Age, cost, Depression, Disappointment, Discouragement, doubt, Dreams, expectations, Experience, faithfulness, Grit, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Humanity, Risk and Change, self awareness, Spiritual Warfare, Step of faith, Suffering., Testimony, vocation

Looking back over my 30’s!

I remember 10 years ago about to turn 30!

30 -I couldn’t believe I was going to be 30!

30?!

I remember sat in a pub on the Quay -and called the Quay- in Poole.

I was all full of hope and excitement about life…

I was about to get married.

I was a year(ish) into my curacy and was about to be ordained Priest/Presbyter.

I was full of audacious dreams of the adventure God had planned for us in somewhere we did not yet know.

Today I’m feeling much more melancholy.

Looking back over the past 10 years have had some wonderful moments, particularly marrying Allana and our fantastic daughter.

But, I am asking myself 40? -How did that happen?

40,that can’t be right?

40!?

There have been some wonderful moments, seeing people pray prayers of commitment to Christ and meaning them, baptising adults, planting a Church -and a few new congregations-, seeing friends step into what God has for them especially those ordained (especially Sam)and seeing some wonderful Kingdom signs and wonders along the way too.

Yet there have been some tough moments too.

To be honest it feels a little like half way through a boxing match where you are dabbing your eye with a wet sponge and spitting blood into the bucket.

Sometimes when we stop we sometimes realise what a fight a season has been, how far you’ve come -and even if it doesn’t feel far, it is worth remembering that sometimes the shortest distances sometimes can be the toughest of drags. One clergy friend that had a tough time talked about “I ran with the ball and I made the 9 yards”. It might not feel a long way, but they were significant steps hard won and costly.

As I slipped into sulky mood, I began to have a bit of a self pity party with the people that let me down, the mean stuff people have said, the times plans didn’t go right and all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.

Yet in it all I am sure I have learned stuff.

And despite sometimes feeling very confused, and even sometimes asking “God where are you?”, why is this happening” and “why did this door close?” I can still say (even though this has probably been the toughest decade of my life) that God has been, and is, faithful.

As I thought of that young thirty year old dreamer, I’m now a bit more gnarled and wrinkled, but we are standing on another new season.

The dream for God to take us, now the three of us (four if you include the dog) into new adventures into the unknown, with expectancy, again not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who it is that holds the future.

As I sit here, a bit battered, but still want that same dream to stay alive.

I think there is nothing spiritually mature about becoming jaded and downsizing our expectations of God. There is nothing Godly about playing it safe and going through the motions. There is nothing wise about allowing dreams to die and reducing and minimising your vision.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote that says “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”.

why should the future look boring and safe? An adventure with Jesus might be tougher and harder than most of us thought when we surrendered our lives to him, but it is still the greatest calling we have.

It would have been so easy to keep on doing what we have been doing and just slowly die under the moany pessimistic emails, the endless cycle of harvest festivals and other annual events and preaching to people who have heard it all a million times but longing to preach to someone who has not heard it at all.

It is so easy to be safe keep your head down grit your teeth and think about your pension, yet I believe that God has so much more for all of us than our 9-5 prisons.

As we get older, sometimes the risks feels bigger (especially those of us with families) and the jumps feel further, and the costs seem greater and yet the truth of God’s faithfulness remains the same, constant.

So, looking back and looking forward, however it looks I want to pledge one thing, it will be about Jesus, the one who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

It will be uncertain although it is in the service of the only truly certain thing in this universe -Jesus is this life’s only true certainty.

So, although I feel like I’m sat on a stall, it’s time to return the gum-shield, step into a different ring and listen to the bell and see what God ahs in store for the next decade.

It’s not about how much it cost -although sometimes that does feel quite in your face at times- but rather it is about how great is the prize, the Kingdom, the pearl of great price, the one worth it all.

“were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.

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call, Depression, Discipleship, Fear, Guidance, Kingdom, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, obidience, Pioneer, vocation

Don’t stop Pioneering!

I remember walking (or rather floating) to work having just made a re-commitment to God, I was excited, I knew God had changed my life, I longed to see more of him at work, I was hungry.

Later I went off to work for a Church in wakefield, I saw their leader step out in faith and God doing wonderful things.

For the last 20 years I have worked for various Churches and I worry sometimes that I’ve lost my fire, or at least that fire has cool, the lion has lost something of its roar!

I am at a Church where although I’m one of the clergy nearly everyone there is older than me, and when I talk about stepping out in faith I get hit regularly with this bucket of cold pessimism and defeatism, one guy in particular seems to champion the “God will never do it here” corner, which is really tough.

The last 7 years have been unbelievably  tough -people who call themselves Christians can be just so mean and inch by inch you feel more and more deflated by this critical spirit tapping away all the time.

I have been crying out to God for break through, more recently if I’m honest I have been crying out to God for rescue.

Often people (probably well meaningly) talk about how they did great exploits for God when they were young too, I think this is meant to encourage me, and I praise God that they were on fire and did do “mission England” or the “decade of evangelism” but I look at them and think I don’t want to believe my faith in believing in God’s ability to transform is simply “naive youthful exuberance” and “jaded cynicism” is somehow spiritual and actually maturity. At my interview someone said “no one expects miracles in Kingwood”. I believe this is a lie, a demonic lie, maturity in Christ is not youthful naivety.  I don’t see “settling down and being comfortable” as part of the call of God on our lives, we are called to follow him ALL the days of our life, not just those reckless early years or at the start of our walk with him.

This is meant to be our daily reality, not just a nostalgic dream.

At this time of struggle, it is a time to pick up and ‘pioneer again’, to not settle for simply what we already have, but to push onto God for more of him, more of his Kingdom.

He may have given us stories we can dine out on and sound spiritual in the past, and I’m sure they will continue to be used for blessing, but like the manna the Israelites ate yesterdays manna does stale and there is plenty for each day.

As we get older our energy can decrease, and we value comfort more.

Do we have the energy to start again? To keep on following Jesus where he calls us? To the new challenge? To the new role? To the new mantle? CS Lewis reminds us “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream another new dream” -especially when that dream is put inside you by the spirit of the living God.

“But gradually the worries of life and the decifulness of wealth constrain the bloodrush of youth, we tame the wild and call is wise”-Pete Greig.

It is the nature of the human condition to pioneer and then too settle, yet God is calling us not to be settled, this earth is not our home, instead we are citizens of heaven.

we have responsibilities too, what of my wife? what of my children? These are valid questions, but God is able to take care of them, he is able to be faithful with them.

“But is he?” I ask myself, we are struggling here, it seems like the water is rising up and up, and hanging on to the promise that he wont let us drown. I remembered the story of Joseph, and God was faithful to Joseph, but before Joseph got to the Palace he first had to go through the Pit and the Prison.

The problem when we are in a pessimistic environment it can become so corrosive to our faith, to believe differently from the people around us is tough, sometimes being a Christian really does feel like swimming against the tide, and somehow it feels harder to swim against the tide within Churches because it feels like they ought to get it, but sadly they don’t, or they choose not too, and that can be a really tough place to be, it’s the place of Moses with the people of Israel, it was a really tough 40 year desert journey, and he only got to glimpse the promised land, but when he did I know that he would have thought that none of this was done in vain.

God is faithful and is with us even when it doesn’t feel like it, and maybe this side of eternity we will never understand why God led us on the path that he did, why he closed some doors and allowed other doors to open. Yet despite it all, and sometimes through gritted teeth, I still choose to believe that God is good..

Sometimes the place of pain traps us and paralysis us, leaving us unable to move on, Abra(h)ams Father Terah was on his way to the land of Canaan, yet he settled in Haran, the place he names after his son -also called Haran which is clearly not a co-incidence- Haran  died, and Terah settled here in his grief.  I believe God is saying to us all today not to let pain stop you in your tracks.

Pete Greig says this “It is easy to pioneer when you’re too young to know what it will cost you, when you feel immortal and invincible and the whole of life is an adventure waiting to begin. but Pioneering a second time is hard”.

Yet let’s be Spiritual Abraham’s, never settling for what we have, but pushing on despite the challenges and not getting entangled in the comfort, for the more of God and his Kingdoms. we are not called to be settlers but pioneers.

Don’t stop pioneering, keep going, let’s persevere, let’s see the new thing, the new dream that God has for each one of us.

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Authenticity, Busyness, Counselling, Depression, Life styles, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

Doctor, Doctor -Can you Make it all Okay?

Again, possibly this might be a rather personal blog, but one which I hope might bless and encourage those who read it.

As many of you know I am a bit of an “Everything or Nothing” kind of guy, and sometimes I am quite driven, and try and be conscientious, I long to see more of God’s Kingdom break in and try and seek to serve God and those I minister to faithfully. I admit I don’t always get it right, but I do try.

Also, I’ve blogged about being a Christian with depression and about going to counselling, I would want to urge anyone who might be feeling they struggle with depression, or think that they might need some counselling to do the brave and the right thing, and maybe chat to your doctor, or book yourself some sessions with a Christian Counsellor (most clergy should be able to hook you up with someone, although there maybe a bit of a wait).

Yet more recently I have been challenged about two thoughts, self care and taking personal responsibility.

Talking with the counsellor when work was really stressful, and he asked “why don’t you get to the Doctor and get signed off?”

Yet as conversations continued, it is very easy to come to medics and ‘other professionals’ or people we put on pedestals and expect them to “fix us”.

If I had been signed off for a couple of weeks, it would be nice, but after a couple of weeks, would anything have changed?

I wouldn’t feel bad for cancelling a meeting if I said “Dr’s orders”, rather than simply saying “No” to something.

If I got signed onto ‘reduced hours’ that wouldn’t really do anything either as actually I normally manage (or fail to manage) my own dairy.

Yet too often we look to someone else to make it all okay.

Actually there is a lot of this in the Gospel, looking not at ourselves for Salvation and rescue but from Christ.

Yet, sometimes God, or another human being, doesn’t burst into our situation and wave a magic wand, sometimes God asks us ourselves to take responsibility for our situation and to change it.

Sometimes God leaves the ball in our court.

It is easy then to revert to a position of a victim, or perhaps a prisoner, when God has placed all we need for a new future within us.

I am really struck by John’s account of the healing of the man by the Pool at Bethsaida, Jesus asks him “Do you want to be healed?” -he’s sat there supposedly wanting healing, but to actually be healed and learn a new life and a new identity not as the lame man who sits begging beside the pool, was for him a challenge.

I believe in many situations God himself has given us the tools to change our circumstances ourselves. The power is in our hands and our lives, through God’s Spirit within us. His Spirit within us is greater than he that is in the world, and is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

So, instead of going to someone else, personally thinking about self care, God’s call not just to be a good minister but also a good husband and father, good son and grandson, good nephew and uncle, good friend, neighbour and colleague.

Busy is a choice.

Taking time out, especially for retreat times and being with God, is not an optional extra for indulgent Christians, but actually part of God’s call to be a human being, loved because of who we are not because of what we do.

I have been chewing over the phrase about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and God’s Kingdom’s call is for the whole person, not just the more overtly and obviously Christian bit.

Jesus says that his “Yoke is easy and his burden is light”, which makes me ask are the burdens I carry not of God? Are they self imposed? Am I trying to do them in my own strength?

A book I’ve flicked through is called “Driven Beyond the Call”, the title is very thought provoking are we driven beyond what God is calling us to do.

My friend Andy Schuman was talking about leading a spirit-led life and he joked about the phrase “God’s not doing it so could you do it Vicar!”

-Are we trying to push doors open when God is saying “not yet”?

-Or faithfully carrying on with what we maybe should have laid down?

Perhaps my busyness is due to my own drivers?

Perhaps there is a need to be needed?

Perhaps I don’t like saying “No” to people?

If I’m honest, sometimes I feel guilty about taking time off, feel as though I am being self indulgent, but often this is a false guilt, a guilt that robs us both of our peace and our joy.

A story I love is the story of Elijah who sees God break-through on Mount Carmel, and ends up exhausted in a slump in a cave, and God makes him fall asleep and gives him breakfast.

Mark Rich once said “sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep”, often when we are tired and exhausted we look upon the world with bleary grey eyes, and we become more and more depressed.

Often busyness is actually an illusion or state of mind. Often we rush around and we miss the critical thing God is doing, which is the last thing I want to do.

A great thing to give up this Lent is busyness.

Perhaps God is calling us to look at our world with him, with refreshed eyes.

Philip Yancey says “there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore, and nothing we can do to make God love us any less”.

Discovering “Who I am when I am not busy?” for me feels like a terrifying question to ask myself. Perhaps that’s a question you might ask yourself too?

One of the songs which moves me deeply is the song by Matt Redman: When the Music Fades:

Which talks of the hush of a busy world, a stripping back, and a silencing of all the noise and discovering afresh God’s goodness and awesome love.

In fact the Church, Soul Survivor Watford, had become so well known for its worship music that they stopped all musical worship and just sought God without lights, smoke machines, PA systems and amps, guitars and full bands… For the worship leaders if was incredibly painful, challenging their whole identity and contribution, but in doing this they came through this dessert time much deeper, here is what Matt Redman wrote…

“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart”

Yet in coming to Christ, as we really are, without the noise, work and busyness, we discover something much deeper about ourselves and also about God.

“You search much deeper within, the way things appear you are looking into my heart”

God calls us all to “Be Still and know that I am God”.

God calls us all to ‘come and lay our burdens down gladly at his feet’, James tells us to “cast our burdens onto the Lord because he cares for us”.

So, to conclude, perhaps this Lent isn’t about whether or not we have another chocolate biscuit but rather we encounter God in a new and deep way, leaving the noise and busyness aside, and taking the responsibility to give ourselves the space and freedom to just be before our heavenly father who loves us.

So, my challenge for Lent is to learn afresh what it means to simply “BE”.

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brokenness, Depression, Joy

Joy.

A friend of mine said that his ambition for last year was to “pursue joy”.

After-all Scripture reminds us that “The joy of the Lord is my Strength and my Song” and the psalmist prays that he would be “restored to the joy of my salvation”.

Yet I wonder if I am always a good advert for joy? So, often I feel like a struggling and not quite burned out, but certainly a tad singed at times…

Joy, from my understanding of the word, isn’t something hypothetical but something real and tangible that can be evident in our lives, like peace it is a real emotion that Christ promises he gives to us in our real and every day lives.

Do I enjoy God’s peace and joy, are they gifts from God which I embrace and experience, habitually in my normal everyday life.

I wonder too, when I do into Churches how rare it is to see any joy, in more traditional Anglican settings joy is often replaced by reverence (a word I find strangely missing in scripture, although I’m not saying there isn’t a place for some solemnity within our worship). Yet, however our worship styles look I believe joy should be within it for it to truly be an act of worship (I realise too that there is a place for lament within our worship, but even so joy should break through, when we read the Psalms we see the reality of everyday life, and yet so often they end on a note of faith and hope, an undercurrent of joy that God remains upon his throne even -or maybe especially- in our darkest moments.

It is easy to justify our absence of joy on our personal circumstances, but Peace and Joy are actually meant to transcend our everyday experiences, sometimes we hear these wonderful stories of God’s supernatural peace or joy in the midst of bleakness and struggle.

I realise too that there is actually so much around us all to praise God for, lovely people, family, friends, beauty of creation -yet when challenges come out vision becomes more narrowed- yet God never lets us go and is always with us, and often in the pain we can experience more of him in greater depth.

To worship, even when life is not as it should be, is a choice, and sometimes we really don’t feel it, yet there are times when I have pressed through in my frustrations and my deflated-ness and found in that place of brokenness and sacrifice something new and wonderful. As we worship, it is a choice to focus not on our problems and on our pain, but on the God who is the lifter of our head, “the one from whom our help comes from the maker of heaven and earth”.

So, my challenge primarily to myself, is where is my peace, where does my joy come from?

As I seek God more and more, aren’t these characteristics of him that perhaps I know I am somewhat lacking.

Perhaps, we need to seek to find God the source of peace and joy that transcends our understanding?

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brokenness, Depression, Falibility, love, Pain

Valentines’ Dilemma.

Today is a day when we remember St. Valentine, who was an early Church Bishop, who conducted many marriages to allow young men to avoid conscription (the Emperor at the time believed single men made better soldiers).

Whilst in Prison, he prayed for the jailers daughter who was blind, she was healed and her sight restored. He was brutally Murdered/Martyred, but his last letter was signed “your Valentine”, and so the tradition of sending love notes on valentines day has continued.

Ironic, that we celebrate romantic love from a man who kept a vow of celibacy.

Today can be a day of great joy, and that’s great, but just because we are in a good season, we realise this isn’t necessarily true for everyone.

Today is a day which brings up lots of pastoral issues, What about those who were married but are no longer through divorce or bereavement, today can be a tough day?

What about those who maybe wanted to be married and yet never has been, again today could be a challenging day.

What about those who are married but their marriage has become a really tough challenge?

Some people too in our Churches maybe in complicated relationships.

(A great book and blog about Singleness comes from my friend Kate Wharton -single minded https://www.amazon.co.uk/Single-Minded-Being-Single-Whole-Living/dp/0857214306 , http://katewharton.blogspot.co.uk/  ).

Sometimes we turn love and life into something unreal and unattainable, those of us who are married don’t live “happily ever after” marriage is something wonderful, but not always easy, and even the best marriages aren’t always sweetness and light all the time.

Single people might have freedoms and opportunities that we might envy when just getting a babysitter and getting out the house feels like a rare achievement, but when I was single I certainly didn’t feel lucky, in fact sometimes I felt lonely and sad about being single.

The truth is that we, especially in a facebook age, present one thing to the world and another thing is the reality in our hearts behind closed doors.

Sometimes Churches are good at joy, but less good with complexity and mess.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places for messy lives.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe for people with marriage problems.

Sadly single people often say our Churches don’t feel safe places where they are welcome and valued.

How can we be safe sharing both joys and sorrows.

I long to see Church become a place that can laugh with those who laugh and cries with those who cries, sharing the reality of joys and sorrows.

It is human nature to run comparisons, -normally unfavourable- yet the truth is the grass is not always greener.

Whatever our circumstances life always presents challenges.

God’s Church is made up of people who are married, and people who are not, people whose relationships are in a good place, and those whose relationships are tough.

How do we as Church, become a community of grace that supports and loves one another in our variety of different life stages and relationship status’? Where joys and sorrows are freely expressed.

Where we are loved and accepted for who we are now, rather than an idealised version of ourselves, or who we might be in the future.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are now, encounters us in our present, and as we really are, not how we’d like to be, or an idealised ‘facebook-esk’ version of ourselves.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are at, celebrating the joys and blessings, as well as the sorrows and challenges.

The good news of the Gospel is that as a Church family, people around you with a different story can really be a blessing to you, and you to them, together you can carry one anothers burdens and enable the local expression of Church to be more loving and authentic.

Our world is sex obsessed and tells us we are incomplete without the perfect life (and perfect partner)…  Jesus doesn’t agree!

Yet the truth is we are not perfect, nor will any partner we have  be perfect either.

We live in a world maybe obsessed by sex, and we are called to be holy, the world may tell us we are incomplete but the gospel tells us we are made whole in Christ, beloved and valued.

Paul tells the Church to not to let the world squeeze them into its mould (Romans 12 -the message) and yet sometime the Church as an institution moulds us as an institution where we either feel pressured to conform to the ridiculous stereotype, but the gospel actually should allow us the freedom to be ourselves, to be loved as us, single or married, in good times or hard times.

Perhaps as Church we lack the empathy to see how other peoples lives can be fully and wonderfully Christian but look very different from our own, and how we may be a blessing to them, and they to us.

Where we feel truly loved we can be truly ourselves, the problem too often with our Churches is that we all put up our guard and show the world a respectable veneer, rather than being real about what life is really like for us.

So, a challenge for us all, especially on valentines day, we are called to love, and be a community of authenticity and grace, where all who encounter it are blessed.

Jesus says of his Church “by this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another”…

This is a call for real love in a real (but broken) world.

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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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