Saturday, November 10, 2012
On Thursday I spoke at the Salvation Army in Airdrie's Men's Fellowship and wanted to share my notes from the night.
My thanks go to Cameron and to you all for extending out the opportunity to speak at the Men's Fellowship.
I think I know everyone here but for those who don't know me … my name is Thomas Mathie. I am 38 years old and I live in Motherwell with my wife Olwyn, two daughters - Dayna and Miriam, and an anti-social, partially-sighted, diabetic Cairn Terrier called Pippin;
I am a graduate of Napier University and I currently work as a Business Analyst for the Technology department of a Bank that will be familiar to folks in Scotland … and Yorkshire. I am fortunate that I enjoy what I do and have met a number of really interesting people in my 16 years there.
Outside of work … apart from being a husband, father and son; I am a member of the Salvation Army here in Airdrie.
I am also the co-host of the Something Beautiful podcast … a podcast that's been going for over 4 years now … where we get ordinary people to share their extraordinary stories of what they are doing for God in the places and spaces He's placed them.
I also run a record label called 'weareallghosts' - it is a 'net label' because we distribute all our music - 8 releases so far - via the internet. I would love to create a 'physical' release and hope, one day, to do that. The label focusses on ambient electronic music but is open to other styles.
In conjunction with the net label, I run an ambient music podcast called 'circumambient'. Its been well received in the independent music communities I participate in … with the first of 3 episodes gathering over 1,200 downloads.
Lastly … I am a photographer, a blogger and a wannabe graphic designer who is pretty much self-taught in these three fields … they bring me a considerable amount of pleasure and open doors to people.
I am currently working on the artwork for the 12th & 13th releases on my net label, proof-reading a book that I am looking to help a friend self-publish, and working on the covers of his and another ebook.
I keep busy.
Now tonight isn’t about just me … what I want to talk about is 'fellowship'. It was a word that popped into my head almost immediately upon my accepting Cameron's kind invite … and well … it hasn't left me.
In fact ... I kept seeing the word on my book shelf
***show FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING books***
I am a TOLKIEN GEEK!
Before I talk about fellowship … let me say a wee something about why my family and I came to transfer to Airdrie.
It was your fellowship.
When I started coming about Airdrie, I was at a low ebb. I was deeply cynical of Salvation Army leadership and the 'institutional church'. I had had my fill of 'religion'. I wanted more. I wanted the rest the Lord offers in Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message) … I wanted the unforced rhythms of grace:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
When I came here I saw a fellowship of believers whose focus was on Jesus … first and foremost. The Band … the Songsters … these things were and are secondary … you put God first and that was obvious from the first day I stepped foot in this Hall. You had something I wanted. You kept company with Jesus.
The very fact you willing meet together and open God's word is wonderful to me … ***this*** the Men's Fellowship … Songster Cells … Corps Cells … the Home League … Meet and Eat … over and above Sunday worship and Sectional Practices ... these things matter to me. They showed that you willingly and eagerly kept company with Jesus.
Please keep going in what you do … and please keep on keeping company with Him.
Now… what is Fellowship?
***QUESTION - HOW DO YOU DEFINE FELLOWSHIP?***
It is defined as follows:
fel·low·ship [fel-oh-ship] noun
1. the condition or relation of being a fellow: the fellowship of humankind.
2. friendly relationship; companionship: the fellowship of father and son.
3. community of interest, feeling, etc.
4. communion, as between members of the same church.
Fellowship is to be in community with each other. To hold as common the denominators that define a community as being to share either location or interest … or both.
***WHAT COMMUNITIES ARE YOU PART OF?***
I am part of a community with my neighbours … our location is the thing we have in common.
I part of a number of music communities online. We talk about the music we love … I review music, attend concerts and release music via my net label. These are communities of interest … with our shared love of music being the thing we hold in common.
When I was at Uni … I shared this experience with my class mates … it was what we had in common.
I also spoke of being a photographer. I go out of 'photo safari' around Glasgow with fellow photographers who work in the same building I do … we have location and interest in common.
I've mentioned about my obsession with Tolkien. I am part of the community that formed around his writing.
The fellowship we experience as followers of Jesus meeting together is like these examples … but there is more too it. Ours is a shared life. We are family.
Family is a key community ... if not THE key community. We are joined by interest ... and location ... but most importantly we are joined by our promised word and/or our blood. I am joined to Olwyn through the promises I made on my wedding day ... and I am joined to my children through blood. Regardless how much I'd love to disown my we’ans sometimes ... I can't ... they are mine.
We are joined in community ... we share life with God and with each other through Jesus ... through His blood.
Walk in the Light (1st John 1:5-8 The Message)
5 This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.
6-7 If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.
8-10 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.
We share life not just with one another but hold as THE common denominator in our lives our Saviour Jesus Christ ... not just location or interest.
"But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin."
We have a shared life with God. We are called his Sons (and his Daughters). We are His family.
And as His family we share life together.
1 Corinthians 1: 4-9 (The Message)
4-6 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.
7-9 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
We are sojourners together on this journey … growing up together like family … on a journey together … a spiritual road trip or a spiritual adventure as Eugene Petersen translates it as.
Fellowship means we are all in this shared life together. Consider this:
Nothing but the Cross (Galatians 6: 1-10 - The Message)
1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
6 Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
7-8 Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
9-10 So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
Fellowship means to enter into and reside in this common life … this generous life … sharing all the good things that we have and experience … as well as sharing our burdens and our concerns with each other. It means that every time we get the chance, we must work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.
We don't do this alone. We have the example of our Lord to guide us. Not only is He in community with God and the Holy Spirit … He formed a community - His disciples - when He was on earth. It is to His example that we should look.
His sacrificial love … the love that led to Him washing His disciples' feet … the love that led Him to Calvary. This is how we are to love one another.
In fact, it is this love that will set our fellowship … our common, shared life together … apart. We are known or should be known for our love.
John 13:34-35 (The Message)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Love for God. Love for the other. Love for one-another.
I saw that love earlier this year. It was this love that attracted me to this community of believers. It is this love that sets and will continue to set this fellowship apart.
Please do not lose it. Let us live creatively, friends. Let each of us take responsibility for doing the creative best we can with our own lives … and lets simply love each other … share our good times and our bad ... and, as Elaine mentioned at Band Practice last night, let’s build each other up and encourage each other in the faith:
1 Thessalonians 5:10-11 (The Message)
"So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it."
Lets truly 'be there' for each other … and in doing so … present an alternative to the communities in this life … a gracious, wholesome alternative. May we be known as His disciples because of the love we have for one another.
God bless you all. Let us pray:
Dear Lord … we acknowledge your presence with us this evening and thank you for every blessing that you give us.
Lord … we ask that you inspire us to build our fellowship and encourage us to uphold each other in Your name … following your example of love.
Lord … our prayer tonight is that we may be known for our love … in the communities we are part of. Our love for You … our love for the other … and our love for each other. We pray that we will be known for this love.
And Lord … we pray that our example … however flawed and imperfect it may be … will bring glory to you. You alone are worthy of our praise … and You alone deserve the glory.
Now … I ask that you take each member of the Men's Fellowship home safely … and I ask that you bless anyone who is listening to this online. You know our needs, Lord, and you are gracious.
Praise your holy name.
"I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it."
Thursday, October 25, 2012
I recently led our church gathering at Airdrie Salvation Army... and I thought it apt to share my thoughts on this blog:
“To be in your presence”
To be in your presence
To sit at your feet
Where your love surrounds me
And makes me complete.
This is my desire oh Lord
This is my desire
This is my desire oh Lord
This is my desire.
To rest in your presence
Not rushing away
To cherish each moment
Here I would stay.
This is my desire oh Lord
This is my desire
This is my desire oh Lord
This is my desire.
Bible Reading #1 - Deuteronomy 10: 12-21
"So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding you today — live a good life.
Look around you: Everything you see is God’s—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that’s you!—out of all the other peoples. That’s where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so wilfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn’t play favourites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing.
"You must treat foreigners with the same loving care— remember, you were once foreigners in Egypt.
Reverently respect God, your God, serve him, hold tight to him, back up your promises with the authority of his name.
He’s your praise! He’s your God!
He did all these tremendous, these staggering things that you saw with your own eyes."
The song "to be in his presence" has been playing in my head ever since I spoke to Isobel on Monday night. She spoke of needing to attend her cousin’s funeral and I offered to help out.
I think my songster brigade comrades will be sick of hearing my voice but this is what I love to do.
My thoughts have centred around the idea of resting and in particular, resting in God’s presence. I think it is apt for our Holiness meeting to take some time out to consider rest.
(open question) What do you consider to be rest?
When we consider rest we need to focus on what it is not.
Rest is not the absence of activity. You can choose to rest by stopping doing what you are doing... this is true... but rest is far more than simply stopping what you are doing. Rest is an action in and of itself. Whilst it is most likely a reaction... it is still a chosen action.
The reason rest isn't simply the removal of activity is that the initial activity is effectively replaced with something else. Lying beside a pool, reading... an activity we can all agree is decidedly restful... is a series of actions in and of themselves. These actions will be completely different from what you do in your day-to-day lives... they may be the antithesis of what you do at work... but they are not a cessation of work... they are actions in and of themselves.
Bible Reading #2 - Martha & Mary - Luke 10:38-40
"As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”
Consider our text.... Mary wasn't just slacking off from her chores... she was listening to Jesus... "hanging on every word He said”. She had replaced her duty of hospitality to *be* with Jesus. This rest was a conscious choice... she had chosen to *be* with Him.
We need to chose to *be* in His presence. Yes... it's fair to say He is always with us... but we need to acknowledge Him... choose to *see* Him and *be* with Him.
When we consider rest we need to think on the saying... “a change is as good as a rest” : it is a saying we should all be familiar with. It highlights that swapping one action for another can be restful... a change of scenery or a change in tempo, for example.
But the key thing is what we swap in the place of our activity... if we swap one form of labour with another is it truly a rest? Some people may enjoy a “busman’s holiday” but is it truly restful?
There are times when I come home from work and spend time working on my laptop. Sometimes this is decidedly restful and other times it's just more work... albeit not for my employer.
In our spiritual lives we need to seek rest and in doing so we need to ensure we are actively seeking to rest in His presence and not replacing one activity with more busyness.
We need to be clear here... busyness does not and will never equate with holiness. Only intimate interaction with the father will bring us closer to holiness.
The religion the Lord refers to in Matthew 11:28-30 is the one that binds the follower... it makes them toil even more. It heaps more on the plate of the adherent... more toil... more effort... more activity... more guilt... instead of freeing the follower and giving them the room they deserve to live.
We need to ensure that when we seek rest we are not making things worse by heaping on further work... in a manner just like this.
Our expression of faith... what we *do* in the name of Jesus should flow from our time *with* him. We are called to *be* not *do*... and rest is a prime example of this.
We are called to be Holy... we are called to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus. Intimacy is, quite simply, when you can be yourself and rest in the presence of the other or others around you.
Greater intimacy comes as the relationship deepens. The deeper the relationship, the greater the trust and sharing that forms what we class as intimacy. I would never imagine falling asleep in the presence of friends who have come over for supper... but do not have any issue with an afternoon nap with Olwyn and the we’ans milling around.
This level of intimacy is what the Lord requests... when He says...
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The Lord wants to replace the bonds of the world and of religion and replace them with intimacy with Him... He wants you to come to Him... and He wants to ensure there is nothing in the way of this intimacy.
The thing with intimacy is that it deepens with time and exposure... as our relationships grow, the intimacy we have deepens. We share more. We trust more. We become someone worthy of sharing with or trusting. Time and exposure are key... we need to spend time together.
For a marriage to work, time needs to be spent (and money for flowers) and this time needs to be spent together.
In fact, all the significant relationships we have and hold need their own time to blossom and flourish.
As the intimacy grows so too does the potential for rest in the other’s presence. Familiarity may breed contempt but it is also conducive for rest.
How can we rest comfortably in the presence of someone we aren’t intimate with... we remain on edge... not fully “off duty” so to speak.
This is true with our relationship with Jesus. How can we rest in His presence if we rarely spend any time with Him?
As such, we need to remove everything that gets in the way of building and maintaining this level of relationship.
What is coming in between you and the Lord today? Is it things of the world? Is it ’religious’ things? Are we too busy observing our expression of faith like Martha was that we lose sight of Him? Would you be comfortable resting in His presence... as comfortable as Mary?
Take time to *be* with Him. Take time today. Take time tomorrow. Allow it to become a habit. Not the kind of habit that becomes constricting but the kind of routine that is a joyful expression of your being... like a kiss and a hug with your significant other or VIPs first thing in the morning or before bed.
Come to Him and He will give you rest.
Dear Lord, at thy feet I still linger,
’Tis sweet to rest here with thee;
O touch my life into beauty,
Thy spirit give to me.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The following is taken from a devotion I led at the Songster (Choir) practice in Airdrie Salvation Army:
Tonight I would like to present an observation… an observation I have of this Corps. Dare I say… an observation from an outsider looking in. I feel it is fitting considering this weekend's meetings.
Five things strike me about Airdrie… and these five things have stuck with me ever since I first noticed them.
First off… when I entered the hall… Bobby made sure I was welcomed with a warm handshake and a copy of the Song Book. Why was this significant? well apart from the obvious warm welcome… by giving me a copy of the Song Book, Bobby was ensuring I was included… that I could participate. Yes, I can read the screen but by giving me the book he ensured I could join in.
Second up… Isobel gave me a big hug. She didn't ask why I was there… she just hugged me and welcomed me. Again, why was this significant? It reinforced the welcome I received from Bobby... in the same way a handshake from Cameron or Bobby... or a smile from Amanda or Cameron did. I was made to feel welcome.
It's not enough to welcome folks, it's important to make them feel welcome... which leads me onto my next point:
Thirdly… there was (and is) a freedom of worship that I found remarkably refreshing. Jean and Helen on their tambourines… Davie shouting 'amen' and 'hallelujah'… the lack of uniformity when the Songsters sing or the Band play… these things are significant to me because they highlighted that everyone with Airdrie can and do contribute to worship. It reinforced the feeling of inclusion that Bobby started at the entrance, you don't need a uniform to participate & you certainly do not need to conform to do so. You can come as you are. Words we use almost flippantly but here it's true... I mean I sang in the Songsters wearing my Converse yesterday.
Fourthly… not only was there a freedom in worship, there was a focus for this worship. It became very evident to me that God was at the centre of all that took place within Airdrie. He was (and is) the centre of all that happens here… the sections sing and play to the Glory of God… not for man's glory but for God's. Isobel & Bruce hold Him up before us. He is the focus here.
Lastly... there was a real willingness to meet together. Meetings. Fellowships. Practices. All had a community element to them... and there was a willingness to open & discuss God’s word when together. As mentioned previously, God is integral to this Corps... not an added extra. The fact practices are either put off or curtailed to open God’s word is tremendous.
Folks... as we celebrate 127 years in Airdrie, I think it is important to acknowledge - from an outsider looking in - all that is attractive about this Corps. We are the church and if we continue to get the things I've mentioned right... especially if we keep God central to all we do here... we will bring honour to His name and through our example bring souls to Him.
Let me leave you with this... the message to Philadelphia in Revelation 3 because i think it is apt for this church tonight:
"I see what you've done. Now see what I've done. I've opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don't have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn't deny me when times were rough...
"Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I'll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test...
"I'm on my way; I'll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown.
Revelation 3:8, 10, 11 MSG
Monday, October 22, 2012
"I guess this is why I’m not one for fancy awards or big convoluted conferences… whilst they may build me up, they can contribute towards the alienation of ‘the other’. If all we do is surround ourselves with people who look, act and talk like us… who have the same kind of phone and computer… who share the same interests… where we can measure our importance within our community by the number of awards we’ve won or the number of folks who have given us a recommendation… then we lose sight of ‘the other’… and we lose sight of why we were called to be part of the Missio Dei.
If all you see is folks like you… then you are no better than the world you are meant to be in but not of. I guess some folks have missed that and have instead built up their own ‘worlds’ in which they can be ‘in’ and keep others ‘out’... / "My latest post on BigBible is up and live ... it looks at our assumptions and highlights what can happen if you assume your life is 'normal' ... go here to read it in it's entirety.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Grateful to Olly for buying me a copy of "Darkest England & the way back in" by Gary Bishop today. I can't wait to read it.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
My friend Roy Petersen recorded this video and used music from my netlabel - weareallghosts - as part of the backing. It's a beautiful video... expertly shot that uses the track very effectively.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
"Great to read the story of the paths you have been down to reach where you are in your faith. Good for you and your family for stepping out to be in a body that wants to love God and their neighbour. Whenever I feel like I’ve started to lose my way, I look back at the bench mark Jesus set when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself.” When I think about that, my way becomes vividly clear. I strongly believe that people who sincerely strive to follow Jesus will have lives that are so vibrantly dynamic, that they will appear edgy, passionate, alien and certainly alternative to what any mainstream media would normally portray a follower to be. So, good for you and your journey! ..."
This is an excerpt from an email I received today from a chap I have been corresponding with recently. Needless to say... I found it very uplifting.
Our move to Airdrie Salvation Army is almost complete. It's now public... with a number of people marking our departure with hugs and best wishes on Sunday morning. We have our transfer forms and will get them signed by the Smiths on Sunday (Bruce & Isobel... not Morrissey et al).
The transition has been smooth so far with a warm welcome received in Airdrie. We have been blessed already with the word, music and deeds of the Corps. All four of us feel at home and inspired by those around us... we are delighted to become part of a Corps community who are firmly rooted in Abba's grace... a Corps who are truly living as an alternative to the mainstream.
It's been a long and difficult road... but I'm glad we're nearly there.