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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“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 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!

Death – a poem

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Zv3AyaO7DNc/UTt-aeaowaI/AAAAAAAAWEI/PZdtVjHmo7w/s1600/doorway.jpg

A doorway, or a thief?

Pain or relief?

At last.Farewell.

Above, beneath.

See you later,

Finality.

Gratitude.

Grief.

Endless descriptions, yet one truth is needed:

That oppressive sovereignty, once firm, has been ceded.

For when Jesus Christ rose, death was defeated.

Our hearts feel the pain of this temporary separation,

but Spirit brings comfort of guaranteed celebration.

For those who know him, by Christ are well known,

and presented to Father at the glorious throne.

Death is defeated, life is assured,

Love won the victory,

‘Welcome’ the final word.

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.

Significance

Significance is found at your throne.

Is seen in your face.

Is heard from your lips.

Every word drips

living water from your Spirit to mine.

Ears on fire,

Heart alight,

I see

me

As you see.

Identity

in you.

I am I AM’s:

healed healer,

restored restorer,

dreamt dreamer,

created creature,

spoken speaker,

formed reformer,

loved lover.

Free, redeemed,

me.

For you.

I am,

significant.

Last post I described my trip to Bethel Church, California.  I could, and probably will, write some more reflections on that time, but if you want a sense of what God spoke into me then this poem is a pretty good start.  I wrote this during a time of worship.  Realising God’s love for me and His actual delight in, not just tolerance of, me is one of the most valuable things I brought back from the USA.  I’m bold to hope that in some way this poem might communicate some of that same truth to you too.

Is Jesus Enough?

http://dobbse.net/thinair/2004/05/finger-pointing.gifThe challenge of preaching is that your preaching is challenging.  They say that when you point the finger there are four pointing back at you (or at least 3 fingers and a thumb!).  When you stand with a microphone and the responsibility to voice what God is wanting to say to that group of people on that evening through that particular passage – then every word you utter resonates straight back in your heart too.  At least I hope and pray that it will never be otherwise!

On Sunday I preached a message that hit me with a challenge that will resonate for some time to come.  This isn’t a comment on the quality of the preach, but rather the significance of the word God gave me to speak.  You can listen to it here, but this is the crux….Is Jesus enough?  Just Him, not what He brings, gives or is able to do, but simply Him?  Whether we understand or not, even when the way he seems to act (or fail to do so) offends our sense of what he should do…is he still enough?

My text was John 6:25-40 – a conversation including Jesus’ famous declaration that “I am the bread of life!”  But what struck me is how this conversation is Jesus returning to the crowd he withdrew from at the start of the chapter in order to give them another chance to invite him in.

http://www.beliefnet.com/Prayables/Scripture/Loaves-and-Fishes.aspxYou see, the chapter starts with the feeding of the 5,000.  There is a crowd of thousands in a remote place and hungry.  So Jesus feeds them with a little boy’s packed lunch.  Jesus isn’t just generous and offers to buy everyone dinner, he does something totally beyond, something utterly unexpected.  Jesus doesn’t play by the rules we play by, he doesn’t even bend them slightly, rather it’s like he’s playing a totally different game.

Yet the crowd miss the point.  Confronted with a miracle that’s meant to be a sign, to be evidence of who Jesus is, they miss the invitation to receive Jesus and they simply see the free lunch.  They search around for some concept within their understanding of life with which to label Jesus.  They call him the ‘Prophet’ they’re expecting – not God himself come in human form – and then they try to control.  We read that they wanted to sieze Jesus and make him King.  So Jesus withdrew.

You see Jesus didn’t come to help us play the game of life better, to live a better life.  He came to give us a new life, to bring us into a new game, to enable us to live by different rules – where God himself is with us, our Father, our faithful provider.  Yet so often when we experience something of God’s power or an answer to prayer, we focus on the gift not the Giver, we seek to maintain life as we know it and simply add God on top.  We tame God with a label we understand and seek to control.  Jesus withdraws.

http://revbickers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/e100-bible-reading-challenge-miracles_3.htmlThe very next event is another miracle.  The disciples are in a boat in the middle of the lake and a storm has arisen.  Jesus doesn’t just swim out like a hero to help them, he walks on the water towards them.  He plays by different rules.  The disciples are terrified, but all they need is Jesus to say ‘It is I’ and they invite him into the boat.  They don’t wait for a deeper explanation, to understand fully, to know what to do.  All they need is to know it is Jesus and they invite him in.  We’re told that immediately they reached the other side.  By inviting Jesus in they find themselves playing the other game, His game, with different rules.

The conversation Jesus has is him giving the crowd another opportunity.  He challenges them to lift their eyes from ‘food that spoils’ and to see the ‘food that lasts to eternal life’ right in front of them.  He explains that the only work they do is to believe in and receive Jesus.  To let Jesus in.  When they ask for a sign his message is simple – you’ve seen enough already – I’m here.  God himself has come in human form and stands in front of you – you’ve seen enough to know I’m good – all that remains is to invite me in.

I’m challenged.  How many times have I seen God move, experienced incredible provision, seen physical healing, known emotional change in my own heart?  And yet I’ve quickly focused on that provision not the Provider.  I’ve wanted Jesus so long as he continues to do what he has always done.  I’ve gained some understanding of how God works and I’m happy for Him to do so within those boundaries…but I don’t want anything that disrupts my grasp on how life works, on how God works.

Sometimes when it seems that God has stopped doing what He once did the issue is that we’ve started to control, to focus on that particular provision, to limit what God is allowed to do in our lives.  We’ve focussed on gift not Giver and so the Giver withdraws.  The incredible news is that He’ll always give us another chance – but are we open to the conversation?  To the challenge of our understanding and priorities that centers on the one simple question: is Jesus enough?  If we had nothing else, if He ceased to do all that we’ve known Him do before, if He gave us only himself – is Jesus enough?

The disciples amaze me.  After many have left because the conversation was so offensive, Jesus asks if they are leaving too.  They reply: ‘To whom would we go?”  These men left everything before they saw a single miracle, simply at the invitation to ‘come follow me’.  They’ve gone so far that it doesn’t matter if they understand or not, if they like it or not, they have nowhere else to go but where Jesus is.  I want to be in that place, to say ‘Jesus, you are enough, more than enough, no matter what – all I want is you.’

How about you?

Leadership Journies 1 – Rest and Confidence

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-FkX3Cvglwgw/UO96WHj16qI/AAAAAAAAM7c/BGq8dvvLXKY/s1600/L+plate.jpgOne piece of advice I’ve heard from almost every leader I’ve come across is this: never stop learning.  It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have or how many letters come after your name – there is always more to learn.

I’m at the start of my ministry.  And I’m in this for the long haul.  So I want to learn.  I’ve had the privilege of growing up under the leadership of some great men and women.  Everyone learns from mistakes and experiences, but there is little point repeating mistakes of those who have gone before if we can avoid it by conversation!  So I’ve started to meet up with as many of these leaders as are willing to simply to learn whatever they can teach me.

The first man I met with was my old youth leader and a huge influence in my teenage years – Steve Delves.

Steve was the first person to release me into positions of leadership and got me to preach.  I’ve met few people as comfortable in who they are and as able to draw others out into the people they’re made to be.  Yet the main things we spoke about were rest and confidence.

http://feministing.com/files/2013/02/work-life-balance-sign-post.jpgHow do you balance work and rest?  When you’re role has no clear time boundaries, you can feel always on call, you’re in a vocation rather than a career….how do you not overwork?

Steve took me back to the beginning, back to Genesis.  On the 6th day God created man and woman – right at the pinnacle of the creation, the final act.  On the 7th day he rested.  So what was humanity’s first day?  It was rest.

Often we think we have to work before we can rest, that we have to get everything done and dusted before we can even think about stopping.  Yet the first day of man was to rest.  We work from rest, not rest from work.

Steve found this insight in Mike Breen’s book Lifeshapes, but it’s something that has influenced him greatly. Rest is the source of our work, not the reward for it.  Right at the heart of this blog is the understanding that we are called to be faithful, not effective.  This faithfulness is itself the most powerful course, because as we walk hand in hand with God, he moves through us.  It is His strength that achieves His purposes through us.  We rest in Him and allow Him to work.  In a sense, our biggest job is to give up control, which takes incredible trust, which takes a deep awareness of the love of God.

No wonder Steve went on to say we have to be really careful to make sure our plumb line in deciding how well we are doing is what God is saying, rather than what people are asking.  Yes, we care and love those around us, but we are called first to respond to God’s lead rather than the demands and felt needs of those around us. Father God cares even more than we do for every person in our minds, He will not neglect or leave anyone stranded.  Responding to God is in itself the best way to respond to the people around us.

We’re called to be faithful and faithfulness comes from rest.

If you could give any advice to your younger self when you began leadership, what would it be?

You know more than you think you do.

Steve explained that most of the angst and stress he felt during leadership came from insecurity in himself or God.  Confidence in what he was thinking, decisions he made, ways that he led would have settled him far more.  It’s not that he would have done anything different, but he would have enjoyed it far more – been more at peace – worked from rest.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ent-FNvEbyM/USOCpWwIScI/AAAAAAAAAvs/VLluVWvb72o/s1600/How_Confidence_Can_Improve_Your_Life_and_Fitness_Goals_From_Empower_Your_Body.jpgWe are always learning, we are never the finished article, there may well be better ways that we could do the things that we do, but we’re not called to be the best.  We are called to be faithful.  To fix our eyes on God, give up control, and allow Him to do whatever He wants to do through us.  When we focus on walking in that relationship with Him, on being the people God has made us to be, we can have far more confidence in who we are because our confidence is in the One who made us.  Don’t second guess as if it all depends on you.  Keep right with God and trust as if it all depends on Him.  Here we find peace.  Here we find rest.  Here we see God move.