Discipleship, identity, incarnation, inter-dependance, Mission

The RNLI tractor

Today I’m on holiday, and we visited a beach in a placed called Cricketh, it was high tide and we saw the RNLI boat being towed out to the sea by a tractor who enabled it to sail of to where-ever it had to go.

It made me think a bit about the body of Christ, the tractor driver is probably the most unglamourous job in the RNLI but without him and is tractor the people who can help and the people in need remain unconnected.

A reminder that everyone is needed within the body of Christ, and without many of the roles we often don’t even think of, often are crucial for the body to function.

Earlier today I picked up one of my mother in laws books about “Scientists and Seers”, which was talking about individual cells which make up our body, when isolated they self destruct, but thrive when they are connected with other cells. A powerful image of interdependency from the smallest component part of our human anatomy, at the heart of our DNA is woven together to function collaboratively.

Yet so often Churches are passive with a small minority of people doing all the work, Nicky Gumbel joked at attending a football match, where he saw 2000 people who could do with doing more excersize watching 22 people who could really do with a break…and said that this sadly was how many Churches feel.

Anyway, back to the RNLI tractor… I began to think of being the unseen link in the chain of bringing help to those who are in need of rescuing, getting the boat to the water, and thought this is a wonderful picture of evangelism, being those who gently (and maybe part of a long unseen chain) bringing the saviour to people in need.

Perhaps too we are called to to be the tractor from the life boat station, accross the sand and rocks, to the sea, after all many life boat stations filled with all its blessings and resources remain remote and inaccessable without the person enabling that relational bridge to happen of connecting Christ and his Church with the people he loves.

So let’s embrace the RNLI tractor, the small but vital link in the chain, the one through whom act as a bridge from a hurting and dying world and a wonderful saviour can meet and be saved.

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Guidance, spontaneity, structure

And all that Jazz…

I have been thinking about Jazz as a metaphor or picture for life, mission and ministry and actually it works.

Jazz is both structure AND spontaneity together as rather odd (but also rather wonderful) mismatched dance partners working together.
Jazz is not purely improvised, nor is it entirely structured, its magic works by the two working together.
There is both an over-arching narrative but also containing improvisation within in… with both seeming departures and returns to the main piece. Times for Jazz solo’s and time for the Jazz band to come together, a mix of the corporate and the individual flare held together in a beautiful creative tension.
A picture of Jazz as our life together, the main narrative of the corporate with improvisation of the personal and the individual, working together seamlessly in a wonderful picture of corporate dependency and the personal touch freely expressed and free to be themselves.
Life is a mix of structure an spontaneity… the structure of deadline and the need to focus on the task in hand, verses the unexpected interruptions which ambush most of us each day…
Sometimes we get so focused on the destination we forget to focus on the journey to get there, sometimes we focus so much on the journey we never get to the destination… but Jazz at its best has both order and seeming chaos together.
It is about having an ear for the music, following the spirit of what is happening, having your eye on the conductor (each of those phrases probably could all birth a sermon in their own right, in fact I think the whole of the Christian walk and discipleship could be described as being in-tune with the spirit and working together with him harmony).
In the Bible there is a story of a man called Jirus who ran a  synagogue, who wanted Jesus to heal his 12 year old little girl, she is dying, and he is desperate. As they are hurrying to the girl, someone in crowd touches the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus stops, and asks ‘who touched me?’ -Jirus must have been desperate to keep Jesus moving toward his home and his sick little girl. A woman with “an issue of blood” (as the Bible delicately puts it) -for 12 years-  came forward and admit it was her who touched him, and Jesus tells her that her faith has made her well. Before resuming the journey to Jirus’ house. Interesting sidelight the woman’s bleeding lasted the same time as the little girls age. Jesus got to the house and looked like he was too late, the girl had died, and yet Jesus raised her from the dead.
His jazz may have seemed like a radical departure, dangerous improvisation,  but by the end of the piece it reached a fuller, better and more wonderful crescendo where both the little girl, the woman and Jirus and his family were blessed.
What of us?
Do we need to be more task focused?
Or do we need to focus more on the journey?
Are we stepping up to moment and taking our solo, or are we supporting one another as part of the band? Can we do both? Which is God calling you to do, to play a solo for a moment? Or to support someone else’s moment?
Are we okay with the flexibilty of jazz or do we prefer every step clearly mapped out?
-Do we love it when a plan comes together?
Or do we following a detailed plan stifling?
Does Jazz thrill you, or terrify you?
Do we need to loosen up and learn to improvise so we can dance to the jazz with the Spirit?
Or in our improvisation do we need to return back to the main over-arching narrative?
Are we letting other people go to improvise and be themselves, as well as allowing others to be part of something beautiful, wonderful and bigger than themselves?
…Let’s learn to embrace the Jazz together, following our great conductor, the jazz expert who truly understands the music.
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priorities, trust, vision

Force 10 from Navarone…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDXTTBfZUsw

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One wet Sunday afternoon when I was a kid I remember watching the film “Force 10 from Navarone”, it is set in the second world war, and a group of English Officers and some Americans have to join forces to assassinate a double agent and blow up a bridge.

Spoiler alert, blowing up the bridge doesn’t go according to plan, it looks indestructible, they only have a small amount of explosives, the problem seems insurmountable.

As the story progresses, the team end up coming across a dam, and they realize that if they blow up the dam, then the bridge would be hit by tons and tons of water enough to bring it down…

By blowing up the dam, the bridge fell and the mission was fulfilled.

Often we look at a problem and we can’t see a solution,  because we only can see what is in our vision, what is in front of our  eyes, and don’t see the fuller and wider picture that God sees.

Sometimes, like the guys in the film, we think we know best -we think we know how to blow up the bridge- and yet so so often our ways don’t work, and yet God’s ways does.

Sometimes, when we serve God, the areas he seems to be stirring don’t seem to match up with where we think he should be working, where the obvious need and problem is, yet with hindsight I have looked back and only later do I understand.

Even when I don’t understand, sometimes it is a case of trusting that despite what we can see, what we think God is still on the throne, God  is still in control and (even when it doesn’t feel it) God is still good.

When the wine skins were empty looking at the foot washing jars seems crazy, yet it worked, I can imagine the servants looking at each other when Mary, Jesus’ Mother, saying “do what ever he tells you”, thinking “this will never work” -but it did!

Scripture calls us to “walk by faith and not by sight” -and the wisdom of Mary (“Do whatever he tells you”) remains good advice. Neil, my former prayer partner, used to have a phrase about the Christian life, where he said “you live life forwards, but understand it backwards”.

As we think of this crazy upside down world, I remember a story from a local youth and community worker, who began working in this Church (which was big step of faith for him) and he felt God call him to play football (which he enjoyed) and felt very self conscious that playing footie wasn’t proper community work, surely God should be calling him to start a youth club or something like this. Yet whilst playing football he made friends, people came to faith, and through this work a youth group was formed with Christian volunteers, and went on to thrive.

What is the bridge in your life you  would like to see God blow up?

Where is God calling you to work, what is he calling you to do?

Do you trust him to know what he’s doing and to see the bigger picture?

God bless,

Andy

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call, Church, Ministry, Mission, obidience, vocation

Don’t leave it to the professionals, there are no professionals.

There are many things in life which are best left to the professionals, as my attempts at DIY often shout out loud and clear.

Sadly however this is often the mentality of people within Churches, mission, discipleship, justice and love -let’s leave it to the professionals, “I’ll just show up to Church, bung a couple of quid in the plate and let them get on with it”.

Some how we seem to have developed a ‘professional class’ of Christian which seems to misunderstand what a Christian is. I re-thought ‘professionalism’ when I worked in rehab, many of the people who are leaders in the world of rehab are also addicts in active recovery, when choosing a sponsor and addict is asked to find “someone whose recovery inspires you”.

I might be a Vicar, but I am also a wounded healer, a cracked vessel and a sinner in need of the grace of God, all I have to offer is that I know that Jesus is the one who heals, saves, restores and transforms he is the very embodiment and personification of love, the God of all Hope and he is able to meet us even in our most dark, broken and painful situations.

Louis Giglio once said “I am not all knowing, I am not all powerful, I am not all loving and all present, unlike God who is the great I AM, -I AM who I AM- I am all know, I am all powerful, I am all loving and I am all present” and he ended this talk with our identity as Christians which is “I know that I am not, but I know I am”.

Ultimately it is not the us in us that is worth anything but rather it is “Christ in us the Hope of Glory”.

Before the cross of Christ the ground is even, and all stand there, sinners in need of grace.

Yet this blog isn’t to knock the Vicary types, but instead it is to remind us of a truth that John Wimber once said: “Everyone gets to play”, mission, discipleship. justice, prayer and love aren’t for the ‘Super Christians’ it is something we are all expected to do, everyone, not just those with a leadership position.

In fact Church (by which I mean our shared life together) is further described by Wimber as “the training place for the market place”, in other words by being together we should be more equipped and empowered to live the life that God is calling us to.

The Bible uses some great images of inter-dependency, for example, the body with each bit needing one another, looking different but being equal in value, or perhaps the idea of living stones built together for the glory of God.

We are called, empowered and equipped to serve Christ in his world, and yet sadly too many people don’t take responsibility for their own discipleship… A Vicar Friend once said of his congregation “they expect me to spoon feed them, but I don’t think this is healthy!” -He’s right, a good teacher teaches people to think for themselves, just as a parent teaches a child to feed themselves.

Yet this is something that happened in the early Church too, the author of the letter to the Hebrews challenges the people to move on and go deeper ‘leaving the elementary things behind”, Peter talks of “pure spiritual milk” but the implication is that milk will lead on to solid food, both writers are saying “you are still on (Spiritual) milk when you should be eating (Spiritual) steak by now”… You are splashing in the spiritual shallow end, when the call is to swim in the Ocean, so get off the side-lines, get out the baby pool, go for it and live the Christian life properly and fully.

Sadly too often we aren’t the disciples of Christ we should be, we need to own our own faith, taking the opportunities to grow, to serve, to learn, to be stretched/challenged/inspired/strengthened/grown…

In the wild, baby eagles are thrown from their nests by their mothers in order to make them fly (they are saved if they fall to the ground) but here God is saying, you need to leave the nest and fly.

God is wanting us to mature disciples equipped to serve him in his world with his calling surrounding us on every side…

“This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done”

Some lets be people that seize the moment, let’s not wait for someone better qualified, but take our responsibility for bringing something of heaven to earth…

We all get to participate and partner with God in his mission.

…After all Mission is really just “One beggar telling another where to get bread”

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John Wesley, Renewal, Trinity

The Strangely Warming Trinity…

Today is both Trinity Sunday and also Aldergate Day when John Wesley went to a Moravian Church Service and his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ which transformed his life, his ministry, our nation and this local area of Kingswood.

In this Church in Aldergate Street, the young missionary and Anglican Minister realized he wasn’t saved by his religious piety or good works but by God’s unearned grace towards us.

What of us, what was it when we encountered God that warmed our hearts?

Perhaps some of us long to have our hearts warmed again, afresh.

I was thinking about the Trinity and the Gospel…

I thought about how different Christians talk about the Salvation Message.

The Father, the idea that God is real, he is not remote or distant, he loves all he has made, he himself is good news.

The God who created the Universe allows us to call him Father.

Sometime when think of God in this way, we think awe, reverence, adoration and wonder.

Yet, for some our focus is on preaching Christ, and he crucified. The message is about God’s Holiness and purity, his hatred of sin but his love for humanity, God who came as rescuer to seek and to save that which was lost -in other words ME and You.

All of us have sinned.

All of us have fallen short of the Glory of God.

None of us on our own merit is good enough for a Holy God -how could we be?

Yet God, came in human form, to live and to die, he did nothing wrong, was completely holy, pure and blameless and yet he shouldered the sin of the whole world “he who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might have the righteousness of God”, because it was “whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Jesus, God incarnate, died for all our sin on the cross, once and for all, so if we put our trust in him we “wont perish but have everlasting life”.

Others preach about a God who wants to be IN our lives, bring transformation, equip us to live the life we were intend to live, to make us the people we were meant to be, a people who look like Jesus.

A message not just for the mind, but for the heart too, that we can experience and encounter God by his Spirit, that the God of Heaven can come and dwell in us, he can leave our hearts (like Wesley) ‘strangely warmed’ and our lives transformed.

All these Gospel messages are great and I have preached them all myself on numerous occasions, but the wonder and the glory of the Gospel is that it is one message, these mind blowing truths all inter-link and dance together.

These may sound like impressive pieces of theology and doctrine, but, like Wesley, they are not meant to be dissected like some science experiment rather they are meant to be encountered and lives out, as radically different Kingdom people, reflecting the glory of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit… A God who we encounter leaves us like Wesley forever changed and transformed.

 

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2 Peter 2:22, Proverbs 26:11

Dogs returning to Vomit!

Proverbs 26:11: As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

2 Peter 2:22: Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
It’s a tough verse, but one which one which actually I think is quite profound… Blunt, but profound!

Let’s be honest, most of us at some point have had moments where we have been bungee-rope Christians… progressing fairly well in our Christian life and suddenly, WHOOSH,  we land on out butt back at what feels like square one, scuppered by our  sinful behavior or unwise choices.

Something the apostle Paul knew about when he said to the Galatian Christians “you foolish Galatians who has bewitched you, you were running a good race, who cut in on you?”
The bible makes it clear “don’t let the enemy get a foothold”, and yet there are sinful behavior and foolishness that we are weak too, we have been delivered from, and yet we keep on putting ourselves in harms way.
Refusing to move on to what God has got for you because you want to stay, even though this place isn’t a good place e for you, spiritual self harm, and spiritual self harm in church contexts hurts the rest of the body, and Satan laughs when one of our potential star players can’t get off the subs bench because in not moving away we end up immobilized, paralyzed and the army which should be impacting the world is carrying of our own invalided side.
How often are we our own worst enemy?
Do we sometimes need to be saved from ourselves?
Are there places, people and situations which you keep returning too, and know that this is not the place God wants you to be?
Do we need to not only move on, but keep moving on and not returning back, trading Christ’s gift of Liberty for bondage.
After all you can’t move on to the next chapter until you stop rereading the last one.
You can’t pick up something new, when carrying the thing of yesterday.
Don’t put yourselves in harms way, glee anything that is going to entangle you and hijack your faith, the best traps the enemy sets us are things that don’t look like a trap, but for some reason they catch us everyone.
Pray for wisdom, pray for bravery, heed the words if warning the spirit is whispering in our ear and listen to the hearts of Christian friends.
As we think about the release groups, and fasting at all souls’, we need to be mindful, that Jesus is a God who sets his people free, liberates the captives, and re-liberates too.
Don’t be bewitched, let Christ set you free.
Walk away from anything that threatens to hijack your relationship with Christ, this may in some situations be tough, but in the long term worth it.
Save your future self pain by laying these idols on elastic bands down, snap those elastic bands in jesus name and walk free.
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call, challenge, vocation

Some thoughts from the TV Remote.

We were at a car boot sale and my wife spotted two Sombrero’s “they’d be good for assemblies” she said (it is true I do have a big box of wacky fun stuff for assemblies) but I can’t recall Jesus meeting up with a couple of Mexicans from my reading of the New Testament… A couple of days later, the coordinator of our Café Tots group came bounding over to me with a massive TV remote and said “I thought you could use this for Elevenses (our messy Church).

It made me think, what could I say about life and faith with an over-sized TV remote?

As I looked down at the buttons I thought of a few things, so I thought I’d share them here…

The mute button!

How many times in life do we just wish people who annoy us would just shut up?!

Yet as I thought some more about it, often the people who annoy me most, are the people who actually teach me the most, challenge me, make me re-examine myself and my reactions.

If I had a mute button on my life, I would only listen to people who I already agreed with I would never have grown, matured or developed in my relationship with God.

Then I began to think about living life with the pause button… those important things we know we ought to do but are putting off, that person we need to apologise too, that conversation we need to have, that thing we need to do, that challenge we respond to, that act of compassion we should do…

What is on pause in your life?

Perhaps today is the day to press ‘play’?

The problem is that thing placed on pause, rarely gets played out…

If I had a fast forward button, how many life shaping incidents would I ‘fast forward’ and not learn those lessons learned in dark and uncomfortable places, which although painful have grown and developed me?

One thing I noticed was how young people longed for Soul Survivor each year (often to get born again, again each year) -full on for Christ for a week every year and yet not managing to ‘do life’ following Jesus the other 51 weeks of the year. The Christian life was not meant to be lived skipping from one mountain top to the next. Of course it is easy being a Christian when you are in a field with thousands of other Christians, or on Sunday night, but most of the Christian life is not spent in a festival field or perpetually in a Church bubble; following Jesus as Christian must work as well on Monday as Sunday night, it’s not about how high you feel at a festival mountain top but what you are like in the valley that really shows what your faith is made of.

Yet the button that made me think most was the rewind button.

I want people to believe that the Churches best days lie ahead of them, not behind them, the danger of living in the past, with your finger on the rewind nostalgia button.

There is an old Native American saying: “We don’t own the land, we inherit from our children and grandchildren…” Just as with the Church and Spirit, we don’t own them, but we are called to faithfully pass on to the next generation, but are we ensuring that our children and grandchildren are receiving something in a better state then we received it?

In fact, in the ordinal, ministers are called to “proclaim afresh to each generation” yet sadly we simply “proclaim again” pulling from our reserves, not looking for today’s bread of revelation. I remember as a teenager looking back whilst running for a bus, and ran straight into a road-sign, when you are looking back, you cannot move forward effectively and fruitfully.

You cannot live life with your finger on the rewind button.

My Grandfather would talk about giving his life to God in 1957, and tell his testimony of going forward at a Billy Graham Event, but the question I always wanted to say was “well, great, but what is God doing in your life NOW?”

You can’t live your Spiritual life in the past, the challenge is to press play and live out your faith with Christ without pauses, gutless fast forwards or unhelpful rewinds.

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