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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Experience, Reason, Theological Method, Tradition, understanding

…It’s not sexy (A blog about Theological Method).

when you talk about theological method, you can hear the yawns break out across the room, but actually it is vitally important about how think and make decisions theologically, and yet no one talks about it, because they think it’s boring.

Hopefully this blog will prove them wrong.

It is a vital problem. I have sat in groups where people have called “discipleship” and yet scripture is misquoted and passages are thrown around and tagged onto issues like misplaced jigsaw puzzles.

Or have heard people saying “God told me to do this” only to discover God has done a “U-turn” and said the opposite a couple of days later. I believe in a God that speaks, but I also believe that prophesy needs to be tested and weighed.

Or maybe you’ve had a Catholic friend (for an example) that talks about purgatory, praying to Mary or some other traditional Catholic doctrines and you’re left asking “where is that is the Bible?”

Or perhaps you have been in a Church meeting where a carefully thought out vision is presented, with mountains of statics and graphs and it all makes a lot of sense, but you have a question nagging at the back of your head and that is “it seems sensible, but is this what God is saying?”

Some might have noticed that Wesley’s quadrant has crept in here, that we make our spiritual decisions on the basis of “Scripture”, “experience”, “tradition” and “reason”… and yet as you probably have noticed our fallen humanity can creep into all of these and distort our view of Christ and what it means to follow him.

So, not only is the process of theological method complicated, it is made more complicated by other factors.

Culture. we take our cultural lenses and baggage into our walk with God often we notice the failures, flaws and foibles with other cultures that we don’t see in our own, in the Southern states of the USA at the turn of the last century many Christians considered themselves being very holy, whilst treating black people like second class citizens, probably justifying their behaviour because that what everyone did and it was “normal”.

Ourselves and our stories. we also bring our own baggage and issues to scripture because we as human-beings don’t come at anything from a neutral position.

Others. I worry sometimes that Pastors create clones, rather than people with the tools to think and discern stuff for themselves. Hearing what “Pastor ZYZ says” is interesting, but regurgitating someone else’s sermon doesn’t make it right, interestingly as human beings we normally believe what we first hear and accept and are very cynical after that.

At this point people normally hold their heads in their hands and think, I’ll give up now shall I?

Yet theology is nothing to fear, in fact God wants us to know him and know him better, Theo -Latin for God- logos -word- the idea of studying God. My former principal Christina Baxter used to talk about Theology was “thinking God’s thoughts after him” -which I think is pretty exciting.

Rowan Williams said “theology was trying to say the least silly thing we can about God”.

Both of these thoughts actually lead me to want to worship, which I think is a good litmus test of whether theology is true or heretical.

As an evangelical, I look first through the primacy of scripture:

-But, if we are seeking God in scripture, we need to read our Bibles, and reading them with prayerful expectation, but also reading them in context, what comes before, what comes after, who is it written too, why was it written. Also, think translation is an issue, now thing the gizmos on our phone we can check out challenging passages from different translations, and even the original Greek, and look it up in a Biblical Greek dictionary all at a touch of a button whilst drinking your latte! Another what does the Bible actually say, rather than what we think it says!

As a charismatic, I do take our experience of God seriously.

Experience is good, Peter changed his viewpoint on the Gentiles because of a vision, and the other disciples changed their viewpoint on seeing the Holy Spirit poured out. Experiences and encounters are really important, but we need to remember that we as people are fickle and God calls us to test and weigh guidance, this is not lacking in faith, but rather it is in prayerfully weighing stuff that we allow our faith to flourish and grow.

The Catholics and Anglo Catholics often take our Christian heritage much more seriously than we in the evangelical camp, but as I have travelled onwards I have discovered that there is much wisdom and blessing within our Christian heritage..

Tradition, is so much to say than just because “we’ve always done it this way” when tradition is at its best we are standing on the shoulders of giants of amazing people of God whose journeys can bring so much blessing and benefit to us, and yet sometimes we are caught up in someone else’s baggage. whatever we are facing, probably somewhere throughout the world and history another follower of Jesus has faced it, and shared their experiences. what most of us think of as “normal” Christianity, has been wrestled out by faithful people (many who gave their lives).

The liberals get a bad press, but reason is important, asking hard questions and not being fobbed off with clich├ęs or pat answers is important.

Reason. God has given us a brain of our own to use, discernment is a spiritual gift, and I believe God wants us to think and pray and use our minds in our faith. One of my key phrases I use when taking Alpha is “Christianity is not a faith which asks your to leave your brain at the door”, yet our reason will never be fully sufficient because “A God I can fully understand probably isn’t God”.

So, a good question to ask ourselves is “why do I think what I think?” and to be open to God challenging our thinking, a great phrase used at a theological college I looked at was “roots down walls down” -if we have our roots down deeply into God we have nothing to fear from other people with different ideas, as the spirit of all truth protects and guides us, if we let him.

I’ll close with two bits of testimony.

A friend of mine was at a theological college and someone spoke of their fear of loosing their faith (they actually meant not being a proper evangelical any more). My friend said something interesting, he said “ultimately I am interested in truth, and if it’s not true I don’t want to believe it”. So often we want to stay ‘safe’ in our theology and opinions, but actually the Spirit of all truth is both wonderful and dangerous.

when I was in my early 20’s I began to think about ordination, and one of the questions was about women vicars and Bishops, and lots of people tried telling me that it was all cultural, or about an experience they’d had (experience and reason) but for me my heart was saying “yeah but is the Bible okay with it” -I think it is- but what I wanted was someone to sit down and read the Bible with me and help me make sense of some difficult bits.

So, as we journey on, lets keep on chasing after God, hungry to hear from him, but doing so with prayerful wisdom and discernment in the context of community, and see where he leads us, it’s an adventure.

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