Adoption, Eternity, identity, Life in the Spirit, love

A.L.I.V.E

I’m a terrible Anglican!

I am rubbish at the three point sermon (as any regular reader of these blogs can testify)!

I was chatting today with a really wise older Pastor and was gently trying to pick his brains about stuff.

He  said if he  could preach his first sermon again he’d talk about and he was talking about peoples inferiority complexes, which is at the heart of most of the pain and problems we have in our Churches.

The insecure ‘victim mentality’ never thinks it is their fault -It is always someone-else’s.

Yet why do people in Churches hold on to roles, power and stuff so tightly? It is because they get their value from it.

Most jealousies stem from an insecurity too.

Sometimes insecure people or people who feel inferior also are the people that put others down to make themselves feel better.

There is an adage of hurt people hurt people, and it is true sadly people struggling with insecurities will lash out.

These things do work -a little bit- with boosting our EGO, yet they don’t actually heal or solve the issue- in fact in the long run they actually make it worse.

Yet the insecurity and inferiority actually I believe stems from a lack of understanding of who we are in Christ, what is our identity.

I was thinking about this. Before Christ our identity is ‘far from God’ and ‘dead in our sins’… which probably isn’t going to help us address our insecurity or inferiority issues.

Yet when we become Christians we gain a new identity.  We who were dead in our sins are now alive in Christ, we who were once far off, are now seated with Christ on high in the heavenly places.

So, although not three points, nor starting with the same letter, we are A-L-I-V-E in him.

A   Adopted.  he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Eph.1.5).

As I thought about adoption I thought people can fall pregnant by accident, but you can’t adopt someone by accident.

When we think of adoption we think of God Wanting us, choosing us, called by name.

Also, adoption is giving us a place in God’s family the word adoption talks about our belonging to God and belonging in his family.

“See how the Father has lavished his love on us that we can be called children of God, because that beloved is who we are”. 1 John .

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.  AND “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.” -God himself -the creator and ruler of the universe says you can call him dad!

Adoption also talks of our inheritance to come, citizens of an eternal inheritance of heaven, our unearned rights as Gods children.

L Loved… This amazing truth that the God of the universe, loves us, likes us, want a relationship with us.

we are loved with a passionate love that caused  Jesus to be nailed to the cross, and die for us.

Love so extravagant and gracious that we cannot get our head around it.

I   In-dwelt… The amazing truth that God promises by the power of his Holy Spirit that he lives and dwells within us.  God of heaven living in us.

The Bible tells us that we have the same Holy Spirit living in us that raised Jesus from the dead, he that is within us is greater than he that is within the world.

V  Victorious.  In Christ we are not failures, not mistakes, but in him we have victory of hell, sin and death, the cross and the grace from it speaks louder than our mistakes sin and failures.

E  Eternal/Eternity. Our destiny is for eternity. God wants to be with us forever, and ever and ever, and loved with an everlasting love.

So, in Christ remember we are adopted, loved, In-dwelt by God most high, Victorious and Eternal.

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identity, Luke 10, Mission

A Sent People.

There is a great verse in 1 John which says: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

I am far from a perfect dad, and although I love my daughter and would do anything for her, my love doesn’t come close to that of God’s love for us (for we can’t love more than God!)…

Maybe this week just remember something of the extravagance of God’s love for us?

Today I left them behind for most of the rest of the Easter break, and it feels sad being separated from them, maybe this is the ache in God’s heart, in pain whenever he is separated from his children.

God misses you when we don’t talk to him.

God is excited about spending time with you and me, because he loves us, we are his children… Maybe put your name into that verse, make it person…

“see what great love the Father has lavished on………the he should be called a child of God, for that is what s/he is”.

I think this verse is critical when we think of mission, it is out of the overflow or the abundance of who God  is, and what he has done that in our motivating spur onwards “the love of Christ compels us”.

Last night we had our Praise and Proclaim service at Ascension with Si Jones, very very inspiring preach, and also some interesting thoughts from chatting with him too.

Si spoke of ‘seeking first the Kingdom of God’ rather than simply worrying about preserving Church status quo, he spoke of learning to be a Kingdom people, being generous, hospitable, loving Christ Centred Communities; that in giving away we grow and in trying to ‘play it safe’ we end up shrinking, withering and dying.
-Pray that as Churches locally we may grasp this truth of being a Kingdom people that are stepping out in faith…

The talk went on to talk about Jesus saying “come to me all who labour and are heavily laden” but also says “go into all the world and make them my disciples”…

Coming and Going.

Some Christians are great at coming to Jesus and love the Christian warmth of a
safe and cosy Churchy environment; but forget that he also is a God who sends.-Pray that as Churches locally we may grasp the missionary ‘sending’ heart beat of God for the least, the last and the lost; the marginalised and disenfranchised.

Si based his talk around Luke 10, where Jesus sends out the 72 with the instructions to ‘find people of peace’ -those people who are open to you and the message- and stay there, with the instructions of ‘eat what is put before you’… (Good news if you like your food!) -the idea of food/welcome/hospitality- and talked about friends, colleagues, family about building relationships with people who aren’t yet Christians, a challenge to be hospitable people, invite people around for meals, go out for beers…
-Pray for us as individuals and us corporately as Churches, that we maybe good at building new relationships, being hospitable, -accepting the hospitality of others-

The passage talks about healing the sick, and said that too often Church has become very good at doing a sympathetic face and empathising… a challenge to offer to pray for people; a challenge for us as Christians to be expectant and not defeatist-

Interestingly Si pointed out that it is more often the Christians who have more hang ups about praying for people than people have about being prayed for…
-Pray us all as Christians that we would have  greater boldness in us to offer to pray for people.
-Pray to for us as Christians and as local Churches to be expectant (and not defeatist) that God is able to heal, speak and touch lives…

And lastly the passage talks about proclaim the kingdom of God, opportunities to speak…
-Pray for greater boldness to speak, to seize the moment…

Also a prayer for those of us, who are struggling at the moment, maybe those who feel discouraged, or their faith feels a bit dry, hold our brothers and sisters in your prayers today, that God may inspire, encourage and soak in his Holy Spirit those struggling today.

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Discipleship, identity, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, New Year

Superhero?

i was watching Docrot Who on catch up, and it features a superhero character, a young guy swallows some gemstone from the Doctor and suddenly had superpowers, flies, superhuman strength and all that type of of thing.

As I flicked through my film magazine I have been struck by how many superhero movies there are coming out in 2017.

Ordinary people able to do extraordinary things.

Ordianry people able to overcome overwhelming obsticals.

As I thought about Superheroes I began to think how many of these guys are geeks -Spider-Man and SuperMan- not perfect toothed and chisled jawed Bond type but clumsy folk, awkward around the opposite sex and wear thick black rimmed glases!

The intersting thing about most of the superheroes ive watched is that they firstly have an acute sense of right and wrong, often the only one with the courage to not be swept along with the prevailing culture who seems oblivious to the wiles of the enermy, who seems to everyone else to be a good chap, but the superhero knows better.

Also, the superhero has the courage to act and not be a bystander, isn’t able to stand back and watch destruction, pain and hurt occur without doing something to prevent it.

Often too, the superhero, is prepared to to risk it all for the sake of the vision of a transformer and better world,  risking their lives often for the sake of someone so minor their character isn’t given a name on the final credits.

And yet as I thought more about this, I began to think actually the superheroes idea actually can teach us something of what it means to be followers of Jesus.

Now hold fire before you start donning a mask and wearing your pants on the outside of your clothes… But have a think about who we are.

We are ordinary people,we may feel a bit geeky or nerdy (I’m told there is a difference!) at times and yet we are ordinary people able to do extra-ordinary things, overcome overwhealming obsticals.

Yet as followers of Christ we are frontline fighters against an enermy the world is hoodwinked by.

As followers of Christ we are called not to just stand by but get involved and risking it all.

And although we dont have comic book abilities, we are temples of the Holy Spirit.

God himself, God of heaven, living within us.

He that is within us is greater than he that is within the world.

The same Holy Spirit is within us than that which raised Jesus from the dead.

I believe we should be expectant that God will work through us, Colosians talks of “God making his appeal through us” (just a few verses after it talks about “Christ In us the hope of glory”,reminding us of the illustration from 2 Corinthians talking about treasure -the Kingdom of God within us- in jars of clay -our common humanity).

So, although we’re not swinging around from building to building, we can be expectant that our very presence where-ever we go beings the light of Christ with us and thwarts the enermy, just our presence alters the a Spiritual DNA of the place. God himself chooses to shine out from us.

We have a God who chooses to work through his people, he wants his people to ben expectant, he even says “you will do greater things than I”.

More over he says to us “Just as my Father sent me, so I am sending you”. Luke and Paul write in scripture a lot about spiritual gifts, Luke showing Jesus performing miracles, authority over sickness, natural, the demonic and death, but then shows both 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation of CHristians  being active in healing, deliverance and even resurrection.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and that God can do “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine”. Be expectant that God wants to use us both in our normal and natural every day CHristian life AND supernaturally.

He promises “to give us the words to say” our words have a prophetic edge, sometimes we realise it, other times (often) we don’t… “We hold out the word,that give life” (Phil).

Our prayers can change and rewrite history “the prayer of a righteous person acomplishes much” through Christ we have the authority to see body, mind and spirit healed.

The problem is we have this awesome power at our disposal and yet sadly it is under used in our everyday life.

Sometimes we feel like Gideon “I am the least in my family and my family is the least in Manasah” and yet God used him mightily.  The issue has never been whether God can use us to transform his world, the issue is whether we let him work in us as through us.

So let us go I’m to 2017 with a holiness and with courage, willing to speak and serve for Christ’s glory, but also prayerfully expectant to be used by God both through natural and supernatural means.

We might not wander around in capes with a big S on our fronts, but we have a missionand a generous God who equips thise he calls, and I believe he is calling you to tonight.

Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart, instead lets respond in faith and expectancey that God will work through us supernormally and supernaturally.

As we step into 2017 let us remember we are not left high and dry but all the resources of heaven at our disposal.

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Humility, identity, Isaiah 6, Pioneer, Pride

Words, Language and Titles…

A week ago I was at a really thought provoking meeting at the Diocese thinking about pioneer ministry.

Yet the thing that struck me  is the language, words, names and labels we use actually acts can be really unhelpful.

Gideon was called by the angel as a “Mighty Warrior” and didn’t see himself as Israels military leader after-all “I am the least in my family and my family is the least in Manasah”… Yet Gideon was a Mighty Warrior as he step out in faith (after a fair bit of encouragement from God) he stepped into the Identity that God had called him to, the gifts, skills and talents that lay within him, unseen and unrecognised.

Some of us at times can be a little like Gideon struggle with self doubt, and doubting of our calling, or other times we have our own ideas and expectations of ourselves. A type of false humility can easily exist and we can mistakenly think as virtuous but actually keeps us from becoming all that God wants us to be.

I wonder how many pioneers -or perhaps apostles, evangelists, teachers and prophets exist within our Church but would rule themselves out, or not be confident in embracing who they are before God?

I wonder too how many pioneers, -or perhaps apostles, evangelists, teachers and prophets exist within our Churches  but the Church communities sadly often don’t realised, acknowledged and embrace these gifts… (I think those with a pastoral gift most churches are reasonable at recognising, but often sadly many are less good at recognising the other characteristics).

Intestestingly both Isaiah (Is.6) and Jeremiah (Jer.1), both prophets who really needed Gods help to find their voice, Isaiah even has a vision of a cereph touching his lips with a burning coal… I wonder how many of us need Gods help to find our voice, especially our prophetic voice? Often the prophetic feels scary, we say things that other people don’t alwyas “get” or “understand”, sometimes to give a prophetic word takes a lot of courage of bravery.

Yet sometimes labels aren’t always helpful, one of my friends who was  evangelist, was told he was a good evangelist and for a few weeks went tactlessly crashing into conversations bible bashing in the most to-curling way imaginable, a million miles away from the normal  conversations he had been having. Sometimes Gods call on our lives can get limited when our egoes get over-inflated “pride coming before a fall”.

I don’t think these gifts, calling and ministries were meant to be given so that we can strut around like peacocks, and I’ve blogged before at how uncomfortable I am when perhaps there is too little walking deeply with the spirit and too much ego and testosterone flying around. The Growing Leaders Course sas “Charisma and Competence without Character creates Catastraphy”. A verse that don’t quote often enough but occurs repeatedly in scripture is “God opposes the proud but lifts up the humble”.

Humility I believe can be best be described as “coming into agreement with God about ourselves”, Paul’s epistle to the Church in Rome urges us “not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought” in fact Paul urges “to think of the needs of others”, God doesn’t give gifts to massage our egos but rather to build up the body of Christ.

To move in the call that God has placed on us we need to come to a place of maturity, not just letting God work through us, but more painfully and more challenging is letting God work through us. Often too, God gifts us but we have to get ourselves prepared to be used by God, we won’t be effective as a Bible teacher unless we delve deeply into Gods word, nor will we ever move in the prophetic unless we pray and become used to listening to Gods voice, and we never be trusted with leadership of Gods people unless we learn how to serve faithfully.

Too often I fear too many Chritians stay too much in the shallow end of their faith, nor are prepared to invest in the walk with Christ to really know what the potential God has placed within them, like the tragic  tale that Jesus told of the foolish man  who buried his talent in the ground. Potentially great evangelists  who never really talk about their faith, teachers who haven onthing to pass on, prophets who haven’t attuned their ear to the voice of God, apostolic leaders who’ve never learned that the first come last and a biblical model for leadership involves a towel and a bucket washing crap of the foot of disciples who may dessert you, and may betray you.

So, let’s think about how we can be the culture in the soil of discipleship whereby people can be empowered, grow and thrive in their faith, where the people of God are built up and Gods Kingdom grows and flourishes… Counting ourselves in to Gods plan and purpose for his plan in our lives in his world.

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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:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uikd5uoMdpk

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Humility, identity, Pride, Servanthood., Worth

The unworthy servant of the most worthy God

got a letter through the post from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (as you do!) and I was struck by the writing around the crest of the Archbishop of York, which read “The unworthy servant of the most worthy God”…

This made me think.

Firstly I liked the humility of this, but then I began to feel a little uncomfortable.

When we see the worth and worthiness of Christ, we know that by comparison, “we are not worthy even to eat the crumbs from under his table”.

I think that too often we as Christians, and we as Church leaders, put up a veneer of being ‘sorted’, ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’, yet the truth is we all suffer and struggle with sin, all that happens -sometimes- as Christians is we get better at covering it up!

Our struggle with sin, is an on going an daily battle, not something we used to struggle with before becoming a Christian. Although this is never the message we actually say, sometimes it is the message we inadvertently give off.

We ALL sin, if in any doubt check out Paul’s struggles in Romans 7… We are all conflicted with the person we know we should be -and want to be- and who we actually are.

Ironically living up to peoples expectations of being sinless is more likely to push you into sin!

One thing I learned whilst working with drug addicts and alcoholics was that of leadership from a point of both brokenness and recovery, the councillors -former addicts themselves- were both messengers of hope and of struggle, beauty and brokenness. I love Henri Nowen’s description of Christian leadership as that of being a wounded healer.

I grew up in a Church that was very much focused on the cross, on sin, on the need for repentance and faith. Yet the problem with this form of Christianity was sometimes it didn’t feel like ‘good news’, it felt condemning, and the default setting placed the emphasis on my sin rather than on my Saviour.

Guilt, shame and unworthiness were part of my mind-set, which I thought was what God wanted me to feel, but verses like “there is now no condemnation in Christ” I struggled to personalise and allow to alter my own perception on myself.

Yet it was through the charismatic renewal movement that I really discovered that no only had the price been paid for my sin,  but that I -me-  was loved.

God saw me through the lenses of the cross and of his wonderful grace… God saw me as his beloved child, precious and valuable, my worth was extreme -that God himself would die for me.

This answered those real and deep questions of identity. A movement which talks a lot about our identity, about being anointed and empowered, about knowing the Father and his heart for us.

I stopped using words like unworthy, as although I know I am, I also don’t think it is helpful, I need more often to be reminded of grace, forgiveness and faithfulness, rather than living in a place of condemnation and almost self flagellation.

I think when we beat ourselves up, we say to ourselves that we are useless, we are failures and God can’t use us, the truth is that (although this is still true) grace speakers a louder and truer word that we can still be used despite our faults and failings, that no one is useless to a God who delights to work with his children.

Even at our worst and our most rebellious God’s love for us remains faithful and constant.

If I were redesigning the archbishops crest I would write “I maybe an unworthy servant, made worthy by the love omost worthy Lord Jesus Christ”.

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Discipleship, identity, incarnation, inter-dependance, Mission

The RNLI tractor

Today I’m on holiday, and we visited a beach in a placed called Cricketh, it was high tide and we saw the RNLI boat being towed out to the sea by a tractor who enabled it to sail of to where-ever it had to go.

It made me think a bit about the body of Christ, the tractor driver is probably the most unglamourous job in the RNLI but without him and is tractor the people who can help and the people in need remain unconnected.

A reminder that everyone is needed within the body of Christ, and without many of the roles we often don’t even think of, often are crucial for the body to function.

Earlier today I picked up one of my mother in laws books about “Scientists and Seers”, which was talking about individual cells which make up our body, when isolated they self destruct, but thrive when they are connected with other cells. A powerful image of interdependency from the smallest component part of our human anatomy, at the heart of our DNA is woven together to function collaboratively.

Yet so often Churches are passive with a small minority of people doing all the work, Nicky Gumbel joked at attending a football match, where he saw 2000 people who could do with doing more excersize watching 22 people who could really do with a break…and said that this sadly was how many Churches feel.

Anyway, back to the RNLI tractor… I began to think of being the unseen link in the chain of bringing help to those who are in need of rescuing, getting the boat to the water, and thought this is a wonderful picture of evangelism, being those who gently (and maybe part of a long unseen chain) bringing the saviour to people in need.

Perhaps too we are called to to be the tractor from the life boat station, accross the sand and rocks, to the sea, after all many life boat stations filled with all its blessings and resources remain remote and inaccessable without the person enabling that relational bridge to happen of connecting Christ and his Church with the people he loves.

So let’s embrace the RNLI tractor, the small but vital link in the chain, the one through whom act as a bridge from a hurting and dying world and a wonderful saviour can meet and be saved.

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