Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, Health, Life styles, Life Together, Spirituality, vocation

A Big Church of Little People.

I have been dipping in and out of this years New wine Conference, and this year the theme in everything seems to becoming back to the need to re-think discipleship.

The Church as a body employs lots of people, there are bookshops full of wonderful discipleship courses, many Churches run home groups, Bible Studies, prayer groups, preach biblically week by week -and yet often we just don’t see people actually changing, and if we are honest we probably aren’t changed much either by what happens in Churches.

Shane Claiborne jokes that we sing “just as I am” in worship, but yet we leave just as we were and we behave as we always have.

I was talking to a friend who is reading a book by a guy (whose name I can’t remember) but he said he realised he had “A big Church of little people” -consumers that turned up week by week, but not disciples, not the mighty men and women that change nations for Christ that he longed to see.

Anther expression I heard was someone talking of people who hide in big Churches, so they can “splash around in the shallow end” rather than be in the “deep end of discipleship”.

To be a disciple is a choice we have to make, discipleship is not something done to us against our will, but rather is an act of our own will, to seek to become more like Jesus.

I had a friend that said of discipleship “I am not here to spoon feed people” the understanding that if you joined the fellowship he led that you took responsibility for your own discipleship.

The silly lines like “I’ve not been fed” were met with comments like “why did you loose your bible?” “Can you not down load a sermon or ring up a Christian friend?” -Yet he had a Church full of disciples, who came bringing something to the table that God had been saying and showing them.

It is a Kingdom value that when you give you receive back more (although that’s not why we do it) let’s be generous in what we share with others, coming with full not empty hands and unread bibles, so that in coming fed we can feed others…

when we loose the egotistical nature of our consumerist mind-set we discover something of what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Church in Rome about “being transformed by the renewing of your mind”.

No one else can live your Christian life for you.

The word for disciple can be translated as an apprentice, an apprentice of Christ, fashioned and shaped for his glory, to live our whole lives for him.

The problem is we commentate on discipleship, rather than participate in it.

Yesterday John Mark Comer said that he told his congregation, some of you don’t need to hear another sermon, you need to put it into practice in your lives.

The problem with western discipleship is not a shortage of material, we have more highly trained leaders than most of the developing world, we can access scripture and discipleship material at a swipe of our mobile phone… The issue is with you and I and our response to that call of Jesus to come and follow him.

what is stopping you being all that Christ is calling you to be? what are you/we going to do about it with him?

I remember when I made a re-commitment to Christ aged 19, I prayed an interesting prayer, I’d been half in and half our of Church for a while, and I remember praying “I don’t just want to play at being a Christian, I want to do it for real”.

Sometimes it can feel like we are just playing a game of being Church, but it isn’t a game, it is serious, deadly serious with eternal consequences.

Let’s take personal responsibility for our walk with Christ, and as we come fed and healthy, we are in a position to help others.

The army drink water first before helping those in famine relief, because if they pass-out no-one receives help, we need to grasp something of this ourselves.

Lets not be big Churches of small people.

Let’s be small Churches of big people, spiritually healthy as we seek to be the people that God is calling us to be, to win this world for him.

Authenticity, Busyness, Counselling, Depression, Life styles, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

Doctor, Doctor -Can you Make it all Okay?

Again, possibly this might be a rather personal blog, but one which I hope might bless and encourage those who read it.

As many of you know I am a bit of an “Everything or Nothing” kind of guy, and sometimes I am quite driven, and try and be conscientious, I long to see more of God’s Kingdom break in and try and seek to serve God and those I minister to faithfully. I admit I don’t always get it right, but I do try.

Also, I’ve blogged about being a Christian with depression and about going to counselling, I would want to urge anyone who might be feeling they struggle with depression, or think that they might need some counselling to do the brave and the right thing, and maybe chat to your doctor, or book yourself some sessions with a Christian Counsellor (most clergy should be able to hook you up with someone, although there maybe a bit of a wait).

Yet more recently I have been challenged about two thoughts, self care and taking personal responsibility.

Talking with the counsellor when work was really stressful, and he asked “why don’t you get to the Doctor and get signed off?”

Yet as conversations continued, it is very easy to come to medics and ‘other professionals’ or people we put on pedestals and expect them to “fix us”.

If I had been signed off for a couple of weeks, it would be nice, but after a couple of weeks, would anything have changed?

I wouldn’t feel bad for cancelling a meeting if I said “Dr’s orders”, rather than simply saying “No” to something.

If I got signed onto ‘reduced hours’ that wouldn’t really do anything either as actually I normally manage (or fail to manage) my own dairy.

Yet too often we look to someone else to make it all okay.

Actually there is a lot of this in the Gospel, looking not at ourselves for Salvation and rescue but from Christ.

Yet, sometimes God, or another human being, doesn’t burst into our situation and wave a magic wand, sometimes God asks us ourselves to take responsibility for our situation and to change it.

Sometimes God leaves the ball in our court.

It is easy then to revert to a position of a victim, or perhaps a prisoner, when God has placed all we need for a new future within us.

I am really struck by John’s account of the healing of the man by the Pool at Bethsaida, Jesus asks him “Do you want to be healed?” -he’s sat there supposedly wanting healing, but to actually be healed and learn a new life and a new identity not as the lame man who sits begging beside the pool, was for him a challenge.

I believe in many situations God himself has given us the tools to change our circumstances ourselves. The power is in our hands and our lives, through God’s Spirit within us. His Spirit within us is greater than he that is in the world, and is the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

So, instead of going to someone else, personally thinking about self care, God’s call not just to be a good minister but also a good husband and father, good son and grandson, good nephew and uncle, good friend, neighbour and colleague.

Busy is a choice.

Taking time out, especially for retreat times and being with God, is not an optional extra for indulgent Christians, but actually part of God’s call to be a human being, loved because of who we are not because of what we do.

I have been chewing over the phrase about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” and God’s Kingdom’s call is for the whole person, not just the more overtly and obviously Christian bit.

Jesus says that his “Yoke is easy and his burden is light”, which makes me ask are the burdens I carry not of God? Are they self imposed? Am I trying to do them in my own strength?

A book I’ve flicked through is called “Driven Beyond the Call”, the title is very thought provoking are we driven beyond what God is calling us to do.

My friend Andy Schuman was talking about leading a spirit-led life and he joked about the phrase “God’s not doing it so could you do it Vicar!”

-Are we trying to push doors open when God is saying “not yet”?

-Or faithfully carrying on with what we maybe should have laid down?

Perhaps my busyness is due to my own drivers?

Perhaps there is a need to be needed?

Perhaps I don’t like saying “No” to people?

If I’m honest, sometimes I feel guilty about taking time off, feel as though I am being self indulgent, but often this is a false guilt, a guilt that robs us both of our peace and our joy.

A story I love is the story of Elijah who sees God break-through on Mount Carmel, and ends up exhausted in a slump in a cave, and God makes him fall asleep and gives him breakfast.

Mark Rich once said “sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep”, often when we are tired and exhausted we look upon the world with bleary grey eyes, and we become more and more depressed.

Often busyness is actually an illusion or state of mind. Often we rush around and we miss the critical thing God is doing, which is the last thing I want to do.

A great thing to give up this Lent is busyness.

Perhaps God is calling us to look at our world with him, with refreshed eyes.

Philip Yancey says “there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore, and nothing we can do to make God love us any less”.

Discovering “Who I am when I am not busy?” for me feels like a terrifying question to ask myself. Perhaps that’s a question you might ask yourself too?

One of the songs which moves me deeply is the song by Matt Redman: When the Music Fades:

Which talks of the hush of a busy world, a stripping back, and a silencing of all the noise and discovering afresh God’s goodness and awesome love.

In fact the Church, Soul Survivor Watford, had become so well known for its worship music that they stopped all musical worship and just sought God without lights, smoke machines, PA systems and amps, guitars and full bands… For the worship leaders if was incredibly painful, challenging their whole identity and contribution, but in doing this they came through this dessert time much deeper, here is what Matt Redman wrote…

“When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart”

Yet in coming to Christ, as we really are, without the noise, work and busyness, we discover something much deeper about ourselves and also about God.

“You search much deeper within, the way things appear you are looking into my heart”

God calls us all to “Be Still and know that I am God”.

God calls us all to ‘come and lay our burdens down gladly at his feet’, James tells us to “cast our burdens onto the Lord because he cares for us”.

So, to conclude, perhaps this Lent isn’t about whether or not we have another chocolate biscuit but rather we encounter God in a new and deep way, leaving the noise and busyness aside, and taking the responsibility to give ourselves the space and freedom to just be before our heavenly father who loves us.

So, my challenge for Lent is to learn afresh what it means to simply “BE”.

hope, Pain, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

Glitter in the Ash.

I’m a bit out of touch sometimes!

I saw on Facebook today about Churches in the US putting glitter in the Ash as a symbol of their support of LGBT Community.

(As a bit of an aside, I’m not sure why sparkly and LGBT are put together, seems a bit of a stereotype or caricature which doesn’t feel helpful? -but as a straight bloke I’m not wanting to tell another culture what it should (or shouldn’t) use as its symbols!)

I began to think a bit deeper about the whole idea of Glitter and Ash.

Ash Wednesday is a time when we focus is on our sinfulness, our brokenness and our mortality, maybe in an superficial, individualistic and materialistic culture this service is incredibly counter cultural.

The phrase “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust” is very much part of our national conscientiousness as part of the funeral service of burial after the coffin is lowered down into the grave.

In this Ashing ritual we say “remember that you are but dust and to dust you will return”, something profound and shocking about the starkness of these words, the certainty that we will all someday die.

This subject is something of a taboo, in a world where we can talk about Religion, Politics and Sex as much as we like, we find that death is one of the few subjects which remains something as a society we struggle to deal with.

We live in a world obsessed by youth, beauty and vitality and reminder of death and decay is profoundly challenging.

Death makes us think about life.

What are we building in life?

What will remain when we have gone?

Have we in our lives built with Gold, Silver or Costly stones or have built with that which is perishable that will be burned up as dross… So much of what we think of as important -even in our Churches- has no lasting eternal value.

Sometimes we need to be confronted with tough and challenging truths, such as our own mortality, yet, I believe that this is only half the story, for the Christian death is not the final word.

Scripture reminds us that death does not have the final word “where O death is your sting?”

We do have the pain of death, we are in a world that is fallen, we are people who are broken, and yet we are not without Hope.

Hope glistens like diamonds in the dust (as described by Jonni Erekson Tada)

I don’t think glitter in the ash trivialises the ceremony but rather is a corrective, just as the ash is biodegradable the glitter isn’t, for the Christian the hope of Christ is steadfast and certain, stronger than the grave.

We are not defined by our fallen-ness, although we are fallen people, but the cross say we are also people made Holy and declared righteousness.

We may die, but we will also live forever.

Light cannot be put out by darkness.

Even in the darkest of situation, even in the bleakest moments, the glory of God is able to break in, often easily missed as we sadly too often focus the brokenness, rather than the glistening glimpses of the Kingdom.

Justin Welby talks movingly about the death of his daughter, and although clearly incredibly painful, he say that in the midst of his pain he sensed the love of Christ.

Corrie Ten Boom talks of her horrific time in a concentration camp and yet even in one of the most hellish places on earth she still saw with the eyes of faith signs of the Kingdom of God at work.

Too often we fail to talk seriously about the challenges of life, and pain, death and judgement, we don’t talk enough of fallen-ness or brokenness. Yet today I feel as we talk about such things we need to talk too about resurrection, healing, freedom, forgiveness, life, restoration, redemption and joy.

Today is not a day for despair.

That as we journey to the cross of Christ, and although we don’t want to rush to quickly past the cross, we know that this is not the end -but the beginning- of the story we are and remain people of the resurrection.

That said, our baptism speaks of dying to self, of our past being crucified with Christ, dead to our old ways of life in sin, but in Baptism we rise from the water symbolising both our death and our rebirth.

In our world, we see much darkness all around us, and I worry that sometimes Ash Wednesday Services reinforce our brokenness and our mortality in a crushing way, yet perhaps without trivialising the deep and profound truth of sin, death and judgement we also hint at freedom and forgiveness, resurrection, rescue and redemption.

So, I’d say put the glitter into the pile of ash, remind the world that not only do we embrace the painful truths of the human condition, we also have something that is not biodegradable but eternal, something wonderful that gleams even when everything looks bleak.

That ultimately the last word and the eternal word is not a word of despair but one of goodness and hope.

The first and the last word is Jesus.

And although the truth of Jesus can be deeply challenging to our world view and painful to our pride, he remains eternally and incorruptibly good news for all.

Discipleship, Extravagance, Spirituality, Worship

Where is the extravagance?

One thing I noticed when re-reading the gospels recently is something we don’t often associate with Jesus is the word extravagance.

Yet feeding 5’000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish yet having 12 baskets left over can only be described as extravagant!

Filling the nets with fish until the nets started to give way with the miraculous catch of fish was extravagant, as was filling the huge stone water jars with the finest wines again was not only extravagant in quantity,  but it was also extravagant in quality too -“you saved the best til last”.

Yet there was extravagance in Jesus teaching too.

The welcome home of the prodigal son embraced and restored with the slaughter of the fatted calf that would have probably fed the whole village was excessive. Or the Good Samaritan did more than just let the wounded man ring his mum on his mobile, but rather went that extra mile with a smile, we read that not only did he stop, but he looked after the man, took him to safety and paid for his care.

We see extravagance in the worship of the sinful woman who poured a pint -A PINT- of pure Nard over Jesus (this was probably about a years wages, think £22’000 pounds poured out over one individual). It is an excessive, extravagant act of worship and adoration of Jesus.

Jesus’ life showed the extravagance of the Father in giving his one and only Son, not just to live among us, but to die at our hands. God is a God of extravagant generosity, as is seen in the wonder and the beauty of the awesomeness of creation where not even one single snowflake is the same as the one before.

King David understood something of this extravagance in his worship and response to God, his wife thought it was outrageous -and it was- but surely worship can, and should, be outrageous at times. King David danced before the Lord in his under-garments with the line “I will become even more undignified than this!”. Yet just prior to that as he returned the Ark of the Covenant back home, he killed a bull every few paces, such extravagance in sacrifice would have had a real dent in the countries economy, yet David wanted to give God a pleasing sacrifice, asking in the Psalms “Can I give you a Sacrifice that has cost me nothing?” -Clearly David thought the answer to that question was no.

Yet extravagance is not a word we think of when we think of discipleship or life together corporately as Church, in fact we often appear to value frugal-ness above generosity (yet God is not a frugal God!)…

We often seem to value fasting above feasting, and yet there are actually more mentions of feasts than fasts in the Bible.

Recently I came across a wonderful (Christian) Cafe in Wareham (called Not Just Sundae’s) where people buy coffee and wonderful cake on account for people to go in and get blessed, they also have a group working with young people with esteem issues and they let the kids choose whatever they’d like from the menu to eat and drink for free (how often in our Church do the kids get cheap and nasty squash with soft and stale biscuits). The ethos of this Cafe was to offer people “outrageous hospitality” which is something when I heard it resonated with my spirit, this is something so often missing in our Churches and our lives together and yet when it is seen it is so beautifully and wonderfully Christ-like.

Today I was talking with a lovely saint -who has blessed me so much in the past- telling me how his wife and he are going to foster displaced children and teenagers, another clergy family I know have a Syrian Pastor and his family living with them and not only do they share meals with them, the dad (a posh older vicar) was telling me about how he enjoyed water fights with the kids in the summer, not just welcomed into the home, but clearly loved as part of the family. Extreme love and generosity.

The Church, Barnies, I was on placement at in Derby paid for an asylum seekers family to join him from the Congo to Derby.

In Salisbury the Soup Run was called the “Banquet Run” because they wanted to give out nice home-made soup, because if you take Matthew 25 literally you are giving Jesus his evening meal and therefore you’d want to give him the best you can offer.

When I worked in Poole/Bournemouth I discovered that one of my friends, Jon, the Nightclub Chaplain bought ‘his’ Big Issue seller a Easter Egg, but went to Thornton’s and got a big egg and had his name written on it in icing (and didn’t tell anyone, we found out from the Big Issue Seller). Yet doesn’t that sound like Jesus?

The foodbank the other day were wrapping up Christmas presents for people to put in their food bags, yet each present was being wrapped so carefully and with so much love it moved me, and again I thought, this looks like Jesus.

Recently I had an email from someone who mentioned about caring for his wife with dementia and I thought actually there are so many unsung heroes here whose wonderful love is truly extravagant and Christ like which often is not recognized enough in our Churches, yet it is outrageous love for another human-being that reflects Christ in its patient on-going sacrificial love.

Yet sadly we see so often in our own lives, in our lives as Church together, in our discipleship that often we have such a poverty spirit, tight fisted generosity which is many things but cheerful it often isn’t.

I think when see this lifestyle challenge, we are scared of the cost and the challenge, the pain and the sacrifice. Everyone wants this in theory, but the challenge to actually do it in reality is a bigger call .

Shane Claiborne said once “Everyone wants revolution, but no one wants to do the dishes!”






Bible, Depression, Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, prayer, Spirituality, Worship

When You Are Just Not Feeling It.

Writers block… Normally I have 101 ideas I’m dying to share with the world about following Jesus, but today I can’t think of anything!

Sometimes we go through seasons when really feel Gods presence wonderfully close, other days God doesn’t feel so close.

Sometimes, when we read the Bible it really speaks to us and there is a wonderful connection, other times it can feel like a habit and your read some verses that aren’t bad but don’t really move you.

I’ve had times when I can’t put the Bible down, and I’ve had other times when I’ve struggled to pick it up.

Have you ever been in a church service of an event when everyone else seems to be connecting with God in a wonderful and deep way and we feel a bit jealous because we are just not feeling it?

Sometimes you sing some songs and you feel Gods presence and other times it just feels like you are singing songs, sometimes the words catch you, especially songs that are joy filled “…and I feel like dancing” which doesn’t always resonate with where we are at.

Sometimes it’s a choice, and in singing words it’s a faith filled thing, saying that the truth of God is greater than our current feelings, and I will worship despite my circumstance, mood, or whatever… Other times it’s a question of integrity, I can’t sing “I’m overflowing with joy” when God knows that I’m not, he knows I want to be, but for whatever reason today doesn’t feel like it.
I think there are times in our life when sometimes it isn’t easy being a follow of Christ.

I think that there is a false Americanisation of some worship styles that are often overly joyous and ‘sugary’ as though life is perpetually good and the only human expression the

Christian is allowed is a cheesy grin.

Yet in the psalms there are plenty of laments and even “where have you gone God?” Psalms, Jesus even quoted one of these (Ps. 22) on the cross, I long to see greater authenticity within our sung worship, that embraces rather than runs from pain, confusion and frustration.

I love (and am deeply challenged by) Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name, when the suns shining down on me and the world is all that it should be… Blessed Be Your Name when found in the Desert place, on the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name… You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name”.

I don’t think God ever intended human beings to live perpetually on the mountain, he knows that in real life we go into real valleys, and maybe even real deserts too.

In fact it’s the deserts where the most beautiful and powerful growth occurs.

Just as a rose bud develops its best scent when it is tightly compressed.

Yet it is in the mundane we discover something deep in our faith, just as in our human relationships it is easy to serve your spouse when you are totally loved up, but harder when maybe its not all rose petals and romance.

Yet what an amazing act of truly beautiful Worship when we Worship even through the tears.

I think we need a spiritual life that  is robust enough that know,and can cope with highs and lows, and when things are tough we learn discipline and gain strength.
Yet it is easy to serve when your heart is full of gladness, but harder when your heart is full of sadness, but in a way more beautiful and authentic, for we are saying to God that despite our internal and external feelings and circumstances, even so, we are going to rely not on our feelings knowing they are fallible, but instead place our trust on God and his faithfulness, which -despite our feelings- remains steadfast.

Sometimes when you feel you have nothing to say, sometimes that’s the most profound message of all.

Life styles, Mission, perspectives, Spirituality

Spirituality: The Icing? Or the whole Cake?

Last night I heard Bishop Lee (Bishop of Swindon) speaking at a confirmation service, he started off by talking about “Spirituality” and asked the question “Spirituality: The Icing? Or the Cake?”

It was a great picture too often we view spirituality as a nice sideline or hobby, a bolt on, a leisure activity that can be squeezed into busy lives.

And for some people that is how their Spirituality works for them, in the midst of a busy week, couple hours at Yoga, and then carry on with life as normal, living as we always had, except perhaps maybe slightly less stressed.

Yet for the Christian, Spirituality isn’t just an activity we slot amongst the other stuff, it is the way we live our lives, all the time, day in and day out (24-7, 365 -what it means to be a living sacrifice, there on the altar of God by choice)..

Not just a drizzle of icing but the whole cake.

This made me think about how we lead our lives as Christians.

I wondered if I really exhibited the fruit of the Spirit “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness (or in some translations generosity), Kindness and Self Control” whether people would be challenged and think “what is it in his life that makes such a difference I want some of that!”

Perhaps we need to explore what it means that “he that is in us is greater than he that is in the world”, “Christ in us the hope of glory” and “treasure in Jars of clay”… A life where God is glorified in us, a life lived as life was intended to be lived by God is bound to be noticed, it will be like “stars shining in the darkness” unmissable like salt or light.

I think there is something wonderfully missional about our lives being different from the world around us.

We live in a world where people don’t know who they are, looking for authenticity, desperate to know what really matters in a materialistic and superficial world.

St. Francis talked about our hearts being restless until we find our rest in him, and we see how restless our world is, especially in the west where everyone is so driven, hyped up on red-bull, but not actually sure where they are going, nor sure of the direction of their lives, but feel the pressure to go where-ever it is fast!

Interestingly my friend Jonathan who used to lead a Church called  B1 in Birmingham said he was often involved in coversations about wanting to lead a good life, the New Monastic Group Moot does life coaching, amazingly rich city types pay vast sums of money for someone to help them explore how to live their lives, because it clearly really matters to them.

I am reminded of Freddie Mercury’s Song “Does anybody know what we are living for?” -Freddie Mercury was a deeply spiritual man, but never managed to get “a handle on life” describing himself as “desperately lonely”.

We have this wonderful gift to give the world, but unfortunately it is also a gift that as Christians in the west we haven’t really fully opened, explored and enjoyed.
Instead becoming like Chameleons trying to blend into the world around us, when really we were called to stand out, why will people listen to what we say, when they look at our lives and can’t see anything different from their own.
I think of some of the wonderful wise (often elderly) saints I know, and I am really drawn to them, I find conversation with them incredibly inspiring. I think part of their appeal is that they have walked deeply with Christ and that is something deeply attractive.
Too often we end up apologizing for what actually makes us beautiful and attractive to the world around us.
Let’s be unashamed of the difference Christ makes to us in our lives, in the highs and in the lows, in the good times and the bad.
Ironically, when we live our lives following Christ we become more the person we were created to be, more fully us.
Bishop Lee cited Archbishop Rowan meeting Archbishop Tutu, and described him as a guy “enjoying being Demond Tutu”, this isn’t talking about pride or vanity, but rather being someone comfortable being themselves.
We live so much of our lives worried about what others will think of us, and yet really what matters is the audience of one, Christ himself, what does he think of us?
People talk a lot about mission, and a lot about discipleship, as though our sharing our faith and our everyday lives are somehow different, but I think the reality is who we are is what speaks volumes, and yet Churches we have worried to much about “saying the right thing” rather than “living the right way”.
So, lets be people that embrace the cake, not just a frosting of spirituality icing.
prayer, presence, Spirituality, Worship

The Power of Presence…

I have recently been thinking a lot about worship.

I have suggested that those of us who regularly join together for Pints Of View ought to meet up and pray and worship first.

Something I am keen to suggest too for us as Street and School Pastors before we go out.

I think worship is the key to everything… yet when we worship because it is the key to everything we are missing the point, because to worship in order to get a key sounds more like playing Super Mario than living in a right relationship with God.

I think when we come to God in worship, we are reminded of who he is, he greatness and might, and also of our dependence on him, so often in our meetings although he is acknowledged with a prayer at the beginning our focus often remains very much on ourselves and our capabilities. When we worship we focus on him and his abundance, provision and power. His faithfulness to do all that he has called us to do through us is liberating, because we need to be reminded afresh that we don’t do what we are called ‘for’ God but rather ‘with’ him. The less we worship the more we get this wrong.

Worship is often an act of will, to be honest when life is tough, we are tired and stressed, often we squash our worship out of the agenda, yet often when we are feeling the least like worshipping, often it is when we need to worship the most. We discover that in worship there is a refreshing of the soul, a re-energizing of the will, a renewal of the mind that need, but don’t always need.

Yet not only does worship reminded us of who God is, and not only does it require us to shuffle of the thrones of our own lives and let Christ re-take his rightful place, it also affirms us in who we are in Christ. We are his beloved children.

I believe that because sometimes we live in worship poverty, that is a contributory factor in why so many Christians struggle with their identity in who they in Christ, and of the Fathers great love for them.

Worship shows us God, but as we worship God somehow we discover afresh something of God’s love for us, a divine exchange seems to happen, as we pour our love at his feet, he pours his love over us.

I’m struck by how we use our bodies in worship.

When our hands our  lifted up symbolise surrender, which is I believe at the heart of what worship is, even though we don’t understand what is happening around us, why it is happening, it is a surrender and saying to God even though I don’t understand, I still trust you with my life.

When come before the communion table with our empty hands, we are reminded that we come to God empty handed, but come before a generous God who will provide all we need as we seek to follow him.

When we are down on our knees we remember God’s might and majesty… his rule over our life, who he is, and us pledged to his service.

Yet worship isn’t just a need for us, but I do believe that when we spend time in God’s presence we become more like him, we become like those we hang around with, which is true when we are with God, we become like him, he shines from us.

I love the story of Moses coming down the mountain with his face shining because he had been in the presence of God, so much so he had to put a veil over his face… His encounter with God shone out to the people, who noticed the presence of God on Moses.

It’s a picture often picked up in scripture, the treasure shining from the broken clay vessels, gleaming out of the cracks, proclaiming “Christ in us the hope of glory”.

The presence of God with his people is so important and powerful that when God offers to let the people of Israel go into the promised land without him, Moses says “if you don’t go with us, how will we be different from the other nations of the world”.

God’s presence is beautiful… he’s the one who draws people to himself, but gives us the privilege of partnering with himself.

On twitter I came across a Catholic picture of the Communion Elements with the words above them “you are what you eat” -and although I’m not into transubstantiation-  I love the picture, the more you celebrate Christ in Communion, the more of him dwells within you.

I think that too often we approach God with functionality, e.g “we ought to pray”, rather than as a Father “I just want to be with you”… Yet when we are with him we are changed and the world notices. “They realised that they (Peter, James and John) were ordinary unskilled men who had been with Jesus”.

When we worship we realise that it is less about technique, or style and more about God’s love overflowing from us.

I believe that the “when Harry met Sally” quote “I want what she’s having” ought to be something that happens more regularly, that Christ is seen in us, not just that we have clever words, we have beautiful flyers or we inviting them to a great event.

If you were going on a long journey or doing something important most of us would charge up our mobile phone (if we had one) just as when we go out on mission (which is actually what any of us do the moment we walk out of our front door, or into work, or the kids playground) we can’t go out on empty, on drained and with the dreggs of God’s presence.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn up at Church all the time, it could just be encountering and worshipping God with CD in your car, or just taking some time out on a park bench before leaping into whatever situation.

My suggestion is that we need to be intentional about worship.

Worship not just when you feel like it, but actually probably more worthwhile when you don’t feel like worshipping that’s probably when you need to do it the most.

Work out times and places that will feed your soul with encountering Christ, engaging with the Father, rather than praying out of a understanding of its importance functionally.

God knows we need him, he loves to hear from us, but so often our prayer and our worship is often as a ‘warm up’ to doing something or for a sermon rather than simply because he is a good good father who loves you.

Sometimes I think we should stop all Churchy work, and just take time just to encounter Christ again, pursue his presence.

The key to it all is the presence of Christ, at times his presence has convicted and converted people without any words uttered, we carry the presence of God, but too often this wonderful light gets hidden under bushels.

I love the image of overflow, when we encounter Christ, the overflow of his presences in his people, splashes out to a hungry and thirsty world, who seem him in his people and the thirsty world is drawn to the one who quenches our deepest thirsts and satisfies our deepest hungers.

Habakkuk 3, Spiritual Health, Spirituality, Suffering., The Book of Job.

Life is a Rollacosta…

A friend posted this on Facebook just a moment ago… “Our greatest test may be that we must trust Gods goodness even though we don’t understand why our lives are going a certain way. We must learn to trust God, who is good, and not in the goodness of life.”

It is easy to trust that God is good and faithful when (to quote Matt Redman) “the sun is shining down on me, and the world is all as it should be” but much harder when “I’m found in the desert place, when I walk through the wilderness… On the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering”.

We live in a broken and fallen world, and yet despite the worlds mess, broken-ness and grot Jesus is still King, and he’s still on the throne.

Sometimes what is true, and what feels true, are not the same thing…

Although we may feel abandon, God tells us “he will never leave us or forsake us”…

Although our sin may leave us feeling guilty and condemned, God says “as far as the East is from the West so far have I removed your transgressions from you”…

Although some days we feel worthless, scripture says our value is beyond rubies.

Sometimes when we look at messy and difficult situations we forget that God can work all things for the good of those who love him.

I don’t believe that this means he sends bad things, but rather he is able to hijack and redeem the bad to bring good from bad.

There is no person or problem that is beyond the redemptive love of God in Christ Jesus.  That’s true, but sometimes knowing its true in our heads and feeling it is true in our hearts are not the same thing.

Satan distorts our vision at times, plays with our emotions, messes with our heads, anything he can to drive a wedge between us and our heavenly Father, because Satan is ‘the Father of lies’.

Sometimes we do feel tested, sometimes things are a struggle, sometimes God feels silent, and yet despite this the book of Job reminds us that God never lets us go, never stops loving us, never encounters a problem that is too big for him.

One of the greatest poems of faith was etched on the wall of Auschwitz:

“I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

“I believe in love, even though I don’t feel it.

“I believe in God, even when he is silent.”

Which reminds me of the verses from Habakkuk 3.

17Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.…Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.…

Whether we are on top of the world, or feel the bottom has dropped out of our world, God’s faithfulness to us won’t alter at all.

In the midst of even the toughest storms he is there for us.

When I take a funeral I find that the poem about the footsteps often helpful, and I reminded that at first the person on seeing one set of footsteps at the toughest and hardest cry initially shouts out to God, “God why did you leave me when I needed you the most”… and then hears the whisper of the Lord telling him that he is loved and he realises that actually in those moments that is where God carried him.

Hugged with invisible arms… anonymously loving even at the darkest times.

So, in the darkness, in pain, in confusion… lets remember that our God does not abandon us, his arm is not too short to save, or his ear deaf to our call.

He is faithful and true.

He will uphold us with his righteous right hand.

Revival, Spirituality

“Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the Revival?”

Emma Ineson, the principal of Trinity College Bristol, told the story of the Welsh revival where many people were becoming Christians and lives were being transformed, and a young clergyman traveled to visit one of the villages where God was doing amazing things. He arrived at this train station and asked the guard on the platform “excuse me, but where is the revival happening?” To which the guard patted his heart and said (imagine a welsh accent) “under the buttons, ‘ere in my heart”.

It is actually quite a profound story, as I firmly believe that God is more into people than geographical locations.

It worries me how a certain flavour of Christian Ministry will fly halfway around the world to RECEIVE a blessing (Torronto, Pensacola or even Cwmbran) yet will we go half way across a street to BE a blessing.

The heart of revival is actually the human heart.

It was John Wesley’s Heart that was “strangely warmed” that night in Aldergate Street.

It was the heart of Ezekiel that God promised to change from a “heart of stone to a heart of flesh” and it was into this heart that the Lord promised to “put my Spirit in” (Ez.11:19 & Ez.36:26).

I think this was probably going through the mind of John Wimber when he said “Lord, send revival, start with me…”

Wimber’s idea was that unless his heart was changed by the in-filling of the Holy Spirit, he was a hindrance rather than a help to the revival cause, for the Lord to send Revival, he need to be in the right place.

It is a call for us all, if we want to see God move in power in our community and our nation, we need to allow God to move powerful in our hearts and lives too.

This is a scriptural theme, remember that great promise in 2 Chronicles (7:14) “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Challenging passages, but I think it gives an insight into the human condition, the idea we want a move of God, but we don’t always want cost, change and challenge… Often our prayer is really saying: “God can you do it for us, and by the way please let it be nice and not messy at all!”.

Yet, God does not just want to work THROUGH us, he wants to work IN us too… and often this is challenging.

Often when God moves it is often challenging, uncomfortable and sometimes a bit messy, yet despite this, his ways are best, fruitful, the most loving in every circumstance and chooses to involve us in partnership work.

A great quote from Shane Claiborne “If you ask God to move a mountain, don’t be surprised when he gives you a shovel”.

Mission, prayer, Spiritual Health, Spirituality

The Ancient Art of Breathing…


Sometimes something very simple hits you and you think, wow that is so simple, but so profound it changes you!

For me this was what happened when I found out about what the ancient celtic Christians called the “Ancient Art of Breathing” (fromthe book PUNK MONK by Andy Freeman)…

The basic idea is we “breath in” when we connect with God and recieve from him… and we “breath out” when we respond in missional ‘salt and light’ living.

The problem is sometimes our Chuches (and our own individual lives) can be shaped so much by a consumerist spirituality with does nothing but ‘breath in’, chasing conferences, buying worship CD’s, reading books but somehow our faith doesn’t feel like it is working because we are not ‘breathing out’ and putting this into practice in our every day life, recieving from God is great but needs to be translated into obidient disciples who follow Jesus.

Yet the other problems exists, where sometimes we can be so busy doing things “for” God that we loose sight of our personal relationship with God… we breath out so much that we end up with no breath left in our lungs.

Yet a healthy relationship is one where breath in deeply recieving from God, breathing out what he has given us into the world around us,breathing in afresh from God, breathing out again what he has given us…

We all breath in’ers or breath outters and can make either sound more important… the breath in’ers will quote Luke 10 Mary and Martha, whereas the breath outers will quote Matthew 28 with Jesus command to go…

Some Churches are great at praying but that’s it, but little or nothing, in practical terms to advance God’s Kingdom and bless individual lives.

Some Churches are great at being missional, always doing something Kingdomish… but backed by little or no prayer.

Yet when we see the example of Jesus, he drew away from the crowd to spend time with his father God, but also gave out… The ancient artof breathing, sees to resonate with the life of Christ we see in the gospels.

Prayer and Mission, ought to be like ‘pen and ink’, ‘ruhubab and custard’ ‘Ant and Dec’ two things that always go together, like two half of a pair of sissors…

Yet in Church history we what happens when Prayer and Proclaimation go together (look at Count Zinzenorff and the Moravian 100 year prayer meeting), -it was a moravian meeting where John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” which was followed by the ‘great awakening revival’…

The Hebredian Revival started with just a few old ladies praying… In fact every true re-awaken has been birthed in prayer

The great preacher Charles Spurgeon used to use “boiler rooms” where people would pray passionately for the lost, whilst Spurgeon preached… many were saved through his awesome biblical exposition.

More recently 24-7 with their mission to places such as Newquay and Ibiza have fused together prayer with mission/proclaimation; Street Pastors too have teams praying whilst we are on the street sharing our faith.

A challenge for us all to go deeper both in prayer AND mission, it’s not an either or but both…