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 it 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.

Ezekial 47, Guidance, Life in the Spirit

A foot on the bottom…

I have a confession to make, when I got my 25 meters swimming certificate, aged 7 or 8, I had one foot on the pool floor.

I guess even then I wanted to keep some idea of control, of security, I didn’t want to be out of my depth.

Ezekiel 47: The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross.

Here we see a picture of water streaming from the temple -the temple represents God’s presence- and water is the source of life (water is mentioned at the start of creation), New life, cleansing, restoration and thirst quenching. Later in the passage we see the Dead Sea being restored by the fresh water, which is pictured as water teaming with life, filled with fish.

Water too is an image of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God (check out the Woman at the well in Samaria). This water sounds amazing and inviting, calling for us to dive into it.

What the Spirit is doing is unstoppable, the issue is never God’s ability to move, but rather whether or not we want to participate and partner with him.

I sometimes think of this passage when talking to some of our more difficult types in Church, thinking we can’t actually stop what God is wanting to do, I am reminded of King Canute sat on his throne at the seas edge trying (obviously unsuccessfully) to order the waves to stop. Are our Churches sometimes like this? Are we sometimes like this?

Instead let’s jump in…

Here in the passage above we see the water rising further up from the person, from ankle deep, to knee, to waist deep, to out of our depth and we have to swim for it.

It made me think that often as Christians we are called to go deeper with God, and yet most of us stay in the baby pool, lark around in the shallow end, play at being a Christian but remaining firmly within our comfort zone.

Yet the problem is when we do go deeper, we still often go deeper with God but remain in control, we move towards him and all he has for us, but we do so on our terms. Ironically if everyone else is up to their ankles if we are up to our knees we sound mature and Godly, yet still are living far, far short of what God has for us.

The water rising to our waist. When wading through water, we can feel its pull, we can feel where it is trying to lead us, but we are still pretty much in control of whether we go with the water or against it. I spoke on Sunday about being in step, in harmony with the spirit, going with the flow of the water is the call for the Christian.

We might be in Christ, but are we walking obediently with the spirit? Also, there is a choice here do we who are wading through the water choose the speed and pace of progress or do we let the water guide us?

And lastly the water raising above our heads, causing us to be out of our depth, causing us to be swimming.

Yet how many of us -if we are truly honest- are a bit like me with my 25 meters swimming badge having one foot on the bottom of the pool?

Lets swim with God, a picture of surrender, a picture of the current taking us where God wants us to be, going at his speed, being directed by him and without us having those unhelpful elements of control.

Authenticity, Bravery, Guidance, Risk and Change

We Can’t Stay here…

“You can’t stay here” I said aghast as I visited Jo who was homeless living in a boiler room with water washing through it like a river.

“It’s not that bad, I’ll be okay!” was the reply (and she lived there for a further 6 months).

The people of Israel lived as nomadic desert people for 40 years, they were happy to trudge around in the heat and the absence of water, because this was safe, comfortable and familiar.

I am someone who hates going to the dentist and normally when the pain thresh-hold gets to the point when I can bare it no longer I stagger to the dentist, until I’m agony I put of going. Telling everyone “I’m fine”.

Is there pain that is unresolved that is getting worse?

Are there things in your life that hurt but hasn’t reached agony yet so you’re in pain and popping painkillers like smarties?

Over the last two years of our interregnum we have had a real challenge with trying to develop a culture which doesn’t tolerate people being nasty to each other. The least helpful thing when trying to change the culture was people saying “it’s not that bad” or “its just how people are” or other such excuses.

People talk about being Pastoral, and yet sometimes “sorting it out” is the most pastoral thing we can do, intervention is often scary, bringing change and risk, the familiar cycles are broken and the status quo is interrupted, sometimes things carrying on as they always had sometimes isn’t the best for anyone involved.

Ironically though, I am actually someone who hates conflict, I know others thrive on it, but I’m not one of them. Yet sometimes following Jesus sometimes means doing and saying the tough things that need to be done because they are the right thing to do.

It is an uncomfortable place to be the one that acknowledges the elephant in the room, and being the one who suggests that maybe this elephant in the room needs dealing with again takes bravery, but the bravest thing of all is actually dealing with the elephant and taking it out of the room.

It feels very unpastoral to cause this upset and to challenge things that have become part of the DNA of where we are but perhaps the least loving thing for those we are called to shepherd and pastor is to let the status quo go on unchallenged.

Perhaps like the homeless person at the start of this blog, you feel that “if you stay here you will become sick, and possibly die”.

Perhaps like the toothache this pain can be sorted out with 10 minutes of discomfort in the dentists chair, the pain can be cured if we take decisive action.

Sometimes we need to see the peril in a situation, or feel the pain to make us change.

I have said at Church “unless we reach out this Church building will be closed”

I think that in order to move forward you not only sometimes have to make the compelling case for moving to a new place, but sometimes we have to say “we can’t stay here”, we have to make the case that where we are is not a place we want to stay.

Bishop Lee once wrote a piece which talked of a woman living in a hellish place, but not wanting to leave, she was asked “why do you want to stay here” and she replied “it maybe hell, but I know the street names”.

We feel safe in the familiar, even when the familiar is harmful to us.

Change is something, that all of us find to some degree threatening.

I was talking to a landlord the other day and they were talking about how their regulars don’t have much cash and so making a living is tough, many of the regular customers are getting old and dying (or going into residential care) wants to modernise, do food, entertainment and quizzes etc, duke-box etc. Yet the fear is “will I loose the regulars”? Also, it’s a risk I could update everything and still not attract new customers. His response was “I can’t afford not to do it” in other words if the pub goes he and his family loose out, he needs to do all he can to try and make the pub viable and successful.

Often the risk is not to do something, the more dangerous risk is often to do nothing at all, that is the more risky behaviour.

Ironically, when we take no risk the thing we fear most actually happens, we perversely become self fulfilling prophecies.

One of my favourite films is Dead Poets Society, where their mantra was “carpe diem” -seize the day.

I’ll close with the thought that often it is the opportunities that miss are those we regret the most.

I believe that God is a God who wants to change and transform, and we often miss out on the wonderful signs of his Kingdom because we are begrudgingly satisfied we what we are used to rather than dreaming dreams of what could be.

So, let’s dream dreams, let us not settle for what we have, but step bravely out into the future, we may not always win, but for me the biggest failure is the failure not to try.

5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), call, Carrying burdens, Discipleship, grace, Guidance, identity, incarnation, inclusion, Life in the Spirit, vocation

“Everyone Gets to Play”

“The term “laity” is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from Christian conversation”. -Karl Barth.

I think Barth is right. The Clergy laity distinction does create an unhelpful them and us image of division.

It is translated into some peoples minds as “the called and the uncalled” -which is rubbish we are all called people, we just are called to different things and different roles within the body of Christ.

Or the qualified and the unqualified, but actually although it is an amazing privilege to study theology at degree level the under-pinning idea that ordinary everyday Christians aren’t “qualified” to do the works of the Kingdom is simply ludicrous -most of the original disciples were unskilled men!

Or perhaps you feel like the ‘elite’ and the ‘plebs’ which again isn’t helpful, because I think there is no such thing as a  super Christian, as we all stand on level ground before  the cross of Christ in our need of salvation, and ultimately all good works come “not by might, nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts”.

In fact I’d go further and point to two pictures within scripture which I think are more helpful:

i) The first is that of the body of Christ, where every bit is interdependent on each other, each bit is needed, no bit can claim a greater importance in the body as each is doing a role or function that only they can do.

ii) The second is the ‘priest-hood of all believers’, not the few elected holy people as under the old covenant, but everyone able to approach the throne of grace with boldness.

That is not to say that there isn’t an important role in leadership within Christ’s Church, although I fear that to often Christian leadership looks more like Lord Sugar than the Lord Jesus’ Christ, the board-board rather than the upper room where Christ washed, dust, sweat and camel crap of his disciples feet.

Jesus said “The Son of Man (a term he used to describe himself) has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

I think Jesus showed us leadership that looked very different, it looks like sacrificial and costly servant-hood because that is what it is.

A friend who is a vicar, once asked a Church about a Biblical character they thought of when they thought of leadership, their response was of Moses coming down the mountain clutching the tablets of stone under his arm and saying “thus sayth the Lord” -an image I find very uncomfortable, and no wonder if this is your starting point is leadership abused. Instead this friend talked about the leadership picture he prefers which is that of John the Baptist “I must decrease so he must increase” -the path to fruitfulness is humility, prayerfulness, finding strength in weakness and these are entirely the virtues of the upside-down Kingdom of God.

I think we need to go back to scripture and see afresh what leadership is meant to achieve, from my reading of scripture it is meant to “equip the body of Christ for works of service”.

We often think this is about the 5 fold ministries in Ephesians, “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher and Pastor”, where someone comes and does Evangelism, or moves in the Prophetic, but surely the role of the Apostle is to teach other people to think apostolicially -looking for those kingdom opportunities, the prophet to hear other people to hear from God for themselves, the teacher to enable people to learn and grow for themselves, the evangelist to help other people in evangelism, and the pastor to help us love and care for one another”.

It’s not about building ourselves up, but rather it is about building up the body of Christ.

We often forget that leadership is actually about bringing out the gifts of God in others, it’s not a calling (to use a football analogy) to be a star striker scoring all the goals, but rather it is the role of the team coach who is called to invest, encourage, bless, challenge, inspire God’s people so they can turn this broken upside down world the right way up for Christ Jesus.

It’s not about building a big empire, with lots of people downloading your sermons and turning up to your services and putting on a great show on a Sunday, but rather sending people out to transform the world on Monday morning living out their faith in everyday life on their front-lines.

Too often leadership has been “you help me do what I think we should be doing” than asking “what is God calling you to do, and how can we help, bless and enable you to fulfil God’s call on your life”.

Too often we think of leadership about ‘press ganging volunteers’ to do our things -What can I get from them? Rather than thinking “how can be bless them” in what and where God is calling them.

I’ll close with a controversial Youtube Clip:-

1 Samuel 17.39., Guidance, obidience, Youth and Children's Work

This Armour Doesn’t Fit.

One of the problems with Churches is often they are always on to the next new thing, much of UK Christianity is full of fads.

In the book of Habakkuk God says “Behold I am doing a new thing”, note he doesn’t say behold I am doing the next thing, or another fad, but I am doing a new thing.
The origin of this is from God, not nicked and copied from the glossier church up the road -you do your notices on video, suddenly we do notices on video!
Often these phases are normally cosmetic, and do nothing to solve the heart of the problem which normally stems from people being reluctant to be obedient when it is costly and involves sacrifice… easier to re-design your facebook page than to tell people about Jesus, feed the hungry, love the difficult people who make our lives difficult and all the other sacrificial and costly aspects to discipleship.
Yet Gods changes aren’t superficial nor cosmetic, but go to heart of who we are. Gods changes are transformative and his change stems from his heart.
Yet it’s a strange paradox, that although we want to be doing the new and the cosmetic, underneath it all, we are actually somewhat resistant to real change, -because real change is unsettling and costly- Bishop Mike calls it “the powerful pull of the status quo bias”…
You see we approach life with our own world view, we look at it through our lenses,  we solve problems by past experience, the way we’ve always done it, and history repeats itself again, and again, sometimes in what feels like a never ending spiral.
Yet God looks at his world not with a limited, fallible and broken world view but with the eyes of the all seeing God, and the mind of the all knowing one.
Perhaps this is why he says, “My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts not your thoughts!”
One of the classic examples of this is sending a mere child -David- to fight against a man mountain of  Goliath,  and Saul clothed him in his own armour.
It was well intentioned, but the armour immobilized David.
The old way, the conventional wisdom was insufficient for the task set before them.
David refused to do things the way the had always been done before, and instead armed only with a slingshot and 5 stones, went out and defeated Goliath.
Sometimes people put so many things on us, often well intentioned, but actually end up debilitating and immobilising us.
Are we trapped, suffocated in the dust of a previous culture.
Trying to live for today in yesterdays baggage, held back by the debris of the past.
I believe God is saying to his Church a message of liberation that sets us free from the burdens, weights, restrictions of “Saul’s Armour” that is often placed upon us, and our shoulders, which cause us to buckle under the weight on the burden Christ never intended us to carry.
 What are you carrying? Are you trying to fight in obsolete equipment? Have people put things on you which don’t fit -and probably will never fit-.
Is God opening up new openings, new opportunities and new ways of doing and of being?
I believe that God is doing a new thing in this nation.
I believe that God is doing a new thing in this city.
I believe God is doing a new thing within his Church.
I believe God is doing a new thing within the lives of his followers.
…and I believe this is not simply giving his army a make over, but rather calling us into a place of liberation and freedom, new places of new victories in new ways.
So often we assume we know what to do, we return -like a pig in the mud or a dog to its vomit- to our old default ways of doing and being rather than seeking whether God is showing us a new ways.
God is unpredictable, he never repeats a miracle the same way twice. We need to trust his hand, his heart and his provision and power rather than our own methodology or opinion.
God is doing a new thing, what is our response? Do we keep going as we always have, doing what we have always done? Or do we seek to see what God is saying, catching the wind or the wave of his spirit, seeing his footprints and follow where he leads.
I love Rowan Williams’ line about life and mission which is “find out what God is doing and joining in”.
God show me what you are doing and let me join in, keeping in step with you, as we walk your way into a future that I can’t yet see, but I know that I can trust you with it.
Falibility, Guidance, Humanity, Humility, Nurture


An advert read “Complete Encyclopaedia Brittania for sale, teenage daughter knows everything!”

We live in a world where don’t like to be taught things.

We don’t like to admit we don’t know stuff.

We don’t like to be wrong.

We don’t like to feel ill informed, or worse misinformed.

We are a world of experts (because after all we all have a Google app on our phones). –

We don’t like the power dynamic of being told what to do. In fact one of the phrases often used in arguements is “you can’t tell me what to do!”

Perhaps this is why many of us blokes won’t even ask directions when we are lost “maybe we’ll find a short cut!” we say in a way that convinces no one, probably not even ourselves.

Yet teachability is a wonderfully underrated gift, it shows a beautiful humility, a world view that seeks to grow, go deeper and learn.

There is an old saying that “everyone we meet has something to teach us” -I think this is true, and in the Christian tradition we believe God himself can speak to us through often the most unusual of ways.

The question has never been, can God speak, but rather are we ready and willing to listen to him? And if we do hear him, will we harden our hearts? The (slightly crazy) prophet Ezekial speaks of God giving us a heart of flesh -tender meat- rather than that of stone, so that our hearts can hear his voice speaking to us, saying our name, calling out to encounter him in all we encounter.

Will we allow him in to these situation? Jesus stands at the door of our lives, knocking, waiting to be invited in to each and every situation, but does not force himself in, it’s the wise and teachable thing to hear and heed his knocking on the door.

Stephen Fry described himself once as endlessly curious, I love this image of a great intellect being caused by not giving up, thinking we have life, the world and the universe sorted… Seizing the moment and seeing what we can learn from it, what God can teach us from it, are our hearts open, are our ears unblocked.

Learning, especially in our journey of faith, is a destination we never reach, there is always more of God and more of his wonderful creation that we can discover if our eyes and hearts are soft enought to keep looking, seeking and discovering. -let’s be endlessly hungry for more? The biggest problem is with discipleship is we think we are there, or at least nearly there, and we fosilize, get satisfied and cease to be hungry.

Jesus used an example of discipleship of a little child, children are hungry for knowledge and full of awe and wonder I think to “grow up” and loose this is a tragedy.

Do we have this childlike faith?

Are we prepared to admit we don’t know stuff, or we could do things a better way? I have had to swallow my pride on occasions and admit that I’ve been wrong, and although not easy at the time can also be wonderfully liberating (maybe an example of “the truth setting you free?”)

Are we better at telling people what to do, rather that asking the insightful question and making the better choice? Are we inviting Jesus to speak into our lives and situation, expectant of him shaping and moulding us. Is the image of God as the potter one which is an actual reality in our lives or an empty theological image?

Another proverb says “in life we have a choice we either get better or bitter” -bitter is so much easier, but to learn lessons from the harder knocks life gives us will shape us, and form us.

In fact as everything we face we face it with our Heavenly Father, and every experience we encounter we can take to him, and ask what we can learn together through our experiences, using all we face to learn more of us, more of hIm, and to use our experiences to help shape us to be the people that God wants us to be. Allowing him, by his Spirit, to use all we face to fashion us into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. When the pain and struggle strike, we need to invite God in, and take the negative and see God redeem, restore and reshape it and us for his glory. When life throws stuff at us, are we teachable? Can we use the bad and redeem it for good?

This idea of being people seeking to be transformed by God ought to mean that CHristians are the most self aware of people, yet sadly we all know that this often sadly isn’t the case…

Self awareness however is key for our discipleship, knowing ourselves, seeing ourselves as we really, but in the security of being loved and held by our Heavenly Father, who helps us to become the us we can, should and ought to be in and through him.

As I blogged yesterday about mission/evangelism and wondered too whether the call to greater self awareness would transform our the outreach we do, and our self awareness would transform our Church Communities too. Self awareness stems from a teachable spirit.

So, in our lives, in the situations we face and the people that we meet are we able to learn the lessons we need to learn, not missing the opportunity to be shaped more like Christ, becoming the people we were originally created to be.

So, let’s take the challenge to ask God to help us become more teachable, humbling ourselves as we open our ears, hearts, minds to him in surrender.
Sent using CloudMagic

Guidance, spontaneity, structure

And all that Jazz…

I have been thinking about Jazz as a metaphor or picture for life, mission and ministry and actually it works.

Jazz is both structure AND spontaneity together as rather odd (but also rather wonderful) mismatched dance partners working together.
Jazz is not purely improvised, nor is it entirely structured, its magic works by the two working together.
There is both an over-arching narrative but also containing improvisation within in… with both seeming departures and returns to the main piece. Times for Jazz solo’s and time for the Jazz band to come together, a mix of the corporate and the individual flare held together in a beautiful creative tension.
A picture of Jazz as our life together, the main narrative of the corporate with improvisation of the personal and the individual, working together seamlessly in a wonderful picture of corporate dependency and the personal touch freely expressed and free to be themselves.
Life is a mix of structure an spontaneity… the structure of deadline and the need to focus on the task in hand, verses the unexpected interruptions which ambush most of us each day…
Sometimes we get so focused on the destination we forget to focus on the journey to get there, sometimes we focus so much on the journey we never get to the destination… but Jazz at its best has both order and seeming chaos together.
It is about having an ear for the music, following the spirit of what is happening, having your eye on the conductor (each of those phrases probably could all birth a sermon in their own right, in fact I think the whole of the Christian walk and discipleship could be described as being in-tune with the spirit and working together with him harmony).
In the Bible there is a story of a man called Jirus who ran a  synagogue, who wanted Jesus to heal his 12 year old little girl, she is dying, and he is desperate. As they are hurrying to the girl, someone in crowd touches the hem of Jesus’ robe. Jesus stops, and asks ‘who touched me?’ -Jirus must have been desperate to keep Jesus moving toward his home and his sick little girl. A woman with “an issue of blood” (as the Bible delicately puts it) -for 12 years-  came forward and admit it was her who touched him, and Jesus tells her that her faith has made her well. Before resuming the journey to Jirus’ house. Interesting sidelight the woman’s bleeding lasted the same time as the little girls age. Jesus got to the house and looked like he was too late, the girl had died, and yet Jesus raised her from the dead.
His jazz may have seemed like a radical departure, dangerous improvisation,  but by the end of the piece it reached a fuller, better and more wonderful crescendo where both the little girl, the woman and Jirus and his family were blessed.
What of us?
Do we need to be more task focused?
Or do we need to focus more on the journey?
Are we stepping up to moment and taking our solo, or are we supporting one another as part of the band? Can we do both? Which is God calling you to do, to play a solo for a moment? Or to support someone else’s moment?
Are we okay with the flexibilty of jazz or do we prefer every step clearly mapped out?
-Do we love it when a plan comes together?
Or do we following a detailed plan stifling?
Does Jazz thrill you, or terrify you?
Do we need to loosen up and learn to improvise so we can dance to the jazz with the Spirit?
Or in our improvisation do we need to return back to the main over-arching narrative?
Are we letting other people go to improvise and be themselves, as well as allowing others to be part of something beautiful, wonderful and bigger than themselves?
…Let’s learn to embrace the Jazz together, following our great conductor, the jazz expert who truly understands the music.
Guidance, obidience, Risk and Change, vocation

Adjust Sails and catch the wind of the Spirit.

In his book “walking across the room” Bill Hybels talks about just getting to know people, and letting the Holy Spirit work through us as the relationship develops… Its about intentionally friendly and intentionally open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

At some discussions about where to go and what to do with PINTS OF VIEW tonight, we  felt that in many ways what we do with projects like PINTS OF VIEW, Street Pastors or Town Center Chaplaincy is we are primarily giving God our time to use as he sees fit, bringing across our path those he wants us to meet…

A picture of wind surfing, putting up the sail and letting God direct us, okay sometimes to catch the wave of the spirit we do have to listen to his voice and occasionally adjust the sale, but primarily it is about intentionally making ourselves available to God and what he wants to do with us (and in us).

Yet the more I thought about this, this is more than just a missionary principal, but actually what the whole of our life is about, offered to God, letting him be the wind in our sails… and yes at times we need to heed his voice and adjust the sails so we can best be used by him, ready and expectant.

Which made me ask, what does a life look like that is ready, available and expectant of the Spirit at work.

When I think of God directing my steps, this alters the view of everyone I meet, those I hang out with and chat too, and as I think of my life being lived for God’s Glory it makes me think differently about how I work, what I do, about the brothers and sisters in Christ who share our Journey with us too and how  do I encourage and inspire them to adjust their sails to catch what God is doing in their lives too.

Its not about our plans, strategies or giftedness but simple echoing the sentiment of Isaiah (6) when he says “here I am send me”.

Guidance, Holy Spirit, vocation

Wild Goose Chase…

Wild Geese, in the ancient world these animals were seen as dangerous, magnificent but terrifying, unpredictable animals, not easy to follow, and almost impossible to catch. The image of a wild goose was one the early Celtic Christians used to describe the Holy Spirit, as following where the Holy Spirit leads is a dynamic following, that is unpredictable, a bit dangerous, and the Holy Spirit is almost impossible to catch, as when we think we’ve ‘pinned God down’ we discover he is leading us in a different direction.

The Wild Goose has echoes of C.S. Lewis’ famous quote about Aslan (the Christ character), ‘“Is he safe?” Lucy asked “of course he’s not safe, but he is good”.

Picks up the idea from John 3, of the Spirit being like ‘the wind that blows where it will’.

So all Christians all called to go on a ‘wild goose chase’… A lifestyle which (to quote Francis Chan) “unbelievers aren’t supposed to understand” or Pete Greig: “(non Christians) marvel at their strange existence”; the image of a wild goose chase is exciting image, -echoing Jesus promise in John 10:10- “to have come to give us life, and life in all its fullness’; the polar opposite of the common misconception of following Jesus as being boring!

If you wanted to catch a wild goose, you were pretty brave, and you had to give it 100%, you can’t catch a wild goose whilst perusing another agenda, because you will loose the wild goose…

The Bible talks about ‘keeping in step with the spirit’ following his lead, hearing his voice, Jesus says ‘my sheep know my voice’; Or the prophet Isaiah says ‘whether you turn to the right or the left you will hear a voice behind you saying this is the way walk in it’…

Archbishop Rowan described Mission as “finding out what God is doing and joining in”, I think he is right, but actually I think this is broader than just mission, our chief aim in life as Christians is to live our whole life ‘in tune’ or  ‘in harmony’ with God.

Often we think of the ‘call’ as exclusively about ordination, yet I believe God is constantly speaking, guiding us, in the small choices and the big, involved in every area of our life, and he is constantly calling us to go deeper with him, to serve, to love, to share, bless, pray, worship.

When we first started doing Street Pastors, we shot around the streets chatting away at break-neck speed, until we realized that God was telling us to slow down, to look, listen and seek him.

I think we don’t hear God’s voice mainly because we aren’t listening for it.

I think we don’t see God at work, because we aren’t looking for it.

When we went slower, we spotted many more opportunities to bless, help, listen, share and sometime to talk about Jesus and to pray with people.

The issue has never been can God speak, the issue has rather been, do we want to hear it?

The issue has never been can God use you, -after all God is more into our availability than our ability, and isn’t limited by our limitations- the issue is will we let him?

St. Francis of Assisi, led the biggest missionary movement since the book of Acts, and one of his key principles was ‘obedience’,  following Christ with nothing else distracting from being led by his Saviour, he gave up EVERYTHING to follow Christ, wealth, status relationship; and yet in giving up everything he gained everything too, a life of fullness in the exciting adventure of faith following Christ.

The Wild Goose chase may look foolish, just as the merchant who sold everything in order to gain the pearl of great price, or the man who paid over the odds for a field with buried treasure in it, may have appeared foolish, but they noticed the purity of the pearl, the value of the journey, that it is the best way of living life, with rewards that are literally out of this world, yet is a commitment that requires total surrender.

The Rich Young Man was required to give up EVERYTHING he had before coming to follow Christ, (not just make a generous donation)… A Chinese proverb says every journey starts with a single step.

Elisha, when he accepted the call to follow God, sacrificed his ox on their ploughs as an offering to God, no going back.

As the writer to the Hebrews writes in Chapter 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”.

More recently a martyred Missionary Jim Elliott said this; “he is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep, (his life) in order to gain what he cannot loose (Christ)”.

CT Studd said: “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

I’m struck that when Jesus sent out the 72, he sent them out vulnerably, with nothing with them, no complex strategies but just reliant on God, too often as Christians we have become a bit reliant on our props, but here they have no baggage, no ideas nicked from elsewhere or an ‘off the peg strategy’ from the coolest current Christian course from the hippest Church on the internet or whatever…

It is an exciting, dangerous journey following Jesus, after-all he said that if you wanted to follow him you must be prepared to pick up your cross and follow him- knowing that even death cannot destroy the good things that God has in store for those who love him; the journey is worth it.

We go empty handed, but knowing that ‘the one who calls us is faithful’ and to echo a hymn: “all I have needed thy hand hath provided”

To the world it may look like foolishness, but we are fools for Christ, and actually I wonder, whose fooling who?

It is living by faith; which John Wimber spelled “R-I-S-K”

So, let’s live our lives as a wild goose chase.

Guidance, Jonah, obidience

Lessons from a SatNav.

Bill Wilson (leader of the worlds largest Sunday School) once said “Christians often quit before the miracles kick in”.

It’s so true, in a consumerist society, we are better at following when “the Suns shining down on me and the worlds all as it should be” than when it’s a cross carrying struggle “the roads marked with suffering and there is pain in the offering”.
Yet often it is in the times of suffering, challenge and sacrifice that we see some of the most fruitful and beautiful advances of the Kingdom of God.
Jackie Pullinger, a great missionary inside the walled city in China seeing amazing miracles with heroin addicts, didn’t see anyone become a Christian until 7 years into her ministry, now she is seeing amazing fruit from her work.
I wonder if I had been in her shoes whether I’d have been faithful and obedient enough to “hang on in there” with what God had called her too, or would I have got on plane home after a couple of (seemingly) unproductive years.
Jackie Pullinger once famously said that “God wants us to have a soft heart and hard feet, whereas we want to have a hard heart and soft feet”.
Jesus says that “no one puts their hand to the plough and keeps looking back is worthy of the Kingdom of God”, when you are ploughing you need to keep looking forward, otherwise the furrows become crooked and no good.
When we take our new puppy Teddy out, he is constantly distracted by sights and smells all around him and keeps pulling on the lead wanting to go off in various directions. I see so many gifted Christians, getting distracted and wandering off course, never ending up doing all that God has called for them.
When using a SatNav I soon realised that it expects you to keep going until it tells you to stop or change course, I think there is wisdom from the SatNav, we as Christians should keep going until God tells us to stop, rather than like the puppy pulling off everytime we see something enticing (often another dogs’ poo!) which diverts us from Gods call.
The question is what is God calling us to?
Are we prepared to follow this call for the long haul, maybe the rest of our natural lives?
What is God not calling us to?
What entices us and captivates our eyes, it might not be in itself a bad thing, but if it pulls you away from following Jesus then don’t make eye contact with it.
Yet, even if we have wandered from the Path we should have followed, even if we’ve quit when maybe we should have pushed forward, Grace goes ahead of us.
And God in his grace re-routes us like our  SatNav returning us back to where he wants us to be, often even redeeming the twists and turns we shpuldn’t have made, but become used by him for his glory, grace and mercy to shine out  from.