The Tarnished Jewel was the name of a report about an estate a friend works on in Swindon.
My daughter has joined an ECO club…
It made me think that I am not as good on all things GREEN as I should be, and as I thought more about the whole Green issues I thought when was the last time I heard a sermon that mentioned things like carbon footprint, pollution, fracking and all those issues.
Yet when we think that we have a God given responsibility to be good stewards of creation, why is the Christian voice so hard to find on the national debate?
A while ago I was really challenged on my consumer ethics, the amount of clothes and other commodities (both high and low end of the market) that have been traded in an unfair and evil way, and yet it is a challenge to keep fairtrade teabags in our local Church. In fact someone once said that often fairtrade tea-bags in Church often is more about a ‘sop to our conscience’ feeling like we are doing something, rather than really thinking about the ethics and power we have as consumers. A quote I heard once was “every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in”… Lots of web-pages about how to be a more ethical consumer, yet how often do we talk about our power as consumers.
There is something really wrong when we are more worried about how much of our bodies is covered up by what we wear, than whether or nor it was made by a child in appalling inhumane conditions.
Then I began to think about politics and faith, something I am passionate about, but then as I thought actually as Christians we seem to focus narrowly on one or two issues such as (in the states) Abortion or here in the UK Gay Marriage, but there are so many more issues where we have good things to say that are worth hearing on debates. It was great to see ++Rowan Williams step up and ask tough questions in the House of Lords on the validity of the war in Iraq, or the Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster condemning the effect of the austerity cuts on the most deprived and vulnerable in our society.
Yet I think as Christians and Churches we ought to be thinking how does our faith effect not only our view of political issues, but also our practices and behaviors on them.
Sometimes I think we a need a wider world view as I think the Kingdom of God is something that is all pervasive, challenges our view on everything, we are ‘alien ambassadors’, this world is not our home and we are living to point people to a different Kingdom, a Kingdom where Christ is King, a Kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Described by Bishop Graham Tomlin as “where what God wants happens here” as a definition of the Kingdom, this means where people are loved, where truth is spoken, where victims are comforted and lifted up, where sin is challenged, where power is rebuked, when darkness is driven back and good news is proclaimed.
And Good News has got to be good news for everyone, I believe that good news isn’t simply something awaiting us when die, but should be seen and visible in life now
Too often we have thought of Christian living and holiness as not saying naughty words, not smoking or drinking… rather than what my friend Si Hall described as “Dirty Holiness”, about intentionally rolling up ourselves and getting down where people are broken, hurting and marginalized. Holiness defined by what you DO rather than simply what you AVOID.
It is meant to look different from the world.
Bishop Tomlin again said that the problem with people coming to faith is they look at Christians and they seem almost indistinguishable from themselves.
Yet alongside this my friend Jonathan Dowman once commented that the greatest desire in many peoples heart is “I want to lead a good life and be a good person” and yet they don’t come to the Church for help with this as they so often don’t see us as Christians as different from them.
So, lets embrace the Kingship of Christ over all our lives.
I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Live in such a way that makes Atheists question their disbelief in God”.
Yesterday we had a great talk from our wonderful Archdeacon talked about “some days” all those things we intend to do “some-day” but never do.
Yet it these dreams of some-days that often up as deep regrets for the opportunities we could have grasped but failed to do so. I don’t live a life weighed down by “what ifs” -maybe the some-day idea might fall flat on its face, but I think in my dotage I’d rather have failed trying that never tried.
The Archdeacon urged us to be intentional, to do today what is in our head and on our heart, the nudges of God if you like. She said “don’t put off to someday rather do it today”.
Someone once said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, unfortunately most missional conversations I hear remain just hot air, I call it hypothetical mission, fantasy evangelism.
There was an advert I think for Adidas which was “just do it”, which I think is good message to our overly cautious, risk adverse churches, sometimes we do just need to do it, to make it happen, start the ball rolling, begin a new chapter.
As I have been chewing over these thoughts in my head, I saw on the wall of Trinity Theological College the words “Live Like the Kingdom is Near”, I thought this is what the Archdeacon was saying, don’t put off sharing your faith, reaching out, taking a risk for Christ.
Let us make the most of our time, because one day we have won’t have the time, the moment will have passed, the door will have shut and the day is over and it has all run out.
So often the trivial, the annoying, the unimportant, the time waster, our bad habits, our ill-discipline and sometimes even our sinful laziness get in the way of what we are called to do, distractions from our destiny.
When we are on our death beds no one will say “I wish I did more ironing” but you may say I’m glad I didn’t let this opportunity slip through my fingers.
So to conclude seize the day!
I have the privilege of serving in Kingswood, where John Wesley preached his first out door sermon, pioneered by his friend George Whitefield, who led a Church here in this area. Yesterday I found this quote on twitter from George Whitefield…
“Believe me, I am willing to go to prison or death for you; but I am not willing to go to heaven without you” said George Whitefield.
This phrase has been rattling around my head for a bit and wanted to share a few thoughts with you…
Firstly, I love the passion of George Whitefield, I love the tenacity of a man who defied convention and took the message of Christ from the Church to the miners of Kingswood -his local parishioners, and a tough and unreached people group by simply preaching in the open air and the locals came out to listen to him. He was the forerunner and trailblazer of John Wesley, if there had not been a George Whitefield probably no one would have ever heard of John Wesley.
Do we preach great evangelistic sermons to the already saved?
Do we share great Bible truths with those who already know them?
Are we like the clerics of their day stuck in a Churchy Christian bubble?
Secondly, I love the lengths he is prepared to go to in order to share the good news of Christ, “I am prepared to die for you or go to prison for you” when many of us struggle to even give up an episode of “Britain’s Got Talent”
There is an old phrase from the world of Youth Work which says “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”…
I think if someone showed me that extravagant sacrificial love that risked prison or death for me, then I want to know what they thought about things that they thought really mattered.
I wonder if our lack of this awesome Christ-like love is the missing ingredient in our evangelism? If we loved like this, it would hurt, it would be costly, but I bet we would see people come to faith like Whitefield and later Wesley did.
Also, alongside this great and costly love, comes a real belief in heaven and eternity. I sometimes wonder if we as Christians ACTUALLY BELIEVE our great and glorious Gospel?
Sometimes as Christians we can get so apathetic or overly familiar with this amazing good news. I love the story of the pearl of great price, a prize worth giving up everything for, it challenges me afresh every-time I read it!
The author of the hymn ‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross” grasped this incredible truth when he wrote “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.
We are in essence saying in this parable, that we found in Christ -God with flesh on- something so wonderful that we want everyone to experience it.
I love too that Whitefield doesn’t rant and rave about the horrors of hell (as sadly I feel too many preachers do sometimes) but rather is focus is on relationship and the joy of eternity.
I worry when a ‘gospel message’ is simply a “Christ has given us a way of escaping hell”. This perversion of the gospel is a message of fear and of death when Christianity is about hope, life and eternity. Fear is to do with punishment, and yet perfect love should cast out all fear, for the punishment has fallen on the shoulders of Christ. Scripture urges us to choose life, and only one who is ‘the life’ and gives life is Christ himself.
Often the vehemence of our rhetoric on hell is often used as a litmus test on our ‘orthodoxy’, and yes I do believe hell is real and exists yet I think the call is about choosing God himself and relationship with him forever rather than attempting to bribe or scare people into the Kingdom.
Instead, let us let people know that we love them, we want the best for them, and best thing that anyone can receive is God himself and in him is forgiveness, grace and relationship with him for eternity.
Let the world know that we believe in life beyond the grave, that we are serious about eternity… and we want to be with those people around us for eternity.
“Come and See” -The words of Andrew when he brought his brother Simon (later Peter) to meet Jesus.
“Come and See” -The words of the Samaritan Women at the well when she returned to her village.
…and probably echoing around nearly every home in whilst Jesus public preaching ministry was happening.
Much of our Church life, and our lives as Christians, have been about inviting people to encounter Christ, to see who he is, what he does…
So, often people are waiting, self consciously, to be invited to come and explore.
They want you to take that walk across the floor and ask them to come.
Yet I’ve also found another phrase in scripture…
“Go and tell” -The words of God to Moses to Phaorah.
“Go and tell” -The words of the Prophets and Patriarchs.
…the story of the Shepherds…
“Go and tell” – Jesus’ words to Herod (Luke 13.32).
“Go and tell” -The words of Jesus to tell his Disciples of his resurrection (Matt 28.1).
“Go and tell” – The Great Commission (Matt 28).
“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” Acts 5:29
This idea of being a witness testifying to what we have seen and heard, telling our story… Sharing our story.
It is a pro-active word, about not just inviting people to come, but going out taking the message beyond our walls and our comfort zones, taking our witnessing words to people who might not ever feel comfortable walking into our Churches.
Lets learn to be people of invitation.
Lets learn to be people who “go and tell”.
Lets pray that by all means the message of who Christ is is shared so that all may hear and know that he is the God who saves, loves, heals, leads and transforms.
Wearing the armour of God is an important part of our daily lives, as we are reminded in Ephesians 6:12, ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’
Prayer is an essential armour piece for this struggle. We need God’s help, this is not a struggle we can overcome in our own strength.
This session on spiritual warfare reminded us that are in the time of the ‘in between’, after Christ’s death and resurrection and yet before Christ comes again to bring justice and grace for those who have called on His name and rely on His rescue. We need to be people that are constantly praying “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:10).
It’s important that we get our perspective of Satan and the spiritual forces of evil in the world right. For example, we may be tempted to attribute every trial and difficulty to Satan which may lead us to spend a lot of time worrying and thinking about him, presuming he is involved in everything rather than remembering the Sovereignty of God Almighty. On the other hand we may dismiss the idea of the spiritual forces of evil in this world and ignore the reality of their presence in the world around us. Neither are helpful, we need to be centred on Jesus, who willingly came to die and be brought back to life to save us in accordance with God’s love for us. We pray to Him who has won the victory for us and is King of kings and Lord of lords seated at the right hand side of the Father in Heaven, we are more than conquerors!
Pete Greig drew our attention to these three points:
Pray it – persevering in prayer and predominantly praying in goodness rather than praying out bad, for God’s love will drive out evil.
Practice it – live in the equal but opposite way, for example where there are lies we should declare the truth, or where there is immorality live with authenticity and purity.
Preach it – focus on telling people about Jesus rather than focusing on talking about evil.
We hope you have found it helpful to hear about our journey through the Prayer Course. You can access the videos and other materials online for free by signing up for an account via https://www.prayercourse.org
Prayer is a conversation with God and when we talk to a friend we also give time to listen to them and want to hear what they have to say. It’s the same with God. Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
Do you know His voice? How much time do you give to listening to God?
Sometimes we find it hard to know God’s voice and we struggle to know which path to take when we have a difficult decision to make. Sometimes we mistake God’s voice for the voice of another person. As part of The Prayer Course we looked at an ABC to help us remember how to discern God’s voice:
A = Advice from wise friends
B = Bible – is it in line with God’s Word and character?
C = Conscience – how does it sit with the still, small voice of my conscience?
In the Bible we find many different examples of God revealing himself to His people, including via a talking donkey! God speaks to us in ways in which we can understand and relate to. However, this means that not everyone will hear from God in the same way so it can be unhelpful to compare ourselves to others in this area.
But what is it that holds us back from hearing God? Is it that we’re not making time to listen for His voice? Or that we find it difficult to discern God’s voice? Or maybe our hearts are hardened and we do not sincerely want God to start “interfering” with our lives and plans and desires?
The Bible is a great starting place if we want to hear from God. Pete Greig spoke about God speaking into our identity more often than our destiny. For example, God often speaks to us to reaffirm that we’re His child more so than telling us precisely what to do.
There are two challenges for us; firstly when are we going to make time to listen to God? How can we ensure this becomes a daily habit? And secondly, do we put into practice what He says to us and become doers of the Word as James wrote in James 1:25. Listen and obey!
In our session on perseverance and dealing with disappointment we explored the topic of unanswered prayer. The challenging reality is that all of us have experienced times when God has not answered prayers in the way we would have liked or hoped for. Some of us have disappointment from the past buried within us. The Prayer Course offered us the chance to examine our hearts and consider how disappointment from the past might be hindering our relationship with God today. For example, there was a story about a man who had struggled with unanswered prayer when his daughter was a baby, so much so that although he prays regularly for others, 20 years later he still struggles to pray for his own life due to the disappointment of the past. Is there a disappointment from the past or present today that is holding us back from offering ourselves to the LORD?
As much as it is encouraging to share our answered prayers with others there is also a need for sensitivity to their own experience of unanswered prayer. For example, what about the person who experiences instant answered prayer for a headache and celebrates this loudly around someone else whose younger brother died from cancer despite persistent prayers. It is imperative that we are able to communicate our feelings of disappointment, hurt and frustration and that these are not buried deeply. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to minister to our wounds and bring healing – it’s there we find God. We need to hear about unanswered prayer and suffering in our churches too, after all this is a reality for many and something that Jesus experienced too.
Can you identify any areas of disappointment in your life? Is this something you have talked to God and close friends about? If you do have any unresolved issues it’s a good idea to ask a friend to pray for you. Seek freedom today.
We also looked at perseverance and those situations and people for whom we need to commit to praying for, for the long haul. As with the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 18, there is a need to keep on asking God, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” As we also read in the story of Abraham in Genesis, God listens to His people and prayer has power to change nations as we intercede with God in line with His will.
Ask God to reveal to you any past disappointments or unanswered prayers that may still be affecting your faith and relationship with God. Be real with God about how you feel and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your heart.
“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What is intercession? To intercede is defined as acting or speaking up for someone in difficulty or in trouble. But why do we need to pray prayers of intercession? After all God’s in control and will just do what He wants anyway, right?
The story of Abraham reminds us that God does listen to us, that we tug on his heartstrings. God wants us to plead with Him not because that always changes the circumstances but because He wants intimacy with us, He wants us to wrestle with Him in prayer. In those moments of wrestling, pleading and crying out to God we find Him and He changes us. We start to see things as He does.
We pray the prayer of the founder of World Vision, Bob Pierce “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” As we pray for the hurting, the suffering, the hungry, we find ourselves weeping with them and find a new desire to be the answer to our prayers, to make a difference, to live differently. It also helps us keep focused on serving and blessing others, not just thinking of our own needs and challenges.
As we intercede we say to God “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We offer up these earthly places, whether in the hearts of man or in physical places and say to our Father ‘have your way here’ and somehow we then start to see God claiming them back for His own.
But what shall we intercede for? There are so many things to pray for! Listen out for those God-given passions. Many people will find themselves being stirred up by certain causes, those injustices that make you weep and cry out… If something specific does not come to mind, start by praying for your local area. Buy a newspaper, read the news and pray, asking for God to show you where He wants to bring in His Kingdom rule. Then pray and take action.
Let’s not just be people who pray for the hungry to find food but also be the people who take food to the hungry, and maybe even go further and invite the hungry to our homes for a meal. Let’s ask God how we might be able to be part of the answer to our prayers.
“Give us today our daily bread.”
God is our good Father who knows what we need before we ask, so why bother asking Him? Well, like a good Father He wants relationship with us. He wants us to grow in our relationship with him, to spend time with Him and tell Him what’s on our heart. God enjoys relationship with us.
I have heard many Christians say that they find prayer ‘boring’. This may be a result of praying vague prayers and not seeing a precise answer, leading to the conclusion that prayer is a spiritual activity that does not change our reality. Or perhaps sometimes we lose sight of God as our Father, we think He is not interested in the small incidents of our day-to-day lives. Yet in Luke 12:17 we are reminded that we are indeed precious to God, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the amount of things to pray for. As part of The Prayer Course Pete Greig shared the story of his 8-sided dice, made specially to take into account his 8 big prayers. Can you identify up to 8 miracles that you want God to do in your life/in the lives of those you love/in the world around you? Identify these and commit to praying for them – to help perhaps get the PrayerMate app on your phone, or write a list and pin it on your wall or somewhere you won’t forget and pray for them regularly.
Try to make your prayers specific; instead of simply praying for God to bless someone – what is it you really want God to do? And don’t always just pray the big miraculous prayers – think of the journey to get there. For example, instead of praying simply for salvation for a colleague, I need to pray in small steps, for opportunities to share God’s love and grace, then an opportunity to share something of my faith, then for her heart to be softened and for her to start asking questions. If we pray about specific things we will be more able to identify those prayers being answered, and this will encourage us and keep us praising God.
Establish those things you want to pray for and get praying! Why not choose a time each day to commit to praying for those big miracles you identified earlier. If it helps why not pray with a spouse or a friend too!