Discipleship, Fruit and fruitfulness

Turning Discipleship on its head!

Jesus kept turning the Disciples expectations upside down.

I wonder if we need to turn discipleship on its head.

In Luke 9, just before the Parable of the Good Samariton, the disciples have something of an unfruitful mission in Samaria, so they ask Jesus is they can send fire down on them, and, unsurprisingly, Jesus says “No!”.

It reminded me of Jonah (referenced a chapter or so later by Luke) who was keen for other people to be punished, but less keen for the same measure to be applied to him. Perhaps when Jesus said “judge not unless you yourself want to be judged” and “the measure you use will be used against you” he knew the double standards, the fickleness, of our fallen human nature.

Then as the passage continues, we see the disciples talking a great game, but Jesus saying to them that this is not a game, not a hobby, or an optional extra following Jesus is a all consuming, full life commitment “let the dead bury their own dead” -“Anyone who puts their hand to the plough and keeps looking back is not worthy to be my disciple”.

Jesus isn’t interested in empty words, and hollow promises.

Just then Jesus is asked “what must I DO to inherit eternal life?”

Now, eternal life is a free gift, we don’t have to do anything but rather excepting what Christ has done on the cross, which means acknowledging our need of him, knowing we need a Saviour. Jesus says the criteria, which none of us has met (apart from Christ himself) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, Soul and Strength and love your neighbour as myself”.  You can hear the cogs turning in this teacher of the laws mind, he knows he’s not made the grade and is trying to find a loop hole in this contract, “so who is my neighbour?” he asks. Jesus makes his disciples put themselves in the place of a Samaritan -people they wanted to destroy by fire!- who they were in the story was actually the question they needed to answer.

The Jewish mindset was very much about being “In” or being “out”, Jesus is about destroying that in our mindset, instead welcoming in all who will come.

As we see compassion and love, we see signs of the Kingdom breaking in, but breaking in from an unlikely person and in an unlikely place. Yet do we still have a bit of a “Jewish” mindset, thinking in terms of “in” or “out”, and expecting the Kingdom to only be revealed in line with our expectations.

For me the story of the Good Samariton speaks of fruit, we live in a world and often in our Churches that are so good at saying the right thing, looking the part, but actually what Christ is after is so much deeper than words. Just like the hyperbole Jesus is receiving at the end of chapter 9, talking the talk is just a waste of air, if it is not accompanied by walking the walk.

The Kingdom of God is more than rhetoric.

The Kingdom of God is not defined by looking religious or spiritual.

The Kingdom of God is not defined by liking on group and disliking another group (how many identities are forged by unhelpful tribalism).

The Kingdom of God is know by its fruit.

At the end of chapter 10 (Luke has written this section like a club sandwhich each bit commentating on the bit before and afterwards) we see Martha running around cooking a meal for Jesus and the disciples whilst Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to him.

When scolded by Martha, Jesus said “she has chosen the better thing”, Luke is making sure that we realise that the Kingdom isn’t just a matter of running around and doing good, although we are called to make a positive ‘light and salty’ impact to the world around us, but rather to be people transformed by encountering the presence of Christ.

It’s not about rhetoric, out outward garb, our works may reveal our heart, but ultimately discipleship stands or falls by our attitude towards Jesus Christ.

Mary, like the Good Samaritan, was there when it mattered the most, standing by Christ’s cross, and the first to witness the resurrection.

Her love for Christ was birthed and grown by sitting at his feet in his presence.

The problem is we view discipleship like used car dealers. We look at the outside and the paint work, we listen to see if it sounds okay, we major on the externals, the outward, the visible, but Christian discipleship is about the invisible, the internals, the heart.

Christian discipleship

If our hearts are right then everything else follows.

Christian discipleship is God working on the inside working its way out.

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Fruit and fruitfulness, Malachi 1

Fag Butts or First Fruits?

Malachi 1:6…

You priests despise me!

“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’

“By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship.

“You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’

7-8 “When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!

11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’

12-13 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to meGod-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!

14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

Wow, this is a tough to read passage, even tougher when read in the contemporary language of the Message Bible.

The passage is about short changing God in worship.

Here in the passage Malachi accuses the priests of sacrificing blind animals and the runts of litters, when the Law of Moses said that the animals sacrifices were meant to be the first fruits, the best, not the worst of the crop.

David once said, “how can I offer God a sacrifice that has cost me nothing?”

I worry about much of the writings around modern Christian living (And I know got to get this sorted myself) but I worry that we sometimes pedal a ‘cost-less Christianity’ where people use phrases like “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today” -worship isn’t about what you get out of it, its because God deserves it.

Or people say “I’ve come to receive” -as St. Francis says “its in giving that we receive” yet we are so worried about what we get, that we don’t always think about giving, I believe that consumerism and individualism plague the western Church and are diametrically opposed to Kingdom living.

Or sometimes it is giving, but only what we are prepared to give, giving the stuff we were less bothered about anyway… My Training incumbent used to say instead of tithing “work out what you can afford and then give a little bit more”… that way you are always giving sacrificially rather than legalistically.

We talk about being culturally relevant, and I’m all for enabling people to encounter Jesus in the way they can understand, but I worry that sometimes we try to dumb down the words of Christ when he said “if anyone would follow me, he/she must forget self carry their cross and follow me”…

I often worry that sometimes Western Christianity feels like a hobby, and we come to Church only when there is nothing we’d rather do…

Our faith commitment sometimes can feel like that thing we do when we haven’t got anything better to do, and we wonder why the world doesn’t look at it and find it appealing (I’m not saying we aren’t under grace of course we are…) but when it comes to time with God or time serving God, does he simply get the fag butts of time rather than its first fruits -even as a minister it is easy to be so busy doing Churchy stuff that we don’t get time to spend with Jesus and we forget they are not the same thing.

It is very easy to say that we put God first, and it sounds spiritual, but  how does this work itself out in real life? Or does God just fall into line with our own wishes and desires.

I was at a meeting recently where there was a discussion about finding out God’s will… one guy said he thought it was all down to “willingness”;as the question isn’t really ever ‘does God talk’ but rather ‘do we want to hear’?

It never ceases to amaze me the tat that is dumped in Churches, too scruffy for my house but okay to be used for God’s service? -Not saying we ought to spend silly money on the latest stuff necessarily, but can you hear the underlying heart attitude?

A while ago  Mark has spoken about ‘the fear of the Lord’ and saying we need to re-establish our view of God’s awesome nature, rediscover God as God Almighty rather than just God All-Mate-y.

Although under the new covenant we don’t have to sacrifice sheep, goats and doves and so we’re probably not tempted to swap them over, but God does have our whole and entire lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ are we ‘short changing him’ by how we live.

Malachi asks ‘would you do this for you Governor’? -It’s an interesting question, do we treat God in a way we would be too embarrassed to treat another human being?

To be honest this whole thing is between you and God, we all know ourselves and this is to allow God’s Spirit to speak to what might be an uncomfortable area, but have the bravery to ask God the question and let him -who loves you- speak and challenge you, that you maybe purified like God.

I’ll end with a quote from an amazing song.

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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Fruit and fruitfulness, Malachi 1

Fag Butts or First Fruits?

Malachi 1:6…

You priests despise me!

“You say, ‘Not so! How do we despise you?’

“By your shoddy, sloppy, defiling worship.

“You ask, ‘What do you mean, “defiling”? What’s defiling about it?’

7-8 “When you say, ‘The altar of God is not important anymore; worship of God is no longer a priority,’ that’s defiling. And when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

“Get on your knees and pray that I will be gracious to you. You priests have gotten everyone in trouble. With this kind of conduct, do you think I’ll pay attention to you?” God-of-the-Angel-Armies asks you.

10 “Why doesn’t one of you just shut the Temple doors and lock them? Then none of you can get in and play at religion with this silly, empty-headed worship. I am not pleased. The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is not pleased. And I don’t want any more of this so-called worship!

11 “I am honored all over the world. And there are people who know how to worship me all over the world, who honor me by bringing their best to me. They’re saying it everywhere: ‘God is greater, this God-of-the-Angel-Armies.’

12-13 “All except you. Instead of honoring me, you profane me. You profane me when you say, ‘Worship is not important, and what we bring to worship is of no account,’ and when you say, ‘I’m bored—this doesn’t do anything for me.’ You act so superior, sticking your noses in the air—act superior to meGod-of-the-Angel-Armies! And when you do offer something to me, it’s a hand-me-down, or broken, or useless. Do you think I’m going to accept it? This is God speaking to you!

14 “A curse on the person who makes a big show of doing something great for me—an expensive sacrifice, say—and then at the last minute brings in something puny and worthless! I’m a great king, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, honored far and wide, and I’ll not put up with it!”

Wow, this is a tough to read passage, even tougher when read in the contemporary language of the Message Bible.

The passage is about short changing God in worship.

Here in the passage Malachi accuses the priests of sacrificing blind animals and the runts of litters, when the Law of Moses said that the animals sacrifices were meant to be the first fruits, the best, not the worst of the crop.

David once said, “how can I offer God a sacrifice that has cost me nothing?”

I worry about much of the writings around modern Christian living (And I know got to get this sorted myself) but I worry that we sometimes pedal a ‘cost-less Christianity’ where people use phrases like “I didn’t get anything out of the worship today” -worship isn’t about what you get out of it, its because God deserves it.

Or people say “I’ve come to receive” -as St. Francis says “its in giving that we receive” yet we are so worried about what we get, that we don’t always think about giving, I believe that consumerism and individualism plague the western Church and are diametrically opposed to Kingdom living.

Or sometimes it is giving, but only what we are prepared to give, giving the stuff we were less bothered about anyway… My Training incumbent used to say instead of tithing “work out what you can afford and then give a little bit more”… that way you are always giving sacrificially rather than legalistically.

We talk about being culturally relevant, and I’m all for enabling people to encounter Jesus in the way they can understand, but I worry that sometimes we try to dumb down the words of Christ when he said “if anyone would follow me, he/she must forget self carry their cross and follow me”…

I often worry that sometimes Western Christianity feels like a hobby, and we come to Church only when there is nothing we’d rather do…

Our faith commitment sometimes can feel like that thing we do when we haven’t got anything better to do, and we wonder why the world doesn’t look at it and find it appealing (I’m not saying we aren’t under grace of course we are…) but when it comes to time with God or time serving God, does he simply get the fag butts of time rather than its first fruits -even as a minister it is easy to be so busy doing Churchy stuff that we don’t get time to spend with Jesus and we forget they are not the same thing.

It is very easy to say that we put God first, and it sounds spiritual, but  how does this work itself out in real life? Or does God just fall into line with our own wishes and desires.

I was at a meeting recently where there was a discussion about finding out God’s will… one guy said he thought it was all down to “willingness”;as the question isn’t really ever ‘does God talk’ but rather ‘do we want to hear’?

It never ceases to amaze me the tat that is dumped in Churches, too scruffy for my house but okay to be used for God’s service? -Not saying we ought to spend silly money on the latest stuff necessarily, but can you hear the underlying heart attitude?

A while ago  Mark has spoken about ‘the fear of the Lord’ and saying we need to re-establish our view of God’s awesome nature, rediscover God as God Almighty rather than just God All-Mate-y.

Although under the new covenant we don’t have to sacrifice sheep, goats and doves and so we’re probably not tempted to swap them over, but God does have our whole and entire lives as a ‘living sacrifice’ are we ‘short changing him’ by how we live.

Malachi asks ‘would you do this for you Governor’? -It’s an interesting question, do we treat God in a way we would be too embarrassed to treat another human being?

To be honest this whole thing is between you and God, we all know ourselves and this is to allow God’s Spirit to speak to what might be an uncomfortable area, but have the bravery to ask God the question and let him -who loves you- speak and challenge you, that you maybe purified like God.

I’ll end with a quote from an amazing song.

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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faithfulness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Giving/Generousity., grace, hope, justice, Kingdom, Politica

Jesus for President.

Jesus for President, was the title of a book by one of my heroes Shane Claiborne, the title made me think, firstly I thought Jesus never wanted to be president, he was offered all the Kingdoms of the world when he was tempted by the devil, and yet he turned it down.

Instead Jesus was a nomadic preacher, with nowhere to lay his head, former child refugee who advocated loving enemies, rather than clicking his fingers in the board-room he took a towel and washed his disciples feet, including the one, Judas, who betrayed him.

Yet Jesus is the one I want to follow, his Kingdom may appear upside down to most of the world but to me I think it is the right way up, and his Kingdom is what I want to devote my life to building. The Lord’s Prayer seeks for Gods Kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven” so clearly something of the rule and reign of God can be seen today in real lives and communities, not as some weird theocratic rule, but in hearts and minds transformed by God and living out their faith in radical Kingdom ‘salt and light’ living.

As I was thinking was does a Christian world view look like, I am often confronted by the phrase ‘Christian Values’  which is often condensed to anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage and whose rhetoric often sounds pretty un-Christ-like –God hates fags? No, of course he doesn’t, he loves each and every person he has made. and longs for all peoples to come into relationship with him.
More over much of the American Christian Right seems very pro guns, anti health care for the poor and pro death penalty and I struggle how we can link these heinous ideas with the Jesus I find in scripture.

Yet surely If we are called to have Christian values, if we really believe Jesus meant it when he called us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” then we are called to care about the welfare of the planet, foreign aid, education, justice, health care, civil liberties, community cohesion and ethical investment in economic policy.

A Biblical world view is about bringing people together rather than building walls between each other… The Old Testament repeatedly tells Gods people not to I’ll treat the alien who resides in their country because they themselves were slaves in Egypt.

A Biblical world view talks about sharing our wealth with the poorest and most marginalised, the parable of the Good Samaritan works for nations too, and we need to heed the words of scripture that says “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

A Biblical world view is one that is outward looking and not inward looking, “I am my brothers keeper”, inward looking ideals end in implosion.

A Biblical world view realises that “the love of money is the root of all evil” and realises that financial prosperity and true happiness are not bedfellows.

A Biblical world view sees us from every nation as Gods children and extreme nationalism seems to me like a idol or fake God than needs to bow the knee to Christ, an illusion that hoodwinks many people.

A Biblical world view sees enemies being loved, the other cheek turned and the myth of redemptive violence seen for the lie that it is… As Ghandi said “if we take an eye for an eye then the world we be blind”. When we think of Christ entering into the city he came on a donkey like the ones we see at Weston, not on a war horse or sitting on an amounted vehicle or tank, this Prince is called the Prince of Peace, and at fulfilment of his Kingdom will see swords turned in ploughs and people practicing war no more.

A Biblical world view effects how we see one another who made in the image of God, can we imagine Jesus calling a woman –or anyone for that matter-  a “fat pig”? In fact, as Christians we are called to fight for human dignity “to bless not curse”, we need to see the rest of the world as precious to God, whether they be a Mexican refugee, a community leader in Iraq or someone who has a different opinion to you.

When I think of Jesus for President, I think the reason why I follow him is I can trust him, “let your yes be yes and your no be no”, when Jesus speaks we know it is the word of truth.

Sadly in the American election the major parties seemed less interested in their candidates character talking more of the competence or rely on their charisma, however “competence and charisma without character often results in Catastrophe”.

In a “Dog Eat Dog” world with people scrambling to be top dog we see Christ saying the last will be first.

My prayer for whoever is president is that they may “Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly before their God”… Knowing that with great power also comes great responsibility, the call to steward what you have been entrusted with well, knowing that are all answerable and must now the knee before Christ.

Leadership is costly and sacrificial… Jesus said that he had  not come “to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

This leader isn’t hidden away in a bunker with other soldiers fighting on his behalf, this King, this servant King, gave his life that we may live.

This Servant King I will follow, and his upside-down Kingdom I will devote my life to seek and advance.

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1 Corinthians 3., faithfulness, Fruit and fruitfulness

Echoes in Eternity…

Well done good and faithful servant”…
“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames”.
-Okay, let’s start with a bit of basic theology, we are saved by grace through faith.
Yet we are saved the Bible says FOR good works not by them.
 
So sometimes we forget that we are called to be different, to live out our faith, to build with Gold, silver and costly  stones, to see God’s Kingdom advance on our frontlines, where God has placed us.
 
As the film Gladiator says “what we do in life echoes in eternity”… I love John Wimber and he once said: “My plan is to run the race  and take as many people with me as I possibly can”.
 
He lived a life honouring Christ, and many millions of people found faith, our had their exisiting faith renewed and re-inspired by the spirit of God through the Vineyard movement which Wimber founded (not to mention the  legacies of St.Andrew’s Chorleywood (where new wine started), Holy Trinity Brompton (where Alpha started) and St. Michael le belfrey (where riding lights theatre group was founded).
 
Yet too often I meet Christians who have  a real faith but keep it a real secret when they are out and about (is this building with gold and costly stones or wood/hey and straw -a life that from eternities perspective isn’t investing in what really matters)
 
… Or Christians that have the ‘right’ rhetoric but behaviour is simply not loving and Christ-like, Ghandi said “I like your Christ, I don’t like you Christians” -Sadly as a Vicar and growing up in a Vicarage, I’ve seen people who have the right words but have been some of the most spiteful people I know… this should not be so after all “by this will all people know that you are my disciples that you love one another”.
 
…Or rather than pray would rather do jigsaw puzzles, rather attack people doing mission than get off the sofa and help, won’t stop and acknowledge as a human being the busker, begger or big issue seller when they head off to buy their daily mail (just a thought, should Christians read the daily mail, I think not, but that might just be me!) “…by your fruits you will know them”. 
 
“The Greatest Cause of Atheism in this country, is Christians who confess Christ with their lips but deny him with their lifestyles, that is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable” DC Talk.
 
So a challenge today, let’s be ‘salt and light’, in other words, living it out in such a way that people notice the difference, be salty in such a way that people around become thirsty for the Christ in us the hope of glory. Bright and shiny lives that radiate Christ, was speaking to a lady yesterday who is unwell, and I was thinking she is someone who whenever I drop her off, she always leaves me smiling as she’s such a ‘Christ-like person’. 
 
You might be thinking, thanks Andy, just what I need on a Wednesday morning, a guilt trip with a side order of condemnation…
 
But the truth is, how we all have been at times doesn’t mean we have to stay that way, I love the story of Scrooge, just because he’d been a slave to money didn’t mean he had to stay that way… in fact where we’ve slipped up can become those cracks through which Christ can shine out most brightly as people notice the change from what we were to what we have become… I think this is what Paul was getting at with his verses about treasure in jars of clay…
 
“What if I stumble, what if I fall, will the love continue when the walk becomes a crawl?” (DC Talk).
YES IT DOES!
 
The great news of the gospel is that Christ not only forgives us our past, -and his mercies are new every morning- but fills us with his Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, to live  for him.
 
My prayer is that when we meet Christ face to face we are greeted with the words well done good and faithful servant.
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community of grace, Compassion, Falibility, Family, forgiveness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Hopes and Dreams, inclusion, inter-dependance, Life Together, Uncategorized

One Another…

Did you know there are 59 “one another verses” in the New Testament?

#Love one another…
#Pray for one another…
#Encourage one another…
#Serve one another…
#Support one another…
#Forgive one another…
#Bless one another…
#Carry one another’s burdens…

Yet bizarrely I find one of the toughest parts of being a Vicar is that you can sometimes feel really lonely. It has been said “Jesus sent the disciples out in 2’s but in the Church of England you’re on your own”!

The Victorians used to believe that a persons religion was a personal and private thing, a lie we’ve embraced as a culture made worse by our increasingly individualistic culture.

We need I believe to recapture the togetherness of when Church is meant to be a family, yet some of us have become so institutionalised into the mould of ‘lone-ranger-vicardom’ that we need the help of this family, to help us learn another way, and another new normal.

We need for Church to become a safe place afresh which gives people the confidence to be vulnerable, because they are held in a place of love.

The problem at the heart of this, as with much in the Church culture, in pains and hurts which causes us to suffer on our own, and often in silence, which causes Church to become polite and even friendly. Yet as I have said before, I don’t want to be part of a friendly Church, but rather work out a way of being a Church where people can make friends in. After all at All Souls’ motto is “where strangers become friends and friends meet with Jesus”.

Perhaps the problem is that in Church people can be more likely to give you a piece of their mind than a piece of their heart.

Sadly we hear these horror stories of people professing to be Christians who…
#hurt one another…
#gossip about one another…
#(try) controlling one another…
#bicker with one another…
#running down one another…
#compete unhelpfully with one another…

All of which makes Churchless and less like the foretaste and outpost of heaven that it should be.

Is our behaviour more the first list or the second?

What do we need to change in us, to help our Christian Communities resemble the one perfect community of love which is at the heart of who God is when revealed as Father Son and Holy Spirit.

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