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wait ’til your Father gets home.

I don’t know if that was something you have ever been threatened with, the idea is that Dad is someone scary who you don’t want to be on the wrong side of.

Most of us at sometime in our lives have ended up stood outside the head-teachers office, that fearsome character who you want not to see at all costs.

Sometimes we have this idea of God.

On Sunday we had this demonstrated to us by getting a family to act out the reading of the prodigal son (actually acted out with a daughter)and when the story said about the Father ran too meet her, the girl screamed and ran in the opposite direction. She expected that the Father was angry and wanting to punish her.

This demonstrates the biggest problem humanity has, we run from God rather than running too him.

Our image of God is the angry parent or the scary head-teacher, yet Jesus paints God as the Running Father, that rushes to meet his Son. Jesus -full of grace and truth- says “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”, in other words God is like Jesus.

Jesus had authority and was pure and Holy and yet the unrighteous felt that they could come to him and be changed, Jesus brought hope and love, not fear and rejected.

The idea of God as a scary headteacher is a really unhelpful one, yes, we need to remember that God is God, he is mighty and powerful, but he is also “slow to anger and abounding in great love”.

Christians aren’t people who are scared by God, fear creates submission, no, instead it is “the love of Christ compels us”. God says his “perfect love drives out all fear”.

In fact the book of Hebrews reminds us we can approach the throne of grace with boldness by the blood of Jesus.

we don’t have to approach God on trembling knee because our sins have been covered over by Jesus and “see how the Father has lavished his love upon us that we might be called children of God”.

I remember reading a story of JFK junior coming into the Oval office at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and climbing on his dad’s lap, he had no qualifications or mandate to be there, simply he was a child of the president.

So, let’s draw back and see God not as the angry thunderbolt lobbing Victor Meldrew type, but rather let us discover afresh how John describes God in just three words “God -is- Love”.

Love that as George Herbert says “bids us welcome”, the “love of Christ compels us” and love that makes an end of all our sin. A love that draws us close not pushes us away.

So, let’s not hide behind the sofa from God, but instead run into his open arms of love.

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Person of Peace, Pioneers, Scouts

Spiritual Scouts…

I want to think about “Scouts”, so often we think of Pioneers coming in and starting something new and breaking new ground.

Often our thinking of pioneering and settling comes from a slightly romanticised idea of American wild west.

In reality the people didn’t just arrive and plant and pioneer a new random community, they did something key before hand, they sent in scouts.

Scouts would go out in pairs, and see how the land lay, they would see if the natives were friendly (normally if they killed one of you that was a sign that they might be a bit hostile).

Actually Scouts are visible in our Christian scriptures too.

Scouts were sent out in pairs to see what the city of Jericho was like, Jesus sent out the 12 and then the 72 in pairs, to seek out “friendly natives” or as Christ called them “people of peace” -‘If a person of peace lives there stay with him and eat whatever is put in front of you, but if a town does not welcome you, leave that place and knock the dust from your feet’.

Too often in Christian Mission our “scouts” get left on their own, or the people have become too comfortable to move from where they are to the promised land.

we have neglected the ministry of scouts, because Church is not seen as something on the move. we have settled, and become enshrined in brick and concrete. Often our Church buildings are unsuitable for what we want to do, and in awkward and out of the way locations that are impossible to find, whilst massive new estates spring up without Churches on them.

I believe we need to re-discover spiritual scouts, people who go out and spot the potential for new and better life, more fruitful and meaningful places to settle.

Perhaps we need to think less about erecting stone-temples and more about transportable tabernacles?

Once a community has settled there is no need for the scout, and so they go out and scout again.

In many ways the scouts are often the prophetic or apostolic types that see the Kingdom possibilities that fail to flourish in a settled Church that has put its feet up. Moving on is tiresome, it is hassle and we like to cling on to what is familiar and resist change -it is human nature.

Yet without scouts the nomadic people would die out, and unless we release more Kingdom scouts, then the Church in the UK is in danger.

Are you called to be a Scout?

Are you called to be a faithful supporter of a Scout?

Have you become too comfortable where you are and used up its resources, and need to move on for survival?

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Resigned, Step of faith, trust

I’ve resigned…

I’ve resigned.

I’ve written to the Bishop.

I’ve signed some legal paper work and made the announcements to the Churches.

It was really tough.

Yet, I do feel it is the right choice.

Yet like many right choices it’s often the harder path.

I don’t have another job to go to, although with some inheritance we might be able to get a home of our own (which is both scary and exciting but in a different way).

This has been something I have really prayed over, probably one of (if not the hardest) choices I’ve made in my Christian life.

A picture I have had as I have prayed into this is that the coach and the manager often have a better view of the game than the players, and although I do want to play the full 90 minutes, often it has been that choice to swap players in the final minutes of the game that has transformed the game itself. As a Man U supporter when Fergie (the manager) pulled off some great player (can’t remember who) and brought Solscar on the pitch as fresh legs that changed the whole game. Sometimes, trusting that the coach knows both the game and you better than you, is a tough lesson to learn, but victories are won by trusting the coach/manager. In fact here locally, George whitefield was doing a great job with the Kingswood Miners -no one else in the country was as good at reaching miners that whitefield- and yet he felt God call him to the America’s and that is when God called John Wesley and the nation was changed and transformed. The greatest fruit comes from obedience, if whitefield had stayed the Christian world would have been so much poorer.

Yet, ultimately it is a step of faith knowing that the one who calls us is faithful. This faithfulness is not just to the place and people we serve, but too us personally as his children. I have recently been so challenged to see my identity not just as his servant, a worker for God, but as his child, his son, beloved by my Father.

Scary too, to re-discover the disciple beneath the dog collar.

Realise afresh the vital calling of being a good husband, good dad, good son, good friend all role and callings I have at times sacrificed on the altar of ministry. Ironic as a bitter old vicars kid, I swore I’d never do that, but amazing how easily we can fall into the old familiar traps!

I am very worried about leaving people in Church the lurch -especially people I have come to love- and I hate letting them down, I think for some of us as Christians ‘guilt’ and ‘duty’ can be a real driver, and although it is good to be conscientious, sometimes this can over-swing.

Yet trusting that actually the mission of God is his mission and not ours. Someone once said that “it’s not the Church that has the mission of God, but rather the missionary God who has a Church”, ultimately the people in our care are his too and “he will be there shepherd”.

Sometimes we have to learn the lesson that we are not indispensable and actually much of discipleship is actually about surrendering. Yet we are surrendering to the lover of our souls, the God who loves us and cares for us, the God who has our best interests at heart. In surrender we find freedom and fulfilment, it is tough, surrender is not easy, but in doing so we trust God to be God, and his faithfulness.

To often when we take a step of faith, we want to know the end from the beginning and to see the safety net clearly. Yet in my experience God’s faithfulness often kicks in, after and not before we take that step.

Reminded of Noah who we reckon might have been in the boat for about 7 days, or the widow sharing her bread with Elijah (using it all up and finding it didn’t run out) or Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on water. Faith came first and God’s faithfulness followed.

As we take that step of faith, I am reminded by some of the stuff the Bible says about 3rd days. It was the third days happen loads in the Bible, 3rd day the wine ran out, 3rd day Lazarus was raised and obviously 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead. As I thought about this, often we make the choice, we have that terrible “Holy Saturday” moment of pain and anxiety before we have the Easter Sunday time of God coming through, sometimes these Holy Saturdays last a while and others are relatively short, yet no matter what God is faithful (even when it doesn’t always look like we think it should).

Sometimes the reason why faith is faith is because it doesn’t always make logical sense to us, but I believe that one day from the perspective of eternity everything will make sense, and God’s plan is the plan that makes perfect sense.

Our last day (and last Sunday) is 1st October, the day after the 10th anniversary of my ‘priesting’ (or more accurately “ordination as a presbyter” -but that’s a whole different blog about why “priest” isn’t the right name for Vicars!)

It has been a journey both with some wonderful highs and some huge lows, sorrows and joys.

I have been honest in other blog about having depression and going to counselling, and now in stepping down, and my hope is that other people will know afresh that God copes with our brokenness and is faithful, and obedience in laying things down is okay because we are loved and he is good, gracious and kind, we don’t have to prove anything to God just keep listening for the coach, the coach that knows us and the game better and we can trust him.

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call, cost, priorities, values, vision

More than just keeping the show on the road?

I remember the Vicar who is leading one of the Churches my dad used to lead, telling a story of his previous parish in the leafy Sussex Countryside which went something like this, :

“Treasurer:- Unless we sought out our giving this Church will shut!
Vicar:- Unless we sought out our evangelism, mission and outreach people will go to a lost eternity”.

We often get obsessed about keeping the lights on in our Church building, rather than our calling of “seeking God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven” as we fulfil the great commission and “make disciples of all nations”.

Jesus never promised to keep open our particular building, but he did say “I will build my Church and even the gates of hell won’t prevail against it”. Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God”.

Too often we neglect the “seeking first the Kingdom of God” to worry and stress about our building, our constitutions, our processes and 101 trivialities, which from an eternal perspective are cul de sac’s, diversions from our main focus.

Paradoxically, I have seen on many occasions, when we focus on the Kingdom of God the things we so often stress about are resolved -unexpected legacies come in, or people with needed gifting come out of the woodwork.

When we put Jesus first, he sorts out the rest, in fact that is what he promises “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you”.

You see it is not the Church that has the mission of God, rather it is the missionary God who has the Church. We collaborate and partner with the ‘Missio Deo -the mission of God’, yet too often we become curators of dusty buildings.

As I thought more about this tragic picture I remembered the story of Mary and Martha, Martha was busy making Jesus a sandwich he didn’t want (in fact the one who fed the 5000 probably wasn’t that worried about missing lunch!), how often are our Churches stressing and wasting our time stressing on things that God himself will sort.

Ironically too, the best way of ‘keeping your building open’ is by keeping in step -living in obedience- with the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

The often stated phrase of “keeping the show on the road” is only a laudable aim when the show is orchestrated and choreographed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, otherwise it is simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We forget the warning in scripture that reminds us that “unless the Lord builds the workers labour in vain”.

Often people are very keen on keeping their buildings open, but the question has to be asked, is there anything in this building that is worth preserving? Are we being a Matthew 25 Church? Are we being an Acts 2 Church? Are lives being transformed by Christ?

To me, it seems like much of the Church in the UK has the telescope the wrong way around distancing us from what should be close at hand, a false perspective -a distortion- that brings complacency.

So, let’s ask God to transform our vision to coincide with his vision.

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call, Democracy, Politica, trust, values, vision, vocation, Vote

Voting is a lifestyle…

Today people will be voting in the general election, for who they want to represent and govern them. It is really important to vote, so if you’ve not done it already go and do it!

Yet democracy ought to be more than marking a bit of paper every four years? As I began to think about it, we actually vote all the time, often a vote for the status quo, but a vote none the less.

It has been said that every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in, scary when we think that if we have the internet in our homes we are in the top 4% of the worlds richest people. How we spend our money shouts loudly to this capitalist world.

Interestingly if we look back to the 80’s when many banks wanted to invest heavily in South Africa at the height of the apartheid they stopped doing so when people -mainly students and the now infamous picture of Jeremy Corbyn getting arrested- boycotted their banks.

As consumers what we think really matters, if in any doubt look at the millions that are spent devising algorithms to match our viewing habits to commercial sales.

So, although it might be only a baby step even a facebook share or twitter comment at least does make something of an impact.

The lie we are fed is that we are too small or insignificant to make a difference.

Yet as Confucius once said “Too small to make a difference? Try spending the night with a mosquito”. -He also said, that “A mosquito on your testicles teaches man that not every problem is best solved with violence”-.

The problem is that we are often don’t make a stand about anything much at all. A great question that has always challenged me is “would my bank manager know I was a Christian by the way I lived and spent my money?”

What are my choices when I buy, do I seek to be an ethical consumer? Do I value fair-trade? Do I enquire about sourcing? Or animal welfare? Do I ever do any on-line research about company ethics? Is there anything I boycott due to ethical grounds? -How does our (honest) answers on this chime with our response to a position of God entrusting us with the responsible stewardship of creation?

Yet, I think that we can do more than spend wisely, read labels and write strongly worded tweets on social media.

I passionately oppose the sale of weapons especially to states with awful records on human-rights, but yet I have never been on a protest, or picketed and arms faire, if I care about this issue I need to step up to the plate and make my protest felt.

Although Christians statistically are good citizens when it comes to doing their civic duty and vote, we perhaps need to be better at protesting against injustice, do we sign petitions? Do we write to our MP’s? Do we go on marches? Do we campaign for a better world?

The truth is that if the people of God don’t step up for the things that are upon the heart of God then who will step into that void?

So a call not just to vote, but live a life that seeks to usher in and advance the Kingdom of God, voting as a lifestyle each day, choosing to be a campaigner for the Kingdom of heaven and the cause of the heart-cry of Christ.

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call, challenge, Church, cost, Discipleship, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, obidience, perspectives, priorities, vision, vocation

we don’t need more Churches, rather we need Churches doing what they are supposed too!

Recently I had a sad experience, we had started a small congregation meeting next door to the main Church in the Community centre, mainly to allow the children’s work to flourish but unfortunately it didn’t work as we had hoped. I remember doing the last service there, which was a damp squib, as I tided up and walked out the door, something of lump appeared in my throat, although only a very short era, it was still and end of an era.

I did in my spirit wonder if maybe we (as in the Christian Community) will be back here reaching out to the people of Kingswood.

Then as I thought more about this I began to ask myself the question “does Kingswood need more Churches” actually Kingswood is choc-a-bloc with Churches yet few that are reaching out beyond their four walls, few seeking to reach out with the good news of Christ Jesus, few trying to raise up discipleships that are ‘nation transformers’ and praying in the Kingdom of God.

We also have new Churches planted into Kingswood, and yet sadly, they come into Kingswood, people drive in and drive out, some don’t even get around to investing in a “welcome sign” by their front door. Yet all that happens stays within the walls, and they never even send the other Churches in the area a email saying “hey”.

Yet we know that God is wanted his deeply divided Church to be unified in him, and in seeing his Kingdom advance and grow, impacting local communities and transforming lives, as we think of the Pentecost season, we know the need of the Spirit of God taking his Church back, breathing fresh and new life into it and blowing open its door to reach the community for Christ.

We don’t need more congregations and Churches, but actually for the Churches to do -or at least try to do- that which we are called to do.

The challenge is that the Church, is not some faceless institution, but rather you and me, we need to be people filled with his spirit, living his way, and seeing as individuals to shape and transform the corporate body of believers to keep us following Christ in courageous obedience.

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Ephesians 3, love, Paul's Prayers, Power

LOVE in 4 Dimensions.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ever heard the kids song, Jesus love is very wonderful?

It’s chorus goes “So high you can’t get over it, so low you can’t get under it, so wide you can’t get around it, oh wonderful love!”

Yet with my literal understanding as a child made this love sound like some form of impenetrable wall, until I had an epiphany when I heard another children’s story/song ‘I’m going on a bear hunt’ which has the chorus “you can’t get over it, you can’t get under it, you’ll have to go through it”.

It’s based on the end part of Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesus which talks of God’s love being a love in four dimensions.

God’s love isn’t a wall, barrier or constraint but rather it needs to be experiences as an ever present reality that surrounds us, the psalmist says “where can I go from your presence, if I go to the heavens you are there, and if I make my bed in depths of the earth you are there too”.

The love of God is an inescapable reality for Christian, God’s love for us is eternal and ever present, it is beyond our understand and comprehension “a love that surpasses knowledge” and although this love exceeds our understand, our experience of it can grow and grow as we walk on further, longer and deeper with God. The image Paul uses here is of the Christian putting the roots of their life down deep down into God and his love for us. Interestingly in times of draught a plants roots dig down deeper in the hope of finding water, this is the image Paul is using become more firmly embedded in the love of God, for finding ourselves in him is where we gain our identity and purpose.

John reminds us that “God IS love” -not just God is loving, or God feels love, but God is the very embodiment and personification of love- God the Father uniquely revealed in Christ the Son “if you have seem me you have seen the Father”, Jesus is “love with skin on.

Yet although Paul’s prayer is that we are transformed by experiencing God’s love but this love is also backed by power and authority as children of God, God who is at work in us, and in his Church “more than we can ask or imagine”. God not only loves us but is able to help us and work through us the book of Romans reminds us that “God’s ear is not deaf to our call or his arm is not too short to save”.

Often our prayers become limited by either our belief that God is not actually good, or not actually powerful enough to make a difference, yet here Paul’s prayer makes it clear both our true. God is All powerful and All Loving ,Omni-powerful and Omni-loving.

There is another kids song I know which asks the question “Have we made our God too small, too small? Have we made our God too small? For he made the heavens above and earth and sky and has the time for you and I, have we made our God too small, too small?”

So, let’s rediscover God’s awesome love and power, that transforms our identity as we pray to him, we discover afresh who we are, we are because he is “for this reason I kneel before the Father from which every family on earth derives its name” -a joke about two similar words in Greek, but making the point that without God we are nothing, as Corinthians (and the marriage service) reminds us “without your love our deeds are worth nothing” or as St. Francis said “without you we cannot please you” but in him “we live and move and have our being”. This is a reminder of our total dependence, fully reliant, on God who made us, sustains us and has through Christ redeemed us.

So, let us echo the words of Paul in our prayers for ourselves that we are transformed by having this fresh and fuller revelation of who God is, that in turn transforms us by the revelation of who we are.

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