Age, cost, Depression, Disappointment, Discouragement, doubt, Dreams, expectations, Experience, faithfulness, Grit, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Humanity, Risk and Change, self awareness, Spiritual Warfare, Step of faith, Suffering., Testimony, vocation

Looking back over my 30’s!

I remember 10 years ago about to turn 30!

30 -I couldn’t believe I was going to be 30!

30?!

I remember sat in a pub on the Quay -and called the Quay- in Poole.

I was all full of hope and excitement about life…

I was about to get married.

I was a year(ish) into my curacy and was about to be ordained Priest/Presbyter.

I was full of audacious dreams of the adventure God had planned for us in somewhere we did not yet know.

Today I’m feeling much more melancholy.

Looking back over the past 10 years have had some wonderful moments, particularly marrying Allana and our fantastic daughter.

But, I am asking myself 40? -How did that happen?

40,that can’t be right?

40!?

There have been some wonderful moments, seeing people pray prayers of commitment to Christ and meaning them, baptising adults, planting a Church -and a few new congregations-, seeing friends step into what God has for them especially those ordained (especially Sam)and seeing some wonderful Kingdom signs and wonders along the way too.

Yet there have been some tough moments too.

To be honest it feels a little like half way through a boxing match where you are dabbing your eye with a wet sponge and spitting blood into the bucket.

Sometimes when we stop we sometimes realise what a fight a season has been, how far you’ve come -and even if it doesn’t feel far, it is worth remembering that sometimes the shortest distances sometimes can be the toughest of drags. One clergy friend that had a tough time talked about “I ran with the ball and I made the 9 yards”. It might not feel a long way, but they were significant steps hard won and costly.

As I slipped into sulky mood, I began to have a bit of a self pity party with the people that let me down, the mean stuff people have said, the times plans didn’t go right and all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.

Yet in it all I am sure I have learned stuff.

And despite sometimes feeling very confused, and even sometimes asking “God where are you?”, why is this happening” and “why did this door close?” I can still say (even though this has probably been the toughest decade of my life) that God has been, and is, faithful.

As I thought of that young thirty year old dreamer, I’m now a bit more gnarled and wrinkled, but we are standing on another new season.

The dream for God to take us, now the three of us (four if you include the dog) into new adventures into the unknown, with expectancy, again not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who it is that holds the future.

As I sit here, a bit battered, but still want that same dream to stay alive.

I think there is nothing spiritually mature about becoming jaded and downsizing our expectations of God. There is nothing Godly about playing it safe and going through the motions. There is nothing wise about allowing dreams to die and reducing and minimising your vision.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote that says “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”.

why should the future look boring and safe? An adventure with Jesus might be tougher and harder than most of us thought when we surrendered our lives to him, but it is still the greatest calling we have.

It would have been so easy to keep on doing what we have been doing and just slowly die under the moany pessimistic emails, the endless cycle of harvest festivals and other annual events and preaching to people who have heard it all a million times but longing to preach to someone who has not heard it at all.

It is so easy to be safe keep your head down grit your teeth and think about your pension, yet I believe that God has so much more for all of us than our 9-5 prisons.

As we get older, sometimes the risks feels bigger (especially those of us with families) and the jumps feel further, and the costs seem greater and yet the truth of God’s faithfulness remains the same, constant.

So, looking back and looking forward, however it looks I want to pledge one thing, it will be about Jesus, the one who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

It will be uncertain although it is in the service of the only truly certain thing in this universe -Jesus is this life’s only true certainty.

So, although I feel like I’m sat on a stall, it’s time to return the gum-shield, step into a different ring and listen to the bell and see what God ahs in store for the next decade.

It’s not about how much it cost -although sometimes that does feel quite in your face at times- but rather it is about how great is the prize, the Kingdom, the pearl of great price, the one worth it all.

“were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.

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Father God, grace, Holiness, Humanity

Approach Boldly.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

I was at the Living Acts Bible Study/Men’s Breakfast this morning and we were thinking about prayer.

Thinking about Coming to the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. My thoughts wandered to that amazing picture of the temple curtain ripping in two, from the top to the bottom, as Jesus cried out eith his gi so breath whilst dying on the cross the words “It is Finished”. The way to God is open. We can approach God with confidence because of the death and resurrection of Christ that cleanses us from our sin.

I was reminded of a story I read of JFk jr walking into the Oval Office, and climbing in the presidents lap at the heart of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this child was able to enter the heart of the most powerful office in the land, approaching the most powerful man on the planet not because of what he had done, but rather who is was, the child of the president, which meant he had access at all times to his Father. No one is allowed to just walk into the Oval Office, no one is allowed to call the President anything else than Mr. President (or Sir) yet JFK jr was allowed to call the President “daddy”.

We can approach our heavenly Father, because of his great love for us, that whilst we were still sinners Christ died for us, the righteous for the unrighteousness to bring us to God. His throne room is a billion times more powerful than America’s Oval Office. What is more we can call he Lord Almighty creator of heaven and earth Daddy, our Father, Abba. “See how the Father lavishes his love upon us that we may be sallee children of God”.

The problem is we don’t approach God with the boldness of beloved children. Often for whatever reason, we shrink back fom approaching our Heavenly Father. Often our prayers our two small when we know the awesome power and great life he has for us, perhaps we don’t realise Gods extravagance and deep desire to bless, not confident to pray with boldness and ask for what is really on our hearts. Often we feel too self concious of our sin to approach God, knowing we are sinful people but not remember than we are sanctified by the precious blood of Jesus, as the opening hymn reminds us that “there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus”.

So let’s approach Our Heavenly Father with boldness shouting out “Abba Father”.

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Falibility, Humanity

It Is Okay To Be Human.

In the book of Job (and in the funeral service) it says “God knows of what we are made, he remembers we are but dust…

It is okay to be human, because that is how God has made us.

God never intended us to be complete omni-compatant, all knowing, all powerful  unit that can stand alone, in deed of nothing, utterly self sufficient.

We sometimes need to remember he made us a little lower than the angels, in other words we are not some how superhuman… that is the stuff of comic books but not the pages of scripture!

We are created in such a way that we need Christ, to live for him,  As one of the old saints prayed “For without you we cannot please you!”

We also need each other to live for Christ, and they need us, we want to be independent, but we were created for interdependence.

Faith to move mountains is lived out as we pray for people in a world where it looks like sin, sickness and death has the upper hand.

The Glory of God is displayed in human weakness, which actual reveals God’s glory better and more fully.

It is “Christ in us the hope of Glory” rather than the “us in us the hope of glory”, the treasure in clay jars, our weaknesses show God’s strength better than a race of superheroes because people get to realise it is about God’s power at work through his people.

When we prophesy, can’t say “THUS SAYS THE LORD” but rather “I believe God is saying” because of our flesh and fallen-ness other people get to play and weigh it all up and test it.

We don’t have all the answers, we need confirmation, we need one another, its a beautiful Christ pic of his body needing its component parts to function properly and to share together. This partiality and humanity, means that rather than being some form of ‘Super Christian’ we are all broken people who get to play together and need each other… The whole thing comes back to the body of Christ, to an interdependent people, needing one another, needing to be unified, and knowing their need of God.

Its not about being a superstar player, its about sharing what God has given you to be part of his team, which is his Church that pull together and that everyone gets to play.

Lets see our God given humanity as a blessing, and as a gift, and our need of God and one another as something not just positive but also beautiful.

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Church, community of grace, comparisons, grace, Humanity, Luke 18, Pride

A Community of Grace.

Last couple of weeks at All Souls the word humility and grace have come up a fair bit in the talks, and that’s cool, as they are great words….

Which brings me to this passage… one I love, but I find so so challenging every time I read it.

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
Grace might be amazing, but it is hard at times.

Hard to receive forgiveness for things we feel bad about.
Hard to forgive others when we feel aggrieved (I struggle with this one myself if I’m honest at times).
Hard to build a community of grace that is also holy, one of those weird gospel paradox we have to wrestle with.

I think that the heart of understand grace is realizing we ourselves are sinners, we did nothing to earn our salvation it is a free gift, totally unearned.

It is human nature to do comparisons, -actually both ways, both are equally destructive.
“I’m not as good as XXX”
or
“At least I’m better than YYY”

Yet someone-elses ‘success’ doesn’t make you any less loved.
Nor does someone else’s failure doesn’t earn you brownie points and more divine love.

There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more.
There is nothing you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.

The problem with the pharisee is his pride has blinded him of his need of God, it is easy to maximise someone elses sin, whilst minimising our own, yet as some theologian once said, before the cross the ground is flat, we all come needing grace.

Sometimes we need to experience Grace to share grace.

Just as in the parable of the workers in the field, we all get the same reward of eternity with Christ whether we have been Christians for 5 minutes or 50 years.

It is only when we ‘get’ Grace does this not feel unfair.

The tragedy is (as we heard on friday) the number of “Lost Sons” who are actually like the older brother in Luke 15, who is keen to point out to the Father the failings of his brother, because he didn’t realise the extent of how much his father loved him… “You are always with me and all I have is yours” is how the father replies to him.

Grace felt unfair to the older brother as he didn’t know how loved he was by his father.

Grace is tough because people get what they don’t deserve and sometimes we don’t feel that is fair… well until we slip up and then we are so glad of grace!

I used to have an accountable relationship with my friend Jon in Bournemouth, and I was going through a tough time and did some silly things, and told Jon expecting him to kick my sorry butt (which I fully deserved) but he lent over and put his arm around me listened, (he even) bought me another pint of fosters; which has remained one of the most beautiful moments of my life. His grace and loved actually was the spur I needed to sort myself out. Grace, it’s beautiful. I want to see more of it.

As Paddy reminded us yesterday we let pride blind us to our own faults but point out the faults in others; echoing Jesus words about specks and planks.

I love the line about the woman who washes Jesus feet, those who have been forgiven much, love much…
She knew her need of Jesus’ forgiveness.

Grace and holiness can walk hand in hand, but only in the shadow of the cross of Christ.

Andy

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Falibility, Guidance, Humanity, Humility, Nurture

Teachability…

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.
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