Church, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, prayer, Worship

The Kings Arms.

On Wednesday night we did something different with our on going project “Pints Of View” where we make ourselves available to chat to anyone who wants to chat in our community by sitting in Weatherspoon’s wearing a clerical collar!

We went along to the Kings Arms, pub next door to Trinity, and borrowed one of their rooms and myself and another guy prayed and worshipped for a bit (we did invite a whole load of other folk, but it was just the two of us who came).

Part of me felt why didn’t I just meet next door and pray and worship there, surely God doesn’t mind where we pray anyway? -And worshipping, especially singing, makes me feels a vulnerable and self conscious, especially when there are only two of you there!

Eminem’s lyrics rang out in the bar and a few “F&*$#!” rang out from the loosing team at pool, whilst we prayed and sung out prayers for Gods love to be made manifest in that place…

Wes lead us in an old worship song “Hallejuah my Saviour” which featured the lines “knowing we would bruise him and strike him from the earth”  -for some reason the image caused a lump in my throat. I then though of some of the guys they all have something in front of their name “Vicar Andy”, “Beardy Mike”, “Sleepy Al”, “Dancing Paul” and “bruised Christ” seemed to resonate yet in a way, being in the midst of real lie for many people, this felt more Jesus-like that hidden away on our own in some great religious building,

Humanly speaking prayer and worship don’t seem like very worthwhile or productive activities yet seen from heavens perspective they are crucial.

I have said many times about how all great moves of God are birthed in prayer, and it is true, in fact the Hebradean revival as literally a small group of elderly ladies praying. We all know this and yet trying to motivate the Church to pray has been incredibly difficult. Interestingly prayer before our services is the last job we do after set up is done and often people say “I can’t join you in prayer as I’m doing…” I know set up in important but is shows our hearts that often prayer is not as central to our lives together as it should be.

I have been challenged many times, and I still get caught with this, that I run around like a headless chicken and probably need to spend more times simply on my face before God.

We prayed for our area, we prayed for the city, we prayed for more of God in our own lives,

Before wandering over to Weatherspoon’s, and we had we were joined by a friend Phil, and we had a nice chat… We didn’t see mass revival, but I think God was doing something, and I think he saw our hearts and I believe this small step of faith pleased him, yet I think that the next step of faith is about ensuring that this happens next week, and the week after, something of Jacob wrestling with God “we’re not going till you bless us”…

This is a intentional seeking of Christ’s face, rather than going through the tick box of a prayer meeting often attended out of a sense of duty but limited expectation…

I believe, that as we seek Christ, out of our comfort zone, in the heart of the community, offering ourselves and making ourselves available, we will see him becoming more and more known in Kingswood.

And  as I think about my time in Kingswood, perhaps I have spent too long in the rock soil of religious people who don’t always realise their need of a Saviour… Perhaps to find good soil we need to be here the F words are flowing, Eminem is playing on the Duke Box, people don’t try to looked suited and respectable and often are very often about their pain and the mess of their lives.

Jesus said those who are well don’t need a Doctor, but only those who are sick, yet we spend our time pandering to “healthy” people in our Churches dealing with their coughs and sneezes whilst out from our Church walls there is horrific epidemics breaking out.

It sounds harsh, but I wonder if for to long I pandered to the spiritual hypochondriacs rather than going on an aid mission to they dying, setting up field hospitals and outposts and seeking to bring the healing, transforming, hope-filled love the Saviour to the streets.

I mused the words of Eminem in contrast to our worship songs, one told of anger, hurt, loneliness and rejection the other of hope, love and acceptance.

I remember a quote which said “to change the world you need to tell a better story” and felt that in one sense this is what we are doing, being a prayerful presence, living out and showing a different and better story than the rant of Eminem with the love of God who stoops down to reach us from gutter.

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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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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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