Job 14, Renewal, Resurrection, Revival, Risk and Change, the Holy Spirit

The Scent of Water… (Job 14)

The phrase Scent of the water ones from Job 14:7-9:

7 “At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.

I heard this image shared at the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists conference, and the image stuck with me, this idea that just the tiniest bit, the smallest morsel, can be enough to cause lasting change and transformation.

From a dead tree, yet new life can sprout from the dead place, not from a flood or a puddle, but rather ‘the scent of water’.

As I thought of the idea of the scent of water my mind wandered to the images of living water within the scriptures:

“ Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn.4.13&14).

Water a picture of the Holy Spirit, able to satisfy that deepest desire at core of our being, that “deep cries out to deep” call towards God which we all crave and are thirsty for. God putting eternity with the hearts of humanity.

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Jn 7.38).

Just a taste of the real thing is what our heart craves.

Maybe this why scripture urges us not to “despise the day of small things”?

God’s mustard seed can flourish from seemingly nothing to becoming a great tree.

As I thought of the power of light and hope, often it is the smallest glimmer that helps spur us on. I was reminded by the faith of the woman with the issue of blood, who knew she could and would be healed by one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment.

The tiniest touch of Christ can bring more change in a life than a man made flood of good intentions.

A recent poem had the line : “don’t give me the sky when I ask for the light?” (citation need).

Perhaps sometimes in our evangelistic strategies is “less is more”

Jesus left people to work stuff out rather than give people a neatly packaged “just add water” solution to life, the world and the universe.

Perhaps you are only called to be a small link in a chain of events which sees lives turned around, all God might be-calling you to is to be faithful in your small scene and role rather than the whole production.

Perhaps our keenness to drench people in theological flood had more to do with our desire for instant results and wanting to “give God a hand”.

I wonder whether Spirit Led Evangelism is saying what God wants us to say, no more, and no less.

Sometimes it takes a step of faith to trust the journeys of those we love, pray for, and with who we have sowed seeds, or nurtured green shoots, to the God who makes the seeds bud and the crops grown.

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3 John

Two D’s.

When I was at college, I felt daunted by all the wise and learned folk all around me.
I remember once saying to one of my lecturers -a wonderful guy called John Kelly- what do I need to read? His reply was profound, “short books” he said.
Well, you can’t get much shorter than the third letter of John, it’s almost a post card…

The elder,

To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters,[a] even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honours God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. 10 So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

11 Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.

13 I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

I love the fact he says “I have so much to write to you, but I do not want to do so will pen and ink, I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face”.
Just a thought as we start this look at 3 John, too often we send emails or texts rather than face to face contact, yet emails and texts often make things worse not better, better to have conversations in the real world rather than in a virtual world, a conversation face to face where we can see the eyes of the other.
In the third letter from John two leaders are highlighted, one is commended and the other is criticised.
One, Demetrius, is loyal to the apostles and their teaching, but more than that he lives it out, he practice what he preaches and because of his conduct being beyond reproach, making him a good ambassador of Christ.
Where as the other, Diotrephes, is disloyal, a person who refuses apostolic accountability, is mean spirited –not offering hospitality- and whose conduct brings the gospel into disrepute.
As I thought about both these characters two things came to mind, the first is accountability, we live in an individualistic age “you can’t tell me what to do” is the mantra of our generation that is zealously independent but also omni-sceptical about anyone in authority. In many ways this has its roots in discernment, not wanting to blindly follow anyone without first testing and weighing their claims, sheep-like.
Yet we all need one another to speak into our lives, because left to my own devices I won’t move forward or deeper in my faith, instead we plateau (the biggest danger for us all if we have been a Christian for a while).
We need to keep ourselves on track.
We ourselves are flawed and fallible, most sins and distractions don’t “kick the door in” but rather sidle up to us and divert us inch by inch, taking us off track one degree at a time when we look back we have drifted far from Christ and often we are the last to notice it (or at least the last to admit it).
We need to learn from one another, we need to allow people to challenge and question us to keep us on track not just for our sake but the spiritual health of those we lead. We need to share together, as biblically we all need one another, and no one pastor or leader has it all together, in fact when a Church leader thinks they are sorted that’s normally the best indication they haven’t (and sadly is a crash often follows)..
When joining a new Church a good question to ask a Pastor is who are you accountable too?
Who do you pray with?
Who speaks into your life?
“Iron sharpens iron as one person sharpens another” but this isn’t always a comfortable experience. I used to be part of an accountability group in Poole when I was a youth worker and had an accountability relationship with a guy called Jon another youth worker, sometimes the questions and the challenges were biting and asking some highly uncomfortable questions. Yet when I was at college and in a challenging situation, the first person I rang was Jon as I knew he’d not give me the answer I wanted, but probably what I needed to hear.
The problem with this type of accountability is it is painful, it is costly, it takes discipline to maintain.
Also when I was at college, I met regularly with a prayer triplet, however since ordination one lives in Ireland and the other in Derby it costs me time and money to meet up with them, but it is actually money and time well spent.
I remember hearing someone tell a story about two wood cutters both had to cut down some trees, but the one who cut down most stopped after every tree to sharpen their axe.
Accountability is what keeps our axe sharp.
In the world of fitness we have instructors and coaches that push and challenge us to be all that we can be, who ask us tough questions about diet, alcohol or smoking, and yet if we want to get in shape we let them speak into our lives.
Here we see Diotrephes, rejecting the apostle John’s oversight, didn’t want to be in an accountable relationship, we are given in scripture little idea of what happened to him and the Churches he oversaw, but we see sadly too often in our media of Church leaders who fail financially, morally, end up peddling a distorted gospel or some other Catastrophe.
The author Gordon McDonald “Order in your Private World” said he ended up in adultery because he had no one who could look him in the eye and say “how goes it with your soul?”
The other guy Demetrius, who clearly takes accountability seriously, is commended not just for doing a good job, but being a good example.
What do you need to put in place to be that good example?
What do you need to put in place to stay as that good example?
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Barnabas, Paul, Risk and Change

Take a chance on me…

Last year I was sat at a talk with the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists and hearing a great example of delegation. The speaker (Richard Scott) from T.F.M was talking about being a missionary doctor over-seas. Part of his job was to teach those in the hospital to do medical procedures, they might never do them as well as him a qualified Doctor, but they would be able to save someones life if they came to the hospital and the one doctor wasn’t there.

Our role as Christian’s -especially Christian leaders- is too leave people able to carry one without us. You can tell most about a leader -not when they are in the midst of ‘doing their thing’ but when they leave the root does everything continue.

I love the apostle Paul. I think he is a great example of a missionary (although interestingly potentially a rubbish speaker) A strategic missionary leader who released many, many ordinary Christian people to do evangelism and mission that continued when he moved on to the next place.

Paul the great enabler of mission and missionaries, the one who empowered people in the Kingdom cause, did so because he was empowered and equipped by Barnabas.

Barnabas  took a risk on S/Paul and invested in him, and gently pulled back. Interestingly how scripture records the exploits of “Barnabas and Saul” initially and then later “S/Paul and Barnabas”.

Paul was a challenger of the status quo.

Paul challenged the Christians to be changed, and to change what they did, how they did things and how they behaved.

For people to survive the Doctors need to do themselves out of a job.

This actual is difficult for us, we love to be needed, often our self-worth is wrapped up in our achievements and our productivity, and stepping back can be painful and costly even if ultimately worth it.

Delegating is wonderful but really hard if they don’t do as good job as you would do.

Delegating is wonderful but really hard if they do a better job than you would do.

I have had both scenarios and both have left me profoundly challenged.

The people might never have the same level of expertise as the Doctor, but they were equipped to be able to save lives.

I have previously blogged about success being redundancy. 

Reaching the stage where I am no longer needed to lead the people in evangelism and mission because they are equipped and confident to do it without me (in fact my heart is that they do it better than me!).

We don’t do mission, we are mission. A better word is about the community being missional.

Mission is not an event but rather a collective way of life.

A picture a lady had at the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists was of the Nile river disturbed by a Motor boat caused water to spray all over the banks of the river- it looked impressive and dramatic- it caused short term watering, of dry land, even looked mildly fruitful for a short term, but long term it wasn’t very fruitful, as it was a big splash not a habitual, regular watering and nurturing.

Hit and run evangelism, will not have a lasting impact without the full support of the local, indigenous body of believers contuning to actively live out their missional calling and their faith filling with God’s Kingdom DNA.

Christian Aid has recently popularized the phrase “Give a person a fish you’ll feed them for a day, teach them to fish and they’ll feed themselves for the life-time”. Yet when we think of Mission we still try and hand out fish, rather than equip the Saints to be those who live a life of fishing.

What of us? Do we still think of Mission as an Event rather than a way of life?

Are we faithfully watering and nurturing or running around expecting a dramatic ‘motor-boat big fix’ r which might make us feel good, but isn’t lastingly fruitful? Or are we instead growing local, indigenous missionaries? Missionaries which will be sharing Jesus with those around them long after we have become a distant memory.

Let’s be people that take a risk on each other, invest, mentor, love, empower one another to share Jesus where they are with whoever come across their Path.

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Church, inter-dependance, Leadership, Unity

Team God

In the world of football, Bill Shankly -former Liverpool Manager-, used to win the league and each year, each year he would bring a in new people and retire successful ones, seems like crazy strategy yet his justification was “if I don’t do this we won’t win the league”.

Investing in people results in investing in the future.

Alex Ferguson’s genius was he was able to spot and nurture young talent and people of potential and bring them into the team. Without his eye for young talent the world might not have come to hear of David Beckham.

This should be a great picture of the Churches Ministry, continually investing in the next generation coming up, taking risks on young people and giving them opportunities in the squad and on the pitch.

Too often our human natures settle for what we have, rather than what we could have. We forget that so often when we stop pushing forward we end up drifting into reverse.

Leicester City, won league, but this was a bit of a blip as they now face relegation.

Although it is true they have lost a key player in their team.

I remember in the late 90’s when millions of pounds of expensive players were put in the Chelsea squad but although they had great and expensive players it took a while before they became a great team.

A team is not just a collection of gifted individuals, but rather the contribution of everyone produces something greater than just the individual components.

Some research was done into relay races, rarely is it the fastest group of individuals who win the race, but rather it is how well they manage the transition of the baton that causes them to win or to lose.

Church is God’s team for the world.

You and I are the Church, how do we work together to bring the best out of each other for the good and glory of Christ’s Kingdom being made manifest in his world.

Sadly, too often the Church in the west often we behave like a random collection of individuals, all doing our own thing, oblivious to each other. Often when a key person moves on, they Church really struggles, and things begin to grind to a halt.

I wonder with Church do we hang on too tightly to people and not let them move on from us to the next thing we have in store, although often we feel brutally pruned, for them and the Kingdom it could be the right move? Causing those in their shadow to emerge and flourish.

I wonder too as Church do we let people who have gifts that aren’t fully developed to can bud and to flourish, often these will only grow when due to God’s pruning they feel needed.

Do we work as a team to grow people in their gifts and enable them to flourish and thrive?

I have been struck with our Street Pastors teams that often people have been worried about talking about their faith on the streets and yet have seen as they have been part of a team, they have grown in confidence and flourished, some now who were nervous at the beginning are now leading the teams and encouraging other new recruits to ‘find their voice; in mission and evangelism.

As Church leaders, we want solid and constant growth and advance, but growth and life ebbs and flows often is season, sometimes we feel reduced, struggling and uncomfortable, which precipitates growth and Kingdom advance.

As I think of the whole pruning image, is a helpful image, as although short term the tree will keep going, eventually it becomes overgrown and unable to produce the fruit the tree is capable of.

As I read that uncomfortable passage in John’s Gospel, which talks of the branches which do not produce fruit being cut off, and those which do produce fruit are pruned. Pruning is inescapable.

The Gooseberry bush thrives best when literally its ‘heart’ is cut out, pruned back in such a way it looks as though it looks like it is fatal -and sometimes that is how it feels- but in doing so the bush buds again with a bumper crop.

This is a wonderful organic image, that is not about ‘keeping the show on the road’ but rather about investing in the future, a step of faith constantly leaving our comfort zones to invest in the (yet unseen) future.

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Holocaust, Pain, Remembering, sin, Suffering.

Holocaust Memorial Day.

Today is holocaust Memorial Day, more than 70 years since the liberation by the soviets of Auschwitz extermination camp.

Today we remember those murdered in the Nazi Genocide, Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, gays and anyone not fitting the Aryan ideal.

for me this is something I feel something of a connection with as my Grandfather, George Mason, guarded the prisoners at the Nuremburg trials, and must have heard and seen evidence that must have been truly horrific.

Often, we think of this type of evil as very distant from ourselves, we are civilised and educated, we think “it could never happen here”, but the holocaust reminds us that Germany a ‘civilised’ nation of ‘educated’ people right on our doorstep, people just like you and me, did horrific things. Evil on our doorstep. Evil with a face like ours.

The truth is, that it could happen here, it could happen again.

Although many have said: “never again” many of us, especially those of us with kids, fear that “history could repeat itself”.

President John F. Kennedy said “those who forget the past are deemed to relive it”.

There is a famous picture and quote that says “it didn’t start with the gas chambers”, gradually unchallenged hate and vile lies slowly took hold of a nation inch by inch causing unimaginable human suffering and pain.

Scripture calls us to be aware of the times, that’s not talking about simply ‘end of the world’ stuff but rather understanding the what is happening in the world and how to respond in a Christ-like way, seeking his Kingdoms advance.

 “For evil to triumph it takes good people to do nothing” Edmund Berk reminded us, watching question-time last night I was scared by the rhetoric which kept saying that Teresa May should not mention Trumps desire to “ban all Muslims from coming into the USA” or “continuing the torture of waterboarding” so as not to jeopardise the trade deal.

I have heard people saying they don’t vote because “it doesn’t change anything”, however, today reminds us that for the marginalised and disenfranchised it matters very much. A chilling poster has a picture of SS officers standing in front of Extermination Camp victims with the words “just because you are not interested in politics does not mean that politics might be interested in you”.

I have been reading the book of Esther recently, realising that anti-Semitism tragically is not a new phenomenon, Mordecai was aware of the times and went to Esther who in turn went to the King. A picture of engaging with the people of peace who can speak and be heard by the people of power.

Listening to the immigration debate the unsaid message that must come across to minority groups is that they must feel as though the nation is saying “there are too many of you here” -frightening rhetoric when we think of today.

Although many know my political persuasions are somewhat left wing, my challenge is to think what a Kingdom world view looks like, listen to the call for justice and compassion, listen to the marginalised and disenfranchised and say “Lord what would you have me do”. It may lead you to a different place to me, but my question is “is it spirit led?” as sadly I fear that too many of us keep our faith and our politics separate and I believe Christ is asking us to make him Lord of both.

I’ll end with a poem which has massively challenged me over the years:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” Martin Niemoller.

 

Today, on Holocaust Memorial Day, it is a reminder to be people of the light, walking in the light, people who drive back darkness, “salty people” who combat the decay in the world.

People who “Do justice, Love Mercy and Walk humbly before our God”.

People who pray “Lord, let your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” and live in line with that awesome prayer.

And what we do for the least of these, especially the persecuted minorities, we do for Christ the Jewish rabbi, the political prisoner, the child refugee, the homeless preacher without anywhere to lay his head.

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1 Peter 3.15., Mission, Unity

Scrubbers for Jesus…

Today I have been at the Fellowship of Parish Evangelists, my first time here.

This morning we had a guy, Richard Scott who said things I have blogged about many times before that we need to not just ‘do evangelism’ but release, encourage, inspire and equip every Christian to “tell their story”, “to be good news”, “live out their faith”, “do the work of an evangelist” to “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that we have, but do so with gentleness and respect”.

The word he brought to us was “SCRUB” Strategic Collaboration Reaching Unreached Britain… I smirked as I thought of the title for this blog “Scrubbers for Jesus!”

It made me think too about the joke J.John tells, when he became a Christian his mum was worried he’d been brain washed to which he replied “Mum, if you knew what was in my brain, you’d think it needed a wash!”

So what is he saying.

Strategy:

To often we’ve tried to be great evangelists rather than motivate the whole people of God in evangelism.

Yet this isn’t news, in 1944 the report “Towards the conversion of England” said “unless every Christian shares their faith the Church will die”.

In fact a recent report “Talking Jesus” from the Evangelical Alliance say that only about 1% of the population can be reached by “professionals” which does leave the other 99% up to the rest of the Church! The best use of clergy time is not running around trying to push the figure to 2% but rather, to help, encourage and equip our Churches members in sharing their faith with their friends.

That is a better strategy, let’s help one another become match fit, able to speak in a normal way about our faith “with gentleness and respect” but in a way that works that’s real and authentic with people. J.John again says “there are two reasons why people don’t become Christians 1) they don’t know any Christians and 2) they know a Christian”.

Interestingly they reckon that approximately about 1 in 5 people are interested in finding out more about Jesus, so real potential opportunities here, more over the research shows that about 3/4 of people who aren’t Christians know a practicing Christian, however when asked about a conversation with a Christian about faith 30% said “it hadn’t gone well”. Sadly not a surprise, as I think most Christians feel ill equipped to share their faith with their family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

I was talking with a lovely older Vicar -who now leads a Church in France- and says that he and his wife joined a choir, made friends, and invites people over for nice meals with wine and just chats with people, eventually there is often a normal and natural opportunity where people end up chatting about faith.

Another lady just bakes some cakes and invites her neighbours to pop in if they’d like for an ‘open house’ and gets to know people and this has led to some wonderful real conversations.

I wonder if perhaps we make it all too complicated? We try these courses, and invest in clever sermons and great gimmicks, and really the spirit of God is calling us to love people, spend time with them, be real and share our lives, and be patient but expectant for a natural opportunity to talk about faith to come up in a way that’s not contrived or freaky but loving, real, natural and unforced.

Perhaps the strategy is to be less strategic and more relational, loving people and giving them your time, space, your listening ear and waiting until God opens a door for his message?

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cost, Self Care, shepherd

Safety and the Shepherd.

I have been at a safeguarding training day all day, and it made me think a lot about the whole idea of safety, of power, of loyalty and Kingdom.

As I thought of the role of being a pastor, my mind wandered to the word Pastor which can also be translated as shepherd.

I asked myself “what does a shepherd do?”

A shepherd not just tends and cares for the sheep, but also defends his sheep from attack, from predators and wolves.

I think we all wish that real life was like the old Hollywood movies where the good guys and the bad guys were always clearly distinguishable, yet in real life this sadly doesn’t happen.

It made me realise afresh that people who may appear lovely, warm, kind and friendly but may not be what they seem.

I remember on one occasion a former contempory was found guilty of some horrific stuff, every one of us was shocked, no one would have believed it. 

We by nature want to believe the best of people, and yet we also live in a fallen world, we know that people who we know and share our lives with, can behind closed doors lead a very different life.

The Bible calls us to be as “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”, we are called to be in the world but not of the world’. 

We need to realise and be aware of the real possible and potential dangers that exist within people we might least expect.

We need to do the right thing, however costly, however painful, however uncomfortable and as shepherds.

For the shepherd doing the right thing could be costly; fighting a lion, bear or wolf, it could cost them the ultimate sacrifice, their life.

The Bible say “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” -Doing the right thing, especially within this context of child protection, is something that may call for us to sacrifice our closest friendships in the cause of justice and safety for the people we serve.

Nelson Mandela says “If you are neutral in issues of justice, you have chosen to side with the oppressor”.

If we fail to act, we may permit great evil, pain and suffering to continue. Reminded of Edmund Burkes quote “for evil to prosper all it takes is for good people to do nothing”.

Sometimes we are presented with just a bit of a hunch, a uneasy feeling, a nagging doubt, often feelings I have tried to brush away as me being judgemental, but I do wonder that sometimes these spiritual hunches could actually be Spiritual Discernment.

Maybe, gently and in love, if you get those nudges share them appropriately and wisely?

Imagine, if we’d had an inkling and then discovered someone had been abused and we might have been able to stop it happening.

I’ve had some occasions when I have gone with my gut instinct and later been so glad that I have, on other occasions (although fortunately never in a child protection context) where I have dismissed my gut reaction and later really regretted it.

As I thought about the call of a shepherd, I thought about my responsibility before God to the sheep, a responsibility to be wise and not fooled, to challenge behaviour even when it is costly -even when it is a person you have come to love-, to fight to be a custodian of a culture where people are not exploited.

Often, we think of abuse as in physical or sexual, forgetting that emotional, financial, psychological are all forms of abuse, people can be exploited in many ways, power can be misused and people can be hurt.

Yet surely this should not be happening within the bride of Christ? 

The Church should be a place where everyone is welcome, but some behaviours are not.

The Church should be a place that shows its love for its members by going that extra mile to try and be as safer community as possible.

I believe safeguarding can be a beautiful act of worship, as protect the child and the vulnerable matches the very heartbeat of God.

God is a God of love and compassion, who cares for all he has made.

God is not blind to exploitation and injustice in any form..

“By this will you know that all people are my disciples that you love one another”; the greatest act of love is to “look out for” to keep them safe and protect them.

We also thought of self-abuse, and I thought about loving one another might been not just protecting them from the predatory, but also protecting them from themselves.

So, some challenges about being a custodian of the culture of our Church communities, ensuring transparency and wisdom in all we do, ensuring all behaviour is beyond reproach, that we are wise in all we do, that concerning behaviour is challenged and not ignored.

So, lets seek to say that everyone matters, let us discover afresh to carry one another’s burdens and to keep ourselves safe from harm. Let us not just rely on one shepherd to do this work, but let us all exercise a pastoral ministry doing our utmost to keep one another safe.

A family who looks out for each other.

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Hopes and Dreams, vision

Dream with your eyes open.

I was at a youth meeting tonight and Jackie spoke about “Dream with your eyes open”.

Which made me ask, do I still dream dreams?

It made me think that so often we have given up, and stopped dreaming dreams.

Or perhaps maybe many of us started out as we began to follow and serve Christ we had big, bold and audacious dreams but now our dreams have been scaled down, reduced, the radical corners smoothed off.

We somehow think maturity is about being jaded, cynical, defeatist and wordly weary, and we think that fire, passion, enthusiasm, vision, drive is somehow naïve and silly, yet this is a lie many of us have fallen for.

When Christ called us to have a childlike faith, I think he meant us to be full of dreams, passions, enthusiasm, vision and drive -its a life of potential and transformation.

I then began to wonder if we have ever given people permission to dream in the first place, often so many people within our Churches just have Church “done to them” and don’t realise that they can, and indeed ought and should, have permission to dream in the advance of the Kingdom.

People need to feel like stakeholders, invested, and taking personally responsibility for something before they dream into it.

We don’t realise we have something worth while and unique to contribute, and often ideas aren’t welcome.

Recently I have also come across a tragic phrase recently which is called “poverty of ambition” which basically a generation or a people groups whose dreams have been burst and their wings cut so their dreams and ambitions are so tragically small.

Sometimes we are scared to dream, to dare to hope that maybe things could look different, because we have been disappointed too often, and the pain of dashed hopes becomes something we try and protect ourselves from.

Too often ideas are like bubbles, nice and wonderful things, but yet ideas and visions need to be birthed. I have met people who have hundreds of ideas -which is great- and yet the ideas are never allowed to germinate and come to birth.

In fact often a dream is followed by another dream and another, and yet no one dream is allowed to be properly owned, shared, birthed and developed, rather sometimes we hide our dreams in a field of dreams.

It takes a risk to turn a dream into a reality.

Perhaps God is saying: “Awake O dreamer and arise from your slumber”? If you’ve had the dream what is stopping you from going and changing the world?

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Fear, hope, Politica

Presidents Obama and Trump, Hope or Fear?

One thing really struck me with the Inauguration of President Donald Trump, was the difference between himself and President Barak Obama.

Barak Obama’s final speech as president was one that could have been summed up by one word “HOPE” -in fact “HOPE” has characterised both his presidency and him as a person, his autobiography was called “The Audacity of HOPE”.

Yet much of Donald’s Trump’s campaign was summed up by one word “FEAR”.

Former Bristol MP -Tony Benn- said: “Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison you put yourself”.

A similar sentiment from the film Shawshank Redemption “Fear hold you prisoner, but Hope can set you free”.

As I thought of this image it made me realise that the toughest prisons aren’t those with bricks or bars but the icy strongholds in peoples’ hearts and minds.

This prison though is one that many can be swept into, we have all been in meetings when a fear-monger has turned the mood of a room or a decision of a meeting; yet too the reverse can happen, people can be liberated by the freedom that Hope brings, a person of hope-filled faith can inspire people to stand and to step out.

A poem about Hope : –  “Rosa (Parks) sat, so that Martin (Luther King Jr) could walk, Martin walked, so that Barak (Obama) could stand, Barak stood so all our children could fly”. Hope is aspirational. Hope re-writes a new future, where-as fear if often a pessimistic self-fulfilling prophecy.

As I thought about my life, I asked myself the question, “is my life ruled by Hope or Fear?”

I want it to be ruled by Hope, yet sadly more often than I want I am ruled by fear.

“It is so easy to break down and destroy, but heroes are the ones who make peace and build” said former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The fictional President Matt Santos from the West Wing said “It is easier to throw stones at a house than to try and build one”.

Fear paralyses and keeps people rooted to the spot like a rabbit caught in the car headlights.

Fear divides.

Hope unites.

Fear builds walls.

Hope builds bridges.

Hope causes us to lay down our weapons, whereas Fear causes us to blame, lash out and pick up our weapons.

For the Christian Hope is not a “wishful thinking naïve aspiration that somehow everything is going to be alright in the end”, no we have a “hope that does not disappoint us”, “our hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth” -it is a hope that “moths and rust cannot destroy” but rather is based not on a vague idea or concept but on a person, Jesus Christ, described by Peter as our “Living Hope” -our hope is in the resurrected and victorious son of God.

Our hope is that the God “who began a good work will see it through to completion”.

Our hope is that “he that is within us is greater than he that is in the world”.

Our hope is in Christ who said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against them”.

Yet how do we be people filled with Hope and not Fear?

Often we start full of hope, but the stress, strains and pains of the world can often leave us feeling jaded, cynical, deafest, we too often let hope slip away, evaporate, and fear creep in and slowly take root, and become a spiritual stronghold.

We often don’t talk about being controlled by fear, but rather we use expressions like being “pragmatic” or “realistic” or “worldly wise” -often we allow ourselves to be often somewhat superior and patronising to those pursuing a message of hope, painting them as naïve and dismissing their view as “youthful enthusiasm”.

So, how do we keep Hope alive within us?

Prayer is the antidote to defeatism, as our focus leaves the size of our problem and places our viewpoint on the size of our God.

Interestingly those who are most vocally defeatist/negative are also those who attend prayer meetings the least, I do believe that this is not a coincidence.

So, let us be Obama’s not Trump’s, people of Hope, not people of Fear.

And I’ll close with a prayer Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Pioneer, Post-modern-culture, prayer, presence, Worship

Pints Of View…

We have been continuing our work with Pints of View, being available for people to talk to us, I go to the local pub the Kings Arms and Wetherspoon’s wearing my collar each Wednesday to make myself accessible to the local people who might want to chat.

The more Catholic end of the spectrum of the Church teaches us a lot about the power of presence, of the importance of ‘just being there’ and ‘being available’.

Keeping the rumour of God alive. Putting a human (and smiling approachable) face on the faceless institution of the Church.

Over the years’ I have been here much of my thinking and efforts has been about learning to be good guests on other peoples’ turf, being prepared to meet people where they are at, where they go and where they hang out, rather than our somewhat naïve and arrogant idea of expecting them to ‘come to us’.

One of the project I have worked hard with is the setting up of the Kingswood Street and School Pastors, where Christian volunteers wander around our local communities where we try and make it as easy as possible for those who want to chat to have a conversation with a Christian. Friendly, accessible, warm approachable, sadly not words we always associate with Church.

Yet, we want to offer more than just a conversation on a street corner, but the opportunity for a longer conversation if people wanted, being in the same place at the same time regularly, so that people if they want to can join us. We soon discovered that for most people -even if we’d had a good chat with them- never came to a Church service on Sunday (despite many saying that they would), maybe it was just too bigger jump for them? Perhaps having a chat in a pub was more of a manageable step for people.

 This is something we have been doing regularly in some form for the past 4 or 5 years, in different pubs, and trying different things. Sometimes I have been joined by another Christian friend -or two-, and sometimes just on my own, sometimes no conversations with anyone at all, other times have birthed some wonderful kingdom opportunities, and some new friendships -this week was invited by a couple of guys who aren’t Churchy to join their team for the pub quiz, which was a lot of fun even if we didn’t win!

Recently we changed or format again, my friend Mike who runs the pub called the Kings Arms (what a fab name for a Church!) has let us use a side room to meet up in, so we have started our evenings with a bit of prayer and one week my friend Wes brought a guitar and we worshipped a bit (if you are interested in hearing more about it, do check it out here….).

Interestingly God has been speaking to Wes about the power of worship, somehow worship seems to alter the spiritual DNA of the place. In the summer at an outreach event, Wes and his team had some worship on the streets, with preaching and flyers, the manager of the shopping centre stopped the flyers and the preaching, but allowed the worship to continue, yet it was through the worship which led someone to pray a prayer of commitment. Worship is powerful, worship changes things, worship changing us.

So, we decided to do a service in the little room, with the hope that people could drift from the bar and join us, in many way this was doing a service almost as a prophetic action to say we believe that Church will be birthed here. I’d asked my friend Regan to do a bit of a talk.

I’d sent out emails, put it on facebook, but still was worried that no one would come.

Regan was the first to arrive, which made me feel more worried, if no one showed up it would feel more awkward, especially if Regan had spent ages preparing this would be uncomfortable.

Yet gradually a few people came, in fact there was about 6 of us. My friend David led some worship songs on the guitar with the words printed out on a bit of paper. I looked around, we were quite a broad mix really, mix of ages, from different Churches, everything from AOG to Roman Catholic.  

It felt somewhat self-conscious knowing people could hear us praying and our worship, it felt a bit like a step of faith stick our neck out for Christ.

Although we just singing a few songs accompanied by a couple of guitars, but there was a real sense of God’s presence, everyone there was hungry for more of Gods Kingdom to break into our community.

Was this Church? -Yes! Rowan Williams defined Church as “an intentional community centred around Christ Jesus”.

It made me wonder:

Do we make Church too complicated?

 Do we make Church too static and inflexible?

Are we far too bound up by our buildings?

Our we too wedded to our history of the hallowed Sunday morning hour ideology which has no scriptural base?

My heart longs to be a simply Church, flexible, deployable but still being authentic church community moving into the heart of our community.

As we worshipped a sense of God’s presence was tangible, perhaps in this season God is longing to be encountered rather than just explained?

Then my friend Regan shared a few words, mainly his testimony, was reminded afresh of the power of our story, interestingly this is the most common question I get asked? “What made you go religious?”/ ”Why did you become a Vicar?” -people want to know our story.

When we encounter people and they see that in many ways we are both Christians and people like them, that brings an unsaid challenge that ‘people like me can be Christians’.

Perhaps part of the failure our Churches is they simply don’t look like the communities in which they are situated?

Within his testimony, Regan spoke about his journey of faith, he spoke of how one of his relatives in Zimbabwe used to pray for him regularly, and I wonder how many of the people in the pub that have anyone who is praying for them? I was reminded too, by Regan’s story of the centrality of Christ himself in the role of mission, who would have thought that a struggling, middle class church of largely elderly people would mainly reach and disciple a young 20 something Zimbabwean? Yet, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the impossible -or at least the highly unlikely- happens.

This reminded me of that wonderful verse “They overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”. The power of our story placed here by John the author of Revelation side by side with the blood of Christ.

 

Regan then shared about a wonderful older saint at his work, who came up to him once and offered him a Bible, which he declined (somewhat rudely!). Yet, I hope that this side of eternity, this lady will come across Regan doing what he does best telling people straight about Jesus. Maybe this lady felt like a failure at mission because she was given ‘short shrift’ by Regan, but he bravery and almost certainly her prayers echoed in eternity and have had an effect she could have only dreamt of.

My friend Kaja shared how she was so angry at her sister for having the disrespect and audacity to talk to her about her new-found faith, and yet several hours later Kaja herself said she was on her knees inviting Christ into her life.

Sometimes we don’t know the fruit that God brings to birth, often what feels like failure could be slower birthing fruit. Maybe when we step out in faith, we need to remember that “one plants, another waters’, but God makes it grow”, remembering too that “God’s word does not return to him void”.

Then as we wandered talking to people in the Kings Arms and Weatherspoon’s, Kaja and Wes met a couple of people ended up bumping into a Christian and sorting out some exciting stuff to do with the local foodbank in Fishponds -made me wonder when we intentional give God time and space he will uses our offering for his glory and sometimes divine and Kingdom advancing appointments.

It was good to chat to one another too, it made me think about how formal Church is and we rarely spend time with one another, ironic as one of the Churches I lead has its tag line “where strangers become friends and friends meet with Jesus” but perhaps we stay a little too much like strangers? I used to say “I don’t want to be a Church that is friendly, rather I want to be a Church where people can make friends in”.

I ended up chatting to my new friend John, a Catholic, and was so encouraging to hear what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Catholic Church, it makes me realise that although we come from different places, and do different things, that the Spirit of God is not confined by our differences and is bringing glory to Jesus through all those that seek him.

I had a brief chat with a guy I’d met at the foodbank, who came up to me and shook me by the hand and said that “although I’m not religious, I want to thank you for what you do”, which was a massive blessing, as I have recently felt really discouraged of late and this meant more than he could know (in fact I see it as a mini miracle as -sadly- this very, very rarely happens!).

On our way out of the pub, at the end of the evening, we ended up having a conversation with two guys about the Street Pastors project, Church, life, compassion although we never gave them a ‘full gospel message’ it again felt like this was again a Kingdom advance life blessing conversation.

So, why not join us, on a Wednesday, 7:45 for some worship and prayer, followed by a drink and being open to meet whoever we meet, giving the evening to God for his glory and see what happens, making new friends, going deeper with one another, perhaps conversation too which may change peoples’ eternal destinies?

God offering each of us the opportunity to partner with him, not hidden away in some Church, talking churchy stuff with already churchy people, often naval gazing. Let’s step out and meet him where he always has been in his world longing to meet his people who don’t yet know him.

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