Discipleship, Godliness, Spiritual Health

Gorging at the Table.

At the prayer room we have had some exciting words for the city come out this week, one word we had was “my people starve for lack of knowledge” which seems a crazy prophetic word as Christians have books galore, blogs, conferences, sermons and messages online but the problem is that we are just “gorging at the table” the Church in the West is spiritual Obese, the call is to turn the spiritual food we have in so much abundance into fuel.

Over-feeding causes us to become lethargic, often we see people who are wonderful “arm chair generals” they know it all, they can quote everyone from Kris Vallaton to Pope Francis and scatter their language with biblical quotations like linguistic croutons  and yet the problem is that we just feast and feast.

God calling us I believe not just to gorge at the table, but to turn our food in to fuel.

To dream again, and then get out bed and live it out.

“Awake O sleeper and rise from your slumbers”.

The phrase dream again, kept on coming to us in the prayer room, maybe we are lapping up other peoples’ dreams but they don’t satisfy because they are not Gods vision for us ourselves.

 A great quote that my friend Rev. Jackie Davies heard was that for too long the Church has been “waiting on a move of God” where Christ is saying “I am calling you to be the move of God”. It is that paradigm shift of moving from waiting to being.

Ghandi issued the challenge to “be the change you want to see”.

I was having a coffee with my friend Harry the other day and he said “we don’t need another course, Christians know what they should be doing, the issue is them actually doing it”.

The problem too, is our teachers are great at delivering sermons, I’ve delivered a few in my time too, but does our inspiring sermons lead to our changed lives and to other peoples changed lives, is the problem the lack of teaching or rather the problem of discipleship -actually doing it!

We were reminded too, of Lyn Green, who I believe is actually the Baptist “archbishop” who talked of 2016 being a year of “beacons of prayer”, and now 2017 being “beacons of hope” where people move from praying in their closets in their private space, to proclaiming in the public space, prayer is the fire that drives the engine.

God has given us all we need for life and Godliness, we already have the tools we need for mission and transformation, often snacking at the table, is delaying tactics -unable to speak because we are too busy chewing- keeping us from doing what we are actually called to do.

We probably know the stuff, and although teaching is good and important, the Christian faith isn’t just to feed our own heads but rather to transform this world for Christ.

So, let’s see 2017 being a year of the Church getting in shape, getting to be match fit, putting what we know into practice, letting our food become our fuel, as we leave the comfort of our nice warm cosy churches and living rooms, and return to the frontlines God has called us on.

Lunchtime is over, it’s now time to get to work.

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Discipleship, Godliness, Mission Shaped Church, paradigm shift, perspectives, Spiritual Health

Paradigm Shift.

Its a phrase that I read everywhere, and I used to think it was just one of those pretentious words that get glued onto new things by people wanting to sound intelligent, that was until I looked up what it meant!

Here is a definition: “A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumption”, in Phil Potters excellent ‘Pioneering a new future’ he talks of this ‘Paradigm Shift’ being like a swimmer being given a snorkel and goggles, -the swimmer sees the sea, the shore, the boat and the sky- but the snorkeler sees all that is under the ocean, their location is the same but the view is entirely different.

Vision is fundamental to what we do, “where there is no Vision the people perish”, yet the question actually is whose vision are we following, ours or Christ’s?

Do see where he is leading for the next step, often a step of faith and always a step out of out comfort zone and security.

In the Gospels Jesus heals a blind man who recovers his sight in two stages, the first his vision is unclear, before being restored completely.

It is easy to imagine this guy being pleased at having partial vision restored, yet Jesus plan was to completely open his eyes.

I believe that this miraculous story can also be a parable to the modern day Church, sadly we can become spiritually blind when we take our eyes off Christ, yet Christ wants to restore our vision but we often settle for seeing less than Christ wants us to see.

We need our vision transformed by Jesus, not just partially healed.

Wondering too if sometimes our expectations, experiences, history, disappointments and our egos  blurs our vision.

To see things with Christ’s eyes, see things as Christ sees them, ought to be the ambition of us all who follow Jesus, he saw not things as they were but as they could be.

Seeing God’s plan, his new way rather than simply second hand revelation and conventional wisdom, doing what we have always done. David saw God’s vision for defeating Goliath with a sling shot rather than the bulky over-sized armour of King Saul.

Yet to many of us are trying to fight a Goliath shaped battle in debilitating Armour from a past generation, rather than asking if this is something he is still calling us to do?

Often our vision is smaller and more timid that I believe God wants to give us rather the vision his vision is huge and audacious, as if it a small vision achievable with our own resources where is the need for faith? Faith John Wimber reminded us is “spelled R-I-S-K”.

Yet revelation and vision from Christ is scary, it shakes the status quo, it pushes boundaries, defies expectations and stretches and strengths our faith and often means us laying down and surrendering our preferences and understandings. “If we always do what we have always done, we will get what we always have”…

I believe God is saying “I have seen your vision, now do you want to see my vision?”

God says “Behold I am doing a new thing” and yet too often we are munching on yesterdays stale manna.

I am a fan of the recent Church of England’s Report “Mission Shaped Church” but realise we have tried to turn this around to Church Shaped Mission, lowering the challenge and moving the goal posts closer to a more comfortable and achievable game.

We forget that God’s plan is bigger than simply his Church and our programmes and ideas within that, rather God’s plan is for the whole world. Rowan Williams famously said “It is not the Church who has the mission of God, but rather the Missionary God who has the Church”.

God can’t be placed in a box, the curtain ripped from top to bottom proves that the Spirit of God is uncontainable.

So, let us pray as we begin 2017, to expect the unexpected, to think big and look at the world with God’s eyes, through the eyes of Christ, praying for new and restored vision for us both as individuals and corporately as Church. Looking with bold eyes, not for a small God stuffed into a box of our expectations and understanding, but rather with to see “what God is doing in world and joining” remembering that our God exceeds our wildest imagination and can “do more than we ask or think”.

Let us see things with the fresh eyes of faith.

 

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Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, New Year, Spiritual Health, vocation

I get knocked down…

Last night we went out to a friend’s house who played something of a nostalgic playlist. One song that came on was Chuwumba’s “Tubthumping” with the refrain of “I get knocked down, but I get up again ‘cos nothing’s going to keep me down”.

As I chewed this over, whilst busting some stylish moves on the dance-floor, I was stuck by the profundity of this lyric as a new year anthem (although the original song is about getting wasted!).

Sadly 2017 probably will knock us down at some-point, there will be disappointments, pain, challenges and difficulties; the Bible puts it well “just as sparks fly upwards are people born to trouble” -yet often it is not what is thrown at us that is the issue but rather our response to it, how we deal with it, that will define 2017.

Do we let disappointments floor us?

Do we let pain take us out of the game?

Do we let challenges cause us to give up or give in?

Do we let difficulties cause us to descend into sin?

The Youth Worker, Mike Pilivachi, described “perseverance as a missing gift for today’s Church”, as too often we get knocked down but the problem is getting back up again isn’t something any of us find easy.

The Apostle Paul says in his letter to the Galatian Church “Do not grow weary in doing good for at the right time you will reap a (great) reward if you do not give up”.

There is a great verse in the minor prophets that says “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:8.

The question is simple “Where is God calling us in 2017” are we going to be faithful to that call, are we going to keep pursuing that call, despite the obstacles, challenges and difficulties?

I often feel like the New Year can feel like being the wrong end of the pitch with a rugby ball, and the whistle blows and we must run the length of the pitch with some hefty players trying to take you out of the game… Certainly this I think is the idea that the author of the book of Hebrews had when   talked in Chapter 12…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

Not a bad message to start the new year with.

My favourite story about being down but not out comes at the end of John’s Gospel when Simon-Peter thinks he is completely out of the game, he had run away, he had denied Jesus three times, and had returned to his life before meeting Jesus back at the fishing boat. Yet it was here in when Simon-Peter was down and at his lowest, this place of ‘back to square one’, that Jesus met him, and asked him the most important question of all time “Jesus: ‘Do you love me?’” reinstated him and gave him a new commission.

Simon-Peter had fallen big time, but he was raised back up by Christ is spectacular style.

The place of failure became the place of commission (or re-commission).

Whatever 2017 held for you, consider this to be a new start, a fresh page, a new beginning; perhaps you need to hear Christ asking you afresh the most important question “Do you love me?” -and lifting you from the ashes to your feet, brushing you off and saying “we’ve got work to do, want to join me?”

So, let 2017 be a year of getting ups, even if it is a year of knocks, a year of restorations even if it is a year of failing, a year of returns even if it is a year of disappointments.

Being knocked down is not fatal, but giving up makes it so.

Getting knocked down may be a tragedy, but getting back up is a victory.

Everytime we get back on our feet it is a victory for the Kingdom of God, as we say to Satan, I may get knocked down but I will rise back up again and I will continue what God has started within me.

Let 2017 be a year of victory, of keeping going, of perseverance against the odds, a year of the advancement of the Kingdom of God for the glory of Christ.

 

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community of grace, Godliness, inclusion, Journey, Luke 15, Romans 7, welcome

Not good enough for Jesus?

This isn’t what I was planning on writing about today, was planning to look at another one of Paul’s fantastic prayers, but this has been something birthing in me for a while…

And will probably get some people defriending me on facebook!

I believe that we called as Church to be a welcoming and loving community that points people to Jesus and says “Wow let’s follow him, can you help me? can I help you?” -(whilst praying together that God himself will help us).

All the way through the bible we see people with broken and messy lives flocking TO Jesus and yet 2000 years later these same people are running FROM Christ’s Church.

In his book ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace” Philip Yancey tell a story of someone whose really messed up, and when asked about getting help from the church her response was “I feel bad enough already, they’ll just make me feel worse”.

Someone yesterday told me a story of someone saying to her, “You are a Christian you must hate me because I am gay”, -makes you want to cry doesn’t it? We shouldn’t be hating anyone, and so sad that any group feels hated by the Church, when Jesus’ message is one of love.

I’ve been asked ‘can I come to Church even if I don’t agree with you on everything?’

The answer is “YES!” Of course, you are most welcome, in fact I might not be right on everything! Rather you came, thought, prayed and wrestled with scripture about what I say than just blindly accept it.

Ive traditionally thought of being a Church which calls people to belong, believe and then behave, but people don’t always live how we think they should even when they are Christians, in fact I’m a Christian and I don’t always live as I should.

Often we talk of “before I was saved I… ” Yet I don’t know about you, the things that tempted me before I was saved can still tempt me now!

Even as a Christian I can echo St. Paul who says in Romans 7, “the good I want to do I don’t do, and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do” -the apostle Paul knew he wasn’t in some state of sinless perfection.

It seems sometimes we try pretend to the world that we are Christians that don’t struggle, aren’t broken, never tempted, don’t get confused (especially not about theology).

Seeming to want to project an image to the world of perfect toothed sortedness, yet the bible shows us God has broken people who screw it up, doubt, chicken out and get it wrong.

As Christians (especially those of us in leadership) I believe we need to model being “wounded healers”, people who are changed and transformed by being in Christ, and yet still human, still people in need of Gods grace, love and forgiveness.

I want a church that’s authentic.

I want to be real about my struggles, doubts, baggage, bruises and the sin that so easily entangles.

The problem is we often think if people don’t agree with me, they can’t be proper Christians.

Or perhaps they are doing things we don’t like…

Because I am pro ordination of women to all three dimensions of ministry (Deacons, Presbyters and Bishops) and therefore interpret some verses in Timothy different from other Christians somehow I’m not legit.

Because I believe Spiritual Gifts are for today, I’m not some-kind of pseudo-evanjellyfish-.

Others may ask questions around marriage, but that surely doesn’t make them not Christians it just means they have different opinions.

They might be wrong (I might be wrong)…

I was asked on Made in Bristol what I’d do if a gay person came into Church and I said something like “introduce myself and make them a coffee, which Is exactly what I’d do if a straight person came in too”.

I was reminded of a quote again by Philip Yancey that sometimes “it is easy to find sex on the streets than a hug in a Christian Church”!

The more I have thought about it, I have thought about the story of the kids coming to Jesus and the disciples trying to turn them away, I don’t want to turn anyone away who comes seeking Christ.

When I start become the doorkeeper and bouncer I need to remember the story or the Pharisee and the tax collector, when the Pharisee told God how good he was, and the tax collector just said “God have mercy on me a sinner”…

I do not want to be like the older brother in Luke 15, grumbling at the Father for his grace and loving kindness.

Or Jonah moaning about God not destroying the wicked people in Nineva…

The most repeated phrase in modern translations of the New Testament is “God opposes the proud but lifts the humble”.

The Bible keeps on confronting our stereotypes with God showing up to those the people of the day didn’t think God should be interested in, but he was.

Perhaps this is a time, to be honest with ourselves, realize we too are broken and sinful people, we aren’t good enough for Jesus, but he loves us anyway.

Let’s not be older brothers as in the story of Luke 15, but graciously love extravagantly and keep on pointing people to Jesus without judgement and finger pointing.

Now don’t get me wrong, holiness really matters, but as Billy Graham once said, “It’s the holy spirits job to convict, my job to love” -the problem is we sometimes try and do God’s job for him!

A friend talked of his Church being a “Community of Grace”.

At my licencing in Kingswood, the Archdeacon preached from the passage where the Greeks said “we want to see Jesus”, perhaps mission is making it as easy as possible for people to meet with Jesus, and what I have noticed when people meet with Jesus that encounter is normally transformative!

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