Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pride

'Any Christian is at risk in any of the temptations. But those of us who do work explicitly defined as Christian-pastors, teachers, missionaries, chaplains-live in a especially hazardous environment, for the very nature of the work is a constant temptation to sin. The sin, to put an old word on it, is pride. But it is often nearly impossible to identify pride, especially in its early stages. It looks and feels like energetic commitment, sacrificial zeal, selfless devotion. We become Christians because we are convinced that we need a Saviour. But the minute we enter into a life of ministry we set about acting on behalf of the Saviour'

Eugene Peterson

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The return of the egg

A friend made me laugh when he commented on my views on eggs, the boiling of which has become much neglected. I read recently that in some parts of the country people are starting to suffer from malnutrition because of the impact of ready meals. The time of the egg is surely nigh. My grandfather was a great fan of 'the egg coddler' a true Victorian culinary classic which is well overdue for a comeback and is the perfect antidote to microwaved Asda lasagne. The coddler gives you the ability to boil an egg but without the anoyance of the shell and is perfect for a hearty breakfast or snack.

If someone doesn't defend the great traditions of the British kitchen table where will we all end up.

Give yourself a treat and go buy an egg-coddler!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What I've done

Check out the new song by Linkin Park for a bit of good old rock. It's called What I've done.

Because of you

Last week we had a whole teach-in on 'Church-planting'. For those who don't know, that simply means starting churches where there aren't any. Some of it was quite thought provoking and lots of people have thought up models of how to do it. What we certainly don't need is another model. If that's your thing then Willow Creek, Rick Warren or a host of others are a good port of call.

I think churches grow because of people. It sounds obvious but surely the answer lies not in systems but people and potential. Lots of the people who spoke to us cited the Parable of the Sower as a justification for preaching the bible with seemingly no effect and calling this a strategy for church growth. I must say I just found some of this very depressing and I wouldn't wonder if others did too. If you don't seem to be enjoying the Christian life, it beats me why you expect preaching the bible at people is likely to encourage others to join in. Some wings of the church might benefit from cheering up a bit, a reassurance that it is OK to laugh on occassion and may beneift from spending a wee bit more time listening to the culture and a little less time in their own increasingly disconnected world.

Some seem to have been reading the book yet missed the man.

Are not the markers of a growing church more likely to be passion, compassion, mission, prayer and joy. For some schools of the church, joy is a dirty word but, to quote my new Californian friend Bill (see post below), 'Christians should be marked by joy'. Joy and happiness are not the same thing, with one being conditional on circumstances and the other not so. All these things start with the leader and without a leader full of joy and passion,I conclude it will be unlikely for their followers to spark these independently. How do some people with all good intentions think people want to come to a place they call church to be depressed, repressed and sapped of life when the Jesus I know seems to be, and experientially is, the antidote to those things.

So, I conclude, churches grow when leaders grow into a place of passion and fire such that those around them catch it too. The few I follow have this fire and I guess my task is to get it too. (Tim Keller, Rob Bell, David Carr, John Peters, Jon and Debbie Wright,). This morning, I read that the crowds were so desperate to be around Jesus that they trampled one another (Luke 12:1). When people start trampling one another to get to church we know somethings cooking.

I also discovered last week the song 'Because of you' by Kelly Clarkson. Great voice and she just goes to show what extraordinary talent lies undisovered in the highways and byways. She was spotted on American Idol and is now a superstar.

Happy listening.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Penyfan


Have just returned from a weekend climbing penyfan in the Brecon Beacons as part of a church weekend a pal Justin invited us to. This is a photo of my mate Tim and I at the top. Not bad going 16.8km through wind and rain and not too much complaining.

As I was trudging up a particularly steep hill I realised that the trick to progress is taking very small but regular steps. In the driving rain I felt God's hand say that's the way to do it. Slow and steady and not too spectacular but that's how you get to the summit. An insight to tuck away I think.

My other thought is that discipleship is about having the right kit for the journey. As one of the lads got out a 2 by 2 piece of matting to park his backside on at lunchtime rather than have to sit in a soggy mire as I was doing I thought it all about the right kit. One chap was a Royal Engineer Brigadeer and he lead the way on walking paraphanailia and it made me resolved never to go out again unprepared.

Anyway, God blessed us and moved in great power in many lives. Praise Him and thanks to all for a splendid time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

When heaven invades earth

This has been quite a season with lots to think about and reflect upon. I remember some time ago sitting in a sermon class studying the bible, Luke 5 to be precise, and my teacher is someone who holds the bible in very high regard. In fact, he is constantly going on about it and know far more about the bible than I ever will.

The bible, I have noticed, is a collection of writings in which a host of extraordinary things happen: the creation of the world, the parting of the sea, the real presence of the glory of the Lord dwelling in a cloud and then in the Temple and then God himself comes and walk among us as Jesus and does all sorts of things and says we will do greater things than these. The kingdom has come, in him, he proclaims and we too are to do the things of the kingdom. What on earth does that mean in practice and what will it look like?

As we read Luke 5 together in our class, verse 17 jumped out at me as being very very interesting. It reads, 'And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.' Three times I asked for anyone to explain this-it seemed amazing and worthy of some exploration. What is this power? How did he have it? Can we have it too? Move on I was implicitly told, this is a story about salvation not healing-any 'sound' commentary will tell you that. But what about vs 17, I again asked. There seemed to be immense reluctance to explore this exciting prospect of the power of the Lord being available to us to heal the sick. It seems, on occasions, that some have decided which bits of the bible we do do and which we don't. I was and am left somewhat puzzled.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I have witnessed a few things recently that have challenged me to the core. One was a man called Bill from California who has a ministry of miracles. Yes, he calls it a ministry of miracles and the supernatural. Despite having what might be called a less than orthodox understanding of biblical doctrine he proclaimed and displayed the works of the Kingdom before my eyes. The deaf heard, one woman's leg grew back an inch and a half, and another woman was seemingly completely healed of MS and was no longer in a wheel chair. Of course, this made me enthusiastic to understand and share and I have been telling of God's wonders ever since, but it has left me with a few questions( Apologies to those who think I have been even more mad in recent days than I am normally).

Here are a few things Bill said:

Desperation is what moves heaven
It is up to us
You know you are renewed when the impossible seems logical
Be dangerous
We have the power to duplicate the miracle mansion
My job is to persuade him to come and fix things
You don't keep a job very long if you ask your boss to do a job he has asked you to do
The kingdom is released through declaration
Christianity must be recognised for its passion
Live from presence
I am as obliged to live in power as I am in character
Truth is multi-dimensional in nature
When a Christian walks into a situation the odds and potential change.
Inferior covenants (the old) are not meant to bring superior blessings than born again believers
We have reduces doctrines to doctrines and not experiences
I owe people an encounter with God, it should not be me they meet but Jesus
The authentic gospel desreves to be manifested. We pray for people because we want to get what he paid for.
Your destiny is in the area of your greatest loss
In law you are commanded to perform but in grace you are empowered to perform.
We have been trained not to believe God
Joy is the hallmark of the believer

Well, there are a few statements for the theologians to chew on. Over coffee, someone commented that he had an 'over-realised eschatology' in believing that heaven could be done on earth as we so often pray. Someone else interjected that when we have witnessed over 5000 miracles in our church perhaps then we can have a pop. This completely new paradigm of spiritual expectation and reality sent me running to my faithful friend Eugene with the stuff that confused me. He'll be able to help me on miracles. I run to Eugene because when you depart from the Word, as it seemed at times occured, and leap headlong into Wonder you need a guide to discern and process things. This is what Peterson says:

"Don't be impressed by signs; don't go looking for signs. The miraculous is no proof of truth or reality.....It would be odd if we did not at least occasionally catch a glimpse of this "beyond" our backyards and remark on it-a sign, a sign of God's presence or work where we had not expected to see or hear it and in circumstances in which we cannot account for it. But such signs are not for advertising or entertainment'

Of course, I long to see Luke 4 outworked in the church as I hope we all do, but it is the 'how this happens' that is my dilemma. Clearly, some have a super-anointing (at times I was left feeling that the power comes through some form of gnostic encounter but this was not unpacked through teaching) but us ordinary folk are in danger of being left faithless and helpless in the face of all the miracles that happen in Redding California but are not experienced in Milton Keynes. Don't get me wrong, I'm up for it and as I prayed for a boy in a wheelchair on the train from Newcastle over the weekend, with his dear mother looking on, and I mustered as much faith as I could generate and was hopeful that he may bound along the platform at Carlisle. But it was not to be. At least not this time. What I learnt was people who are not Christians don't mind a bit of prayer if you offer it and arguably have more faith that a God who rose from the dead may indeed cure their son. So I must not be deterred. But when God answers my prayer, as I am hopeful he will one day, I must remember Eugene's warning that it is never an entertainment and is simply a signal and pointer to the blood of the Saviour. The healer himself. When a miracle happens it is character that I will need before I would let myself anywhere near a conference. Sure Bill had character, but I am not sure I am yet refined enough by the fire for the Lord to entrust to me a global miracle ministry. In the meantime, I'll leave the conferences to the professionals.....

Two other thoughts. If you ever wondered what a revived Church looks like then get yourself up to 'Renewal' in Solihull. They have 700 to their Tuesday meeting and are the most genuinely joy-filled, faith-filled bunch I have encountered in a long time. A sight to behold and worth the trip.

My reflections will continue and apologies to any who have encountered my over-bearing questioning and story-telling of late. Forgive me.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A good soldier

My friend Peter sent me a link to youtube post by Mark Driscoll called A good soldier
There has been a bit of a hoohah about it and Bill Hybles is apparently rather hot under the collar. What does anyone think? It's all about Church planting. Haven't had time to check out the blogs on what the fuss is about but on youtube the issue seems to be filming it in a graveyard.

Answers on a postcard.