Humility, incarnation, Phillippians 2

The Attitude of Christ…

I never cease to find Phillippians 2 an incredibly challenging passage… it starts with the phrase, “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” -that’s a big challenge, as I know how often my attitude falls short of Christ’s.

The whole passage is full of counter cultural words such as “humbled himself” -“became nothing”, “emptied himself”, “taking on the form of a servant” -in fact slave us a more accurate translation- “he was obidient to death -even death in the cross”.

I realise my attitude is far far from this most of the time, and yet I do want to have a Christ like attitude, and although it us is painful, costly and will be sacrificial it is still something I want.

Yet I also know I can’t have a Christ like attitude unless Christ himself helps me, unless I am part if a body of Christ-like people challenging, encouraging and sharpening me…

It also makes me realise how missional this whole attitude is, because it is not self seeking, nice demanding its own way but is seeking first the Kingdom of God, and is putting other people’s needs before our own wants, desires and preferences.

This passage is the complete antidote of what I was writing yesterday about the dangers of a consumer Church… It is s Spirituality that gives good stuff away rather than hording it for ones self.

On Saturday Si told the story of people wanting Church to be how they liked it, a consumer attitude, and yet Church and the Christian life is not about us, it’s about Jesus.

To pick up our cross and follow Christ is the ultimate act of surrender to God.

When we say “I didn’t get anything out of the Ŵorship today” -we need to remember that Ŵorship isn’t for us, it’s for God, and even if we didn’t get blessed did other people encounter God through it…

Sometimes in serving others and putting their needs before our own we find a blessing that is more greater and more beautiful than simply having things within Church done as we would like it, we discover the joy of the Father saying to us “well done good and faithful servant”.

I’ll close with a verse that always challenges me when I think of surrender and following Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, the life I live in this body I live by faith in the on of God who loved me and died for me”.
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A Mission Shaped Heartbeat…

We had a challenging talk from Si jones last Saturday at Bourne Christian Centre, about mission.

We are called to love the Church -but actually what we love is our preferences for style, tradition, way things are done… The Church in scripture is God’s mission agency on earth, Paul says that “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God is displayed on the earth” -the Church is a foretaste of heaven.
The Church is the only organisation which actually exists for its non members, the only body with its heart on its edges.
Yet although this is theological and ecclesiological truth, often it isn’t our experience of Church.

Milton Jones once said “What do a helicopter and the Church have in common?”  They both suck you into the rota’s, the energy within our Churches normally is centrifugal, it draws into the middle, when actually it should be the other way around.

Archbishop Rowan Williams reminded us that “it is not the Church carrying the mission of God, but rather the missionary God having a Church”.

Therefore if the Church is worshipping and following Christ, wwhich it is, then she will be passionate about the things that Jesus cares about, mission, justice, compassion, transformation, hope, grace, restoration…

Renewal is about us having “the mind of Christ” -Romans 12 calls us to the “renewing of our mind”, and yet some how we think of renewal as changing our worship songs from the late 70’s the early 90’s.

Si Jones described renewal as “when we take risks on God because we trust him”, renewal is shown when “our evangelism/mission becomes dangerous rather than our worship band simply just getting louder”.

Mission should impact the way we do Church.

Mission should impact the way we communicate, the way we sing, the way we do everything.

Si told the story of planting a Church in London and a young black kid who had just become a Christian asked him “why do we sing folk music” -by which he meant Matt Redman/Tim Hugues stuff on a gituar… and so they ended up having DJ led worship. Worship was transformed by mission and the context within which it found itself, for people such as Si, it was actually a sacrifice of preferred styles and cultures for the sake of something far more valueable, the advance of the Kingdom of Christ here in this location.

We need to allow the God of Mission to shape us, to renew us, to enable us to be risk takers for him, to sacrifice our wants, preferences and desires for the sake of those ho don’t yet know him.

This is his call on our lives, both as individuals and as corporately gathered as Church.

The problem is we have become Consumers of Church.

The uncomfortable truth is Church isn’t about us, or our preferences, it is about Christ, it is about the lost and we ourselves are called to sacrifice for the sake of these who we are called to love.

John Wimber was accused of not having meaty enough sermons to which he replied “the meat is on the street” -we are not called to be biblical experts and great theologians but rather the equipped to seek and see the advance of the Kingdom of God. May your Kingdom come -HERE- as in heaven.

A great sermon may make us sound wise, and a fab worship time with songs we love, may encourage us, but a Church succeeds or fails but its fruit of transformed and changed lives.

Falibility, Humanity

It Is Okay To Be Human.

In the book of Job (and in the funeral service) it says “God knows of what we are made, he remembers we are but dust…

It is okay to be human, because that is how God has made us.

God never intended us to be complete omni-compatant, all knowing, all powerful  unit that can stand alone, in deed of nothing, utterly self sufficient.

We sometimes need to remember he made us a little lower than the angels, in other words we are not some how superhuman… that is the stuff of comic books but not the pages of scripture!

We are created in such a way that we need Christ, to live for him,  As one of the old saints prayed “For without you we cannot please you!”

We also need each other to live for Christ, and they need us, we want to be independent, but we were created for interdependence.

Faith to move mountains is lived out as we pray for people in a world where it looks like sin, sickness and death has the upper hand.

The Glory of God is displayed in human weakness, which actual reveals God’s glory better and more fully.

It is “Christ in us the hope of Glory” rather than the “us in us the hope of glory”, the treasure in clay jars, our weaknesses show God’s strength better than a race of superheroes because people get to realise it is about God’s power at work through his people.

When we prophesy, can’t say “THUS SAYS THE LORD” but rather “I believe God is saying” because of our flesh and fallen-ness other people get to play and weigh it all up and test it.

We don’t have all the answers, we need confirmation, we need one another, its a beautiful Christ pic of his body needing its component parts to function properly and to share together. This partiality and humanity, means that rather than being some form of ‘Super Christian’ we are all broken people who get to play together and need each other… The whole thing comes back to the body of Christ, to an interdependent people, needing one another, needing to be unified, and knowing their need of God.

Its not about being a superstar player, its about sharing what God has given you to be part of his team, which is his Church that pull together and that everyone gets to play.

Lets see our God given humanity as a blessing, and as a gift, and our need of God and one another as something not just positive but also beautiful.

1 Samuel 17.39., Guidance, obidience, Youth and Children's Work

This Armour Doesn’t Fit.

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.

In the book of Habakkuk God says “Behold I am doing a new thing”, note he doesn’t say behold I am doing the next thing, or another fad, but I am doing a new thing.
The origin of this is from God, not nicked and copied from the glossier church up the road -you do your notices on video, suddenly we do notices on video!
Often these phases are normally cosmetic, and do nothing to solve the heart of the problem which normally stems from people being reluctant to be obedient when it is costly and involves sacrifice… easier to re-design your facebook page than to tell people about Jesus, feed the hungry, love the difficult people who make our lives difficult and all the other sacrificial and costly aspects to discipleship.
Yet Gods changes aren’t superficial nor cosmetic, but go to heart of who we are. Gods changes are transformative and his change stems from his heart.
Yet it’s a strange paradox, that although we want to be doing the new and the cosmetic, underneath it all, we are actually somewhat resistant to real change, -because real change is unsettling and costly- Bishop Mike calls it “the powerful pull of the status quo bias”…
You see we approach life with our own world view, we look at it through our lenses,  we solve problems by past experience, the way we’ve always done it, and history repeats itself again, and again, sometimes in what feels like a never ending spiral.
Yet God looks at his world not with a limited, fallible and broken world view but with the eyes of the all seeing God, and the mind of the all knowing one.
Perhaps this is why he says, “My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts not your thoughts!”
One of the classic examples of this is sending a mere child -David- to fight against a man mountain of  Goliath,  and Saul clothed him in his own armour.
It was well intentioned, but the armour immobilized David.
The old way, the conventional wisdom was insufficient for the task set before them.
David refused to do things the way the had always been done before, and instead armed only with a slingshot and 5 stones, went out and defeated Goliath.
Sometimes people put so many things on us, often well intentioned, but actually end up debilitating and immobilising us.
Are we trapped, suffocated in the dust of a previous culture.
Trying to live for today in yesterdays baggage, held back by the debris of the past.
I believe God is saying to his Church a message of liberation that sets us free from the burdens, weights, restrictions of “Saul’s Armour” that is often placed upon us, and our shoulders, which cause us to buckle under the weight on the burden Christ never intended us to carry.
 What are you carrying? Are you trying to fight in obsolete equipment? Have people put things on you which don’t fit -and probably will never fit-.
Is God opening up new openings, new opportunities and new ways of doing and of being?
I believe that God is doing a new thing in this nation.
I believe that God is doing a new thing in this city.
I believe God is doing a new thing within his Church.
I believe God is doing a new thing within the lives of his followers.
…and I believe this is not simply giving his army a make over, but rather calling us into a place of liberation and freedom, new places of new victories in new ways.
So often we assume we know what to do, we return -like a pig in the mud or a dog to its vomit- to our old default ways of doing and being rather than seeking whether God is showing us a new ways.
God is unpredictable, he never repeats a miracle the same way twice. We need to trust his hand, his heart and his provision and power rather than our own methodology or opinion.
God is doing a new thing, what is our response? Do we keep going as we always have, doing what we have always done? Or do we seek to see what God is saying, catching the wind or the wave of his spirit, seeing his footprints and follow where he leads.
I love Rowan Williams’ line about life and mission which is “find out what God is doing and joining in”.
God show me what you are doing and let me join in, keeping in step with you, as we walk your way into a future that I can’t yet see, but I know that I can trust you with it.

Go Vulnerably…

I had a very profound coffee with Steve Britten a while back and he was saying “show the people God” -it is very profound as I don’t think people become worshipers of God by some scruffy vicar ranting at them from a in the pulpit (although I do believe in prophetic challenge within preaching).
Nor do people become more prayerful because we put more prayer meetings on the notice sheet (although more prayer meetings are good).
Nor do people share their faith more because we ran a course on ‘sharing your faith’ (although courses can be useful).
Ultimately it is only really when people encounter more of the awesome goodness and good news of Jesus Christ, who he is and what he has done, that we are changed, and worship more as a response to who God is, pray more as a response to who God is, share our faith as a response to who God is, give more as a response to who God is, sin less often as a response to who God is…

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”.

Discover the truth of strength in weakness.
I’m not sure how this works for you in your context, but think what does it mean to be a crazy follower of Jesus, what does it really mean to “live by faith and not by sight?”

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.

Authenticity, Leadership

Leading by example…

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 <>

Kingdom, Mission, Protest, Uncategorized

Missional Protest…

People often talk about Mission Statements.

Often people have used Matthew 28 as the Churches Mission Statement:  “Go into all the World and make them my disciples”, there is good reason for this, after-all in Matthews Gospel they are some of the last recorded words of Jesus. It is an interesting verse, firstly it is active, ‘Go’, interesting we have changed it to a more passive ‘you can come to us if you want too’ -interestingly most evangelism involves inviting people onto our turf, rarely us going to them… Its a world wide call, its a call beyond the familiarity of our comfort zones (an old proverb says “you will never know what you may encounter until you have the bravery to loose sight of the shore”). It is a call to go beyond ‘getting a scalp’ or getting someone to ‘pray a prayer’ -make disciples is a very different term from making a convert, discipleship is ‘in it for the long haul’ seeing lives transformed to become more Christ-like whilst also becoming a discipler of others.
Instead, I think that Jesus’ Mission Statement for himself and his disciples (which includes us as well) comes from the Lords Prayer, when it says “May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.
When we unpack this, Kingdom coming is about the King being on the throne and reigning, in other words it not only an acknowledgement of Christ, but a surrendering to him whilst following him in obedience.  When we think of what is grown or present in heaven, we realise it is very different from the world we have become used too. A good question to ask about most things is ‘will it be in heaven?’, if God doesn’t allow it in heaven, what’s my reaction to it here on earth? Jealousy, conflict, squabbles, pride and vanity wont be there but it is amazing how much this insecurity stuff drives much of what happens here on earth but has no place in an eternal Kingdom, just as the latest stuff may really matter to our world now but has little or no eternal value… Yet we are called to be ambassadors of this new Kingdom which we are called to usher in, to live as people of that Kingdom, as aliens in a foreign culture in this world…
It is a calling to shout to the world a protest that is shouldn’t be this way, and it doesn’t have to be.
Christians are to be the protest voice that points to a new and better way, a way that existed from the beginning, the way we were created to be… Walking in the light, walking God’s way.
Living generously in a stingy world.
Listening in a world than never stops talking.
Being compassionate in a hard-hearted world.
Praying in healing in a broken world.
Speaking Truth is a dishonest world.
Being just in an unjust world.
Living as lights in a dark world.
Lord Jesus, let your Kingdom come on earth, here in my local area, as it is in heaven. Amen.