Friday, October 28, 2011

Who's paying the price?

So, directors pay at the top companies is up 50% in the last 12 months.

It does rather beg the question how does that reflect the present government's mantra that we are all in this together, sharing the burden of the financial woes, now doesn't it?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking up a new challenge

I have a friend called Phil. Phil is another maverick kind of person who believes that the church needs to change, but that's not all he is. Phil suffers from a condition that has seen his sight deteriorate over many years, but that hasn't really stopped him. Last year or earlier this year, I can't quite remember circumstances changed as Phil's sight disappeared completely.

He's blogged about how this has affected his life and the changes he's had to make. But here's the thing. He's become a sportsman! Encouraged by others, Phil is now taking part regularly in sport. Ask him yourself and you will find out that it's the last he expected to be doing. But just taking part in sport isn't the only reason that he's become captain of the NRSB cricket team.

He reflects on it all here, and it's worth reading if you need a bit of inspiration to take up a sport, or if you are wondering about how to increase your connections with folk who are far from God (one of my reasons for taking up tennis last year). Maybe he wouldn't use quite the same words that I use, but like me Phil is putting himself in close proximity to people Jesus misses, and he's enjoying it too! If Phil doesn't do it, who will? If I don't do it, who will? If you don't do it, who will?

Both he and I are doing something we love in a way that, by the grace of God, might just make a difference in someone's life. Neither of us would ever say that we set out to play sport in order to do evangelism. That would be the worst of reasons. I'm glad Phil is enjoying the friendship and enjoyment that comes through sport. So am I. And I'm considerably older than he is!

The point I'm making is simply this. Why do we always seem to want to reach people on our terms, inviting them onto our turf, to do things our way at a time that's convenient to us? Why don't we occasionally try inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of the kingdom?

Speaking of which, it's Thursday and I need to get down to the tennis club for a fun morning of doubles.

All power to your elbow Phil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Now but not yet

I saw a link on a web feed that said: "Jesus helps a woman with a "Personality Disorder". Now I don't want to disrespect what Jesus has done for this lady, praise God for any healing she has received, but it did make me smile as I thought to myself, "given some of the Christians I've met over the years, this hardly sounds like headline news!"

On a serious note it also reminded me of my friend Keith. He died at a young age from complications that arose when his appendix ruptured. He refused treatment from a lady doctor because he was a man and she was a woman and that didn't seem right to him. He took his Bible very literally and once told my wife that if she wanted to work she should sell cloth because that was what Lydia did.

Keith was a bright, intelligent young man who had gone to university but who dropped out when his schizophrenia began to surface. I don't know enough about the condition, but apparently someone spiked a drink with a drug of some sort and that either precipitated his illness or exacerbated an underlying condition. Irrespective of his condition, Keith's faith was deep and personal. If you looked closely, and past his illness and the effect it had on his personality, you could often see the inner struggle he faced, you could almost see the battle raging in his mind.

The great thing about our faith is surely this: one day I will see Keith again. He will be sitting somewhere in heaven, maybe under a shady tree, and he will be at peace. His mind will be clear and the battle will be over. Jesus will have set him free, totally free from everything that held him captive through those difficult years. During his life-time he never experienced the full release and healing that might have been, but now he has.

Maybe that's the deeper message of these two stories. Some people get to be healed now and enjoy the blessing of that experience of the power of the kingdom, others wait. In the end though, everyone who trusts God will experience it one side of heaven or the other.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Monday again!

It's Monday morning. Two pigeons are sitting on the wall opposite the house. One sits quietly, the other edges closer. He's probably a male of the species trying to sneak up on a female as pigeons are prone to doing. I think they are just as confused by the unseasonal weather as the rest of us.

A crow and a magpie are having a dispute about where to sit on the roof of the house beyond the wall, and apart from the quietness being broken by the sound of a passing aeroplane, nothing much is happening out there.

A take-away coffee cup lies in the gutter, unmoved by passing traffic and of little interest to the pigeons who have left the scene, only to reappear on the grass verge pecking at the ground. Perhaps they are just friends and there is no amorous intent from either one.

It's a quiet start to the week!

The reality of life is that is actually mundane most of the time for most of us. We go about our daily routines with the expectation that tomorrow will be just the same. It's pretty difficult to imagine living a life of significance in the middle of normality, in the middle of the simply ordinariness of life. But this is where God has placed us. Perhaps even those who we secretly envy for their dynamic and large-scale ministries, who have amazing stories to tell about how they helped this person find faith and how God spoke to them and directed them to make this stop on their journey, perhaps even they get up most days to an ordinary life with ordinary struggles and ordinary falling short of goals. Maybe their to-do list never ends just like yours, and their disappointments accumulate just like mine.

And yet, it is in the very midst of all this ordinary living that we are called to serve an extraordinary God. To offer our lives as living sacrifices, to take up our cross each day, to bear burdens, share good news, weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn and laugh with those who laugh. Called to weep for the lost, for the cities.

I hope and pray that your day, and my day, unfolds into a canvas upon which we draw with God the story of our lives as we interact with him and with others. I pray that today God will use me to sow seed, to water the ground and to bear kingdom fruit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tim's Goliath thing!

Not quite sure how to introduce this, but here's something Tim from our church wrote. I'll let him fill in the details.

As I sat listening to my church minister talk about the story of David and Goliath, he drew out some key points that I had never heard before. In that moment I felt as if God dropped a concept into my mind. I’ll begin with a paraphrase of what my minister was saying;

Saul was a man chosen because he was head and shoulders above everyone else. He was Israel’s ‘Big Man’. When the Philistines drew up their battle formation they called forth their ‘big man’, Goliath. Goliath called to Israel ‘Bring your best warrior to fight me!’
What Saul saw as a man too big to defeat, David saw as a man too big to miss!

The concept that fell into my thinking was this: Today’s modern church has a ‘Saul’ mentality about it. The church used to be looked up to and respected, and like Saul has a reputation to defend. It was once a proud institution that commanded the respect of people and leaders and kings. But over the years ‘Goliath’s’ have risen up to challenge the church and it has shrunk back behind its battlements in fear. Pride and tradition and misplaced expectations have crippled her. A failure to see with eyes of faith for what God can do through obedient humble people will bring the mission of Gods church to halt.

And then along comes David. The runt of the litter, the boy, the shepherd, the youngest, who brings in supplies for his brothers. With eyes of faith he sees this target that he cannot miss and asks permission to bring down this blasphemer. But look at what Saul does! He tried to put David into his armour!

This is what the church has done to modern-day Davids! Anyone who sees with eyes of faith and desires to take a stand has rightly sought the wisdom of the elders and been told, ‘this is how you must do it.’ But those ways WON'T WORK. That armour is too heavy. It isn’t that David is not yet big enough or old enough. The simple truth is, he can’t win a battle with human wisdom and human strength or by human tradition! David fought in the name of the Lord, and there are young people rising up in faith and we must let them take their stand or the church will be overcome by ‘Goliaths’.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Psalm 119

As I continue to read through the psalms, I find myself consistently being challenged about the quality of my devotional life and the impact it has on my lifestyle choices. So often the things we choose to do are at odds with what we know to be biblical, yet chose to ignore because it's simply inconvenient. Perhaps issues surrounding the environment are not the only inconvenient truths with which we must contend!

Take today for example. As I'm wandering through Psalm 119 I came across the following statements:

My comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life


You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.

If you read that and think, "So?" then read it again, slowly. Have I made and kept that sort of promise? Have I really sought God at that deep and intimate level? Am I that quick to obey?

These are the questions that arise immediately in my mind, and many more. In the Old Testament, seeing the face of God meant certain death. If it meant you would die, would you still seek it?

No wonder Paul spoke about having been crucified with Christ and yet still living.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Ongoing thoughts about discipleship

A couple of interesting things from a book I'm currently reading called Growing the church in the power of the Holy Spirit.

People need to be incorporated into the kingdom of God by being born again. The fruit of the Spirit needs to be cultivated so that people are transformed into increasingly Christlike character. Unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God must be nurtured, growing people in their understanding and in their personal relationship with Jesus. And men, women, and children need to be baptized with the Holy Spirit so that they can be empowered to do everything that Christ commands, each playing their unique roles as members of the body of Christ. 

This sums up the early chapters of the book rather well, and the foundational argument of the book as a whole. But it's also an important summary of the fundamentals of church.

Later there is a compass point illustration which is rather helpful:

N: New life (incorporation)
S: Sanctification (transformation)
E: Empowerment
W: We (fellowship)

As I continue to think about discipleship, these things are proving helpful along the way. I was listening to an interview with Bill Hybels the other day and he said something very interesting. The Reveal Study has been on the receiving end of some harsh, and unwarranted criticism, over the years since Willow first shared its findings. But I've often wondered if that is because it revels exactly what we've actually known deep down inside.

People don't tend to grow through a programme, they tend to grow through active personal involvement and engagement. Not that might be over simplifying things, but I've watched and participated in a lot of personal evangelism training and I don't see any great improvement in my ability to share the gospel or in the church's engagement with mission. I've prepared a lot of Bible study notes, but I'm not sure that I've seen much actual spiritual transformation taking place as a result. I've preached a lot of sermons, but I cold count of the fingers of one hand the number of times anyone has accurately reflected the content of a sermon back to me.

Anyway, the thing Bill H said was how he would remind the congregation that they were responsible for their own growth. "We can't read your bible for you, we can't say your prayer for you," is a paraphrase of what he said. That isn't to say that the church as an organisation doesn't have a role to play, but spiritual growth depends on the desire of the individual to grow not on the range of courses offered.