Sunday, 14 January 2018

My Christian Testimony

When I was young I was raised in a Christian home. The influence of the gospel was on my life from a very young age. I lived in the Free Church Mission House. My Dad was a local preacher and Mum was caretaker of the Church building next door. The Minister at that time, a Rev Macleod and his wife were so kind to us and that has stayed with me over the years. I wanted to give my life to Jesus after hearing so many testimonies and seeing that older believers I met at fellowships had something or rather someone beautiful. So gradually the Lord drew my heart to His and young as I was I invited Christ into my heart and life. Though I have faltered and failed many times along the way and the road hasn't always been easy God had begun a good work in me.

In my later teens there was a major denominational split and a major family crisis around that same time. It would be untrue to say that these things didn't have an impact on my journey, for they truly did. Though it initially shook me these things probably gave strength in the long run. Initially I was inward looking, until in a spiritual battle in my heart my eyes began to open to the fact that others suffered still much more than I did.
When it was time for University I found that through my studying of Theology and Social Science that the troubles of human nature was hardly new, nor was the world's and more selfishly my own need for hope. In a rage one day I roared at God "Why do you allow such suffering in this world?" In the still small voice it seemed as if God was saying "Why do you?" How could I ignore such a thing?
It was probably partly this that got me active in campaigns against wars and armaments and joining the struggle to Ban the Bomb, Drop the Debt and Make Poverty History. But, it still wasn't enough for me so I journeyed to Devon to be a summer worker at Lee Abbey. It was there I was taught to "be God's hands and feet in this world." This idea of love was nothing short of a spiritual awakening and the start of a profound stirring within my heart. (p.s. In regard to my previous blaming of God for all the world's woes I discovered much of these woes are man made. Also that God lives within the laws of cause and effect - laws he made, He also is bound by His own word and gives humans and angels free will. Therefore I could not blame God any longer).

5 Doctrinal Discoveries
On my journey there have been many moments of clarity. Here are a few of these philosophical and theological findings:
1. Having for a time looked at other faiths I came to the conclusion that though many faiths offer a few good ideas, Christianity in its truest form was the only faith offering a much needed saviour. Christian faith is not about winning brownie points with God, but about the person Jesus the Christ. It is less Religion, more relationship.
2. I could not save my self from sin or judgement, I needed and still need a redeemer. The heart of mans problem is the problem of mans heart. In this I was no exception. In the words of John Newton "I am a great sinner, but I have a great saviour."
3. Salvation is by Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.
4. This free gift of salvation, rather than removing the need for right living, simply changes the motive. In other words we must do good because it is right and because we love God and others, not to gain salvation or position with God. God is love, and whoever does not love is not of God. We may not be saved by good works. but we are saved to do them.
5. The importance of being peace makers, for such are called the children of God. Christ came to reconcile man to God, but also brothers to brothers.

After my time at Lee Abbey I did some cleaning and factory work. But, my desire to experience Christian community had grown. I had heard of L'arche at Lee Abbey and as it happened there was a community in Inverness. So in Inverness I joined the l'arche community. It was here I discovered the care sector, but so much more. The impact of this community and the ideas of the founder and philosopher Jean Vanier was great. Whilst holding true to my evangelical faith I discovered a new dimension to my faith. If one were to have faith in Jesus surely this would be best expressed through practical Christianity. If it was to be practical what better way than through community and indeed care.

After leaving the Free Church and Free Church Continuing in the aftermath of that church split, I joined CityLife church, a family friendly charismatic church. I had been influenced by reformation theology at the free kirks. In turn I was influenced a little by the renewal of Charismatic theology. I was active in preaching, singing and other ministry at this church. I was also deeply influenced by the Baptists and was a member of the Baptist Union and the Scottish Baptist Lay Preacher's Association for a time. All these churches had good influences that impacted my way of seeing the world and my faith. It would be fair to say none of these movements/denominations are perfect, but each blessed me in one way or another.

In 2010 I had the privilege of serving refugees and homeless people in London. It was an interesting month where I learned about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker - though retaining my right to be in effect an Evangelical worker. I also learned about the Anabaptists thanks to SPEAK and the Mennonites. I was also once again involved in campaigns against violence. This active month influenced me greatly.
Then in 2011 I went on a mission trip to give parcels and share the good news of Jesus in Romania. Something again was happening in me that was leading to an active calling.

Sometimes I have had to remind myself I can't save the world and certainly can't go it alone. It reminds me of this quote:

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa

There have been times on this journey where this Sanctus Real hymn verse also best sums up the emotions and expresses my heart felt prayer:

"I’m so tired of politics
And all this bad news
I’m so tired of chasing the moment
Instead of chasing You
I let the world wear me down
I’m desensitized
Jesus, keep my heart alive
Keep my heart alive
Only You can save me from a world that’s breaking right before my eyes
Keep my heart alive"

I was also blessed to live and work at Kilravock Christian Castle and for a time returned both to Highland Theological College and L'arche. Then I moved to Edinburgh in 2014 to get married to my beautiful Sarah and began work as a support worker at a Christian organisation called Redwoods Caring Foundation after trying out a number of other care job options. We have faced many challenges but it has been interesting to see that God has used other Christians to help us out (as well as some Muslims incidently). God has not forgoten us when we needed him most. One of our hearts desires has been a baby and though it looked like it wasn't going to happen for us (as some do experience) God none the less blessed us with a beautiful baby boy.

And so my story and pilgrimage continues...Soli Deo Gloria!