Thursday, May 05, 2016

New Videos from the Urban Ministry Program

We've just made a new playlist of videos that show what happens on the Urban Ministry Program
These include videos from our Mission module, as well as our Exegesis module.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Worshipping God with Motown

I grew up listening to Motown music with my mum, dancing together in the living room. As I got older, I was struck by that saying, 'why should the devil have all the good music?'

I wrote this motown style worship song in 2010, expressing how good God has been to me, even though I often turn away from him.

Monday, May 02, 2016

My Heart is a Bigger Problem than my Disability

Last year when May came with it's abundance of bank holiday Mondays, I was stuck indoors unable to walk. For my American readers, a bank holiday is a national holiday. My wife was heavily pregnant and unable to push me in my wheelchair. As a family, we were stuck indoors, wanting desperately to go outside in the sunshine, giving the kids fresh air to run around in - but instead we felt prisoners in our own home, prisoners of disability.

Today, is a year later, and its the first bank holiday of May. For the last couple of weeks my health has been getting better, and I've been able to move around somewhat without a wheelchair. So, for days, I've been looking forward to this bank holiday. I'm been imaging walking with my wife and 4 children around Isabella Plantations. I knew I wouldn't be able to walk far, but just to be outside in the fresh air, and not going stir crazy inside, is a taste of heaven.

Today however, I dislocated my knee, and I'm unable to walk. Its common for those of us with Hypermobility Joint Syndrome to dislocate joints, but it was proper frustrating for this to happen on the bank holiday. My plans were ruined, and I felt myself getting more and more grumpy. So I turned to God in prayer. I prayed through the Bible verse 2 Cor 12:9, asking God to show his power in my weakness.
'But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.' (2Co 12:9 NIV)
I didn't know what it would look like, but I trusted that God would. I also trusted that his grace was sufficient for me in this instance. I then prayed through some other scriptures, and then came to realise that the biggest problem today was not my disability but my heart. My disability does often mean I don't get much fresh air, and that as a family we don't get to go out much. But the thing that's much worse than that is my grumpy heart. If I allow frustrations to turn to bitterness, and anger, that is far worse for me and my family than my disability. My heart is a bigger problem than my disability.

Perhaps one of the lies that indwelling sin tells me is that my disability is the biggest set back to me being a dad. If I believe this lie, my heart will be hardened by sin's deceitfulness (Heb 3:13), and I will become more and more grumpy, and less loving to my wife and children. If, instead, I recognise that my heart is my biggest problem, and that I am my own worst enemy, then I can repent of my grumpiness, and ask God for the grace to be a blessing to my family even when we're stuck indoors on a bank holiday.

Perhaps this insight is one way God has started answering my prayers today?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Counselling, Abuse, and the Image of God

When we're abused, there are three aspects of the image of God that get seriously messed with; relationship, voice, and power. I learned this from Diane Langberg's excellent book, 'Counseling survivors of sexual abuse.'

Here's what I've distilled from Diane's book along with my own counselling experience.

Relationship: Someone in relationship to us has broken appropriate boundaries, and related to us in an inappropriate way.

Voice: Our voice becomes silent in many ways: We get silenced when we resist, we get silenced by people who later don't believe us, we get silenced because its feels impossible to put to words what has happened.

Power: Someone used power over us in an inappropriate way. We became powerless, unable to stop their corrupt power.

Knowing this, helps us to know how to help people dealing with the pain of past abuse:

Relationship: We need to reach out to people in love. Providing them with a safe relationship in which they can be assured boundaries won't be broken. They need to know that they won't be used or abused in this relationship. They especially need to know that they won't be rejected or abandoned when they share what's happened to them. They need to feel safe. If we do this well, we also teach the wounded soul how to reach out to others in loving relationships.

Voice: We need to let them use their voice. We need to pray for them, and encourage them to put a voice to the unspeakable things that have happened. We need to use our voices, in a way that encourages them to use their voices. Most of the talking needs to come from them. We need to bear witness to the things they share. Its very healing to say out loud what's happened to you, and then have something bear witness to the wrong of it. Its also very healing to know that after bearing witness, the person still wants to talk to you, and be in relationship with you. If we do this well, we help the wounded soul to find their voice again, and to use their voice to bless and heal others.

Power: We need to be careful that we use our God given power in a loving way. God has given us power to serve and protect, and to set the captives free. If we use our power to fight for the abused in prayer, to stand with them, to listen to their stories, to validate their pain, and to provide healing words to them, we help them to see the rightful place of power in a relationship. If we use our power well, we help the wounded soul to correctly use power to serve and protect others.

I am so grateful for the person who used their voice and power to start a relationship with me, and taught me how to use my voice, power, and relationships to bring healing to others. And I'm even more thankful for Jesus, who used his power to save me, who used his voice to speak healing words of truth to me, and who has entered into an eternal relationship with me, where he is not ashamed to call me his brother.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Boldly approaching God

I still remember a few years ago discovering that I couldn't do anything good for God without his grace empowering me. Sometimes in the Bible, the word 'grace' refers to God's special assistance, as in Hebrews 4:16
'Let us then boldly approach the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.'
This verse was a real game changer for me. It changed the way I did life. I began to trust less in my own strength, and spent more time asking God to help me live for him. It also changed the way I preached: At the end of my sermons I now warned the congregation that we can't obey God without him empowering us to do it, therefore, we should cry out to him for help.

Because it was such a game changer in my theology, I wrote a song about it for us to sing. Songs are a great way for us to not only learn theology, but also to beat it down into our hearts.

I initially wrote the song from memory, without looking up Hebrews 4:16. But after a while, I thought, 'hang on a minute, surely we can't boldly go into God's presence, isn't that rude and presumptuous?' So, I looked up the verse, and then looked at it in Greek, and realised that, Yes! We really can BOLDLY approach God! Isn't that amazing, that as his children, we can boldly approach him. We don't have to fear him being annoyed or angry at us. Jesus took all that annoyance and anger at the cross. What a wonderful God!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Father Knows Best

Romans 8:28 has been one of my favourite Bible verses for years. Although it's been memorised in my head for years, I have to daily beat it into my heart too.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
In my brain, I know that whatever happens in my life, God uses even the bad things for my good. But in my heart, I get worried whenever something bad happens. I worry as if the situation is out of control, as if it's not really in the hands of my loving heavenly Father. This worry, and subsequent stress, are signs that I'm not believing this verse deep down in my heart.

So I've set my prayer app to regularly remind me to pray Romans 8:28, under the prayer category of 'Unbelief'. I pray through this verse, asking God to help me believe that he's in control of every detail that goes wrong, and that he'll use these things to make me more like Christ. Each time I pray this, I'm beating this biblical truth deep down further into my heart, and growing in faith in my heavenly Dad, who lovingly manages all the troubles in my life, in a way that is for my good and His glory.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Biblical Importance of New Worship Songs

I've heard people I respect say that we should only sing the psalms, or the old hymns.
The Psalms themselves however tell us to sing new songs:
 2 Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.

                                                                                                Psalm 33:2-3 NIV
The following song originally had a harp instead of the piano that's replaced it. I wrote it back in 2007 with a basic hip-hop feel to it. It's a contextualised urban worship song, following the biblical principle of making music to God with the harp, and singing a new song (Ps 33:2-3).