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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The Real Divide?

I read a brief summary this week of journalists reporting of the debate in France as to whether abandoned churches should be turned into mosques.  The idea was raised by the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and quickly shouted down by ‘Islamophobes’ according to one paper.  I think it’s a really interesting question as to how church buildings should be used in the sad situation that their congregation has depleted.  It raises a host of questions about the sanctity of space and the relationship between the spiritual and physical locations. But that’s not what struck me about this story.  It wasn’t so much the issue at hand, but how it was reported that make me sit up straight.

According to the featured journalists, the issue is a practical one: the church is declining, church buildings are empty, whilst Islam is growing and Muslims need somewhere to pray.  This seems a purely reasonable solution, and indeed it may be.  But here’s the final line of the summary:

Wouldn’t they [right-winger opponents of the idea] rather see churches serve a religious purpose, than be turned into shops and markets? A bit of “pragmatism” would be a fine thing.

What’s your reaction to that?

I’d genuinely like to know!  For me one thing stands out above anything else: the phrasing of the question shows where this journalist sees the real divide – not between Christianity and Islam, but between Religious and Commercial.  In this phrasing of the issue Christianity and Islam are not two different conceptions of the world, reality, and the meaning of life, but are rather two residents of the compartment of public life known as ‘Religious.’  They’re not claims to truth, but life-style choices or community groups.  To me this is a natural piece of logic from a secular standpoint.

Now, just to be clear, I’m not having a go at the journalist; this is not a judgement, it’s an observation.  It’s similar to the visitor to our church recently who described themselves as a ‘mongrel’ and said (in an friendly, not critical way) that all religions should be mongrel.  The assumption being that they all serve the same God so should just share from one another.  It’s a naturally secular view, one that’s incredibly common in our pluralist society.  In fact, perhaps the majority of people I meet as a church leader who are not yet Christian have an interest in God or the spiritual but don’t want to be, nor see the need to be, tied down to one specific religion.  Afterall, aren’t all religions part of the same category just like Superdrug, John Lewis, and Tesco are all part of the category called ‘Commerce’?  Can’t we just be pragmatic about this?

Yet if Christian beliefs about the existence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the creation of everything and the reality of sin; the salvation of Jesus through his death, resurrection and ascension; the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth right now; and the surety of Jesus coming back; are all true then these are claims that radically shape the nature of reality.  Christians don’t have a different hobby, we live in a different world.  The question for us is this: have we lost our confidence that what we believe may actually be true and do we live like it is?

The real divide is not between Religion and Commerce, but what world we think we live in.  What do you think?

“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.”

Center Stage – Finding Hope Through Disappointment

“I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”       (Jeremiah 29:11)

This is an incredibly encouraging verse oft-quoted in times of prayer…and rightly so!  Yet sometimes we so easily forget the context that we miss the challenge.  Missing that challenge can easily lead to disappointment.

These words come in the middle of a letter from God to His people written by the prophet Jeremiah.  They come in the middle of letter full of things the Israelites never expected to hear.  Things they didn’t want to hear.

These were God’s people.  They knew their history: chosen out of every other nation to be God’s, rescued through miraculous events from slavery in Egypt, promised and receiving a land that would be theirs forever.

Yet they also thought they understood their present: having compromised their faith wanting to be like everyone else rather than set apart for God, they were now reaping the consequences of their actions…they were now exiled by a godless nation.

So what would you expect to hear? Surely a call to repent, to stop compromise, to set yourself apart from every other nation, which must be followed by a swift victory and return to the promised land…

…that’s not what God said!  Instead Jeremiah writes: “Settle down!  Build houses and plant vineyards…you are going to be here for 70 years!  Let your children get married and rooted down…and seek the prosperity of this people for you will prosper when they do…”

Can you imagine how they felt?  “But God….you made this promise…we know we messed up, you told us exactly how…but this doesn’t make sense!  How can you want us to stay with the people you told us to leave…?!  We don’t understand!”

Have you ever faced this kind of situation?  “I don’t understand what you’re saying God!  I thought you promised one thing and now another thing is happening…  I thought I knew what this would look like and now you seem to be saying something totally different…!  What’s going on?!”

Take a closer look at the promise God makes….

“I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…”

 Too easily we hear the promise for good plans and miss the person who’s plans they are.  We hear a promise and envisage in our mind exactly what it should look like and how….we run after the promise itself and forget the one who spoke the word….when things don’t work out like we expected we struggle to understand why.  When it all seemed so clear, how could it get so confusing?

http://www.bubblews.com/assets/images/news/782225612_1365763920.jpgWe hear a word.  Make an appointment in our mind for what should happen when.  Then when it works out differently…we are dis-appointed.

 Who’s plans are we counting on?

Real hope is found, not in the wishful thinking that a particular situation takes place, but in placing all our trust in the God of Hope – in the One who makes all things work for the good of His people – in the One who has good plans for us and walks with us into them.

Why did God call the Israelites to bless Babylon?  To bless an enemy nation synonymous with immorality?

He was giving them an invitation.

An invitation to remember who they were as they remembered who He was.  God’s plan saw further than theirs.  Their focus was on their present and material place, on their circumstances and actions.  God’s focus was on who they were made to be.  God promised to make them a great nation to be a blessing and a light to every nation.  They were made to be a conduit of His love to every people on earth!  His focus was global not national, was eternal not immediate, was on who they were not what they did.

The walk of the Christian life comes with incredible promise: we are seated with Christ in victory; the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is inside of us; we are Sons and Daughters of the King of Kings; we are empowered and called to heal the sick, raise the dead, to be salt and light that changes nations.  Yet we step into these promises through an incredible challenge…do we trust God enough to enter into his plans rather than demanding that he enter ours?

 Imagine your life as a play in a theatre.  For many of us we are center stage.  Everything revolves around us.  For some, God has no place.  For others, He has a bit part – an extra in the background – He’s there but makes no difference.  Perhaps for others God is like a director shouting instructions so we either succeed or fail.  For still others He may even be a supporting actor, a co-star, essential to the show but mainly to make us look good.

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8kHB8QJOVxud+ff4qbUGd3aMOcQMzjDQBbMTFgB6JeSFboZGV7MlCi1rJzCTqPxCkcK6WVcG7s9phu5h0PeDse9U2Kw7qZyi7SYDgDlJgGxPcfxVbXrFxhoMe6PBlcDNn6dTW57X0e6YUMUAGuyVN2OsZ/hOjvn3K/hfOjHlp3BC2HAvpJr0QG1IqsFu18QHc/85XRhmUjj5ejcfSeuQks5wr6QMLWAlxpO5P0/uFvWFoaVZrxLXBw5tII9QmWY3Fx5OkkklChLDfSVxQxTw7JJP7xwGsCQwesnyC0/FOPMoyPjfswEeWY6N+aw3EuLszvfUEVHgEgQXWIa1rRmmIhZ8udY/mzp9F0U8slOW0ff+Ci4XwRpIfVcCSfhBaQLT2r300HNSsbiKbJDQ0vaPi7TWgE2zObUgW877qs4v0lAkaa9llpB++dB4C/gsviOIOqGDZo0aLAeA595uua45Mz1Sex3/Ex4FpgrZfU8VRe901C15OZrnAlmkWzEnwLuXkqvi/CajTmcS8H7U5h6/gVxhuEueJBaAba3O49pV9w3hbgIYXEaEEwwE8yd+4XuqlJY3aZUIvMqlEzmD4aTJOgge0/iralwyWkhoDPvOBjyA+I+RV/R4axoB7LzfSMjYGuSfd0TyR8wBa9pe91miJ8+y3UW7hBiCkT6hyexox9PGCM7icKKrG1Gu7Qim7Z1gcjyNBIEanRVnEOGP6tpGlyfE6n9d69D4Xw9lRhzx1xLQ5jcpBBdaSLZpF7284Vdx7Dupujqzp2mDI1suuHkwMtrabRIQQ6ipaUSWFSVs84pTPerfDZi2HSSLtdqZU6vwf8AeBwbYg6d36KmUuGxeNL/AO61yypoywxODdhf+HaldrSxxJ79IjuCpKbC14pPtDoNtSDYDmNwtfw2q9lPKHS3uETr7eaqukGAuHxBBjzBkJePJ+lhzhb1Eb6rifuv9B+aSf673lJXT9kHfzZR4bGOGpMW1P65qfSxRY7NqCYcN7z6aaqpyyB+oRKVTY+R5ePct2lM58Zyj3LTGYIOJqNyhoy2m5mJPjJv7KsdWkn2P5qzoUsjaReCWOMkDXK13aAnmFJq4ZuJqucP3YLjG5dPwutaPa3elvycjXUlcSopOnW3Iqzw9cubcgFulxfTTvUA4dzHkWs7L+Fl1iAWuhwsdAd+8Kr9i47rc0tCrmY5rxJLXNzT8OYRytznvKhjo45lWwLgQcsEdsxYzMRMX0sqzD4wgQ0yOW40056KXg+KvvkIIuMptEiDA2dHLuSpQ/xHRl/kCq8OcTLhzM9wsTPJP+ziYhW/DMVu9xEfAMoIkgRLp5idIUCsD1oa02BA5Ai2570KlKOwM8cZbnFXDwEPC8Tq0jNN72n+EkfJTTh36ugzsPUC+pII05oZDQcrhFp2/Q3WjHnoyZOmb7EvCfSHjQQBUL/5mtd7kT7rRs6a4h9I9Y9lO3xNY4EaSMxkA32GyzVDC0wJETGkmNN999uaDiDVmYFSLgTb+ls+99fJVPq5S2Ww7H8Pxw80lb+xNxvSIMByFxnVxAJN5BDYv4uhZmr0leHktaI3DxmJnUHlfYQFPbxZufJWpH+rNI5Xscv67lGxWBZ1lmZYuZII/uAFkmMor1I1TU57wfBIp4ijXbD6DmHnTOYeOR1/Qrvh3AWhxIGYDc2AmdSbC2wlTcLgWxJIJEdm4HcDuSpQxZaO1TcQYHYIs3UgybHvAFuazPI+Imjwls57hBgWUg3O0uB+6Bl8YJE+Lj5KSzEl7gKTgXN0aIaTO0GRA3DTdKjxHDnR4ZAMh4vJ1BMRHduh4irRIAY7Nef3YLQRO8HKY5arPu+Uxra/SzUYT6PK1anmrkUp7fxAWNzI0HjHqqDiGDbSeW0nNqBpgiiWm5GlSo42EWtI2srfo9wiviS5r6p6nTL9iDcHLub6kythw/gOHw9IEtDIAMvLLdw+yD4LO8ri65+XYRKai/Nz9/z8o81bw2vTDHNGQHMCGCBJBgyRJ18JAhd8Ow3WuJfBGTNJmQZgd2hW/Zx/C4nEChTJfULXuaYOWWiTE3OhvELzviFICmabrBjiwkWmHdqT+tkyEpS2kqDjJSTLajwJtUZ25SwPFPMDbO7WB9qNbG0rzfjnEKz6jmfCGktLRYAgwQedwvQOF8VZUpGnQcSKFPrPhyiXGDlaeQAEndxWX6V4P/1lVzfhqFtUR/8Aa0POn8TiPJacEqk7MmW5RsP0axINNrHXIBE+B5fykKwx+GzNcDy9xb9eCreH4Dq4dLtiRF5M7bC3si8Xr1w5rGgjrGyIHa1iJ2090XM7Qcdo0yo6nuPukn/Y2I7/AO//ACktPl9wNc/YqjgTDMurm5jy0F/dRqrYgEQeW/8AlW3DsRBbmtFMNE90E/MInGqIygwJJTlkalTM7x2rRUsrdmDMedp7vIKVgsY6lLmnl4Hn596hVWEOA1kC2/6skHwTseWx8Qm8it0y8FanUa2JD8wzAmZsQD6RpyCuavCyaLa1TI5jgQIIJblMQ4a5iQdBaFkcNWE+tjpe2q0HDOPvp5Qcr23Ap1BmbeM2U/ZmBokZMbfBrx5FW5UVcAWEOymHdoQbx/sme4NdHmbkHuurcFpdmzEHLAa7c6Egix0HiUD9niqCRlED7Tg06tBdciwzAIdT/UFppeUDRxx0zeTrH+4KRTqFx0IOvpuDoVU1uHua4gyNLHXtCQI8PSQpjarm0YgFwfEjcHT3sjfyFp77qi8w3ESyMoG922OkSS3XzUTENY8zBBgAQBt8UkamDyVM7Gx8Qg+Ee4UrA13VCcs9kOcZMgAAk630QuKW9BKV7WTxSYS3MYJcZkwALZZOwkSSAUOrgy0gMqy0gSZbM2nsk/DY37+9Aq41p5WteTznT8k1PFSMto0Ek7GbWQtIJNiwwfUMPDS4SLzt3CeSu8FwhzmtflGhtmH2XkRM7ZT5KrOHZl7/ABHzU3hWLqMw1YMLYLwCIBtl2O23os+VbeUfik2/MVXEDDng1XCSQQYczkRyI+aGMRXIb2paYIcBFvyVWGgkDM0yQI31A2C9G4bw9mIrUqcCmwEMAbNge/ewVzaggNTbb4KDB4Y1CBVkifu7elvFXgbSoEZmuuLNDSXOBiDAE/gq3CVKlPiRpFwNNtR7A0N5OhpJ3Ws6X9JGvwtJ5py5uRktdlcTlOpg5hZZ5vdL3LWTayZV41Vo8OZWwlPJnLmu6xt2kFwJaCYi2/PxXn3EcTjMXUBfWc7+WSR6w1vktvgKz8VwV7aVImpSLg2m2XFx6xrhG5JDj7qf0P4M/wCphuKaylUbVcYBY5waWgAOyGAbaHSEqMljUnXf9xblbKT6P+EDD4gYlzu00tpuL3EuPXzTbBNvic2QOe6J0pwmWriaZIAcc943GYkeZK1fAuE0W4nEGkw53spFz6hBBY0uADG5eyJANpkwdgs50teXVTcGWXdIN2ktIB8h33Q63KSY7p1/caZl+iWErUxWdWbGcNYKbWtzQQ6+UXAMDXWFN4hhamZoDMnYA0EhtxlzbXnlqpPR6KGd7XFzqjSAABaJPPWBF/dBw9etjK9NlI5DUayBmk9vPq+JAAbNgLSm25TbC0KCI9BgouMuGZw+GJIOs8/kL6rnh2ONao1xBALZEmT8R2FhZo9UfjDaeFqCi6k7rw4Hrg7sVGnsgtY7QnnIgi6peDPLazQTYZhG9jv/AITErVkNN1I/U/knR5Hd7p0FlUef4THUjTpCo0Exl0FhlaA4d9o8ggY1oixNjp9m83A20KHw/A52NDSARBI3dEkEbbxdGxbGtBce0HFom2YQNI5LqaVexkTenzL9wbHND3PI7MBoNvl3lFxVKm9hLYJAtz2/MIMsqNcAC0NIE7a25eik4LC0+qGYuJLosbQDJJ5mNkD233DVPyqqZWNwDiDEWJB7/wBQh06kSBII1GoVth+wwuN2uLo01AJ9/wAEPhtRgLs/ZLnTfS+g9/dHre4HhpNIiPxZdE7WkelwVJocRc34HZdRA3B1kHXw/JTsbwsZ6YA+MkW8kDE8FLRY+ThKpZYvkLwpLgP+3qjyesEucZLoGaYgQT8NuUBSuD16QHbAcAPuwCRFyGm21ws/h6biCQNCdDa3cVIDH5Zgxe4a6L2MltpjuVyUXsDFyW5pKuCpVBLTTB7fZFhMxTIJ1Jm8jkFC4LhCyjiCWmSHibAAE5QZ38AqdnEL6jfQjW/2XDvRqONgOBmHb6xcGbTy90vRSoZqUmnQsdwsNeGwHaklswJmxOxkey7wvR51Rge0WOYfEAbGBY+CGzHkGC85T8Vnd87clNHGmtblY94i4uAAYIOre/3Kp6lwRRi2SaXAus6tl+xTBfDmi8vm5sYICl4DhWShWZcGRIJm7ZBiPxVKOMOzMLXtMANNxIF7D+4q84RjS+m8F1yQDAEmfDw3KzZNSRpxRTlt+bGcxHDgyo0QNQfmtzw6iW4im42a14JdyEEST5rI8WxbnZXGMx1c4agQGkGNoI8lqMNXp0gA8OdVLWAu7Ts12AQDDRct3QZbcSlHdoBiOFAYl1XN9qwa1znTIIIAvfKRdW+NwDBWw9Ihzu0x8ZWhpJMQ4OBsJMiNiq3CdJ20SXUqbszmmTUcJOQOc1sAGL8jurzB1K2IxLWWa9zi02zFuUB0lzjoAdlnlrtWGscVF+xtMXgqbabmvrNDCwNJswB3MCQ2IUOhxHDU25KNN9bQnK2WkjcvdDZvrJUDhXCh11QVg6o+m57QfiLsjRGVp0Jv4yOSquE42rWxNbD1qrmty1Wt6sCm5paQA4RvE6ykNVb9ili7XZccT4rjC1zqVFgygdgB1V7pMAQ0ADyB01WUw+HfVp5qrmgkuJNWGxLhbKLk20APw3Xo/R+k2m4Uw6oS1kAuIObSSTF3WnzKzHTrg1OnUFQNvVJcdYJGsnxdNtZ7kzFUoX3K1rHNwSAcIwtOrhqzKXUl1MOzVHB+czmc0smAzSOfZ0WX6DVy3HYYl1g4NEaRn6v/AM1rehtBjuvaWz2AWjQTcGw11XnXDcQW12uAdFOuw2BiC5riPUaJ2PmSI3qjKzWfSXTDnFwHaoVHD+hzz+Me6xNN7utcWtMNcKlrkNee0tJ024xTqVcW9rwWgiWgjMZhtp750mFgcdxcEHq87cxl0u2AhotqNT5lasGOUkBlywhFe9Gw/wCJT/yKn/SkvPvrT/vO9SnWr+lRh/qixw1N7GteR2SBB8F1xSeqDrZXPI1kgtAJOlvi+aPgOIzTFN92wB3jldQMbTyZ6ZvlIe3w39j7LUob6hDztx0E3h7mhodUgskZhp6RodLjmlgaeYANLAwWOYwdREXvtfVVOU9XYnWSNu4+6E4EWPiqcV2J4jXKNA9zy6QHCm0Q4wXBh1cJNibnvuVKrVGOc1pscoIBAvz8LNA8gonRfHVB1jGklhb8Mi7iQBr3TK66hzK7uua4EAwBLXAOkt0sAQlSgkrNGLLKTqv4JlOkH1GtYTAuRB7GYERE35W3CsMRgnPjqnjKModJ0mYI8bC4i8SsqeJCGtDHNykm7j2hGhgC/wCavqOIZTY5peAajc9odDjBA1sTHfBHkkzx72aIZU00VnXuouNJzdQ6CN7m6uuE4um2nldM30j5TKpsViHPqEvbFoL2hsuI0toDtb81IfSoTObNoGi4M99tVJwTKxyaslVWUv3kyASXAltogCPGxULBYWmWMFpJaHWOhN77ouHFPMKM5nkiSJhrtgC64iYJ5gomH4a5lQXgQS1pcA5pDoB0vHheEFUmrDVNpnb+C0S5uUiIeTBcNC0D3KkUuirXmzyLOdIc4xFp33+R5I2C4rTa92emypku1zTeQQ2DaMsE/JXuA7BaRSbTzQwFzpJPbtEnQA92hm90TlOPI6MIT9L+xmcJ0ZLszc4lgBnNlkOAIN+/5rVYrhdLDvfTaKrS1lMgCHNzNbE33MX55iq/E0wys/KGVMzQ5sPu1rMuYwLZZER3qxPFGYis+oXMpgj7TgQMs725wlyuSsP0bLkJ0k6H06jsA6mQynla2/WHR+btCdTmg8zK0r+iANPEE5QP3bmul+ZppEEQzSBfXVUfFeIAtwgFanFHKA0PaMzpBNQvdYMAbp36rX8OFTqK/XsLalWWg9kiHUwG3FmjNOqSr21ASk4ptd/5/go8R0RoU6tClmcQQ1rXOY09r4SXNNjIm3P0V/S4IGYsupw14o5nPIb2szgCS1oDS+GgZu481l+M9I2jEgyOtwjTVq0m5nuIpP7cOaMoOV0xNlZcD4vUxDamLxDhgZb1Ya9vx02Znio01SPvEWB+EHdVGE3G3yBkn5VFP3v8+hKw9ar9beYzPY0kAWB7fabf+EmD3LLYPD1jxF7+rcwONTMYs0u+IZojNmGyJgvpJwrKuIrdY6pBa2n2IL5FyRIytmTtM9yr+K/SuxzX5aQaXGQ/MQ4DU9iSJPcUcenm040BiyvHz/v87G7wUHENnszIib2ntT4Kk+kfiNNrqbC+Xsa57huGuiHGBH2D+isJw36QqtetTp1HZaedriQCYAsZuNRI81TdM+kL6uJrubOR9R7p0lpPZEa6Xvz0CZg6SUWosmXLGX9xccE8dKibUswaQWuIMOPIWOmnqo3E+lrmsLaYax5M5m/FlAj4psbagqgwlN5pdlhDSXDrLwTAdlJ0mAjYHCU5/eHMBYt03kmQdFueGEXbQiOSUlUQvG206L2NBa5+RpquGmd1y1u0C19zKp6zQe0NNISxRGYxoDA8BYK66N4dtZzWOHZY1znQNZI1PoFqS0oyOWuVMz8JL0P9kU/+Wz0SQ+L8i/A+Zg6L4hWVWoKlMHRzLajtN3Hj+t1WUSjdTYnuT9+EZ00nbHw/ZMEcj66eybEtDiA3W8n8vJR3H2suqdeEtx3tGhZE46ZcE1mIdTEMsbXHzRMZxV1UjrHOLmgAHXSbX8UIcQGR7RYuA9jsdlXE3VRj7hZZpPyu0TKlTeZj5d/nHqj4am2rlYxsVL3c4Rzty00hBp0f3T3bwLR3+3in4I8NqhxAMAkTz2MeqjqnXYG2mr7h8Fwx8guLIm7S7tRodLD1XOLrNouyUzmgglzhcOvYeAPuU+JoFtZ2S4+ITtN49VOw3CG1K7euDmtc0P2BcLCJ2QN27fA5RajUFTs4q9IaMgtw4DiAXODnAl2riMu0yq5vF3hxdmMmb6663K0PF8LgPhpue14blgXaNdS49orPDhBOj2n1Vx0+wGTxOLv6FlhgcTEObTOrgDBeRyAsN7m0uKu34pleqTWHUscHNbTbUzBhcOyGjQDNBkzN51Wbe1lNgLs2Y2AaQAOZ0MzpFlEGOOcvaSHXcO46+HsgePVwN8Tw9nybDFdGn0MK6rSxADr/AGgzO0Zs2UTMlxAA/hVH0W4RU4hWcw1urDWFznR2QJAygCAJzH0KqqdWpVcBdxsPAT6AXW/wnHW0GAHKAAASY5e+iFpw25bBT8TfhIz3EeJ1MFiX03FlWI5wARLcpIsQCLxZRK/TXEHPDyHVMpc4F2bsz9onW+/IIHFsXSxFXrCchJ7ViQeUWty8lU4hoDiBpNvDZMjji+VuBPLNcPYLT4jVDzUFR+dxJc7M7M6TJzOmTJ5rS1emtXER9aJqtax7GiWtguETEdrnfWNVkkbNAHqjljjLlCseWUd7NhiOAYaphaZwnWhzj2zUI2kGQLCDpHNV+P6MmmOs+JrQJhwm2pj8LqHwfFkNe2dO1HhrHopmG4pmf2gHBoPZOjpsA4bi8+SBRaY1yjKKRCksHYsXXMiIB+HzIv6KFVzayCusZji5xJJ5anyElR6dSCmKNC5TvZk1uLLaQaZkEkCbNBnQeZ9VEodpwE+PhupuL4c5zHV2HNTBaCSMpBMWiTI7xzUKg6Mx7vmoltZbl5knwg+GwZq1urZaSbnYDUlaxrqWFp5aYF9XHV3efyVH0fZkY+od+wPAXdHnCjY7GlwI8h6oZW9kXCktTLL/AIqPeks3KSvwolePITTClQSxxG3yKiuZp4SjUqhCcZiPKZO8QUyosSu+D8OFVsmLA6kDw1VIBKs8F2aZOaN0vJwP6f1BMfgnMJIOguO7ysRCrcPWymRr+tFdMcawyEgEiAdpOgJ5Kiq0i1xa4EEEgg7EKQ3RWZOMvkWFDHkak+atavE2Ghd3bbZuskHUHwAnyWYlSKLlHjRUcsltYMuupmDxobtdRHUTqbItAAXPh5opJNFQbUix4jhXVQ0tIMD4bCJ5LsdEqrW5ntJbvk7Ud5hVrscZJC13R3pIW0ocbiQJnfSCPRLkpRiqGqUZzZmaONDMzGC3PcxzRKvEWuaWu3nTbl7qtxIyucO+5UdHoT3A8VrYnYGlT6xvWGWA9oCWkjlKn9IaFN2R1CnlblggXm5g96owjjFOAgOMcpMImn2Ai48NHeEwDnnQwtJguhYLzmcct4MAa73N1lesPM+pUmlxKo2AHuAG0mPQoJQm+GHGcF2LsdCMUx0sDHC/aDwP+6EHDUTL8zcmX4gPvAwAfc25INHpTXEdskcjH4KM7i3ZcADme8vdy7h7n1UqXclwXAHiODyukGQb8t9B3KL1ZUipxSo77UDkALeB1UZzydST4olfcXJxfBKp45zabqYJyviRtI0lR2myVOmTJ2GqYlXRVsJ9YMASYGg2HgFyCuJXTRKhLbFlSXXXHkkr3JsdH4R5fJNT18vzSSV9gVyc19fIIYTJKiyRhNf1zCkV/hckklv1GnH6A/DtB4hcdJf/AHNTxb/2tSSUhyyZfREqwpnD/j8ikkjn6WKw/wDovqS8bsodf4fP8EkkuHCH5vUyKVpej/8ApH+ZOkjy+kz4vUUHEP8AVd4qOUkkS4Bl6h2pJJKwRJ0klCDrgpJKEHTJJKEJVL/SPj+AUdJJCg5cIZd0t0klGVHk6SSSREP/2Q==Yet the Christian life is so much more!  Becoming a Christian is like having the roof lifted off our little theatre and looking up to see a far greater stage.  A stage that stretches throughout time and eternity, that covers every nation, that has right in the center God Almighty Himself.  We are called as Christians to become part of God’s story, of His great drama of salvation.  He lifts us up and places us in something far greater than we could ever imagine.  A story with a future, a promise, a hope!

If we want to enter, we cannot be the center…

…if we demand God enter our plans we will be disappointed.  Yet every disappointment is an invitation to look up, give up having to control, and bring ourselves to God completely.  He is faithful, He is good – will we walk with Him?

Simple Minds – 3 Thoughts on Finding Contentment

Contentment.  It seems such a straightforward term and yet something always out of reach. How do we find contentment?  Once we find it, how do we keep it?

At the risk of stopping you reading right now, I have to admit, I don’t know!  This is something I am learning at the moment.  It is something I struggle with.  I am naturally emotional – I feel things strongly – left to my own devices I can oscillate between being the life and soul to quietly withdrawn.  Yet I work with someone who I have begun to recognise as one of the most contented men I know.  He is not naive, foolish or idealist, yet he is never far away from joy no matter what the situation.  He is also pursuing simplicity in his lifestyle.  The two are not unrelated.

Simplicity births contentment.  

Simplicity can take many forms.  I’ve written previously about how my wife and I put great value on living beautifully.  We want to live in a way that isn’t always pushed to the limit in time, finances, capacity and head space.  We don’t always manage.  In fact, recently I’ve really struggled.  I’m a church leader.  That means my life is full of people, situations and events that call for urgent attention right now, as well as a need for ‘stepping back’ big picture thinking, prayer and strategy.  Recently I’ve taken on an extra larger area of ministry.  Things have been busy.  There’s been a lot to do and a lot to think about.  I’ve got stressed.

I won’t be the only one.  Having a busy life full of many different things, all seemingly urgent, all needing attention, is not a unique experience.

How do we find simplicity amidst the multitude of urgency?

I have 3 thoughts I want to share; 3 things that came as I prayed through this very question this morning.  They’re personal words into my situation, but I think they may be helpful for many others too.  For me, the place I need simplicity most is in my mind.  Some circumstances I can change, many I can’t, but I can affect how I see my life.  I want to see it through the perspective of the presence of my Father God every single moment.  I want Him to shape my view.  How does that happen?

1. Recognise the season you’re living in.

We live in a ‘now’ culture where everything is available all the time: knowledge is immediately available through Google or Wiki; fruit and veg line our shelves all year round; I can get what I want when I want it.  Our social and personal approach to life has become dislocated from the rhythm of the world we live in.  Nature still operates in seasons except where we seek to interfere.  God still operates in seasons too, and we can’t change that one!

Praying this morning I believe God was saying the season is Autumn for me, but I’m trying to live in Spring.  This is a season where some things die and move over to make space for new growth; it is a slower season; a transition season.  Yet I want Spring.  I’m acting like if I work hard enough and well enough I can see new growth and life springing up all over.  I can see this.  As a church we’re in a place of transition, a place of re-organising and preparing for growth.  Yet I can put myself under pressure to see that growth right now.  I needed to hear God say: slow down, it’s ok, this is the season – enjoy it!

Do you know the season your in?  One of growth, preparation, transition, training, rest, beginning, finishing, persevering – what season are you in?  Let yourself live in it.

2. Clear the airwaves.

Last post we looked at Philippians 4 and Paul’s guidance in how to live without anxiety.  He ended by calling us to focus on what is good, noble, excellent and praiseworthy.  To watch what we watch.

My mind is cluttered.  I read about 6 books at a time.  I get input from books, computers, music or phones at every conceivable opportunity of the day – even the bathroom is not exempt! My issue isn’t that I fill my mind with bad stuff it’s just that I fill my mind over and over again.  It never stops.  I have no space to gaze.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

I need to give my mind room to simply rest on God.  For me that means putting books down, turning the radio off, making space.

3. Do the basics well.

Some of you may well do this last one naturally anyway, but it’s confession time for me.  One of my biggest causes of stress is that I feel I’m continually on catch up.  It’s often because I am.  I carve out space for the big important looking things and miss out time to properly sort out my calendar and diary – to get the basics of life done well.

Do you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it or do you, like me, quite enjoy the adrenaline of the hectic….until it all gets too much?  I say this to myself, but you may want to say it to yourselves too: “Make space for the basics now, you’ll appreciate it later!”

So there we go.  I’m on a journey and these 3 things are my directions for today.  Enjoy the season, make space to gaze, and do the basics well.  If you have any other suggestions, experiences or advice, why not share the wealth by making a comment using the link below.

Dealing with Anxiety

“It is possible to live an anxiety free lifestyle”.

What do you think?

We’ll respond differently, probably depending on our own experience.  Some incredulous, some ashamed, some angry that it could even be suggested, some indifferent because anxiety’s not such a big deal anyway.

It was Pete Carter, a church leader of great wisdom and integrity, who I heard say it, but he wasn’t the first.  In fact, Jesus said ‘Do not worry about your life’ and the Apostle Paul wrote ‘Do not be anxious about anything’.  Neither of them meant it as a mere suggestion, nor as an unreachable command.  It’s an invitation.

“Anxiety will come knocking at your door, it’s your choice whether to let it in.”

Another quote from Pete, but echoed in Paul.  In Philippians 4:4-11 the Apostle gives us some clear practical advice, and he really meant it…

1. Rejoice in the Lord always!

Worship, gratitude, praise.  It’s always our starting point.  Why?  Because as we react with worship we remember that God is near.  Bottom line, the reason we can live without anxiety is because God is our Father and He’s always present.  When Jesus said not to worry about life, He also described how Father God provides for birds and grass so how much more will He provide for us?  Whatever circumstances come, make worship a first reaction – because ‘The Lord is near’.

2. Do not be anxious…but present your requests to God.

This is not some kind of ‘grin and bear it’ denial of reality.  Anxiety comes on the back of circumstances – of challenges and perceived needs.  Jesus meant it when he said “In this world you will have trouble”….but he meant the next part too, “take heart because I have overcome the world”.  Don’t deny challenges, turn them into requests.  Bring them to Father God who can actually do something about it.

3. Leave it with Him.

Here’s the biggest challenge.  Often we worship and/or pray but then we keep on wondering, thinking, trying to work out what God is going to do.  We don’t let go.  The promise is that as we hand over our anxiety in the form of requests, God will hand over His ‘peace that passes understanding’.  Here’s the problem – to have peace that is beyond understanding we have to give up being able to understand (that’s not a me original – I heard it first from Bill Johnson – but it’s so true).  The problem is, I go through the motions of recognising God is present and handing it over to Him, but then I keep acting like it must be all down to me.  Essentially I want God to bless me as I deal with the problem, I don’t actually hand the problem over for Him to deal with.

It’s simple, but it’s hard.  It hits a bottom line issue: can we fully trust God?

Often we keep hold of the issue because we’re not sure God will sort it out.  Maybe we’ve tried handing it over before and the results haven’t been what we expected.  The truth is we cannot trust God to do exactly what we want Him to, but we can trust Him to do what is good, to be near, to bring peace.  God is good all the time, He’s outrageously good – but sometimes the way He works doesn’t make sense until we see the end of the line…and we may not always get to see it this side of eternity.

How do we learn to trust?

4. Watch what you watch.

Paul exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.  Too often we fill ourselves with stories of bad things going on, of challenges and issues facing people, of how stories turn out bad.  The news reports what is going wrong in the world.  When we chat to people it’ll be negative more often than positive.  To speak too positively makes us sound over optimistic or ‘unreal’.  To ‘be real’ almost literally means to ‘be negative’ – see what can go wrong.  No wonder we struggle to trust God – we struggle even to remember what He’s really like.

Rejoice always.  Focus on what is good, right, true and noble.  Why?  Because then we’re always aware of the presence of God, of His goodness, of the fact we can trust Him.  We start to recognise the way He is moving so that we see the number of times He works in seemingly impossible situations to bring about good.  We see the way He transforms one situation in an instant and walks faithfully giving strength over long periods of time through others, yet always with never failing goodness.

Bottom line is this: God will not always do what we want, but God will always be with us and He will always be good.  We cannot avoid challenges, trials and loss, but we can keep anxiety out.  Recognise the presence of God and His goodness.  Choose to rejoice, to request, and to let go.  Then do what He says to do.

 

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!