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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Bible

“Where does it say that in the Text?”

“…And where does it say that in the text?” asked Elizabeth Fisher, my Biblical Studies tutor.

Although she didn’t call herself an evangelical, she was ruthless in her expectation that our view-points came from scripture, actually from what scripture said rather than simply what we thought it said!

The Discipline of going back to the Bible seems to be somewhat lacking in some of our Churches as so often scripture is misquoted, taken out of context and non biblical texts are wrongly-attributed which aren’t actually in the Bible! Recently I heard some one talk about “the right thing which often isn’t the easy thing” confusing the words of Jesus with J.K Rowling’s  Dumbledore from Harry Potter.

Discipleship is not quoting your first ever Pastor parrot fashion, but actually s/he should have taught us to read the Bible for ourselves and be able to shape our lives and doctrine accordingly.

I have more respect for someone who disagrees with me, but has prayerfully sought God and wrestled with the text, and the wider text(s) than somebody who may tick the same doctrinal box as me, but really is simple regurgitating lazy third hand theology.

The question we need to ask ourselves, is are we ‘God Honoring’ in how we responsibly use the Bible, prayerfully, in context, or are we playing a bit ‘fast and loose with it?’

The reformation happened when Martin Luther, a German Monk, saw in scripture what it actually said rather than what he had been told it said (and meant) -“be penitent” rather than “do penance” -Which led to people reading the Bibles for themselves and discovering afresh that this was good news worth dying for (in fact many of them did).

It made me think, Truth is still true even if no one believes it, just as a lie is still a lie even if everyone believes it!

One of my friends, was at theological college and they were asking about peoples fears, one of the fears was about “loosing their faith” and Chris’ response inspired me… “I don’t want to be believing something that’s not true!”

He used to do some great spiritual chats with young people, and he used to say was “Don’t believe anything I say simply because I’ve said it, but because you have discovered it to be true”.

“When-ever I preach I don’t want people to blindly follow me and agree with everything I say, that is bonkers, but rather the question has to be does it line up with the word of God, and is he using scripture wisely and appropriately.

Bishop Stephen Conway once said “when we disagree we need to read our Bibles together more and more”.

More-over, in the book of Joshua we are told not to depart from the book of the law, not to turn from the right or to the left, actually both are unbiblical, because both are a turning from God’s word. Instead, I have found trying to be biblical has often been more like a tightrope walk, and on some occasions I have been accused of being liberal and on others of being too fundamentalist… Yet sticking closely to the word of God will get you in trouble probably from either side of the fence. Sometimes when I get attacked from both sides and no one seems happy, I think “perhaps I’m doing something right”!!

Yet the problem I think ultimately stems from the way too many Christians in this generation don’t know their Bibles very well, and reading it regularly sadly seems to be something that slips more and more.

Are we ruthless pursuers after truth? The dream of many of us, is that we actually have a more biblical Orthodox (right belief) but also a more Biblical Orthopraxic  (right living).

For me as a Vicars kid, part of ‘owning’ my own faith, was coming to my own biblical conclusions about various things, and the thing that really shaped what I believed most was aged 21 reading the Bible in the year. Something I’d urge us all do to.

So, my challenge for us all, is as we end 2016, let’s have 2017 as the year of deepening our relationship with scripture, let’s read the Bible together more. My prayer is lets not just get information to fill our heads (after all knowledge puffs up) but rather revelation for our hearts, which bring transformation to our lives and the lives of others.

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Discipleship, Worship

The Great British Breakfast.

There was a Pig and there was a Chicken sat together in a field, when a bus drove past with a poster emblazoned on the side of the bus saying “Eggs and Bacon, the great British Breakfast”.

The Chicken said to the Pig “doesn’t that make you feel proud?”

To which the Pig replied “For you this just requires a contribution but for me it costs me everything”.

There is a real difference between making a contribution or an offering, than making a sacrifice.

An offering or a contribution rarely causes us pain, where as a sacrifice is painful.

In the story often called the widows mite, we see one poor widow give two coper coins, all she had to live on, a real acute sacrifice, giving what she couldn’t afford, where the rich people may have given more but there was no element of sacrifice, because they gave out of their abundance of what they could afford.

The more I have gone on as a Christian the more I have discovered that when the call comes to make sacrifices that is where God reveals what is in our hearts and how our hearts look towards him.

I was reading recently the latest book by Phil Potter (Archbishops advisor on Mission and Fresh Expressions) who spoke of the former working title for the Mission Shaped Church report was called “dying to live”. That idea that in order to live we must die to ourselves, die to our personal preferences, die to consumerist church is the only way the Church can live. Jesus said  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”. Later in his book Potter says“A Church that refuses to sacrifice will die” and uses the illustration of a marriage where if there is no sacrifice within the relationship the marriage it will flounder and die.

Sacrifice is at the heart of who Jesus was as he left the glory of heaven to come to earth, suffer and die for us.

Yet too often we want to just give a contribution.

Was at a meeting today and there is a mission planned across the city over Easter, and one of the questions was ‘will we be able to get Christians out on bank holiday’, which made me wonder what kind of discipleship are we conducting if we can only get Christians to do something as long as it isn’t costly. It is why I love the Street Pastors vision so much, it is a “deep calls out to deep” type call, it is costly and sacrificial, but actually that is what it means to follow Jesus. We have to follow on his terms and not our own… The Rich Young Ruler who was told to go and sell his wealth before following Jesus, wasn’t able to dictate with Christ what following Jesus would look like, he walked away sad and Jesus didn’t run after him, but let him go, but with tears in his eyes. Jesus said “if anyone wants to follow me they must forget self, pick up their cross and follow me”.

Following Jesus is both a free gift, but also something that will cost us everything.

Let’s be ‘Pig’ Christians who sacrifice it all for the sake of Christ, rather than ‘Chicken Christians’ who just make a contribution.

I’ll close with a quote from Martyred Missionary Jim Elliott who said “He is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep (our lives), to gain what he cannot lose (eternity with Christ)”.

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Discipleship, Extravagance, Spirituality, Worship

Where is the extravagance?

One thing I noticed when re-reading the gospels recently is something we don’t often associate with Jesus is the word extravagance.

Yet feeding 5’000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish yet having 12 baskets left over can only be described as extravagant!

Filling the nets with fish until the nets started to give way with the miraculous catch of fish was extravagant, as was filling the huge stone water jars with the finest wines again was not only extravagant in quantity,  but it was also extravagant in quality too -“you saved the best til last”.

Yet there was extravagance in Jesus teaching too.

The welcome home of the prodigal son embraced and restored with the slaughter of the fatted calf that would have probably fed the whole village was excessive. Or the Good Samaritan did more than just let the wounded man ring his mum on his mobile, but rather went that extra mile with a smile, we read that not only did he stop, but he looked after the man, took him to safety and paid for his care.

We see extravagance in the worship of the sinful woman who poured a pint -A PINT- of pure Nard over Jesus (this was probably about a years wages, think £22’000 pounds poured out over one individual). It is an excessive, extravagant act of worship and adoration of Jesus.

Jesus’ life showed the extravagance of the Father in giving his one and only Son, not just to live among us, but to die at our hands. God is a God of extravagant generosity, as is seen in the wonder and the beauty of the awesomeness of creation where not even one single snowflake is the same as the one before.

King David understood something of this extravagance in his worship and response to God, his wife thought it was outrageous -and it was- but surely worship can, and should, be outrageous at times. King David danced before the Lord in his under-garments with the line “I will become even more undignified than this!”. Yet just prior to that as he returned the Ark of the Covenant back home, he killed a bull every few paces, such extravagance in sacrifice would have had a real dent in the countries economy, yet David wanted to give God a pleasing sacrifice, asking in the Psalms “Can I give you a Sacrifice that has cost me nothing?” -Clearly David thought the answer to that question was no.

Yet extravagance is not a word we think of when we think of discipleship or life together corporately as Church, in fact we often appear to value frugal-ness above generosity (yet God is not a frugal God!)…

We often seem to value fasting above feasting, and yet there are actually more mentions of feasts than fasts in the Bible.

Recently I came across a wonderful (Christian) Cafe in Wareham (called Not Just Sundae’s) where people buy coffee and wonderful cake on account for people to go in and get blessed, they also have a group working with young people with esteem issues and they let the kids choose whatever they’d like from the menu to eat and drink for free (how often in our Church do the kids get cheap and nasty squash with soft and stale biscuits). The ethos of this Cafe was to offer people “outrageous hospitality” which is something when I heard it resonated with my spirit, this is something so often missing in our Churches and our lives together and yet when it is seen it is so beautifully and wonderfully Christ-like.

Today I was talking with a lovely saint -who has blessed me so much in the past- telling me how his wife and he are going to foster displaced children and teenagers, another clergy family I know have a Syrian Pastor and his family living with them and not only do they share meals with them, the dad (a posh older vicar) was telling me about how he enjoyed water fights with the kids in the summer, not just welcomed into the home, but clearly loved as part of the family. Extreme love and generosity.

The Church, Barnies, I was on placement at in Derby paid for an asylum seekers family to join him from the Congo to Derby.

In Salisbury the Soup Run was called the “Banquet Run” because they wanted to give out nice home-made soup, because if you take Matthew 25 literally you are giving Jesus his evening meal and therefore you’d want to give him the best you can offer.

When I worked in Poole/Bournemouth I discovered that one of my friends, Jon, the Nightclub Chaplain bought ‘his’ Big Issue seller a Easter Egg, but went to Thornton’s and got a big egg and had his name written on it in icing (and didn’t tell anyone, we found out from the Big Issue Seller). Yet doesn’t that sound like Jesus?

The foodbank the other day were wrapping up Christmas presents for people to put in their food bags, yet each present was being wrapped so carefully and with so much love it moved me, and again I thought, this looks like Jesus.

Recently I had an email from someone who mentioned about caring for his wife with dementia and I thought actually there are so many unsung heroes here whose wonderful love is truly extravagant and Christ like which often is not recognized enough in our Churches, yet it is outrageous love for another human-being that reflects Christ in its patient on-going sacrificial love.

Yet sadly we see so often in our own lives, in our lives as Church together, in our discipleship that often we have such a poverty spirit, tight fisted generosity which is many things but cheerful it often isn’t.

I think when see this lifestyle challenge, we are scared of the cost and the challenge, the pain and the sacrifice. Everyone wants this in theory, but the challenge to actually do it in reality is a bigger call .

Shane Claiborne said once “Everyone wants revolution, but no one wants to do the dishes!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Humility, John 21, obidience, Pride, surrender

Letting Down Your Nets On The Other Side Of The Boat.

I was reading the other day the Bible passage about the miraculous catch of fish at the end of John’s Gospel.

The passage starts with the words they had been fishing all night and they were tired and they hadn’t caught a thing.

I empathised here, sometimes it does feel as though we have been fishing all night, we feel tired and discouraged and it feels as though we either haven’t caught anything, or the catch is so much smaller than we had hoped.

it’s not just ‘bad luck’ these guys are experienced fishermen, they knew all about fishing, they were “Fishing Shaped Fishers”, experts and yet they had caught nothing.

Often this too is how we can feel, we know we have read the books, been to the conferences, even had times when we have been part of the time when great catches of fish had been caught in the past… but now all night trying and nothing to show for it,

Then this non fisherman from the beach suggests letting the nets down on the other-side of the boat.

what does he know?

He’s not a fisherman?

why should we listen to him?

It made me ask myself, have I got a bit stubbon?

Am I a bit set in my ways?

Do I think I know best?

Am I teachable?

Does perhaps my pride get in the way of seeing God work?

Yet these fishermen, swollowed their pride and they let down their nets on the other-side of the boat and caught the greatest haul of fish in their career?

It reminded me of the story of Naaman, a commander in the Syrian  army with leaperousy for whom healing was available if he’d wind his neck in and wash in the murky river Jordan.

I wondered with mission whether I am reaching out in my way, or whether I am heeding his voice and reaching out his way?

Am I still attentive to the voice of Jesus calling out from across the water? Am I expectant to be guided? 

Am I putting my trust in my teaching or my teacher?

The thing I admire about the disciples is they are still trying to catch fish even though they have had no joy all night, how often have we heard someone say “we tried and it didn’t work so we gave up went home, put the kettle on,  and never went out again”… Yet they were at least still trying to fish.

How often do we feel like this, like we are tired, frustrated, disillusioned, run-down, broken and just wondering if all our work and effort was in vain? I know at times I do. Yet there is hope in this passage, that in the morning Christ calls out to us who are waiting and prepared and in the right place, a picture of faithfulness (ironically as they are here because they were faithless and deserted Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane) and we see the harvest reached and brought it, not by our power, might, expert knowledge but by heeding the words of our master.

when we hear new ideas do we think we know better, or do we ask ‘could God be teaching me something here?’

Do we need to be reminded afresh of our dependance of Christ?

 
Are we in the right place, waiting and prepared for the voice of Christ and the step of faith that ushers in the harvest.
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Remembering

Do This In Remembrance Of Me.

When we see the poppy it jogs our memory to remind us of those who have lost their lives in conflict and war.

When I see my wedding ring, I remember my wife Allana.

When I look at my wallet, I have a photo of my daughter Hope in it, and I remember her.

Jesus said when he took bread and wine, and said “do this in remembrance of me” he wasn’t meaning an occasional reminder of something we remember every year, but for the rest of the year often is not at the forefront of our mind.

Rather it was more like seeing your hand with the wedding ring on it, a constant daily reminder, just like seeing the photo in your wallet, keeping reminded of what really matters, what matters the most. You see we might only have communion maybe once a month or so, but actually eating bread and drinking red wine would be something that is part of everyday life, every meal.

When Jesus said “every time you eat and drink remember me” he meant living life constantly reminded of Christ and what he has done for us, habitually living with his death and resurrection as our focus, a reminder to live in –to inhabit-  his story.

A little like saying to a teenager, whenever you look at your phone remember Jesus.

Our memories effect our future choices.
Our memories shape who we are.

Yet sometimes our memories slip and lapse. Too often we get distracted by a different story, the worries and cares of life, the other stories which pull us from the one true and main story, the trivialities which get out of focus and become false priorities.

So, let’s keep our focus on remembering to keep the most important thing –Christ- as the most important thing, the eternal corrective, reminding us of what ultimately matters most and what doesn’t. A call to allow the death and resurrection of Christ effects and affects every choice we make, every relationship we have and every thing we are, not something lodged in the back of our minds, but living and dwelling where our story becomes entwined in God’s Story.

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Peace, Remembering

Blessed are the Peacemakers.

I have been thinking about Remembrance Sunday quite a bit today and I have been thinking about how we often romanticise conflict, when in reality it is truly hellish, death, destruction, mourning, pain and misery.

The problem is we live in a world of cartoon heroes and computer games which reset and everyone gets up again and restarts.
We live in a sanitized world of hollywood violence, without mess, blood and post traumatic stress.
I think our generation has lost the idea of the horror of war and violence.
Even in real warfare often soldiers no longer see the whites of people’s eyes but rather blips on a computer screen, removed so much by modern technology from the consequences of our actions, but for the family suffering drone attacks it feels very very real.If we don’t see what we have done, it doesn’t seem or feel real, but that doesn’t make not so.

Often we think of many of our actions as victimless, and yet no sin is actually victimless as it all resulted in the crucifixion of the Holy One, Christ Jesus.

I worry in our world we often see violence as a first resort rather than the last option, when every other avenue is closed.

I think too that often we have violence within our hearts, often the way we speak to people or about them can cause great damage… We all know the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me” simply isn’t true… We can, and sadly do, cause massive amounts of violence with out tongues, our words, or our on-line conduct. Back stabbing and character assassination can be fatal for people without resorting to physical punches.
In a world that seems more full of hate, fear and violence than many of us can remember, we have the challenge to be bringers of peace, peace-makers, shoes fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace.
We serve the Prince of Peace that urged us to turn the other cheek, which is incredibly tough at times, to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.
Although on some occasions conflict is healthy, the question is are we engaging in this conflict from the right heart, what is our motivation?
If it is a  love drama, bigging themselves up by running other people down, this is not the way of Christ…
Yet if truth and love are joined together we will want to see people set free and thrive, to see people flourish rather than flounder, grow  and move on and become more Christ like.
I think how can we expect there to be peace between nations when we can’t be at peace with one another?
We all have a personal responsibility to be bringers of peace, bringers of reconciliation, people of healing and not an inflicter of pain or brokenness.
The way of Peace is often the braver choice, non retaliation takes immensely more courage than to lash out.
So, the challenge to lets be people of peace.
Let our gentle answers turn away wrath, defusing tensions, hostilities and conflict rather than ignite and inflame.
Lets bravely and courageously make the world a less violent, hostile and nasty place as we seek to see the Kingdom of Christ come on earth as it is in heaven.
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