Friday, 21 June 2013

Glad Midsommar from Sweden!

Today is the Swedish holiday of Midsommar, celebrated on the longest day of the year. The origins of the festival is prominently pagan, however it has shed all of its original meaning in 2013, and it now just a Swedish tradition where you meet friends ad have BBQ's. Much like every weekend in the summer now. 

The idea is that you make a hole in the ground, and put a large pole in it and dance around it in a folk-dance fashion. 'Like a maypole?' I hear you British readers think. Yes! However, the shape of the pole is a little more symbolic of fertility than bells and sticks. 
The head dresses you see Annie and I wearing are the typical Midsommar crowns that we made at the start. Normally just the women have flowers in, but I wanted to really experience the culture. 

It was great to get a taste of this Swedish holiday. My wife tells me that Midsommar is the second of two days of the years when all the shops close, Christmas Day being the second. The advantage of this being that Sunday is the start of the Midsommar sales, much we see of Boxing Day in the UK. 

I am getting used to the Swedish way of life. With this time of year bringing many bank holidays. In Sweden, the bank holiday isn't just the day it self, but the day after as well. Not something that I hear many complaining about. 

We are having a Midsommer BBQ this evening with friends, so we are hoping the weather holds out. Annie tells me that rain is also common for this day, which is a little disappointing. It doesn't dampen our spirits as much as the ground though. 

Glad Midsommar! 

The Captain

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sermon on the Creek - Social Revolution

Yesterday I preached at Fishers Creek. It was my first full sermon to the congregation. I have done many talks, some as long as 45minutes to the youth and a few 10-15 minute short sermons and discussion introductions in the main church, but this was the first time I was providing the main teaching of the meeting. And it went well. Over the last 3 years full time, and 2 years in volunteering I have been training, for all different types of ministry, also including relationship building and discipleship, the gift of teaching is something I have really been praying for. In the last year, I have been starting off/carrying on a youth ministry and within that, I have been preparing from 2 to 4 lots of teaching a week, on all different areas of the bible and the Christian life. So it was a nice feeling to have done my first full sermon.

The title was Social Revolution and was on 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. It was a hard passage as it was in the middle of Paul's instruction on marriage so could be quite confusing as to why it was there. I looked deeper and found something quite remarkable. Paul was challenging the attitudes of the people who were struggling to see that they were free in Christ, and also under Christs authority at the same time. The metaphors of circumcision and slavery can be confusing but as always with biblical interpretation you need to understand the context a book or letter was written in to get the full meaning. 

It comes with a challenge for us though, to look at the attitudes of the situations we are in at the moment. We constantly want to be in better places, and have better jobs. We want better smart phones and technology (my struggle here), some people want better friends who can do more for them. But maybe we are in the place God wants us to be already. We are free, but not free to do whatever we want to without a care in the world, but we are free to choose God, and to choose His way. These are just a few highlights, if you want to read the full thing, then there is a link below. My favorite thing, was the structure of this passage, it can be compared to a club sandwich, an image I used from a book by Kenneth Bailey on the Culture of Paul's letter to Corinth. (Not the actual title). It worked very well for the sermon. 

I am pleased it went well, not in a proud 'I'm so good' kind of way, but in humilty, pleased that my prayers for this gift are being answered and humbled that I could be used to encourage the rest of the congregation in this way. I really enjoy teaching and I hope I get many more chances in different settings. I will try and share more of my teaching with you, and I will share future full sermons.

If you want to read it further, you can download it here

And look out for a year review newsletter coming your way in the summer. 

Over and out,
The Captain

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

New Newsletter!

So I have finally got my new newsletter out. It should have been a few weeks sooner, but the end of term is a month sooner in Sweden (they only have 2 terms of school), so by the time we were back from the honeymoon and the blessing in England, we both realised exactly how much work we had to do. Including a new newsletter for those of you who have been praying for me and supporting me in different ways.

I will post soon with details about the wedding, and the blessing with pictures but for now I wanted to give you access to my new newsletter and update you on a few more things. Here is the link to the PDF that you can download. 

I have also been talking a lot about how this would be a weekly blog and I would be sending a lot more updates your way. That was the plan, however things haven't happened that way, and I am just reflecting now on what has stopped me from doing that. One of the reasons that could contribute to it is a fear that a lot of people in ministry have, and that is the fear of failing, or the fear of being wrong. 

My first blog, Writings of a recently born-again Christian, had a lot more theological content and I felt more confident. I was new to be a Christian and I felt I couldn't really go wrong, but now I am in a position of authority in some way, I am on a leadership team of a church and sent as a mission partner to another country. In a sense I have a way to fall if something I say isn't really right. 7 years ago, if I was wrong I was new and humble enough to be corrected. But shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't I be in a position of having more humility now? Shouldn't I be more accepting that I am human and can make mistakes? Instead it seems I have fallen into the trap of being proud of where I have gotten to, and have a fear of losing this. So much that if I am quiet then I can't say anything wrong. 

Now some of you might think that, yes, that is fine, proverbs 17:28 says 

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

Which has its place, for sure. If you go back one verse it talks of how the truly wise have fewer words today, and in the next chapter of proverbs, we read that fools have no understanding, they just want to air their own opinions. Now I know I might upset some friends who are also bloggers, but this has been on my mind when I have considered blogging about a subject. I don't want to come across as just airing my opinions, but for what I have to say to have some kind of theological base. I have seen all to often in the Internet where someone has made a comment that is not quite theologically accurate whether it was a mistake or they meant to write it, to have the comment section full of other believers correcting them in full 'preaching' essays, or some judging fools telling them they are blaspheming and have somehow lost their salvation by writing that post. Very rarely do I see loving comments, or intellectual conversation around the subject. And to the onlooking eyes, which could easily be from someone who is considering the Gospel as truth, this is not giving a good picture of a Christian set apart for Christ.

I am very aware that I have lost my cover of being a new believer, so I can't hide behind that, but I think seeing those responses has put me off my desire for blogging about relevant subjects of how we can respond to our culture through our faith, in a world where being a Christian is harder and harder, and people are choosing to live easier lives within the distractions that the world has to offer. But I also remember that 7 years ago, my blogging sharpened my understanding of scripture, because conversations would lead me there. It also gave me the desire to know more, which was a factor in leading me to retrain as a youth pastor, and work with the awesome youth I work with now. 

Those who know me, know I am an extrovert and need to process outwardly. I also encourage people to question things. Even ask the hard questions of our own faith, to challenge of belief so that we can end up in closer relationship with Jesus. I am reminded of the man who doubted Jesus, and said 'if' you can... Then in his repentance declared 'Lord, I belief, help my unbelief.' How many of you readers need to pray this once in a while? I think in the Christian lifestyle, nothing is simple. Things happen daily to shake our faith in Jesus. And it is in those times we need to pray this pray. 'Lord, I believe in you, I believe you love me, and died for me, despite what I see in the news of the hurt and pain. Please Lord help my unbelief and help me overcome my doubt.' When we doubt we lose hope, and without hope we lose sight of Jesus, and His work on the Cross. If we weren't to doubt I often wonder what the result would be. We would have our faith, but our relationship with Jesus wouldn't go anywhere. It's like having a friend who you know is there, but you have no interest in knowing more, knowing why they do the things they do, or what their aim in life is. It's almost like a dead end. This doesn't fit into what Jesus says a life following Him would look like. He says that He came so that we could have life, and have to the full (John 10:10), so lets ask ourselves the questions, and expect answers that go beyond our wildest dreams, answers that will open up our minds and see what God really wanted for His people, and we might even catch a glimpse of heaven.

However, I have seen this with pastors who are well know for their evangelism, and have done great things to open up faith, who have really asked these questions and helped people find answers and have been victimised by their church, but when newcomers ask the same questions they are praised for it, encouraged to ask these questions. Something doesn't seem right there. If anything, the pastors who are asking these questions are leading by example of a living faith in Jesus, who satisfies our every need.

So I want to blog more, and write about relevant subjects about faith in our culture, but I am afraid when I see pastors being accused of heresy because they want to reach out to more people. I believe the Gospel is relevant to all people, but everyone comes from a different angle, and views Christianity and the Bible differently, so we need to find out where people are at. I know I am blogging with the risk of people challenging me, and I am open to correction in my writings, but I know by looking through the Acts of the apostles that we need to take risks to challenge this generation, the next generation and many generations to come. I, like every single person on earth, am not complete, I am still being created. I will not be finished until my last day on earth, and I am learning constantly through experiences and passing these on. So please remember this when you read this blog and all other blogs for that matter. 

My prayer, is that we are all in 'iron sharpening iron' correspondence, and critiques can be given in love and received in humility. We might not get it right, but that's why we have Jesus to correct us and set us straight. We can't get it right on our own. Ever.