Life Without Guidance

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Me and my flatmate Dave watched the movie “Ghost World” tonight. It’s really depressing. It’s kind of a commentary on the angst associated with growing up, growing apart, dealing with the vacuum of life without guidance and any moral framework.

It relates to something Dave has blogged about recently about what a disaster it is to follow your heart, seeing as how it’s deceitful above all else and all that:

“I think the Bible’s teaching can be summarised like this: the heart is an unruly child – capable of good things, but if you leave it to its own devices, you will be in a pickle.”

I really like this quote by John Newton which isn’t entirely relevant but which is really great so just needs to be shared, and it kind of sums up the experience of one of the characters in the movie:

“Whatever we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands shrinks upon trial, and will not fully answer the expectations which the prospect raised. It quickly ceases to be new, and then we secretly say to ourselves, Is this all?”

How Photoshop Denies the Generosity of God

Airbrush-Pistole Typ: Badger 200

Came across this must-read article on The Satanic Ideology of Photoshop by Mike Cosper that ties in really well with a lot of stuff I’ve been thinking about recently about thankfulness and contentment. It talks about the lies that feed and are fed by the culture of photoshopped beauty that we see all around us in magazines and on billboards. He says that ultimately, it’s all a Satanic assault on our contentment in God and what God has given us:

“When Satan came to Eve in the garden, his assault (amongst other things) was an attack on her contentment. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) To paraphrase: “Has God held out on you? Has he given you less than you need, less than you deserve?” The temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 are likewise assaults upon contentment. For Jesus to turn stones to bread would have been to deny the sufficiency of God’s provision. To worship Satan in exchange for the kingdoms of the earth would have been to deny the sufficiency of Jesus’ inheritance to come. In these cases, Satan’s message was the same: God is holding out on you. You’re lacking what you really need. You don’t have what will really make you happy.”

Our ideas about what is beautiful are so distorted that we become unable to accept aging with grace. But more than that, our self-centredness and pursuit of pleasure means that we elevate outer beauty to the point where it makes us miserable, unable to rejoice in the reality of how things actually are.

Yet the Bible reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Exactly as we are, God knew what he was doing! We need to keep remembering what life is all about, that we’re here for God’s glory and not our own pleasure or our own egos, and that even as we wrinkle and sag we will continue to grow more and more beautiful if we persist in seeking first the kingdom of God. There’s a glory to a person’s godliness that cannot help but shine.

We might wish to be eternally youthful, but instead we need to keep trusting that our God is generous and good, and rejoice in how things actually are today.

(-HT Justin Taylor)

Busyness and Rest

I’ve been really enjoying the “Life of a Steward” blog recently – a stimulating resource for anybody thinking about productivity and wise stewardship of our time from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Yesterday’s post was titled Jesus and Rest: The Mater’s Way of Refocusing. Here’s a little excerpt:

“Rest has a way of refocusing us… When we live at a busy pace, rest is the chance for us to rejuvenate and avoid burnout. But it goes beyond that. Rather than simply recharging us so we can tackle our work week, rest can change how we fundamentally view our lives. Rest gives us the ability to refocus.”

For a few years now I’ve been a big fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” approach to time management. I’ve long thought that one of the most valuable and foundational components of his method is the regular review – taking time out to consider what you’re working on and what you should be working on. I’m rubbish at being proactive enough to make it happen. But reading that post above made me think that it’s invaluable in other areas of life as well to take a step back every now and again and ask ourselves what’s going on.

When we’re busy we tend to become more reactive and less pro-active: in mathematical terms, we look for a local maximum, becoming hyper-focussed on where we are at the moment and responding to the demands being placed on us, and so we fail to notice that if we just zoomed out a bit we’d realise that the real answer lies elsewhere in doing something else entirely.

Read the whole thing here.

Marriage is for Losers

Great post by Dr Kelly Flanagan on relating well within marriage:

“In marriage, losing is letting go of the need to fix everything for your partner, listening to their darkest parts with a heart ache rather than a solution. It’s being even more present in the painful moments than in the good times. It’s finding ways to be humble and open, even when everything in you says that you’re right and they are wrong. It’s doing what is right and good for your spouse, even when big things need to be sacrificed, like a job, or a relationship, or an ego. It is forgiveness, quickly and voluntarily. It is eliminating anything from your life, even the things you love, if they are keeping you from attending, caring, and serving. It is seeking peace by accepting the healthy but crazy-making things about your partner because, you remember, those were the things you fell in love with in the first place. It is knowing that your spouse will never fully understand you, will never truly love you unconditionally–because they are a broken creature, too–and loving them to the end anyway.”

-(HT Tim Challies)

Fading Are the World’s Best Pleasures

Why Jesus Is My Hero #44 of 52

The "New iPad"

How do we take seriously the battle with the world, the flesh and the devil?

Yesterday I went along to the London Men’s Convention at Westminster Chapel. The theme was “The Fight” – encouraging us blokes to take that battle seriously. Al Stewart from Australia delivered the first talk, tackling the issue of our battle with The World – that is, the world in rebellion against God, the constant atmosphere of anti-God thinking and values that is so pervasive that we’re hardly even aware that we’re breathing it in all the time.

Al’s address was based on these verses from 1 John 2:15-17:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever.”

This sinful world craves and chases after all manner of things – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s unrestrained sexual desire or greedily lusting after the latest iPad or gluttonous eyes that are constantly bigger than your stomach, the world is constantly feeding us messages about what will make us happy – encouraging us to seek our happiness and contentment in the things that God has made rather than in God himself, and often in the process making us sick through overindulging in things we’d have been better off without. Add to that our pride in our possessions – the way we use the things that we have as a kind of status symbol, seeking our identity in the stuff that we own rather than in Christ.

But John gives us the antidote when he reminds us that “the world is passing away along with its desires”. None of the stuff we crave and lust after will last. The new iPad soon becomes the old iPad, the food is soon gone and its taste quickly forgotten, the illicit pleasure of the affair gives way to the misery of guilt and broken relationships.

Putting our hope for happiness in the things of this world is a recipe for disappointment. Yet there is one source of lasting joy that will never let us down: as I have written previously, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes or passes away, and the joy of living with him as your king is the kind of pure, unadulterated pleasure that doesn’t leave a rotten taste in your mouth.

As Psalm 37 puts it so beautifully:

“But [the wicked man] passed away, and behold, he was no more;

though I sought him, he could not be found.

Mark the blameless and behold the upright,

for there is a future for the man of peace.”

An Object Lesson of How To Get Smart Developers To Apply For Your Job Opening

There are a few companies out there who are overwhelmed with applications from amazingly talented individuals, but more often than not that’s not the case. Smart people get to choose where they work, and to recruit for the best talent companies need to sell themselves to the candidates just as much (or even more) than the candidates need to sell themselves to the company. My first employer learnt this the hard way when they had job openings sitting unfilled for months at a time because no decent candidates were ever applying.

Today I came across an awesome job advert for a position that I just couldn’t resist applying for: the post of Web Developer at Hubbub. This job advert makes me smile on so many different levels:

  • These guys show that they’re serious about only hiring smart people – by showing that the bar is high, it makes you as a candidate want to take on the challenge of proving you’re good enough. Requiring a JSON hash is a really simple but effective way of immediately screening out the vast majority of potential applicants who really haven’t the first clue about web technologies. Not to mention those pesky recruiters :)
  • Having a sense of humour – nobody who has a choice in where they work wants to work for a dull and boring corporate machine (well, maybe a few do – but certainly not me!) and this job advert oozes a sense of a company culture that is a lot of fun (and without simply faking it)
  • Reflecting the company’s values – it’s obvious just from reading the job advert that this is a company that is serious about food, and they’re obviously going to want to hire somebody that’s serious about food too.
  • Bacon – what more needs to be said?

The health of a company depends entirely upon the quality of the people that work for it, and in this day and age you can’t expect to just post a bland notice about a job vacancy and expect to get anyone remotely exceptional applying for it. Big kudos to Hubbub for making something that really stands out from the crowds.

What Does Our Future Hold?

Why Jesus Is My Hero #43 of 52

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What does the future hold for me? If you’re anything like me, that’s a question that is frequently on your mind, and one which often causes a certain amount of anxiety. Where will I be? What will I be doing? Who will I be there with? How will I be feeling about it all?

As Euston Church we’ve been away on a church weekend this weekend, and we began by looking at a passage that tells us the answers to all of those questions, if we’re Christians, and gives us just the answers we need to battle with anxiety about the future:

“In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:7-10)

God has made known to us the mystery of his will. He’s revealed his plan to us! There’s no need for us to guess at it and wonder what he’s going to do – he’s told us. When’s it going to happen? It’s a plan for the fullness of time – in other words, when the world reaches its conclusion and everything arrives at the point towards where it’s been heading all along. And what is his plan? To unite all things in Jesus, things in heaven and things on earth.

This is where your life is heading, if you’re a Christian: as those who have been adopted as God’s children through his undeserved grace and mercy, we’re going to be with Jesus united with all the company of heaven under his rule. It’s all sorted – God’s going to make sure it happens, and nothing can stand in his way. Doesn’t matter what exam results you get, whether you get offered that dream job or not, whether the purchase of your house goes through as planned or whether your parents get ill – if we’re trusting in Jesus, then we can be totally sure what the future holds for us: God’s going to take us to be with him.

Of course, there’s still lots about the “in between” bit of our future that we don’t know, which God doesn’t reveal to us in advance. We kind of have to figure that bit out as we go along. But we don’t do it alone – we know that God goes with us to make sure that we end up safely at our destination. Knowing the big picture plan with certain confidence really helps deal with anxiety about the little day-to-day stuff – because if God can save us from our sin and make us alive again when we were spiritually dead in rebellion against him, then he can certainly deal with the issues of today. It’s like if you saw a tennis player win all of the Grand Slam championships in the world in a single season, and then started worrying about whether they’d be able to win against your 12 year old nephew. If they can do the hard thing, then of course they can do the easy thing!

What a great relief it is to know that my future is secure with Jesus – what it holds is not in doubt!