Lone Rangers to Power Rangers…thinking about spiritual gifts.

It’s common today, especially within charismatic churches, to point out how young children instinctively view themselves as superheroes or princesses in their playacting and that Jesus commanded us to be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There’s an excellent point here that we’re made for adventure. The Christian life is far more than living under a rule book, it’s being empowered by the Spirit living in us to be on adventure with Jesus. Afterall, Holy Spirit doesn’t only produce in us character (Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit…which is a miracle in itself!), but works in us gifts (1 Cor. 13; Romans 12) and calls us into ministries (Ephesians 4). Praise the Lord!

But here’s a question when we’re thinking about things like Spiritual Gifts….what kind of superheroes are we?

http://therecruitinglab.com/the-lone-ranger-the-rainmaker-or-the-firm-owner-which-business-model-is-right-for-you Sometimes we can act like a Lone Ranger. We live in a society where the individual is king; increasingly we’re wanting products that are customized and personalized for us; we’re wanting to find our ‘dream job’, to only do what fits ‘the real me’…and so we’re first seeking to understand and establish who ‘I am’ before we begin to even think about how we engage with others. There’s something crucial about knowing our identity in Jesus, but things become squiffy if we think finding this identity means focusing on me over and against (or simply without reference to) any other people. Spiritual Gifts become about finding my gift, my place, my ministry…it’s good to know all of these things, but not if this is where we’ll find our identity or if this means we will only serve or relate to churches or ministries where I fit

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/08/06/fantastic-four-original-movies-vaguely-defendedSo it seems common sense to try for something more like the Fantastic Four. We know afterall that there are things we can’t do on our own, that we are called to be part of a team, that the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts when we all work together. Excellent and true, and definitely there is some resonance here with St Paul’s image of the Body of Christ – we’re all one body and individually members of it…we need each other…but I think Paul’s getting at far more than the need for team work… What is so supernatural about that anyway? You don’t need the Holy Spirit to tell you it’s good to be part of a team…
http://movieweb.com/power-rangers-movie-art-zords/

Maybe the superheroes God is forming are more like Power Rangers…remember them? Certainly these awesome foursome had individual gifts and talents, and they did pretty well beating off individual little baddies. But there came a point in every episode where the enemy would suddenly be super-sized to immense proportions and at that stage it wasn’t even enough just to work together…at that stage “it’s morphing time”….they had to actually merge together to become a superhero far larger than they could ever be on their own. They weren’t a group of individuals coordinating efforts…they became a super-sized individual with different parts…one body, many members.

I believe this is an (undoubtedly limited!) analogy for thinking right about the church. We can so emphasize individual salvation, calling, ministry, gifting that the church becomes a voluntary collection of individuals we make important by emphasizing that life is simply better together…

http://movieweb.com/power-rangers-movie-art-zords/…but the truth is far more radical, far more awesome than that. The church is the Body of Christ, made of many members to be sure, but one body united to Christ our head. No member is complete on our own just as no hand is complete without the arm, shoulder, etc, etc…We are one body only together. Reading through 1 Cor 13, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and many other passage dealing with the body of Christ, I can’t get away from realizing that God deals with the body first and individuals as members of it. In other words, when the Spirit gives gifts He gives them to the body and does so by giving them to individuals… This subtly but significantly shifts our focus. The question isn’t: what gifts have you given me God? It becomes: what gifts are you giving this body and how do you want to use me within it? Suddenly we don’t get jealous when someone has a gift I don’t have or get defensive trying to establish ‘my place’…rather we celebrate that we have this gift and we are firm in our call to this community, this body.

We begin to ask: what are you calling us to as a body…? We discover the adventure is far bigger than we thought…the enemy’s we can fight are far larger than we dreamed…

There’s so much more to say on this and please do say it by leaving a comment below. But at the very least I hope I’ve given you here a thought to ponder – when you think of church membership, of spiritual gifts, of ministry…what superhero are you? We’re saved to be part of a something so much bigger than ourselves… ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ bringing light into darkness, life into dead places…as we celebrate this Christmas let’s remember He’s among us still through His body the church. What an adventure to be part of!

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Commuting with God – Redeeming time on the tube

Here’s one of the biggest challenges facing Christians today: we cannot grow in God without investing time, but time is exactly what we feel we don’t have!

If this really is about relationship rather than religion, then things like reading the Bible, prayer, worship, listening to God are not just tick-box activities that we ‘should do;’ rather they are like gazing into our lover’s eyes and spending quality time together.  This shift in mindset takes away some of the legalistic pressure, but in a different way it makes such time even more important.  Time with God is as important to our Christian walk as time with my wife is important to my marriage…but where do we find the time?

Find the time.  It can feel like a hunt in the dark or looking for a needle in a haystack.  When we’re surrounded by the busyness of life with work, family, home, admin, chores, friends, hobbies, church…where do you find any more minutes in the day let alone hours?!  One of the big changes for us came in moving to London commuter belt and suddenly finding that my wife’s journey to work jumped from 15 minutes to 1 hour each way…add 2 hours of travel into an already squeezed schedule and ‘time with God’ becomes a pipe dream!  (And we don’t even have kids yet!)

So what can we do?  As someone who genuinely wants to grow in relationship with God, but also feels the pressure of competing responsibilities…what can we do?

Shift.  A mind-set shift is helpful here.  ‘Finding time’ often starts from the assumption that we don’t have enough of this scarce commodity.  I want to suggest to you that there is always enough time to do what God has for us to do…and what He has for us to do is all we need.  The challenge is that we don’t start with a blank slate, we start with time already allocated, 24 hours a day, to a host of different things.  Yet this is where the Christian life always begins: when we first met Jesus we weren’t a blank slate; the difference Jesus made wasn’t giving us something to do, but was redeeming who we already were.  We don’t need to ‘find time’ as if it doesn’t exist already – we already have it.  Rather we need to let Jesus come in and ‘redeem the time we already have’.

What does that mean?

It means asking ourselves how we take every moment of the day and invite Jesus into it, to make every minute time spent with God.  When we wake up: praise God for a new day before we get out of bed; as we shower talk to God about anything in life we want washed off; making breakfast thank Jesus for all His provision and pray for the things we need; if we’re making breakfast for others or school lunches, talk to God about the needs of others or the people we’re preparing food for; as we walk through the door at work take a moment to tell God we’re working for Him today so come and fill every task; and on and on we go….!

It means more than that.  It means also asking ourselves: ‘Are there any times of the day that can be given wholly over to God?’  A prime target for this is TUBE TIME…

…Here is a thought we may not have noticed: if you commute to work/school then everyday you have a set amount of time where you can do nothing else but travel.  If you’re on the tube then you have a set amount of time with no phone signal, being uncontactable, where you can’t be expected to do anything for anyone else…all you can do is sit there (or stand with your face in someone’s arm pit…I know!)…and spend time with God….

….Here are 3 simple tools that can help you do that:

Pray As You Go:

This is an amazing resource specifically designed for people to use as they travel.  There is a daily mp3 podcast that lasts about 12 minutes.  It has reflective music, a Bible reading, some questions to think about, then the reading again, finishing with some directions for prayer.  I have found this an incredibly helpful tool for bringing me into a place of peace and focus on God.

Pocket Common Prayer:

God bless the Church of England!  You can download an app to your phone/tablet that brings up automatically the liturgy for Morning, Evening and/or Night Prayer.  I have been loving this recently!  You have right in front of you a series of prayers, readings from Psalms, the Old Testament and the New Testament, followed by some more prayers.  There are even martyrs or saints for particular days that you can look up and read about on Wiki if you like.  Takes about 30 minutes and I have found a really valuable way of regular Bible reading interspersed with Prayer.

YouVersion Bible:

Another app that in one sense simply gives you the Bible on your phone…but also comes with a whole series of reading plans from 2 weeks to a whole year.  There are plans for focusing on particular topics or for reading through all/chunks of the Bible.  It pops up with the reading for the day and ticks them off.  And if you get behind you can simply reset the reading to continue from today.

All 3 of these are simple ways to sit on the tube (or bus or…for the first one…car or walking…), turn on your phone, and be with Jesus.  If you take a few moments before you start just to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence and ask Him to speak to you…then you can find the tube becomes your chapel, not your chain.

“It may be…” – Pursuing Dreams That Cost

“It may be…”

3 amazing little words that reveal the heart of following Jesus.  They are spoken by Caleb in Joshua 14:12.  At 85 years old he is ready to attack the hill country and fight giants who scared the Israelites away 40 years before….why?  Because he saw the Lord, caught the vision, heard the promise, and “it may be that the Lord will be with me.”

Kris Vallotton writes about vision and mission.  Mission is why we do something, but vision is what it looks like.  Mission requires vision to ever become a reality.  Everything that has ever been made has first been ‘seen’ in someone’s imagination.  You can convince people of the need to build an orphanage, but without blueprints nothing will ever happen.  It is vision, actually seeing it before it’s real, that causes us to discipline our actions, go through pain, and persevere to see a vision realised.

Caleb was one of the spies Moses sent into the promised land.  He saw the fruitful land and could imagine, could see, the Israelites living in it.  The other spies with him saw the giants and themselves as small.  Lack of vision and lack of confidence in God left a whole generation wandering the wilderness for the rest of their lives.  But vision and trust led Caleb into the land even 40 years on.

What vision do you carry?  What are you living for?

The reality is that we will always face resistance and opposition whenever we pursue a call or a dream from God.  Any dream worth living for must be bigger than us, too much for us to do alone…it requires cost.

Right now I’m making some life decisions to follow a path that is not a natural progression from what I’m doing and may prove costly for me and my wife, both financially and emotionally.  This next step is not the end-goal, but a means to that end, a door to open the way for a dream that is growing in my heart.  Yet I’ve begun to meet resistance, to need to count the cost, and a big part of me is crying out, “Are you sure God?”

What I find so encouraging about Caleb is this: he didn’t know for sure.  Even ready to ride into enemy territory at 85 years old he didn’t know for sure that God would do it.  “It may be…” was enough for him.  After 40 years of wilderness wandering and literally seeing a generation die around him, he knew the truth Kris Vallotton wrote:

If your memories are greater than your dreams then you are already dying.

We don’t always know how it ends, but I would rather step out and risk it all for a dream from God than play it safe just in case I’m wrong.

I’m not saying be foolish and throw everything away on a whim.  We check out and test dreams with others, we bring them before the Lord in prayer, we walk humble, open and teachable, but we don’t hold back in fear.  Proverbs 3:5-6 promises us that, when we ‘acknowledge the Lord in all our ways’ – when we keep our hearts open to Him and desire Him above anything else – then He will ‘make our paths straight’ – He will actually bring us to the right place even if we’re making wrong decisions.  Too often we can hang back from paying the cost to pursue the dreams God has put inside of us, because we’re waiting for enough proof to convince us to cast off our fear.  Proof doesn’t remove fear – love does.  It is when we catch sight of the perfect love of God, that He is always for us whether we get everything right or not, then we cast off fear and have courage to pursue our dreams whether we’re totally sure or not.

I cannot say I know 100% that the choices I’m making are right, but to the best of my ability they are.  The dream that’s stirring inside of me is big enough to pay the cost.  My God is big enough to make my paths straight.  I trust God’s ability to correct my mistakes more than my ability to mess up God’s plans.  So I choose to keep my heart open to Him, to pursue this dream and say, “It may be…that the Lord is with me.”

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 6

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegIf the primary way of being ready for Jesus is to be known by Him, what does that mean for all the commands to work for the Kingdom, to do good things for God?

All of these flow from relationship.  They are not hurdles to jump through before God will love us.  They are an overflow of being loved, a natural response to knowing who God really is.  This is what we see in the second story from Matthew 25 – the story of the talents.

Again, in order to teach his disciples how to be ready for His return, Jesus told them a story about a master and three servants.  The master went away, but before he did he gave one servant 5 talents, another 2 talents, and another 1 talent.  A talent was a large sum of money and the master asked them to look after this for Him until He returned.

http://jeramiesweet.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Buried-Talents.jpgNow, the first two servants both invested their money and put it to use, and doubled it.  The servant with only one talent hid his in the ground.  When the master returned he called his servants to account.  The first two he was incredibly pleased with.  He said to them ‘Well done good and faithful servant!’ and he gave them 10 cities and 4 cities to look after in return.  The last servant told him that he hid the money and did nothing with it because he knew that his master was a harsh man who ‘reaped where he did not sow’.  The master was angry and threw this servant out giving his talent to the servant who had 10.

What is this all about?

At first glance it can seem that the master really is harsh.  He didn’t give equal amounts to the servants and he gave them different rewards, not to mention throwing the one who had the least out!

Yet a closer look, and understanding the parable of the bridesmaids before, tells us the real issue.  The excuse of the final servant points us to the critical issue the master was looking for.  The value of the servants’ actions wasn’t in how much money they made, but on whether they reflected a right understanding of who He was.  Did His servants know Him?

The servant who hid everything did so because he saw his master as harsh, unjust, not to be trusted.  His one desire was to not upset him.  He took no risks thinking that any mistake would earn punishment, as if that is all the master was interested in.

Truth be told we can often view God like that.  He is the headmaster and waiting for the second coming is like sitting outside his office not knowing when we’ll be called in.  If only we can keep our noses clean and our socks pulled up then we’ll be alright.  If I can think good thoughts and be a nice person without messing up too much, then I’ll be fine.  We completely miss His true character and in doing so we miss who we were really made to be.

Yet the truth is so much better.  Those other servants understood who their master was.  He was a Giver of good gifts, generous, willing to trust, and possessing abundant resources.  If he could spare that kind of money for them to deal with as they pleased, how much more must he have had?

For them to take such great risks of investing everything the master had given them, holding nothing back, they must have known something about his character.  They must have had confidence that, no matter what mistakes they made or how much they lost, He would still love them, trust them, and be able to provide for them.  Knowing this, they gave everything they had.

Our God is not a harsh master looking for a reason to punish us.  He is a bridegroom who loves us and is coming to marry us, to bring us into a feast, to bring us into unbroken relationship with Him.  He calls us ‘good and faithful’.  That is all He longs for from us: that we would recognise His goodness, abundance and love enough to entrust all of ourselves to Him.  Like those talents, everything we have, our very lives, are gifts from Him.  He has more than enough, His heart is to reward our simple faithfulness extravagantly (a city for every talent!), all He wants to see is: do we know Him?  If we do, then we’ll live like it.

Our life right now is often one of chronos.  We’re called to work and to wait.  We get glimpses of encounters with God and seeing Him move.  Every time we do it reminds us of who He is, of His character, His goodness, His love.  It prepares us, excites us, reminds us to be ready for when He finally comes again.  We get ready by keeping our lamps filled with oil.  Even our chronos – our work time – is spent in relationship with Him through the Spirit – our work is to keep connected to Him – to be with Him every moment.  When we know Him we see the gifts He’s given us and we’ll throw our whole selves into living for Him.  In that place we’ll live the lives He’s made us for – lives of working and waiting yes, but also lives of abundance, of expectation, of seeing Him move, of knowing Him.

Take heart my friends.  We’re not called to achieve for God but to be faithful to Him; not to earn His love, but to receive it and live from that place of relationship. 

The ultimate kairos moment is coming: our lover is coming back – our we ready? Do we know Him?

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 5

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegLet’s have a quick recap.  We’ve been talking about chronos and kairos – God’s way of keeping time.  There’s chronos time of working and waiting, the ordinary passage of seconds, minutes and hours.  Then there’s the moments where heaven invades earth, God moves and chronos seems to stop for kairos to take place.

Christians are like surfers who’ve caught the wave, experienced God, and now we live working and waiting not counting the cost but keeping our eyes on Him, ready for next time we see Him move.

Yet every little moment, no matter how incredible it may seem, is a foreshadow of that great day that is to come – the day when Jesus returns and everything is made new.  We want to be ready to meet Him, to catch the wave.  How do we do it?

Jesus taught a surprising amount on this.  The chapter I want to focus on is Matthew 25.  True to form, Jesus teaches in two profound stories.

First, he speaks of 10 bridesmaids waiting at night for the bridegroom to come with their lamps at the ready.  In Jewish wedding the bridegroom would come to the bride’s house at night for the ceremony to take place then take everyone back to his home for celebrations.  These bridesmaids are waiting and they need their lamps shining.  5 are wise and have taken extra oil, 5 are foolish and haven’t.

When the bridegroom finally comes, the foolish bridesmaids have to go and buy oil.  By the time they return the bridegroom and the wise bridesmaids have entered the wedding feast and the door is closed.  When they bang on the door, the foolish bridesmaids are told by the bridegroom, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

A strange response don’t you think?  I do not know you.  He doesn’t mention whether their lamps are lit or not, whether they have done good things or not.  The one qualification for entering the party, for coming into the wedding celebration, is whether the bridegroom knows them.

If you want to be ready for Jesus when he comes, there is really only one question that matters – do you know Him?  Or, more importantly, does He know you?

The qualification for being ready for Jesus is relationship.  Those wise bridesmaids were ready when he came.  Even in the dark, when he came suddenly like ‘a thief in the night’, they knew him for who he was.  How? Because their lamps were burning.

http://www.worldwideflood.com/ark/technology/oil_lamp_lit_01.jpgTheir lamps would have needed constant topping up with oil.  They would have given off a light that may not have expelled all the darkness, but gave them enough to be seen and to recognise the bridegroom when he came.

Oil in Scripture is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be those who keep our light shining.  It may often feel like our little life, our little light, is not enough to stop the darkness that surrounds us.  That is not our job.  Our job is be ready.  To be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.  To take time every day to be with Him, to pray and worship, to enjoy the Spirit, to let Him fill us up.  Then we will be ready and able to recognise Jesus when he comes.  It is Jesus who will take us out of the darkness and into His celebration.  In the meantime, our light may be enough to let others know that a bridegroom is coming, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

I hope you hear in this the enormous encouragement I hear.  When Jesus comes He isn’t that concerned about whether I have achieved great things, changed the world or expelled the darkness.  He wants to see my face and for me to see His.  Is there oil in my lamp?  Am I in relationship with Him?  Will He know me when He comes?

Today take encouragement from this.  Put down your striving and make time to simply be with God.  This is the main purpose of chronos, the main work we do is to ‘tarry’ with the Lord – to simply be with Him.  Next post we’ll look at what Jesus expects from our abilities and talents…

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 4

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegWhat happens when Jesus comes back?

First, there will be a judgement. Read 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 or Revelation 20:11-15.

The Revelation passage gives an image I find incredibly valuable.  Here John speaks of Jesus on his throne with many books that record the entirety of our lives.  We will be judged on what is in our book – every thought, action and word.  Yet he has another book: the Book of Life.  Anyone who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour has their name written in this book.  Anyone with their name in this book will pass through into life with God, anyone without will go into ‘the second death, the lake of fire’ (v14).

Jesus used similar images of separating sheep and goats or wheat and weeds.  There will be a judgement and those who know Jesus will be with Him forever in life, those who do not will pass into Hell.

Now, a brief word is needed here.  In our modern enlightened age we hate talking about judgement, heaven and hell. It makes us uncomfortable.  Firstly, it should.  Even God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell.  If we share even an iota of His compassion then we shouldn’t find it an easy concept!

But we often wonder whether a loving and just God is compatible with the notion of hell.  Here’s the thing.  Sin is not a problem that can be controlled, it has to be removed permanently – destroyed.  Just look at how peacekeeping missions exacerbate terrorism or corporeal punishment accentuates criminality and you get a sense of how sin cannot be controlled.  More than that, justice requires that misdeeds are punished – our own consciences reflect that truth.

God is fully just and has acted to fully deal with sin.  Yet because he is also fully loving He came as Jesus, took all our sin on Himself, and died in our place.  Jesus took our punishment so that we don’t have to.  Moreover, because God made us for genuine love, He gave us free will – forced love is not love.  We have a choice: we can accept the free gift of what Jesus has done for us and so live in relationship with Him, or we can not.  Hell is God’s honouring the choice we make in this life in the next.  As is heaven.  And here it gets good….

http://secondcomingherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/rapture.jpgSecond, when Jesus comes there will be a new heaven and a new earthRevelation 21.

People often talk about ‘going to heaven’.  It is far more like heaven comes to us.  ‘Heaven’, as understood in the Bible, is the spiritual realm where God lives.  It interacts with the natural world even though we can’t see it.  It’s like there is a veil between us and heaven.

Yet John describes in Revelation how the New Jerusalem (an image of heaven) will come down and be on the earth.  There will be no need for Sun or stars because God himself will be our light.  In other words, when Jesus returns, all creation – heaven and earth – will be made new.  All the mess, rubbish, decay and sin will be removed and there will  be a new unity between spiritual and natural – between heaven and earth.  We will live with God face to face.

This is no airy fairy playing harps on clouds.  This will be a creation like the original but perfect, not marred.  We’ll continue with creativity, exploration, discovery, relationship and above all worship and unity with God.  This will be life in all it’s fullness, this will be the ultimate kairos moment. 

This is the hope that stirred the early Church even in the midst of persecution.  It is the hope Jesus proclaimed and called us to stand on.  It is the hope we need to keep our eyes fixed on every moment.

Just as we get the odd day of sunshine before the summer really kicks in, the kairos moments we experience now are like foreshadows of that great day that is to come.  We don’t know when, but we know it will.  We work and wait, paddling to where the wave should break, ready for when it comes.

But how do we get ready?  That is the question for next time, but for now go and read Revelation 21.  Remind yourself of the hope we have.  Check out what I’ve been saying.  Ask me questions and study for yourself.  There is nothing more important to understand.

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 3

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegI don’t know if you realize it, but the central hope of the early church, a hope they could not stop going on about, one that saturates the New Testament and shaped the entirety of their lives, is one we hardly ever pay more than lip-service to in the contemporary church.

I mentioned last post a wave that will never stop flowing, a kairos moment to end all chronos.  This hope is that wave, that moment.

This hope is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

When was the last time you heard a sermon on the second coming?  When was the last time you read a book, studied, thought about, or had a conversation over a glass of wine concerning the second coming?

Every gospel account records Jesus’ promise that he will come again.  Luke records in the book of Acts how the church began with promise that Jesus would return just as the disciples had seen him go up into heaven.  This hope riddles the sermons of early church, the letters of the apostles.  It is the central hope demonstrated in the physical symbol of communion – the universal act of worship of the whole church throughout time.

Often we focus on the cross and resurrection of Jesus (and these are a worthy focus!) but they lose all meaning when we ignore the promise of the second coming of Jesus.

If every kairos moment we’ve talked about so far is a moment where heaven invades earth, where God moves and chronos pauses – how much more significant will it be when Jesus returns for good?

So what is the second coming?  What will it look like, what will happen? 

When we talk about something as huge as this there is inevitably a large amount that remains mystery.  Over this there are different views held by people who equally desire to respect and learn from Scripture.  But there is still much that we can know clearly from the Bible, and that most orthodox Christians agree on.

  1. Jesus is coming back.  When he comes everyone will see Him and He’ll come bodily, not just as a spiritual force or a good principle.  Look at Acts 1:11 or 1 Thess 4:16.
  2. His coming will be sudden.  We won’t know when it happens.  Jesus himself described it as ‘coming like a thief in the night’…not because he is a thief, but because he will come just as unexpectedly.  Matthew 24:44.
  3. All Christians should eagerly long for Christ’s return.  Paul describes the Christian life as training to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-23).  We’re to keep faithful in the chronos as we await this ultimate kairos – our blessed hope.

What happens when Jesus comes back?

http://www.waynegrudem.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/bible-doctrine1.jpgWe know two things for sure.  Both are huge topics that I urge you to study if you never have.  Something like Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine is a great, user-friendly place to start and one that has inspired this post.

First, there will be a judgement, and then there will be a New Heaven and a New Earth.  These are incredible truths that needs a bit more looking into.  We’ll continue with a post tomorrow – keep your eyes peeled!

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos and the Second Coming – Part 2

http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpegChronos and kairos.  Tick tock and catching the wave.  If you missed the last post have a look now.  If you read it, then think again about your answers to the last questions:  have you ever had a kairos moment?  Was the working and waiting worth it?

I said we’d have a look at the point of understanding chronos and kairos today.  The first point is this: understanding kairos let’s us maintain hope in the chronos.

It isn’t always easy being a Christian.  Sometimes it can feel like we are doing all the right things but not seeing the results we expect.  We hear from others and read in scripture the promises of what God wants to do through us, how He loves and wants to move in the world to free, heal and redeem, how He has already filled us with the power of His Spirit and how we can expect to see all of this happen if we simply step out.  Then we finally pluck up the courage, step out, and….nothing…or worse….we’re misunderstood, demeaned, rejected, kicked out…we find trouble.

What’s going on?

If you resonate with that sentiment, whatever it may look like for you, then take heart.  You’re not forgotten, failing, getting it wrong, or unlucky.  You’re living the normal Christian life, but….you may have taken your eyes off the wave.

As Christians we’re called to live in the chronos with out eyes on the kairos.  We’re called to work and to wait, it is the shape of our lives, but with eyes fixed on the extraordinary intervention of God – His presence in the midst of us.  When we understand how Jesus tells time we can work and wait without stopping hoping.

Danielle tells how part of her role is to visit massage parlours in her local town.  These are not innocent places, more goes on here than massage, but they visit taking cakes simply wanting to show God’s love and build relationship.  She described knocking on the door of one parlour and being greeted by the manageress.  She only just managed to introduce herself when she was told, ‘We don’t want you here’ and the door was slammed in her face.  She managed to blurt out ‘See you next week!’ as the door closed.

Next week she visited and the same happened again: ‘We don’t want you here!’…slam!  The next week was the same, and the next, and the next.  Six times she visited, six times she was told to leave, six times the door slammed shut….

The seventh week she went again, cakes in hand, and knocked on the door.  This time the door opened wide, the manageress cried out ‘Thank God you’re here!’ and led her straight away into the back room.  A young girl was there obviously distressed.  The manageress told the girl to say to Danielle exactly what she’d just said to her.  The girl cried out, ‘I need forgiveness, I need to be healed, I need to be free!’  Danielle introduced her to Jesus and right then and there she gave her life to him.

Danielle caught the wave.  6 weeks of working and waiting.  6 weeks of rejection, slammed doors, seeming pointlessness, obstruction, no way through.  6 weeks of chronos.  The one moment of kairos.  She couldn’t predict it or make it happen.  She didn’t do it – only God could.  All she did was kept on paddling to where the wave must break and waiting, ready to catch whatever wave came passed.

When that wave broke, do you think she counted up the weeks before to work out whether it was worth trying again?  No way.  She just experienced kairos, God moving and breaking in, a young girl’s ilfe being changed, her self-worth returned, a young girl discovering that she’s not a failure or messed up, but is loved and valued by the One who made everything.  Danielle went straight back out hunting waves.

God is always faithful.  He is always moving.  The wave is going to break.  The biggest danger we have is that we become the surfer who gave up and went home.  The wave may not always be exactly what we expected.  We don’t control it, we don’t make it happen, we simply put ourselves in its path, wait and get ready to surf.  If you are working and waiting based on what you’ve heard God say and promises he’s made, then be encouraged – he is always faithful, his timing is impeccable…but he won’t ask our permission.  Let’s not get discouraged but encourage one another to keep our eyes on him, remembering what he has already done, and trusting for what he has promised is to come.

This is how we live in present moment.  It’s a reflection of another time to come, a kairos moment to not only invade but to end all chronos, a wave that will not stop flowing.  This is what we’ll talk about next post.  For now, be encouraged, God is always moving.

Keeping Time with Jesus: Chronos, Kairos, and the Second Coming – Part 1

What time is it? http://theworldofmore.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/world-of-more-time.jpeg

Everything is different when you become a Christian.  Following Jesus isn’t about a system of beliefs that help us negotiate the complexities of life with a bit more peace of mind.  Following Jesus is about learning to live in a brand new world, to see things differently.  If God really has come in human form, entered not simply ‘nature’ but ‘creation’, died on the cross and rose again opening the way for life free from sin, filled with the divine Spirit, life that will not end…then this is not the world we were told it was.

Discipleship, learning to follow Jesus, is learning to see this new world, or rather, theworld as it really is.  One of the huge differences is how we view time.

Just a few weeks ago I heard an incredible talk by a Canadian Salvation Army Officer called Danielle Strickland.  She gave the best explanation of time as understood in scripture that I have ever heard.  I’m going to shamelessly relay that now…

There are two words for time in the Bible: chronos and kairos.

Chronos is the tick tock, tick tock, continuous passage of seconds, minutes and hours.  It’s time measured by watches. Drifting steadily by.

Kairos is the NOW moment.  The moment when time stands still, when chronos stops, when we stop counting and simple are in that moment, right now.

If you know Jesus, have you ever had an encounter with God, maybe in worship or prayer, maybe a crisis situation, where it has seemed like time stopped still?  That is kairos.  Danielle describes being a rebellious teenager and finding herself in juvenile prison.  There in her jail cell she simply states that ‘Jesus showed up’.  People ask her the details of exactly how, what happened, how long it lasts.  Those are foolish questions for someone who has experienced anything similar.  He came, time stood still, and she was changed from that moment on.  Her life transformed.  That is kairos.

http://www.capelodge.com.au/files/Surfing.jpgShe put it another way.  She describes watching her friend surfing.  90% of surfing is working and waiting.  It’s paddling against the current to the place where waves will break and then simply waiting, waiting for the wave.  After watching her friend working and waiting for 6 hours and catching only 2 waves she asked him how on earth it couldbe worth it.  He simply replied, ‘You’ve never caught a wave!’  Catching a wave is the kairos moment.  The quantity of chronos it takes doesn’t matter, in fact in that moment chronos itself, the working and waiting, don’t matter – you caught a wave, time stopped, the extraordinary invaded the ordinary – kairos came.

Jesus lives in kairos.  It’s his natural time.  He is heaven invading earth – the eternal come to stand in the temporal – the kairos living and breathing within chronos.  Jesus’s message was that ‘now’ the kingdom has come, ‘today’ is the day of salvation, ‘now’ is the time to repent – to change your mind and see the way the world really is.  When he enters the disciple’s boat after they have struggled against the wind all night, they ‘immediately’ reach the other side.  In Mark’s gospel every next move of Jesus is ‘now’ or ‘immediately’.

What’s the point of all this?  We’ll get more into that next post, for now ask yourself this question:

Have you ever experienced a kairos moment, an encounter with God, a time He entered the ordinary with His extraordinary presence?  Maybe it was a moment in worship, hearing His voice, meeting Him for the first time, seeing someone healed or receiving healing, an answered prayer or overwhelming joy or peace?  

Now answer me this, did you have to wait for it, to work for it?  Was it worth it, would you wait and work again for that moment?

Christians work and wait because we know the wave is coming.  We’ve caught one before and we’re not going to miss the next…no matter how big it is or how long in coming…

How do I know what to do when…? A simple suggestion for moral dilemmas.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/media/inline/how-your-moral-decisions-shaped-by-mood_1.jpgIt is hard to be holy in this day and age or to even know what ‘being holy’ looks like.  Everyday we face choices and decisions that are far more grey than obviously right or wrong.  So how do we know what to do?

How do we know what to do when we want to stand up for our colleagues but don’t want to lie about their mistakes?

How do we know what to do when we don’t want to judge our friends, but neither do we condone everything they do?

How do we know what to do when we want to pursue a career using our God given gifts, but we’re asked to compromise on the way?

Compromise is the key word.  Rarely are we faced with obvious, cut and dry moral dilemmas.  We’re unlikely to be asked to murder someone or steal something just like that.  Rather we’ll be asked to fudge the edges of the law, take a tiny step towards the line but not necessarily cross it, to do something that makes us feel uncomfortable but we’re not 100% sure why.

Here’s an example that arose from a recent conversation: is it ok for Christian artists to use nudity in their art?

Surely Christians are called to be pure and to live as examples of that purity steering away from the lewdness that can so readily saturate the world we live in.  The idea of a Christian we know painting something explicit, for example, can be shocking.  Yet can it ever be the case that just such a shock is needed to get an important point across?  I remember the anecdote of a well known Christian speaker swearing during an address and then challenging his hearers: “You care more that I just used the word **** than that thousands of children are dying around the world as we speak”.  What if a painting was drawn that exposed the denigration of women in our society or championed the rights of those who suffer from domestic abuse?

It’s pretty murky waters don’t you think?  Yet I want to be bold enough to suggest a simple rule for any Christian trying to get a handle on how to navigate the moral grey we find ourselves in.  It’s a rule taken from the apostle Paul writing about similarly grey areas of his own day…

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

How do I know what to do?  By asking myself not just “would God mind?”, but “can I actually do this for God?  On His behalf, in His name?”

We have to realise that ‘Christian’ doesn’t just denote something we do at the weekends, it is a term that defines the entirety of who we are and so qualifies everything we do.  I am not a Christian, a lawyer, a son, an Englishman, and a student (fill in the list as appropriate to you).  Rather, I am a Christian lawyer, a Christian son, a Christian Englishman, a Christian student.  Whatever I do and wherever I am, I do it and I am there carrying the name of Christ.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51bC2APLFLL.jpgAn example to elucidate the point.  Vincent Donovan, a Christian anthropologist, studied an indigenous tribe (the Masai) in east Africa and wrote about it in his book Christianity Rediscovered.  It is actually his report of a neighbouring tribe that I want to share.  This tribe were a dancing people, every aspect of life was accompanied by different dances.  Once they believed in Jesus, the eucharist became a huge celebration and one accompanied by dance.  Yet it began to shape their approach to every part of life.  They discovered that there were some dances they simply could not perform at the eucharist – it wasn’t right to dance like that in such a remarkable moment of unity with Christ.  But they recognised that if they could not perform a dance at the eucharist, then they couldn’t perform it at all. The eucharist was not just something they did, it was an expression of a relationship that defined who they were.  They were people of the eucharist.  They were Christian.

http://www.irisglobal.org/gallery/gal/24%20June%202010/IMG_8408.jpg

The same goes for us, for every Christian in every place across this earth.  We are defined by our relationship with Jesus Christ.  It’s a relationship that doesn’t stop once we leave the church building but remains in every aspect of life.  Think of the main aspect of your worship whatever churchmanship you’re from: taking communion, sung worship, prayer

ministry, whatever it is.  Now, every time you want to know what to do ask yourself this: could I do this for God, in His name, and in that place of worship?

So, whatever you do, whether in business, media, religion, education, politics, healthcare, family, or art, do it all for the glory of God in the light of the eucharist.