Training in godliness…

We all know that physical exercise is part of a good and healthy lifestyle. Recently I have been attending the local gym and getting into a routine that requires commitment, lots of energy, and time. This level of commitment began to have a  strain on other things in my life and as a result I took a 2 week break from the gym.

Unfortunately, that break turned into 4 weeks. The time to ‘go to the gym’ was eventually squeezed out of my ‘life timetable’ – it has lost its place and is replaced by other things instead. Does it matter? Surely physical exercise comes in all different  forms, walking, cycling, football, cricket etc. Do I need to go back to the gym? How  do I get back into a rhythm of doing 30mins on the bike or 20 mins at level 15 on a  cross-trainer? To begin with – it’s going to be hard – but eventually I’ll get back into the habit.  

Paul wrote these verses to his young apprentice Timothy:

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but  godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present  life and the life to come (1 Tim 4:7-8). 

Paul reminds Timothy about his priorities – training yourself to be godly. It is amazing how physical exercise, Marathons, Football, Rugby, Tennis etc, have  become an idol or ‘mini god’ in people’s lives. They become part of the ‘ timetable of life’ and tend to replace spiritual growth and faith. I want to be  clear, all these are great things and God created all things to be good (as Paul  reminds us earlier in 4:4-5), but when they become a priority over our  commitment to the Lord, we must remember what is more important – getting  a hat-trick on Sunday – or growing and living in hope of eternal life through  faith in Jesus Christ?  

Physical training has value but growing in godliness is vital. Physical training has a limit, our bodies wear out – eventually our bodies will die – but growing  in our spiritual life, growing in our ability to pray, depending more of our lives  by faith in Jesus, reading and shaping our lives by the Bible, God’s Word, we are living our current life in obedience to the Lord, including our physical  exercise; and we are preparing for eternal life promised to those who have  faith in Jesus. When we get out of the ‘habit’ of gathering to worship or when it  is squeezed out of the timetable – it is difficult to get back into a rhythm, our  training in godliness suffers. We get blinded by our sin and the world around  us that we forget about what Jesus has done with our sins on the cross.  

It is so easy to conform to the world, to listen to myths, olds wives tales and get carried along with the crowd to Decathlon and Sports Direct and forget to gather with your brothers and sisters to worship the living God. It is vital to offer our prayers to our Father, to be taught from the Word through Jesus the  Son and go out to witness by the power of the Holy Spirit, to nourish,  encourage and grow each other as the body of Christ, the church. 

Focus on your godly training, get back into godly ‘habits’ and be a real witness to the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

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Loving difficult people…

Conflict is something that I real struggle with and I know that I’m not alone. The other day, I was watched two people arguing about one of them jumping a queue in the local supermarket. The one who committed the crime was taking no responsibility and showing fingers and using abussive language. This is not unique. There are so many people in our society today who have no respect or are nasty for no apparent reason. So how do we cope with these people? How can we grow to love them? Are you someone who has become difficult to love?

I read a great little book called “How to love difficult people” by William Smith. It is part of the CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) series. (See picture).

Smith starts his solution by saying:

Learning to love difficult people starts with understanding that you (like me) are hard to love too.

We need to accept that we are not perfect and we can be difficult to love too. We sin like everyone else and to be humbled by that truth is the starting point to loving others who are like us. As Isaiah 53:6 reminds us:

We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all (NIV)

God sees us as difficult people, who are sinful, rebellious and selfish, like sheep, but he had a plan to reconcile us back to him. He sent Jesus as the good shepherd to gather us back to himself. God’s goal is to gather these difficult people into his fold. Do you think God gives up after a week, month, year? Why should we? We need to keep praying for the people in our lives who we find difficult- that they encounter his unfailing love. Don’t quit, but pursue. Be encouraging, pursue areas of growth, pursue them for their own sake and love them even if they don’t love you in return. I leave the last words to Paul and use them as a prayer for what you are going through:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 15:5-6 NIV)

Amen

C.H.Spurgeon on Genesis 24:63

Over the last 2 years, I have been fed by the wonderful wisdom that C.H. Spurgeon has provided in his “Morning and Evening Prayer”. For the Morning of the 15th August, Spurgeon takes us into middle of Genesis with this very specific verse:

63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming.

Spurgeon draws out the importance of meditation and specifically, the location and time that should be devoted to it. He brings to light this amazing statement:

“If those who spend so many hours in idle company, light reading, and useless pastimes, could learn wisdom, they would find more profitable society and more interesting engagements in meditation than in the vanities which now have such charms for them”. C.H. Spurgeon. Morning Prayer 15th August.

Spurgeon emphasises that the time we have and the way we use it has a huge impact in the way we view our own lives and how we treat God. The amount of time we can spend watching ‘trash’ TV or playing games on our mobile phones – including the trend of catching Pokemon – is remarkable. We become slaves to our own pastimes and we find it very difficult to leave our phones alone for more than 5 minutes.

When was the last time you went for a walk without your phone or computer? When did you last go into a field and give praise to God for the beauty of his creation and grace he gives to us so freely?

I have recently discovered that I am spending 5-6 hours a day just sat in my study – working on my computer – this is not healthy – this is not spending time meditating and enjoying and receiving the wisdom of God through his Word. Spurgeon raises this issue:

“Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, or so inspiring as the fields.” C.H. Spurgeon. Morning Prayer 15th August.

We are to meditate in the field – spend an hour in the evening everyday and go for a walk – giving thanks to God for the day you have had, for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour and for giving us the wisdom found in his word. In the Urban climate I am him – Spurgeon does say – The Lord is found in the crowded streets too.

Where do you spend time in meditation on God’s Word? It is vital we spend time reflecting and growing closer to the Lord instead of growing more dependant on disposable ‘charms’.

Re-Launching the Urban Curate

Wow – two years ago was the last blog which I published. It is time to re-launch “The Urban Curate”.

As I enter the final year of my curacy, my Training Incumbent annouced that he is leaving the church in a few months time. The next 12 months are going to be both a challenge and a time of formation.

I hope to blog more frequently; to do more book reviews along with some “original thought”. I will also write about how I have tried to apply the treasures found in the Word of God to the pastoral situations I will encouter in my ministry.

The first official blog will be released tomorrow morning…

NEW BLOG: The arrival of the Urban Curate

Well… It has been a while. Since the Ministry Trainee came to an end I have been training at Bible College and therefore I have not been able to update this blog as much as I wanted to. The blog remains the same with the same focuses but with a new name. The Urban Curate reflects what I will be doing over the next 3-4 years. I will be living in an Urban area near Birmingham and working in a local church that is small in number and strong in tradition. These posts will be a variety of experiences, reflections and learning that come from what the Lord is doing here and hopefully it will build and encourage Christian believers to be effective and growing disciples. As Paul encouraged the Colossian church by saying:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Col 2:6-8 NIV.

This is a challenge for us as Christians today. We need to be aware of what we believe and accept today. There is much heresy available on the Web, in magazines, newspapers, books, movies, etc. We need to be rooted in Jesus Christ and grow by being built up by his teaching and his grace. What is interesting in these verses (that you might want to reflect on) is the overflowing of thankfulness. We are so thankful for what the Lord Jesus has done by dying on the cross for our sins and to restore our relationship with God. It is by Christ alone that salvation is obtained and therefore we need to be full of thankfulness. I am so thankful that the Lord has called me to be a servant of his Word and that by his Spirit he has given me encouragement, Wisdom and knowledge. I pray that as you read this blog, you will be encountering God through his Word, by his Spirit, so you may be encouraged and grow in your faith. I hope you benefit from the blog. Please keep reading and growing in your faith!!!!

Fragile peace

I was walking down to the bank to cash in my expenses, and as I walked through the shopping centre, I saw a group of young adults wearing baseball caps, just hanging around. All of a sudden; there was one guy who was walking up to them, and he was swearing and cursing etc. The group of lads then started to retaliate and moved up to hit him, right in the middle of the shopping centre in broad day light which was full of shoppers. Now as I approached the scene, a crowd began to form and people just stopped and watched it go on, and no one said or did anything. It was like the whole shopping centre became a boxing ring with the entertainers in the middle.

This might seem common to some people, but I would like to make two observations about what I saw:

1. These lads were just hanging about, doing nothing, talking amongst themselves and they were mocking people as they were doing their shopping. These lads looked and were bored. They looked like they had no work and just wanted to cause trouble.

2. The crowd gathered around were all people who looked like they were bored as well. As soon as something happens they react and are drawn by something. Now they want to observe and not do anything about it.

What would you do? How would you react if this happened where you live? What is the solution to this problem?

People in the 21st century have very offensive natures. You have got to be so careful of what you say, otherwise you could get into real trouble. As Christians today, we have got to endure all kinds of hardship because the gospel offends people!! Why? Because it convicts them of their sins!

The passage we are using for our next messy church has this verse right in the middle: from 2 Timothy 3:12

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

Paul suffered everything for the gospel, and if we today as Christians are going to live out godly lives, we need to give out the good news to the people who have fragile peace, just like the example above. Let us learn and grow off the prince of peace as we continue our lives spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.