Boldness, Community, Discipleship, Fear, hope, Mission, The Turning

Word on the Street 2

we are nearing the end of the Bristol Turning Mission Fortnight, and I am really tired, but I’m also excited, encouraged and also still feel a little daunted.

I started this mission, nervously excited (but secretly bricking it a bit if I’m honest!) with lots of questions, in fact my nervous excitement was worried about being excited as have thought many times that I had the keys to world evangelisation (okay slight exaggeration!) only to come away feeling a bit disappointed.

A while back I was holding a meeting about Church planting and mission and this amazing dude called Mark from the Salvation Army was saying NASA had invented a dart board that copes with 0 gravity in space that is computerised and moves so you always it a bullseye. Too often I’ve had to make encouraging noises for the team, “well it is good we are a positive and visible presence in the community”, “they might not have become Christians but we blessed them”, “we don’t know what seeds have been sown” (all of which are true) but masking the disappointment that “we had fished all night and caught nothing!

I wonder if as Churches we fire our arrows and then paint rings around them, and pretend we have hit the target -“…’cos I meant to do that all along!”

I was worried about being expectant for God to meet me in mission, even though I probably preach about the “missio dei” (God’s mission) and about being open and expectant from the Holy Spirit, disappointments had crusted over my heart like Lyme-scale in a kettle, but deep down within me was that ‘child-like faith’ that ‘voice of hope’ excited that God is going to do something wonderful.

I have discovered how debilitating disappointment can be, and how this limits our expectation of God. Over the past few months we have been meeting up on a Saturday morning to pray and share from all across the Churches (at 7:00 in the morning, I hate mornings!). Yet being with other believers praying and believing passionately that God is on the move, I felt something shift inside me and I was daring to dream again, I was praying passionately, but I had a few too many “yeah buts” going on in my head.

I have found the work in Kingswood so incredibly lonely, and yet feeling like part of a team of like-minded people has lifted my spirit.

Often when I have been in church and no one else is on the same page (possibly even a different book!) you begin to doubt yourself “Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks this is important? why do we sing and pray for revival but not do anything to enable it to happen? And there is a wonderful ‘kinship’ in this, on Maundy Thursday worked with a retired guy in his 70’s, on Holy Saturday a young lad in his 20s, on Easter Monday took a team of people in their 50s out with me, yesterday I worked with a young mum and a fab older gent who a local Baptist Pastor, and today I got to work with my friend Jackie from Elim who (I’m guessing is around my age), we were also joined for a bit by a lady who has been through some very tough stuff and only been a Christian a short-time but she did a great job of opening up conversations too.

It was encouraging to see Christians from a variety of backgrounds, ages, Churches all unified together in the one thing -our Saviour Christ Jesus- than anything that divides us.

Very different people, but the same God, very different personalities which came through, but using the same script, yet  despite our differences we all had the one thing in common, God used us in sharing his amazing news with people.

I blogged in my previous blog about my worries about using a script and about my fears about talking to random members of the public that I didn’t know, and yet in stepping out the boat, leaving our comfort zone, God has been incredibly faithful and gracious to us and we have seen much fruit (500 people last week, and I’m not sure this week but probably in three figures by now!)

The fear of rejection, it’s not nice when you speak to people and they just walk past you as though you don’t exist, the occasional “**** off!” isn’t particularly pleasant either, but I have been really challenged about not letting the disappointments stop us, one lady went out with her son (possibly teenage?) who kept a count of the knock backs “that’s 18 rejections mum!” and yet on the 19th she led someone to Christ -what a star that lady was.

I wonder if I’d have had her wonderful tenacity to keep on going for the fruit of the 19th person getting saved? I often mention Jackie Pullinger who spent 7 years in the gang-land ruled ‘walled city’ of China before she saw her first convert but then after that came break through after break through. I wonder if that was me I wonder if I’d have lasted 7 months?

I also began to feel the danger of comparisons, one morning they got those of us who had been out before to line up and be team leaders, and those who hadn’t done it before could come and join us, and instantly in my head and my heart I was back in school when the ‘cool kids’ were being picked for the football side and I ended up praying that someone would pick me and that I wouldn’t be left until last.

At times in my life I have often wished I was more “gregarious”, “quicker witted”, “more charming”, “better theologian & apologist”, more gravitas and many more things too… I know I have a fake idea of what the perfect evangelist should be made up of components of other evangelists -with perfect teeth- I have known.

Yet he problem with comparisons we often run someone else’s highlight reel with our blooper reel, and actually make it about us and not God at work through us.

I remember someone talking to me and said they didn’t feel qualified (exact words!) to share their faith, and a friend of mine said “If you love Jesus and you have a pulse then you are qualified -amply qualified!”

This week my friend Rich said something incredibly wise when he was leading a bit of the training he said “even if you just tell someone that “God loves them and has an awesome plan for your life!” -you have done more good than if you’d stayed at home watching day-time telly.

This is something that never ceases to humble and astound me that God chooses to work through ordinary people like you and me for his glory and Kingdom advancement.

One of things I have found most exciting) is that we have trained up probably about 200 ordinary (which is the wrong word, but you know what I mean!) Christians to be able to share their faith simply but effectively with those around them.

If we can chat to strangers on the street about Jesus maybe we can chat to neighbours, friends, colleagues and family members too? It made me wonder how many sermons I’ve heard on the need for evangelism (which probably has made everyone feel guilty) and how few on some helpful tools, useful tips and practical stuff to help us actually do it (very few).

I saw ‘big Al’ one of our wonderful friends lead a couple of guys who come to our Soul Cafe project to a prayer of commitment on Sunday, on Monday we heard a story of a guy leading a work colleague to Christ, another guy led someone to Christ in our Church Car Park, from an organised event to organic every-day life evangelistic overflow is what I dream of seeing happening more and more as just ordinary and normal part of our Christian life -it should just be what we do as part of our regular day to day lifestyle.

It has been wonderful to be part of thing Kingdom culture for this time, and yet the interruptions of the pettiness and over-stress of the trivial remind us of where we actually are as Churches, but something of this is a glimpse of the Kingdom, the pull of a different and better reality instep with God, the longing for moreness of what God has in store for us.

As we fellowship as a missionary community, united in love in Christ and his gospel, celebrating with joy hearing stories of Salvation, there is a challenge awaiting us, that of following people up well and seeing them not just become converts but becoming mature disciples in Christ.

I remember when we saw a lad we had met from the Streets become a Christian I was very excited and joyous, but a friend said solemnly “you realise that XXX becoming a Christian isn’t the end of something, this is the beginning, this is where the hard work starts!”

who is up for joining us in this new and exciting challenge?

 

 

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doubt, faith, Falibility, Fear, Holy Saturday, Pain, Suffering.

Holy Saturday.

Good Friday is an easy blog to write about, the fallen-ness of human nature (after-all “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” and the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”).

It would be easy too, to write about our need of a Saviour and the amazing action of God who left the glories of heaven to step down to the earth he created to suffer and die, in our place, for our sins.

In fact I’m sure many Christians blogged this sort of stuff yesterday.

Tomorrow, I’m sure the internet will be awash with blogs talking about Jesus’ resurrection shows that death has been defeated, sin has been conquered and relationship with the Father restored for those who choose to put their faith in Christ.

But I want to blog about today, Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday, with the body of God incarnate dead and sealed in a stone cold tomb. The day before the resurrection, when tragedy was turned to victory.

Today is a day of doubts, we see the disciples run and hide in upper-rooms, or quit it all together and return to the fishing trade, or walk off from Jerusalem to Emmaus (remember Jesus had instructed them to stay in Jerusalem). A day when dreams died, an disappointment reigned, questions hung unanswered in the air.

The first Holy Saturday was a pessimistic day, the  only people who had any faith for a resurrection were the Chief Priests, the scribes and the Pharisees -those who feared it the most, I wonder if their doubts were rising? “Perhaps Jesus really was who he said he was?”  Maybe in the depth of their hearts they might have been asking whether they had just made a terrible, terrible mistake?” -I wonder?

I wonder if our lives sometimes feel a bit like a Holy Saturday?

where we look back at our own surrendering of our lives to Christ, and look forward to his return, but now sometimes we get plagued with doubts? Perhaps we are disappointed about how things have worked out? Maybe deep down we worry we have got it all wrong?

And maybe our Holy Saturday hasn’t just been 24 hours, perhaps it has been a long time, perhaps even years?

In my life, I have had some wonderful mountain top experiences, but I have had some valley times too.  I believe Holy Saturday feels like a day of a spiritual desert, and deserts are tough places, but places in which God often does his deepest and most profound work within us, but most of us want to escape the desert, just as most Christians want to either rewind to Good Friday or fast forward to Easter Day, but to do this misses out on what we can learn in the from Holy Saturday.

If we rush past Holy Saturday, often our Easter Message often sounds glib and insincere.

If we have just an Easter Sunday Morning faith, we have a great theology of victory and power -which is great- but we also (I believe) need to have a faith that can cope with the pain, suffering, complex questions and difficulties of following Jesus in a world that is broken.

I have heard people talk about the “already and not yet” of the Kingdom of God, meaning that the Kingdom of God can -and does- break into real peoples lives but the fullness of this in its entirety has still yet to be seen.

Recently I read Pete Greig’s books “Red Moon Rising” and “Dirty Glory” and was struck by how he started an international prayer ministry whilst it looked like his wife might die of a brain tumour.

I remember reading about David watson and John wimber both taught the Church to expect God’s miraculous healing miracles in the here and now -and have seen many, many people pray and receive miraculous healing- and yet both of these great men died of cancer.

I struggle with Holy Saturday.

I struggle with waiting.

I wonder why it took 7 years after first meeting Allana to end up marrying her, why the wait and the pain?

Mike Pilivachi talked  about waiting around 17 years to leave his job and become a Pastor, why the wait and the frustration?

why didn’t Jesus rise a day earlier on Holy Saturday? why the wait?

Actually I don’t know why God waited 24 hours, nor do I know about any other waits, but I do wonder if one day I’ll understand? The resurrection, like all waits, we have to trust God’s goodness, even when sometimes that takes what can feel like ore faith than we have at the time.

I wonder, the disciples must have remembered Jesus talking about rising from the dead, I wonder if deep within them there was a small flickering light of hope burning away in the depth of a disciples heart?

Perhaps there is something you are faithfully clinging onto God for, and you can identify with this picture of Holy Saturday when you are believing for something even though the wait might be tough.

Perhaps as we wait for Easter Day, Holy Saturday can teach us that one day every doubt will be resolved, every question answered, problem solved as the King of Glory will return with his rule and reign.

I remember hearing Delirous play “every little thing is going to be all right” and at first I objected, Jesus said “in this life you will have trouble”, but then Martin Smith (the lead singer) said “It will be all-right in the end, and if its not all-right its  not the end”… A former vicar friend of mine used to say of the book of revelation “I’ve read the end of the book and we win”.

Yet today is Holy Saturday, we are not without hope, Jesus will rise, but at the moment the Sun has yet to rise, and sometimes the night is darkest before the dawn, but the dawn will come.

 

 

 

 

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Authenticity, Fear, Life styles, Listening, Mission, Naaman, Pride, Risk and Change, Salvation

word on the street

Today I went to the Turning Mission happening in Bristol.

I felt a bit awkward going in as I had missed the last couple of days, and had to log in on this computer that kept crashing, before grabbing a disposable cup of coffee (actually not too bad coffee for Church coffee!).

I scanned the sea of faces for a face I recognised before spotting my friend Geoff, another Vicar, who works with us sometimes, it was his first day too.

I wasn’t wearing my clerical collar, normally when I do outreachy stuff I’m normally in Kingswood, and I wear it as have found it often helps the conversation get started. Often too when I do outreach I’m either doing School or Street Pastors with lots of practical help to offer (not to mention the large florencent jackets!). Other times when doing Chaplaincy work we are giving out creme eggs other chocolate, but today, it was just me, no props, no costumes, nothing to hide behind, just me (and God).

My friend Greg Sharples once spoke on Jesus sending out the 12 and the 72 without anything extra for the journey and his main point was simply: Jesus is enough… we don’t need the gimmicks.

Anyway the worship started and I tried to look Holy whilst trying to surreptitiously drink my coffee.

Although the worship was just a random dude on a guitar there was a real sense of God’s Holy Spirit anointing on our worship together, reminding me afresh of importance of God’s presence. 

Also reminded me just how complicated we have made Church life, let’s just worship together, share life, open the scriptures, pray and eat together.

The Turning is based on two very simple ideas, soak in God’s presence and go out into the community in pairs following a very simple script as we talk to the people we meet.

I felt nervous about using a script, I wanted to sound authentic not scripted, would I sound false? Also, if I’m honest I was a bit proud, I’m not sure I need a script I thought… then I had a pang of guilt/regret as I thought how few people I have seen make a commitment: “Lord Jesus, I pray I’ll be humble enough to learn what you’ve got to teach me” I prayed silently.

I was reminded of the story of Naaman, the Babylonian Commander with lepracy  who was told by Elisha’s servant to wash seven times in the Jordan river, Naaman was offended, his pride was hurt, because he thought he was too good to wash in the dirty old water of Jordan. Do we think we are too good to learn from other Christians?

And then we were off. I was in a of team of five, and we had been told to go to the M shed, as we set off we saw a guy sat on the grass, with his bike. My friend Harry and I went up to talk to him. (I’ll be honest I felt nervous, I felt like 14 at the school disco asking a girl to dance). we introduced ourself, we told him God loved him and had a plan for his life. The next part of the script talked about if he died tonight  did he know if he would he go to heaven (all the pastoral-ness in me was cringing a bit, feels pushy and don’t mention death its an uncomfortable subject), I did make a joke about “we hope you don’t die tonight by the way” -not a great joke, by he smiled, and said he’d been thinking a lot about this sort of stuff recently, probably not fair to blog his conversation with us, but as  conversation moved on and was able to pray with him, and lead him in a prayer of commitment.

we came down the hill, and then realising that the rest of the team were all engaged in conversations too, quietly prayed for them, and then began to grin at passers by trying to get another conversation, I think I was over-eager as people refused to make eye contact with this over-grinning bearded scruff.

Later ended up talking to a couple who had already been chatted to, but they were smiley and chilled, so began to relax a bit, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Something however was rattling around my brain, the previous night my friend Jason and I had been talking to a lady in the pub with our PINTS OF VIEw event, and she had said to me “I really like the fact that you don’t come in here and preach to us”…

Last night I had taken that as a compliment, but then wondered whether sometimes I’m too worried about listening well,  caring and saying the right and helpful thing that maybe I should be more bold and tenacious with the gospel.

I remembered hearing Ricco Tice talk about the pain barrier in spiritual conversations, often the great fruit comes as we leave our comfort zones and are bolder than we’d like to be.

Again, I remembered hearing talk about dangerous faith, and felt God say that maybe I’d got a bit too comfortable just being the nice Vicar out an about in the community. Suddenly I remembered my walk to work on Easter Monday 1996, the day after I had made a re-commitment, I believed as I was about to commit social suicide by being different and telling my friends and colleagues I’d become a Christian (actually it was fine, and led to loads of great conversations, God is very gracious and faithful).

Anyway, I was brought back to earth with a jolt, I’d made eye contact with a guy on the bench. Another conversation followed with a young guy who wasn’t up for making a commitment but liked being prayed for and had a job interview later that afternoon and were able to pray for that.

The rest of our team had seen a couple become Christians early on, but now conversations were getting flat. I tried talking to a homeless guy sat on a wall but he told me to  “F*** off” -Something I’d been expecting a lot of today, but hadn’t really happened!

Then ended up having a conversation with some guys working for Amnesty international, a charity I love, they were a bit cold to the idea of God “yeah but is God a MAN, how do you know?” one sneered, I made some joke about God being bigger than gender -they laughed (a miracle it was a rubbish joke!) but the ice was broken. I tried doing the spiel ending with a “can I pray for you?” -“only if you let me recite you a poem” said the guy who was clearly the “big cheese” of the group, so I prayed my best and boldest prayer, and he recited his poem, interestingly there were images of the fall, of the worlds emptiness and some redemptive ideas within his sonnet, we ended up chatting about his poem and his world view, as we chatted he became  much warmer and did a two handed grasp when he shook my hand for the final time. It struck me that two of these guys with their dreddlocks and their tattoos were spiritual and seekers, the third was much more interested in trying to convert me than listening to what I had to say. Am I like this? I hope not, do I only listen to reply, or do I listen to hear what is being said? Street Pastors talk of “Double Listening” -hearing what God is saying, hearing what the person is saying (and by hearing I actually mean taking it all in, words, body language and everything else).

we were still no where near the M shed and it was nearly time to go back, the guys were talking to a busker whose English was bad, just then Harry started chatting to him in  Spanish, I didn’t know Harry knew Spanish! “Afterwards Harry said “I might have ordered a beer” but I hope I told him Jesus Loved him”.

Geoff came up to me and said that a dad and a daughter had just accepted Jesus which was amazing, and the lady in our group was having a fab conversation with a girl who was raising money for charity.

A guy walked past sort of stopping, and he said he was a Catholic, always an interesting one, is this a cultural/family thing or a real relationship with Jesus? He couldn’t stop, but did want a copy of the script. Two lads on the steps of the registry office eating hummus let us talk to them, polite but didn’t want us to pray for us. I did wonder, one guy seemed more open than his friend, I wondered if his friend wasn’t there might it be a different story. I thought about Street Pastors and how peoples mates can make them act totally differently.

Harry joked about having a 100% failure rate claiming that I did all the work on the first guy. It was one of those half jokes that often hides a sadness. Just then an old bloke struggled out of his mobility scooter with an empty disposable cup. I asked him if he wanted a hand, and he asked me if I could put his cup in the bin for him, so I did, the nearest bin was over-flowing so I went to the next bin down the road, and came back to hear Harry leading him in a prayer of commitment, the 100% failure rate had been broken, praise God.

we then headed back to hear testimony upon testimony of people accepting Christ, making re-commitments, or having prayer for healing or words of prophecy, one person met someone from Canada and they turned out to have a mutual Christian friend -what a divine appointment!

Praise God.

So glad I went along today, wished I had had a prophetic word for the Amnasty guys, as think you can bat ideas around for ages, but sometimes the prophetic cuts through everything. Still God is able to reach them, and even if it wasn’t through me today, he’s got lots of people and places to connect with them.

The last thought I had was remembering Rowan williams quote, “find out what God is doing and join in!” -when you find out what God is doing its always risky and a step of faith, but an adventure, which made me ask why so often is so much we do mind-crushingly dull?

I left thinking, why isn’t this my normal Christian life? I believe it could be, and should be… My prayer is God show me “what I can do to make my life like this not just on a mission, but on a normal everyday day?”

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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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Discipleship, Extravagance, Fear, Worship

Undignified Worship.

So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancingbefore the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it,and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty….

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honour.”

Just to put this passage into a bit of context, the Ark of the Covenant had departed from Jerusalem, which symbolised the absence of God’s Presence with his people. It was a bad sign. So, imagine the joy of the Ark’s return to Jerusalem, more than just “we’ve got our treasurer back” but rather a symbol of God’s returning presence, blessing and splendour to the capital city at the heart of the nation.

David is over-joyed, he is uncontainable, he orders sacrifice of bullocks every few feet, it was messy, it would have been costly to the countries economics, but David wasn’t skimping on the pennies when he was showing God his adoration, love and loyalty.

David, get’s carried away with his worship too, he is dancing before the Lord with all of his might, so much so that he looses his Kingly robes and is dancing in his Ephod (Hebrew for boxer shorts). He is worshipping unrestrained and uninhibited in his worship of God, and then his wife tells him off, she is scornful and shames him, she tells him his being a disgrace and being unkingly, setting a bad example.

How often are we passionate about something, and then someone pours a bucket of cold water over it, the bubble is burst, we are deflated? Yet, not David, he wont be dissuaded from the worship of God.

It made me wonder whether we let “what people think of us?” influence our worship, praise, discipleship and generally our walk following Jesus?

Mike Pilivachi wrote an amazing book on worship which was called “for the audience of one” the idea that we live primarily not for human approval but (to quote a book title by Andy Hawthorn) living our life for the “smile of Jesus”, living primarily to bless and please him.

I wonder too, am I sometimes like Michel, David’s Queen, do I ‘cut people off from worship’ by my attitude and the baggage -her view of ‘propriety’.

David is not being dissuaded from his worship with his line “I’ll become even more undignified than this”.

David is holding nothing back, he’s not playing at worship, not just going through the motions. David is for real.

He is being authentic in his response, just as David is equally authentic in his response when he is struggling and writing psalms of lament, he is sharing his heart openly and publicly with God, and in doing this he is actually leading his people in worship, he is showing true surrender to the greater King, the Lord Almighty.

This is a shocking image, rulers don’t humble themselves in public, but here David is humbling himself before his God, saying to his people “I might be you King, but I am bowing my knee before God”.

I remember Sam, who used to work with me, saying “just imagine Queen Elizabeth II in her pants”. It is a shocking image. It says to the people, “I’m the King, and I know I am not greater than God, however great you think you are, you are not greater than him either!”

Too often in Britain we have become too influenced by the Victorian period where we struggle to express any emotion -either happy or sad- and a more extreme emotion makes us feel uncomfortable.

Yet here David is showing extravagance in worship, too often we try and tone everything down so as not to cause offence, yet here David was unashamed, perhaps we need to discover afresh something of this unashamedly passionate about the presence of Father God for the Church to thrive in the 21st Century.

There  is a phrase in the Bible about being a “Fool for Christ” -although perhaps from the view of eternity a good question might be to ask “who is fooling who?”

The Bible talks of our whole lives being a Spiritual Act of worship (Romans 12) and I wonder  “Am I prepared to be a fool for Christ?” -Am I prepared to risk it all -my pride, my reputation (or whatever it is for you)- for the sake of Christ?

The Band Delirious sand “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, I am not ashamed of the one I love” -but perhaps maybe sometimes we do get a little ashamed?

Maybe when we hit these moments, perhaps we need something of the cry of David within us, spurring us on and leaving comfort and mediocrity far behind, as we  say “I’ll be even more undignified than this”, or in other words “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

Perhaps that is the phrase for this generation, if you think we are too bold, to out there, to radical, too noisy, too non conformist, too revolutionary, to Jesus-like then let’s echo the Spirit of David and say “we’ll become even more undignified than this! In you are looking at my discipleship following Christ, you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

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Fear, hope, Politica

Presidents Obama and Trump, Hope or Fear?

One thing really struck me with the Inauguration of President Donald Trump, was the difference between himself and President Barak Obama.

Barak Obama’s final speech as president was one that could have been summed up by one word “HOPE” -in fact “HOPE” has characterised both his presidency and him as a person, his autobiography was called “The Audacity of HOPE”.

Yet much of Donald’s Trump’s campaign was summed up by one word “FEAR”.

Former Bristol MP said: “Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison you put yourself”.

A similar sentiment from the film Shawshank Redemption “Fear hold you prisoner, but Hope can set you free”.

As I thought of this image it made me realise that the toughest prisons aren’t those with bricks or bars but the icy strongholds in peoples’ hearts and minds.

This prison though is one that many can be swept into, we have all been in meetings when a fear-monger has turned the mood of a room or a decision of a meeting; yet too the reverse can happen, people can be liberated by the freedom that Hope brings, a person of hope-filled faith can inspire people to stand and to step out.

A poem about Hope : –  “Rosa (Parks) sat, so that Martin (Luther King Jr) could walk, Martin walked, so that Barak (Obama) could stand, Barak stood so all our children could fly”. Hope is aspirational. Hope re-writes a new future, where-as fear if often a pessimistic self-fulfilling prophecy.

As I thought about my life, I asked myself the question, “is my life ruled by Hope or Fear?”

I want it to be ruled by Hope, yet sadly more often than I want I am ruled by fear.

“It is so easy to break down and destroy, but heroes are the ones who make peace and build” said former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The fictional President Matt Santos from the West Wing said “It is easier to throw stones at a house than to try and build one”.

Fear paralyses and keeps people rooted to the spot like a rabbit caught in the car headlights.

Fear divides.

Hope unites.

Fear builds walls.

Hope builds bridges.

Hope causes us to lay down our weapons, whereas Fear causes us to blame, lash out and pick up our weapons.

For the Christian Hope is not a “wishful thinking naïve aspiration that somehow everything is going to be alright in the end”, no we have a “hope that does not disappoint us”, “our hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth” -it is a hope that “moths and rust cannot destroy” but rather is based not on a vague idea or concept but on a person, Jesus Christ, described by Peter as our “Living Hope” -our hope is in the resurrected and victorious son of God.

Our hope is that the God “who began a good work will see it through to completion”.

Our hope is that “he that is within us is greater than he that is in the world”.

Our hope is in Christ who said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against them”.

Yet how do we be people filled with Hope and not Fear?

Often we start full of hope, but the stress, strains and pains of the world can often leave us feeling jaded, cynical, deafest, we too often let hope slip away, evaporate, and fear creep in and slowly take root, and become a spiritual stronghold.

We often don’t talk about being controlled by fear, but rather we use expressions like being “pragmatic” or “realistic” or “worldly wise” -often we allow ourselves to be often somewhat superior and patronising to those pursuing a message of hope, painting them as naïve and dismissing their view as “youthful enthusiasm”.

So, how do we keep Hope alive within us?

Prayer is the antidote to defeatism, as our focus leaves the size of our problem and places our viewpoint on the size of our God.

Interestingly those who are most vocally defeatist/negative are also those who attend prayer meetings the least, I do believe that this is not a coincidence.

So, let us be Obama’s not Trump’s, people of Hope, not people of Fear.

And I’ll close with a prayer Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Church, faith, Fear, Glory, Risk and Change

Unsafe Church, Uncomfortable Vicars & Unexpected Fruit.

I love the story of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, who had become a Christian and started going  to a local Church and reading his Bible (not a bad start!) and he felt more and more concerned with the disconnect between what he experienced in the Church meeting and what he read about from the pages of scripture, so he asked the question:

“er…when do we DO the stuff?”

To which he was greeted by a somewhat perplexed look from the minister and the congregation, “The Stuff?”

“…You know, THE STUFF”…

What he meant was things like “healing” and answers to prayer, “prophecy, words of knowledge, tongues, discernment” -which is there is the Bible but often not sadly not actively pursued in our Churches our the everyday life of many Christians.

The Bible is expectant of the supernatural to be part of the everyday experience of God’s people (both as individuals and corporately).

I once preached that “the only difference between us as the Disciples in the book of Acts is simply time”, God hasn’t changed nor his power diminished… Yet our Churches and my own personal life feels vastly different from the book of Acts, why is that?

Firstly it isn’t safe. I remember someone prayed for me about Allana and I having a baby, and I was really grateful that they did, but it was risky, what if it didn’t happen? Fortunately God blessed us with a wonderful daughter Hope, but  on another occasion, we had a miscarriage (early stages) and people prayed that the baby would be okay and it wasn’t. Sometimes we see wonderful answers to prayer, and God does amazing things, and that is wonderful, and other times we don’t see the healings we have sought God for (for whatever reason, and to be honest I don’t really know). It is dealing with the real, the deep, the personal stuff which really matters… It is much safer just to waffle on with a sermon telling us to be nice to everyone, rather than deal with the real and knotty issues of real life.

The Area Dean, Si Jones once said that “when we didn’t pray for anyone nobody got healed, now we try and pray for everyone and sometimes people get healed”.

John Wimber said “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.

Risk.

Risk of looking foolish or crazy!

Risk of upsetting people!

but also the risk of seeing God do what we can’t do and intervene and tranform the most desperate situations.

I want to be someone that risks praying Godly, knowing he loves his people and has the power to heal and transform.

I remember praying for someone with a really bad back, and suddenly they got really excited, telling me their back was getting hot and was feeling better… I’ll be honest I was more shocked than them. A reminder that I need to pray with expectation that God is going to work.

This morning we had  a guest speaker, Andy Bidds, who told about praying for healing for a guy with calipers on his legs, and nothing happened, but in Bidds praying for him this guy really felt God’s love in a really special way, sometimes God does something we don’t expect.

Yet I want to be unsafe, in so much as we talk about real stuff and we pray with faith into real life and risk disappointment in order to have the expectancy of wonder and blessing.

I’m a Vicar, and as a breed we are a bunch of control freaks, but the truth is we are not supposed to be in control, God is, and following a real God who speaks and answers prayer often is a step outside our comfort zone.

The guy whose going to be Vicar at the Church my Dad has retired too, told me the story of getting into trouble from the Chaplain for praying for someone to be healed on a hospital chaplaincy placement at college (the one Sam goes too) the problem was the guy was healed, and so the chaplain wrote a letter of complaint to the college!!

It is safe and more comfortable not to step out the boat, not to believe God can or does these type of things, and pretend that Jesus didn’t say “with God all things are possible” and cross out of our bibles verses like  “God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine”. Yet being a Christian is sometimes neither safe or comfortable.

Theologically we are told in scripture we have “the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead” active in our lives, “he (the Holy Spirit) that is in us is greater than he that is in the world” in fact the Bible makes the audacious claim that we will do “greater things than him (Jesus)”.

I want to end with the passage of scripture which changed my view of God doing supernatural stuff, it comes from the story of Abra(h)am and Sara(h) and they recieved a prophecy that Sara(h) would have a child, and her reaction was to laugh and the Lord asks her “why did you laugh?” -If we believe God created the world, raised Jesus from the dead and did what he says he did in the Bible, why can’t he do real stuff in my life and the peoples lives around me.

Lets pray riskily, let’s be bold, and let’s have stories of unexpected fruit.

Even if people don’t receive the blessing we would love them too, praying and loving them will bless them, on one sense nothing to loose, but everything to gain.

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