Bravery, Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday & Clearing the Temple.

Today is Palm Sunday.

It would be easy to do a blog about welcoming Jesus into our lives, welcoming Jesus back into his Church, welcoming Jesus back into the City and welcoming him back into this nation and the world. -And certainly that is my prayer, especially as the Turning Mission starts today.

Nor am I going to do a blog about the fact that the Donkey was not a war-horse a symbol of peace and humility.

I could also talk about how the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a Donkey was the fulfilment of a messianic prophesy in Zech.9.9, the people would have seen this as a clear acknowledgement that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, that is why they are getting so excited.

They have heard of his miraculous powers and they are imagining these being waged against their enemies.

The common idea at that time was a Military Messiah, like another Samson, who would over-throw the Romans, and rule over them like another King David. People would have expected after Jesus rode into to Jerusalem claiming to be the Messiah for him to wage some form of attack the Roman headquaters, but instead of clearing out the Romans he went and he cleared out the Temple.

They were expecting Jesus to judge the Romans and instead he challenged them, he challenged their religious practice and piety and found it wanting.

The temple really mattered to the Jewish people, they were very proud of it, and here Jesus is attacking the thing they hold most dear, questioning their motives, their faith, their hearts and their priorities -I don’t think we can quite grasp how huge and offensive this would have been for the people at that time.

Most of us are happy for our enemies to be judged, but, all of us are less keen when we ourselves are in the dock.

Jesus talked about seeing the speck in your brothers eye whilst having a log in your own, when we invite Jesus into our lives, home, family, work, church, city or nation he may start with the log in our own eyes not the speck in someone elses… and that might be uncomfortable.

Inviting Jesus into any situation is a courageous act of faith because Jesus may start by challenging us rather than challenging those around us.

Jesus may wreck our nicely ordered temples, and neat and tidy lives, he’s not into cosmetic change, tinkering around the edges, but gets to the heart of the issue -which is rarely comfortable.

Jesus rarely is into the preservation of the status quo but rather is into transformation.

Shane Claiborne said: “I know there are people out there who say, “My life was such a mess. I was drinking, partying, sleeping around; and then I met Jesus, and my whole life came together.” God bless those people. But for me, I had it together. I used to be cool (I was prom king, for heaven’s sake). Then I met Jesus, and He wrecked my life”.

Inviting Jesus in, is not something to do lightly, it is the biggest and most costly choice you will ever make, it goes on and on challenging us years after our first “yes”, but it is also the greatest and best choice any human being can make.

Are you brave enough to risk getting messed up by inviting Christ into your life?





Acts of Service, Authenticity, incarnation, prayer, welcome

Prayer Meeting with Jeremy Kyle.

On Mondays for a while, some of us meet up and pray for our local area (if you are a local reading this, do join us, 9:30-10:30 at Chasers). We use a local pub/coffee lounge to meet up in, on the walls are tv screens normally play Jeremy Kyle.

I used to see this as a distraction, an annoying interruption, I used to get them to ‘mute’ the sound on our nearest screen. Yet something about this has challenged me profoundly.

We have for a long time tried to have prayer meetings and other such meetings out and about, we don’t want to be Christians hidden away in dark corners of invisible Church buildings.

So, we pray whilst somewhere in the background of the room we hear the shriek of “he’s not the Father of my baby”.

Yet last week, I was struck by how nice our prayer room is, with wonderful coffee, and so often the rawness and brokenness of many peoples lives never creeps into our prayer rooms.

Too often we assume that everyone’s life is like ours, and yet for many people the things we are just ‘normal’ and take for granted would be a very alien way of life for many.

Too often we as human beings steer ourselves away from the mess, brokenness and pain of life, when is Church intersessions does anyone ever pray openly about domestic violence, abused children, traffic refugees caught in the sex industry, depression, self harm, sweat shops exploiting their workers so we can have cheap clothes?

Shane Claiborne says “It’s not that folk are hard-hearted toward the poor, but often simply that they don’t know the poor… we fear what we do not know”.

Our Churches are too often too clean and sanitised, and yet we have a God who left the glory of heaven and dwelt with us in poverty and brokenness.  Christ did not steer past the crap of dysfunctional lives, but rolled up his sleeves and embraced hurting and broken people and saw transformation.

I was struck by a Church I encountered once who did a lot of great work with disenfranchised people, a free meal on Sunday Night, a back to work thing on Friday morning, and yet I think sadly they do acts of compassion “to” the poor, it is a bit arms length. Like us with Jeremy Kyle playing on the TV screen.

I wonder are our prayers too removed because we are too removed?

Do just exercise safe compassion, great works but like Jeremy Kylie it’s clear whose who and where the power lies, where can always ask someone to turn the volume down a bit if we get uncomfortable.

Yesterday I was out walking and bumped into two friends, had a chat, pray, hug and talked a bit about life, one conversation had a bit of ‘story swapping’ -I was blessed by the encounter and I believe so were they, I wonder if this was more what real incarnational ministry ought to look like?

So, Jeremy Kylie stays on on a Monday morning, but rather than just to nudge our consciences as we pray, my prayer is that it is a reminder that the call is to be incarnational, living out our faith like Jesus did, not avoiding pain and brokenness, not having it as wall-paper remote and distant, nor at arms length, but in loving relationship embraced to our hearts, held in prayer not out of duty or obligation, but out of love, not people we serve (although we do) but people we call friends.

Acts of Service, Discipleship

“If you are asking God to move a mountain don’t be surprised if he gives you a shovel!”

“If you are asking God to move a mountain don’t be surprised if he gives you a shovel”. Anon.

I like this quote because it seems to capture something of our attitudes towards God, often wanting things to fall into our laps but don’t always want to work for them.

God could have “teleported the Israelites from Egypt to the promise land” but just think how much they learned on the journey?

God could who pulled down the walls of Jericho could have rebuilt Jerusalem in an instant but yet in rebuilding the walls and the temple with Nehemiah and Ezra the nation was not only re-built but re-consecrated to the Lord.

We as people often think about the destination we want to get too, what we want to see happen, yet God not only knows and understands the destination, we often find that through the journey we encounter more of God than if we got what we wanted immediately.

We live in a world of high speed broadband and instant coffee, we expect results a the click of our fingers.

Sadly in my experience seems to happen very rarely, the Bible uses words like ‘labour’, ‘struggle’, ‘the narrow way’, ‘the fight’ or ‘the battle’ not comfortable images but images that make on think of pain, sweat tears and struggle.

Sadly we don’t really grasp an idea of ‘partnership’ with God, expecting him to do it all.

I wonder whether the popularity of ‘revival’ amongst complacent western Christians is because they want to see God move without them having to move themselves.

Apathy, I believe is killing the Church in the West, I rather fear that much of what we do is not edgy or dangerous, nor is it costly or sacrificial, but tame and toothless, comfortable and safe. I fear Christ Jesus may look at his bride in this nation and say that too often we are “neither cold nor hot, I wish you were one or the other, but because you are lukewarm I will vomit you from my mouth”.

-My prayer and heart is that I don’t want to be a community lukewarm towards Christ, but rather I long for this area to be something of a ‘hot spot’!

Yet, to move from cold to hot (ideally white hot) often takes a while, is a long slow process, and sometimes it feels like me and my little shovel aren’t getting very far anytime fast. Have you ever felt like that?

Someone once had a picture for me of trying to batter down a great big damn only using a toffee hammer, it echoed my feelings of chipping away and seeing very little happen, but yet one of my favourite films (something of a guilty pleasure as it is pretty cheesy!) is “Force 10 from Naverone” where so much is achieved from a tiny bit of damage to one damn…

I know that within myself I can be impatient for speedy results, ironically many of our instant luxuries are not actually instant someone else other than us has worked for days and weeks unnoticed behind the scenes to give us something that for us is instant and immediate.-Perhaps that feels like you?

Perhaps it feels like you have been given a spade when you asked for a miracle?

Perhaps it feels like all the important stuff that we do no one notices and everyone just takes for granted?

Perhaps too you hear these stories of divine appointments, of people feeling called to come here, join this, support all these other projects doing things you’re not called too in places your not called too, and think that the grass feels greener elsewhere?

Perhaps there is some uncomfortable comparisons when it feels like we have been given a spade and someone else is given a miracle. “Who are you to judge another’s servant?”

The problem is with this ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, comparisons are never favourable, or helpful but highly discouraging when we are running our race to compare ourselves with the other athletes, as we either become smug or discouraged (or potentially both!) but either way does not help us be faithful into what God is calling us to do.

So, a challenge to us all, if God is giving you a spade accept it gladly, God is giving good gifts to his children.

As we dig, think what is God teaching me/us on this journey? -want can I learn along the way.

Maybe there is some element of apathy, or battle-flight (how often do people leave the Church communities of greatest need on the frontline, to ‘tread water’ in a Church of little challenge, sacrifice, or cost)

If God is trusting you with a spade, let’s move that mountain a spade at a time faithfully, praising God for the joy and privilege of partnering with him.

Acts of Service, Blessing, Jeremiah 29

Seek the Good of the City…

Jeremiah 29. This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin[a] and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.)3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

This passage is well know for the last bit, which is often used as a message of hope and a reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness…

So the people from Jerusalem are pretty depressed, they are in exile from the promised land and are really unhappy.

God’s message to them is one of hope, he WILL restore their nations and take them back home, but for now they are to stay put and wait.

Wait. If any of you have had a ‘wait’ message from God, it’s pretty tough, it’s only later (or maybe the other-side of eternity) that we understand why we didn’t get what we wanted when we wanted it.

Wait is a hard message, as we all are, by nature, a bit impatient -at least I know I am.

Yet what are they to do in the mean time? 

Kick their heels and do nothing? 

Play solitaire on the computer?

No, God tells them to put down roots, marry, build  homes, have kids…

Too often when we wait, we forget that the journey is also part of God’s call, people fix on the goal and not on the lessons God wants to teach us, shape us and mould us as we get there.

Sometimes, -and this is a bit shocking, but sadly I believe true- people do a ‘bargain’ with God where they say “you provide what I want, and then I’ll serve you”… forgetting who they are talking too… Our lives are not on hold until God fulfils his promise to us.

Mike Piliavachi talks about waiting for the call to ’employed church youth based work’ and said that it wasn’t until he began to realise the value of his job and the importance of the people he was working with that God answered his prayer and opened up a job at his local church.

I believe that God has called you where he has called you, on the various front-lines of your home, work, social spaces where-ever, and he’s saying to you to commit to the places he has called you, put down roots, roll your sleeves up and become part of these communities.

Too often I fear that Christians are in ‘bubbles’ where their home could be anywhere because they don’t know their neighbours, their work colleagues they get on all right with but its all a bit superficial really, and the only community they are part of it the Church community, which sadly often becomes and insular and inward looking group…

Jesus is saying get out there, take the risk of developing real relationships with those around you, which risks being hurt, rejected and maybe costly  -but also has the potential to be fruitful, life giving and blessed.

‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city’ (or community) -sometimes Christians can be too heavenly minded for any earthly use… and when you talk to some of them, it’s almost like their gospel is waiting to die, rather than being called to bring something of heaven to earth… I think we have tagged the wrong verse as the great commission, we think its Matthew 28 “go into all the world and make them my disciples”, but I think our great commission actually comes earlier in Jesus’ prayer “May your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, this is Christ’s mission statement, bringing in the Kingdom -which of course has making disciples as a core tenant of this, but actually is broader and bigger…

I was asked when I was interviewed for radio Bristol about meeting the spiritual or practical needs of the parishioners through street pastors… thinking about this later, I wished I’d rejected the premise of the question: people aren’t split into ‘spiritual’ and ‘secular’ bits, and since the incarnation (Jesus coming as a human) there is no longer a spiritual/not spiritual divide.

The Jewish idea of Salvation is the word Shalom -peace or wholeness- I remember doing some touring schools work with a Christian rock band (think a Christian-ish busted, but lovely guys) around the midland’s with a band called ‘My Spoon’… And they sung the Girls Aloud song “Whole again” -with an ironic nod towards Jesus… wholeness. To often we in Churches talk about getting people to ‘pray a prayer’ -which is good, don’t get me wrong- but actually that’s the START of the journey rather than the END! In fact when you are cold and hungry, are you able to concentrate on a salvation preach.

‘Faith without works is dead’… Christians aren’t called just to preach good news, but actually live it, BEING good news.

I heard a story of this nightmare Australian village, which the government pumped money into to try and turn it around, to not much success… what turned it around? Someone who planted a Church, and took discipleship seriously, saw the aboriginal guys get sober, walked with them enabling them to become whole in Christ…

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city, one of the biggest indictments I have against my theological college was it had all the missional rhetoric, but even though the local area had about 90 Christians living locally, the community didn’t feel any different.

We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be changers and transformer of community.

After-all when you sprinkle salt on your steak, you don’t say this salt tastes steaky, but rather  this steak tastes salty… we are called to be people that impact the community.

I long for the day the councils eyes light up every time a new Church is planted in their patch as they can see Christians bless their community, the more Christians here the more the community looks and feels like heaven… The more we are visible and obedient, the more of God’s Kingdom we will see break in on earth as it is in heaven, in Kingswood as it is in heaven.

And then this brings us to the famous bit of the passage, we are called to be where God has placed us, and in many ways it will feel uncomfortable, as it is not our home, we are ‘alien ambassadors’ as our rightful home of best fit for us is heaven, and yet we are called to ‘carpe diem’ ‘seize the day’, waiting for Christ’s return and the break through of his Kingdom… but we have this promise that what we are doing is not pointless or waiting in vain, for God is faithful, he’s not dropped us in this situation as a kind of sick game. God is good, all the time. He loves us and he is a faithful God with whom there is always hope, a God who wants to be found by us in our waiting, in the struggles with living out Kingdom lives in a broken, fallen and occupied land he says to call on him and he will answer.

So I will conclude, by saying in many ways all of us are exiles awaiting the promised land, some of us feel more in exile than others as we wait for God to make good on a promise, or something that we desperately long for. Yet let us seek God in this journey, make the most of our waiting, serve him faithfully, put down roots where he has called us, build relationships and settle down where you have been called rather than have your eyes on to clock/door (when he wants to move you, he’ll let you know and will sort it out, you don’t need to stress). Remember  he is faithful, he is good, with him there is always hope, he longs to be found by you as you search and reach out to him… and remember that he is a God of rescue who loves us.

Acts of Service, Bravery, Church, community of grace, Compassion, Discipleship, Giving/Generousity., Holiness, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, prayer, self awareness, Unity, Worship

A Dream for the local Church…

I wrote this in 2012, which was a time when nearly all the Churches in Kingswood had different leaders, All Souls hadn’t been planted yet and nor had some of the more savage ‘sheep bites’, but even so, it is still the picture that I long to see God do in this area… Although now where it says Kingswood, I think we’d have to say BS15 as we now work in Hanham too… In places, there are signs of this vision becoming reality and in other places there is still a fair way to go… (Anyway, hope it blesses you!)

Kingswood High Street might be littered with church buildings, and true they do have their own congregations and their own unique quirks, habits, funny ways but in one sense they really are one Church because they are all sold out on loving Christ and making him known.

They are all wanting to be filled with the spirit of the living God, they cry out for the lost in their prayers, they seek to seize every opportunity that Christ gives to make him known -pray and proclamation go together here, woven together with a beautiful seemlessness.

The Christian’s here  are deep and authentic about their faith and uncompromising in Holiness but awash with grace.

They pray together with such love that which congregation they belong to is hardly noticeable, they pray so passionately, and listen intently, and as they worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Church in Kingswood carries the very heartbeat of God.

It knows its identity, it is a holy and pure bride, but it is salt and light, wise as serpents but innocent as doves, it holds out the word that gives life, it shines out like stars in the darkness…

The church is attractive, marked as distinctive because of the hope that we have, filled with vibrant life, and deep authentic life shared together, this isn’t an hour on a Sunday morning  and an otherwise disparate community, but these are the men and women of God, ambassadors of Christ, solider called to take the ground of Kingswood for Christ.

They are living sacrifices.

They chose Christ in all they do through out the week.

The seize the moment never missing an opportunity to bless and seek and see God’s Kingdom break in.

They are  Church that hears God and has the courage to follow in obedience.

It is growing.

Ordinary people are meeting with an extraordinary God all the time, Kingdom encounters are normal part of our spiritual DNA.

The Churches are good incubators, people are loved, encouraged, mentored and walked with, we make disciples together as we all learn what following Jesus actually looks like.

People take risks on each other, leaders rise up from unlikely places, discipleship is organic and indigenous, and yet real and authentic with people being truly them and truly shining out Jesus.

Church looks funny, choatic even, but it is growing, it’s a movement of God in relationship, with people following where God leads, and it snowballs, it doesn’t play it safe and get comfortable, instead every group and sub group in Kingswood can hear about Jesus in a way they can understand..

This is the Church of Christ in Kingswood.

It is good news for all who are lost, hurting, marginalised, disenfranchised, ostracised, broken, it is good news for all. It is a community that reflects Jesus to the wider community.

It is a loving community, filled with compassion, and it is by this that all people know we belong to Christ, that we love one another…

Acts of Service, Discipleship, Glory, love, self awareness

The Quest for Invisibility…

At the (amazing) event on Sunday night at Church of the Ascension my friend and colleague Geoff said something profound which I have been thinking about the last couple of days…

He talked about wanting to be invisible.

The idea that as he preached and ministered he didn’t want it to be about him, ‘Geoff did an amazing sermon’, but rather ‘wow God spoke to me and blessed me’, that idea that God is meeting his people so powerfully that those of us serving and facilitating are completely unseen because the focus and the attention is purely on Jesus.

As I thought about this quest for invisibility I thought the only time I notice the sound guys work is when it goes wrong, when all is working as it should, we don’t notice them because we are listening to something else.

The problem is so much of our fallen-ness wants to be noticed and be affirmed… but sometimes our desire for recognition and affirmation actually detracts from the person of Christ himself.

At a recent Mission Shaped Ministry Evening we were talking about leadership, and we asked about a biblical leader we admired, my friend Paul Hinkley (who is much wiser than me) said: “John the Baptist” and went on to talk about the profoundness humility at the heart of leadership conveyed by the wonderful words of John when he said “I must decrease so he can increase” that idea of self with-drawl for Christ’s glory.

Another story that I found beautiful and challenging was Bidds (another local Church leader) talking about a healing he had been privileged to be involved with, where a lady was powerfully healed from cancer. Bidds went along to her Church quietly sitting in the back row and heard her testimony, she talked about someone praying for her but didn’t say his name, nor did she say she went to his event, purely the story she told was about Christ healing her, the person and people who faithfully prayed and stepped out in faith and obedience went unmentioned and the glory went entirely to Christ.

I long to see people across this area talk about hearing from, encountering and being healed by Christ where the glory goes to him, not us.

Sadly I hear too often from the stage of big conference people talking about healing miracles and prophetic words as though they themselves had some divine power, rather than us all simply being followers of Christ who he delights in partnering with, who are blessed to be used by him in the advancement of his Kingdom and to bring him glory.

Let’s all take Geoff’s advice and have a quest for invisibility so people don’t see us but see Christ transforming lives.

Acts of Service, John 13.1-17, Servanthood.


An old blog I found, I wrote a while back…

“The Son of Man (a name Jesus used for himself, originally used in the book of Daniel) came not to BE SERVED but to SERVE and to give his life as a Ransom for many!”

 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

I have been thinking a lot about servant hood recently.

On Wednesday, I had to bow to what my senior colleague said about something, and I submitted, but it didn’t sit comfortably and made me think about having an attitude of a servant, and humility and all that stuff.

I think too that as Christians are image of leadership stems from Lord Sugar’s Board room rather than following the example of Christ.

Jesus saying at the Garden of Gethsemane on his knees before his heavenly Father, ‘no my will but yours’, how many of us have basically tried to say to God “not your will but mine”…

I heard my Landlord in St. Mike’s in York sing enthusiastically “it’s not about your Jesus”… it was a mistake the real line of the song is “Its ALL about you Jesus, for your glory and your fame, it’s not about me, as if you should do things my way, you alone are God and I surrender to you!”

Surrender is not a concept we like, but as the Archbishop said when asked by a bunch of ordinances what was the key to fruitful ministry and he paused and said “dying to self, continually and perpetually”… In other words being obedient to Jesus and submitting to his will is the only way to do ministry effectively, as going God’s way is the only way of serving him.

I think John the Baptist understood servant leadership, when he said about Jesus “I must decrease so he might increase”…

I have been watching the West Wing Recently, and there was a great episode where the president of the USA didn’t take the credit for sorting out the social services budget as if he was seen to be involved it wouldn’t ‘get through the house’ so was prepared to sit back and let some less worthy people bask in the glory, in the knowledge that he’d done the right thing, called it his ‘invisible legacy’…

Are we prepared to see the Kingdom advance without any recognition for our hard work behind the scenes?

I think Sam (my wonderful Intern who worked with me two years ago) is going to be a great leader, why? because he has been a great follower, carrying tables, emptying bins and doing all sorts of grotty jobs without complaining shows he has the right heart and God will rise him up…

Whereas too often we see leaders who won’t serve.

Recently I caught our senior minister cleaning the toilets in the hall because they were a seriously gross health hazzard, yet we have some guys who over the 4 years I have been here have never seen them do the washing up, or move chairs, sweep floors.

In the Church in York which was a bit crazy about peoples titles and all that malarky, the Vicar, David White, one said, ‘in this Church it is easier to find someone to speak in the pulpit than to clean it!’

Unless we grasp this “last being first stuff…being a servant of all” and the radically different world view that we are called to live in, where sometimes we have to gracious step back or step up in order not to be blessed, but to bless other people.

Mother Teresa said about these people wanting to ‘find the Holy Spirit’ travelling to Toronto, but weren’t prepared to cross the street to speak to a homeless person.

Be a blessing and God will sneak up on you and bless you, but that’s not why we bless people, we bless because we love them and we want ourselves to be more like Christ, and in blessing other people we worship Christ.

Yet Discipleship and walking in the way of Christ will cause your EGO some discomfort.

I think the problem is our EGO’s, which could be an acrostic for Edging God Out.

A challenge, think who can I serve and bless today?

Is there issues where I am willing to be last, so that Christ might be first? (As John the Baptist once said “I must decrease so he must increase”).

A message easy enough to write and read, but lets actually be this Christian Community which actually lives it out!

Let’s be people who are living lives of service, radically different from the world around us, that people might see Christ in us, our lives not making sense to them, but be beautifully attractive as Christ’s beauty shines out from us, hopefully without us even realizing it or noticing it.

Acts of Service, Discipleship, Mission, Paradox, prayer, Spirituality

Falling off the tightrope.

Some Churches are very good at being spiritual, they have a wonderful programmes of in-depth Bible studies, great expository preaching and prayer meetings… but less good about actually living it out in their corporate life together.

Where is the mission?

Where is the works of justice?

Where is the community engagement and power of Christian presence in the community in which God has set us?

Yet I have seen the other extreme too, where Churches have programmes total logged jammed with good and worthy (mostly) activities until you look a little closer and say:

 “When do we pray together?”

“Where does our community gather around scripture?”

“Do we share communion together?”

The problem is some Churches are great at going deep but are lousy at putting it into practice, other Churches are really busy putting it into practice but lose sight of why they are there in the first place.

It is easy to fall off the tight-rope on either side of the rope, but much harder to walk the tension in deep corporate shared prayer, scripture and sacraments alongside real and authentic shared lived out faith with those God calls us to love.

Worrying some Churches and Christians have been off the tight-rope from years.

Somehow we need to hold both in tension, it is not an either or option, rather both working together seamlessly (like Ernie Wise’s hair!!).

Who we are and what we do need to be joined us, need to be authentic, and is not something we need to apologise for or be embarrassed about.

In fact I believe that in God’s economy, the more we pray and go into his word we should naturally be propelled by his Spirit into action, into love and service, deep births breadth. Conversely when we encounter the brokenness of the world that should draw us to our knees and as we pray we see God at work it reminds us of out Christian destinctiveness, and breadth draws us deeper.

When can go deeper when we have greater breadth in our outreach.

We can have greater breadth in our outreach as we go deeper with God.

These things are meant to be complimentary and yet too often as Church we have made them separate.

I long for a revolution of a Church which goes deep into the things of Christ and reaches out with great breadth to those who are on Christ’s heart, particularly the marginalised and disenfranchised and all this is seen as normative Christian behaviour.

Go deep to reach out with greater breadth.

Reach out with great breadth to be drawn deep into the things of God.

Humility, Palm Sunday

The Donkey, The Small and The Starfish…

After Palm Sunday the donkey went back home and was saying to his Donkey mates about how everyone was cheering him when he came into the city, how people laid their coats on the floor for him to walk on, and were waving palm branches… The Donkey was strutting about, until his mum, a wise old donkey, gently spoke to him, and said “my son, they weren’t cheering you, they were cheering the one you carried”.

This was a little story told on Saturday night by Shane Claiborne in Woodlands.

We are often a little like the Donkey, we think it is all about us rather than about Jesus, yet when we think it is about us and we forget it’s about Jesus, and that’s normally a recipe for disaster, as actually our pride gets in the way of humbly walking in step with the spirit.

It is not the “us” in “us” the Hope of Glory, but rather it is “Christ in us, the hope of Glory”.

Let us be people who carries Christ where-ever they go, into every situation, into every place, and especially into areas where he is needed the most, and normally and tragically, his Church is least visible.

I believe that we as Christians need to take seriously the promise that “He that is in us (Christ) in us is greater than he (Satan) that is in the world”.

We alter the Spiritual DNA of a place just by being Spirit-filled people there.

I spoke on Sunday about not being Canoeists (doing it in our own strength) or Lilo loungers (waiting for God to do it all) but instead being people who are wind surfers (or ordinary surfers) who catch the wave/wind of Gods spirit and ride it to the shore, living to catch the breeze of the spirit and watching for the wave.

The big challenge of the Bible has never been can God use his people, but rather will we let God use us?

One of the big themes from the Shane Claiborne Evening was ‘normal life’ but still lived radically. Mother Teresa said about lifting people out of poverty, well I started with one, and I started with the one nearest me.

I remember her being somewhat confused about people travelling across Oceans to visit place to receive a blessing (Toronto or Pensecola) rather than cross the street to be a blessing.

Mother Teresa wasn’t into sensational headlines, glitz and bling and said “we can’t do great things, but we can do small things with great love” which I think transforms the mundane into greatness.

On Sunday we read in Zechariah about “not despising the day of small things”, I love the quote that sits nicely with this passage which says “if you think you are too small to make a difference try spending a night with a mosquito”.

Little things matter.

Kind or unkind words and actions may stay with us our whole lives.

There is power in the small.

Jesus says “to those who are faithful with little more will be given”.

Let us do the ordinary but let us do it with great love.

Let us carry Christ and let us never miss an opportunity to bless those God has put in our path, let us look for the ordinary moments which can be redeemed and transformed into the extra-ordinary.

I’ll close with one of my favorite stories…. It is called StarFish…



Acts of Service, Church, welcome

JFK, clean toilets and sparkling toilets.

John F Kennedy once asked “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”.

A great quote that challenged the consumerist mindset. A mindset which sadly has crept into Christ’s  Church.
We as Christians are meant to follow Christ who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”… Our leaders demonstration of leadership was to take off his robe and wash the camel crap of the feet of Judas Iscariot who was to bring about his death in the most horrific means imaginable.
The problem is we sometimes let who creep in, a sense of entitlement, or just simply oblivious to the work that needs doing that surrounds us.
Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy once joked that they hid a spaceship behind an invisibility cloak of “someone else’s problem”.
You see no one wants to do the grotty jobs, a Vicar friend of a ‘large successful’ Church once said “it is easier to find someone to preach from the Pulpit than to clean it”.
Another friend, had a habit of cleaning the toilets as the last job he did of an evening in the Church hall after he spoke at the youth events, because he said he “needed to do it” in order to stop pride going to his head.
I wonder is we work so hard at making people feel welcome in our churches that people feel like guests rather than part of the family…
When I was a teenager my parents would complain that “you treat this place like a hotel” spiritually we sometimes need to feel not like spiritual consumers but as contributors.
I’ll end was a quote I thought was thought provoking…
“They say there is no I in team, but there is three in responsibility…”
We have a responsibility to live a life of service to see Christ glorified as we bless those around us, living those bright and salty lives, it’s not about us.
I believe we are called to live for Christ in the service of others.