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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Carrying burdens, Discipleship, Journey, Spiritual Health

Heavy Laden or Travelling Light.

 

On Sunday I had an over-loaded car with some stuff for the homeless from Hanham, a whole load of stuff form Soul Café and some other stuff I probably should have taken out the car after our holiday.

It made me think about what we travel with, some of us travel pretty heavily laden.

It reminded me of what I was younger and single how I could travel pretty light with just a couple of things thrown over my shoulder in a ruc-sac, but when I was married with a child the bags just accumulated.

I began to think about perhaps we carry stuff we don’t need, not just physically we become so dependent on stuff, but emotionally and spiritually.

When Jesus said “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will refresh you” he’s actually understanding something profound about human nature.

Some of us find it harder to travel light, used to travel light but as time has gone on we have lost that gift and now the world weighs heavily on our shoulders, but do we really need to carry all that we carry?

Are our burdens our own or should we be sharing them with one another?

Often I think our burdens that weigh heaviest on us, probably should be share with others, I wonder sometimes whether we are shouldering too much responsibility because others aren’t shouldering theirs?

Perhaps, we need to learn a new of doing life together, which prays, loves, encourages, supports and empowers each other, this is what I believe Church should be like, each being who they were created to be, but doing so in community that compliments each other.

Scripture calls us to “carry one another’s burdens” but the problem is too often we don’t because we feel “we have enough burdens of our own”, or perhaps we take on everyone else’s burdens, but don’t allow anyone to help us with ours. Sometimes it takes great courage to allow someone else to bless us and to carry our burdens with us, sometimes it takes more strength to be “be served” than to serve.

Sometimes we are carrying things which Christ is calling us to lay down, particularly those ‘roots of bitterness’, resentments, unresolved conflicts and grievances we have. I know for me personally, I have laid these down in prayer only to pick them back up again moments later. The prophet Micah talks of hurling these iniquities into the depth of the Ocean, and I think a wise addition would write ‘no fishing’. The problem with these burdens they are like scabs, they bleed easily, it doesn’t take much for them hurt again, and so we find ourselves laid low under the burden of them.

Satan, wants us burdened, laid-low without the energy or capacity to take on what God is calling us to do, he will keep an old burden weighing upon us until we take that active and on-going choice to not just let Christ set us free, but to walk onwards with him in freedom.

“Those whom the Son sets free are free indeed” is a truth, but freedom is something on going, let to our own devices we will soon become entangled again, or possibly re-tangled again. Walking free is a choice, we need God’s help to be free and stay free, but also need the help of our community to stay free.

Yet too often our burdens are often kept hidden like dirty secrets, the power of shame often makes our burdens heavier, especially as Christians we feel we should think or struggle with some of our burdens

Yet inviting Christ into our shame brings liberation, and inviting trusted brothers and sisters into strengthens community but grounding it in authenticity.

Bringing things into the light literally lightens the burdens upon our shoulders.

Sometimes our baggage can come expectations that other people place on us, sometimes these are completely unreasonable, my friend Kevin Lewis wrote a poem called “I am the Vicar I am” which joked about all the expectations people place on clergies shoulders, although more obvious with the clergy, we all live with other peoples unreasonable expectations on us, perhaps also we place these on ourselves, perhaps too people have long gone their expectations still weigh heavily -perhaps parents, perhaps teachers, perhaps someone we once looked up to… Yet are these expectations from God? The one whose “burden is light and his Yoke is easy” -not saying they are of no weight but a crippling or crushing  weight. Is what we are carrying life giving -life in all its fullness/abundance- or life draining?

So, as we start 2017, perhaps there are things that need to be left at the foot of the cross, and left in 2016, expectations, shame, pains and bitterness, leave them there and not to return to them.

Invite God to take the baggage and burdens from your shoulders that he never meant for you to carry.

Invite others to share your journey, trust others to help you carry your burdens as you help carry theirs.

As we start 2017, allow God to free us, refresh and renew us, taking off those burdens that are not of him, so our hands are able to take on all that he has for us in 2017, ready and able to serve, match fit and ready to go.

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Church, Discipleship, Kingdom

Church is not meant to be safe…

Yesterday at All Souls Southey Park we had a awesome sermon by our friend Rev. Jackie Davies, who spoke about the danger of Churches becoming an enclosed sheep pen, church is safe and it never was meant to be safe…

A call to be fruitful, a call to go where God is calling us to go, a reminder we might be the only christian who comes into contact with many of our friends, neighbours and colleagues, possibly we might be the only person praying for them.

Yet she went onto say how we so often are caught up in so much stuff that binds us up, what Mark Rich used to call maximum weariness for minimum fruitfulness, both echoed that verse of “I only do what I see my father in heaven doing”, are we kept from fruitfulness because we are doing things that God isn’t asking us to do but we feel we ought to be doing whether through misplaced duty, guilt, need to be needed (or whatever)… I remember praying at the end of the meeting that God would set people free and used the phrase “let it go” -sounding like the princess from frozen! Yet, maybe we are being called, for such a time as thing, to lay down the good in order to pick up the great.

Maybe God is wanting to rescue us from those situations which aren’t going to move (or at least move yet) and wanting us to be free a thrive where he had called us?

Alongside this was challenged once again at Wildfire about being where God has placed us, the call is to build the Kingdom not prop up an churchy shaped institution, reminded that 37 out of the 39 miracles in scripture happened not in the temple, but on the streets where ordinary life happened.

A challenge that we often big up difficulties of the situation where God has placed us, whether it is out Church, home or work place rather than bigging up the size of the God we serve.

And lastly at wildfire there was some pregnancy images, always get worried about pregnancy images in Churches as know how raw these can be when people are going through the difficulties of life, but the idea that new things, new dreams, new stuff was ‘coming to birth’ was an exciting one.

Where has God placed you?
What is he calling you to do? Is there stuff he is calling you to lay down, in order to pick up something better?
Are we placing our faith in the toughness of our situation or the power of God to break through?
Do we believe we can be fruitful?
What is the new thing God might be bringing to birth through you?

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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.

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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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