One of the problems with Churches is often they are always on to the next new thing, much of UK Christianity is full of fads.
For a while I have had this ache, that Church and Christian life in general, should be so much more than I see so often. A friend did an art exhibition is Southampton called “Another World is Possible” and something in this resonated with me. Lets not settle for lives and Churches that have always looked this way and always done this this way. Let us see the new wine of the spirit, the new thing that God is doing.
In the Bible we read of David being sent to fight Golliath and before he went king Saul tried to help him by loading him down with all this armour, david refused and went with just a sling -talk about go vulnerably… echo’s of Jesus sending off the 72, where he told them to also “go vulnerably”, and yet David’s new way worked because God was in it. The 72 going off with no plan or provisions would give my treasurer heart-failure yet this was Jesus plan, and clearly his plan worked as the disciples came back rejoicing that the demons obeyed them, and Jesus had to remind them of their priorities when he said “don’t rejoice that the demons obey, but rejoice that your names are written in the lambs book of life”.
Francis Chan said “non Christians aren’t supposed to understand our lifestyles, they are meant to think we are crazy”.
What does it mean for each of us to be Salt and Light every day where-ever we go?
What would stepping out of the boat look like for us?
I believe that there is more, and God wants to take us on further and deeper with him, and it may be costly, but like in the parable of the pearl of great price it is worth it.
Lets go deeper together and live this out in all areas of our lives from the small details to the biggest of our life choices following God where-ever he leads. It is an adventure, life, and life in all its fullness.
I remember seeing one of those cheesy car “bumper stickers” saying “don’t follow me, follow Jesus”.
Which is a bit wrong on many levels, firstly, it is the opposite of what the apostle Paul instructed as he said “follow me as I follow Christ”… When we read his message to the elders at Ephesus Paul’s message was not only delivered by his spoken word but reinforced by his life style, he sought to be a good example.
Paul in his letter to Timothy exhauted him, to set an example for the believers in his life and doctrine.
How we behave authenticates or invalidates our message.
I saw on Twitter the phrase “I can’t hear what you are saying over the noise of your life”.
Whether we like it or not, the moment we confess we are Christians people start to look at our lives much more closely to look for any inconstistancies, the bible talks of we ourselves being the message lived out amongst people. I’m sure you’ve heard people saying that “you yourself is probably the only Bible most people read”.
Whether we like it or not, we are role models.
Whether we like it or not, people will copy our behaviour
So, what would people copy if they were copying your behaviour?
It’s a scary question.
I know that sometimes Hope -my little girl- picks up some of the things I shouldn’t say and does some of the things I shouldn’t do… “But YOU say it Daddy” she says, and I at once feel massively convicted.
Little kids hear everything, see everything and copy everything, especially the things you don’t want the world to see and hear. We as parents are watched and copied, just as we as Christians are watched and copied… We need to ensure how we live is worth copying.
In fact I believe that in the midst if time, our words fade, but we remember people by what they did and how they made us feel. When we are just memories, what memories will we leave behind? Will they be memories that glorify ourselves or Christ in us?
It matters, our example matters.
From: E-prayer Network Kingswood <email@example.com>
People often talk about Mission Statements.
Read any commentary on Job and there is lots of discussion about whether Job is historical or pictorial.
Actually I think this misses the point, the story of Job is at times our story, an is the story of those all around us.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Or why do good things happen to bad people?
Most of us have asked that question, or at least felt it, the psalms are full of this ‘God, why do you permit this?’ –God, why don’t you smite evil people? Asking if God is really a God of love, why do we see unloving actions getting the upper hand
Is God really a God of power, when bad things happen?
Is God really a God of justice when bad people appear to get away with?
When I take a funeral I often tell the story of the footprints poem;
“At the end of his life a man walking on the beach looked back, and he saw his life flash before him, and he saw his footprints, and there next to him where the foot prints of Christ. Then he noticed at the hardest and darkest times there was only one set of footprints and this worried the man, he turned to Jesus and said “Lord, why when I needed you the most, did you leave me on my own…” Jesus replied, ‘my son, I would never leave you or forsake you, those times when you see only one set of footprints that is when I carried you”…
I believe this is true, and ties in with the promises of God from scripture, “I will never leave you or abandon you”, Jesus said “I will be with you always”, “Can a mother abandon her baby at her breast, even though she may, I will not abandon you… see I have engraved your name in the palm of my hands”… yet despite being true, it doesn’t always feel true in the midst of a tough situation.
Jennifer Rees Larcombe wrote a best seller called “where have you gone God?” Philip Yancey wrote another book which asked “where is God when it hurts?” the fact that these two books flew off the shelves prove that this is a live issue for many of us at some stage in our Christian life.
So, here we have Job, probably the first book to be written (and also featuring a monster that sounds like it could be a dinosaur, ask Sam about this!) asking and wrestling with the biggest question of the universe, which isn’t is God real, (the Bible doesn’t even bother to put up an argument for his existence) but rather if God is good (which he is), if he loves us (which he does) and if he is a God of justice (which he is) and if he is powerful (which he is) how come suffering exists…
Actually I’m not sure if Job every actually fully answers these questions, it is too profounder book to pass us off with trite answers or simplistic platitudes…
Yet I think it does give us a really uncomfortable challenge about our pastoral care, sometimes our badly judged words that are meant to bring comfort don’t bring healing but cause hurt… No wonder the epistle of James and the book of proverbs talk so much about being wise with our words.
It is interesting how false teaching such as Karma is still prevalent in our culture where the victim is blamed for their suffering; karma an grace cannot sit together as it is like mixing oil and water together.
Yet even though we can’t understand suffering fully we do learn that God is not absent from us, that God is powerful –Job shows clearly that the devil is not God’s equal, but significantly less powerful than God, and is answerable to God and is limited by him. Our end picture of God is vast and powerful, and our attempts to put him in a box fail.
A God I can understand, probably won’t be God.
The big picture of Job is someone who lost everything, and yet it is fully restored to him (although that can never make up for the pain of the initial loss and suffering)… Yet something God understands a picture of the resurrected and glorified Christ shows us with the marks on his hands remaining.
The remarkable truth of Christianity is a God who understands suffering from personal experience, as Graham Kendrick once wrote “Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered”, which Job doesn’t cover (because it hadn’t happened then) but Job is a book we have to take to the cross to fully understand it.
As we read Job in the shadow of the cross we see a God who loves and never leaves, a God where justice and mercy kiss, a God who is powerful and beyond our understanding and yet draws close to us as Christ, the suffering servant and glorified King.
got a letter through the post from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (as you do!) and I was struck by the writing around the crest of the Archbishop of York, which read “The unworthy servant of the most worthy God”…
This made me think.
Firstly I liked the humility of this, but then I began to feel a little uncomfortable.
When we see the worth and worthiness of Christ, we know that by comparison, “we are not worthy even to eat the crumbs from under his table”.
I think that too often we as Christians, and we as Church leaders, put up a veneer of being ‘sorted’, ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’, yet the truth is we all suffer and struggle with sin, all that happens -sometimes- as Christians is we get better at covering it up!
Our struggle with sin, is an on going an daily battle, not something we used to struggle with before becoming a Christian. Although this is never the message we actually say, sometimes it is the message we inadvertently give off.
We ALL sin, if in any doubt check out Paul’s struggles in Romans 7… We are all conflicted with the person we know we should be -and want to be- and who we actually are.
Ironically living up to peoples expectations of being sinless is more likely to push you into sin!
One thing I learned whilst working with drug addicts and alcoholics was that of leadership from a point of both brokenness and recovery, the councillors -former addicts themselves- were both messengers of hope and of struggle, beauty and brokenness. I love Henri Nowen’s description of Christian leadership as that of being a wounded healer.
I grew up in a Church that was very much focused on the cross, on sin, on the need for repentance and faith. Yet the problem with this form of Christianity was sometimes it didn’t feel like ‘good news’, it felt condemning, and the default setting placed the emphasis on my sin rather than on my Saviour.
Guilt, shame and unworthiness were part of my mind-set, which I thought was what God wanted me to feel, but verses like “there is now no condemnation in Christ” I struggled to personalise and allow to alter my own perception on myself.
Yet it was through the charismatic renewal movement that I really discovered that no only had the price been paid for my sin, but that I -me- was loved.
God saw me through the lenses of the cross and of his wonderful grace… God saw me as his beloved child, precious and valuable, my worth was extreme -that God himself would die for me.
This answered those real and deep questions of identity. A movement which talks a lot about our identity, about being anointed and empowered, about knowing the Father and his heart for us.
I stopped using words like unworthy, as although I know I am, I also don’t think it is helpful, I need more often to be reminded of grace, forgiveness and faithfulness, rather than living in a place of condemnation and almost self flagellation.
I think when we beat ourselves up, we say to ourselves that we are useless, we are failures and God can’t use us, the truth is that (although this is still true) grace speakers a louder and truer word that we can still be used despite our faults and failings, that no one is useless to a God who delights to work with his children.
Even at our worst and our most rebellious God’s love for us remains faithful and constant.
If I were redesigning the archbishops crest I would write “I maybe an unworthy servant, made worthy by the love omost worthy Lord Jesus Christ”.
“You need to go out and sniff the sheep“! This was a phrase I’ve seen in a job advert for a vicar, it made me snigger as I don’t consider myself a sheep sniffer!
But did think about the image…
Where do we define what God is doing in his world, not from a safe distance in our comfortable churches, but in the midst of the vcommunity and listening to see where God is at work.
It reminded me too thst mission us actually about people more than strategy, and often the key component (which is so often missing) is relationships, we are in danger of knowing about our communities rather than knowing the people within the communities.
Smelling the sheep is a smelly and unpleasent job, something we’d rather not do, but when we do mission we encounter the poo and messy of broken and hurting lives.
Too often we try and only reach out to nice people without lots of smelly brokenness, not realising that everyone is probably more smelly and more broken than we realise, in fact we might pong a bit ourselves too!
When we do Street Pastors I often talk about double listening, listening to the voice of Gods spirit and the voice of the culture around us…
I heard a tragic story of JJohns evangelistic event in a Cathedral, it was packed, and he asked who here attends Church regularly and almost every hand went up. We often do missional events to Christians to make us all feel better about ourselves, rather than trying to be Missional in amongst the stench of the farmyard, surrounded by the sheep.
I was thinking about being a Vicar as a shepherd (after all Bishops have crooks the imagery is there in scripture) and Jesus talks about a hood shepherd laying down their life for the sheep…
-Sometimes we are scared of the ‘sheep bite’ from within the sheepfold, that keep us from fulfilling our calling to help in the rescue mission we are called too undertake.
Let us learn as Christians, to follow the footsteps and be like our Good Shepherd.
“To impact a moment tweet, to impact a season preach, to impact a generation -Mentor a leader” writes Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life/Church fame.
As I think about mentoring, my mind goes to Barnabas, not a character well known in the Bible, his name means ‘encourager’ -the idea of mentoring is by helping and encouraging a leader they get better and everyone benefits.
Barnabas -one of the great unsung heroes of the bible.
We know that Barnabas is a sacrificial guy he sells a field and lays the money at the apostles feet (some people reckon that he is the unnamed rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus as he loved his wealth too much, if that were so it is a beautiful picture of it being laid at the disciples feet for the sake of the Kingdom).
He takes a risk on S/Paul, gives him opportunities to share his faith (everyone else was too scared of S/Paul because of his horrendous past) yet the risk paid off.
Paul became a fantastic evangelist and apostle.
In the Bible we see the narrator (probably Luke) change from writing “Barnabas and Paul” to writing “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13) as Paul grew in spiritual maturity, confidence, gifting… going places far beyond Barnabas.
Yet hen S/Paul began to excel, we see an amazing model of humility, Barnabas retreats quietly into the background. Echoes of John the Baptists statement about Jesus “I must decrease so he can increase”…
A great youth work quote is “to see our celling becoming their floor” -our wildest dreams their starting point-
Paul mentoring the young Timothy, re-read Timothy and there is a real undercurrent of “step up to the plate and go for it”…
It is like a relay race, if Barnabas hadn’t taken a risk on S/Paul and S/Paul hadn’t done the same with Timothy, we might not be sitting here.
Who is mentoring you?
-Are you humble enough to let people speak into your life positively? –It has to be done from a place of love.
“Iron sharpening Iron as one person sharpens another”.
Who are you mentoring?
-Are you taking this responsibility seriously?
Are you enabling them to fly, or clipping their wings?
What happens when they over-take you in the race?
Are you being mentored but not mentoring anyone? –sort it out, find someone to bless, encourage and support!
Or mentoring without getting mentored? –find wise and Godly people and hang out with them, and invite them to speak into your life.
If you are not being mentored and not mentoring anyone I would suggest that neither is God’s plan or best for you.
Mentoring matters probably more now in the UK than any time since St. Augustine as we are (to quote Lord Carey) “nearly one generation away from extinction”…
How can people be the leaders of the Church of tomorrow unless they are part of the Church of today?
I like the picture of passing on the baton, but interestingly statistics show that teams running relay races it isn’t normally the fasted who in, but rather those who manage the hand over best.
Too often when mentoring we keep hanging on to the baton and not letting our other leaders fly, or perhaps we just drop the baton and let someone else pick it up?
Perhaps we are being reluctant to take the baton that is being passed to us? Or perhaps we are inpatient and trying to snatch it from someone whose not finished with their race.
How can we receive and pass on well? –I believe at the heart of this all is the call to faithfulness in all things, a call afresh for our Churches to be filled with wisdom, or as the world calls it self awareness.
Too often we have a consumerist view of Church, where it is all about us and our needs and desires, but when we think of mentoring we realise that we are in fact custodians of the great truth of being the people of the Kingdom for a short season, and have been entrusted with a great treasure to pass on, yet we also have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of giants.
Yesterday I talked about how baby Elephants are held captive by chaining them to trees when they are young, as they grow older they could easily pull the tree over, but because they have grown used to the fact that they are tethered and can’t escape, they don’t pull the tree down and become free, because the memory traps them and holds them captive.
Today, on a similar theme want to think a little about how to catch a monkey.
Poachers used to set traps for monkeys, which was a box that was fixed to the floor with a small hole for the moneys hand to slide through with their palm open. Inside the box was placed some enticing sparkly paper. Monkeys are like Magpies in that they are attracted to things that sparkle. The monkey would slide their hand into the box, grab the shiny paper and hold it in their fist. Yet with their clenched hand gripped around their ‘spoils’ they can’t get their hand out.
Whilst the monkey holds onto the shiny paper they are stuck, a prisoner, a captive.
To be free they simply need to let go and remove their hand.
The shiny paper actually is worthless to the monkey and yet this bit of rubbish can cost a monkey its freedom.
What of us?
Have we grabbed hold of something that is actually imprisoning us?
Is what is in our hand more important than the freedom that Christ has won for us?
The picture of letting go, of surrendering the desire for the sparkly but worthless prize, yet in doing so gaining liberty and life is one I find profoundly challenging.
The story reminds me a little of the Rich Young Ruler, who was offered a place as a disciple of Jesus, and yet he was still holding on to his wealth and possessions, he walked away from Jesus because he was fooled, hoodwinked, by the allure of his great wealth.
Yet for us, this enticing bit of paper could actually be anything, all of us have things we found hard to lay down before Christ when we began to follow him, and sadly this type of junk is very easy to pick up again. Paul talks in Galatians calling them “bewitched” and saying “they are returning from liberty to slavery” -The opposite journey from the people of Israel, Paul is saying that this is not your story, this is folly, danger and tragedy.
So, what the boxes that imprison us?
What are the things that entice us and trap us?
Is there something God might be calling you to let go off today?
Is there something you need to surrender to him?
I read a great quote on facebook, which talked about how as Christians we are unable to receive todays blessings, because our hands are full of yesterdays junk.
A quote I spoke of yesterday was “if the son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed”.
The first picture that I have been thinking about for a while is circus folk ‘break’ a baby elephant by chaining it too a tree. The elephant is only a baby, so it can’t pull the tree down, the elephant remembers the powerlessness of being chained to a tree it can’t pull down, and as they grow they stay tethered to the tree by a chain, even though by the time the elephant is full grown they could easily uproot the tree and be free.
The animals captivity is not actually physical but psychological, the thing that hold him back isn’t really an inescapable obstacle but rather their own mind and memories.
What of us?
Are the things we think are holding us back actually holding us back, or is it mind-set, past experience and perception?
Perhaps, like the elephant, you have tried to be free before and now have just given up trying?
Jesus talks about setting people free.
The Gospel is a message of liberation, setting people free.
Paul talks in Romans about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind” -in Salvation our view of the world changes, we see things differently, we ourselves differently, we our situations differently.
Danielle Strickland talked about re-visiting the prison and our places of captivity but this time, re-visiting them with God.
It enabling the elephant to see that that which bound him before, no longer has the power to control him.
His fears we based on lies and illusions.
His memories of the past were inhibiting the freedom he was experiencing in the present.
Are there things from our past, that makes us feel like we are a baby elephant tethered to a tree unable to pull free?
Revisit them, and realise that maybe the tree that tethered us, isn’t insurmountable but with Christ can be overcome.
“If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!”
For freedom to take root and flourish in our lives, we need to let it liberate our hearts, transform our minds and restore our eyes in how we look at the world.
How you were, how you have been, in Christ is not how you have to stay, nor is it how you will be forever.
That’s a message a world desperately needs to hear.