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Leadership lessons from Esther.

How many people have heard a sermon on Esther? Probably very few of us which is a tragedy as Esther is a great book, with the sex and violence of Game of Thrones and the cunning and intrigue of the House of Cards! I can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t made it into a film!

The story starts with a sleazy King wanting his wife to dance got humans his nobleman, she refuses and so the King raged and sought a new wife. The ultimate beauty pagent with the ‘prize’ becoming the Queen. One of the girls was called Esther, who was Jewish, raised by her uncle Mordeci, and it is she who the King chooses to become Queen.

Alongside all of this the villainous Prime Minister Haman has a spat with Mordeci -who somewhere in the midst of all this manages to save the Kings life- Haman manages to persuade the King for embark on ethnic cleansing genocide against the Jews (massively abridged version of the story).

Esther herself was probably safe in the palace, no one there knew she was Jewish. Here we see here a biblical theme of personal alignment, Nehemiah was safe as a cupbearer to the King and yet he chose to align himself with the suffering of Jerusalem, Moses was safe as a Prince in Pharaoh’s palace and yet chose to align himself with the Israelite slave people and here Esther could have use her privilege of self preservation but instead chooses to stand alongside her endangered people.

Esther knows where her loyalty lies, but in our individualistic, capitalist and fragmented society we are in danger of loosing belonging and loyalty.

Esther could have shrugged her shoulders and said “there is nothing I can do!” because in that patriarchal society she appeared no have no formal power or influence.

Yet, she does the most vital and crucial thing any of us can do when we are confronted with a situation bigger than we can manage in our own strength, she fasts and she prays, in fact she gathers others to fast and pray too, in fact she called the whole Jewish community to fast and pray for three days and nights.

She is one of the best biblical examples of what Stephen Cotterell describes as “hitting the ground kneeling!”

Prayer for Esther is not the last resort once everything else has failed, but rather it is her first response.

The Bible says “we have not because we ask not” -these guys were banging on the door of heaven and imploring God in their prayers, fasting for three days (which is really tough) this is serious prayer, not going through the motions prayer, crying out to God in desperation for him to act and save his people.

She boldly went to talk to the King. It was a courageous act, no one was allowed into the Kings presence uninvited, and intruding would probably result in execution.

“When this is done, I will go to the King, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4.16).

Yet she courageously went to speak to him, risking her life for the sake of her people, as she approached the King held out his sceptre welcoming her into his presence.

Choosing danger of comfort, risk over security, Esther knew that she was doing a dangerous thing for the sake of her nation, she must have been terrified, and yet she still went and did it.

In times of crisis we have a choice to either step up, or back down; courage or cowardliness.

Bravery does not mean feeling no fear, but rather despite the fears still doing the right thing.

Esther was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of her peoples safety.

The “No Fear” marketing team once had a poster which said “if you haven’t found something worth dying for you haven’t found something worth living for”, Esther knew what mattered and what was worth giving her life for. Too often we live in a comfortable, apathetic world devoid of passion, commitment and fire.

Too often we lack the courage of Esther, to do the right choice even -or maybe even especially- when the right choice is not the easy choice, but the costly and more difficult path, knowing the dangers, knowing the consequences and still being brave and doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.

In many ways Esther’s bravery echoes with Jesus’ in the garden of Gethsemane choosing to sacrifice safety, comfort and security out of love for God’s people, the “not my will but yours” words of Jesus could have been spoken by Queen Esther.

Esther approaches the King, and he holds out his sceptre to her, bidding her to come to him, she takes time to build a relational connection with him, before pleading the case for her people.

Esther’s bravery saved a nation, and saved her Uncle too (and also saw an evil Prime Minister get his comeuppance!).

Esther a leader who knew where her loyalty lay.

Esther a leader who chose to place herself in harms way.

Esther a leader who prayed and fasted.

Esther a leader who called people to pray.

Esther a leader who made the courageous choice even at the risk of great personal cost.

Esther a leader who build relationships, that allowed her to ask the difficult question.

Esther the leader who bravely plead for her peoples salvation.

A leader who could have said “what can I do?” a leader who appeared powerless and yet saved a nation.

So, let’s embrace the story of Esther and learn these great lessons for an amazingly brave and faithful follower of God.

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A Dickensian Christmas…

I love Charles Dickens.

I love his crazy characters -who can forget Ebenezer Scrooge counting his money, or Miss Haversham perpetually dressed in her wedding dress from when she was jilted many years ago or maybe the evil Fagin collecting stolen treasures.

I love his twisty turny plots and darkly humorous scenes.

This Christmas a film is coming out called “The Man Who Invented Christmas” telling of Dickens writing a Christmas Carol.

Much of our thinking of Christmas stems from the quill of Dickens, but often been re-enacted somewhat selectively, as not everything in Dicken’s Christmas was good cheer, snowy streets, mistletoe and holly, good humoured mutton chopped sideburns and “God bless us everyone”…

Yet much of his story-telling is to comment on the injustices and evils in his society, as an uncomfortable mirror shining a light on all that was wrong and ignored with the world in which he lived.

Yet in many ways we are returning to a Dickensian land again, the money lenders like Scrooge are now replaced by loan sharks like Bill Sykes, 1 in 6 of us are in debt. Most of us are just two pay cheques away from visiting a foodbank. Draconian rules on benefit sanctions passed with no compassion or empathy (or even common sense on occasions) blight the lives many causing children to go to bed hungry. Our NHS forces many suffering in acute pain to wait and wait for an appointment, and many have died shortly after being ‘declared fit to work’.

The capitalism so brilliant ridiculed in Hard Times is as pervasive now as it was then, where the might of institution grinds down at the Bob Cratchett’s of this world on 0 hour contracts attacking him as lazy and lacking aspiration rather than simply doing all he can beneath a broken system just to provide food for his family. Sadly the sweat-shops exploiting worker to work in to make ends meet exist today in most major cities -and across the world, in fact probably an item of clothing you are wearing at this very moment was made in a sweat shop somewhere in the world, possibly even using child labour.

Sadly children still run away from children’s homes where horrific abuse has occurred, sadly run-away children are still exploited by people like Fagin for evil purposes, with the Nancy’s of this world forced into prostitution.

Too often we try and romanticise and airbrush out of Christmas all pain, misery, suffering and sadness. Forgetting that the first Christmas, the one ‘invented’ by Christ featured an unmarried pregnant teenager in a country where barbaric religious fundamentalism could stone her to death, Roman oppression, homelessness, refugees fleeing genocide.

Dickens understood the fallenness of humanity, that the world is not as it should be, nor are people as they should be.

The first Christmas shows that God himself understands the fallenness of humanity.

Dickens despite the suffering and pain woven within his great works his novels still have hope within them, hope that people can change, hope that the past does not necessarily dictate the future, hope that love can overcome hate, and goodness overcome evil. Dickens like that first Inn Keeper understands the immense power of human kindness to bring transformation.

Dickens wrote believing another world was possible and sought to inspire his readers to live different and changed lives seeking to combat cruelty, callousness and greed.

Yet the Christmas Story -despite the poverty and pain interwoven within the narrative- is a message of hope, good news for all people. The Christmas story, God with us, God our rescuer and redeemer being born as a vulnerable baby. It is a message the people can change (as Christ has transformed the lives of millions of people) and Jesus incarnation shows us that another way of living is possible, his cross shows love destroying hate, goodness overcoming evil, light defeating darkness.

It is a story that captivates and changes, not to just be left in the book, but as we read it we are inspired to live a different way, being ambassadors and agents of transformation -bringers of a different Kingdom-.

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Two Prophets…

My favourite of the prophets is Elijah.

I like Elijah as he has moments where his humanity is plainly visible such as when he is exhausted and depressed after his time on Mount Carmel challenging the prophets of Baal, and he’s burned out and hiding in a cave.

Yet Elijah exhibits two strands of the prophetic nature which I have been reflecting on lately.

Firstly he speaks truth to power boldly and bravely. Elijah was deeply political and his rebuke to the King caused his life to be threatened and is real perilous danger. (1 Kings chapters 18-21).

Secondly Elijah speaks prophetically words from God into situations beyond what he could know in the natural by his own abilities. He steps out in faith and expectancy with signs, wonders and God’s glorious and mighty intervention into situations.

Over the last few years some of my thinking has been stretched and challenged by two friends who have really blessed my spiritual walk.

The first is a guy called Andy “Bidds” Biddlecombe, I’d say Bidds has a real prophet gift, he’s someone who listens to God and seeks to speak his word into real peoples lives.

Bidds challenges me to be expectant to see and hear God at work in peoples lives and situations, to pray with faith and boldness, to be a person that seeks the Kingdom to break out where we step out in faith and obedience.

Bidds hero is Smith Wigglesworth, a man full of faith and expectation of the Kingdom breaking in to the present in a wonderful and tangible way.

Alongside the prophetic Bidds is some who seeks to see signs and wonders break out into normal everyday life, naturally supernatural, where praying for healing and speaking prophetically are normal part of everyday life as a follower of Jesus.

The other is a guy called Chris Harwood, Chris is I believe also a bit of a prophet, Chris speaks truth to power, protesting at arms fares, sleeping outside to raise the plight of Poole’s homeless and actively lobby those in power to remember the poor, marginalised, disenfranchised -the people Christ prioritized. Often Chris does symbolic acts such as recently giving all the Councillors some bracelets and other craft work with hearts on reminding them that they and those they serve are made in the image of God and loved by him.

I went out for a pint with Chris yesterday evening, and I was talking about my friend Bidds, about that as Christians we should be actively expectant and moving in supernatural Kingdom power as part of our daily walk.

Chris rightly pointed out too, that all of us as Christians should also be involved in our communities and in “Doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly before our God” and in seeking the Kingdom of God which is righteousness, joy and peace.

As he spoke I got excited as I began to dream, what if normal Christianity really took seriously our call to be ambassadors of a different Kingdom?

What if we saw signs and wonders as we picketed arms fayres? -missiles malfunctioning so as not to kill civilians.

The jeering of the Police playing mind games trying to stop the protesters hearing a prophetic word of life for them and realise that God knows and loves them.

What if pornographers, loan sharks and drug dealers hear the call of Christ proclaimed and like Matthew the tax collector left their lives of exploitation and followed the one that gives life and life in all its abundance?

Perhaps the prophetic challenge and rebuke that the Church has always historically brought might not just be “with words, but with demonstrations of the spirits power”.

And perhaps this can work the other way around too? John Wimber talks of “the meat being on the street” and his protégé David Pytches talked about the “meeting place being the training place for the marker place”. Yet sadly too often people get stuck in the meeting place and the signs and wonders never actually reach the market place.

Signs and wonders in the Gospels traditionally most healings happen on the street not hidden away in a religious building.

I believe the call of God is to take the light of Christ to the darkest and most broken of places, and to show God’s love not just with words and arguments but with the signs of the Kingdom too.

Chris shared that at the start of the Arms Fayre protest, a Vicar did an exorcism over communion, praying against the demonic powers that sell brutal weapons of slaughter often to regimes with a evil disregard for civil liberties and human rights (interestingly the protestors weren’t arrested and the Arms Fayre ran into trouble when the Green MP Caroline Lucas came and discovered the illegal sale of electronic batons which is a breach of the convention of human rights so no protestors got prosecuted).

Lets be people unafraid to go bravely into the darkest places, to protest, to speak out and to see signs and wonders performed for the glory of Christ.

So, my prayer is that we see a new generation of Elijah prophets, that are bold in speaking truth where it is needed and be people displaying the miraculous signs of the Kingdom of God.

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A night at St. James…

Over the years I have been in or around St. James’ but last night was the first time I’ve slept in its grounds (although it did cross my mind when I got myself locked out of my parents house when dad was vicar there).

We were sleeping out to raise money and awareness of homelessness in Poole. The fab charity we were raising money for was -Routes to Roots, the Churches response to homelessness locally, with various Churches running a ‘soup kitchen’ everyday, and two drop ins again with hot food,

One of the things I used to love about Routes to Roots is that it served people without the smug swagger that unfortunately plagues many churchy projects.

Also, I remember when I did some shifts with them before going off to the Vicar factory wss the wonderful sense of love, compassion and concern that greeted everyone who walked through the door. Moreover it was one of the few places where the church served together as the Bride of Christ rather than worrying whether each other was a “sound and proper Christian” showing the fruit of the spirit in seeking to bless.

So anyway we were meant to be doing a sleep out, that evening… but earlier I was involved in another new project, the launch of Town Pastors, an initiative similar to Street Pastors but earlier in the day on a Saturday afternoon. A fab local ministry Jackie, a lady called Lizzie and I chatted to homeless people, kids hanging out at the bus station and anyone who wanted to chat. I met s lot of homeless people and chatted to them. Which meant as I set up my sleeping bag for the sleep out, as the rain started to gently patter, the homeless weren’t a faceless group of unfortunates, but people I’d met with names and faces.

When I arrived I was met by Chris and a friend of his who is on the streets, I was deeply touched by how concerned he was about our welfare.

Chris, my friend who was organising the event was worried about the weather. I made some foolish comments about being sure everyone will be okay, probably trying to convince myself as much as him.

Gradually people gathered, a selection of people of a variety of ages, backgrounds (some would call themselves Christians and some might not).

I was impressed by the numbers who came, in a culture where comfort and apathy is rife here people were choosing discomfort for the sake of others.

Chris gathered us together, thanking us for coming and reminding us that although we can have an uncomfortable and cold night before returning to a comfy bed and a hot shower, the homeless can’t do this, if they get cold and wet they stay cold and wet.

We were also very aware of the shameful actions of the local council wanting to ban the homeless from the town centre, treating people like they are just mere objects then can be moved around, dehumanizing people and labelling people as s problem. Moreover it does nothing to solve the problems these people have rather it just hides them away.

A couple of mates popped into say “hey”, two of them bring ex military they spoke of how many people in the armed forces end up on the streets unable yo cope with civilian life.

Chris says that he will get a photo of us all send it to each of the councillors as a Christmas card.

he Christmas story chimes with tonight’s prophetic action, the first Christmas saw a young pregnant teenager forced to give birth sheltering in a make do bed for the night off the streets. The creator of everything born homeless, and later said that he had “no where to lay his head”. This homeless child became a refugee fleeing genocide before his 3rd birthday.

I am torn from my theological musings as a huge raindrop hits my head, and another, and another. My bed looks pretty pathetic and a young guy offers me some plastic sheeting.

Sat by a street lamp that stayed on all night and with a Church clock behind us that chimed the hour, the clock struck 11.00 -7 hours to go. The rain drums pretty hard on our plastic sheeting, but for the moment it remains okay.

Some guys come past from the pub, realise what is happening and tip toe past. Sadly not always the case, my friend Jo in Kingswood had some lads try to set her alight as she slept in a bus shelter and as week later torched all her possessions. Another friend I worked with years ago told me how he was kicked around like a human football whilst he slept for the amusement of some drunken lads.

1:00 struck and I was beginning to feel the dampness underneath me. 2:00 struck and I was feeling quite uncomfortable and cold. The police strolled through tslikin to one of our group and then left us alone, had we really been homeless we might have had to pack up our stuff and find somewhere else to sleep.

3:00 struck, I was feeling groggy, I remember silently praying that the clock woildbbe striking 4:00 not 3.00.

My sleepless mind wandered all over the place in that dark hour sometimes we find those times of deep challenge, of resurfacing pain and sometimes a great epiphany moment, sadly not tonight, but I did feel have a judgemental thought about how often as Church are we just gathering together and naval gazing, or pontificating in at Starbucks when we ought to be changing the world…

Someone near me was snoring. When you are desperatly longing to sleep, hearing someone snore creates in me all sorts of unhelpful jealousy.

By now I realise I am more or less trying to sleep in s puddle. Other people around me start whispering. Clearly they are waterlogged too.

Eventually realise that sleep isn’t going to happen, although I do wonder if maybe I might have had been asleep briefly as discover that one guy in the group has been really ill with a migraine. A few of us start getting up, Chris suggests that perhaps 5.00 is the new 6:00. I stand with my friend Lewis looking at the clock on the church tower waiting for it to strike 5.00.

Over the next hour of whispered conversations, people soggy and tired but all good honoured, begin to throw away sodden cardboard they’d been sleeping on, band pack their stuff down into their cars. Some people have busy days today, and I do wonder his they will cope on barely any sleep.

One lady tells me about chatting to a homeless person earlier who wanted to give her her tarpaulin, such a touching story reminiscent of the widows mite reminds me of stories of over seas missionaries who share about how people with nothing are often so incredibly generous, and we who have so much often can be a bit stingy.

Another guy got up absolutely soaked to the skin but amazingly cheerful, and spoke about how he had had a hip operation and had to dose himself ok with ibruprofin to do tonight. It often challenges me that as a moderately healthy 40 year old my discomfort was probably less than some who had chosen to come out, and something in me was deeply touched by this wonderful Christ like gents throw away comment. He also drove back to pick up his friend who had been unwell, again I was challenged that he could have legitimately gone home, but chose to stay out all night. It made me realise that sometimes the most heroic actions aren’t the dramatic posturing but costly sacrifices that are met with determination in a humble and often unnoticed way.

A couple of hours later I squelch into my house, trying unsuccessfully not to wake the dog… my body exhausted but my mind racing…

I reach for my iPad and think let’s write this all down…

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Straight talking Christanity Vs Polite Church.

Sometimes as Church we are all to neat and tidy, polite and ve don’t mention anything controversial, messy, offensive and are perfectly well mannered and inoffensive.

Church if it were a colour would be baige, and if it were a biscuit would be rich tea!

I worry that Church as institution makes “not rocking the boat” a vitue (although my spell check suggest virtue should be replaced by virus!) as is this idea of “keeping the show on the road”, again seen as a virtue -rather than asking “Is this ‘show’ roadworthy?”

Recently I read of a brave follower of Christ and church leader challenging his congregations sinful and unchristlike behaviour and is now on a forced sabbatical.

Yet do think that on occasions Churches need a rebuke and a challenge, one of the roles of a Church leader is a custodian of the culture and to call the Church to act as they should. This is clearly modelled by Jesus who rebuked his “right hand man” with “Get behind me Satan”, who called the monarch (Herod) a fox, and the powerful religious elite a “nest of vipers” and “white washed tombs” and drove the traders from the temple with force.

Paul’s “Pastoral Epistles’ are straight talking, uncomfortable reading and deeply challenging, and if sent out now would probably get some traditional church goers and odd bishop rather hot under the (dog) collar.

Yet, it might not be popular but the call and the footsteps of Christ has not been a call to ‘people please’, but to be a radically different community, a Church that should be a foretaste and outpost of heaven, but sometimes tragically resembles the other place!

I see nothing Christ-like in condoning and colluding with the bad behaviour that sadly exists within some Churches.

What our Churches, and as Christians, do/behave really matters.

We as Christians and the Church gathered locally are the shop window to the community around us. We are Christs ambassadors, he makes his appeal through us.

How we live can bring glory or shame to the name of Christ.

This brave man of God showed a more “light and salty” path, he could have turned a blind eye, not rocked the boat and gone through ministry motions, but no, he called behaviour that was “off side” off side (which sadly happens too often across too many Churches, and probably is responsible for repelling many seekers from Christ).

He should be commended not punished.

I have tragically seen and know many people who know and love Christ but because of their Church experience are no long in active fellowship.

I’m not advcating bullying or abusive behaviour, but I don’t thing there is anything Christlike about biting our tongue when we should be speaking up.

A wise friend who had been battered by some toxic church politics and stood up to them also said that he didn’t want sink to their level.

Sadly in the complex nature of human interaction hurt people end up hurting people, sin can and does become cyclical, cycles which need to be broken and new ways of living, loving and serving together needs to be found.

I had difficult parish in Kingswood, and some challenging relationships to manage. I am not naturally a lover of conflict, in fact I actively dislike conflict. Nor am I saying I always handled it as well as I could have. Yet in the words of Catherine Booth “to change the future you have to disturb the present”.

As Desmond Tutu said that “if you remain silent in the face of sin and justice, then you have sided with the oppressor”.

Jesus never sided with the oppressor, nor turned a blind eye to wrong doing and sinful behaviour.

Light drives back darkness and salt -killing bacteria- can sting, but we are called to be salt and light in our communities, a call to live different, being that “City without walls blazing with the glory of God” a “City on a hill that cannot be hidden”, being the hands a feet of Christ.

On one occasion dealing with one of our more difficult congregational members I was told “leave him he’s not worth it!” and that “people like him wont chsnge”.

Yet Jesus never said anyone wasnt worth it, even washing Judas feet.

The gospel says that even the most unlikely people seeped in sin can change, whether that is the sinfulness of spiteful and toxic church politics or rampant debuchary!

Sadly in one of our Churches in Kingswood my wife and little girl stopped going to one of the 5 Churches because it became the kind of environment we didn’t want our little girl exposed too.

Our Church leaders talk a lot about growth, but surely we need instead to talk about health, being a Christ like community.

Healthy things grow, unhealthy things die, we need to nurture communities that reflect and are full of the Holy Spirit embodying and replicatimg the DNA of Jesus.

A call to follow Jesus and turn from our sin is at the heart of gospel. If the people of our congregations, refuse to listen and respond to the call of Christ to be changed and transformed, then perhaps we need to knock the dust from our feet? Something painful, but actually biblical.

To deal openly, honestly and courageously to see us all become transformed into the likeness of Christ is at the heart of being a Christian. Iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another. Carrying one anothers burdens. Spuring one another on towards love and good deeds.

The call is to love, even to love those who persecute us, and sometimes it can really feel like persecution, and although love forgives and turns the other cheek, it calls us to the tougher and braver path, not of looking the other way or shrugging our shoulders and saying “that’s just how some people are” but bravely try and build a different community that acts different and is a beacon of hope both to those in the Church -another way is possible- and to those who don’t yet belong, to show them what a Christian community should be.

A Christian community reflecting Christ will need to be defended, Satan will attack it, but let’s not give up trying like Nehemiah in the face of the onslaught from Sabbalats and Tobiahs continuing to build (and rebuild) or the glory of God.

Yes, we will rebuke out of love, as we seek to see God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

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Jesus the Guest…

In the story of Zacchaeus and the story of Levi we see Jesus being the guest of sinners and outcasts.

In the case of Zacchaeus we read of Jesus inviting himself for tea, it was a provocative gesture -Zacchaeus could have spurned him, Jesus was making himself vulnerable and handing power to allow someone to serve him. Jesus asking to be invited into a culture and community that would never have invited Jesus in, because they would never believe he would want to come.

In the Jewish culture sharing fellowship and hospitality especially around food was one of the most intimate things you could do.

Just as the centurion, a gentile (Jews aren’t suppposed to associate with gentiles) said “I am not worthy to receive you” and yet Jesus was walking towards his home.

Jesus knows their unworthiness but he is coming anyway.
In fact, the whole story of the incarnation -God becoming one of us- is all about the divine becoming the guest of humanity. A guest who (for many) was unwelcome, rejected and brutally and violently murdered.

When we host an event we have all the power, but as a guest we are giving power to the other, it is a gesture of equality and reciprocity, meeting someone where they are at in their surroundings in the place that is comfortable and home to them.

The host became the guest of humanity.

Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a random for many.

Jesus last words were his followers to live like him, and when he sent out the 12 and then the 72 the call is to be a good guest -eat whatever is put before you!

Yet often as Christians we have traditionally been the power holders, operating on our home turf, welcome to join us but on our own terms and doing things our way.

The vulnerability of Jesus to come and sit and be in a culture and context that was alien to him for the sake if those alongside him to see them find hope, life, salvation and transformation.

I visited various community places and at times (especially during the brexit debate) often the conversation became really uncomfortable and painful at some of racist remarks that were made… it would have been easier to stay away, but the right thing to do was (despite my struggles and discomfort) to keep joining with these communities, and seek to be a voice gently but persistently telling a different story.

Perhaps the conversation at Levi or Zacheaus home caused Jesus discomfort, yet by bring their he made not only an impact but brought transformation. Perhaps if they’d gone to him they’d have been on their best behaviour and (at best) the change would have only been cosmetic, or perhaps just momentary -whilst they were with him.

Perhaps for us as Christians, and collectively as Church, to re-learn what it means to be a guest on the turf of someone else?

As I though about asking Allana to marry me, as we were visiting guests in each other’s lives, this was an offer for the visitor to become an inhabited, the guest invited to dwell, the guest become resident and to make their home with you.

A picture of Jesus, the guest, the guest who comes to us, a guest we can welcome or reject, a guest we can embrace or keep at arms length, a guest we can share our hearts and dreams with or one we can just make polite small talk with… yet a guest who will come not just for visitation but habitation.

A guest who loves us more than how ready or tidy our lives are, but comes into dwell despite previous rejections, despite the mess, brokenness and unreadiness that are with our lives.

And we are called to be like the perfect guest, called not just to invite but give up power and comfort, humble ourselves to become the guest often in places of discomfort and pain, to see transformation, hope and salvation come and visit them, and then from visitation to become habitation.

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The Scarcity Narrative.

I recently blogged asking the question where I our Christian lives (both individually and corporately) is there the extravagance of God made manifest through our outrageous acts of Kingdom generosity?

Today I want to think of the scarcity complex which I believe is epidemic within our culture and society.

We live in a such a frenetic and consumerist world that we feel we inadequate and I’ll equipped as we believe we never had enough to live the life we are called to and to truly be the Kingdom people we were intended to be.

There is not enough of us…

We can afford it…

I haven’t got time…

We haven’t the resources…

I haven’t got the experience…

The scarcity mindset runs on fear, it grinds us to a halt and causes paralysis.

The scarcity mindset wants a hero to come and make it all right for us all.

The problem primarily with this mindset it refuses to do what we can, where we are, with what we have got. God asks Moses “what do you have in your hand?” -A stick, clearly not enough, but with God it was more than abundantly enough!

The truth is we will never have enough or be ready and able with all we need, Jesus didn’t say to the fishermen come and follow when the time is right and everything is in order and you are ready to go.

The scarcity mindset would have binned the five loaves and two fish and sent the give thousand away hungry.

The scarcity mindset would have the widow keep her mite for a rainy day.

The scarcity mindset would see Gideon’s army running for the hills rather than running into battle.

The scarcity mindset would not be able to reverse the fall with coming as a vulnerable baby, born in poverty in a remote corner of an occupied and oppressed territory.

This mythical belief refuses be transformed by the hope of the Kingdom and the good news of Jesus Christ, as it is a defeatist, pessimistic and faithless worldview that refuses to acknowledge the power or the character of the almighty.
Scripture reminds us of God’s all sufficiency.

St. Paul says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me!”

The scarcity mindset causes us to cling on for control as it feels like we are looking everything, we think everything is running out and we panic, and as we panic we become more and more imprisoned by the stronghold of this deception.

Paradoxically the way out of the scarcity mindset is to learn peace and contentment in what we have and who we are -not giving Satan a foothold! Incredibly countercultural!

The scarcity mindset is rebuffed when we live in generosity and dwell not in our poverty but in thankfulness at God’s abundance (lessons we can learn from the two thirds world). Embracing Isaiah 61 living that swaps despair for joy.

The poverty deception has very little to do with the reality, often issues of time, money and energy is more to do with our perception than reality, pray that God shows us our lives with his eyes.

The greatest poverty I believe is not to do with where we have it rather with our hearts and our heads, do we have a poverty of faith and I imagination? Have we tended the fire with our hearts? Or have we allowed cynicism, jadedness and fear take mastery of our inner-most being?

Come back to the Saviour who gave it all for us, and ask him to banish from our souls the permissive paranoia that rugby tackles so many Christians and Churches and extinguishes the Kingdoms hopes and dreams that God has placed within each one of us.

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