something that makes us stop in our tracks and stand open jawed. For some it may be a beautiful sunrise, for others it may be seeing a bungee-jump take place, however for me that sense of amazement comes when i see incredible feats of strength. Many of you other lads out there would probably agree with me that as men we all have some sort of innate desire to be stronger, faster or smarter than others. Maybe this is why athletic competition came along? I don't know.

Anyway, as I was casually flicking through the channels on Sunday afternoon I stumbled upon one of the "Worlds strongest man: Grand Prix" events and decided to stop and have a look. Now, I have always had an interest in these events having grown up watching them on channel 5, but I am constantly amazed at the sheer size and strength of these men. They are genetic freaks! Yes, some of them carry some excess fat and many of you would not consider them athletes but i disagree. They may not have the muscle definition of a body-builder (someone who trains purely for aesthetic looks), however they possess raw strength and power that the muscle bound body-builders do not. Many people mistake body-builders for strongmen and powerlifters which isn't the case. Powerlifters compete in "the three lifts" which are the squat, deadlift and bench press. Strongmen compete in different events which will often involve more repetitions with weight than a powerlifters single lift. Although Body-builders are strong, they will rarely be in the same league as powerlifters and strongmen. 
The reason strongmen and powerlifters carry more fat than body-builders is because they are not after that cut  look, but instead they are chases after pure strength and having some extra weight can help with that. 

Zydrunas Savickas (Current World's Strongest man) setting a new world record in the Apollon Axle with a weight of 212.5KG (33 1/2 stone!!)

I just can never get my head around how some people can get as strong as these athletes do. Even if they are using steroids, which sadly a lot of strength athletes do these days, the amount of strength they possess is incredible.
These thoughts bought me to the point of wondering, who really are the world's strongest men? Is it the powerlifters who register the heaviest lifts but for only single repetitions on in a single plain of motion or the strongmen who use smaller weights for more repetitons and often have to push, carry and run with the weight.

Seeing as the powerlifters register the largest lifts, then surely they are the strongest? However,  before you decide this you need to take a look at what strength actually is. "Strength is relitive to the acitivity you are taking part in" this means that you may have strength in one area, but be weak while doing another activity. 
Take this for example, you could take a powerlifter and make them hammer nails into dry walls with a plastoror and the strength athlete would start to tire very quickly. However the chain smoking labourer would carry on all day because he has built up "strength" in the activity he is doing. The same goes in reverse. 

Andy Bolton (England), is the current Deadlift world record holder with a personal best of 457.5KG with a suit (displayed above) and 432.5KG Raw!!

 So why do we call the top strongman event world's strongest man? Well yes, they are very strong men, but the majority would struggle if they competed in a top powerlifting competition. The same would go in reverse if a powerlifter went straight out of powerlifting and started competing in strongman. You need to be strong in the event/activity you are taking part in. The demands from each are different.  
I think a more accurate name for "World's strongest man"  would be "World's most well-rounded strength athlete". 

Both parties would argue that they are true "world's strongest men". I would not want to get into that sort of arguement fully, and instead i think we should appreciate the different feats of the different sports. They are all extremely strong and the strength they possess is super-human. 

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Looking to the future...

Having decided that I would like to change my plans for university, I have begun the UCAS process all over again...oh what joy! However this time, I shall be attempting to do the process properly, i.e actually going to visit the universities that I am interested in and actually selecting a course that I have some idea about. 

It was only this morning when i started to process again that I realised how long it took to complete at this point last year. Writing personal statements, getting references, selecting your choices and then the anxiety as you wait to see if you have been accepted. 

I have decided that I no longer want to be involved in the sporting industry although the qualifications I have gained in my time studying that will still come in handy. I know I still want to teach, however I am now steering towards Religious studies as a main subject.

Please be praying for me that God will guide me through this time and that he will put me in the place where I am meant to be. Please also pray against any doubts or complications in the application process.