comparisons, New, Old Ancient, Uncategorized

The Mine, the Business School and the Emperor in the Buff!!

Imagine a mine and a business school.

Both are filled with treasures.
One is ancient.
One is new.
The Mine is our Christian heritage, our scriptures and our Church traditions and great history, the stories of saints and testimonies from ages past. It is  a rich heritage full of God’s interaction with the people and culture of the past.

The gleaming business school next door is filled with the best thinking of the great minds and research into the human condition that humanity knows. Filled with riches of understanding of sociology, anthropology, psychology and understanding of wisdom from the world of business.

Too often I think that as Church sometimes we forget that God has gifted  us with BOTH the business school AND the mine, probably those reading this message will probably lean one way or the other, and I know my thinking has been shaped by both, and I know that through both people have come to know Christ.

To the miners amongst you, I’d urge you too look in the business school, and you may discover new wells of resources, inspiration and catalysts for blessing, renewing and transforming… And to those within the business school, I’d urge you to go down the mine, meet the Church at Antioch, read up on St. Francis and some of the other amazing people of God on whose shoulders we stand.
Whatever our normal spiritual diet, I’d urge you to realise that the ‘menu’ is actually bigger, broader and better than just the section with which we are most familiar.
God has littered his world a rich variety of opportunities and practices that can enable us as the Christian to have our hearts refreshed and renewed in him and by him; there is many great things we can learn from both the “business school” and “the mine” but yet I would argue that too often as Christians we have tried to find the ‘silver bullet’ of Church growth, the one strategy that will make life the world and everything work…

Both ‘the mine’ and ‘the business school’ have tried to shoe-horn people into a ‘one size fits all’ methodology of life…

Too often I have seen people re-living the powerful imagery from Samuel, where David is forced to wear King Saul’s Armour -which was too large and too cumbersome and just simply didn’t work for David as he is sent out to fight the giant Goliath… Do we  try an fit ourselves  into something that doesn’t fit us because we think conformity is what God is  calling us too… whereas I think the reverse is true, I think the more we follow Christ we become the person we were called to be, which is normally more beautifully individualistic and unique.

A business school expression is “thinking out of the box” but as I read the Bible and engage with God, I have come to realise that perhaps there is no box!

God is not in a box.

God doesn’t give us step by step instructions, rather he ‘ordains our footsteps’,

“whether you turn to the right or two the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, this is the way walk in it”
-Guiding us every step of the way, rarely do we see the over-view of the finished product before we are  called to step out of the comfort of the boat.
For some, because of this, they haven’t moved at all since conversion, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me their conversion story, but looked distinctly awkward when I have asked what is God doing in your life now at the moment, or recently, or even a story from the last five/ten years…

I worry that at times Christians have sold Christianity as a ticket to heaven when you die, and  sadly to many Christians have put the ticket in their pocket, and sat in the boat had gallons of pleasant cups of tea and waited to die.

The Christian life is meant to be, er, LIVED.

The marriage imagery is strong in scripture, anyone can be legally married -i.e. have a marriage licence-  but marriage isn’t just a paper licence but a way of life lived out. Christianity is not just being able to pin point a date you ‘prayed a prayer’, but about an on-going authentic relationship Christ through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is not someone we can bottle, or even predict, Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3, ‘the wind goes where it will, so it is true of the spirit’, we are called as I wrote before to follow an unpredictable God, I  wrote before about the early Christians talking about the Holy Spirit as  the ‘wild goose’ where the expression ‘wild goose chase’ stems from, uncatchable, unpredictable and untameable (but a lot of fun… the expression has been corrupted to mean something futile which was  never  its original use).

You see, you are called to run YOUR race, yet the problem with us as human beings we are into the comparison game, wishing we were more like someone else…

At the “Awaken Mission” three years ago,  with this awesome evangelist Greg Sharples’ came to help, I remember really thinking “I wish I was as good at evangelism stuff as him” and yet I really felt God say  to me that if God had wanted two Greg Sharples’ he’d have arranged for Mrs Sharples to have twins! I’m created to be me, and called here as me.

Looking across the lanes we are running in, with -nearly always- negative comparisons, debilitates rather than empowers.

In the last chapter of John’s gospel Peter asks about John’s future and Jesus tells him to ‘mind his own business and follow Jesus’.

You see the only person we are called to be focusing on is Christ.

And the only person we should want to be the person who Christ is calling us to be, who is actually the person we were created to be in the first place!

We are called to follow him not as clones but as differently and uniquely shaped individuals, with our own relationship with God and the world around him, God is not into reducing our individuality, but rather releasing and celebrating it; ideologies whether old or new normally end up with creating us and the groups we worship in and form Christian Community with often end up looking quite similar, whereas when we look at Jesus disciples they were pretty diverse, a team which featured a religious Zealot and a Tax Collector must have not been an easy place to minister from.

Jesus, says “my sheep know my voice”, yet too often I worry that Christians haven’t learned to follow the voice of God, but rather ‘just follow the other sheep’, this is okay until a wolf gets in and manages to lead the sheep into places they weren’t meant  to be.

I do believe that Churches should be led, but I don’t believe that any leader should be followed blindly. It’s okay to ask questions and have different opinions.

I believe that the call to turn this broken world upside down, is partly due to leaders gathering people around a collective spirit-inspired-Christ centred vision, but actually is called to lifestyle of obedience in both the big things and the small (in fact especially the small, as it is in those small choices we make everyday that I believe we can often make the most difference).

Do we even think that God might have an opinion on what we buy in the shop (because he does) or what we watch on the telly or down load on the internet, it is about a lifestyle of saying yes to God in EVERYTHING…

I’ll close with the famous story, of the emperors new clothes… where the emperor is ‘made’ clothes by two con-artist ‘Taylors’ who say that only the wise and discerning can see these amazing clothes, and no one would admit that they couldn’t see them, until the Emperor went into the street in buff and a young child was brave enough to say what no one else had the courage to say, ‘the Emperor had no clothes’.

Too often we don’t say “this isn’t working” -“I’m not feeling it!” and we don’t have the courage to push through and get our relationship with God working for us.

It is  a call to a spirituality which works for us, which God is calling us to go deeper with, not about taking something off the shelf which we feel is what other people want us to be like, nor is it following the diagram and instruction of some self help book, but rather an adventure with the Christ who promises to give us life and life in all its fullness and abundance.

So to close, the cross of Christ and his liberating love for you, allows you, in him, to be free to be you… So go on Live the Life you were created for.

Free to be you.