Discipleship, Life styles, obidience, priorities

Whole Life Discipleship…

There was a merchant who collected pearls, when he found one of such beauty he sold everything he owned to buy it.”

Jesus is the pearl of great price.

I think the awesomeness of who Christ is and what he has done is best described in the final verse of that great hymn, “when I survey the wonderful cross” which ends with the beautiful lines…

“We 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!”

Coming back from holiday today has made me think about how we view things, do I have a ‘work’ head on or a ‘holiday head’ on?

Which made me think about how we/I view the world.

Work life balance is a bit of an oxymoron, as if your not alive you aren’t working!

Just like the spiritual and secular divide, surely everything is spiritual as the Holy Spirit is everywhere and always at work within his world.

I do think sometimes we have too lower view of work, when I have not been working it has been really tough, I think as human beings we need to work, not just to pay the bills, but as part of being human, we need to DO something.

We are at our most alive when doing what we love and are good at, which I believe brings the Father joy. 

One of the early Church fathers Erasmus described ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’.In the care industry we think of holistic care, looking after the whole person.

A compartmentalised life isn’t biblical as God incarnate lived his whole life for the glory of the father.

Jesus Christ cares about every area of our lives, not just the ‘Sunday best’ bit.

Too often we make following Jesus all about propping up the institution of the Church rather that allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through every area of our lives.

What has Jesus got to say about how we are faithful to our marriage covenants (those of us who are married), or how we bring up our children, or the faithful way we care for elderly relatives, or (as I rediscovered whilst off sick) the importance of just being a good friend.

I have been massively challenged about the quote which says “don’t worry about failing worry more about succeeding at things that don’t matter”.

It made me ask, are my priorities the same as Gods priorities for my life, am I being unfaithful to some callings, vocations and commitments  because I am wrongly prioritising others. As Shane Claiborne once said “is my dream the same as he dream of God”.

Is Jesus Lord of all, or just the bits that show?

Is my commitment to Christ have my vocation head on, to be forgotten when ‘real’ life kicks in. I want my faith to be more than my hobby.
Take a moment and think of your life, your callings and commitments, your character gifts and opportunities, and invite Christ to come in and surrender all to him, giving him access all areas.

Then take a moment and think is there any areas of my life which are a bit ballooned out of proportion, or others which matter to God which I have neglected and need to put right with his help.

Come Lord Jesus, and take your place.

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Gideon, Numbers, perspectives, Pioneer, Pioneers, priorities, ready

The Power Of The Few!

I love the West Wing and one of the great lines comes from President Bartlett when he quotes Margaret Mead and says “never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, because it is all that ever has”.

Recently with Jeremy Corbyn seeing many people desert him politically, yet leaving him with actually I think the best shadow cabinet we possibly have ever had, with people actually saying stuff that sounds like they really believe it rather than saying it because they think you want to hear it.
Better to be a small group of committed people of shared vision than a disperate and disunited large gathering of factions who loosely tolerate each other.
Bigger does not always mean better.
It made me think about popularity and keeping everyone happy, which is the surest way of not achieving anything (you will never manage to please all of the people of time).
It reminded me of something a local leader once said “I would rather have 5 people on fire for Christ than a congregation of 500 who were apathetic about Christ”.
The important thing is not numbers of attendees that come to our events but the depth of discipleship that is happening in their hearts and lives.
Christ’s strategy was not trying to steer a ship of thousands when he was on earth, rather h invested in the 12, a small group who went on to change the world with the biggest movement in world history.
Gideon fell for the numbers trap with IIs huge army, which Hod whittled down to a small group of guys.
Invest in the few for the sake of the many feels paradoxical, but yet that is the way of nthe Kingdom.
I remember a quote from Rick Warren who said “to impact a moment send a tweet, but to impact a generation mentor a leader”.
I worry sometimes that over the years I have been in Kingswood I sometimes have been a mile wide, and yet an only an inch deep, yet call of the Kingdom is for “deep to cry out to deep”.
As I think back over the prayer room, we haven’t had the place full all the time, but we have had the wonderful flow of faithful people, to often we think about quantity and God thinks about quality, we like breadth and God is into depth.
We are not called to entertain the crowd, but tend sheep, too often we can loose the individuals in the big projects… Or feel disappointed at a small turn out.
Yet I believe Kingswood and Hanham could be turned around and transformed by just a few of us on fire for God.

The question for each of us is will we be those people who are on fire for God? The souled out disciples. We may be the few in the eyes of the world, but from this small underdog can once again transformed the world by the power of the spirit within us.

I’ll end with a quote from John Wesley:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”
― John Wesley
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priorities

Home Group or Footie?

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of you mind, with
all of your Soul and with all of your Strength; and love your neighbor as
yourself”.

Maybe I over think things. In fact I know I do. But this has been going through my head for a few weeks, someone from home-group asked if they could miss because of wanting to watch a key footy match, and of course I said ‘yes’… but, then I thought about why he asked permission?

Probably just good manners!
The question isn’t really whether or not the Vicar lets you off, but what is the Holy Spirit saying?
What does Christ think?
(I’m not saying that Jesus minds people missing home-group for football,  and think too often people feel to condemned by Church and feel they have to go to everything , but its an interesting question when placed with a
choice: what is Christ’s call in this situation? Where is the Spirit leading?)
My friend Jackie has a phrase “you don’t need to drag a disciple” and she’s right, Jesus didn’t need to drag Peter and Andrew, James and John from their fishing boats, but they willingly left everything to follow him.
I guess we need to recapture something of the parable of the pearl of great price, see who God is again, what he has done, and when we gaze on Christ in this way our hearts shift from our to do lists to following in his footsteps.
I am reminded of the final verse of ‘when I survey’ which ends with “were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all”.
A job I hate is when I have to ask favours from people to do things… but when I thought about it, I’m asking Christians to serve Christ in trying to build his Kingdom, and yet why do people say things like “I’ll help you
out”… no, actually your not doing this as a favour for me, its about Jesus.

Or when people put themselves out for the Kingdom, I always say thank you,
and that’s a good thing to do, but actually they haven’t done  it for me,
they’ve done it for Jesus. (Although I think you can say that I believe this
really blessed God’s heart tonight or something like that).
Or when people throw their toys out the pram and tell the Vicar “I’m not
doing XYZ anymore”, the attitude should be, well, you weren’t doing it for
me anyway, you were doing it for Jesus.
Too often we get personal and forget that actually everything we do is about
Christ “for me to live and to die is gain”, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me, the life I now live I live by faith in the son of God who died for me!”
I wondered if we thought of calling differently and less about ‘helping
people out’ rather than service Christ in or through any situation, whether
our actions, lives and choices would look very different.

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Audience of One, History, legacy, priorities, vocation

Make History.

Today, whatever happens will make history.

Yet we are so often under the impression that it is only the big things that make history, but I think everything we do has an effect, and often I believe history is made, history is changed, by the small actions each of us for each day.

The question isn’t whether or not we will make a difference, but whether the difference we make will be for good or bad.

I was at my daughters sports day and it made me think about those people who are individualists and those who are team players, even though she’s only 5 it is really evident.

Are we people consumed with our own journey, our are we concerned about encouraging others on their journey to do well and achieve?

I heard a recent assembly talking about the difference between who wants to be a millionaire and the weakest link. One, who wants to be a millionaire, is about other people helping us to achieve (ask the audience &, phone a friend) the other (weakest link) is about treading on people to get what we want.

The head asked the question do we think of life in terms of “I” or “we” -not bad idea when we vote today?- yet for the Christian our lives aren’t about ourselves our even those around us, but ultimately our lives are about primarily Christ, others and ourselves third, an upside down view of the world, which actually is the right way up!

I was at a funeral yesterday and it made me think about how we are remembered, a good husband, Father, grandfather, friend and it made me think afresh about what legacy we leave behind.

What we will be remembered for?

There is a quote I came across which said, people will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

In fact often our arguments are over minor things, often the issue passes but the hurt remains…

Are we building or are we tearing down?

If we are building, what are we building?

Are we building things that will last, or things that are transitory

The Bible talks of building with Gold, Silver and Costly Stones, things that last forever, as opposed to hay and straw, perishable things that are burned up.

The idea of building something that lasts for eternity.

Advancing the Kingdom.

Changing lives by love and hope, redemption, salvation and transformation…

Partnering with God, living lives that bless and shine out the Kingdom in word action and Gods intervening miracles.

History is Gods story, which he chooses to be written by the saints who follow him…

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priorities, trust, vision

Force 10 from Navarone…

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

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One wet Sunday afternoon when I was a kid I remember watching the film “Force 10 from Navarone”, it is set in the second world war, and a group of English Officers and some Americans have to join forces to assassinate a double agent and blow up a bridge.

Spoiler alert, blowing up the bridge doesn’t go according to plan, it looks indestructible, they only have a small amount of explosives, the problem seems insurmountable.

As the story progresses, the team end up coming across a dam, and they realize that if they blow up the dam, then the bridge would be hit by tons and tons of water enough to bring it down…

By blowing up the dam, the bridge fell and the mission was fulfilled.

Often we look at a problem and we can’t see a solution,  because we only can see what is in our vision, what is in front of our  eyes, and don’t see the fuller and wider picture that God sees.

Sometimes, like the guys in the film, we think we know best -we think we know how to blow up the bridge- and yet so so often our ways don’t work, and yet God’s ways does.

Sometimes, when we serve God, the areas he seems to be stirring don’t seem to match up with where we think he should be working, where the obvious need and problem is, yet with hindsight I have looked back and only later do I understand.

Even when I don’t understand, sometimes it is a case of trusting that despite what we can see, what we think God is still on the throne, God  is still in control and (even when it doesn’t feel it) God is still good.

When the wine skins were empty looking at the foot washing jars seems crazy, yet it worked, I can imagine the servants looking at each other when Mary, Jesus’ Mother, saying “do what ever he tells you”, thinking “this will never work” -but it did!

Scripture calls us to “walk by faith and not by sight” -and the wisdom of Mary (“Do whatever he tells you”) remains good advice. Neil, my former prayer partner, used to have a phrase about the Christian life, where he said “you live life forwards, but understand it backwards”.

As we think of this crazy upside down world, I remember a story from a local youth and community worker, who began working in this Church (which was big step of faith for him) and he felt God call him to play football (which he enjoyed) and felt very self conscious that playing footie wasn’t proper community work, surely God should be calling him to start a youth club or something like this. Yet whilst playing football he made friends, people came to faith, and through this work a youth group was formed with Christian volunteers, and went on to thrive.

What is the bridge in your life you  would like to see God blow up?

Where is God calling you to work, what is he calling you to do?

Do you trust him to know what he’s doing and to see the bigger picture?

God bless,

Andy

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conscience, ethics, justice, Kingdom, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, priorities, values

What does it mean to be different?

My daughter has joined an ECO club…

It made me think that I am not as good on all things GREEN as I should be, and as I thought more about the whole Green issues I thought when was the last time I heard a sermon that mentioned things like carbon footprint, pollution, fracking and all those issues.

Yet when we think that we have a God given responsibility to be good stewards of creation, why is the Christian voice so hard to find on the national debate?

A while ago I was really challenged on my consumer ethics, the amount of clothes and other commodities (both high and low end of the market) that have been traded in an unfair and evil way, and yet it is a challenge to keep fairtrade teabags in our local Church.  In fact someone once said that often fairtrade tea-bags in Church often is more about a ‘sop to our conscience’ feeling like we are doing something, rather than really thinking about the ethics and power we have as consumers. A quote I heard once was “every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in”… Lots of web-pages about how to be a more ethical consumer, yet how often do we talk about our power as consumers.

There is something really wrong when we are more worried about how much of our bodies is covered up by what we wear, than whether or nor it was made by a child in appalling inhumane conditions.

Then I began to think about politics and faith, something I am passionate about, but then as I thought actually as Christians we  seem to focus narrowly on one or two issues such as (in the states) Abortion or here in the UK Gay Marriage, but there are so many more issues where we have good things to say that are worth hearing on debates. It was great to see ++Rowan Williams step up and ask tough questions in the House of Lords  on the validity of the war in Iraq, or the Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster condemning the effect  of the austerity cuts on the most deprived and vulnerable in our society.

Yet I think as Christians and Churches we ought to be thinking how does our faith effect not only our view of political issues, but also our practices and behaviors on them.

Sometimes I think we a need a wider world view as I think the Kingdom of God is something that is all pervasive, challenges our view on everything, we are ‘alien ambassadors’, this world is not our home and we are living to point people to a different Kingdom, a Kingdom where Christ is King, a Kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Described by Bishop Graham Tomlin as “where what God wants happens here” as a definition of the Kingdom, this means where people are loved, where truth is spoken, where victims are comforted and lifted up, where sin is challenged, where power is rebuked, when darkness is driven back and good news is proclaimed.

And Good News has got to be good news for everyone, I believe that good news isn’t simply something awaiting us when die, but should be seen and visible in life now

Too often we have thought of Christian living and holiness as not saying naughty words, not smoking or drinking… rather than what my friend Si Hall described as “Dirty Holiness”, about intentionally rolling up ourselves and getting down where people are broken, hurting and marginalized. Holiness defined by what you DO rather than simply what you AVOID.

It is meant to look different from the world.

Bishop Tomlin again said that the problem with people coming to faith is they look at Christians and they seem almost indistinguishable from themselves.

Yet alongside this my friend Jonathan Dowman once commented that the greatest desire in many peoples heart is “I want to lead a good life and be a good person” and yet they don’t come to the Church for help with this as they so often don’t see us as Christians as different from them.

So, lets embrace the Kingship of Christ over all our lives.

I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Live in such a way that makes Atheists question their disbelief in God”.

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Amos, priorities, Substance, Uncategorized

A Pie Made Of Gravy.

I met up with my best mate a fella called Mark in Oxford, and we went out for a pie and a pint…

I had a steak and Ale Pie but when it came and I cut into the fantastic pastry and an amazing gravy poured out, but as I dug about there wasn’t a single bit of steak.

Which when you order a steak pie, you expect a bit of, er, steak!

It was a steakless steak and Ale Pie.

Bishop Mike recently spoke about the Prophet Amos, a shepherd, a straight talking guy who didn’t pull his punches… a hero of social justice “but let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (ch.5.24) but when we skip on to Chapter 8, God for-tells us of a Famine not of food or drink but of people hearing his word, his voice.

I worry about me facing Jesus and him saying “so who did you tell about me?” and I’ll say “Well, I gave out lots of flip flops and water with Street Pastors, I helped at the Foodbank, and was an active supporter of CAP locally, I was involved in homeless work and lots of churchy stuff…”

But Jesus asks me the same question again, that is fantastic, but “who did you TELL about me?”

Bishop Mike challenged us as we think about becoming prayerful Christians, Christians with our sleeves rolled up engaged in social justice, is their a danger that we do nothing to combat the famine and poverty of the word of God.

A bit like the gravy pie, we can be prayerful about mission, we can be faithful in works of Compassion and Mercy but where is the steak?

Where is the opening our mouths and speaking well of our Saviour?

When do we proclaiming his word, his truth, his good news, his Gospel.

Sometimes our Churches are very good at almost everything EXCEPT telling people about Jesus.

I fear (if that’s the right word) what people will say to me on judgement day, I pray they don’t say something like: “Andy, you fed me, bought me a coffee, handed me a flyer and made a couple of phone calls on my behalf, but why didn’t you tell me about Jesus?

But lets not forget to have real conversations with real people about Jesus, opportunities to proclaim the gospel, teach his word, and share his message.

Although St. Francis probably never said: “preach the Gospel at all times and if necessarily use words” I think we have good at blessing people but need to be unashamed to talk authentically and honestly about Jesus and the Salvation he won for us.

Lets be Christians who put the steak back in the pie!

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