Bible, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Deep, Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, pperseverence, prayer, Presences, relationship with God

Teaspoon hiding Vicars.

I read an article about a Churchy couple that invited the Vicar around for tea, it was all very pleasant and nice, but later that evening the couple noticed a silver teaspoon was missing. It was no where to be found.

A year or so later they had the Vicar around for tea again, this time they asked him why he had taken a teaspoon.

The Vicar said that he didn’t steal it, instead he hid it in their Bible.

One of the things that really worries me is the low level of Biblical literacy in the Churches. I remember a Churchy young person telling me the story of the elder wand (from Harry Potter) thinking it was a Bible story.

This book which cost people their lives to bring to us is barely flicked through by Christians, they key to discipleship is not more Church events or umpteen courses or bacon butties but for the men and women that want to follow Jesus to seek God in prayer, read their Bibles and invest in the most important relationship of all -their personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

The problem with discipleship in the UK, people say about “coming to Church to be fed” -a phrase that shows a complete misunderstanding of what Church or discipleship is actually all about, as though our walk with God has been sub-contracted out to someone else, we -before God- have to take personal responsibility for it, not expecting someone else to spoon feed us.

And perhaps with Bible study if we’ve been in the word ourselves, we can come to the group as a contributor rather than just a receiver.

So, if you’ve had the Vicar around for tea check your Bible for teaspoons.

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pperseverence, prayer, presence, priorities, Self Care, sin, Spiritual Dryness, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Time, Try?

“Got to pray just to make it today”

If prayer is the most powerful thing we can do as human beings, in fact by is an instinctive response, yet why is it something we all struggle to do?

It is said if you want to make your congregation feel guilty “talk about prayer”.

we all know we should do it, but probably none of us does it as much as we should, or even as we would like.

we claim to be too busy, but in reality that is about priorities, we can always make time, but the truth is we don’t always.

-Made more ironic by the fact that when we actually are able to pray, it often feels good, and I often end up asking myself “why don’t I do this more often?”

The illusion of to busy, or too tired, or a distraction there are so many things that just pull us away for a few seconds, and we never get around to doing that important thing of actually praying.

Intending to pray is not actually the same as praying.

Then as I began to think more about prayer, not only is it hard sometimes to do, we need to make the effort, grasp the moment and maybe even do that unfashionable word of self discipline/Spiritual discipline, to challenge ourselves to do that which we know we should.

Yet I wonder too, how often we don’t pray because we are comfortable and the urgency or necessity to pray doesn’t really grab us, we think we’ll be okay and our comfortable western lives often cushion us to forget our dependence on God.

Even theological truths of lost eternity or human compassion don’t always force us to our knees until God has our hearts fully, and paradoxically, if we don’t pray we never give God our hearts or let him have ours.

I think the real reason the Church in the west is failing is actually because Christians aren’t praying. God says “You have not because you ask not”. Jesus talks about us being like “salt”, the idea is to make us thirty for God, and yet too much of the Church seems comfortable and complacent.

I think too, we struggle to pray because of fear and lack of faith, we fear disappointment, we fear getting our hopes raised -even sometimes we fear God answering our prayer. I remember that terrified moment when I felt “wow, God is actually real” as he answers prayer shocks and shakes us from our complacency.

The pain too of seemingly unanswered prayer, when heaven seems to be silent, and times of suffering and confusion can cause us to struggle too, and ask where are you God.

Too often we think that in the Christian life we will always get a charmed life and always have a parking space, where in reality it is tough, confusing and painful.

Often too our own sense of guilt, apathy, sin, pride can all keep us away from God’s loving arms, these times when perhaps it is easier to run away from God is the exact time we need to instead run to him.

For me, one of the best ways to keep me praying has been personal accountability, over the last 20ish years -sometimes more regularly than others- I have had some great guys who I have met up with too pray, and without that companionship on the journey I don’t think I’d have made it this far.

Also, I need to be reminded that prayer works, that God answers, my soul needs to HEAR the stories of peoples encounters with God, or prayers answered and God speaking. we need these stories to spur us on. Yet we also need to TELL those stories too when God meets and speaks to us, answers our prayers, we need to share it too.

So, the challenge for us all is let’s not just talk about prayer, as though it is a good thing to do.

Let us not even intend to do it.

Let us be people that actually pray.

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call, challenge, Commitment, cost, Cross, Determination, Discipleship, Discipline, Endurance, faithfulness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Grit, obidience, pperseverence, steadfast

Grit, the missing Element.

I had a breakfast the other day with my friend ‘Pastor Benson’ it was great to catch up with him. He arrived in Kingswood with the instructions from his Church leader to “plant a Church in Bristol”, and that’s how I got to know him and become friends.

He tried planting in the conference room of the Soundwell Swimming Baths, before moving into the city centre into the Holiday Inn as a venue for their Church.

He now has a small fellowship meeting regularly there, interestingly I asked how his Church started and he had on e word “grit”.

Keeping on going.

Each Saturday they went out onto the streets and invited people to come (anyone doing much Street work knows what a hard and thankless task it can be!), each Sunday there were there, set up, with tea and coffee waiting for people, as they prayed, worshipped and sought God. It took 7 or 8 weeks before anyone other than his family to come and join them, yet they kept on going, they didn’t quit, and the Church was born.

He said to me on Saturday “it doesn’t say well done and gifted servant, or well done successful servant, but well done good and faithful servant” we just had to be faithful.

My mind wandered back to my Greek lessons at College (not exactly my finest hour!) and remembered a phrase (actually normally used of being filled with the Holy Spirit) which is “go on be being filled”, but wondered if “go on be being faithful” perhaps might have the same idea, faithfulness isn’t a one off, but something we are called to be in a continuous cycle of repetition, remaining actively faithful.

Yet as I thought about this, it is amazing how quickly Christians scarper from the battle-field, they may all be noisy in the barracks before the battle, and maybe be around for the first charge, but faithfully having the grit and determination to ‘stand firm’ or ‘stand fast’ keeping going with what God has called us to do. Holding the line in obedience not wandering off in distracting vanity projects, not fleeing the battle front-line for a safer-option.

Let’s be people of grit, of determination and perseverance.

Scripture is full of heroes that kept on going, that remained faithful, gritty characters that persevered, Noah building the Ark, Moses leading the people through the desert, Esther in prayer, Ruth in her commitment to her mother-in-law Naomi, Daniel in righteous living, Nehemiah in re-building the wall and Paul in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Yet our greatest example of grit and deterination is Jesus “who for the joy that was before him endured the cross and scorned its shame”. Jesus did quit on his Fathers Mission even when his sweat fell like drops of blood, even when it cost him everything he had including his life. Jesus remained faithful unto death “even death on the cross”.

I believe the “secret” to transformation in mission is not more courses, or new programmes and ideas but rather greater grit, more steadfastness, keeping going and pressing in to see the harvest.

Bill Wilson of metro-ministries the worlds largest Sunday School in New York said “Christians so often quit before the break through”.

So, a challenge for us all is to not just start new things but have the grit and see them through and come to fruit.

Patient endurance is tough, but often the key to fruitfulness.

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Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

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pperseverence, rejection

Don’t let rejection stop you.

“Can I just tell you that God loves you and has a great plan for your life” -I said to this gentleman (as per the Reading script)…

“I’m not into that, I’m Church of England” he said as he walked off.

Rejection happens when we do mission and it isn’t nice, but it is part of mission people have the choice to accept Jesus or reject him. In fact in John 6, so many people had left Jesus that he even asked the 12 if they would go too, prompting Peter to say “where else can we go for you have the words  of eternal life”.

He saw something unique in Jesus that he couldn’t get anywhere else, as Peter said in his sermon in the Acts of the Apostles “there is no other name by which we are saved”.

we have a responsibility to share our faith with those around us, in Corinthians it says “one sows, the other reaps but God made it grow” we can’t opt out of the great commission, but our responsibility is just to be faithful and tell them the good news their response is down to them.

As we have been doing mission this fortnight I remember a phrase Pastor Yinka the main guy with this Reading movement said “if you sow sparingly you’ll reap sparingly, so lets sow extravagantly”.

Bishop Lee Rayfield said in the Mission Shaped Ministry training “don’t make the decision for people” -often we think we know best and think “they wont be interested”- but give them the opportunity to make the choice themselves. Often the people we think wont be interested are often longing to hear the gospel message and are very open and responsive.

The book of Romans (chapter 10) poses the question “How will they hear unless someone preaches (or tells) them? Blessed are the feet of them that bring good news”.

Someone once said that “Evangelism scares Christians and non Christians alike”, the problem I believe our Churches are empty is not because people aren’t interested in Jesus, I believe the “fields are white unto harvest” is a picture for today as well as then, but because we ourselves in our everyday normal life don’t share the good news of Christ with those around us.

So much mission stuff is really wonderful like tidying up our local community, or getting involved in great social action, or putting on wonderful events but sometimes I do ask myself whether all this effort is simply to mask the fact that we are not actually telling real people about Jesus.

People simply don’t know the good news of Christ Jesus unless some-one tells them in a way they can understand, and that they can respond to.

The Gospel demands a response.

The Gospel presents us with a clear choice, are we accepting or rejecting the free but finished work on the cross or not.

Often we think we are being pastoral but not being too pushy, and I’m not sure people are argued or harangued into the Kingdom, but the gospel is challenging and people may choose to reject it and that is okay. well it is not okay for them, but maybe this wasn’t their time, the responsibility is to tell them clearly, faithfully in a way they can understand and respond to.

So, let’s not stop telling people about Jesus, and lets leave their rejection in his hands, knowing that we have carried out our duties faithfully and lovingly.

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pperseverence, prayer

PERSEVERANCE: by Sarah Whybrew.

In our session on perseverance and dealing with disappointment we explored the topic of unanswered prayer.  The challenging reality is that all of us have experienced times when God has not answered prayers in the way we would have liked or hoped for. Some of us have disappointment from the past buried within us. The Prayer Course offered us the chance to examine our hearts and consider how disappointment from the past might be hindering our relationship with God today. For example, there was a story about a man who had struggled with unanswered prayer when his daughter was a baby, so much so that although he prays regularly for others, 20 years later he still struggles to pray for his own life due to the disappointment of the past. Is there a disappointment from the past or present today that is holding us back from offering ourselves to the LORD?

As much as it is encouraging to share our answered prayers with others there is also a need for sensitivity to their own experience of unanswered prayer. For example, what about the person who experiences instant answered prayer for a headache and celebrates this loudly around someone else whose younger brother died from cancer despite persistent prayers. It is imperative that we are able to communicate our feelings of disappointment, hurt and frustration and that these are not buried deeply. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to minister to our wounds and bring healing – it’s there we find God. We need to hear about unanswered prayer and suffering in our churches too, after all this is a reality for many and something that Jesus experienced too.

Can you identify any areas of disappointment in your life? Is this something you have talked to God and close friends about? If you do have any unresolved issues it’s a good idea to ask a friend to pray for you. Seek freedom today.

We also looked at perseverance and those situations and people for whom we need to commit to praying for, for the long haul. As with the story of the widow and the judge in Luke 18, there is a need to keep on asking God, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”  As we also read in the story of Abraham in Genesis, God listens to His people and prayer has power to change nations as we intercede with God in line with His will.

Ask God to reveal to you any past disappointments or unanswered prayers that may still be affecting your faith and relationship with God. Be real with God about how you feel and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your heart.

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