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Dealing with the Seven Deadly Sins

When I look out of the kitchen window at home, I marvel at how prolific and healthy the garden is.  Not the good stuff (flowers or shrubs which we might actually have chosen and planted) but the weeds – they seem unstoppable!  Every nook and cranny of soil or gaps between paving seems to be just right for flourishing weeds, nettles, the odd thistle, and a range of things I can’t identify but don’t look like they are worth cultivating.

The upside is, it’s a great excuse to use the power washer to blast the unwanted growth from the patio. A therapeutic hour or so of fun gets rid of the weeds and leaves the stones an entirely new and brighter colour. Just need to hose down the house windows afterwards!

It’s not only the garden that provides territory for weeds. When Adam and Eve were expelled from the fabulous Garden of Eden, the ground they were left with was prone to thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:18). It doesn’t take a great deal of self-awareness to spot how our character can become fertile ground for behaviours, attitudes and values that are equally undesirable.

If we were to pause and take a look within we might see these: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. The seven deadly sins. Not just undesirable but also potentially damaging to our relationships, our well-being, to our walk with God, to our health, and more.

Shift the garden to the warzone, these infamous deadly sins are like unexploded bombs.  They might be left undetected, ignored, or hidden in plain sight yet still have a truly destructive capacity.

Our soul is made to flourish in God’s hands, our character is precious and intended to become more like that of Jesus, yet these deadly sins can ruin our relationship with others, rob us of joy with God, and diminish our life as a whole. Some deliberate and careful bomb disposal may be very timely. But first we have to spot them.

Each of these infamous seven are alive and thriving in our world at large, not just in our minds, which makes it harder for us to call them out. But the Bible is chock-full of examples and encouragements of how God works in people to change and reshape them, how he reveals the impact of sin in their lives (which we can learn from) but also how he wonderfully points us to what God might grow in our character instead.

God’s plan is not just to dismantle our damaging traits but with his help, power, people and presence to bring a good and glorious life to fruition. Far more than clearing the ground, of bombs, weeds or sins, God wants and provides for new and good growth. It could transform our home or marriage, our workplace and health, our spiritual joy and confidence.

Bomb disposal is not easy, it needs time and focus, but with tools and care it’s life-changing and life-bringing. Maybe your soul is waiting for this.

Bomb Disposal is Available on Amazon

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

7. Listening 

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the centre. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.
Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 
John 8:3-8

In reading the gospels in the bible you will see that Jesus is the master of listening. He takes time to listen, Jesus is shown to be patient and actively listening, not rushing to think about his own answer and just talking instead of listening. 

Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

In this bible passage today, Jesus is grilled by a group of religious men looking to trap him. They present a woman to him and they outline her sins and failings, not caring or seeking justice but looking to find fault with Jesus. 

Instead of answering he just starts drawing in the sand! What was he doing, what was he writing? Well, I don’t know but it was clear that Jesus was listening. He spoke just one thing to them, basically ‘if you are sinless then throw the first stone at her.’ 

Silently, quietly, her accusers slipped away until it was just Jesus and the woman. 

When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord,” she answered.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
John 8:10-11

Jesus was able to listen and hear people, not problems or gossip, he didn’t turn his heart and head to that. He moved beyond all that to people, their lives, their heartbreak and their chaos. He listened to the deeper things, the unsaid things in lives around him. 

So often we want to be heard over making time to listen to others. Could be a good reminder here how loving it can be to listen. Listen like Jesus. 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

6. Sharing

As he was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter), and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fish forpeople.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-20

In my home life one of the main areas for battle amongst my children is the issue of sharing. In particular sharing the front seat in the car. 

I don’t know why but the front seat is like a gold ticket to the chocolate factory. On every journey the children will enter into a long debate, a heated debate about whose turn it was, whose turn it is and just how unfair and miserable life is without the glory of riding in the front seat. 

I don’t want to make a bigger issue of this than it actually is, but if you’re in the same boat as me you know what this is like. Sharing is never easy and to be honest I’m not sure it gets much easier as we become adults. 

“Follow me,” 

In this example today about how Jesus demonstrated love through sharing, I want to make the point that he invited these guys to follow him. 

In inviting these men to journey with him, Jesus was essentially calling them to learn: follow me, watch me and stay with me. I will share my life with you guys, and it will transform yours.

You see sharing isn’t always about splitting a cake or grabbing the front seat. Sharing in the Jesus model of showing love is also about inviting people to be with you. To invest in their lives, provide for their need and walk a bit together. This can take a load of different forms and shapes and might reach into our hearts of hospitality and generosity, but I think there are lessons in loving others wrapped up in this too. 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

5. Serving

Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

I remember taking a group of men to the poshest restaurant in Recife, North East Brazil. This place was amazing, as you arrived in the car park they parked the car for you, took our jackets in the smooth air freshened marble floored entrance. Inside was a table about 10 meters long full of various meats, veg and fruit, along with rice’s and pasta, regional dishes and local delicacies. As we walked in these men I had taken were in a trance, like aliens landing on earth. 

They just froze, then gradually were shown to their seats, tucked into the table, a napkin put in place and a drink poured. 

The reason this service stunned my mates was that they had spent their lives serving the most hurting, broken and lost men in Brazil. 

“the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

They had given everything to love these guys through acts of selfless serving, giving time, food, money, energy and love to rehabilitate other men breaking free from drug and drink addiction. 

In this moment they were suddenly being served, lavished and cared for. 

This is just a basic example but when it comes to Jesus, he just kept on serving. He gave love to people through serving and living an utterly selfless life. 

This is something I need to learn from, do more of. I need to be ready to love people through serving. 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

4. Gentleness

The next day, when the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting:

“Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord —the King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written:
Do not be afraid,
Daughter Zion. Look, your King is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt.
John 12:12-15

So, I want to be honest here, I have a bit of a thing about the way that Jesus is portrayed as being loving mainly through gentleness and meekness. If you Google ‘Jesus’ most, if not all of the images it returns in 0.00034 seconds, are of a Jesus that looks so meek and mild, timid and watery eyed that I just look and dismiss them as nonsense. 

When I consider Jesus’ gentleness as love, I think of strength, courage, integrity and the ability to not conform to the world’s agenda but stay the path. 

This moment of Jesus entering Jerusalem is really profound. The expectation was for a messiah or savour to liberate the Jewish nation living under Roman rule and culture. A warrior on a white stallion to march in and blaze a trail, lead a revolution and set the people free with force and fire if needed. 

But what’s that? The clip clop of a donkey! 

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord —the King of Israel!”

Can you imagine the scene, the servant king arriving? Just before this the bible records that as Jesus looked to Jerusalem, at the last moment in his life and mission, he set his face like flint. 

Resolve, focus, heart and grit but fused with gentleness and the heart of a servant doing what his father had willed. 

The gentle heart and spirit but fused to strength, focus and courage. 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

3. Physical Touch 

While he was in one of the towns, a man was there who had leprosy[c] all over him. He saw Jesus, fell facedown, and begged him: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Reaching out his hand, Jesus touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean,” and immediately the leprosy left him.
Luke 5:12-13

Let’s continue this mini-series of blogs and reflect a bit on how Jesus showed his love through physical touch. This might not have been an obvious one, but I think it needs to be in the list. 

Can you imagine for a moment the scale and gravity of this moment in the life of the man with leprosy?  

“I am willing; be made clean,”

In the bible the word used for leprosy covers not only that specific condition but also a wider range of severe skin complaints that people were suffering from.  Not only did the person suffer from the direct physical complications and pain of the condition, but it was  linked to overwhelming societal isolation. 

It is likely that the man in the story had been banished from family, community and any physical touch. Anyone labelled ‘unclean’ had to warn others by ringing a bell to ward off anyone from mistakenly coming near him and risking contracting his condition. 

From a life being completely ostracised, this man, covered in leprosy falls facedown and begs Jesus to help him.  Jesus was willing, not only to heal him physically and spiritually but to also touch him and restore him into to society again as a human being. 

Now that is incredible, through physical touch Jesus is able to demonstrate amazing love and to some it would seem like a reckless love, but Jesus did it all the same.   

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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I’ve never been a fan of bumper sticker theology. Even less so twitter theology. John 3:16 is a pretty good attempt at condensing the Gospel into 280 characters but that was God inspired Apostolic writing. #Blessed. 

Whilst there is a place for very clever, laconic soundbites, they can sometimes err on the over simplistic and in some cases be misleading. And this is one of them: ‘God is my co-pilot’. I’m not the first to notice this or comment on it. People then started to say, ‘If God is your co-pilot, swap seats’ and then simply ‘God is my pilot’. 

Now then, I think we can all agree that God isn’t a pilot. You won’t step on to a Jet2 flight to Malaga and seen Jesus welcoming you on board, the Father in the cockpit and the Holy Spirit selling the duty free. Our God is one, he is Creator, Messiah, Redeemer, Saviour and so much more. I feel as though by over humanising God, by attributing him a certain career or hobby or human trait can distract us from how truly awesome and Holy He is. Now although He isn’t the seat, the good news is God has never failed to be present on any of my sorties. He is there in the cockpit, even though I’m the one doing the flying. 

God may not be your co-pilot. But he is certainly in command. Jesus tells us that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5) and I have had to learn this the hard way. Early in my military flying training, I started out my flying training without Him. It’s not that I wasn’t a in relationship with God, but I wasn’t including him in this part of my life. I prayed, went to church, took communion, read the bible, but my relationship with Him was separate to the rest of my life, including my flying. 

After a few decent training sorties, I had the worst flight of my life. It was bad. Nothing dangerous, I was just performing below the standard expected by the RAF. I was close to giving up, I felt like I was imposter wearing the uniform. Thankfully ‘God works all things together for good’ (Romans 8:28) and he set up that awful flight with the kindest and most gracious instructor we had. He took me outside the squadron and gave me a firm, honest but above all loving, bollocking. In summary, I needed a miraculous turn around to stay on course. 

I turned to reading my Bible again and chanced (if there is such a thing as chance) upon Colossians 3:23. It struck me that although I was working heartily, it was for myself. It had been my career, my sorties and I left God out of it as soon as I had finished my morning devotion. So, the next day, I went through the same morning devotion, but I offered up the day to the Lord. I prayed before each flight, I asked the Lord to bless each sortie and realised that I could honour and worship the Lord through my flying (1 Corinthians 10:31). It became painfully clear looking back that I was only flying in the RAF because of all God had worked in my life up to that very moment. My favourite verse is Philippians 4:6-7. I presented my entire life to God, I invited Him to come and take command of each aspect of my life; family, work, friends, down time, it was all for Him. Paul says if we do this, ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.

The result? God never took over the controls to land the aircraft when it got too hairy for me, I still had to work hard and put in hours of study and preparation. But one piece of consistent feedback I got from my instructors stood out for me. They all said after that awful flight, that I was incredibly calm in the air, never got phased by any changes, I had a cool-headed reaction to any emergencies or events (even if I didn’t exactly make the best decision afterwards!). I then recalled that promise in Philippians 4. God wasn’t my co-pilot, but He was and is in command of everything. Good, He makes a better go of it than me.

Image Credit: Patrick Tomasso

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This week we will continue to explore 7 ways Jesus showed love, love that we can seek to replicate to those around us.

2. Compassion

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
Matthew 27:42

Perhaps one of the most consistent themes of how Jesus demonstrated his love was through his compassion. The bible records lots of times when Jesus looked out and ‘having compassion on them’ would speak, act and help. One of the striking things for me about Jesus’ compassion is that he had every reason not to show compassion but actually be looking for it for himself!

Jesus was constantly mis-understood, men lied about him, stirred up trouble for him, plotted against him, accused him falsely and schemed to murder him. He was publicly ridiculed, beaten, treated with utter contempt and brutally murdered, publicly humiliating him before a vast audience. 

Yet in spite of this, Jesus didn’t grasp at a thread of compassion for himself, asking people to 

feel sorry for him, instead he even gave his compassion to those who were doing this to him. 

“Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him!”

It might seem like a strange way of reflecting on compassion and how Jesus showed love, but it is so easy for us to look for and need compassion that we render ourselves unable to show compassion to others. Jesus, even through the deepest darkest moments in his life, was still moved with the most profound love and compassion for others. 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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The most startling display of love for others is in the cross of Jesus Christ. Whilst some might be willing to die for people who have lived an amazing life or are ‘really really nice’ people, it is unlikely we would give our lives for the worst sinners and scum bags we can think of. This is where the sacrifice Jesus made is all the more amazing, before anyone chose him, Jesus gave his life for everyone regardless of the scale of the mess we’ve made in life. That’s hard to comprehend and seems just too merciful and loving, but that is the point. Jesus did something that no one else was able to do. 

The reason I am saying this now is that I want to explore with you over 7 weeks ways in which Jesus showed this love in some amazing ways. When questioned once about the greatest commandment, Jesus said this:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind‘; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.‘

So, let’s explore 7 ways Jesus showed this love that we can seek to replicate to those around us  

1. Eating with people

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Luke 2:15-16

I remember being in Brazil and having lunch with a few guys who were in the project. The project was called Teen Challenge and the lads I was having lunch with were all recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. 

We ate together, chatted, and listened to each other’s stories. The food was simple, dry and heavily seasoned to mask the chewiness of the chicken neck and claws we had been served, but in that moment, after a few hours grafting in the fields under the hot sun, it didn’t matter at all. We were all eating and recharging. 

After eating the meal, a few of the guys kept looking over and talking to themselves so I asked what they were talking about. They shared how much it had meant to them that I had stopped and eaten with them. ‘Many pastors come through here, but they never eat with us, you can see they don’t like the food or our company at the table.’

Jesus showed love for people, particularly in a culture that put a lot of value on eating together, by sitting at their tables and sharing meals. He ate with the drop outs, the outcasts in society and the dirty sinners. 

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

The locals and the religious people hated it and criticised him for it, but it made such a difference showing practical love in accepting people around a table. 

Are there ways and places for you to demonstrate this sort of love? 

Image Credit: Jon Tyson

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The Holy Grail of American Sport.

Body armour, helmets, full contact sport – The American Game

Having won three Super Bowls, been four times ‘All First Team All Pro’, Rob Gronkowski announces his retirement at the great age of – wait for it – 29 years old!

What! 29 nine years old, wow! Maybe it’s the word ‘retire’ that catches my eye.

I’ve been on-line trying to research the different ages people can play professional sport at, and for that matter what might well be the appropriate retirement age. Not as easy as I thought, it’s a bit of a challenge. There are so many variables: age, physical and mental ability, emotional development, strength, mobility, intelligence, stamina, coordination, ability to recover from injury, endurance, desire, capacity and how many chocolate biscuits can you eat with your tea.

Of course the choice of sport also impacts upon the age you can start and how long you may continue to take part. 

What is sport?

Noun. an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.  (Collins Dictionary)

Sport England accepts that darts is a sport – but wait…

“But darts won’t be a sport until the players need to do more than bend their right arms and wear a path between oche and board. That’s why snooker, too, is a game, no matter what you might hear about players needing to be physically fit. They do – but only to be more mentally alert. … That’s why golf is a sport.“
15 Jan 2001, BBC Sport

Oh dear not as straight forward as I thought.

I wonder what Rob Gronkowski is going to do with the rest of his life; hopefully he has many years in front of him. Whatever he chooses to do in this new stage of life I hope he will be successful. Retirement is not my favourite word. Retirement speaks of the end, a conclusion to a part of life and it can affect so many other areas of life. I prefer to see it as a change of pace, the beginning of new adventures. 

When I became a Christian I had, apparently, made a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus. Nobody informed me that there was no retirement package in sight, no gold watch for services rendered; no, this was a job on the mission field for life. It’s a bit of a shock to realise that there is no age barrier. You can start young and go on for ages, no retirement age or date in sight. Then we see that being one of Gods disciples means that the message we carry (God’s love, Jesus death and resurrection, the saving of souls) is for everyone, at any time, any place, any day, week, month or year. 

The penny dropped; So its 24/7 – okay, I’m cool and good to go. Perhaps that’s what I meant about an adventure?

My faith is a living faith and in the Bible

“For we are Gods workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

Retirement, what’s that? There are stacks of things to go and do, whether you’re twenty nine or ninety nine (and forget the gold watch!)

Image Credit: Wade Austin Ellis

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