call, cost, Evangelism, Journey, Kingdom, Monasticism, Pilgrimage, Pioneer, Post-modern-culture, ready, rejection, Risk and Change, Salvation, Simplicity, St. Francis, vocation

A Cunning Plan…

People are asking me all the time what am I going to do once I leave (especially about money).

It is hard because the honest answer is “I don’t know, God hasn’t shown me yet” which as someone who normally knows where they want to go, has a strategy and is forging ahead, this is pretty uncomfortable place.

I have said I will spend October until Christmas seeking God and praying (although I’ll also try and find some way of earning some cash too, unless Allana can keep me as a kept man!)

I do want to learn to be a better husband and dad, heart-breaking phrase from Hope was about being glad I’m not going to be a Vicar anymore as she will see more of me as I wont always be working. As you can imagine how much that phrase was like a knife in my heart.

Somehow in making personal sacrifices for ministry, we end up causing our loved ones to suffer in a way that I don’t believe God intended.

One thing I remain passionate about is telling people, who want to know about Jesus, about Jesus.

And some thinking is beginning to emerge in my head and heart.

Recently I have become aware that two phrases I hear all the time, is “I don’t like ‘hit and run’ evangelism” and I want to be a Church like the book of Acts.

which is ironic as Acts is full of hit and run evangelism, as are the gospels, Jesus only did ministry for three years (that’s shorter than a curacy in the Church of England), he sent the 12 and the 72 out to go into the cities, towns and villages and then to come back. The book of Acts is entirely “hit and run” S/Paul the great missionary only stayed in Ephesus for a year -ironic as the average clergy stay is 7 years. More-over it seems to have taken about half an hour for the Church in Ethiopia to be planted (as it appears as though he went back home with his faith, told others and by God’s grace the Church took root and grew).

As I thought more about this, the greatest missionary movement outside the Acts of the Apostles -St. Francis of Assisi- again saw people travelling from place to place, just as Wesley too was captivated by his assurance of Christ and went from place to place telling other people about Jesus.

Yet why has that stopped? why have we become so settled in our communities? why have we lost this urgency of the gospel which we want to tell everyone and go to the ends of the earth if necessary?

why do the only people that seem to go from place to place talking about Jesus nowadays are the big name speakers, staying in plush hotels, and speaking to large audiences (most of whom -est. 70% are already Christians) in luxury venues with massive sound-desks and lighting rigs and a ton of equipment.

Yet Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 out without even a second jacket, knowing that the gospel was enough. -How come todays Christianity looks so clunky? why is it so like Saul’s armour, slow and immoveable?

Recently we planted a Church, its been tough, recently I sat in a meeting and they were talking about all this Churchy procedure and just felt like something in me was dying (I’d already resigned by that point, but it certainly confirmed by decision). why is establishing a new Christian community so full of human beaucracy, it was jobs-worthy we need to remember that Jesus matters more than red tape!

A year ago I blogged about “Simple Church” we make it so complicated when really it is simply gathering together, worshiping and learning together about how we follow Christ and sharing together bread and wine. Today I was chatting to a minister who talked about “Pop Up Church”, the idea of Churches shooting up all over the place, travelling light, trying stuff out, mobile and seeking where works the best and through it all people discovering and growing in Christ.

This model of Jesus, Francis and Wesley relied not on “paid professionals” coming in and teaching us how to do Church, but rather empowering people from day one, it was collaborative, it was free from really unhelpful “provider client” baggage, or of preacher/pastors needing to be needed. The preacher was off to the next town, so “all hands on deck”.

Perhaps this next season might involve simple mission, just telling people who are interested about Jesus (so often in all the fuss, noise, events, buildings, fundraising, activity we forget that we are meant primarily to be telling people about Jesus). Simple Church, that makes simple disciples that live for Christ and transform the world.

Church that keeps on moving, place to place, keeps on planting again and again, and keeps on going until this nation is changed and transformed.

Perhaps this is the new monasticism I’ve longed for looks like, people simply talking about Jesus going from place to place, and setting up Churches as we go. Not every Church will grow and flourish, but -God willing- some will.

So, come January, maybe somehow can work out a way of simply doing this, which looks to me like mission as Jesus intended, very simple yet very challenging. Simply talking Jesus -and showing him by how we live our lives- seeing Churches literally popping up, some will live and some might not make it, and as we step into all that God has for us, seeing the great commission fulfilled and “disciples being made”…

I don’t know yet how this will look, and maybe it’s just an unrealistic dream, a bonkers thought, or maybe, just maybe, there might be a gleam -a momentary glimpse- of a possible future that maybe starting to be born…

And maybe it is a challenge for us, maybe this vision might reasonate with you, or maybe God has a new vision for you about to be born, maybe he’s calling you to lay something down, in order in his time to pick something else up.

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Authenticity, Fear, Life styles, Listening, Mission, Naaman, Pride, Risk and Change, Salvation

word on the street

Today I went to the Turning Mission happening in Bristol.

I felt a bit awkward going in as I had missed the last couple of days, and had to log in on this computer that kept crashing, before grabbing a disposable cup of coffee (actually not too bad coffee for Church coffee!).

I scanned the sea of faces for a face I recognised before spotting my friend Geoff, another Vicar, who works with us sometimes, it was his first day too.

I wasn’t wearing my clerical collar, normally when I do outreachy stuff I’m normally in Kingswood, and I wear it as have found it often helps the conversation get started. Often too when I do outreach I’m either doing School or Street Pastors with lots of practical help to offer (not to mention the large florencent jackets!). Other times when doing Chaplaincy work we are giving out creme eggs other chocolate, but today, it was just me, no props, no costumes, nothing to hide behind, just me (and God).

My friend Greg Sharples once spoke on Jesus sending out the 12 and the 72 without anything extra for the journey and his main point was simply: Jesus is enough… we don’t need the gimmicks.

Anyway the worship started and I tried to look Holy whilst trying to surreptitiously drink my coffee.

Although the worship was just a random dude on a guitar there was a real sense of God’s Holy Spirit anointing on our worship together, reminding me afresh of importance of God’s presence. 

Also reminded me just how complicated we have made Church life, let’s just worship together, share life, open the scriptures, pray and eat together.

The Turning is based on two very simple ideas, soak in God’s presence and go out into the community in pairs following a very simple script as we talk to the people we meet.

I felt nervous about using a script, I wanted to sound authentic not scripted, would I sound false? Also, if I’m honest I was a bit proud, I’m not sure I need a script I thought… then I had a pang of guilt/regret as I thought how few people I have seen make a commitment: “Lord Jesus, I pray I’ll be humble enough to learn what you’ve got to teach me” I prayed silently.

I was reminded of the story of Naaman, the Babylonian Commander with lepracy  who was told by Elisha’s servant to wash seven times in the Jordan river, Naaman was offended, his pride was hurt, because he thought he was too good to wash in the dirty old water of Jordan. Do we think we are too good to learn from other Christians?

And then we were off. I was in a of team of five, and we had been told to go to the M shed, as we set off we saw a guy sat on the grass, with his bike. My friend Harry and I went up to talk to him. (I’ll be honest I felt nervous, I felt like 14 at the school disco asking a girl to dance). we introduced ourself, we told him God loved him and had a plan for his life. The next part of the script talked about if he died tonight  did he know if he would he go to heaven (all the pastoral-ness in me was cringing a bit, feels pushy and don’t mention death its an uncomfortable subject), I did make a joke about “we hope you don’t die tonight by the way” -not a great joke, by he smiled, and said he’d been thinking a lot about this sort of stuff recently, probably not fair to blog his conversation with us, but as  conversation moved on and was able to pray with him, and lead him in a prayer of commitment.

we came down the hill, and then realising that the rest of the team were all engaged in conversations too, quietly prayed for them, and then began to grin at passers by trying to get another conversation, I think I was over-eager as people refused to make eye contact with this over-grinning bearded scruff.

Later ended up talking to a couple who had already been chatted to, but they were smiley and chilled, so began to relax a bit, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Something however was rattling around my brain, the previous night my friend Jason and I had been talking to a lady in the pub with our PINTS OF VIEw event, and she had said to me “I really like the fact that you don’t come in here and preach to us”…

Last night I had taken that as a compliment, but then wondered whether sometimes I’m too worried about listening well,  caring and saying the right and helpful thing that maybe I should be more bold and tenacious with the gospel.

I remembered hearing Ricco Tice talk about the pain barrier in spiritual conversations, often the great fruit comes as we leave our comfort zones and are bolder than we’d like to be.

Again, I remembered hearing talk about dangerous faith, and felt God say that maybe I’d got a bit too comfortable just being the nice Vicar out an about in the community. Suddenly I remembered my walk to work on Easter Monday 1996, the day after I had made a re-commitment, I believed as I was about to commit social suicide by being different and telling my friends and colleagues I’d become a Christian (actually it was fine, and led to loads of great conversations, God is very gracious and faithful).

Anyway, I was brought back to earth with a jolt, I’d made eye contact with a guy on the bench. Another conversation followed with a young guy who wasn’t up for making a commitment but liked being prayed for and had a job interview later that afternoon and were able to pray for that.

The rest of our team had seen a couple become Christians early on, but now conversations were getting flat. I tried talking to a homeless guy sat on a wall but he told me to  “F*** off” -Something I’d been expecting a lot of today, but hadn’t really happened!

Then ended up having a conversation with some guys working for Amnesty international, a charity I love, they were a bit cold to the idea of God “yeah but is God a MAN, how do you know?” one sneered, I made some joke about God being bigger than gender -they laughed (a miracle it was a rubbish joke!) but the ice was broken. I tried doing the spiel ending with a “can I pray for you?” -“only if you let me recite you a poem” said the guy who was clearly the “big cheese” of the group, so I prayed my best and boldest prayer, and he recited his poem, interestingly there were images of the fall, of the worlds emptiness and some redemptive ideas within his sonnet, we ended up chatting about his poem and his world view, as we chatted he became  much warmer and did a two handed grasp when he shook my hand for the final time. It struck me that two of these guys with their dreddlocks and their tattoos were spiritual and seekers, the third was much more interested in trying to convert me than listening to what I had to say. Am I like this? I hope not, do I only listen to reply, or do I listen to hear what is being said? Street Pastors talk of “Double Listening” -hearing what God is saying, hearing what the person is saying (and by hearing I actually mean taking it all in, words, body language and everything else).

we were still no where near the M shed and it was nearly time to go back, the guys were talking to a busker whose English was bad, just then Harry started chatting to him in  Spanish, I didn’t know Harry knew Spanish! “Afterwards Harry said “I might have ordered a beer” but I hope I told him Jesus Loved him”.

Geoff came up to me and said that a dad and a daughter had just accepted Jesus which was amazing, and the lady in our group was having a fab conversation with a girl who was raising money for charity.

A guy walked past sort of stopping, and he said he was a Catholic, always an interesting one, is this a cultural/family thing or a real relationship with Jesus? He couldn’t stop, but did want a copy of the script. Two lads on the steps of the registry office eating hummus let us talk to them, polite but didn’t want us to pray for us. I did wonder, one guy seemed more open than his friend, I wondered if his friend wasn’t there might it be a different story. I thought about Street Pastors and how peoples mates can make them act totally differently.

Harry joked about having a 100% failure rate claiming that I did all the work on the first guy. It was one of those half jokes that often hides a sadness. Just then an old bloke struggled out of his mobility scooter with an empty disposable cup. I asked him if he wanted a hand, and he asked me if I could put his cup in the bin for him, so I did, the nearest bin was over-flowing so I went to the next bin down the road, and came back to hear Harry leading him in a prayer of commitment, the 100% failure rate had been broken, praise God.

we then headed back to hear testimony upon testimony of people accepting Christ, making re-commitments, or having prayer for healing or words of prophecy, one person met someone from Canada and they turned out to have a mutual Christian friend -what a divine appointment!

Praise God.

So glad I went along today, wished I had had a prophetic word for the Amnasty guys, as think you can bat ideas around for ages, but sometimes the prophetic cuts through everything. Still God is able to reach them, and even if it wasn’t through me today, he’s got lots of people and places to connect with them.

The last thought I had was remembering Rowan williams quote, “find out what God is doing and join in!” -when you find out what God is doing its always risky and a step of faith, but an adventure, which made me ask why so often is so much we do mind-crushingly dull?

I left thinking, why isn’t this my normal Christian life? I believe it could be, and should be… My prayer is God show me “what I can do to make my life like this not just on a mission, but on a normal everyday day?”

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Church, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Salvation

Fertile Church?

Okay a very late message for Mothering Sunday as it is almost a week late!

Yet I was think about the whole image of motherhood, birth, nurture, dependants and independence. Yet, in the west we see birth as a one off event happening infrequently, yet in other cultures or in the world of nature, birthing is a regular occurrence with large tribes being established.

I was thinking that when Church is refereed to as Mother or Bride, there is something of the fertility image here, the idea of birth and the giving of new life is perhaps why female imagery is used her.

Church is meant to reproduce, in a ‘be fruitful and multiply kind of a way’ Church is not meant to just birth enough to survive as an institution, but rather the thrive, new life and new birth.

Can a Church which produces no fruit, no new birth, really be called a Church?

I was also thinking, if people want to have kids, they often need to be intentional about it, stopping habits that reduce the chance of pregnancy, being in tune with the rhythms and timing of the woman’s body, and also doing the infamous “IT”.

I remember seeing a comedy and one of the characters asked the potential mother, whether she was eating healthily, stopped smoking and drinking, (she was and she had) and then asked if she was having sex regularly, she replied “I can’t do everything”!

-I wondered about how many things in our Churches reduce the likelihood of new-life and new birth?

I wonder whether we are in or out of tune with what is going on in the fertile ground of our community?

I wonder too whether we actually do the infamous “IT” (actually talking about Jesus).

I wonder if wanting to see people become Christians without mentioning Jesus is a bit like wanting a baby without having sex!

Often Churches feel like their ‘birthing days are behind them’ but scripture is full of mothers giving birth in their older age, Sara, Hannah and Elizabeth for example. Even old and seeming with pruning can yeld a new crop.

Sometimes too, we as Church have unexpected births, somehow our often massively inadequate schemes and plans, somehow sees people come to faith, often leaving us some what surprised.  Remember the potency of what we have in Christ Jesus.

So, the call to Mother Church is to be a fertile group of people, to see new life and new birth happen…

Interestingly too, as we think of the images of birth and pregnancy, we often see the gestation period, conception, where the seed takes root,  and the long slow journey before birth. Makes me ask, to we protect and nurture  those who are in the journey of re–birth?

Also, thinking too of birth and pregnancy, both are messy and at times uncomfortable, but is part of the normal process of bringing in new life, yet too often we do not fully understand that mission and discipleship is messy and costly.

So, let’s embrace the idea of Mother Church, with a commitment to seeing the birth of many healthy new babies, as the Kingdom of God is birthed across our community, across this nation and the world.

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Luke 15, Salvation

I’m not lost, am I?

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The Parable of the Lost Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

You might have just skim read the passage, and thought, the prodigal son, not again, been there done it got the t’shirt.

But bare with me. I want to just ask you one question, which of the two sons would you say was the one that was lost?

I would suggested that much of our reading of this passage is a little wrong, we often read the this story following on from the lost sheep and the lost coin, and so we often call it the lost son, three things starting with the same word, that’s almost Anglican alliteration.

Yet I think we need to look at the start of chapter 15 to see what this passage is really saying, who is Jesus addressing, he’s talking to those who don’t think that they are lost, the ones who think that God must be very impressed with them as they have letters after their name, buy the daily mail, wear a shirt and tie, and have sat in the same pew since the Norman invasion.

They hear the first two stories and think that the young lad who ended up in his fathers arms via the pig sty is the one that is lost, not the nice ‘you can marry my daughter’ older brother, who you just know wears chino’s and deck shoes… yet in the final twist, perhaps Jesus is telling them, that the older son, is the one who is lost, because he simply doesn’t understand the extent of the Fathers awesome love for him.

I believe that Luke 15 is actually the hinge of Luke’s gospel, the main point all the way through the gospel is that those who think they’re out, from shepherds, gentiles, ritually unclean, prostitutes, tax collectors, gentiles find themselves embraced by the furious love of God… where as the priests and religious leaders, the people who should get it don’t.

This is a massive theme within Luke, it starts with Zachariah and Mary being contrasted together, a learned Priest in the temple does not believe God can miraculously open up a womb whereas a simple peasant girl (largely educated and probably largely ignored) understands, believes and puts her faith in God and surrenders to him.

A theme that continues through out the gospel.

Contrast Jirus’ despair when he believes  his daughter has died, with the woman with the issue of  blood who believes that just one touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment can make her clean.

You see, many of us may have found God a little like the younger brother, but beware my friends, I know that I can, have and to my shame do, revert to an older brother attitude sometimes.

We forget that we too are forgiven sinners.

Cleansed, restored, redeemed and delivered.

We forget the sheer scandal that is the awesome grace of God.

The scary words of Jesus over the woman who anointed him with perfume before the Pharisee, is “those who have been forgiven much, love much, but those who have been forgiven little love little”.

We become so accustomed to the furious love of God (I love that phrase, it’s from Brendan Manning, author of the ragamuffin Gospel) that sometimes its life transforming power sometimes alludes us…

I think to call this parable the prodigal son, is a little inaccurate, firstly the word prodigal means extravagant and generous, so I’d say the extravegent one in this story isn’t the son, but the Father.

Also, the idea of a lost trilogy makes sense, but for too long we have got the wrong Son, marked as the lost one.

This Son didn’t realise how much his Father loved him.

In a script I once wrote about this story I included the lines “if it had been you, I’d have done the same for you” words which don’t feature in the Bible, but I think is the unsaid words in the story, would the fathers heart have broken the same if his older son had gone off, yes, of course it would. The younger son, actually realised a little more about the grace and compassion of his dad’s nature.

But even then, he doesn’t quite get it, he wants to come back too his Father not as a Son but as a Servant.

He  knows his father will have pity and mercy towards him, but full redemption and restoration, that is goodness and grace beyond his wildest imaginings.

A bit like in the story of Dicken’s Great Expectations, an ungrateful Pip is embarrassed and ashamed of  his unsophisticated brother in law/surrogate dad when he is living the high life in London, yet he collapses and awakes in his family home, Joe having paid off his creditors, the rejected and spurned one loves his and takes him home, paying his debts. In many ways a picture of the cross of Christ here.

So, maybe we can call the younger Son lost, as even he did not comprehend “how long and wide, and high and deep was the love of -The Father- the transcends knowledge” (I substituted the word God for Father from Eph.3:19)…

Maybe it is the story of a son who was physically lost, and one who lost but still at home?

Maybe it was one who was lost in terms of understanding his Fathers love, and other who was a little less lost?

Maybe it is a challenge to us who think we’re home and dry, to not take God’s grace for granted, to keep our hearts from becoming dry, from allowing the cancer of smugness to strangle our acceptance of grace.

Too often we think our acceptance of grace is something we receive at conversion, but no, grace is something we need like oxygen every moment of our existence and without it we wither and die.

Let us be people who embrace grace, like drowning me, seizing this beautiful gift with both hands, something we are desperate for, but something which our Father longs to pour out onto us.

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Salvation, sin

A “Good” Person?

The Egyptians had an idea about salvation, where you had to meet the boat keeper and if your good deeds out weighed our bad deeds you were okay and could cross into paradise.
This thinking seems prevalent today, I can call myself good if my good deeds probably, on a good day out way my bad deeds. The scales sort of balance up (ish/kinda/most of the time…)
I can call myself good if I’ve not done anything  really bad, like murder or something.
I can call myself a good person, if I compare myself with a really bad person (-look their scales are really tipping the wrong way, mine are only out by a little bit!)
I remember chatting on Street Pastors with my friend Mark Rich to a guy on a night out, this guy said  “I’m not religious but I have been a good person”.
The ‘Good person’ thing seems so prevalent, a lady I have lots of facebook discussions keeps on telling me what a good person she is and what she does for other people, which is nice, but I was thinking, being nice is nice, but Christianity isn’t just another word for being a nice bloke.
I even heard the phrase used so and so is  “a true Christian”, which was basically just meaning someone who was nicer than the average Joe in the street.
I’m sure Ghandi was a nice bloke but if you said to him (a Hindu) “you’re a Christian man”, he’d set you straight.
Even Jesus, -the only truly GOOD PERSON- said: “why do you call me good, only God alone is good” (although I think the context of this passage was to point to Jesus Christology, i.e. Jesus is God!).
I think we have got confused, we know we are saved FOR good works NOT BY them.
Christianity is actually about those of us who are aware that we’re not always nice, we do mess us, we make mistakes, we are sinful.
The Christian’s are people who know that when we stand before Jesus (not a boat keeper, but the host on  the door of the party welcoming his guests to come and dwell in his home) we know that if it worked on scales, we know they could well go the wrong way.
The Bible puts it very uncomfortably when it says “even our good works are like filthy rags” -a  verse which always challenges me when I get a bit smug and up myself
I told someone at Church I thought their behaviour was sinful (because it was) he was pretty prickly about it and I thought although he’d  say he was saved by grace, he clearly thought he was a good person and sinners were other people.
I think the ‘older brother syndrome’ creeps back into Churches sometimes.
It made me wonder isn’t there a Pharisee in all of us… we might know hypothetically that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”… but I’m pretty good really and God must be impressed with me…
Yet as a more modern hymn says : “Lord if you marked our transgressions who could stand?”
John Wells (who used to play Dennis Thatcher) said “I had low standards which I failed to meet” -I know I fail my own standards and I’m pretty good at self justifying and not listening to my conscience, so if even I know I’m not all that I want to be, if I can’t keep my own standards how can I keep God’s standards, as if he is any God at all his standards must be pretty high!
He (God) is holy, and I know I’m not.
I know I can’t reach him by my on human efforts and trying to butter him up makes God appear a bit shallow, anyway, what can I barter with before God who has everything and doesn’t need anything…
It is interesting being religious (horrible word) is  about people reaching up to God and trying to reach God and impress him… whereas Christianity is good news because it is God reaching down to us.
Undeserved.
Unearned.
Yet done out of love.
I know I’m a sinner, but I also know I am a beloved son.
I don’t have to earn my heavenly Fathers love, just as Hope my daughter doesn’t have to earn mine.
The prayer book nails it for me, when it talks about “not weighing our merits but pardoning our offences”…
God loves me, despite my sin, he knows the worst of me, and yet he still loves me.
It was whilst we were still sinners that Christ died for us.
A God who loves us, and GAVE himself for us.
A God who died for us.
When I first held Hope in my arms, I knew that I would willingly give this little bundle, any organ anything, because I loved her, would I rather die than her, of course.
If this is the reaction of a sinful human being towards a little bundle of flesh that had just come from the womb, how much greater is this from Almighty God who knows us even before we were born and knows every hair on ourr head.
Going back to the boat analogy is we can’t pay, we fail the test, and are stuck… but God in his great mercy paid the price, by dying for us on the cross, “he who had no sin  (Jesus) became sin for us so we might have the righteousness of God”.
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Cross, love, Salvation, sin

What Does the Cross Say?

I as thinking about how we use and see crosses in our culture… Here are a few  thoughts.

Voting seems very much on the agenda at the moment with whether you voted for (or against) Brexit, whether America Votes Trump or Hilary?

Whether Teresa May has a mandate to govern or not?
Will anyone vote for Jeremy Corbyn, is he electable?
Voting is about our choice of who is in power over us? -Where do we place our cross?
The cross in electorial terms is asking who do we want to be in charge, where are we choosing to let power and authority rest?
For the Christian the cross says of our choice to allow the risen Christ to not be our Saviour, but our Lord too.
The Cross says that Jesus is in charge and we are no longer the leader of our lives.
Yet the cross, is not just a symbol of where we choose to place power, it also has become a symbol of love, we end our messages to loved ones with the cross, as a kiss.
Christians aren’t just called to be subjects of Christ, but “I know longer call you slaves, for a slave does not know his Masters business, instead I call you friends”.
Many people are obedient for so many reason, fear or duty perhaps, but our obedience to Christ isn’t for either of these reasons but rather out of our love for him flows our obedience to him. We obey him because we love him, living as Andy Hawthrone described it “living in such a way that makes Jesus smile” -living in a way that pleases and brings joy to God’s heart.
Yet the Cross in our world also speaks  of  things that are wrong, I used to make the old joke that my Maths teacher loved me because she put kisses all over my work!
The cross says that something has gone wrong, it’s not right, in fact there is a big cross over our world, we all know that the world is not how it should, and we ourselves are not as we should be, where things are wrong in both the big picture and the smaller detail too. It’s not how it should be. For me, the Christian world view makes sense of the world, it is a wonderful and beautiful world, but people have turned form God, causing us to fall out of relationship with God, the world and each other… sin has entered in a caused a barrier between us and God, something we have all done, and the cost of that sin is fatal, resulting in death…
Yet the Cross speakers more than just to point out wrong doing and fallen-ness in our world, for the Cross is primarily both for Christians and even with organisations like the red cross, a symbol of rescue and of hope.
The Cross on which Jesus died, rescued us from sin and death, setting us free from all that imprisons us and keeps us from the arms of our loving heavenly father. The Cross speaks of victory and liberation for the world, where Satan does not get the world, nor does sin, pain, injust but rather the God who made it all has spoken the word of forgiveness and redemption, restoration and transformation into his world through the death and resurrection.
The Cross to is an Algebraic formula for the unknown, X is the problem that needs solving, X is where the treasure is on a pirates map. Yet the cross speaks of the unknown God being known in the person and face of Jesus Christ. The treasure of the world, that pearl of great price.
The world knows that there must be an answer to the big questions, yet the don’t know, or at least haven’t been able to work out that the unknown factor is God himself, Jesus Christ.
The world is searching for treasure of what is of real value, looking for this treasure in all sorts of places, and yet again the cross marks the spot, the treasure of this world is, as John says in the book of revelation, The Lamb who was slain -Jesus Christ himself.
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freedom, Salvation, vision

Let the Elephant tear down the Tree.

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom recently, I think probably following on from our fab time at New Wine especially with the amazing teaching we had from Danielle Strickland on the book of Exodus.

The first picture that I have been thinking about for a while is circus folk ‘break’ a baby elephant by chaining it too a tree. The elephant is only a baby, so it can’t pull the tree down, the elephant remembers the powerlessness of being chained to a tree it can’t pull down, and as they grow they stay tethered to the tree by a chain, even though by the time the elephant is full grown they could easily uproot the tree and be free.

The animals captivity is not actually physical but psychological, the thing that hold him back isn’t really an inescapable obstacle but rather their own mind and memories.

What of us?

Are the things we think are holding us back actually holding us back, or is it mind-set, past experience and perception?

Perhaps, like the elephant, you have tried to be free before and now have just given up trying?

Jesus talks about setting people free.

The Gospel is a message of liberation, setting people free.

Paul talks in Romans about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind” -in Salvation our view of the world changes, we see things differently, we ourselves differently, we our situations differently.

Danielle Strickland talked about re-visiting the prison and our places of captivity but this time, re-visiting them with God.

It enabling the elephant to see that that which bound him before, no longer has the power to control him.

His fears we based on lies and illusions.

His memories of the past were inhibiting the freedom he was experiencing in the present.

Are there things from our past, that makes us feel like we are a baby elephant tethered to a tree unable to pull free?

Revisit them, and realise that maybe the tree that tethered us, isn’t insurmountable but with Christ can be overcome.

“If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!”

For freedom to take root and flourish in our lives, we need to let it liberate our hearts, transform our minds and restore our eyes in how we look at the world.

How you were, how you have been, in Christ is not how you have to stay, nor is it how you will be forever.

That’s a message a world desperately needs to hear.

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