Discipleship, identity, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, New Year


i was watching Docrot Who on catch up, and it features a superhero character, a young guy swallows some gemstone from the Doctor and suddenly had superpowers, flies, superhuman strength and all that type of of thing.

As I flicked through my film magazine I have been struck by how many superhero movies there are coming out in 2017.

Ordinary people able to do extraordinary things.

Ordianry people able to overcome overwhelming obsticals.

As I thought about Superheroes I began to think how many of these guys are geeks -Spider-Man and SuperMan- not perfect toothed and chisled jawed Bond type but clumsy folk, awkward around the opposite sex and wear thick black rimmed glases!

The intersting thing about most of the superheroes ive watched is that they firstly have an acute sense of right and wrong, often the only one with the courage to not be swept along with the prevailing culture who seems oblivious to the wiles of the enermy, who seems to everyone else to be a good chap, but the superhero knows better.

Also, the superhero has the courage to act and not be a bystander, isn’t able to stand back and watch destruction, pain and hurt occur without doing something to prevent it.

Often too, the superhero, is prepared to to risk it all for the sake of the vision of a transformer and better world,  risking their lives often for the sake of someone so minor their character isn’t given a name on the final credits.

And yet as I thought more about this, I began to think actually the superheroes idea actually can teach us something of what it means to be followers of Jesus.

Now hold fire before you start donning a mask and wearing your pants on the outside of your clothes… But have a think about who we are.

We are ordinary people,we may feel a bit geeky or nerdy (I’m told there is a difference!) at times and yet we are ordinary people able to do extra-ordinary things, overcome overwhealming obsticals.

Yet as followers of Christ we are frontline fighters against an enermy the world is hoodwinked by.

As followers of Christ we are called not to just stand by but get involved and risking it all.

And although we dont have comic book abilities, we are temples of the Holy Spirit.

God himself, God of heaven, living within us.

He that is within us is greater than he that is within the world.

The same Holy Spirit is within us than that which raised Jesus from the dead.

I believe we should be expectant that God will work through us, Colosians talks of “God making his appeal through us” (just a few verses after it talks about “Christ In us the hope of glory”,reminding us of the illustration from 2 Corinthians talking about treasure -the Kingdom of God within us- in jars of clay -our common humanity).

So, although we’re not swinging around from building to building, we can be expectant that our very presence where-ever we go beings the light of Christ with us and thwarts the enermy, just our presence alters the a Spiritual DNA of the place. God himself chooses to shine out from us.

We have a God who chooses to work through his people, he wants his people to ben expectant, he even says “you will do greater things than I”.

More over he says to us “Just as my Father sent me, so I am sending you”. Luke and Paul write in scripture a lot about spiritual gifts, Luke showing Jesus performing miracles, authority over sickness, natural, the demonic and death, but then shows both 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation of CHristians  being active in healing, deliverance and even resurrection.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and that God can do “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine”. Be expectant that God wants to use us both in our normal and natural every day CHristian life AND supernaturally.

He promises “to give us the words to say” our words have a prophetic edge, sometimes we realise it, other times (often) we don’t… “We hold out the word,that give life” (Phil).

Our prayers can change and rewrite history “the prayer of a righteous person acomplishes much” through Christ we have the authority to see body, mind and spirit healed.

The problem is we have this awesome power at our disposal and yet sadly it is under used in our everyday life.

Sometimes we feel like Gideon “I am the least in my family and my family is the least in Manasah” and yet God used him mightily.  The issue has never been whether God can use us to transform his world, the issue is whether we let him work in us as through us.

So let us go I’m to 2017 with a holiness and with courage, willing to speak and serve for Christ’s glory, but also prayerfully expectant to be used by God both through natural and supernatural means.

We might not wander around in capes with a big S on our fronts, but we have a missionand a generous God who equips thise he calls, and I believe he is calling you to tonight.

Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart, instead lets respond in faith and expectancey that God will work through us supernormally and supernaturally.

As we step into 2017 let us remember we are not left high and dry but all the resources of heaven at our disposal.

Bravery, Discipleship, Peace

Hacksaw Ridge.

I had half written todays blog (looking at John’s 3rd letter, two very different influential leaders which John tells his protégé Gaius to emulate and to give the other a wide birth… anyway maybe I’ll get it out for tomorrow). But I was struck by an article about this film in a magazine I was reading, and it really challenged me, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all.

It is the true story of Desmond T. Doss, a Christian (7th Day Adventist) and a pacifist, who refused to go into battle with a gun, yet he went unarmed into the heart of battle in World War II, as a medic, in one battle Hacksaw Ridge he saved 75 lives. The first ever conscientious objector in America to win the medal of honour.

In the clip he speaks of making a broken world much better.

We see to the dreadful way he was treated by his own side, mistreating his and acting violently towards him… Yet many who sneered at the pacifists assumed cowardliness probably owed him their lives through his bravery, risking his life to save those who had mistreated him, sneered at him, laughed at him and treated him with violence.

I am not quite a pacifist, although I have sympathies with their viewpoint, but I see violence met with more violence just causes more violence to escalate.

Ghandi once said “if we take and eye for an eye then the world would soon be blind”.

The Dali Lama says “Our primary purpose in life is to help others, if you can’t help them at least don’t hurt them”

Yet Jesus talks not just of turning the other cheek, but goes further than asking us not to harm one another, he tells us to “love our enemies”.

And the prophets of the Old Testament paints a picture of a day ‘when spears will become pruning hooks and swords to ploughs –and people will war no more’. Shane Claiborne and his crew have done turning illegal weapons of street war and gang violence into gardening tools.

I recently preached about refugees and homelessness out of the back of the Christmas story (which feels so topical this year… If I was a film maker I would love to have set a version of the nativity in Calais Jungle!). I got the kids to look at their Palm prints, their finger prints, the eyes of the person next to them and their ears too, talking about our uniqueness and our preciousness to God. I went on to say that each one of us “our price is beyond Rubies” in fact our worth is so much that the God of Heaven stepped down from heaven to suffer and die to save us. If that is how much he loves me, then that too is how much he loves my friends and my family, and also how much he loves my enemy too, the people we walk past, the people cause us to shout at them when they come on the telly. It’s not saying God approves of what people have done, but despite however awfully people behave they are still loved by God, made in his image, and the cross offers them eternity, new life, forgiveness, Grace and love.

I can understand Desmond T. Doss’ position, that when I am armed with a gun in battle I am trying to kill a child of God, someone for whom Christ died.

My mind wandered to the Armistice Day Sermon by my friend Geoff Waters who talked about the bravery of the stretcher bearers in the First World War who stepped into no-mans-land and carried off the sounded soldiers, both allied and enemy, friend and foe.

The image of the medic, looking to seek and search for the injured to bring to safety and restore to health, wandering amid the mines, barbed wire and mustard gas felt like a powerful re-telling of the story of the parable of the good shepherd. Yet to risk your life rescue an enemy solider, a person who may have killed your friends and relatives and stands for everything you detest, could be a powerful re-telling of the story of the good Samaritan, or perhaps it is a illustration of the verse that “whilst we were Gods enemies Christ died for us”. Dying for an ally is brave, dying to save an enemy is truly Christ-like.

I am a big fan of the pacifist author Shane Claiborne living in one of the most dangerous cities in America, Philadelphia, who talks of “risking his life for peace” and talks of peace and love being things he would die for “but not to kill for”.

The Cross was be considered now a brutal war crime, a crime against humanity, an act of extreme violence, yet inflicted on one who didn’t fightback, who chose the path of non violence I’m sure he could have relied a revolution by his oratory or by his divinity slayed them all, yet instead he “was led like a lamb to the slaughter” and who forgave his murderers.

We believe that love is greater than hate.
We believe that light is greater than darkness.
We believe that hope is greater than fear.
We believe that peace is greater than war.

Our world is broken, back-to-front and upside down.

The old story of violence breeds yet more and more violence, we need a new story and that story is actually a very old story, a story of a God who loved and died for his enemies.

I don’t believe our conflicts in our world are going to be solved by arms races, massive walls and diplomats rushing around the globe, but rather I believe peace is found in following the path of the prince of peace, the lamb that was slain.

Discipleship, justification, Spiritual Health, Theology


The Bible uses the phrase “justification” a lot, by faith in Christ’s one full sufficient, sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction we are justified thought Faith, justified means that we are put right with God, our relationship with him is restored, in fact some have commented that being justified by Faith in Christ we are before God “JUST-IF-I’D never sinned”.

I began to think of the whole concept of justification, when we mess up we try and justify ourselves, I was tired, it’s everyone else’s fault, I’m misunderstood or whatever… Yet self justification often is our way of not taking responsibility for our actions, not owning up to our share of blame or culpability.

Yet this is why “confession is good for the Soul” as when we confess our sin to God we can’t fob him off with excuses or bend the truth in our favour, he’s not fooled by us, nor can we pull the wool over the eyes of the all knowing God.

The Anglican liturgy say “we confession that we have sinned against you and against our neighbour in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness and our own deliberate fault”… It is owning our sins, taking responsibility for our actions and behaviour and when it falls short of the standard we know the Father wants from us and coming before him with the bravery to say “I sinned, I did wrong”… scripture say “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (self deluded) and the truth is not in is, but, if we confess our sin God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

Honest confession to God is showing a self awareness of our life and our spiritual walk, it takes bravery to admit to ourselves and to God when we haven’t got it right and done all that we should have done, or done what we ought not to have done.

This isn’t a flippant thing, or at least it shouldn’t be…

Yet we are called not just to be honest with ourselves or with one another, but also requiring that level of honesty and authenticity with one another, we can’t confess and say sorry to God, we can’t just know our own faults in our own heads and not let that effect our relationship with one another. We need to be people brave enough to admit we are wrong, to say we are sorry, to acknowledge our imperfections, fallenness and our humanity, in a world where nothing is ever anyone’s faults this is radically different and counter cultural.

Yet people might be saying I’m not apologising for things that aren’t my fault, there are times when people hurl accusations at me which aren’t justified, sometimes the right and honourable thing is to justify yourself and argue your corner?

I think that is a broken and messed up world, people do sadly tell ties and embellish the truth and try and re-write history and point the blame elsewhere.

Yet when we are faced with criticism what do we do? Are we able from our place of security in God to wade through what might be a tough challenge but one we might need to heed and what is slander, even if someone is 90 per cent wrong there is still 10 per cent we could learn from.

At college when I was training to be a vicar we were urged to be reflective practitioners, stepping back and reviewing situations and often ourselves within the situation, a great question to ask is “what can I learn from this?” Or “what is could God teach me through this?”

We have a rational and logical reaction after we have had an emotional one, yet too often we speak from a place not of prayerful reflection and wise review but from the pain of raw emotion. Criticism too often hurts us deeply as often it is levied at something we have worked hard at or invested a lot in, and sadly all of us to some degree struggle too with the sin of pride which often blinds us to our own faults and failings but conversely helps us to see the flaws and failing of others far more vividly, pride distorts our vision and dulls the voice of Gods still small voice whispering in our ear.

Our justification of ourselves comes from our own identity and self worth, yet as someone once wrote “the person who kneels before God can stand before anyone”, we are justified by God, made righteous in his sight.

Our identity doesn’t rest on the shifting sands of what other people think of us, instead let us be secure in who were are in Christ.

That doesn’t mean we never apologise for getting it wrong, in fact quite the reverse, but it shows strength is showing the “weakness” of apology, but in admitting our faults is liberating, it reflects a beautiful integrity and authenticy to a world desperate to but fearful to experience such a thing. More over it frees us from the slavery of our value being dependent of what other people think of us.

Yet in the cases of slander and vilification, it’s trusting that one day God will justify us, knowing that ultimately what matters most is not what those around uaa think, but living for the audience of one. God is a God of vindication and justice, his spirit is the spirit of all truth, he sees and he knows what is true. He is a faithful God. When I felt hurt about something when I felt unfairly treated on one occasion I was given this “the Lord will fight your battle you only need to be still” -the problem with this was that everything within me wanted to justify my behaviour and fight back, yet this shows my heart that at times our reputation can matter more that Gods opinion of us, God who sees the heart.

So, let’s us come humbly and openly before the God  who justifies, let us know the power of his forgiveness spurring us on to live differently, not seeking our own justification from ever situation but rather letting even our critics teach us lessons.

Knowing we are justified by God gives  us the bravery to let the walls down with others, be vulnerable and willing to say the word “sorry” the hardest word to say to others and the hardest word to say to God, the reason it is so hard is because it means we have looked at ourselves and have had the bravery to see ourselves not as we want to be but actually as we are, removing the rose tinted glasses.

Let us with Gods help take this brave look at ourselves as we come to the God who brings his forgiving, restoring grace, in whose redemptive work upon the cross we are justified.




Bravery, Discipleship, Godliness, paradigm shift, perspectives, Spiritual Health

Dont Drink the Pump Clip.

“I try to drink the beer rather than just the pump clip” said beardy Mike, my friend who runs the local pub.

Many people will choose a beer not based on what it tastes like but rather on the marketing plan around the pump clip, is it eye catching and memorable? Often an average beer can sell well because of its presentation, and a great beer is over-looked because of its lack of showy presentation, it’s only a real CAMRA (CAMpaign for Real Ale) buff that knowledgable about beers than can look past the label, the pump clip, and choose a great pint.

It made me think of how as human beings we often are a bit like beer pump clips, try and put on a brave face, a good show. Often what people see is far removed from what people get. In some ways we all put on masks to show the world.

Yet The prophet Samuel said that “people look on the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart”. God knows the real beer rather than being fool by a fancy clip.

We live in a superficial world, where the external is often valued above the internal, where breadth often matters more than depth, which is the opposite of how Gods Kingdom world.

The world maybe impressed with our rhetoric, dazzled by the stuff we encircle ourselves with, the the wit and wisdom of our facebook posts yet God sees right through all of this and sees the heart of things.

The problem is sometimes we end up “believing our own press” or as a self protection mechanism become self deluded and choosing to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to self awareness.

Yet, God sees us above our brave faces and bravado, God sees us beneath our smiles, and knows who we really are, the “the we that we try to hide”, the parts of us we don’t like or even to acknowledge, the areas we try to govern he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows the dark corners and the deep scars in our hearts, he knows the sin and the brokenness lurking within each one of us.

I think as we get ready to face a new year knowing God knows us through and through, knowing he loves us, knowing he’s for us and not against us, know too he is our healer and specialises in restoration, know too that he can see within us beauty and potential we may have missed –knowing what we and he can do together-.

The problem is not that God knows us, it’s not about being “honest to God” but rather honest with ourselves before him.

Although he knows us fully we need to give him permission to access all areas of our hearts and minds, just as the Holman Hunt picture shows the handle on the inside, God in his grace asks our permission to come through the various doors and areas of our life, knocking as he does on the door, heeding his voice, and opening the door (Rev.3:20).

He will bring his light into any shadowy or dark areas of our lives but only if we invite him too. As Graham Kendrick wrote in Shine Jesus Shine “search me, try me, consume all my darkness” or as the Psalmist writes “search my O God and know my heart and see if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps.139).

Allowing ourselves to see ourselves with Gods eyes is a brave step of faith and also one of surrender, where we have to deal with uncomfortable truths of our sin and fallenness.

Sometimes requiring us to open up those firmly sealed doors behind which lurk pain and hurt that scream out through so many areas of our lives but we often keep their control room locked and bolted and letting our gentle God, the God of all comfort, let his healing and restoring gracious spirit minister to that place of pain by visiting it together with us holding our hand and dealing with it together with us.

To allow God to see us and help us to step up -or step out- into the new things that he has in store for us, the things we don’t thing we can do on our own or by ourselves. Knowing God is for us and not against us, knowing that he chooses to work in partnership with his fallible and broken creation.

Know that God is a healer, who loves us whose plans are to “prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future” and know that he wants the best for us, know that with all that hurts, causes fear and is broken within us can be laid at the foot of Christ’s cross knowing he can be trusted with all that is within us if we are brave enough to let go of it and give it to him.

The phrase that prompted this article was hearing Coldplays song “Fix You”… My prayer is that will be our experience of the healing restorative power of Christ “fixing us”…

And in letting Christ work in us we may show a much better and more beautiful “Pump Clip” to the world.



Christmas, Easter

Continuing to live out the Christmas Story…

Christmas has come and has gone, the day we have spent ages waiting for has now happened, it won’t be long before the turkey is fully consumed and the decorations go back in the box for next year.

It’s almost a ‘reset’ moment for normality to return, soon everything will be back to normal, and it probably won’t be long before Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day and then Easter Eggs start appearing the supermarkets. We are caught sometime on what feels like a bit of a hamster wheel of celebrations of annual events and peak of celebration and then the reset to normality.

Yet I wonder whether this is really what celebrations, especially religious festivals, are meant to be?

Or are they meant to leave us profoundly changed by our regular encounter with them?

Christmas and Easter are not meant to be just ‘tick box’ festivals where we enjoy a few off work and enjoying some extra chocolate –and while I’m at it ought we not be celebrating Pentecost –the birth of the Church with coming of the Holy Spirit- but rather remind us of the bigger story of who we, what life is actually all about.

For the Christian Christmas causes us to focus afresh our reflection and fresh encounter with the radical truth of the miracle of the incarnation, God becoming human, God become one of us, the light of the world stepping down into darkness, heaven literally touching earth and immersing himself amongst the mess of human existence.

A God who is not remote and distant, not sat in a cloud unaffected by pain, misery, grief and suffering, instead one whose body bears the scars of living amongst humanities brokenness.

A message lived out with a backdrop of homelessness, poverty, Roman occupation and ending with genocide and the flight of a refugee family, this is not a sanitised idealised Hollywood world but the real world we all encounter from times to times.

Christianity is a faith that is firmly earthed in reality of life, and understands the human condition better than any other book ever written in human history.

Gods real life encountering our real life, God not just interested in our respectable elements but in our brokenness, failures and unrespectability.

The birth story of Jesus, God as one of us, a High Priest who is not unsympathetic to our weakness, a High Priest who was tested in everyday and was without sin, is the beginning of a story meant to consume us, and write us into a new and greater story where our story and Gods story entwine, both stories harmonising together to write Gods big story in his world, a multifaceted story made person for each of us set where we actually are not waiting gif us to reach a certain level of attainment before the story can start.

The story of Christ Birth is a journey towards Easter, yet one our society resist. I quoted Billy Connerlys grandchild who had a moment of realisation in a nativity that Jesus was to die on the cross when he screamed out “they killed baby Jesus”. A connection that sadly too many people in today’s society haven’t made.

The Easter story, shows us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that we are people in need of fixing, people in need of a Saviour. I need Gods forgiveness, and cannot earn it, I am stuck and powerless unless God himself makes the first move. I am stuck in my sin. I come to communion empty handed as the old hymn writer puts it “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling”, although we come empty handed we come before a generous God who paid the price in full “one full, perfect and sufficient, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” (Book of Common Prayer).

Yet the Easter story not only is a really uncomfortable mirror to our souls, it also is a story of victory and joy, as this story shows us that sin, suffering, death and hell do not get the last word.

God has spoken, God has intervened in human history, literally making history his story and the resurrection validates the words of Christ who said on the cross as he breathed his last “IT IS FINISHED”.

And Gods words are backed by power from on high as the Risen Christ promised not to leave us as orphans, but to send another, the promised Holy Spirit… A promise that is still on offer today for us, for you and for me. A promise, that he (Christ) in us is greater than he (Satan) that is in the world, a promise that we have the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave active in your life and mine.

So, rather than just going through the motions of religious Festivals and other celebrations, let’s be people that allow this story shape and change us. As we inhabit the story of God, and he inhabits our story, we discover anew truth that lead to transformation within our lives and changes us.

To often as Christians we know the story, but remain unchanged by it, we visit rather than inhabit the story of God, Gods story and our stories rarely intertwine but rather run along parol-lines only occasionally converging.

Lets not be written into a story of commercialism, that keeps on turning from one season to the next, that only causes us to spend out money, as ever changing onto the next celebration but leaving us untouched and unchanged.

Don’t let the baby in the manager is moth-balled for next year as the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs begs for your wallets attention, instead let’s be people that live lives living a different better story, one that the world thinks it knows, but needs to be seen lived out and invited into…

The Gospel tells us we are leopards who can change their spots, and holds out a story of hope to world which is literally dying to hear and be apart of.

brokenness, Christmas, incarnation, Pain, Servanthood., Suffering.

In the Poo.

At our nativity service I got everyone to come up and put newspaper headlines into the manager with baby Jesus as a prayer activity but also as a sign and symbol of Jesus coming down amid and amongst the brokenness of this world.

to illustrate this I really wanted to bring into Church a bucket of manure, a really stinky bucket, to show the smell that the Creator of the universe was born into, Jesus was literally born surrounded by crap.  Jesus was born how he lived, surrounded by the world at is vilest, messiness and most broken, and yet amid all that he wasn’t tainted by it, rather he overcame it, he brought beauty out of his brokenness, bringing hope to the hopeless, bringing salvation, restoration, tranformation from gutter right accross every stratosphere of human divide, with even the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man on earth came to bow the knee to the babe of Bethlehem.

As we think about the image of crap, I was struck by two images:

Firstly, from my time working in a nursing home, whereby if a patient soiled themselves we came in with rubber gloves, plastic aprons and air freshener… Arms length and trying not to gag.

Secondly, of seeing many babies and their mums at our parent and toddler group, dealing with horrific smells from down bellow, with crying babies held close, comforted and loved despite the stench.

Love does not hold back at arms length, but embraces amid the filth and stench and sees beyond it all the person who is loved more than anything.

Jesus is the latter, the second image, drawing close and loving even when the world was at its most vile and disgusting.

All the way through his life Jesus “touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean”… A women with “an issue of blood” ritually unclean, defiled, banned from the temple touched the hem of his garment and rather then her defilement tainting Christ as she touched him but she was both healed andcleansed no longer unclean, untouchable and defiled, instead purified, his holiness was bigger and greater than her condition.

We don’t need a lecture here to know the world is not as it should be, the newspaper headlines scream it out to us all the time.

Nor do we need a rant here talking about how people are screwed up and broken, we probably know this too loud and clear.

We know the problem.

We know the world is defiled and full of crap, our lives are at time much the same, the good news is that there is a solution and rescue amid the mess, the baby Jesus who grew up to take all the vilest depravity humanity could throw at him, and carried them on his shoulders as he was crucified for you and for me.

He took the crap for you and for me.

All my sin, the junk and the skeletons in the closet, brought into the light and washed away by his death and resurrection.

Jesus once spoke to a guy with leaprocy and asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” And the guy replied “I want to be clean” and with that Jesus reached out and touched him, again like the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus was defiled but rather his touch made the leaper clean.

In many ways we are like that leaper before Christ, he asks us “What do you want us to do for you?” Will we echo the leapers statement of faith and say to Jesus, I want to be clean?

In the book of Isaiah it talks of our sins being like scarlet but becoming as white as snow, let’s come to him afresh for cleansing, we can’t pretend there isn’t a problem anymore like the stinking teenager trying to mask a ton of BO by spraying their clothes with Lynx deoderant, instead it is saying “I know my need of cleansing for God, I know you are a God who meets me in the gutter at my lowest point”.

As I type this I am reminded of a old hymn which says “Foul I to the fountain fly wash me saviour lest I die”… Knowing that the stench of our sin is more than just a bit unpleasant, but is actually fatal, and our cleansing and purification is not just life saving but life giving and life transforming.

Yet Jesus’ decent from heaven to the gutter is I believe actual a model and a picture we as Christians are supposed the emulate.

Jesus called us to be people of salt and light, light that drives away darkness and most most needed in the darkest placesm and salt that combats decay. In fact the Romans used to put salt on their poo to combat the smell and the germs, so when Jesus is talks of being the salt of the earth, it is a call to the darkest, smelliest, vilest places that need the transforming good news the most.

So, Jesus descended into the worst of the world’s crap, we are called to do like wise.

Mother Teresa once famously challenged of us as CHristians to “find their Calcutta” -I believe there will be somewhere we are called to serve, to wash off the dirt -the crap- of the feet of that place, and rather than letting it change and taint us, instead lets be the ones bringing the change and the transformation, for the glory of God which is unstoppable despite the unmentionable things this world throws in our path and I’m our way.




Authenticity, community of grace, Gospel, Holiness, justice

Another Letter, or maybe a Post Script…

Yesterday I wrote a few thoughts on what Christ might write in a letter to us, and my idea started of about our relationship with Christ as primary focus, on wanting a Church that primarily is in love with Christ, hungry for more of him, seeking him together in unity.

Yet I thought that maybe a post script might be needed, as I think that maybe we to think if we are people in love with Christ, then we become like those whom we love, we become like those who we spend time with.

what does it look like to live lives in love with Jesus and following him.

Here is Shane Claiborne thoughts on what the Spirit maybe saying to the Churches…

It made me think of Holiness not as avoiding sin, and sticking to a “do and don’t list” -although it is important to not engage in sin, but it is so so much more than that, it is actively doing righteous, beautiful and transformational living.

A deeper authenticity, where our words match our rhetoric, a life that reflects Christ in the big and the small, gospel living that is truly good news -good news not just good news for when we die, but showing Jesus is good news now today in our real and everyday lives.

A Christianity that isn’t superficial, a Christianity which isn’t just signing up for a set of programmes, but rather a missional family seeking first together the Kingdom of God, where Iron Sharpens Iron as one person sharpens another, carrying one another’s burdens,  and encourages us to be more more radically like Jesus in all we do, more dangerous to Satan’s plans as an ambassador of Christ, advancing a new and different Kingdom breaking in, one where the hungry are fed, those who smell real bad are embraced, those whose social skills are loved and listened too, the poor get are welcomed like Kings, the blind/sick/ill experience the radical power of God’s ability to heal, and the good news -the Gospel message- permeates everything we say and do.

Church that takes risks both corporates and individually -faith lived out in a way that makes us “gulp rather than yawn”.

It is easy to get all aspirational, but the truth is, that things can be changed by people like you and me with God’s help, it is a challenge, it is costly, it is violently counter cultural and calls for discipline, commitment and sacrifice but it is possible.

The world is crying out for a Church that looks like Jesus again.

Jesus said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”, this is the mission of God’s Spirit in his world, because the local Church is the hope of the world, that is me and you together doing our bit can bring world transformation. It doesn’t just mean watching Christ build his Church and us huddle inside it as some kind of remnant whilst the gates of hell bang on our doors, no for too long we as Christ Church have behaved like victims, playing small and playing defensively in the minor leagues, yet we are more than Conquers through Christ, the Gates of Hell don’t bang on our doors, we bang on theirs, and ultimately they can’t prevail against us.


A Letter to BS15?

I was reading the letters to the Churches at the start of Revelation (if you’ve not read them, they are only a couple of chapters (2-4) in the book of Revelation.

Great Advent Reading, great as a challenge, encouragement and a rebuke!

Have we ‘forsaken my first love’?

Have I become lukewarm and apathetic at times?

Have I sold out and compromised on issues of holiness at times?

Have I got too religious and lost focus between religion and Christ?

I wondered what the Risen Christ would say about Kingswood,  BS15, if he was writing us a letter today?

Now, it would be easy to rant about all my frustrations with a loud voice here…

Show the people God!

Pray for a reminder of God’s awesomeness, his power and might, but also his love for us all as individuals, the bible tells us that not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing about it, he even knows how many hairs there are on our head…

I remember my friend Jimmy Rocks being asked what he was passionate about, and I expected him to say “evangelism”, “signs and wonders”, “Discipleship” or “issues of justice”… -the kind of answers I’d have given- but instead he said this “the presence of God”.

Jimmy had grasped something, to often we often know about God, but we can actually know God, encountering him personally.

Something of that pearl of great price, worth giving up everything for, ultimately everything is about Jesus.

It’s not about seeking his hands, what he can do for us, but about seeking his face, seeking him for the sake of our love for him.

Encountering the presence of God, sensing his presence is the fuel that drives everything else, but when we seek God to simply re-fill us we miss the point of what actually it is all about.

We often pray that people will get inspired to be intercessors, or to be missional, or to serve in any way but unless this comes out of an overflow of our encounter and relationship with Christ then it could be simply good but empty works.

So pray afresh for Christians that we first are transformed by our daily renewing encounter with God.

That there is more than we have had before!

Pray that too often we live on yesterdays treasurers, and limit ourselves to the experiences of God we have already have had, God is constantly calling us to know more of him and experience more of him…

I once talked about not trusting a skinny chef, the image is that if we want to see other people encountering and falling in love with Christ then we need to be captivated and falling in love with him too, on a daily basis, going deeper.

Too often I think we get stale, and comfortable, when there is so much more to experience.

Moses says (reasonably late on his life) show me more of your glory, which is a great prayer, but then I thought he’s seen 12 plagues, the red sea part, a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, water coming out of rocks and the miraculous provision of manna and quale… and yet he says “show me more of your glory”.
Pray for unity…

Pray that unity is actually lived out amongst Christians loving one another and standing shoulder to shoulder in proclaiming Christ and making him known. Unity was the prayer of Christ in Gethsemene but yet we as Christians are so divided, separate, doing their own thing in their own way, and yet we never make it a priority to join together forgetting that this was Christ’s number one priority, the theme of his final quite time with the father that his Church should be “one and you and I are one”.

And I’ll close with a passage of scripture which never ceases to challenge me to “seek first God’s Kingdom”.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”  2 Chron.7.14.




A Simple Blog about Prayer.

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[c]
45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus wants his disciples to pray, in fact he really wants his closest mates to be praying for him as he approaches the toughest challenge of his life, and yet they are caught napping. When the need is greatest, the disciples are caught napping.

“being ready” is a major theme of Jesus’ teaching, describing his return like a thief in the night, telling parables of the careless bridesmaids who run out of oil (Oil -a symbol of the Holy Spirit) and aren’t around when the Bridegroom returns (Bridegroom -an image for Jesus), or the parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. John the Baptist’s message was to get ready “prepare the way…  for the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand”.

Sadly, this can feel a bit like a picture of the modern day Church caught napping.

Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.

When I arrived in Kingswood in the parish they had a million and one music groups, flower festivals, concerts and socials but not a single prayer meeting in either Church.

Yet sadly  prayer is seen as an optional extra, something just for the keenest. Yet could Christ say to us and our Churches “why are you sleeping” and would he challenge us to “get up and pray”.

Mark Rich says when he goes to a Church the first thing he does is look at the notice sheet and counts the weekly prayer meets as a barometer of the health of the Church.

Unless we have a supernatural element to who we are, we engage with God in prayer we are simply “A Rotary Club with a Pointy roof” to quote  Archbishop Justin.

Churches really  aren’t measured by their activity or grandeur of the building but in the depth of their relationship with God.

Archbishop Justin continues “without prayer there will be no renewal of the Church, and without a renewal of the Church, there is very little Hope for the world”.

A Church will never be a praying Church unless its component parts -its members- are praying, and I mean really pray, not politely going through the motions dutifully, but seeking God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength. A great quote from Pete Greig is our prayers need to be “more Fight Club and less Golf Club!”.

If you want your Church to be a praying Church, then the best advice I can give you is to pray.

Bring it into conversation, let’s pray about this, I’ll be praying for… I was praying… and let’s be Churches of testimony -when God answers our prayers, let’s share it with the Church to encourage and raise the faith of those around us.

And rather than just being a praying Church, let’s join with other Christians in our local area and pray with them and for them, as ultimately, we want to see the body of Christ in this area built up, encouraged and equipped.

As I wrote this I’m reminded of the image of the Roman Soldiers that stood together interlocked with their shields, the idea of needing one another, and fighting together, remembering the adage “united we stand and divided we fall” -so true in the context of prayer, particularly from this passage.

In seeking to encourage Church to go deeper, and become more prayerful, I have experienced some nastiness, opposition and resistance, and maybe you might too? In many ways we are being revolutionaries, our prayers re-write the spiritual DNA of our areas, our prayers are powerful and dangerous so of course Satan will try to keep us asleep rather than being awake and at prayer.

One quote from Mark Rich is “Satan laughs at our schemes, sneers at our plans, but he trembles when we pray”.

want us to be a Church that makes Satan tremble, don’t you?

Let’s ask ourselves are we as Churches (and as individuals) filling our lives with things that cause us to spiritually fall asleep and distract us from prayer and our relationship with God.

 Should we  keep doing them?

If the answer  is yes, what can we do to keep us awake, alert to the spirit and prayerful?

Let’s pray for a new wave of prayerfulness to sweep across this area and across our nation, let us be part of a new awakening in the Church of God at this time…

Let us wake up and get on our knees.

Jesus, priorities

Keeping the most important thing the most important thing.

I wrote recently about Church being US, you and me, living it out in community and relationship with each other, needing each other, and other people needing us.
The acknowledgement that we sometimes as individuals and community don’t get it right, but still with the challenge to seek to live it out. Ending with the prayerful challenge of John Wimber “Lord, Send Revival, Start with me!”
The sense of personal responsibility for the Church, our role within it, and our calling serve Christ and one another, to keep ourselves and our brothers and sisters sharp, as a friend once said “Contending for one another’s hearts”
I did the whole article without mentioning the words, Leader or Pastor or Vicar, because actually in one sense before the cross of Christ we are all equal, sinners in need of grace, we all have a calling, and I believe a calling to leadership is a call to serve, following the call of him who took a towel and washed his disciples feet.
In our culture Politicians talk about serving us, but really rule us, this shouldn’t be so for the Christian as the only one called to reign is that of Christ Jesus.
Christian ministers we are called to serve, as Jesus himself said: “I have not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many”.
Too often, as I have said before we have a model of leadership which looks more like Alan Sugar than Jesus Christ.
Yet we do need leaders.
I’ve seen Churches become leaderless, or their leader not step up to the plate, and an unlead Church doesn’t go anywhere,  the Church normally grinds to a halt… rust sets in, and the Church fossilizes.
Leaders need to lead.
If Moses had offered no leadership the people of Israel would still be slaves in Egypt.
If Nehemiah had not offered any leadership the walls of Jerusalem would not have been rebuilt.
If Jesus had not lead the Disciples you probably wouldn’t be reading this now.
Probably all of us lead in some form or another, but the key question is what and where are we leading God’s people in?
I did a course called the Arrow Course, A course designed for younger leaders, it’s strap-line was “To be LED BY Jesus, to LEAD like Jesus and to LEAD more too Jesus”.
Leadership centred in, through, by and to Jesus Christ is the kind of leader I want to be like. Christian leadership like everything in the Christian faith when boiled down to its key components should be totally and unapologetically ALL about Jesus.
If I wanted a biblical picture to try and sum up what I want my life to be all about, I’d choose the pearl of great price, a picture of giving up everything for Jesus, I’d like to be the kind of person who if I was a stick of rock has the words JESUS emblazened through my very core… I know I fall short of this many times, but that’s got to be the vision.
“The Vision is Jesus”, it’s not about me.
Yet we end up with the same problem we have with Church, we want something divine, and we encounter something very human, because his followers are people with treasures in jars of clay.
The joke in clergy circles is every Church wants the Arch-Angel Gabriel to come along and be their Vicar!
 We know that we as leaders are human, and are fallen, and yet almighty God does choose to work through you and me, when we come and make ourselves available to him.
To quote an old cliché “God is more interested in your availability than ability”…”God is not limited by your limitations”…
It is about following Christ where-ever he leads, as faithfully as we can, in partnership with one another, iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another.
Leaders need people like you and me, to pray for them, to bless and encourage them, to (in love) challenge and inspire.
Leadership is all about these questions, what is God doing now? What is God saying now? Where is he leading now? Will you go?
The Green Cross Code Hedgehog used to say “STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and STEP OUT“…
That’s what Christian leadership is all about, stopping and looking and listening to what God is doing and then taking the step of faith, out of the boat, to where God is leading…
This part that needs us to ask God for bravery and courage, faith spelled by John Wimber as R-I-S-K.
One of the greatest leaders in the Bible is King David who is described as a man after God’s own heart, the book of Ezekial talks about God giving us a new heart, his heart, of flesh not stone, a heart where God has put his Spirit within it.
A dangerous prayer is “God break my heart for what breaks yours”.
What is God saying, what is doing, where is he leading, will you?
And will you keep going no matter what is thrown in front of you?
The problem most leaders start of okay, but it’s not just how you begin that matters, being a Christlike leader is not just about starting well, but continuing well, walking in the footsteps of Christ.
Recently I re-read James Laurences wonderful book growing leaders and he talks about how leaders start off okay, but sadly many

Fade out

Fall out

Sell out
Burn Out
Fade Out, ‘loose your first love’ end up from longing to see heaven invade earth and God’s Kingdom advance, to plodding on keeping the flower arrangers happy, not quitting but  that spark has gone, the fire has petered out, and nothing is happening other than a disillusioned show on the road shuffle towards retirement.
Sell Out, compromising truth for the sake of popularity and comfort,  bowing to pressure when society and biblical values part company or bending to whatever theological pressure group shots the loudest. The Civil Service talking of breaking a new government minister with the phrase “house trained”… Let’s not be house-trained!
Fall Out, how many leader do we hear who cash and burn, sex/money/power takes another scalp of someone who started off in love with Jesus and seeking to serve him, but whom the enemy has taken out the game, because they didn’t realise their vulnerability and take precautions.
Burn Out… Similar in many ways to fall out, but without the sex/money/power scandal, but crash and burn through exhaustion, depression and disillusionment.
The truth is that all of us can in our faith can FADE OUT, FALL OUT, SELL OUT or BURN OUT, just as our leaders can.
I’ll close by something I came to see when I worked in rehab about leadership, the group was lead by an alcoholic in recovery, he was a ‘wounded healer’ but yet he’d  been sober for many, many years but still didn’t take his recovery for granted.
We may be broken people, yet God’s power is bigger than our brokenness, in fact our weakness enables and strengthens our dependence on the only one who truly is faithful and trust-worthy. He is only one that can ‘keep you from falling’… ‘he who will not let your footslip’ -the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.