call, cost, Isaiah 55., values, Worth

A Bizarre Burglary at the Jewellers.

I heard this story once (almost certainly made up) of a burglary at an expensive west-end jewellers, oddly nothing was taken, the only thing the intruders did was to swap the price tags around on everything, so no one knew what was worth what and they were able to legitimately buy great treasures for tiny prices.

Sometimes life feels a bit like this, as though everything’s values are just gone wrong and the worlds gone crazy!

Yet then sometimes I realise how much I am sucked into the world when I realise that the worlds warped and crazy values have become my values. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 12 with “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould” don’t fall for the lie that things can make you happy, or work is more important than your family, or that this promotion will leave you feeling satisfied, or if I can make people laugh and be popular I will be fulfilled…

There is a phrase “knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing”.

I once heard someone say “advertisers are false evangelists selling fake salvation” -this idea that happiness can be obtained by (whatever) and then when we buy the product it doesn’t bring the hoped for fulfilment.

J.John once said “we buy things we will never use, with money we haven’t got, to impress people we don’t like” doesn’t this sound like a world where our values need to be readjusted.

we can have everything, and actually have nothing.

we can have nothing, but yet actually have everything.

Here is some words of Isaiah that sound a bit like what I believe Jesus longs to say to me and too you (Is.55).

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?

we need to look at the world not with our distorted human lenses but with they eyes of Christ through faith. As I type this I am reminded of a kids worship song “Fix your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”.

Seeing things with Gods vision sets us free from the false values of a fallen world.

Scripture talks of the Christian building with Gold, Silver and Costly stones not with mud, straw and clay that get burned up in the dross, the problem is from this side of eternity it is the empty things that seem to shine the most brightly, but yet as we know often that which glistens is not always Gold.

Lets ask God to see the world with his values not our own limited and partial vision of an upside down world being turned the right way up for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

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Good Friday, love, Worth

The Indestructible £5

The new £5 is meant to be indestructible? Right? wrong!

I want my money back! I was reading an article about how someone hit a £5 with an axe and it still wouldn’t break.

I thought I’d do a clever talk around £5 being unbreakable, then I’d link to God’s love that didn’t break or tear away from us, even when Jesus was nailed to a cross, or sealed in a tomb.

Love so indestructible that Christ over-came death, hell, sin and everything that separates us from a relationship with God.

It even tied in with the song Meekness and Majesty as it has the line “Love indestructible in frailty appears” (why is it that when Easter comes so do all the old Graham Kendrick songs?).

Yet it took one 6 year old to ruin my talk!

An axe couldn’t split a £5 but a 6 year old could destroy it in seconds.

In fact my fiver got ripped in two (and no this isn’t a clever way into talking about the Temple Curtain ripping in two, from the top to the bottom symbolising that they way is now open to God!)

At the end of my talk the £5 was presented stuck back together with cellotape, and was told that the bank would swap it (not that the kid gave my £5 back!)

But this sort of illustrated my other £5 note talk, where I used to screw up some money, threaten to clean my ears out or blow my nose on it… but yet however broken or disfigured the note got it was still worth £5 for as long as the words “I promise to pay the barer the sum of of five founds” visible upon it. I normally go onto say that this is like us, no matter how battered we get, no matter how much we get screwed up or stuff is done to us, our value does not diminish at all in God’s eyes, he still sees us as precious and valuable, so precious that God sent Jesus to die for us.

God says you and I are worth dying for.

Reminded of a kids song… “I’m special because God has loved me for he gave the best thing that he had to save me, his own son Jesus, crucified to take the blame for all the bad things I have done, thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, for loving me so much I know I don’t deserve anything, help me feel your love right now, to knw deep within my heart that I’m your special friend”.

 

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priorities, values, Worth

Fools Gold.

On Friday I met up with my friends AJ and Chris, and we hung out for a couple of hours, consumed some saturated fats, shared and prayed together.

My friend Chris used a phrase “living from your guts” meaning living from your deepest convictions at the heart of who you are.

This is something I find hugely challenging (as well as incredibly inspiring) as it is really easy to say I am passionate about things, but living in such a way that my deep convictions are shown in my life is very different.

Chris has sat in the path of a tank whilst picketing and arms fayre, would I do that, or would I simply write a ‘strongly worded tweet’?!  -these things that make us feel like we are doing something, without actually doing anything, are dangerous for authentic discipleship that looks Christ-like.

Conversation moved to talking about discipleship, and saying about how we often listen to people because they appear successful, ministers of large Churches, and yet the challenge isn’t primarily for broad appeal, but rather depth of discipleship.

The Bible talks of building with Gold, Silver and Costly Stones, rather than with straw and hey which get burned up in the fire. The question behind this verse is asking if what we are investing so much of our lives in actually having any lasting or eternal value?

As we talked AJ or Chris talked about ‘fools gold’ -iron pyrites- it looks like gold but is worthless. Often sometimes we get so caught up with keeping the show on the road, delivering the product called Church, keeping everyone happy that we end up filling our treasurers in heaven with ‘fools Gold’.

It is very easy to build where Christ isn’t building, it is very easy to fill a diary rather than find ‘only doing what I see my Father doing”, “O let me see thy footprints  and in them plant my own, my hope to follow duly is in thy strength alone”.

Perhaps growing a large and comfortable Church, might look wonderful, but unless people are moving deeper in their relationship with Christ actually its fools gold.

It is easy to run around and keep everyone happy,  but unless people are changed and transformed by Christ -not just fobbed off and made to feel better- again its simply trying to build with fools Gold.

Or perhaps a Bible Study/Sermon filled with Greek and other pretentious knowledge which might sound truly wonderful, but if it has no results in making people more like Jesus then it is simply a waste of hot air, or fools Gold.

When we go along with everything anyone says and please people, although we may be a little bit popular, again we are chasing Fools Gold.

The World is full of “Good” ideas, but I want to do “God’s” ideas, Good is the enemy of great. Fools Gold might sparkle, but lets be discerning enough to see the fake Gold from the real thing.

“Good ideas might be good, but they will never be truly great, or truly fruitful”.

So lets build with Gold, real Gold, pure God and ignore the distracting sparkles of false God.

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Humility, identity, Pride, Servanthood., Worth

The unworthy servant of the most worthy God

got a letter through the post from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (as you do!) and I was struck by the writing around the crest of the Archbishop of York, which read “The unworthy servant of the most worthy God”…

This made me think.

Firstly I liked the humility of this, but then I began to feel a little uncomfortable.

When we see the worth and worthiness of Christ, we know that by comparison, “we are not worthy even to eat the crumbs from under his table”.

I think that too often we as Christians, and we as Church leaders, put up a veneer of being ‘sorted’, ‘holy’ and ‘righteous’, yet the truth is we all suffer and struggle with sin, all that happens -sometimes- as Christians is we get better at covering it up!

Our struggle with sin, is an on going an daily battle, not something we used to struggle with before becoming a Christian. Although this is never the message we actually say, sometimes it is the message we inadvertently give off.

We ALL sin, if in any doubt check out Paul’s struggles in Romans 7… We are all conflicted with the person we know we should be -and want to be- and who we actually are.

Ironically living up to peoples expectations of being sinless is more likely to push you into sin!

One thing I learned whilst working with drug addicts and alcoholics was that of leadership from a point of both brokenness and recovery, the councillors -former addicts themselves- were both messengers of hope and of struggle, beauty and brokenness. I love Henri Nowen’s description of Christian leadership as that of being a wounded healer.

I grew up in a Church that was very much focused on the cross, on sin, on the need for repentance and faith. Yet the problem with this form of Christianity was sometimes it didn’t feel like ‘good news’, it felt condemning, and the default setting placed the emphasis on my sin rather than on my Saviour.

Guilt, shame and unworthiness were part of my mind-set, which I thought was what God wanted me to feel, but verses like “there is now no condemnation in Christ” I struggled to personalise and allow to alter my own perception on myself.

Yet it was through the charismatic renewal movement that I really discovered that no only had the price been paid for my sin,  but that I -me-  was loved.

God saw me through the lenses of the cross and of his wonderful grace… God saw me as his beloved child, precious and valuable, my worth was extreme -that God himself would die for me.

This answered those real and deep questions of identity. A movement which talks a lot about our identity, about being anointed and empowered, about knowing the Father and his heart for us.

I stopped using words like unworthy, as although I know I am, I also don’t think it is helpful, I need more often to be reminded of grace, forgiveness and faithfulness, rather than living in a place of condemnation and almost self flagellation.

I think when we beat ourselves up, we say to ourselves that we are useless, we are failures and God can’t use us, the truth is that (although this is still true) grace speakers a louder and truer word that we can still be used despite our faults and failings, that no one is useless to a God who delights to work with his children.

Even at our worst and our most rebellious God’s love for us remains faithful and constant.

If I were redesigning the archbishops crest I would write “I maybe an unworthy servant, made worthy by the love omost worthy Lord Jesus Christ”.

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sacrifice, Worth

The Quest For The Beautiful Pearl… (An Old Message I found)

“There was a merchant who collected pearls, when he found one of such beauty he sold everything he owned to buy it.”
Jesus is the pearl of great price.
I think the awesomeness of who Christ is and what he has done is best described in the final verse of that great hymn, “when I survey the wonderful cross” which ends with the beautiful lines…
“We the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small,
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul my life my all!”
Coming back from holiday today has made me think about how we view things, do I have a ‘work’ head on or a ‘holiday head’ on?
Which made me think about how we/I view the world.
Work life balance is a bit of an oxymoron, as if your not alive you aren’t working!
Just like the spiritual and secular divide, surely everything is spiritual as the Holy Spirit is everywhere and always at work within his world.
I do think sometimes we have too lower view of work, when I have not been working it has been really tough, I think as human beings we need to work, not just to pay the bills, but as part of being human, we need to DO something, we are at our most alive when doing what we love and are good at, which I believe brings the Father joy. One of the early Church fathers Ireasmus described ‘the glory of God is a human being fully alive’.
In the care industry we think of holistic care, looking after the whole person. A compartmentalised life isn’t biblical as God incarnate lived his whole life for the glory of the father.
Jesus Christ cares about every area of our lives, not just the ‘Sunday best’ bit.
Too often we make following Jesus all about propping up the institution of the Church rather that allowing the Spirit of God to work in and through every area of our lives.
What has Jesus got to say about how we are faithful to our marriage covenants (those of us who are married), or how we bring up our children, or the faithful way we care for elderly relatives, or (as I rediscovered whilst off sick) the importance of just being a good friend.
I have been massively challenged about the quote which says “don’t worry about failing worry more about succeeding at things that don’t matter”.
It made me ask, are my priorities the same as Gods priorities for my life, am I being unfaithful to some callings, vocations and commitments  because I am wrongly prioritising others. As Shane Claiborne once said “is my dream the same as he dream of God”.
Is Jesus lord of all, or just the bits that show?
Is my commitment to Christ have my vocation head on, to be forgotten when ‘real’ life kicks in, I want my faith to be more than my hobby.
Take a moment and think of your life, your callings and commitments, your character gifts and opportunities, and invite Christ to come in and surrender all to him, giving him access all areas.
Then take a moment and think is there any areas of my life which are a bit ballooned out of proportion, or others which matter to God which I have neglected and need to put right with his help.
Come Lord Jesus, and take your place.
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identity, Significance, Worth

Significance taken from a sermon by Linda Jenner.

Today we had a great sermon from Linda Jenner…

It made me think that too often we think of people as defined by one gift, such as leading worship, but God has more in each of us than the one gift…

here are my notes from her talk.

We are significant!

We are… but we don’t always feel it!
Significance… “The quality of being worthy of attention and importance” (dictionary).
Genesis reminds us we were created in Gods image…and looked at with divine approval (proclaimed GOOD or even VERY GOOD).
We are all different… All of us reflected a uniqueness of Gods character…
Yet although we ought to get our significance from who we are in God, where do we actually get our significant?
What do we actually allow to shape us? Our identity and how we think about ourselves?
Our significance isn’t based on our levels of productivity, or achievements or knowledge.
Even as children we are used very quickly gaining significance by either reward or punishment rather than simply being who we are.
Things shape us which aren’t from God, “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold”…
Instead be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
Can we learn a new way of being and of thinking, where we gain our significance from who God is?
Scripture urges us to take captive every thought.
The problem is we often let the negative thoughts about us fester and take root…
Let is instead combating lies with truth, for example, when we feel worthless we combat with the truth that God loves us with an everlasting love.
Sometimes as we encounter more challenging times, we can see God challenging us, shaping us, refining us…
Do we really believe that “I am fully accepted before I’ve done anything”.
Even when we get it wrong, God still loves, his love doesn’t diminish when we fail and fall and sin.
Love came first, love came before sin ever existed.
Love is greater than our sin, for “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
When we look at ourselves we often look at what we aren’t rather than what we are…
These things don’t reduce our worth or value.
Christ demonstrates his love for us, that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us
The truth is we will never be perfect. Yet my grace is sufficient for you, boasting in our weakness.
Being transformed into the likenesses Jesus.
“there are no ordinary people, you have never met a mere mortal” CS Lewis.
Sometimes we are the least kind person, to ourselves.
We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, but the truth is it cuts both ways.
As the Father has loved me, so I love you… we are loved with the same love the Father has for Jesus.
When we feel unwanted, let’s look at Psalm 139, God want us and loves us.
Let the truth set us free.
God has created all of us unique and has gifted each of us. “Now to each one” (not just the few)…
We are not useless… We all have gifts, skills and ability, and God wants to work with us, God is an inclusive God, not just the few celebrities with ‘super gifted’.
Let’s give ourselves to the potters hands, it’s his work shaping and molding us…
It’s not about us and out achievement, it is about coming before God and recieving from him, our hands our empty but he’s generous.
I don’t always feel significent, but feelings are not facts.
You are significant.
You are loved.
Who knows what God can and will do through us.
We are precious.
He has a plan and a purpose.
Let’s not put up a limitation wall, let’s see God take those false walls down.
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Evangelism, Listening, love, Mission, Testimony, Worth

Three Stories Entwined…

God’s Mission is all about stories, his story and our story (or testimony if you like Churchy speak) join together, the events of the cross, empty tomb and the upper room of Pentecost 2000 years directly affecting our real and everyday lives today, now.

We are all called to be witnesses and to testify to what we have seen and heard.

The Bible really values the importance of Testimony, it says in the book of Revelation “they overcame by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”.

Our story meets God’s story in a beautiful harmonious melody, as the two stories blend together, the stories playing (more or less) as the creator/composer intended.

And yet today I want to talk about mission and evangelism (I know I do keep on talking about it), often people ask me what I think makes a good evangelist, and when I give my answer they look at me like I’m a bit mad (and they’re probably right!)… My answer is simply “Listen. No, really Listen, hear their story”.

We are often so keen to talk about how our story and God’s story joined up, that we don’t ever listen to other people, we don’t ask their stories.

Yet when we don’t listen to them, we do God a disservice, because I believe God will have been at work in the lives of all we speak to (although his fingerprints may have been unnoticed)… Part of listening is enabling them to see the hand of God in their lives, to see him gently tap on their hearts drawing them to himself.

Listening also conveys love and value. One of the most beautiful and powerful things we can do for another human being is to listen to them, I mean REALLY listen to them.

Also, as we listen to their stories, then in mutual exchange of relationship there will come an opportunity to naturally share our story.

We so often what to push our stories down peoples’ throats and not listen to them, or we listen long enough to think of a pithy comeback but not at any real depth, we forget Peter’s approach to faith sharing “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that you have, but do so with Gentleness and respect”… yet part of gentleness and respect is getting to know people, building relationships, loving them even if they don’t want (at this time) to hear your story and listening to them.

Also, as we listen we hear more clearly, as we listen that should change us, change what we say, alter us by the encounter and so then more patient fruit is more likely to be fruit that will last than seeds that fall on the path (don’t take root).

Yet as we listen to someone else, we also, by God’s grace and mighty paradox, find that we are hearing God speak to us.

Street Pastors talk of double listening, listen to what is going on (both what people say, and what the community is saying, the listening that happens with your eyes) and listening to the still small voice, the Holy whisper of God’s Holy Spirit.

So, mission I believe is about hearing and telling stories, listening and interacting in God’s stories, listening and interacting in the stories of those around us, and celebrating the ultimate concerto seeing not only our story combined with God’s story, but also the stories of those around us join in with both our story and the story of God, part of the  local melody of the chorus of God in his Church.

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