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In that place again…

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I’m in that place again… you know… that place where you have been many times, and many times over you have been in that place again.

I find myself recalling the verses which talk about ‘throwing off the sin that so easily entangles’ and talks about ‘fleeing from sin’. Why does God put so much emphasis on these and why in Romans 12 does Paul urge us to ‘present our bodies to God, as a holy and living sacrifice – for this is the true way to worship him’?

Answer – because you belong to God and God doesn’t want any harm to come to you, in the long run life is better but in those moments where temptation and the easy path present themselves – how often do we find ourselves giving in and not bothering to fight? For Paul writes to ‘Fight the good fight of faith’ – we and I need to remember that we are in a battle – not against earthly powers but

against spiritual forces that are so much more subtly and are in it for the long run, they aren’t so much into the victories they can make day by day but the cumulative effect they will have in the long  run of stopping us becoming disciples that love Jesus and live every day for him and for others.

Verse 2 in Romans 12 states: ‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’

I’ve highlighted the section in the middle of this post because it’s the bit I forget most of the time… let God transform the way you think! The outcome of that is that we will be able to hear and know God’s will for us, how often do we let other voices and distractions take centre stage when we know that actually spending a bit of time with God is infinity more rewarding and beneficial. We struggle to see what God’s doing – maybe we’re not looking or on his wavelength because we haven’t allowed him to change the way we think. How much time do you spend worrying about something rather than talking to God about it?

For me there is a key point here about the nature of God… he won’t change you unless you want him to, he won’t step in sometimes if you don’t ask him (there are times of course he will), how many more people may be healed or come to know Jesus if we prayed for them rather than just expect God to move without us asking (believing that it’s his will) … God wants us to want him to be involved! He wants us to realise that we need to take a step towards him if we want to be changed into the people he’s calling us to be. 

In Psalm 51 David (after having being challenged by Nathan re:Bathsheba) is crying out in repentance to God after realising that his lust and physical desires had taken over his self control and willingness to serve God. Someone who’s grown us hearing God’s voice and serving him is as easily susceptible to falling and making mistakes as anyone else. He writes:

“Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done

 what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgement against me is just. For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you des

ire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me, now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to the rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51 : 4-17 NLT

There is a choice we need to make as disciples – whether we willingly give ourselves to be changed by God or we don’t. One’s easy and one’s hard work, one’s rewarding and life changing and one’s not. I’ll let you decide which….

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Am I honouring God? and other questions I ask myself….

Am I honouring God?

Is my life honouring to God? 

How does my life reflect the Glory and majesty of God?

How do the choices I make every day show God’s holiness and his love for others?

What is obedience? How is it different from doing what I think is right? 

What’s God saying to me? 

What is the most important thing to do in life? 

Why am I here? 

What am I doing here? 

What’s God doing here and how can I choose to engage with it? 

What should I think when it doesn’t seem that God isn’t moving? 

Does God want to use me – to work through me? 

What if he chooses not to? 

Do I have a say in the matter?

 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength, and Love your neighbour as yourself.” 

What does it mean to love the Lord with ALL your HEART, ALL your MIND and ALL your STRENGTH?

What drives you? What’s the driving force in your life? 

What do you do when you aren’t able to do the things that excite and drive you? 

What if your occupation or situation is draining you? 

 

These and lots of other questions regulary go through my head … some with answers some without. It’s ok to ask questions, it’s good to wonder and ponder and to delve. 

For me however the problems or stumbling blocks arrive when I know what the answer is but can’t do anything about it – what do you/I do in that situation? How does a relationship with Jesus alter that? Does it alter that? 

What can God do? or rather what can’t He do? Will He do it? Is it in his nature to do so? 

 

I so long to see God move in this nation, through genuine friendships and relationships, through the gatherings of believers and non-believers. I truly believe that God is longing for us to really get a sense of his heart for his people, for the lost and the broken and those who are wandering or even for those who haven’t really thought about it yet. He wants to engage us in genuine interest and friendships with those around us. Let’s not invite people to an event or a “ministry” but lets invite them to share in our lives and let the witness of our lives challenge them to question their understanding of the world around us. 

 

Despite all my questions and doubts – I know with all my heart, mind and strength that Jesus is alive, and is moving throughout the world. I have heard too many stories and personal accounts of his spirit moving that there is undoubtedly certainty that God is real and active in this world. I have seen with my own eyes his Spirit heal and meet people, I’ve seen lives changed for good and I’ve experienced it myself. No matter what your opinions are you can never doubt the experiences you have when God reveals something to you or meets with you personally. There is nothing in this world that can match it… nothing. 

 

Jesus’ mission on this earth was two fold – firstly to draw people into himself so they got to see him and experience the father through him (and later to send his spirit to live within them). So that he could restore the broken relationship intended from the beginning of the world. Secondly, that this relationship would cause us to turn our eyes towards others, to love like we have been loved and to draw others into the life giving relationship with Christ. There is no power greater than the word of God (Hebrews 4:12) and it’s the Spirit which gives life to us. 

 

God’s plan from the beginning of Creation was to send his son so that we may come to know the father and the out pouring of that relationship would be the church. That God’s glory would be displayed by the church – the body of Christ with Jesus at the Head… it’s all about Jesus man… it’s all about Jesus. 

 

To be a disciple … what does that mean to me… to you? What does it mean that God chose you before you chose him… and how do we respond to that choice? What does it mean to disciple one another – to help grow and disciple one another. In my view – this will only happen through intentional relationships with a small number of people who in turn have a small number of people they disciple, it’s disciples making disciples… all pointing to Jesus and who he is. 

 

I will always have questions … and I may never know the answers … but what I do know is that God is Faithful and His love endures forever – and that’s all the comfort I need. Amen

IRL – ‘In Real Life’

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This one’s been brewing for a few days not sure where it’ll end up but here we go… 

Too often I find myself sucked into the world of youtube/facebook/twitter and it’s very easy to get lost and detached from the very real world around us. It’s easy to hide online in our own safe world where we control what we look at, what we choose to hear and who we choose to interact with. ‘IRL’ (In Real Life) things can be very different, we don’t get to choose who we interact with sometimes or what we hear or who we have to deal with – they’re just there in front of us. It’s our reaction to those situations which will matter – those friendships and real face to face conversations which will define what people think of you and what you think about yourself. This is a very real challenge to myself as I find myself sometimes just loosing hours watching inane rubbish on the internet or waiting to see if someone I haven’t talked to in years has updated their status about whether they like cheese or not…. do I really need to know?! 

I think it stems from a desire for connection to others but in this increasingly digital and impersonal culture we revert to the easy option of communicating via a screen. This is easy to do – face to face is much harder, it requires us to put effort in, to be alert, to listen, to engage, to understand and to be vulnerable – all of which seems increasingly adverse to the culture in which we live. We’re supposed to have everything together, to be happy, to not have a care in the world when in reality we’re all broken and messed up in our own little way. Have you ever been asked the question ‘How are you?’ and you’ve replied with ‘I’m fine’… there’s a saying that puts fine as Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional – I can sometimes see sense in this – it’s easier to say ‘I’m fine’ (as it avoids those vulnerable conversations) rather than – I’m rubbish and really struggling with things… can you listen/help? 

There’s a real challenge here but also a real opportunity to demonstrate genuine friendship and community amongst not just the church family but to those who are outside that family – who probably need our friendship and love more than we know. Let us not live two lives – one digital and one personal, if anything let your personal live override your desire to be connected online – invest in the friendships around you right here and now. You’ll never know what may happen or when those friendships which you so dearly cherish may end or drift apart – live in the here and now and keep an ear out for what God is saying to you now! 

There are two greek words for time, Chronos and Kairos – Chronos being the word referring to the chronological time – how we tell time, and the concept of time as it unfolds – a quantitive term. Kairos however refers to the moment at which in time God steps in or he breaks through into our time and changes a shift either in our own personal moments or across a nation in general. Can you think of any moments at which God has broken through to you in a Kairos moment? What happened and what was the result? I can definitely remember a few moments where either it has been a gentle encouragement or a slap in the face from God as to what he is calling me to do.

 In the New Testament kairos means “the appointed time in the purpose of God”, the time when God acts (e.g. Mark 1.15, the kairos is fulfilled). This is important for us to understand because it helps us realise that God is an active God that does frequently break through into our reality and do something amazing, a healing, an answer to prayer, a prophetic word or when his Spirit powerfully meets us. We should be ready to expect that God will speak to us when we meet with him. The following is inspired by the amazing and pioneering movement of missional communities across the UK and US led by a team called 3DM. 3DM is a network of missional practitioners with a heart for 3 Dimensional Movement, towards God, towards each other and towards others. You may recognise their triangle ‘learning shape’ Up, In and Out. If you’re part of St G’s or St Matt’s it’s what their vision is based upon. They have some really useful tools to look at your life and see what God’s doing with it – the key question to ask is ‘What is God saying to me?’ (to which you need to be able/open to hear his voice in your life) and the response question – which is the one we need to take action on – ‘What am I going to do about it?’. (You see God has this plan for the earth and for the rest of humanity and it’s called Jesus working through His church. If you struggle to believe that you are part of God’s plan for salvation check this out:

‘God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence’ Ephesians 3:10-12)

Below is what 3DM call the ‘learning circle’ it’s a picture of what happens and what our response could be to a Kairos moment in our lives:

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If you want to learn more about the lifeshapes and how they are amazing tools to see what God’s doing in your lives check out 3DM and some of the teaching/training they have available. For me personally it’s about realising in the here and now, in the real life what is God saying to me/calling me to do – to get my head out of the online world and into the real hurting world that’s all around us. We don’t have forever and we better take stock of today – today is a gift so don’t waste it. Think of all the amazing laughter/experiences/joy you could have today with people around you, close your laptop/phone and get out there. And that’s what I’m planning to do after finishing writing this. 

We have been given this life – this reality – let’s not throw it away because existing online is easier or entertainment is out our fingertips but choose to take hold of today – live in the reality that God is alive and kicking and is like a roaring lion urging his children to come home. Be real with those around you – ban the ‘F’ word if you have to! I’m reminded of the lyrics from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody;

“Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.
Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.”

 

Ultimately throughout the ups and downs of this song there’s this emphasis that anywhere the wind blows – it doesn’t affect me – I’m nothing to the wind, it will blow where it likes and I can do nothing to stop it. What is the reality that these lyrics cry out for? I’ll tell you what it is … That God loves you more than anything and sent his Son to prove it, by heaping your punishment onto Jesus he was able to welcome you home as you were originally intended to be. This is the marvelous mystery of christianity – that God would choose to love you despite your flaws and failings. He loves you as his own son or daughter and is longing, longing for the day at which you are back in his arms. We live in THIS reality and this is the truth to which I give witness. (John 8:32)

Learn to spend time with God this week , learning to hear his voice and his love for you – rest and meditate/think over and over again on the fact that you are extravagantly loved, extravagantly loved! This is the reality and identity we need to cling to when life sucks – because there will be moments that do – but God doesn’t change he’s still there loving you and holding you through the calm and through the storms of life… let’s not ignore His love for us and the relationship he’s offering/giving to us by hiding in our little worlds whatever they may be.

in HIM

Your Brother  

A Call to Holiness

1 Peter 1:13 – 2:3

“So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the scriptures say “You must be holy because I am holy”. And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favourites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in this land’. For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters, Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the scriptures say, ‘People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. So get rid of all evil behaviour. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”

 

There’s so much in this passage that you could pull out and expand upon, but what strikes me as I read it is too often I forget that God has given us a new life – ‘the old has gone, the new has come’. What does it mean to be born again? What does it mean to have a new life? How does that effect how we view ourselves and our past mistakes/failings? Each day do we dwell on the past or rejoice in the fact that each day God’s mercies are like the sun, rising and setting, a new beginning starting every morning?

It may be easy to comprehend that God sees each day as new for us, but we, being in the same situation most days – how do we break out of our old patterns and habits into this new life that God promises? Well the answer in my opinion is simple – but hard. It’s to be before God each day confessing our failings, asking him to transform our thinking and minds so that they are renewed – as we can then see what he’s asking us to do and discern the path for our lives in his plan. It’s so true when the bible talks about keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. There’s truth in the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ – each day we get a new chance to practice Jesus’ perfection in our lives – not by living according to what we think is right but to surrender our lives to him and allow his thoughts to invade our minds – his words to invade our lips and his life to invade our bodies. 

I have been struck recently at the constant repetition throughout the bible about God’s call on his children to be blameless and without fault – now we know that we can’t do that in our own strength but Philippians 4:8 reminds us to put into practice what Jesus taught and said – then God will be with you. He will make you Holy – in fact he already did through Jesus’ blood – we just don’t fully grasp that sometimes. There has to be a conscious choice to want to follow God’s call on our lives to be Holy – he’s made us holy through Jesus’ blood, now all we need to do is step into that day by day by spending time with Him in prayer, reading his word, meditating on it – basically putting it into practice. I say this from a person who definitely doesn’t always get it right and sometimes finds it hard to wake up and focus on God in the morning – but what I do know is that when I don’t I find myself stressing over things that don’t need to be stressed over, I miss the opportunities that God makes during to day to stretch out a hand in love and compassion on others and generally I miss what he’s saying to me. This is something I need to address and move forward in. 

The bible talks about growing in spiritual milk – in understanding. 1 Peter 2 verse 2 talks about craving spiritual milk – to grow in knowledge and certainty of your salvation and the position we are now in. Babies need milk to grow when they are young but as they grow older they (and we) need different types of nutrition to keep our bodies healthy and active. It’s the same with our relationship with God – we need to be hungry for more of Him – and for things that we don’t yet know or understand. To grow in a greater understanding of who God is, what his heart is and how we fit in that. We won’t be able to find that out and fully step into it if we’re constantly happy with just baby milk. We need to feed ourselves on bigger things – Jesus puts this perfectly in two places. Matthew 5:6 “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” and John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

I know I’m hungry for more because only then will I be satisfied. Please help to keep me accountable to this and ask me what has God been saying to me, what’s God been revealing to me as I humbly want to walk in step with his plan for my life – it’s a call to be Holy for him and to put into practice, to train myself in righteousness for his Glory and namesake. 

May God Bless you today as you seek to get to know him better – My prayer is that God speaks to you today and opens your eyes to the things he can do with your life if you let him.

in Him

Your Brother

Sometimes you just can’t do it…

button-fix-itAs people we want to fix things here and now – get the solution and sort the problem. But sometimes you can’t fix it here and now and sometimes you can’t fix it at all… all you can do is let go and let God fix it.

There are some things that we may try as hard as we might with our minds to comprehend – to say the right thing, to do the right thing, to always be the solid choice… but sometimes people we have to face facts we are imperfect and sometimes we’re going to get it wrong. Say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing or just be a fool/make a mistake. It’s at these times we need to let go of our pride, admit our mistakes and shortcomings, realise that it’s probably not as bigger deal as we would make it out to be and life still carries on regardless. Other people have the emotional capacity to help carry our baggage as well – we don’t carry everything ourselves – try as we may we just can’t do it. 

I am reminded that we are part of a much bigger heavenly plan – much bigger than the one we find ourselves in day to day. We believe and trust in a God who actively wants to break out in this world to give his Son glory and praise – to lift up the name of Jesus above all names. I find it easy sometime to talk about people that are in the news, the people that are popular at that particular moment but I fail sometimes to lift up and talk about Jesus in the same way. Why is that so?

Jesus has been the one person that has made more difference in my life than any celebrity or any other leader that I have ever known. Certainly other people have helped and inspired me but ultimately they have been of the moment and I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus loves me and died for me. This continues to fill me with wonder and awe – that such a king, such a blameless one, such a perfect person should choose willingly to give up their life for me so that I could have life – and have it to the full – John 10:10. Jesus says that ‘there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends‘ John 15:13 – Jesus counts me as his friend – this continues to baffle me, for I know what I am, where I’ve come from and there’s nothing on my CV that would make Jesus want to be my friend. I haven’t done anything particularly amazing and I have many things that I regret in life, the mistakes I’ve made, the people I’ve hurt, the lies I’ve told and all of these things make me imperfect – why would Jesus want to associate with someone like me? Even more than that Jesus doesn’t just call us his friends he calls us his Brother and Sisters – the sheer fact that Jesus wants to know me is sometimes enough to knock me flat.

So here’s the problem and I can’t fix it – I am a sinner basically an imperfect person who has gone and broken God’s laws for life – and there is no way of reversing time to change history so what can I do to put things right? What can I do to pay the penalty, to take the punishment for this disobedience? the answer – Nothing. I can do nothing. Nothing I ever do will ever be good enough or worthy enough to right a wrong that was done – and this is the crux of the matter – I can never make up for what was done. There’s only one way of righting this wrong and that’s for God to have compassion on me and write off the wrong that has been recorded in his book, in history.

Now why should he do that – how can he do that? What we need to remember is that God is a Just God – that there has to be justice upon the person that has broken his law. Now where does that put me? Not in a very good position – and if we are being honest, we’re all in the same boat – all of us have gone and broken one of God’s laws at some point. Not looking good for us all is it? So what next – how can God fix this? We know that He didn’t intend for us to be in this position, for He created us, why would He create us just to condemn us? Enter Jesus! For someone to take the penalty that we all deserve and are rightly owed someone would have to come along and offer to give themselves for us in our place – but not only that – this person would have to be perfect – to not have any record of disobedience to God’s laws – otherwise they are in the same boat as you and I. This is why John 3:16 is quoted so much – It’s key to the redemption plan of humankind. Let me remind you what it says “For God so loved the world (you and I) that he gave his one and only Son, and whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” also check this out from Ephesians 1:4-7 “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

This is it – that person has come and his name is Jesus do you remember the verse from earlier..? Exactly! Jesus loved you and I so much that he gave up his perfect and blameless life and offered it as sacrifice for our lives – in a sense he bought our lives with his blood – he paid the penalty of our rebellion and sin by giving up his perfect life upon the cross. Through this God’s obligation for justice had been satisfied – there is only one person who could ever have saved us – gotten us out of the problem/the fix that we were in and he came to Earth about 2000 years ago and died (in the eyes of the world a nobody) but to God the ultimate sacrifice had been paid. God was now able to restore his relationships with his children once more – You and I. 

God doesn’t ask us for anything – but he wants everything from us. It’s free but it will cost you everything. God’s offering his hand of invitation through the person of Jesus to you here and now – he’s the solution to your problem and he has the answers right here and now. Will you take him up on it? Will you let him be the answer to your problem – will you let him fix YOU? You see ultimately we have the problems, the blockages that cause harm, the hidden secrets, the mistakes – not anyone else and we can’t fix that … but God can!

I’ll finish on this:

Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me” John 12:25-26

May you know God’s love for you, his open arms of Grace that run to meet you – the prodigal sons and daughters of this world. It’s an open invitation to a life worth living and a life full of freedom from our mistakes and problems. For the Glory goes to Jesus – may his name be lifted higher than any other name and may you come to experience the fullness of his love for you.

in Him

Your Brother

Someone said I should … so I have.

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A few people have suggested I start a blog – a place to put some of my wonderings and thoughts…. I call them my notes – snippets of my life where God has prompted me to type/write and these are the results. They’ve helped a few people in the past and I’m not really sure what my aim is on here but if this becomes a platform to which my ramblings and thoughts can encourage and inspire people to go deeper with Jesus then great! But I want to be clear I’m sure any wisdom or inspiration you find on here is not from me, but the one who created me and uses my words to speak to you. So take them or leave them, I offer them to you with little care for what happens to me but if you are able to soar higher with God and to see more of His kingdom in your life then maybe this blog has a purpose…. we’ll see.