Uncategorized

In the Way, or, In the Way?

Over the last few weeks and months I’ve been thinking and praying about lots of stuff, and its a scary reminder that this time two years ago I was signed off sick… And was very scared of where that might lead…

It also made me realise that I’m not indispensable, a lesson we all need to grasp from time to time.
One of the things I have been thinking recently is about how vital we are to God’s plan. In one sense we are vital, God chooses to work through people like you and me as his preferred method of transforming his world, St. Teresa of Avril talks of “Christ has no body but ours, no hands or feet but ours”, but on the other hand God doesn’t actually NEED us, he managed to create the world without any human help, as the end of Job reminds us too.

Sometimes I wonder if our ‘need to be needed’ gets in the way of what God wants to do both in us, through us and to the people around us?

Is our desire to have our hand on the steering wheel more about our own desire for control rather than submission to God?

Do we sometimes stay doing something we should have laid down because we are scared that no one else will do it, and even if no one else does XY or Z, perhaps that’s okay with God?

Its a silly phrase but I heard someone once say no one sits in an occupied chair, sometimes we have to get out of the chair to enable someone else to sit in it…

And perhaps we need to leave the chair for someone very different to sit in it who isn’t like us, but whose called to be the person picking up the baton.

I guess my question is, are we holding the batons God wants us to be holding?

Or are we holding what we should have passed on?
Maybe multiple batons that don’t belong to us any more and the next rely runner we haven’t spotted limbering up in the corner?

Sometimes jumping out of something might be as bigger step of faith as jumping into something?

My prayer going through my head today is “God I want to be where-ever you want me and not here you don’t, carrying what you’ve given me and only that alone…

Lord, direct my paths and lead me in the way everlasting.
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Community, community of grace, grace

Community of Grace…

I had an amazing Mentor for a while, called Simon Holland, he’s now the Warden at Lee Abbey, but before that he was Rector of a Church in Bath. His Churches Vision was :”to be a community of grace at the heart of the city”.

A broken world, and broken individuals need to experience the radical grace-filled love of God expressed in the love of God demonstrated most clearly and beautifully upon the cross of Calvary. Yet the cross actually shows something more wonderful, as Steve Britten -the Prayer Pastor Co-ordinator often says, “the cross shows us the greater truth, that God himself is good news”.

At  the heart of the universe is a God who is not angry or vindictive, but loving us and desiring to welcome us home into relationship with him, with that same furious love as shown in Luke 15, with the parable of the running father (a better and more apt name that the prodigal son).

This is a message of radical and transforming hope, that however broken we are, however steeped in sin we have become, what ever we have done or whatever has been done to us, the grace of God and his love is greater still.

Reminded of the line from that great hymn; “the vilest offender, who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives”.

The truth of us as Church, is we have often forgotten what God, in Christ, has done for us.

We have forgotten we ourselves are forgiven sinners. We ourselves are not whole and respectable, without fault, blemish and with a cupboard or two full of skeletons.

Grace has saved us, we need to show grace to a world that won’t necessarily understand it, and probably can’t articulate it, but is none the less desperate for it.

Grace changes lives.

Grace transforms brokenness.

Grace is needed in the meeting place (Church) as well as the market place (world).

After all as Jesus himself said: “those who are well don’t need a doctor but only those who are sick… not come to call respectable people but sinners” -yet the western Church spends half its life trying to look respectable.Simon, would speak  of our Churches flinging open the doors every day of the week welcoming people in  but I am saying one step further.

The Church is called out to the streets,
The Church  is called out to the marginalised and disenfranchised.
The Church is called to minister amongst the hurting and the broken, the least, the last and the lost.
The Church is not some faceless institution or an over-worked vicar.
The Church is you and me, ordinary people who love Jesus, ordinary people for whom Christ died. One beggar showing another beggar where to find bread, all of us, all the time, living out a radical life going against the tide of conventional norms and expectations, doing life God’s way, holding our grace to a world that needs not just to theologically understand it, but understand it through experiencing it.
I believe grace, like love, needs to be experienced before it can be understood.
The challenge is about taking this grace out with us into our world, everyday, in the vast medley of situations, opportunities, people, places that we encounter each day, a deployed army, and undercover agent living for a different Kingdom shining out like stars in a crooked and depraved world, salty people, light people, people of hope for it is Christ IN US the hope of glory; the same spirit within us  who believe who raised Jesus from the dead.
And we’re not just called to potter around in these places, but actually to transform them.
I believe all of us should be looking for those small and significant opportunities to bless and live out grace, but also look for the great opportunities, the transforming moments, dream dreams that scare you, pray God gives you visions, believe in bigger as too often we have lost sight of the furious love of God who desires relationship with his creation and think that all we can do is the small, lowly and sparse, where actually dear brethren, the Father longs to give us the Kingdom.
A friend of mine described one of his vision statements for his Church, it was “faith that made you gulp rather than yawn”, I think the same should be said for Grace.
Grace that makes us  ‘gulp rather than yawn’.
You see when you and I live this out, they see people and communities that look like Jesus.
Jesus had the most attractive life ever lived on this planet.
The word Christian simply means ‘little Christ’.
So when you put you computer off, remember that you are now in your mission field, you are now on the front line.
Now is the day of salvation.
Let’s live out lives of radical grace, not just within out Churches, but within a world that broken and needs to know God and to see what he is like.
You might be thinking, this is too much Andy, I can’t do it in my strength, then I will close by saying, ‘yep, you are dead right…’  but the good news is you don’t have too!
Pray that God will help all of us see this message not just be an email rant, but a daily reality, impossible humanly speaking, but as the gospel reminds us, “nothing is impossible with God”.
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Church, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, prayer, Worship

The Kings Arms.

On Wednesday night we did something different with our on going project “Pints Of View” where we make ourselves available to chat to anyone who wants to chat in our community by sitting in Weatherspoon’s wearing a clerical collar!

We went along to the Kings Arms, pub next door to Trinity, and borrowed one of their rooms and myself and another guy prayed and worshipped for a bit (we did invite a whole load of other folk, but it was just the two of us who came).

Part of me felt why didn’t I just meet next door and pray and worship there, surely God doesn’t mind where we pray anyway? -And worshipping, especially singing, makes me feels a vulnerable and self conscious, especially when there are only two of you there!

Eminem’s lyrics rang out in the bar and a few “F&*$#!” rang out from the loosing team at pool, whilst we prayed and sung out prayers for Gods love to be made manifest in that place…

Wes lead us in an old worship song “Hallejuah my Saviour” which featured the lines “knowing we would bruise him and strike him from the earth”  -for some reason the image caused a lump in my throat. I then though of some of the guys they all have something in front of their name “Vicar Andy”, “Beardy Mike”, “Sleepy Al”, “Dancing Paul” and “bruised Christ” seemed to resonate yet in a way, being in the midst of real lie for many people, this felt more Jesus-like that hidden away on our own in some great religious building,

Humanly speaking prayer and worship don’t seem like very worthwhile or productive activities yet seen from heavens perspective they are crucial.

I have said many times about how all great moves of God are birthed in prayer, and it is true, in fact the Hebradean revival as literally a small group of elderly ladies praying. We all know this and yet trying to motivate the Church to pray has been incredibly difficult. Interestingly prayer before our services is the last job we do after set up is done and often people say “I can’t join you in prayer as I’m doing…” I know set up in important but is shows our hearts that often prayer is not as central to our lives together as it should be.

I have been challenged many times, and I still get caught with this, that I run around like a headless chicken and probably need to spend more times simply on my face before God.

We prayed for our area, we prayed for the city, we prayed for more of God in our own lives,

Before wandering over to Weatherspoon’s, and we had we were joined by a friend Phil, and we had a nice chat… We didn’t see mass revival, but I think God was doing something, and I think he saw our hearts and I believe this small step of faith pleased him, yet I think that the next step of faith is about ensuring that this happens next week, and the week after, something of Jacob wrestling with God “we’re not going till you bless us”…

This is a intentional seeking of Christ’s face, rather than going through the tick box of a prayer meeting often attended out of a sense of duty but limited expectation…

I believe, that as we seek Christ, out of our comfort zone, in the heart of the community, offering ourselves and making ourselves available, we will see him becoming more and more known in Kingswood.

And  as I think about my time in Kingswood, perhaps I have spent too long in the rock soil of religious people who don’t always realise their need of a Saviour… Perhaps to find good soil we need to be here the F words are flowing, Eminem is playing on the Duke Box, people don’t try to looked suited and respectable and often are very often about their pain and the mess of their lives.

Jesus said those who are well don’t need a Doctor, but only those who are sick, yet we spend our time pandering to “healthy” people in our Churches dealing with their coughs and sneezes whilst out from our Church walls there is horrific epidemics breaking out.

It sounds harsh, but I wonder if for to long I pandered to the spiritual hypochondriacs rather than going on an aid mission to they dying, setting up field hospitals and outposts and seeking to bring the healing, transforming, hope-filled love the Saviour to the streets.

I mused the words of Eminem in contrast to our worship songs, one told of anger, hurt, loneliness and rejection the other of hope, love and acceptance.

I remember a quote which said “to change the world you need to tell a better story” and felt that in one sense this is what we are doing, being a prayerful presence, living out and showing a different and better story than the rant of Eminem with the love of God who stoops down to reach us from gutter.

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Discipleship, Life styles, obidience, priorities

Whole Life Discipleship…

There was a merchant who collected pearls, when he found one of such beauty he sold everything he owned to buy it.”

Jesus is the pearl of great price.

I think the awesomeness of who Christ is and what he has done is best described in the final verse of that great hymn, “when I survey the wonderful cross” which ends with the beautiful lines…

“We 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!”

Coming back from holiday today has made me think about how we view things, do I have a ‘work’ head on or a ‘holiday head’ on?

Which made me think about how we/I view the world.

Work life balance is a bit of an oxymoron, as if your not alive you aren’t working!

Just like the spiritual and secular divide, surely everything is spiritual as the Holy Spirit is everywhere and always at work within his world.

I do think sometimes we have too lower view of work, when I have not been working it has been really tough, I think as human beings we need to work, not just to pay the bills, but as part of being human, we need to DO something.

We are at our most alive when doing what we love and are good at, which I believe brings the Father joy. 

One of the early Church fathers Erasmus described ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’.In the care industry we think of holistic care, looking after the whole person.

A compartmentalised life isn’t biblical as God incarnate lived his whole life for the glory of the father.

Jesus Christ cares about every area of our lives, not just the ‘Sunday best’ bit.

Too often we make following Jesus all about propping up the institution of the Church rather that allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through every area of our lives.

What has Jesus got to say about how we are faithful to our marriage covenants (those of us who are married), or how we bring up our children, or the faithful way we care for elderly relatives, or (as I rediscovered whilst off sick) the importance of just being a good friend.

I have been massively challenged about the quote which says “don’t worry about failing worry more about succeeding at things that don’t matter”.

It made me ask, are my priorities the same as Gods priorities for my life, am I being unfaithful to some callings, vocations and commitments  because I am wrongly prioritising others. As Shane Claiborne once said “is my dream the same as he dream of God”.

Is Jesus Lord of all, or just the bits that show?

Is my commitment to Christ have my vocation head on, to be forgotten when ‘real’ life kicks in. I want my faith to be more than my hobby.
Take a moment and think of your life, your callings and commitments, your character gifts and opportunities, and invite Christ to come in and surrender all to him, giving him access all areas.

Then take a moment and think is there any areas of my life which are a bit ballooned out of proportion, or others which matter to God which I have neglected and need to put right with his help.

Come Lord Jesus, and take your place.

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Bible, Depression, Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, prayer, Spirituality, Worship

When You Are Just Not Feeling It.

Writers block… Normally I have 101 ideas I’m dying to share with the world about following Jesus, but today I can’t think of anything!

Sometimes we go through seasons when really feel Gods presence wonderfully close, other days God doesn’t feel so close.

Sometimes, when we read the Bible it really speaks to us and there is a wonderful connection, other times it can feel like a habit and your read some verses that aren’t bad but don’t really move you.

I’ve had times when I can’t put the Bible down, and I’ve had other times when I’ve struggled to pick it up.

Have you ever been in a church service of an event when everyone else seems to be connecting with God in a wonderful and deep way and we feel a bit jealous because we are just not feeling it?

Sometimes you sing some songs and you feel Gods presence and other times it just feels like you are singing songs, sometimes the words catch you, especially songs that are joy filled “…and I feel like dancing” which doesn’t always resonate with where we are at.

Sometimes it’s a choice, and in singing words it’s a faith filled thing, saying that the truth of God is greater than our current feelings, and I will worship despite my circumstance, mood, or whatever… Other times it’s a question of integrity, I can’t sing “I’m overflowing with joy” when God knows that I’m not, he knows I want to be, but for whatever reason today doesn’t feel like it.
I think there are times in our life when sometimes it isn’t easy being a follow of Christ.

I think that there is a false Americanisation of some worship styles that are often overly joyous and ‘sugary’ as though life is perpetually good and the only human expression the

Christian is allowed is a cheesy grin.

Yet in the psalms there are plenty of laments and even “where have you gone God?” Psalms, Jesus even quoted one of these (Ps. 22) on the cross, I long to see greater authenticity within our sung worship, that embraces rather than runs from pain, confusion and frustration.

I love (and am deeply challenged by) Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name, when the suns shining down on me and the world is all that it should be… Blessed Be Your Name when found in the Desert place, on the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name… You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name”.

I don’t think God ever intended human beings to live perpetually on the mountain, he knows that in real life we go into real valleys, and maybe even real deserts too.

In fact it’s the deserts where the most beautiful and powerful growth occurs.

Just as a rose bud develops its best scent when it is tightly compressed.

Yet it is in the mundane we discover something deep in our faith, just as in our human relationships it is easy to serve your spouse when you are totally loved up, but harder when maybe its not all rose petals and romance.

Yet what an amazing act of truly beautiful Worship when we Worship even through the tears.

I think we need a spiritual life that  is robust enough that know,and can cope with highs and lows, and when things are tough we learn discipline and gain strength.
Yet it is easy to serve when your heart is full of gladness, but harder when your heart is full of sadness, but in a way more beautiful and authentic, for we are saying to God that despite our internal and external feelings and circumstances, even so, we are going to rely not on our feelings knowing they are fallible, but instead place our trust on God and his faithfulness, which -despite our feelings- remains steadfast.

Sometimes when you feel you have nothing to say, sometimes that’s the most profound message of all.

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Uncategorized

Three Sermons, One Message…

Okay it’s an old blog, but hopefully it says something helpful…

Three Sermons?

One message?
Okay its a bit of a ramble, but today I spoke at Holy Toast and then our re-worked kids service at Trinity and then sat back and listened to Regan at All Souls’ and so this message is a summary of all three sermons, but in a way I think they come together.
Holy Toast Sermon 1.
Looking at the character of Peter and his rolacosta ride of faith.
A faith filled start when he left everything to follow Jesus, asked ‘do we seize the moment’ spiritually or do we play it safe and end up regretting it?
He saw Jesus at work preaching, teaching, healing and deliverance and then Jesus sent him out to put it into practice, and he came back really excited -in our faith our we spectators or participants?
Then we looked at real moments of clarity he had in his journey of faith “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” -only to loose the plot with doubt and confusion when (almost with the same breath) he told Jesus he didn’t have to go to the cross.
He made great promises in the comfort zone of the upper room with Jesus and the disciples (“I’ll never leave you, even if I have to die with you”) but then a few hours later he denied Jesus three times…
What of us, its so easy on  Sunday night to say the right things but so much harder living out our faith on Monday Mornings.
Peter met Jesus on the beach and was re-instated, I wonder how quickly we get back up again when we fall down?
What would we say if Jesus asked us “do we love him?”
I talked about  the change from the man who ran away becoming the man who stood his ground.
The man who preached the Churches inaugural sermon where thousands were saved and baptised.
What of us, do we do the right and brave thing when it matters? -Quote from Dumbledore “You can do the thing that is right or the thing that is easy” -the problem is they aren’t the same thing.
And later we read of Peter a great leader taking the easy way out with the Galation Christians.
We are fallen people who get it wrong, but Jesus gives us another chance.
We have a God who forgives and us who often can’t accept that grace.
Leaders, and in fact all of us, are people who are fallible and get it wrong sometimes, but yet what really matters is our hearts before Jesus, the answer to the question “Do you love me?”
Kings Krew Sermon 2.
Jesus calms the storm…
What do we do when storms hit?
Do we panic?
Do we pray?
Can we do both at the same time?
Does it sometimes feel as if Jesus is asleep?
Jesus promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus is able to calm the storms. We need to remind ourselves that Jesus is bigger than any storm or wave.
I did wonder would you be more scared before or after Jesus calmed the storm, I reckon afterwards!
All Souls’
Regan preached about the battlefield of the mind.
Who are we listening too?
Who forms our identity?
What is it that guides or footsteps?
Are our choices based on faith?
Do we believe that God is able to set us free?
Do we believe he guides us?
Do we let him shape our identity?
Do we believe that our own ideas and petty rebellions will work out rather than trusting God’s goodness and perfect plan.
I think the three messages all sort of work together?

 

Or maybe that’s just my head?

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John 12, Mission

We want to meet Jesus?

John 12.20 “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus”.

This verse was at my licencing as Team Vicar / Minister at Large here in the Parish of Kingswood.

It has the Greeks approaching Philip and asking to meet Jesus, he introduces them to Andrew, and they take them to meet Jesus.

People want to meet Jesus.

Even people we don’t expect, want to meet Jesus, even the learned gentile Greeks wanted to meet Jesus.

Yet sometimes, we as his disciples have the awesome privilege of making the introduction, which leads to the question, are we a door or window pointing to Christ or a brick wall blocking him.

It also shows that Philip, one of the 12, gets a bit nervous and needs a bit of help from another disciple to make the introduction (via Andrew).

When we first started Street Pastors we learned to walk very slowly, to look around, to smile ridiculously often, making loads of eye contact, trying to make it as easy as possible for people who wanted to have a conversation with us.

It made me think, sometimes we make it ridiculously complicated for people to meet with Jesus with all sorts of baggage placed in the way of them meeting him, sometimes they bring with them huge amounts of baggage which makes meeting Jesus difficult.

I was thinking, when we help people with discipleship do we work with the Philip’s making it as easy as possible for them to make the introduction.

Are we prepared to help and accompany Christians as they step out in evangelism and discipleship? Maybe the call for some of us are to be “Andrew’s” to “Philip’s” where we walk with people to give them the confidence to lead people to Christ. So often we think as individuals, rather than working as a team.

I then thought about people meeting with Jesus, and realise how often I get stressed out about what the building looks like, our flyers, our coffee, how our music sounds, how our liturgy works, what clergy wear (or don’t wear) or what ‘churchmanship’ we follow…

The question I think we need to ask more and more is simple “IS JESUS HERE?”  And is Jesus meeting with his people?

What is our job? To help people see Jesus!

To make the introduction.

Jesus once said “when he is lifted up he will draw all men to himself”.

This made me think, what is the most attractive thing on this planet?

Surely its the presence of Christ with his people?

Perhaps this is why children were drawn to Jesus?

And as people the most powerful thing we can offer the body of Christ is ourselves full of the Holy Spirit and reflecting him, people who know Christ and whom he shines out of.

Often we have ideas of the Holy Spirit turning up in our worship times, and I worry that sometimes we think it is to do with us, what songs we use, the skill of the music group, the right blend of songs… rather than simply the people of God being hungry and wanting to meet with Christ.

God responds simply to our hunger for himself.

We want to see Jesus.

It is all about God’s Presence.

Moses knew that “Lord if you don’t go with us, how will we be different from any of the other nations on the earth”.

“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A.W Tozer.

We need to get back to a more basic Christianity which is more about Christ than the stuff around Christ.

A hunger for himself.

A desire to meet Jesus.

A desire for others to meet Jesus.

It is all about encountering Christ.

Scripture talks of ‘knowing’ Christ, let’s not be fobbed off with simply knowing ‘about’him.

I remember Hope’s first Christmas when she was less than a year old, she was more interested in the brightly coloured wrapped up boxes than the present inside.

Sometimes we as Christians get so worried about the wrapping we forget the Christ at the core.

Lets be people that encounter Christ habitually, people that make the introduction and enable others to meet with him too, both for the first time and more regularly in discipleship.

Let’s be people that help one another introduce people to Christ.

Let’s learn to be people free of baggage and clutter that gets in the way of people meeting with Christ.

…Because, we know that Jesus wants to be met with.

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