Friday, December 30, 2005

Look Where You are Going!

I am sitting in my Dads house on New Years Eve looking forward to 2006. Remembering what has happened over the last year the good and the bad, and dreaming of what lies ahead in 2006.

2005 has been good. My job is my life. I have a great life. Sometimes I just can't believe I get to do what I do. I have a great family, great friends and have a part in leading a great church.

This year has seen people start following Jesus for the first time and become part of our church in Milton Keynes. We have seen people grow and develop on their walk with God, get involved as ministers in the local church and get involved in missions work in the UK and abroad.

I went down to the sea shore today to see a boat that had run aground on the rocks close to my home village. They were heading for the port of Fraserburgh but misjudged it and ended up lodging on a reef only yards from a large beacon highlighting the very fact that danger was there. It seems impossible that with the warning staring them in the face that they ended up high and well not dry. My only conclusion is that they could not have been looking where they were going.

I go into 2006 remembering what has happened but looking forward to what is to come. Realising that not everything will be plain sailing and there will be dangers but keeping alert as I go forward there are brand new adventures and opportunities out there.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Living Beyond Ordinary

After spending Christmas celebrating with my wife's family yesterday we traveled up to Inverallochy in my homeland Scotland. We are here to bring in the New Year 06. 10 hours in a car with my beloved family is not my idea of heaven but hey we got here in one piece so it was not that bad.

utilized the time to catch up on a series of podcasts from Mosaic church in Los Angeles called extraordinary Living. Based on the Apostle Pauls letter in the Bible to the Christians in a place called Phillipi it encourages us to not to settle for good but to go for the best.

He covered subjects like Extraordinary Insight, Extraordinary Strength, Extraordinary Love, Extraordinary Contentment and Extraordinary Service.

I am reminded yet again that Jesus came so that I could have an extraordinary life. He has placed all His confidence in us for the future of the human race. Sometimes I feel this confidence is misplaced as I know others and my own weaknesses only too well. Despite this Jesus always seems to see greatness in us and keeps calling it out. Maybe its time questioning His belief and becoming a true follower of Christ in this extraordinary life.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Follower of Jesus

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I decided to live the rest of my life following Jesus. I was at a Youth Camp in Great Walstead in the South of England. A group of us had traveled there with our relatively new leader Roger Blackmore from our home in the North of Scotland. Little did I know that when I left Cairnbulg for what seemed then a mammoth journey it would be a week that would change my life for ever.

I went to church and counted myself as a Christian but that was where it ended. During my week in England I fell in Love with Jesus and realized he had a great plan and a purpose for my life. His cause was the only one worth living for and I had to devote the rest of my life to following Jesus.

Since that time I have made decisions which have allowed me to follow this dream. I have sought to learn from others, be active in church and to share with others what God has done for me. Somewhere along the journey though I feel I got sidetracked into something less than what I entered into all those years ago.

With Christmas looming large I have been reminded of the reason that Jesus the transcendent God took on the incredible mission to leave the splendor of heaven and to live on this planet and set up His kingdom. His call then was for people to become radical followers. To leave everything, to give up everything to follow Him. His mission demands no less.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

So much for love

Took the opportunity to go to the opening night of the new Disney film The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. We have been looking forward to it coming out so we booked up tickets for one of the first showings in our local cinema.

I wondered if the film would do justice to the incredible book by the same name written by the incredible C.S. Lewis. I was not disappointed. I was sucked into Disney's new interpretation of this classic story from the start.

Once Aslan entered the frame all the allegorical links with the story of Jesus came flooding to mind. Aslan was to give his life in exchange for the treacherous Edmund. What struck me most was that Aslan the strong ferocious Lion walked into the den of the Evil White Witch and volunteered his life. This powerful Lion could have fought back and possible won but he chose to lay his life down so that another undeserved person could go free. The motivation? Summed up by the White Witch when she whispered to Aslan as she killed him "So much for love.".

That is the driving force behind the actions of Jesus. For love he gave up the splendor of Heaven. For love he gave His life in my place even when I did not deserve it.

So much for love!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Priest Idol

I've just watched the TV's latest serving of the current craze of reality TV - Priest Idol. The cameras are following the new vicar of a failing church in the north of England. Like so many churches in the UK, it owns a large old building which has seen better days but with a congregation averaging three.

It seems like the mighty organization of the church could not even find a native of the UK willing to take on the thankless task of reviving this dying flock - we had to import an unsuspecting candidate from the states. He has already received some advice from a local comedian on his communication style whilst preaching.

The priest has started his mission by focusing very much on the young people of the town. If the initial response is anything to go by the road ahead is very bumpy. One girl in response to the question Do you ever see yourself going to church? She said "In a box!" - think she meant a coffin. The other replies were not much better. The consensus was that church was irrelevant and boring in the extreme.

It continues to amaze me how we, the church at large, manage to take the most incredible, awesome, dramatic and life changing story and make it boring and uninteresting to so many people. We seem to have managed to obscure the basic truth that God is desperate for relationship with his creation with rules and rituals. I know we don't want to change the message, why would we want to its the greatest story ever told - God wants to give us a hope and a future, but lets find better ways to share this great news.

What saddened me most in the programme was after the priests numerable efforts to try to get some young people to church a few finally did turn up for a service. They were full of mischief and were clearly a handful. I'm not sure if the camera showed all the going ons but they were given a lecture on respect and told to remove their hats. (in fact one lady actually went behind the row they were sitting on and snatched them off.) These guys were just in the doors and we were again telling them you are welcome but only on our terms and by our rules. Some how I find it difficult to reconcile this with how Jesus related to people - he seemed to be the life and soul of the party.

Let the party begin!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Scared For Life

Back from a few days in Scotland. Its always interesting to pay a visit to the familiar places from your formative years. There is something comforting visit many of the places that you took for granted when growing up. For me it is the small fishing villages of Cairnbulg & Inverallochy in the north east of Scotland.

A walk along the sea shore seeing the rack (rocks) where we played so many war games. Pretending to rappel the Germans from landing in our village. Images of my friends and relations dressed up in army surplus uniforms that were a number of sizes too big for us filled my mind. On I walked passed the "Monkey Pole" a Coast Guard look out post that I am sure was not even used for that purpose 30 years ago when I used to climb it. Finally coming to Cairnbulg harbour or as it is called now the Boathaven. Its never really been much of a harbour more of a lump of concrete going out into the North sea but it doubled as a great place for us to fish for congers or if we were really lucky in the right season a Mackerel.

Looking over towards Fraserburgh I see the Bents (Grassy sand dunes) where we used to build camps in the summer made from anything we could salvage off the nearby beach.

On the Saturday I went to watch the Belgers (Slang for Cairnbulg natives) play football. Now I've never been very good at playing the game but always willing to try. It was for me very surreal. The guys who used to play were now on the sidelines shouting at the new generation that carried the hopes of the village on their shoulders. Everything looked the same the pitch, the surrounding houses nothing much had changed in 30 years but instead of playing my friends were now watching.

I took my son with me maybe I could give him a glimpse of what my life was like, maybe we could spend some time together just the two of us. I think the in phrase is Quality Time. Unfortunately I think I have scared him forever.

An old acquaintance invited me to take my son into his boat to see round it. A great opportunity, he loves boats and this one is massive. We arrived at Fraserburgh harbour and the boat was birthed 3 out. I helped my son to climb up the side of the first boat cross to the second. Everything was fine till we reached the next boat. Boats come in all sizes and when you combine this with some big fenders to stop boats damaging each other the next transition was down slightly but more importantly there as a gap through which all you could see was the water below. No for me this was no problem but for a 11 year old boy it must have looked like the English Channel. There was no way he was going across.

However the real problems started when we tried to get back to the pier. We had to climb down the outside of the boat with the inevitable water below. He just would not climb down. He decided to jump he made a running start but just as he got to the edge of the boat he changed his mind and tried to stop. Its difficult to explain what happened next but the result was that he was on the outside of the boat hanging on by his finger nails. I managed to get him back on terra firma but he doesn't want to know anything about boats.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Homeward Bound

I leave early tomorrow morning to head home to Inverallochy for the weekend. Having left the small North East fishing village in my late teens, I've now lived longer in my adopted home, England than I lived in Scotland. I am glad that I made the move and have experienced things and expanded my horizons so much. But some how that tiny village will always be home.

To be frank I don't think I could live there long term but there is always a little tug at the heart. Looking back it was such a great place to grow up. There seemed to be so much more freedom. There seemed to be a safety in the fact that you knew everyone and everyone knew you. Although very small and isolated there was so much adventure to be found be it playing down the rack, (Rocks by the sea) acting out war games in the countryside or following the sports seasons.

Football in the winter was followed by Golf, Tennis and Cricket in the winter. Being Scotland even though our village was small it had a great golf course. We had no tennis courts but just made our own with a bit of white wash and fishing net. To be out with our friends was all that we wanted.

It will be great to remember those days, seeing my Dad and spending some time with my young son will be a great way to spend the weekend. After all life is all about relationships its easy to forget that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

God is no micro manager

I recently subscribed to a Podcast from Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. I first heard Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic, preach at a Willow Creek conference in February this year. His message found a home in my heart and since then I have read a number of his books which have continued to challenge and stretch me.

In their latest teaching series "Living Beyond Ordinary" Erwin makes the statement that God is not a micro manager. We spend much of our Christian life trying to do what we think he wants us to do. Asking God continually to tell us what to do and where to go, so we never have to work things out for our selves. But God does not want to control our lives, He wants to shape our hearts.

More and more it is dawning on me that God does not want to control me he wants to transform me. This transformation is a process not a one off cataclysmic event. Step by step as I connect with Him and know God in a more intimate way and take on His character I will become who God created me to be.

Its amazing to me that through this awesome relation that I have come into that, rather than trying to control and script me God is actually giving me a great gift free will.

How will I use this incredible gift.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Spaghetti or Waffle?

Our Church is in the middle of a preaching series called "Upside Down Living". It looks at a few counter cultural statements that Jesus made, things that seem on the face of it 180 degrees contrary to accepted practice. Today we looked at how Jesus commended marriage.

During the course of the talk a story was recalled that tried to highlight the differences between men and women. It has been said that in thinking process women are like spaghetti and men like waffles.

When looking at how a woman thinks everything is interwoven and connected. To follow one strand takes you on a journey which brings you into contact with many other strands of though. It is all mixed together reminiscent of a plate of spaghetti.

Men on the other hand think in boxes. They have a work box, a hobby box, a family box, each box separate and stands alone. In fact some boxes have nothing in them at all just like a waffle. So girls the next time you ask one of us guys what we were thinking and we say nothing! Remember the waffle and realise we are telling the truth. Unlike you we can think about nothing.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Why do they always let you down?

I can not remember exactly when it was but I know who is responsible. One cold Saturday I set off to watch a football match for the first time with my all time hero my diddie. My parents choose to name me after him, William Wood Whyte, who became such an influence in my life. I remember looking forward to the day I would see Aberdeen FC live for the first time. By the time I arrived at Pittodrie stadium with diddie and Uncle Billy I was shaking with excitement.

Half Time we were 2 - 0 down the legendary striker Joey Harper had not had as much as a shot on goal. Had my Diddie lied to me this guy was supposed to be a world beater. Second half Joseph Montgomery Harper scored a Hatrick: 4 - 2. My faith restored in Mr Harper, Aberdeen FC and of course my hero Diddie (Grandad).

Well over 35 years later and Saturday is still a day filled with so much hope but very often ends in despair. Today is no different.

Aberdeen 0 Hibs 1

To make matters worse my new found passion since my move south of the border faired no better.

Aston Villa 0 Wigan 2

they let me down again! But at least when I think about football I remember the man who introduced me to the great game. The person that never let me down my Diddie.

Friday, October 21, 2005

After reading a number of blogs I have finally decided to take the plunge for myself. Not really sure what I have to say and even more sure no one else will want to read it but here goes.

The title of my blog is take from the best selling book by Philip Yancey by the same name: What's so amazing about grace. Having been brought up in Church in the North East of Scotland for most of my formative year I heard 1000's of sermons. One of the words I heard over and over again was the word Grace. Although a word and a theology I had become very familiar with it was not till my friend Andrew Shearman, a pastor from the USA, recommended this particular book to me did I really have my eyes opened.

My experience of church and church people was a story of rules, regulations and unforgiveness. I had taken on the idea of God as a great ogre who was watching over me waiting for my inevitable failure, confirming his low expectation of me.

Yancey opened my eyes and revived my fading faith when I picked up his classic book. This was God that was new to me. A God who was more interested in me than what I did for Him. More intent of encouraging my spiritual journey of discovery than pointing to my weaknesses.

In the words of Bono in the U2 song Grace is a thought that changed the world. Experiencing this thought has changed my world.