Month: July 2009

Happiness

I use gmail, which means there are adverts at the side of my screen when I’m reading my emails. I just noticed one which read thus:

How happy are you?
Your “happiness score” revealed. Complete the online survey.
http://www.myprosperity.com

I haven’t bothered looking at the website, but how sad that before even getting to the survey there is already an assumption than prosperity is the route to happiness. If only they knew the joy of Jesus.

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Bourne to know

I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred and fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the grey truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?

Jason Bourne, The Bourne Identity (2002)

Earlier this evening I rewatched The Bourne Identity, with a view to rewatching its two sequels at some points over the coming week. I enjoyed the film again, but the above quote struck a chord with me. I’ve never a) been an assassin or b) forgotten about it. At least, not as far as I remember.

I have, however,grown up with the immense privilege of two Christian parents. They have brought me up to regularly attend church and read the Bible. I have believed in the God of the Bible for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never been under any false impressions about His character, thinking of Him as either a cute and cuddly Santa-like figure who gives presents to all the good little Christians, or as a malicious sadist who smites and smotes.

The reason The Bourne Identity made me think of this is that Jason Bourne, while suffering from amnesia, knows about himself, but does not know himself. In much the same way, I spent my entire childhood knowing about God without ever knowing God. I knew the Bible’s teaching, and I mentally assented to it, but it made no difference to me. Now, as a Christian, I know God personally and the difference is immense. We are born to know God, and the countless number of children (and adults) who know the gospel without ever seeking God are merely storing up judgement for themselves slightly more knowledgeably than some others.

At my home church, virtually all the church kids of my generation do, by God’s grace, seem to have a genuine faith in Him. At the church I’m part of at university, to the best of my knowledge, not one church kid is a Christian. They both preach the gospel and pray for their children, so I don’t mean this to reflect on one church as better than the other. Instead I mean you to see that this is something which is close to my heart as I see the huge contrast. A group of people who have already heard all your gospel explanations, all your intellectual arguments, all your pleading, and still reject Christ is difficult to reach. May God open their hearts, and use them to remind those of us who are saved that we do not win souls in our own strength.

What is prayer?

According to yesterday’s preacher,

“prayer is an expression of our own personal inadequacies and dependence upon God”.

I’m sure it’s not a perfect definition, but I think it’s certainly a good aim. I’m not sure how well my prayers compare to it, but it’s the sort of humility I should be aiming for.

A week in retrospective – w/c 29/06/09

As regular readers of this blog (if such people exist) will undoubtedly have noticed, posts have become somewhat scarce recently. I won’t try and recap the last few weeks as it would be painfully tedious for me to try and remember what happened and probably equally dull for everyone else to read about.

Sunday 28/6/09

This was my first Sunday back from university, so I had the joy of seeing the fellowship at Tinshill again for the first time in a few months. I had been delighted to read the papers from the church AGM a few weeks previously, and was really encouraged by the activity of the church and the growth of some of my friends there, so it was good to be back with my home church. The day was also my mum’s birthday and she seemed to enjoy it.

Monday 29/6/09

In what was already shaping up to be a week of firsts, this was my first day back at work. I work over the summer holidays in the office of United Beach Missions, a Christian group which (as the name suggests) runs missions on beaches to tell people about Jesus. Adele, my boss, was delighted to see me again because she no longer has to do all the donkey work like putting prayer letters in envelopes and emailing hundreds of people separately to confirm their applications. It was good to be back at work, and have a bit of discipline back in my life, but I’d forgotten how tiring a simple office job can sometimes be!

Tuesday 30/6/09

Tuesday was another day at work. My work is general administration work, and is rarely particularly exciting or noteworthy, but it’s a necessary job and I’m pleased that I can serve God (both by working generally, and also be being involved in an evangelistic organisation) and earn money at the same time. On the bus on my way into work I’ve been re-reading The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (which I cannot recommend highly enough). highlighting lots of bits which I find particularly helpful, and obviously I’ve been trying to live the Biblical lessons from the book which are perhaps easier to apply at work than they usually are. In the evening I got round to watching the Confederation Cup final on iPlayer. At the start of the match I could understand how some people find football a really boring spectator sport, but once the USA scored their first goal the match got going and I loved it.

Wednesday 1/7/09

During the day on Wednesday I received an email from my project supervisor suggesting a book which might be helpful for me to look at, so I was radical and actually visited a library! It was the first time I’d been to a public library for years and of course the system has completely changed. Taking out a book was now self service, and I was particularly impressed that I could look online at work and find out not only which libraries had the book I wanted, but also what code it had on their shelves! I made the mistake of not asking how to return a book, but I assume it will use the same self service machine and probably be quite straight forward.

I popped into a shop on the way home and spent 99p. I gave the shopkeeper a tenner, and he gave me some hideously incorrect maths with my change. He gave me four pound coins and one penny, followed by a five pound note. Nothing wrong with the change, but his explanation of it was along the lines of  ‘four plus one is five, and another five makes your ten’. As a (wannabe) mathematician it was painful to hear 4 pounds added to one penny to make five pounds!

In the evening I headed out to Hullabaloo, the Leeds juggling club, which was taking advantage of the good juggling weather in the local park. I hadn’t been since the Easter holidays, of course, and I haven’t been going for long, so when I arrived a few of the regulars were taking bets on my name, which was amusing to say the least. None of them had forgotten it completely, they simply couldn’t decide between Tim and Tom, so my ego didn’t take too much of a battering. The evening was really good fun, including a lot of impromptu games such as juggling races. One juggler got a well-deserved round of applause from a group of girls sat nearby who were majorly impressed by how far he could run while juggling five balls. It was also a good chance to get to know them a bit better, which happened well as the aforementioned juggler is as friendly as he is talented and a few others were also more welcoming than they have previously been. I realise that makes me sound like a friendless loser, but hey.

Thursday 2/7/09

The way the UBM office routinely works has changed a bit this year, with much more being done by email, a change which is set to save about £500 per month on postage bills. We get a reference for every team member from their church minister, and while this has previously consisted of sending a letter and waiting days for a reply, this year it has been a joy to send the letters by email and receive replies mere hours later. What a shame CRB checks can’t be done so quickly!

In the evening was the church Bible study and prayer meeting, and it was an especial delight to be able to pray with the fellowship I am a formal member of. Sadly I didn’t write down the prayer points (a mistake I must remember to rectify next week!) but it was still good to be up to date with the current prayer needs and answered prayers of the church.

Friday 3/7/09

Friday morning in the UBM office means one thing – prayer letters. Team leaders send their reports of the week Thursday night, and they get put into a prayer letter Friday morning for distribution in the lunchtime post. It is a much less intense and stressful time than it has been in the past as more people elect to receive it by email (hoorah!). Afterwards I spent a large part of my time cutting up A6 flyers and removing the white borders left by not printing to the edge of a page. It was a surprisingly fiddly job, but not very taxing mentally or physically and it afforded a good (and well-taken) opportunity for a general chat with Adele. Sadly the day ended less well, as I didn’t leave until 6pm (an hour after I was supposed to) because I finished off with the intensely frustrating task of stapling together some booklets which were far too thick to be stapled and really needed proper binding. My mood wasn’t improved by requests to do housework when I got back, but I hope I remained grateful for my lot in life regardless.

Saturday 4/7/09

The majority of the day was absorbed with the Yorkshire FIEC joint churches day, at which I was helping supervise primary school aged children. The day consisted of such activities as singing songs, playing a variety of energetic games outside (which finished off most of us helpers!) and obligatory playing on bouncy castles. IT was a good fun day and I trust the talks were useful for the adults able to listen to them. In the evening I caught up on blog reading, watched Total Wipeout (because it was recommended by someone, and it was actually more entertaining than I remembered from the one time I’d seen it before) and generally sorted out things which needed doing on my computer.

You are special

Today, while looking after some children at the annual FIEC joint churches day for churches in Yorkshire, I saw a very interesting animated film. (My church isn’t actually part of FIEC, but we do have links with several churches in the area which are.) It was called You Are Special, and tells the story of wooden people who live in a small village and give each other stickers which do not come off. Anyone can give other people a star (for being exceptionally clever, brave, or good in some other way) or spots (a dark grey spot signifying idiocy or clumsiness). Obviously it’s somewhat desirable to get lots of stars and no spots. Indeed there is even a prize for the person with the most stars. The film’s protaganist is a boy called Ponchinello who is covered in spots and has not a single star.

One girl is different though. She has no stars or spots, and the irremovable stickers won’t even stick to her in the first place! It transpires that she has daily visits to the giant wooodcarver who lives over the hill, even though it is forbidden for the village children to visit him. Eventually Ponchinello is persuaded to visit him, and finds out that even though he is covered in the spots of failure the woodcarver still values him as precious because he made Ponchinello. He explains that the stickers only stick if you care about them, so the girl is free of stickers because she does not care about other people’s opinions of her.

The message is pretty obvious. The woodcarver is God and he is the only person whose opinion should matter to us. Naturally Ponchinello’s spots all fall off as he gets to know the woodcarver, and stops worrying about others’ opinions. We can be secure in God despite the attacks of other people who may mock or despise us for our faith.

Interestingly, the stars do not stick either. This is not, of course, the point of the film, but is still a useful lesson for Christians. The world’s opinion does not matter. We are dead to the world. We are secure in Christ when we suffer, but also when we succeed by the world’s criteria. Compliments should not affect us any more than trials should. We should praise God in both, and seek to glorify Him alone. It is undoubtedly easy to be wooed by compliments from the world, but while they are not necessarily a bad thing to have, they should not change how we view ourselves. We are victors in Christ’s death, and if God blesses us with worldly success then such success is so insignificant next to Christ’s that it shouldn’t affect us. If we are blessed with trials the same is true.