Bravery, Carrying burdens, Counselling, Depression, Discipleship, self awareness

Counselling thoughts…

I have recently been having counselling.

There I’ve said it!

Just as a couple of years ago I felt it was right to ‘come out’ about the fact that I had depression and was on medication, medication I’d dearly like not to be on, but it does help me function and survive so for the time being it looks like the tablets and I will be walking together for the foreseeable future at least.

Counselling was something that has been suggested and something I felt very fearful about, for whatever reason I found it tough to admit to the Doctor that I needed help, and to admit to the Diocese that I felt I needed to go to counselling.

I think that all of us want to tell ourselves and the world at large that “we are ok”. It matters to be “OK”, and admitting that we’re not ok feels somehow like we are failing, like some-how we can’t cope with life.

Yet as I wrestled with this ‘black dog’ I suffer with, it has helped me to realise at the heart of being a Christian is the admission to God that we are not Ok, I can’t do life on my own, I need help, I need a Saviour, I need a healer. Perhaps why the opening stanza on the sermon on the mount is “blessed are the poor is spirit because they know their need of God” (paraphrased).

To admit to the world that I am a Christian, but one on medication for depression, isn’t shaming the gospel but rather showing that Christianity isn’t for the sorted together religiously pious (ironically the people who Jesus never seemed to get on well with).

I think we live in a world where too many people try to pretend they are perfect when none of us are.

So, eventually after a particularly tough time over summer/September I got to see a counsellor, for 12 weeks, it is a very scary thing being in a room with another Christian, and to just talk and share, the power of being listened to is such a wonderful and powerful gift but a gift that seems rarer than diamonds in everyday life.

It takes courage to not ‘filibust’ -where politicians talk out the time on a debate so it gets thrown out- it is very easy to just talk and talk rubbish, but it is hard to choose to talk about the reality of issues of pain, loss, challenge, disappointments, hurts, expectations and experiences which shape and define us with honestly, to another human being and before -and with- God. Often slowly as we voice and own what is deep with us, we discover deeper revelation of ourselves but with self-revelation also comes a responsibility.

Ignorance makes no demand for a change of behaviour.

Ignorance has the security of the status quo.

Ignorance is self-delusional, and deep down we know from scripture that “truth sets us free”.

In discovering more of ourselves, which often is challenging, we aid ourselves in understanding ourselves, our journey, make-up and origins it helps enable us to shape our future in a better and a way of wholeness.

It is often far to slow, those of us who want a quick fix have to live with the frustration of our brokenness as often those simple solutions are (to quote Barak Obama) “neither simple nor solutions” and we must come to terms with being us.

Sometimes, it feels like being a small child on a long journey as we call out “are we there yet?”, in other words “am I sorted yet?”.

It has felt a bit like “Mary Poppins’” bag seeing my counsellor, as when I think “we must be done now” a well phrased question makes me realise there is still so much more baggage in the rucsac of my life that perhaps needs to be looked at, and perhaps not carried on into my future.

I think I was expecting to find a “magic silver bullet” one issue one thing that answered everything, and yet discovered layer upon layer of influences and pieces that explain a lot which helps me understand better.

We have an expression “don’t go there” and often that is how most of us live our lives, often sub consciously, and yet I believe in going there we discover critical insights, deep understanding and aids us into stepping closer towards greater peace and freedom.

I wish I could write a post saying everyone should get counselling to be sorted, but the more I travel on in life I realise none of us are every sorted, but I have discovered we can be more sorted than we are at the moment, we can have more peace than we currently experience, and there is more freedom than what we at this present time know.

 

 

 

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1 Kings 19, Carrying burdens, community of grace, Depression, Discipleship, Ministry, self awareness, vocation

Success or faithful obedience….

Some more thoughts from the prayer room yesterday…

I was feeling really sorry for myself, perhaps a bit of post Christmas blues?

I did feel a bit rubbish, the prayer room was empty, struggling to get teams out with Street Pastors as often as we’d like, Church has been particularly challenging over the last term…

It’s probably not on the same level as Elijah in the cave following the firey show-down on mount Carmel with Ahab and Jezebel wanting to murder him (1 Kings 19) -but I wasn’t feeling great.

As a side thought, I was chewing over a friend -Kevin Lewis’- Blog who talked about not being “disillusioned or disappointed” but rather deflated, because if we are ‘deflated’ we can be ‘inflated’ again…

And another side thought, I also, was thinking about ‘restoring the joy of our salvation’ somehow in real life, real ministry, with real people, I want to know the real truth of the “Joy of my Salvation”.

Anyway, into the prayer room walked Derek from Carmel whose fire for the Lord was infectious, little guy but with big heart for God, and then walked in my friend Paul Mundy… and as we prayed together I felt my Spirit lift. It reminded me of a picture from the Bible which used to hang in my dad’s study, which has Moses sat on a rock, with two guys holding his arms up. The story behind it can be found in Exodus 17, Moses is praying with his hands raised whilst Joshua is fighting a battle bellow, and whilst his hands are raised in blessing they have victory and when they fall they are losing, so two guys support him and hold his arms up when he tires and is unable to stand anymore Sometimes we need to encourage of re-encourage one another. Sometimes just being, our presence alongside, there can really help, encourage and inspire someone else.

Today as a Church we went off to Clevedon and met Michael Eden, who was also talking about Moses, who also had times of struggle in his life and ministry when in the middle of the desert and his people turned on him and grumbled, and Moses must have felt pretty low.

Yet Michael reminded us that when Moses encountered God in the burning bush, God was the one who was moving but the invitation for Moses was to partner with God.

We forget we are partnering with God and think it is all down to us, we rate ourselves and our self-worth from the successes and failures we face, and if you are like me we are often unduly harsh with ourselves.

Moses must have found it a longish and tough call going through 10 plagues and umpteen rejections from Pharaoh until eventually he saw the people of Israel freed, but the success wasn’t down to Moses but rather it belonged to God, Moses wasn’t responsible for the success of failure of the task,  no, his call was simply to be faithful and obedient.

 It is a liberating thing to know that our call is simply to be faithful to the call of God, because this sets us free from comparisons, looking and watching other peoples’ race -often we play our blooper reel over someone else’s highlight reel- and feeling like a failure.

Yet the call is not about apparent success but about faithful obedience, the fruit rests in the hands of God, sometimes we don’t see the fruit we are involved in birthing -Philip probably never knew the extent of the Ethiopians Eunach’s gospel endeavours- but just because we don’t see the fruit doesn’t mean it’s not there, and even if we have a Church crammed full of people listening to us preach doesn’t actually mean that anything fruitful and worthwhile is actually happening.

Ultimately the fruit, the growth, the success rests with God, our call is to be faithful. Sometimes that call to faithfulness can be feel tough, Jackie Pullinger the missionary from inside the walled city of china, slogged for 7 years without a convert, and yet broke through and thousands have been blessed by here, but if her emphasis had been on her own success she wouldn’t have hung on in there and seen the blessing.

Bill Wilson who leads the worlds’ largest Sunday School talks about Christians often quitting before the miracles kick in.

Often God makes us hang on for a bit that maybe we know our dependence on him, allows our pride to be dealt with and our desire for fruit for no other reason that to bless and bring joy to God.

The truth is that if we want to have fruit, and fruit that will last, the only way of achieving comes from our ‘remaining in him’, he is the source of all life. Success is God’s job and we’ll only see much of what God has done through us the other-side of the grave.

Victory only comes through faithfulness and obedience, doing it God’s way, ultimately the only way to be fruitful comes from the path of surrender, the saying “not my will but yours” and seeking to be faithful.

So let us encourage and bless one another to keep on seeing Christ glorified in what we do, lets seek him and follow him, worrying more about whether we are in the centre of Gods will, surrendered to him, rather than just doing our own thing and hoping God blesses it.

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apathy, Church, Compromise?, consumerism, Discipleship, self awareness

The Danger of Drift…

When I was young I was learning to swim on my back, and somehow when I was meaning to swim a width I ended up not seeing where I was going and being a few degrees out and suddenly realised I was right in the middle of the pool completely out of my depth. I have drifted into danger.

Sometimes we carry on as we are and not changing course we end up drifting into danger…

As Churches we carry on not reaching out or engaging with our community until eventual come to the place where we are no longer viable, and are closed.

As Christians we often drift in our faith only realising that we are just left with a series of habits and ideas that we have become familiar with, but the living dynamic faith that Christ wants for us is a long way away.

A challenge are we drifting as Christian Communities? Or are we drifting in our own personal walk with Christ.

Only a few degrees off from obedience over the course of time ends up as a long way of course.

Christians rarely just walk away from faith, often it is just a case of cooling off from God degree by degree?

It is not just about saying YES to God today, but rather everyday, each day, all the time…

Who or what is God calling us to be? Where is he guiding us, each step of the way?

The problem is we end up getting caught up in safe religion and comfort, lets keep fighting, keep on walking head towards the goad.

Forgetting what is past I press on to win the goal toward which Christ Jesus has called us.

Sometimes when we are together we need to show people where their current journey is heading… the realisation that if we keep doing what are currently doing we will keep getting what we currently have… Isnt it the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing but expecting different?

Lets pray that we do manage to change paths from death to life… to new and dangerous, but Godly ways of life….

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Discipleship, Life styles, Revelation 3.14-22., self awareness

The Vomitting God.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

I wonder what God would write if he wrote your Church a letter?
I wonder too, what God would write, to us personally as individuals?

I sometime joke that my mum was such a bad cook that she used to use the smoke detector as an oven timer…

Smoke detectors are funny things, sometimes they are so over-sensitive that they go off when the toast turns just ever so slightly brown… others have flat batteries and the house can go up in flames before the thing makes a bleep…

In many ways the human conscience is a little like a smoke detector, sometimes over-sensitive, Christians bowed down with guilt and feelings of failure, needing to hear the Easter message of forgiveness, redemption and restoration, of our love and value before God.

Others, become so used to being Christians, so familiar with the gospel message, so comfortable with their lives, so content with their Churches that they do become a little like a smoke detector with a flat battery.

In many ways this is the picture of the people at the Church of Laodicea, this is a wake up call to an apathetic Church. 

A challenge for the complacent.

Sobering thoughts for the smug.

Jesus says “I know your deeds” (v15) and “you say you are rich and don’t need a thing” (v17) -yet “but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (v17).

It’s a bit like one of those great episodes of ‘come dine with me’ where someone thinks they are a fantastic chef, only to realise they have tested and found wanting.

One of the scariest verses in the entire bible is “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (v16)… spit you out of my mouth, is a bit of a literal translation, for you make me sick!

Scary words.

Yet it is important to note that Jesus takes no pleasure in challenging the Laodiceans on their apathy listen to verse 19 “ Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent”

So, what is Jesus’ advice for sorting out their apathy?

1) ‘buy Gold from me, refined in the fire, so you’ll be rich’ (v18) 

– Echoes of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth (chapter three).

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work”. 

The idea of Gold being refined by the fire, is things that will last for eternity, rather than being hung up on tempory things that won’t last have no eternal value… wood, hay, straw will all be burned up, yet gold, silver costly stones will come through fire imperishable and undamaged.

In other words, live for eternity and what really matters rather than tempory insignificant whims that so easily distract us. 

2) “Wear white clothes” (v18) the passage  goes on about “covering shameful nakedness”. Normally nakedness in scripture has the idea of being exposed, I think this is saying about the people in Laodicea have been enjoying sinful behaviour, and have now been caught out, a bit like the teenagers in the yellow pages advert when the parents come home, caught out without excuse.

White is a symbol of purity, and the image in revelation is that we get white robes when we ‘wash our clothes in the blood of the lamb’ (Rev. 7:14), so together this has imagery of both confession and living a holy life.

In other words, confess your sins, and start living the lives you ought to be living as God’s Holy people, don’t tolerate and indulge in sin, take holiness and purity seriously, your lifestyle matters to God… God takes our sin serious (this week end shows just how seriously God takes our sin).

3) And lastly, “buy salve for your eyes so that you can see” the last thing is about vision for life, seeing our lives God’s way rather than being blinded by our own foolish ideas, our whims, our sin, our complacency, apathy and arrogance… When we come to Christ we see the world in a different way, Jesus is inviting the Laodicean Church, to get new vision, not their old vision that is making God feel queasy and turning his stomach, but rather seeing things God’s way, with right and healed eyes.

This is followed by an invitation, probably one of the greatest invitations in scripture, where Christ himself says “behold I stand at the door and knock” (20) -notice he doesn’t barge his way in, in fact the famous Holman Hunt picture features Jesus knocking on the door of our lives, where the handle is on the inside, leaving the choice up to us about whether we open the door, or whether we ignore the knocking… 

If we accept Christ’s offer to open the door, he promises to come into our lives, and eat with us, this is a Jewish term for fellowship and intimate friendship. 

Today, if we hear God knocking on the door of our lives, will we open the door and let him in? Do we want to have fellowship and a friendship with Christ.

Do we want to let him in to every area of our lives, giving him access all areas?

I remember someone saying after do the Alpha course, “I had only let Jesus into the conservatory of my life, now I’ve asked him into the whole house”.

So, to conclude: – change your lives and start living not simply for comfort but instead for eternity; confess your sins and change your lives, living holy and pure lives for God; look at the world through God’s eyes rather than through our own distorted vision… 

When we see this, we see ourselves as sinners in need of a Saviour… yet here comes our Saviour knocking on the door, asking if we will accept him.

Maybe today you want to rededicate your life afresh to God, turning your life around going his way instead of your own.

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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…

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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.

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Galations 6.9., Journey, Ministry, Mission, self awareness

Rev. Billy No-Mates!

I’m sat here, on my own in the Chasers lounge, with my clerical collar on, a bit like ‘Billy no-mates!’ -or Perhaps a Rev. Billy No-Mates.

The idea and vision behind this was to build relationships within the town centre community and then be in the same place available each week, with the hope of simple bible study, talking about the issues of life and offering prayer…

I do feel this was from God, but at the moment, I just feel a bit of a lemon stuck here in my dog collar typing away, every time the door opens wonder, is this someone coming to join us, but no…

This made me think a bit theologically, I’m sure this is from God so am not planning to quit anytime soon, I remember a great quote from Bill Wilson of Metro Ministries (the  worlds largest Sunday School in New York, working in the toughest areas of the city) “Christians often quit before the miracles kick in”.

When we launched the Street Pastors 6 years ago, we were reminded of a Bible verse; Galatians 6:9 “Do not grow weary in doing good but at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up…”

But also, I’ve been pondering the ideas between waiting and seeking, waiting can be a bit of an abdication, an inactive and passive word, just hanging about…

Where seeking is ‘keeping on looking at the door’, it’s active, it’s participating, it walks over across the room, and is prepared to look a little bit foolish, in the hope and expectation that God might be doing something.

Theologically we are called to be seekers after God, the ‘waiting on God’ is often (but not always) a way dressing up laziness in spiritual sounding language!

It is easy to just sit here, but there is something about looking and seeking for where God is opening up conversations, sometimes requires a smile, making oneself approachable, maybe a conversation about nothing much so that a conversation and much can happen (someone once said “Christian never build bridges to reach out to people” and then wonder why they don’t get to talk about Jesus).

Also, sat here, more or less on my own, it helped me to re-think the importance of one…Although on my own today, I have had little conversations, an small opportunities over the weeks and months I have been doing this… Often in one’s and two’s, small numbers and small conversations, but I am reminded that scripture reminds me “not to despise the day of small things”.

I love the story of the woman at the well, a great story of Jesus having an impromptu (and socially inappropriate!) chat with a Samaritan Woman (Jn 4). Yet in the passage before we see that Jesus has been busy with a million and one ministry things (his disciples baptizing people left right and center, interestingly they were baptist them, before they had fully grasped who Jesus was, wondering if this has something to do with our desire to be busy?!) and yet he has time for the one.

Do we sometimes loose track of the significance of the one, because we want bigger things, do we sometimes give up when Jesus says keep going, are what we think are failures, simple contractions of a new birth (births are rarely quick).

Actually is the success anything to do with us anyway?

Aren’t we just called to be faithful?

So for the time being, I will stay in this Coffee Shop with my dog collar, lap top, and take any opportunity to chat and engage with anyone God places across my path.

 

 

 

 

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