Luke 15, Salvation

I’m not lost, am I?

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You might have just skim read the passage, and thought, the prodigal son, not again, been there done it got the t’shirt.

But bare with me. I want to just ask you one question, which of the two sons would you say was the one that was lost?

I would suggested that much of our reading of this passage is a little wrong, we often read the this story following on from the lost sheep and the lost coin, and so we often call it the lost son, three things starting with the same word, that’s almost Anglican alliteration.

Yet I think we need to look at the start of chapter 15 to see what this passage is really saying, who is Jesus addressing, he’s talking to those who don’t think that they are lost, the ones who think that God must be very impressed with them as they have letters after their name, buy the daily mail, wear a shirt and tie, and have sat in the same pew since the Norman invasion.

They hear the first two stories and think that the young lad who ended up in his fathers arms via the pig sty is the one that is lost, not the nice ‘you can marry my daughter’ older brother, who you just know wears chino’s and deck shoes… yet in the final twist, perhaps Jesus is telling them, that the older son, is the one who is lost, because he simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Fathers awesome love for him.

I believe that Luke 15 is actually the hinge of Luke’s gospel, the main point all the way through the gospel is that those who think they’re out, from shepherds, gentiles, ritually unclean, prostitutes, tax collectors, gentiles find themselves embraced by the furious love of God… where as the priests and religious leaders, the people who should get it don’t.

This is a massive theme within Luke, it starts with Zachariah and Mary being contrasted together, a learned Priest in the temple does not believe God can miraculously open up a womb whereas a simple peasant girl (largely educated and probably largely ignored) understands, believes and puts her faith in God and surrenders to him.

A theme that continues through out the gospel.

Contrast Jirus’ despair when he believes  his daughter has died, with the woman with the issue of  blood who believes that just one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment can make her clean.

You see, many of us may have found God a little like the younger brother, but beware my friends, I know that I can, have and to my shame do, revert to an older brother attitude sometimes.

We forget that we too are forgiven sinners.

Cleansed, restored, redeemed and delivered.

We forget the sheer scandal that is the awesome grace of God.

The scary words of Jesus over the woman who anointed him with perfume before the Pharisee, is “those who have been forgiven much, love much, but those who have been forgiven little love little”.

We become so accustomed to the furious love of God (I love that phrase, it’s from Brendan Manning, author of the ragamuffin Gospel) that sometimes its life transforming power sometimes alludes us…

I think to call this parable the prodigal son, is a little inaccurate, firstly the word prodigal means extravagant and generous, so I’d say the extravegent one in this story isn’t the son, but the Father.

Also, the idea of a lost trilogy makes sense, but for too long we have got the wrong Son, marked as the lost one.

This Son didn’t realise how much his Father loved him.

In a script I once wrote about this story I included the lines “if it had been you, I’d have done the same for you” words which don’t feature in the Bible, but I think is the unsaid words in the story, would the fathers heart have broken the same if his older son had gone off, yes, of course it would. The younger son, actually realised a little more about the grace and compassion of his dad’s nature.

But even then, he doesn’t quite get it, he wants to come back too his Father not as a Son but as a Servant.

He  knows his father will have pity and mercy towards him, but full redemption and restoration, that is goodness and grace beyond his wildest imaginings.

A bit like in the story of Dicken’s Great Expectations, an ungrateful Pip is embarrassed and ashamed of  his unsophisticated brother in law/surrogate dad when he is living the high life in London, yet he collapses and awakes in his family home, Joe having paid off his creditors, the rejected and spurned one loves his and takes him home, paying his debts. In many ways a picture of the cross of Christ here.

So, maybe we can call the younger Son lost, as even he did not comprehend “how long and wide, and high and deep was the love of -The Father- the transcends knowledge” (I substituted the word God for Father from Eph.3:19)…

Maybe it is the story of a son who was physically lost, and one who lost but still at home?

Maybe it was one who was lost in terms of understanding his Fathers love, and other who was a little less lost?

Maybe it is a challenge to us who think we’re home and dry, to not take God’s grace for granted, to keep our hearts from becoming dry, from allowing the cancer of smugness to strangle our acceptance of grace.

Too often we think our acceptance of grace is something we receive at conversion, but no, grace is something we need like oxygen every moment of our existence and without it we wither and die.

Let us be people who embrace grace, like drowning me, seizing this beautiful gift with both hands, something we are desperate for, but something which our Father longs to pour out onto us.

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Matthew 13.

From a Dodgy Spell Checker…

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
 
18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Its not the first time my spelling has landed me in trouble: when I worked for St. Michael le Belfrey I was typing up an OHP and wrote the lines of the song when the music fades which include the line “I’ll bring you more than a song” yet I wrote “I’ll bring you more than a snog!” -oops.

Also at Cafe Tots our toddler group, I mistyped an email on one one occasion had the ‘o’ been accidentally replaced by and ‘i’!

Yet the worst mistake was once another mistype writing about ‘futile ground’ was meant to be ‘fertile ground’.

Yet it made me think about what all of us spend our times doing, is it fertile or futile?

Thinking about this passage, we  know there is nothing wrong with the seed, the word of God has taken root in human hearts across the world and across time and history…

So the seed is fine, the problem two fold:

Firstly do we sow generously or sparingly? For if we sow generously we will reap generously!

The second problem with the seed is where is it sown?

Throwing all your seed onto the path would be madness, chucking the lot into the bramble bushes would be bonkers, and scattering it on the rocks it a pretty pointless exercise… whilst giving the good soil a miss would be crazy!

Yet the truth is that this is exactly what too many of us, and our Churches, sometimes do with our time.

We spend years often preaching to those in the who have already heard it many times before forgetting that Jesus says “the fields are white to the harvest but the workers are few”.

Pastor Yinka from the Turning, said “The fields are white to the Harvest and the workers are you!”

The big problem is we never get out the barn and into the fields.

A great quote I read once was “The fields are white to the Harvest but we missed the opportunity arguing about what colour to paint the tractor!

White to the Harvest -What does that mean? When the crop goes white time is of the essence it needs to be harvested straight away as something has got into the plant that will destroy it, the only solution is to harvest it straight away! It is a picture of gospel urgency, or the need for immediate action, delay will mean the crop will be lost.

Sadly however, many of us have been preaching in Church to congregations stuff they already know, whilst outside the doors are those who know little but long to know about Christ. The tragedy is too often we wont move from our soil to theirs.

Recently I was in a headteachers office and she had written on the wall “Don’t water the stones” -a modern take on “don’t lay your pearls before swine” in other words, put your effort what you can change not what you can’t. Go through the doors God has opened, rather than trying to move resistive people into mission when they don’t want to go, instead knock the dust from your feet and go where the soil is fertile.

Go where God is calling, where he is already at work.

I remember speaking to someone who was talking about a situation and he made a joke of “God being at work in his world and sometimes the Church is playing catch up” -which is actually very much like to book of Acts.

Rowan Williams said “Mission, is finding out where God is working and joining in”… interestingly I believe it is often in unlikely places, or rather the places he’s at work are rarely the comfortable Churchy establishment (or the safe confines of our peer groups who look well a bit like us really!)  but rather where the hurting, broken, marginalised and disenfranchised are.

Mother Teresa laughed at people flying half way around the world to go to an area of revival for a blessing but the same people wouldn’t cross the street to be a blessing.

A challenge to us all, ask the Lord where is the good soil that you want me to sow into, where is fertile?

Ask the Lord where is the bad soil, where I am expending maximum effort for minimal impact, where is futile? And where is fertile? What and where should I invest my time energy and resources?

Jesus said “I only do what I see my Father doing”

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Salvation, sin

A “Good” Person?

The Egyptians had an idea about salvation, where you had to meet the boat keeper and if your good deeds out weighed our bad deeds you were okay and could cross into paradise.
This thinking seems prevalent today, I can call myself good if my good deeds probably, on a good day out way my bad deeds. The scales sort of balance up (ish/kinda/most of the time…)
I can call myself good if I’ve not done anything  really bad, like murder or something.
I can call myself a good person, if I compare myself with a really bad person (-look their scales are really tipping the wrong way, mine are only out by a little bit!)
I remember chatting on Street Pastors with my friend Mark Rich to a guy on a night out, this guy said  “I’m not religious but I have been a good person”.
The ‘Good person’ thing seems so prevalent, a lady I have lots of facebook discussions keeps on telling me what a good person she is and what she does for other people, which is nice, but I was thinking, being nice is nice, but Christianity isn’t just another word for being a nice bloke.
I even heard the phrase used so and so is  “a true Christian”, which was basically just meaning someone who was nicer than the average Joe in the street.
I’m sure Ghandi was a nice bloke but if you said to him (a Hindu) “you’re a Christian man”, he’d set you straight.
Even Jesus, -the only truly GOOD PERSON- said: “why do you call me good, only God alone is good” (although I think the context of this passage was to point to Jesus Christology, i.e. Jesus is God!).
I think we have got confused, we know we are saved FOR good works NOT BY them.
Christianity is actually about those of us who are aware that we’re not always nice, we do mess us, we make mistakes, we are sinful.
The Christian’s are people who know that when we stand before Jesus (not a boat keeper, but the host on  the door of the party welcoming his guests to come and dwell in his home) we know that if it worked on scales, we know they could well go the wrong way.
The Bible puts it very uncomfortably when it says “even our good works are like filthy rags” -a  verse which always challenges me when I get a bit smug and up myself
I told someone at Church I thought their behaviour was sinful (because it was) he was pretty prickly about it and I thought although he’d  say he was saved by grace, he clearly thought he was a good person and sinners were other people.
I think the ‘older brother syndrome’ creeps back into Churches sometimes.
It made me wonder isn’t there a Pharisee in all of us… we might know hypothetically that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”… but I’m pretty good really and God must be impressed with me…
Yet as a more modern hymn says : “Lord if you marked our transgressions who could stand?”
John Wells (who used to play Dennis Thatcher) said “I had low standards which I failed to meet” -I know I fail my own standards and I’m pretty good at self justifying and not listening to my conscience, so if even I know I’m not all that I want to be, if I can’t keep my own standards how can I keep God’s standards, as if he is any God at all his standards must be pretty high!
He (God) is holy, and I know I’m not.
I know I can’t reach him by my on human efforts and trying to butter him up makes God appear a bit shallow, anyway, what can I barter with before God who has everything and doesn’t need anything…
It is interesting being religious (horrible word) is  about people reaching up to God and trying to reach God and impress him… whereas Christianity is good news because it is God reaching down to us.
Undeserved.
Unearned.
Yet done out of love.
I know I’m a sinner, but I also know I am a beloved son.
I don’t have to earn my heavenly Fathers love, just as Hope my daughter doesn’t have to earn mine.
The prayer book nails it for me, when it talks about “not weighing our merits but pardoning our offences”…
God loves me, despite my sin, he knows the worst of me, and yet he still loves me.
It was whilst we were still sinners that Christ died for us.
A God who loves us, and GAVE himself for us.
A God who died for us.
When I first held Hope in my arms, I knew that I would willingly give this little bundle, any organ anything, because I loved her, would I rather die than her, of course.
If this is the reaction of a sinful human being towards a little bundle of flesh that had just come from the womb, how much greater is this from Almighty God who knows us even before we were born and knows every hair on ourr head.
Going back to the boat analogy is we can’t pay, we fail the test, and are stuck… but God in his great mercy paid the price, by dying for us on the cross, “he who had no sin  (Jesus) became sin for us so we might have the righteousness of God”.
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Fruit and fruitfulness, Malachi 1

Fag Butts or First Fruits?

Malachi 1:6…

You priests despise me!

“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’

“By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship.

“You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’

7-8 “When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!

11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’

12-13 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to meGod-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!

14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

Wow, this is a tough to read passage, even tougher when read in the contemporary language of the Message Bible.

The passage is about short changing God in worship.

Here in the passage Malachi accuses the priests of sacrificing blind animals and the runts of litters, when the Law of Moses said that the animals sacrifices were meant to be the first fruits, the best, not the worst of the crop.

David once said, “how can I offer God a sacrifice that has cost me nothing?”

I worry about much of the writings around modern Christian living (And I know got to get this sorted myself) but I worry that we sometimes pedal a ‘cost-less Christianity’ where people use phrases like “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today” -worship isn’t about what you get out of it, its because God deserves it.

Or people say “I’ve come to receive” -as St. Francis says “its in giving that we receive” yet we are so worried about what we get, that we don’t always think about giving, I believe that consumerism and individualism plague the western Church and are diametrically opposed to Kingdom living.

Or sometimes it is giving, but only what we are prepared to give, giving the stuff we were less bothered about anyway… My Training incumbent used to say instead of tithing “work out what you can afford and then give a little bit more”… that way you are always giving sacrificially rather than legalistically.

We talk about being culturally relevant, and I’m all for enabling people to encounter Jesus in the way they can understand, but I worry that sometimes we try to dumb down the words of Christ when he said “if anyone would follow me, he/she must forget self carry their cross and follow me”…

I often worry that sometimes Western Christianity feels like a hobby, and we come to Church only when there is nothing we’d rather do…

Our faith commitment sometimes can feel like that thing we do when we haven’t got anything better to do, and we wonder why the world doesn’t look at it and find it appealing (I’m not saying we aren’t under grace of course we are…) but when it comes to time with God or time serving God, does he simply get the fag butts of time rather than its first fruits -even as a minister it is easy to be so busy doing Churchy stuff that we don’t get time to spend with Jesus and we forget they are not the same thing.

It is very easy to say that we put God first, and it sounds spiritual, but  how does this work itself out in real life? Or does God just fall into line with our own wishes and desires.

I was at a meeting recently where there was a discussion about finding out God’s will… one guy said he thought it was all down to “willingness”;as the question isn’t really ever ‘does God talk’ but rather ‘do we want to hear’?

It never ceases to amaze me the tat that is dumped in Churches, too scruffy for my house but okay to be used for God’s service? -Not saying we ought to spend silly money on the latest stuff necessarily, but can you hear the underlying heart attitude?

A while ago  Mark has spoken about ‘the fear of the Lord’ and saying we need to re-establish our view of God’s awesome nature, rediscover God as God Almighty rather than just God All-Mate-y.

Although under the new covenant we don’t have to sacrifice sheep, goats and doves and so we’re probably not tempted to swap them over, but God does have our whole and entire lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ are we ‘short changing him’ by how we live.

Malachi asks ‘would you do this for you Governor’? -It’s an interesting question, do we treat God in a way we would be too embarrassed to treat another human being?

To be honest this whole thing is between you and God, we all know ourselves and this is to allow God’s Spirit to speak to what might be an uncomfortable area, but have the bravery to ask God the question and let him -who loves you- speak and challenge you, that you maybe purified like God.

I’ll end with a quote from an amazing song.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

that were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

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Fruit and fruitfulness, Malachi 1

Fag Butts or First Fruits?

Malachi 1:6…

You priests despise me!

“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’

“By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship.

“You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’

7-8 “When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!

11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’

12-13 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to meGod-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!

14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

Wow, this is a tough to read passage, even tougher when read in the contemporary language of the Message Bible.

The passage is about short changing God in worship.

Here in the passage Malachi accuses the priests of sacrificing blind animals and the runts of litters, when the Law of Moses said that the animals sacrifices were meant to be the first fruits, the best, not the worst of the crop.

David once said, “how can I offer God a sacrifice that has cost me nothing?”

I worry about much of the writings around modern Christian living (And I know got to get this sorted myself) but I worry that we sometimes pedal a ‘cost-less Christianity’ where people use phrases like “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today” -worship isn’t about what you get out of it, its because God deserves it.

Or people say “I’ve come to receive” -as St. Francis says “its in giving that we receive” yet we are so worried about what we get, that we don’t always think about giving, I believe that consumerism and individualism plague the western Church and are diametrically opposed to Kingdom living.

Or sometimes it is giving, but only what we are prepared to give, giving the stuff we were less bothered about anyway… My Training incumbent used to say instead of tithing “work out what you can afford and then give a little bit more”… that way you are always giving sacrificially rather than legalistically.

We talk about being culturally relevant, and I’m all for enabling people to encounter Jesus in the way they can understand, but I worry that sometimes we try to dumb down the words of Christ when he said “if anyone would follow me, he/she must forget self carry their cross and follow me”…

I often worry that sometimes Western Christianity feels like a hobby, and we come to Church only when there is nothing we’d rather do…

Our faith commitment sometimes can feel like that thing we do when we haven’t got anything better to do, and we wonder why the world doesn’t look at it and find it appealing (I’m not saying we aren’t under grace of course we are…) but when it comes to time with God or time serving God, does he simply get the fag butts of time rather than its first fruits -even as a minister it is easy to be so busy doing Churchy stuff that we don’t get time to spend with Jesus and we forget they are not the same thing.

It is very easy to say that we put God first, and it sounds spiritual, but  how does this work itself out in real life? Or does God just fall into line with our own wishes and desires.

I was at a meeting recently where there was a discussion about finding out God’s will… one guy said he thought it was all down to “willingness”;as the question isn’t really ever ‘does God talk’ but rather ‘do we want to hear’?

It never ceases to amaze me the tat that is dumped in Churches, too scruffy for my house but okay to be used for God’s service? -Not saying we ought to spend silly money on the latest stuff necessarily, but can you hear the underlying heart attitude?

A while ago  Mark has spoken about ‘the fear of the Lord’ and saying we need to re-establish our view of God’s awesome nature, rediscover God as God Almighty rather than just God All-Mate-y.

Although under the new covenant we don’t have to sacrifice sheep, goats and doves and so we’re probably not tempted to swap them over, but God does have our whole and entire lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ are we ‘short changing him’ by how we live.

Malachi asks ‘would you do this for you Governor’? -It’s an interesting question, do we treat God in a way we would be too embarrassed to treat another human being?

To be honest this whole thing is between you and God, we all know ourselves and this is to allow God’s Spirit to speak to what might be an uncomfortable area, but have the bravery to ask God the question and let him -who loves you- speak and challenge you, that you maybe purified like God.

I’ll end with a quote from an amazing song.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

that were an offering far too small,

Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

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Father God, grace, Holiness, Humanity

Approach Boldly.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

I was at the Living Acts Bible Study/Men’s Breakfast this morning and we were thinking about prayer.

Thinking about Coming to the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. My thoughts wandered to that amazing picture of the temple curtain ripping in two, from the top to the bottom, as Jesus cried out eith his gi so breath whilst dying on the cross the words “It is Finished”. The way to God is open. We can approach God with confidence because of the death and resurrection of Christ that cleanses us from our sin.

I was reminded of a story I read of JFk jr walking into the Oval Office, and climbing in the presidents lap at the heart of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this child was able to enter the heart of the most powerful office in the land, approaching the most powerful man on the planet not because of what he had done, but rather who is was, the child of the president, which meant he had access at all times to his Father. No one is allowed to just walk into the Oval Office, no one is allowed to call the President anything else than Mr. President (or Sir) yet JFK jr was allowed to call the President “daddy”.

We can approach our heavenly Father, because of his great love for us, that whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us, the righteous for the unrighteousness to bring us to God. His throne room is a billion times more powerful than America’s Oval Office. What is more we can call he Lord Almighty creator of heaven and earth Daddy, our Father, Abba. “See how the Father lavishes his love upon us that we may be sallee children of God”.

The problem is we don’t approach God with the boldness of beloved children. Often for whatever reason, we shrink back fom approaching our Heavenly Father. Often our prayers our two small when we know the awesome power and great life he has for us, perhaps we don’t realise Gods extravagance and deep desire to bless, not confident to pray with boldness and ask for what is really on our hearts. Often we feel too self concious of our sin to approach God, knowing we are sinful people but not remember than we are sanctified by the precious blood of Jesus, as the opening hymn reminds us that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus”.

So let’s approach Our Heavenly Father with boldness shouting out “Abba Father”.

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Uncategorized

Under Pressure!

The Band Queen sung a Song called  “Under a Pressure”.

It made me think about pressure and what it does to us, pressure can turn a lump of coal into a diamond or a pile of ash.

Pressure often shows us what we are really like underneath it all, the ‘real us’ comes out, not the us we want to show the world.

Pressure can reveal great beauty or real mess.

Pressure shows that discipleship is not just a series of coping strategies to deal with external circumstances, but rather discipleship is about allowing Gods Holy Spirit to work in our hearts, God often needing to work IN us before he can work THROUGH us.

When Christ was under pressure in the garden of Gathemene he said “not my will but yours” and whilst he was nailed to the cross he said “Father Forgive them they do not now what they are doing”. Pressure revealed the righteousness that was in the heart of Christ.

Pressure can be a mirror that shows us what we are actually like rather than fake aspirational version of ourselves we like to believe exists, the us without our flaws, cracks, insecurities, jealousies and bad reactions.. We sometimes need to be reminded that we still need Gods refining fire to work in our hearts and our lives, we are not sorted yet and still are in need of him.

We all face various challenges, obsticals, mountains, hills and barriers, no human being is immune “as surely as sparks fly upwards are humans born to  trouble”.

It is often our failures and disappointments rather than our successes and achievements have the potential to be our greatest teachers, who we are when we are waiting often can shape us more thank getting the thing we long for, the journey in Gods ecconomy is often as important as the destination.

Often the question we need to ask both when we are on top of the world us the same when the bottom has dropped out from our world is the same, God what can I learn from this time?

What is God teaching me?

How can become more like Jesus?

Will this experience make me “bitter or better”?

Often how we react to things determine our future growth and Christ-likeness.

We have choices whether to lay our baggage before the cross or to whether to allow Satan to use it to get a foothold.

One of my favourite verses is “all things work for the good of those who love him” this isn’t saying God sends us calamities, but rather he can even use awful things to bring blessing from the horrid things life has thrown at us. Gods power to bless is greater than the enermies power to harm.

Yet often there is a choice, do we hold on to our pain clenching it tightly and making it worse, or do we lay it before the cross of Christ.

I remember hearing someone once say “falling is not fatal” but it is giving  up that makes it so.

Our relationship with God is described by Peter in his epistle as a refining fire, it’s an on going process, increasing the value and purity of the Gold by skimming geoff the dross we are all works in progress but praise God he’s not finished with us yet, God isn’t going to settle for us being 12 carrot Gold but rather 24 carrot gold.

So, when we are under pressure, when we see glimpses of ourselves we’d rather not see, remember that Christ is beautifying his bride, and the bumps and bruises can become trophies of grace, and God is waiting and willing to come into the worst of us and bring his light, his love and transform and irradicate that in us which is not as it should be.

“create in me a pure heart O Lord” “Lord, you have searched  me and know me, see if there is any way within me which is grevious to you… And lead me into them life everlasting”

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