freedom, Temptation

How to Catch a Monkey

Yesterday I talked about how baby Elephants are held captive by chaining them to trees when they are young, as they grow older they could easily pull the tree over, but because they have grown used to the fact that they are tethered and can’t escape, they don’t pull the tree down and become free, because the memory traps them and holds them captive.

Today, on a similar theme want to think a little about how to catch a monkey.

Poachers used to set traps for monkeys, which was a box that was fixed to the floor with a small hole for the moneys hand to slide through with their palm open. Inside the box was placed some enticing sparkly paper. Monkeys are like Magpies in that they are attracted to things that sparkle. The monkey would slide their hand into the box, grab the shiny paper and hold it in their fist. Yet with  their clenched hand gripped around their ‘spoils’ they can’t get their hand out.

Whilst the monkey holds onto the shiny paper they are stuck, a prisoner, a captive.

To be free they simply need to let go and remove their hand.

The shiny paper actually is worthless to the monkey and yet this bit of rubbish can cost a monkey its freedom.

What of us?

Have we grabbed hold of something that is actually imprisoning us?

Is what is in our hand more important than the freedom that Christ has won for us?

The picture of letting go, of surrendering the desire for the sparkly but worthless prize, yet in doing so gaining liberty and life is one I find profoundly challenging.

The story reminds me a little of the Rich Young Ruler, who was offered a place as a disciple of Jesus, and yet he was still holding on to his wealth and possessions, he walked away from Jesus because he was fooled, hoodwinked, by the allure of his great wealth.

Yet for us, this enticing bit of paper could actually be anything, all of us have things we found hard to lay down before Christ when we began to follow him, and sadly this type of junk is very easy to pick up again. Paul talks in Galatians calling them “bewitched” and saying “they are returning from liberty to slavery” -The opposite journey from the people of Israel, Paul is saying that this is not your story, this is folly, danger and tragedy.

So, what the boxes that imprison us?

What are the things that entice us and trap us?

Is there something God might be calling you to let go off today?

Is there something you need to surrender to him?

I read a great quote on facebook, which talked about how as Christians we are unable to receive todays blessings, because our hands are full of yesterdays junk.

A quote I spoke of yesterday was “if the son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed”.

freedom, Salvation, vision

Let the Elephant tear down the Tree.

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom recently, I think probably following on from our fab time at New Wine especially with the amazing teaching we had from Danielle Strickland on the book of Exodus.

The first picture that I have been thinking about for a while is circus folk ‘break’ a baby elephant by chaining it too a tree. The elephant is only a baby, so it can’t pull the tree down, the elephant remembers the powerlessness of being chained to a tree it can’t pull down, and as they grow they stay tethered to the tree by a chain, even though by the time the elephant is full grown they could easily uproot the tree and be free.

The animals captivity is not actually physical but psychological, the thing that hold him back isn’t really an inescapable obstacle but rather their own mind and memories.

What of us?

Are the things we think are holding us back actually holding us back, or is it mind-set, past experience and perception?

Perhaps, like the elephant, you have tried to be free before and now have just given up trying?

Jesus talks about setting people free.

The Gospel is a message of liberation, setting people free.

Paul talks in Romans about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind” -in Salvation our view of the world changes, we see things differently, we ourselves differently, we our situations differently.

Danielle Strickland talked about re-visiting the prison and our places of captivity but this time, re-visiting them with God.

It enabling the elephant to see that that which bound him before, no longer has the power to control him.

His fears we based on lies and illusions.

His memories of the past were inhibiting the freedom he was experiencing in the present.

Are there things from our past, that makes us feel like we are a baby elephant tethered to a tree unable to pull free?

Revisit them, and realise that maybe the tree that tethered us, isn’t insurmountable but with Christ can be overcome.

“If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!”

For freedom to take root and flourish in our lives, we need to let it liberate our hearts, transform our minds and restore our eyes in how we look at the world.

How you were, how you have been, in Christ is not how you have to stay, nor is it how you will be forever.

That’s a message a world desperately needs to hear.

Free, freedom, Sabbath, Slavery, vocation

Slavery and Sabbath.

Sometimes Scripture comforts the afflicted and sometimes it inflicts the comfortable.

Sometimes the word of God challenges us and we know we have to work at being and doing this differently which is actually scary as our old ways have become really in-ground its our normal way of being us, our personality becomes interwoven with our behaviours, we become known by our habits and almost become defined by them.
My biggest weakness is also possibly one of my greatest strengths, I think I am pretty hard working and I can relentlessly keep pushing towards the goal of a different, and better tomorrow for the Kingdom of God to break into Kingswood/Hanham.
It’s not a bad thing to be living for.
Yet at New  Wine I realised I was a slaver to ministry, the unending demands of emails, phone calls, expectations, events, favours, this, that and the other had caused me to become a slave to ministry.
I realised that I had driven myself beyond the call of God.
The problem is we think it doesn’t matter because we are doing good things, and embracing inconvience and sacrifice is part of the call of ministry, it’s why it is a vocation not a job, yet it is this pervasive thinking that actually keeps us enslaved.
Any idol that threatens to take -or even appear to take- the place of Jesus needs to bow the knee to Christ himself.
I used to have this theory, -I have a lot of theories-, that in my relationship with God part of my showing him I loved him, part of my worship, my ‘love language’ if you like was “Acts of Service”…
Yet at New Wine we heard talks about freedom which were amazing, and one talk was on Slavery and the Sabbath. Slaves don’t get Sabbath because they are enforced labour, they don’t choose to work, they either work or are beaten.
Sabbath isn’t saying that there isn’t work to do, there is always work to do, it never stops, and there is rarely actually a good time to turn the computer off and go to bed, it is a choice to believe that who are, is more important that what we do.
in a driven, crazy world of insane targets and with workloads piling up as resources are stretched ever thinner -echoes of bricks without straw- to take time out, not not be ruled by your phone, tablet, ipad is not only counter cultural it is revolutionary.
As the Israelite’s were freed from the slavery of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, they may have lost the physical chains and the restrictions of the ghettos they lived in, but were they free in their hearts and in their minds? -Why was Sabbath so important to them, because here God was saying here is rest, blessing and to realise that your worth stems from who they were in God rather than down to their productivity.
As clergy, i realise what a dreadful example we set. Often we are insanely driven as a breed of workers, we seem to think the Sabbath command can be negotiated in a way that we would disapprove of most heartily if applied to other commandments such as murder, theft or adultery!
So, I am asking God to help me to try and live a new way, embracing all those leadership cliches “say no because you have a bigger yes” and all that jazz… It’s going to be hard. It scares me rigid, it will mean change, I’m sure I’ll fall off the tight-rope sometimes, I’m sure it will stress me out, yet all obedience (in any area) is at times painful, but I think we sometimes have to embrace the pain in order to change and to grow.
More over, as we embrace the Sabbath Principal we are choosing to trust God, Scripture reminds us that God himself says “I will honour those who honour me” it is a step of faith like any other.
If it was a step of faith with finance or with mission I would be trying to lead the charge of saying “let’s step out” -I can see no reason why with the whole issue of time it is any different.
More over when we embrace Sabbath we also realise that we approach situations with renewed energy, fresh vitality, refocused vision and we realise that grinding ourselves and our health, and mental health and well being,  further and further into the dirt was never the plan of God over our lives… We work better rested and are more effected and fruitful, and yet this truth is one I repeatedly fail to grasp in actual reality of daily life.
As we experience Sabbath we also experience this with those whom we love who are nearest and dearest to us. I realise that God has called me to be a Vicar, but he has also called me to be a husband, he has also caused me to be Father, a friend, a son, a grandson and sometimes the all consumingness of busyness erodes this other callings, vital callings, the Church will get another Vicar, but my wife will only have one husband and my daughter only one Father.
The heart of busyness and the motivation is fear, will I get it all done, will I do what needs to be done, will I let people down, will it ever be enough and the answer is “no” and yet the answer also is “the one who called you is faithful”.
It is good to be conscientious, but too often our self worth creeps into what we do, I was reminded this morning that God’s love for me, and for all of you reading this blog, is not a love that is earned.
I have often used the illustration of loving my daughter when she was first placed in my arms seconds after her birth, she hadn’t done anything for me at that stage, but I loved her simply because of who she was.
In a world where we have to work so hard for peoples approval, God’s love is liberating as it was there before our efforts started and it will be there when our efforts have ceased.
So, to be free, comes from a recognition of we are, who God is and how he thinks about us, it is a risk to do life his way, the challenge to stop… and to know that he says that’s okay.
So, let us learn to be free from slavery and embrace this wonderful gift of Sabbath which God breathed into the Universe at the completion of creation.
addiction, captive, Free, freedom, release



Notes from a New Wine Seminar with Danielle Strickland…
“If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed”

Jesus came to set people free.
You were born to be free.

It is not just about getting people free, it’s about people staying free.

Hudson Taylor talks of each of us being stuck in a deep pit full of excrement, too deep to climb out of, everyone watching, pointing and condemning, and Jesus came and climbed down into the pit with her… she said “this is crazy, now you are stuck in here with me” -Jesus said “true, but I know e way out”.

How can we be free? 4 Keys.

Not just set free, but walk in freedom.

1) Believe.

You have to believe it is possible, slavery starts within our hearts and minds…

You have to believe God rather than the oppressor, don’t let the demonic tell us things cannot ever change and that things are impossible.

Bad experience wears us down, and erodes hope and vision.
Hopelessness causes paralysis.

We need a vision of hope, a brighter tomorrow, a preferred future, let’s have the boldness, bravery and audacity to believe the truth that “all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me”.

The Spirit of oppression causes us to become cynical and jaded.

Don’t let it.

The Spirit of God gives us faith, faith to choose to live by faith and not by sight.

We have to believe that with God the impossible is possible.

Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, this means seeing things not from a worldly point of view but from a Kingdom view-point,

2) Banish Our Fears.

Participation in fear risks turning you either into the oppressed or the oppressor, we need to be liberated from our fearful mindset.

Jesus says “Perfect Love casts out all fear”, doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel anxious but it is saying that Christ’s presence transforms us and gives us courage and boldness.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ “Peace that passes (or better transition is “transcends”) all understanding” -the peace is bigger than our heads and our hearts and our circumstances.

Our God is ABLE.

3) NOW…

To be free and keep free…

“I’d do anything for the perfect body except diet and excersize” Jay Leno.

Freedom from smoking does not come at the end of the pack, salvation is present tense, we need to do it now.

Freedom always starts now. It always starts with you.

Justice delayed is justice denied, the same is true of freedom.

Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat said she was “tired of giving in to oppression”, she realised there is never a better time to fight oppression.

The more we let sin reign the more it becomes entrenched.

4) And Don’t Give UP.

-When I was Street Pastoring someone said “Smoking isn’t that addictive I’ve given up 100s of times”.

Winston Churchill once gave a speech at Oxford University which was simply “Never, Never, Never Give Up”…

To live in freedom requires perseverance and a Godly tenacity to keep on going.

As the old anti smoking campaign used to say: “Don’t give up giving up”

Let freedom reign in our lives, it is a daily choice we need to constantly respond too.i

call, challenge, Commitment, Community, Discipleship, Discipline, forgiveness, freedom, Fruit and fruitfulness, Uncategorized

Making Disciples…

“Go into all the world and make them my disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you even to the end of the Age”-

Very famous verses from Matthew 28.

It’s an active word, we are called to “Go”, we are called to “make” disciples, we are called to “Baptise” and we are called to “teach”.

It is a command of Jesus not his final suggestion.

It is a word not just to the disciples standing there but actually a word that echoes through the ages to us.

Earlier  in the Gospel narrative Jesus Jesus says “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Slightly paraphrased “My job is to build my Church”… The problem is we often think that this bit, his bit, it our bit.
Our role is “go and make disciples” -yet too often we try and build Church rather than make disciples.
Church actually is all about making disciples.
In fact that is what Church is “The plural of disciple is Church” says Alison Morgan.
Mike Breen reminds “If you make disciples you get Church, but if you aim for Church you might not get disciples!”
So what is a disciple?
Disciple comes from the word Mathetes, one who learns as they follow.
Have we aimed to low?
Have we settled for attenders rather than discipleship?  Had (and still have) an on going battle with my Church about the whole argument about “bums on seats” -we could fill our Church buildings if we offered free beer and lap-dances- the challenge has never been just to get people into the building, but rather to see people come into relationship with Christ!
Maybe we have just settled on producing believers? Shane Claiborne talks a lot about the difference between a believer and a follower, his great quote is “there is more to being a Christian than believing all the right stuff”.
Have we strives to make ‘dutiful church members’ which is different from our call that is to make real life authentic and engaged disciples.
People will live out their discipleship not just within our buildings but rather on their front line where God has called them, whole life discipleship.
We need, and need to be, people who are model the life of Christ…
Discipleship needs to be seen lived out, with flesh on, as St. Paul said: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”.
“All members of the community have a responsibility for enriching and contributing to the up building of others” Sylvia Wilkey Collinson.
Our Discipleship is something we ourselves need to take responsibility for, our discipleship is not received like spoon feeding consumerism, but is something we all have responsibility for, both a responsibility for our own faith and growth, but also a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“All of this (the Missional life of Jesus and the discipleship) is more like an action movie than an initiation into Philosophy” Roger Wilton.
Too often we  have made discipleship all about our own head knowledge, rather than about our lives as we follow Christ, looking like him, and we will be more like him the more we hang out with him, the more time we spend with him.
Rob Bell talks about being covered in the dust of your rabbi, as you follow them you are close enough to get covered in the dust from the dusty paths they walk on…
God bless,

Check out more great resources at Francis Chan – How Not To Make Disciples
YOU CAN SHARE THIS VIDEO! I must note that although programs and events are useful they can easily create an inwardly focused atmosphere to where the body is …