Discipleship

Christians On A Bungee Rope.

I remember as a youth worker going to an event which had a ‘bungee run’ where people were attached to this strong elasticated rope and the had to run as fast and as far as they can before the bungee kicked in and pulled them back to the start.

As I watched the kids having a great time on this, it made me think about my own spiritual journey, about how sometimes I left like a ‘bungee-rope-Christian’ whereby I’d be going reasonably well, making progress and then suddenly “Whooaa!” back to square one, down and out the game, left in a bundle on the ground, sat unceremoniously on my butt!

I don’t know about you, but does this sound familiar?

There are some sins, weakness and areas of brokenness that keep on catching us and we end up falling into sin and ending up flat on our faces.

What is your bungee rope?

What is it that will pull you back to your old way of life? What is the sin that so easily entangles?

What is our Achilles’ heel in our walk with God?

Perhaps it is our pride? Our inability to admit we are wrong? Our ability to heed wise council? Or misplaced trust in our own abilities? (Ego, could be an acronym for Edging God Out).

Maybe it is some unresolved personal stuff?

Maybe it is those reliably landmines of money sex and power?

Maybe it is relational, some people just manage to bring out the worst in us, push our buttons, and we end up feeling like we’ve bungeed ourselves back to a crumpled heap on the flood?

I have had times in my Christian life, especially as a teenager and in my early 20’s, I used to feel like my spiritual life was a flourish and fail cycle, a continued and some-what depressing “hamster wheel” of sin, confession absolution only to sin again.

On one level, this is normal, we need to keep short accounts with God, we need to be continually reminded of our reliance and dependence on God, and to keep us mindful of our need of him.

Just because we are a Christian we are not immune to temptation, I often say that once someone has prayed a prayer of commitment that is often when the work starts rather than finishes, in fact once we pledge our allegiance to Christ we become more of a target for spiritual attack. The problem is we forget that we have a real enemy, and wrongly think our Christian life should be a walk in the park rather than a battle.

Having said all this we need to remember that we are “more than conquerors through Christ”, he is delivered us from the powers and dominion of darkness and those who the “Son sets free shall be free indeed”.

When we read the apostle Paul in Romans 7, we see that he sees himself as a ‘sin addict’, a ‘slave to sin’ –“the good I do I don’t do, and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do”, something that resonated with me whilst I did a placement at theological college at the Priory Clinic, the drug and alcohol rehab centre.  I discovered that addicts remain addicts all their lives, but yet many go on to live lives in active recovery.

Despite at times feeling like we are on the bungee rope, we need to remember that despite our current circumstances and how things may feel, we need to remember that that “sin does not have the final word over us” nor does sin have the final world over the world. The “it is finished” victory of Jesus changes everything.

Sin can be overcome, “he that is in us is greater than he that is in the world”, in Christ we are more than sin victims, bungee ropes can be broken, people can live lives of freedom and recovery, leapods can and do change their spots, Jesus not only changes lives but changes us too.

Often this is gradual and life-long discipleship shaping, sometimes we experience dramatic change other times we discover that God sneaks up on us and heals and restores us by inches, a little bit over a period of time so that although we don’t notice it, others notice the change in us.

Often this is not just a spiritual thing, but something practical too, we need to bring things into the light with other Christians, we need to help, support and be accountable to each other, supporting each other, ‘carrying one another’s burdens’, ‘iron sharpening iron as one person sharpens another’.

Like the addict in recovery, we need to remember where we come from and being diligent about not slipping back there, not playing fast and loose with sin, not placing ourselves in this those positions of vulnerability where we may get embroiled again in old, familiar and enticing sins and weaknesses.

 So, this 2017, let us be people who discover afresh what it means to be truly free in Christ.

Let us know that we can be free of those things that pull us back, often not easily, rarely a quick fix, and frequently an on-going battle, but with Christ a new and brighter future is ahead of us.

And what if you are reading this having been ‘pinged’ to the floor, sometimes getting up and running again is in itself an act of faith in Christ and an act of defiance towards the powers and principalities of darkness.

So, let 2017 be full of victories in our lives, and life lived in new freedom found in living for Christ in active recovery from our addiction to sin.

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prayer, presence, Spirituality, Worship

The Power of Presence…

I have recently been thinking a lot about worship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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