Showing posts with label Guidance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guidance. Show all posts

12 January 2014

Sharing soup with strangers

Here's what happened when we took some tentative first steps in reaching out in Huntingdon. We enjoyed good soup, met interesting people, had some great conversations, and found that Jesus was with us and took us straight to the right places and people.


Huntingdon town centre
Huntingdon town centre
Back in December Sean told me that he wanted to do something positive for people on the streets.

Reading Chris Duffett's blog I'd found a story about Louise Frood, a young Baptist pioneer who had taken soup and bread onto the High Street looking for people who are hungry, lonely or willing to talk.

Sean had taken this very much to heart and wanted to do something similar. We decided there and then to put 5th January into our diaries and make a start.

Giving it a try - On Sunday 5th I drove over to Sean's with two large vacuum flasks and a pile of paper cups. Sean was already making leek and potato soup when I arrived and we filled the flasks, drove to Huntingdon, and set out to walk the streets from about ten o'clock.

It was a fresh morning, the shops were not yet open, and there were only a few people around. We walked down the High Street, looped around the back and returned. Then Sean suggested another street where he thought there would be someone selling the Big Issue and, sure enough, there was. We poured out some soup and sat on the pavement to talk, soon getting to know Richard a little and having some good conversation. We were with Richard for quite some time; when we decided to move on again he suggested we try the bus station.

Sure enough, the bus station is a warm place to go when the streets are cold and there we found Paul and Matt. Sean spent some time chatting with Paul, while I sat next to Matt and quickly discovered we had a lot in common. Matt has recently lost his job and has nowhere to live at the moment. He follows Jesus and has a similar understanding about church to Sean and me. All three of us have a strong sense that we are supposed to meet again; we are waiting to see where the Holy Spirit will lead us.

The results - Now, just a week later, Matt is using the spare room in my house and Sean is out on the soup run again. I can't make it today, but plan to be back in Huntingdon with him again next Sunday. Watch this space!

For me, the take-home message is that on our first day of obedience in taking soup to Huntingdon, Sean and I found three interesting people. A tiny amount of obedience led immediately to a remarkable result [Tweet it!]. Neither of us had the faith to expect such an outcome, both of us know we must continue whether or not amazing things like this happen every time.

In the end the outcome is not in our hands, but in Jesus' hands. He provides, he leads, he sends us but he also accompanies us. Who could want a greater guide and friend than that?

Questions: 
  • Are you willing to take a risk with your time, your money or your reputation?
  • Have you ever tried reaching people you don't already know?
  • What could you do to open up possibilities for conversation? How will you make significant contact?

See also:


24 January 2013

What are we called to do?

Rhoda PickensToday we have a guest post from Rhoda Pickens, who blogs from Wales in the UK at 'Living to please God'.

She brings us some great thoughts about how we can discover our role and function in the body, and how we can be more sure about it. Do you ever wonder, 'Am I living the life the Lord wants for me?' Rhoda investigates some useful pointers that help us examine ourselves and find a secure sense of direction.

How Do We Know What We Are Called To Do? - Rhoda Pickens

We all have things that God wants us to do, but how do we know what?

‘For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.’ (Ephesians 2:10)

There are some callings that we all have as Christians:

  • To seek God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • To seek to become more like Christ (Matthew 6:33)
  • To seek the furtherance of Christ’s kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 28:19)
  • To disciple others and teach them more about Him (Matthew 28:19,20)
  • We should aim to be ‘fruitful in every good work’ (Colossians 1:10)

But there does seem to be a pattern in the Bible of some people being specifically called to certain things, for example when He said to Abram to leave his country and family and to go where He told him.

It doesn’t record this of everyone though, so I don’t think everyone should necessarily seek a specific life calling. But I believe there are things that God has set aside for us to do so we should be praying that God would lead us to those things.

An area where I do believe we need to seek a call also, is for full time ministry. When we are in the trenches we want to know that God called us to be there so that we don’t go running home. Also we want to know God will provide our needs because He has called us to do that work.

How do we know what God might be calling us to? - Here are a few thoughts on this, though there may well be more to it than I have mentioned!

Look at your gifts - The Bible tells us to use our gifts, so if we are gifted in a certain area, at least spiritually anyway, then we should look for opportunities to use them. This may well lead you eventually to an area that God is calling you to work in.

‘As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.’ (1 Peter 4:10)

Be willing to do what He wants you to do - It is all very well asking God to show you what He wants you to do, but if you’re not willing to do it then there may not be much point in Him telling you!

Isaiah’s call is often quoted in the Bible, but it starts not with God calling Him specifically, but asking openly, “Who will go for Us?” and then Isaiah says “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Isaiah was obviously willing and available to do what God was wanting done.

Ask God what He wants you to do - This may sound obvious, but often people don’t really take the time to pray about what God is wanting them to do with their lives. I know I didn’t until I was in the second year of university and I started feeling restless and then I started praying. Before that I was just headed in the direction of the combination of my parent’s and my decision making.

‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’ (James 1:5)

A few tips for asking God:

  • Retreat - Try to get away from daily life to spend time with God. It is often when you are out on a long walk or up on the mountain side like Jesus, or at a retreat, that you can understand more how God is leading you.
  • Read the Bible – it is God’s word, so if we want to find His will we should definitely be reading it, and asking God to speak to us!

God may work through your desires - Often God will give you a burden for a specific people or place, or make you feel restless. I wouldn’t use this alone to guide me, but it can be a way that God prods you, like Nehemiah who sat down and wept when he heard that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burnt with fire. That eventually led to him going back there to lead the rebuilding.

I think you do need to be careful with this one though, as your desires can also lead you the wrong way!

Give it time - Jim Elliot spent several years seeking direction from God before he finally had the peace he wanted about knowing that tribal work in South American jungles was his general purpose. It can take time.

Don’t think about your ability or lack of it - I love what Chuck Smith says, that God doesn’t want your ability, but your availability. He will provide all we need, just like He did with Jeremiah:

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)

Godly counsel - Just like with all guidance, godly counsel is very useful. Again we have to be careful with this one because well meaning Christians can try to persuade us away from what God is calling us to do! Try to find someone who has surrendered themselves, is serving God wholeheartedly and has some experience in the faith.

I liked what Pete Fleming said: ‘I think a call to the mission-field is no different from any other means of guidance, a call is nothing more or less than obedience to the will of God, as God presses it home to the soul by whatever means He chooses’

And I think that if you are really wanting to do God’s will, and persevere in prayer, then He will show you what He is calling you to – though it may take more time than you thought!

Questions:

  • Are you clear about he Lord's calling on your life or are you just drifting?
  • In your circumstances, which of Rhoda's points did you find most helpful?
  • Will you be putting these ideas into practice? If so how and when?

See also:

21 December 2012

Law or grace?

On the one hand is law and on the other grace. Can I base my daily living on either of these? Is there any other way to live my life? We look at obedience in the life of the believer, based on Christ's love within and the actions that stem from this.


Tetrahedron
Sometimes things are not as clear as they seem.

Some followers of the Way are bound by rules and regulations; in other words they are
convinced there are standards we must meet in our lives.

Others may say they are free in Christ to do all things since he dealt with sin once and for all. Perhaps the former are in the majority although it's hard to tell.

At the absolute extremes we would be so law-focussed that we might rely on our own purity, or so grace-focussed that we might treat continuous forgiveness as our right.

It's unlikely that anyone could be found at either extreme, but some might come close. The rest of us are spread out in a continuum between law and grace. So who is right? How should we live our lives?

It doesn't often occur to us that both might be far from the simple truth.

Law - If I depend on the Law I'm like the Pharisees who criticised Jesus for allowing his followers to harvest and thresh grain on the Sabbath. As they were walking through the fields they took ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to extract the seeds to eat (Mark 2:23-24). It was hardly an industrial-scale process! The Pharisees also prided themselves on meticulously tithing even the smallest quantities of herbs and spices like cumin (Matthew 23:23).

Meanwhile, for all their complaining about others and pride in their tithing they failed to help the poor or take pity on those in difficulty. Adherence to the law is not sufficient. Or more correctly, it would be sufficient if I had never sinned and could continue to lead a sinless life. But I haven't and I can't.

It's already far too late for me to depend upon observing the Law.

Law is a gift from the Father.

Grace - But if I look to grace am I any better off? Perhaps that depends on how I understand grace. If I see it as a precious gift it is all I need. If I treat is as a licence to sin without further consideration then I lose its true value.

Grace came at great cost, it is a precious, precious thing. It enables us to stand confident in the presence of the Most High, to see him as a loving Dad, to recognise we are forgiven, special, precious, loved, honoured and glorified by the Creator of the universe.

I dare not abuse it, I am called to receive grace as a gift but also to offer it freely, to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I have been loved, to honour as I have been honoured.

Grace is a gift from the Son.

Obedience - Law is too rigid. It's not the right place to look, I can never earn forgiveness and justification by obeying the Law. Yet grace (if I mistreat it) is too flexible.

But there's a third alternative, rarely considered, and it transforms everything.

Obedience is good, but obedience to the Law is impossibly hard. It is unachievable. It is already lost. However, grace opens the way, not only to forgiveness, but also to life in the presence of the King.

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit precisely so that I could hear what the Father is saying to me moment by moment as I live out my life on this Earth. So rather than a vain attempt to live by obeying the Law, I can now begin to live by obeying his voice, just as Jesus did. This is truly revolutionary!

There is nothing I am not allowed to do - as long as I'm told to do it. It's hard to see the freedom and opportunity wrapped up in this statement. Paul writes that even eating food sacrificed to an idol is OK, providing I don't cause others to sin by eating  (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). In other words my care for others trumps the law and is made possible by grace. Love wins. It's no accident that Paul judged love to be the greatest thing (1 Corinthians 13).

It's not that there are no longer any rules, but in Jesus those rules have been fulfilled and now I'm free to look away from them and focus my attention on Jesus instead. And he'll guide me by the power of the Spirit. It's just as written by Isaiah, 'This is the way, walk in it!' (Isaiah 30:19-21) and by Jeremiah to a disobedient people, 'Where the good way is, ... walk in it' (Jeremiah 6:16).

Obedience is a gift from the Spirit.

Conclusion - Everything comes from the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as they are inseparable, so too are law, grace and obedience. We cannot pick them apart, we need all three. But the amazing truth is that Jesus ministers all three to us. He is the way, the truth and the life; do you see that those three concepts have the aroma of the Father, Son and Spirit? We can lay them out here.

  • The Father provides law and has the aroma of the truth.
  • The Son provides grace and has the aroma of life.
  • The Spirit provides obedience and has the aroma of the way.

But because they are one, you can mix and match and every statement you make remains correct. The Father, Son and Spirit are all about law, grace and obedience and all have the aroma of way, truth and life. There is a wonderful symmetry about the great Creator King, a multidimensional knot that holds the universe together and cannot be unpicked.

As an aside, the tetrahedron is an interesting geometric shape in three dimensions. There is a base (think of it as the universe or the world). High above is an apex, think of this as the Almighty. There are three faces (Father, Son, Spirit), three edges connecting the apex and the base (law, grace and obedience) and the base has three sides (way, truth and life).

The law had to be fulfilled and Jesus does that. Grace is sufficient for me and Jesus provides it. Life needs to be lived and Jesus shines a spiritual light onto my path. He is all in all. Jesus says, 'If you have seen me you have seen the Father'.

Jesus came to set me free. And I am free indeed! But he set me free to obey him in everything.

Questions:

  • How large a part should traditions have in church life?
  • What does it mean to be 'free indeed'? (John 8:36)
  • Is Jesus the way, the truth and the life for you, personally and daily? (John 14:6)

See also:

26 November 2012

From India with vision

Life is so amazing! It's always full of promise and new vistas unfolding. This has just happened to someone I know and it's affecting me too. Take us all deeper into you, Lord. Open new horizons, lead us where you want us to be, make us eager to follow you into the harvest.

The River Great Ouse in flood
Chris Duffet has returned from India. Here's what I wrote about the start of his trip. As you can see it was a challenging and very exciting time. I wanted to share it with you because I hoped it would encourage you and make you eager to grow and live daily for Jesus.

Returning from India - This time we'll consider the rest of Chris's trip, his return, and how he feels about it all.

On 24th November, waiting at the airport to fly back to the UK he wrote this...

Today at the airport has been the highlight for me. I know it must sound like I’m a right saddo to enjoy departure lounges and queues but let me explain: I met 3 people separately, who each told me after talking with them that ‘God has sent you to me.’

And on 25th, just back from India, he writes...

I long to bring some of that fresh faced faith that I saw in India, a burning desire for Kingdom and urgency in people meeting with God, right in the heart of what I do. I know it’s not down to me, yet I long to be willing…

So now you can sense how he has come back excited by what he saw and all that happened. He has found his India experience to have triggered a step change in his awareness of the life of Christ within him. That life is in all of us, just waiting to burst out into the world around us.

Chris has a renewed and deepened sense of mission and a fresh determination to apply it here in the UK. He's found a whole new level of life - and I want that too!

I want to walk daily deeper and wider and further with Jesus.

The River of Life - Here's what Ezekiel wrote after he'd seen the River of Life in a vision (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me round the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in – a river that no one could cross. He asked me, 'Son of man, do you see this?'

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me,

'This water flows towards the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds – like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.

What does this all mean? For now just read it. Ponder it. Pray about it and listen to what Papa says about it. Tomorrow I'll share what it says to me.

Questions:

  • Can you share an experience from your own life in which you received a deeper and wider revelation of what Jesus is doing in this world?
  • Once we've been touched in this way, what can we do to prevent the vision fading?
  • Chris mentions urgency and willingness. Do you share these feelings? Are they important?
  • What does Ezekiel's vision say to you?

See also:

16 November 2012

Like a torch

Because we contain a source of power (Jesus living within us), we can illuminate the darkness and see clearly. The Holy Spirit gave me a picture of a torch, here is the picture along with its meaning and application in our lives.

Light from a powerful torch
While Jim and I were praying on Thursday the Spirit put a picture in my mind. I saw a torch shining a light onto the floor.

And as I watched I noticed that the light beam through the air was not visible, but the spot of light on the floor was clearly visible, in fact it drew my eye away from everything else. It was the most clearly visible thing I could see and I could also see the details of the flagstone floor - but only where the light fell.

And then He gave me a prophecy. Father said, 'You are like a torch, you produce light from the source of power that is within you, but the light you produce cannot be seen until it reaches and shines upon an object of some kind. Wherever the light shines, you can see clearly.' I felt that the word 'you' was plural, that it was spoken to both of us, that it's meant for others to hear too. That's why I'm sharing it now on the blog.

Jim incorporated these thoughts into his prayer and I just felt so grateful that I had been shown something simple and at the same time useful.

What can we draw from this simple picture of a torch?

Each of us is like a torch - We are stand alone creatures, self sufficient in so many ways. Yes, we are in an environment consisting of the physical world around us, but we are like islands in some ways, complete in ourselves and isolated. Most of us, if we so choose, can live self-contained lives in which our inner thoughts impinge little on those around us. We are like torches that are switched off.

However, we do contain a source of power just as a torch contains a battery. The Spirit of  Christ is within you if you are his apprentice. Jesus himself resides in you and provides all the power you need for whatever he wants you to do. You have the power necessary to be a light in this dark world because the One who is Light is in you.

Of course, you need to be switched on. Light only comes from you if you are prepared and willing for that to happen!

An invisible beam - The beam of Christ-light that shines from his people is completely invisible. It only becomes visible when it reaches across the void and touches a person or a situation. And even then, the light doesn't show itself as light.

Like a torchbeam, it reveals clearly whatever is already there. The effect of light is not so much in its presence but in what it reveals when it is focussed on a target. There's a very bright spot in the centre, while further away there's a more general, dimmer glow. And just as a torch can be pointed in any direction, so Jesus can direct the Light onto a particular situation or into the life of a particular person. The beam is moving all the time although we rarely give it a thought.

When you use a torch, you don't hold it still, but you sweep the beam about to illuminate the whole scene. You rarely shine a torch behind you, but direct it forward into the place you will go next.

We should be just the same spiritually.

Spiritual illumination - What we have to do is allow the light to be directed wherever Jesus chooses. Only then will it reach the places where it is especially needed. And how can we do that? There's only one way, we must aim the beam wherever he tells us to aim it. The Holy Spirit was given partly to guide us and when we trust him he is very effective in doing so.

So pray for guidance, expect guidance, and receive it when it comes. When the light is focussed on the right place you will be able to clearly see much more detail. The worst thing for any situation or condition that needs to be changed is for it to remain in the dark. In the darkness there's no way to see any detail, and it's entirely possible the problem will  not even be noticed.

The guidance may come in the form of a hunch or a nagging feeling, it may come through prophecy or an interpreted tongue. It may come because there is no peace to be found by looking elsewhere or it may come in a vision or a dream. And finally it might come as a spoken voice, though this is probably quite rare.

We can see this in action in the Bible.

  • Joseph has a dream - (Genesis 37:5-7) This dream angered Joseph's brother, but it foretold events far in the future. For the full story read Genesis 37:2-36 and Genesis 39:1-42:9.
  • Ananias visits Saul - (Acts 9:10-19) Ananias would not have gone willingly to visit a violent persecutor like Saul. But that is where the Spirit called him to go. The light of Christ had already shone on Saul with devastating effect. Now it was to shine on him again through Ananias. Read the rest in Acts 7:55-8:3 and Acts 9:1-22.
  • Peter visits Cornelius - (Acts 10:11-13) Peter falls into a trance and hears a voice. Read the entire story in Acts 9:43-11:18.
  • A change of plan for Paul - (Acts 16:6-10)  This time the Spirit hinders them from following their own plans but also provides a vision.

Notice how the Spirit focuses the brightest spot on the heart of the issue. Peripheral aspects would also have been illuminated, but not so vividly, but those broader lessons were also important. For example, the bright spot for Ananias would have been 'go and visit Saul'. The general issues would have been such things as 'if I send you you need not be afraid', 'I will often surprise you' and 'my ways are not your ways'.

These are powerful examples of guidance, but it can often be far simpler on a day by day basis. The Holy Spirit often hinders or encourages us by seeding uncertainty or peace in our hearts. Where there is peace, we are often on the right track and it may be fine to continue in the same way. But where there is uncertainty or turmoil it is best to pray and proceed with a cautious, open mind.

The light of Jesus shines into our lives and the situations around us and brings clarity, purpose and effectiveness. Praise him that this is so!

Questions:

  • How often are you guided by the Spirit, and how often by your own planning?
  • Can you think of ways to enhance spiritual guidance in your life?
  • In the four Bible examples above, how would things have worked out if the people involved had not be willing to listen to the Spirit?
  • Where did the brightest parts of the beam and the peripheral areas fall for Joseph, Peter and Paul?

See also:

03 October 2012

Surprises open us to change

< Where he treads I must follow | Index | No later items >

Here is a second set of answers to some questions about how Papa is dealing with his people in our generation. You might like to consider your own answers which may be quite different from mine. See what you think.

Full of surprisesThis is part two of of a series in which I'm sharing my answers to some questions posted on the 'Missional Challenge' blog. See the first part for the background.

Here are the next three questions, then we'll work through them one at a time.

  • How is God coming to this generation?
  • How is that different than any other generation?
  • Are you under God’s authority? How do you know?

How is God coming to this generation? - That is a huge question, and the answers we find are going to be game changing. If we get this wrong we will constantly struggle because we'll be working against the grain of everything he is doing. If we get it right we will be in tune with his purpose and swept along effortlessly by the wide, deep river of living water.

Also, it would be foolish to think we will all hear the same thing from him. It's entirely possible I might be right for myself but wrong for you. Caveat emptor! It's also possible I might be wrong for you and wrong for myself.

But here's my best effort to express the way I see this right now. I think he's coming to this generation in ways far outside our normal expectations. He is blessing people from every kind of church background - whether you're Catholic or Orthodox, Baptist or Anglican, Messianic Jew or Lutheran. I'd go further. He's blessing Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Christian Scientists. He's blessing Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, even Agnostics and Atheists. His heart is always to bless and the Holy Spirit needs only the tiniest crack of obedience to begin his work.

I just don't think we can overestimate his grace and willingness to overlook error. Let's face it, if he didn't come to find lost sheep, we would all be permanently... well, lost!

We'd better begin to expect the unexpected, because he is always full of surprises. That is how he is coming to this generation.

How is that different than any other generation? - I don't think it is. He's always surprised us. He surprised Abraham and Sarah with Isaac. (He surprised Abraham with Isaac twice. Think about it). He surprised Jacob's sons with Joseph. He surprised Jacob with a dislocated hip, Moses with a burning bush, a divided sea, manna and quails. He surprised Saul with David and Solomon with wisdom... Need I go on? He surprised Saul on the way to Damascus. We should never be surprised to be surprised!

All of that means that any rules I come up, methods, structures, hierarchies may at best be rendered inappropriate by the next surprise to come my way. And at worst they were already inappropriate. Nothing I plan or design or set in motion is of any real kingdom value. Only the things that the Father, Son and Spirit plan, design and set in motion are of real use. Doing it my way can only make things worse.

I think the church at large has so far failed to grasp this simple but fundamental truth. To that extent, how he is coming to this generation may be different. I have the sense that he's sowing the seeds of this understanding in the hearts of people here and there, and that the growth these seeds produce will change much in the way we are and in what we do (and don't do).

Sometimes we think in terms of modernism, post-modernism and so forth. I dare say Papa deals with us differently according to our thinking and culture, but what I wrote above remains true. He will always find ways to surprise us. I think he likes to catch us off guard. Perhaps he can better reach us when we're a little off balance.

Are you under God’s authority? How do you know? - Sometimes, yes. Often, no. I have the opportunity to be under his authority at all times. But sometimes I allow myself to fall under the authority of others, or worse I seize the reins myself. I think I'm (very gradually) getting better at it. I sense that I notice more quickly when I do come off the rails. I'm more aware of the dangers and more eager to avoid them.

When I'm in the right place I'm usually aware of it - he shows me things - he speaks with me - I can walk in silence with him - there is a deep peace in my heart - I'm untroubled by problems and issues.

But I'm rarely (if ever) aware of the many times I do it my way. Sometimes I spend days, weeks or months, even years struggling along before it dawns on me that I'm alone. He's still at the centre of his purpose, I've wandered off on some side-mission of my own devising. When I do realise my mistake it's most often because I suddenly realise he's not there. I don't mean he abandons me, but he's far off because I've abandoned him. I think he comes to find me and I think 'Why am I struggling with this when the King is here?'

I hope this answers the 'how do I know' question as well.

Were these the sort of answers you expected to read? If not, why not?

< Where he treads I must follow | Index | No later items >

30 September 2012

Where he treads I must follow

< No earlier items | Index | Surprises open us to change >

We take a look at three questions about mission and our lives in Christ. Do we know what he is doing in us and around us? Are we playing our part in the things he is doing? How can we find out? How can we begin to do better?

A mediaeval baker and apprenticeIn his 'Missional Challenge' blog, Dave DeVries reposts some questions posed originally by Don Snell. The questions are intended for coaching. In particular the aim is to help people 'align [their lives] with Jesus' disciplemaking mission'.

I think these questions are so good that I've decided to take them a few at a time and  share my answers, at least in outline form. Here are the first three.

  • What is God doing right now?
  • Are you aware of what God is doing?
  • How are you part of what God is doing?

Notice first that the old English word 'disciple' has the sense of  'apprentice'. It's about learning by working alongside an expert. Jesus is the expert. 

What is God doing right now? - The simple answer is 'many things'! But for this question to help me align my life I will need to consider what he is doing in my own life and in the area where I live and among the people I might be called to influence.

We might usefully ask whether Jesus has any other mission or agenda than making disciples. My answer is that making disciples covers it pretty well. If Jesus intends to heal the sick he will do it through his followers. If he wants to teach us, or guide us, or encourage us he will do so through our brothers and sisters who are his followers. He told the Twelve to 'make followers of all nations' and to 'teach them all the things I have taught you' (Matthew 28:18-20). And that includes making disciples.

So what is he doing in me right now? I think he's showing me that his way is very simple, so simple a small child could do it. It involves listening to what he says and doing it. It involves loving the Father, loving his other followers, loving my neighbours, and loving my enemies. That'll be love everyone then! He's showing me that it's not about learning methods but about moment by moment obedience. It's not a matter of authority but of humility.

And what is he doing around me? He is preparing people to hear, to ask questions, to respond to him. He is trying to reach everyone. Not everyone is ready to listen - yet. I need to know the difference.

Are you aware of what God is doing? - Sometimes. I try to be, but I'm not always hearing and seeing. Often I'm just too dim-witted to understand what he's doing while he's doing it. Later it dawns on me, 'That was Jesus at work', 'Father had a hand in that', 'The Holy Spirit showed me that for a reason'.

Sometimes I manage, somehow, to cooperate with him. Sometimes he works through me and in me even while I don't realise it.

I'm simple and foolish; he is all wise, all knowing, and very, very capable of getting over, under or around my mistakes.

How are you part of what God is doing? -  Mostly by accident, it seems. But in truth it's by his design. He is not accident-prone even though I am.

And I know he wants me to be part of what he is doing. He doesn't need me, but it's his delight to involve me; what a priviledge! I certainly have to become a better and more constant listener and responder. I am part of what he is doing when I'm obedient.

He uses me to begin conversations with people who don't yet know him. He also uses me to encourage others who are on this journey with me. And he uses me on this blog, to touch people in a variety of ways. He uses me to care for others like a shepherd, guiding them to places where there is spiritual refreshment and nourishment. He gave me Isaiah 61 as a description of some of the things he wants me to do - proclaiming good news, binding up the broken hearted, speaking of freedom, light and his favour. There's a lot more in that chapter and it was all fulfilled in Jesus. But he wants to engage me in some of those activities with him, using me as his hands and feet and voice.

I did not choose to be part of this; he chose me!

And what about you? - How would you answer these three questions? We're all different and father has unique plans for each of us. Your answers may be very different from mine.

Do you find the questions useful? What is he doing in and around your life? How is he using you in his work? 

< No earlier items | Index | Surprises open us to change >

07 November 2011

A sense of direction

Part 1 of a series - 'The Grace Outpouring'
< No earlier items | Index | A step forward >

Here are the first few paragraphs of 'The Grace Outpouring', an amazing book from south-west Wales. Roy explains how he was misled by his view of Father's purpose for his life.

A meal at Ffald-y-BreninI first read 'The Grace Outpouring' and wrote a short review more than a year ago. Since that time I have given away many copies to friends and have found over and over again that it has found a special place in their hearts, challenged them, encouraged them, and sometimes deeply affected them.

So now I want to present the first few paragraphs of Chapter 1, 'We Bless You in the Name of Jesus'.
I was desperate. Despite a series of miracles that had enabled my wife Daphne and me to become directors of a beautiful Welsh Christian retreat centre I was frightened that I had made a mistake. As I thought about it I realised that for the first time in maybe thirty-five years, several months had passed during which I hadn't clearly brought somebody to the knowledge of Jesus. I believed I had a calling on my life to bring people to Jesus, so what was happening?

I wasn't to know it but God was hours away from showing me some unexpected answers. In the meantime the frustration mounted. It had been partly provoked by my visit to a business conference in Pembroke in the west of Wales. I had spent the day with 200 businessmen and women. I was at home among them. This was the type of pool I had fished in for most of my life.

As I reflected on my suit-clad outing to the hotel on the estuary the agitation grew. Instead of being with the Christians who came to the centre to recharge and reflect I needed to be with those who had no clear Christian understanding and commitment. I decided the only thing I could do was leave the centre.

The next morning I sat in our farmhouse-style kitchen and poured out, with some passion, the details of my agitated day with the businessmen to my ever-patient wife: 'It's just no good. I cannot stay here any longer. I need to immerse myself in the everyday lives of people without a Christian faith so I can just be me and share my faith with them.'*

How many of us  have repeatedly come to places like this in our lives? How many times have I thought I knew his plan for me only to discover that he had moved on but I had not? (The answer to that question is, 'more times than I care to mention'!) Perseverance is a good thing, deafness and stubbornness are not. Sticking to my view of Papa's purpose can be misleading.

And having got into this place, like Roy we tend to dump our frustration and anxiety onto those around us.

But Father didn't leave Roy in this place of confusion, nor will he leave you or me in a place like that. If you read the book you will quickly see that things were resolved quite soon afterwards and in a really extraordinary way.

As you can see, the book is very readable. The story it tells is touching hearts and changing lives all over the world. My advice? Get hold of a copy and read it.

Read a brief review (includes several ways to buy a copy of the book).

*Copyright 2008 Roy Godwin, Dave Roberts. The Grace Outpouring published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All rights reserved.

< No earlier items | Index | A step forward >

20 August 2011

RESPONSE - The need to listen

Felicity Dale wrote about new wineskins having no value unless there is new wine to put into them.

Tony and Felicity DaleI suggest you read her post in full, I've included some extracts below (FD) as well as extracts from my reply. (CJ).

Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins (Luke 5:36-40). A new wineskin is only needed if there is new wine. If simple/organic church is like a new wineskin, what is the new wine? Is there something about the life we have together in Christ that needs a new container, that would burst an old wineskin?

Changing the structure of church gains nothing unless it is a response to something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures.

Jesus "in the midst" is what church is all about. An individual has Jesus within. Corporately, we have Jesus among us. (FD)

We really do need to listen. We desperately need to listen to one another, and we need to listen to the Holy Spirit even more desperately.

I truly believe lack of listening is one of the stumbling blocks we face in our lives as we work hard to follow Jesus. And that's the problem. We can't follow Jesus by working hard (doing what we think is best) but only by obedience (doing what He thinks is best).

We need to listen first so that we can obey. (CJ)

Here are some take home messages from 'hearing' in meetings. The dated links lead to descriptions of what happened.

This is Felicity's new wine in action, 'something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures'. As you read the examples, think very carefully about how church structure (the 'wineskin') might affect the outcome.
  • Father's timing is more important than our timing. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He can nudge us into doing practical things such as giving someone a particular book. Sometimes he may encourage us in what we have heard by things others say or do. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • He may give us pictures that make a point clear. (From an informal chat in a cafe, 10th August 2011.)
  • We need to be planted in Jesus, very firmly planted and rooted in him. Obedience will follow without fuss or bother. (An address by an invited speaker at a large camp - Faith '11, 7th August 2011.)
  • Glory is greater than peace. (A meeting of just two people - or three if you count Jesus, 31st March 2011.)
Notice the variety and originality of the Spirit's touch. He may guide us in different ways in a single meeting, and several meeting formats work well for hearing. There is no 'right' way to meet. It's not about methods. He works through traditional and non-traditional church, he only requires that his followers meet and expect him to take charge.

But what about situations where people take charge, what happens then? I think we all know the answer. To a greater or lesser extent the Holy Spirit will be crushed and will let us carry on managing things ourselves. This is the great tragedy of human control in the body.

I used to publish meeting notes quite regularly, more recently I've stopped doing this. Perhaps I might begin doing so again.

(Related post, 'RESPONSE: Are you listening?')

11 August 2011

X-treme Camps - A meeting

< The problem | No later items >

When I visited a home in Bedford, I didn't expect to have an answer to my prayer for guidance and help dealing with some troublesome young people in St Neots!

Father has some surprising ways of organising things. Sometimes an apparently insuperable problem is dealt with by an unexpected revelation or an unplanned meeting. So it was for me.

Pete teaching survival skillsI'd been invited to Rupert and Uli's home to join them and some friends in a meal, and a time of prayer and praise. It was a warm, sunny day and I was the first to arrive; they suggested I take a drink out into the garden and that is what I did. While I was waiting there a man I had not met before walked in and we began to chat.

We introduced ourselves and he told me his name was Pete, we quickly warmed to one another and I began to tell him about the recent events in St Neots. (These are described in the previous part of this story, but in essence some young people had driven a couple out of their home by stone throwing and other abusive behaviour.)

As I explained I mentioned that I didn't even know who these young people were. 'He stopped me in my tracks by saying, quite emphatically, 'You will do'.

Pete continued by explaining that for a number of years he'd been running an annual summer camp for youngsters in the Bedford area. The camps are aimed at youngsters who might not otherwise have a chance to live in a tent, experience open countryside, try their hand at things like raft building or survival skills, or take part in competitive team activities. There are also short sessions where they can learn about caring for other people in the way Jesus taught us to do, discover what it means to follow him, and understand why he wants us to love one another.

This was an exciting development for me. It wouldn't help deal with the recent problem of stone throwing and intimidation but it might help head off similar anti-social behaviour by the next generation of teenagers. As I drove home later that evening I felt the next step would be to share the news with Jim and Sean, the two guys I meet regularly each week in the St Neots/Huntingdon area.

There is a useful lesson in all of this. If we see a need in the community where we live or in our own lives, even while we are wondering what to do about it our Father in heaven may be preparing a solution for us. He does this a lot, preparing the way for us to walk in later. If you read the gospels you'll see many examples in Jesus' own life and if you read Acts and the letters to the churches you'll see the same thing happening again to the early believers.

There's a pattern here, so next time you are struggling with a major issue in life, stop for a moment and think. Wait for him to prepare the way for you and see what he will do. Often it will be something unexpected and will arrive unannounced. When you see it, rejoice and give thanks. But don't be so distracted by the original problem that you don't recognise the answer when it arrives!

This of course is only one way that the Almighty communicates with us, by showing us. Watching and listening are important ways of discovering what he wants us to do.

< The problem | No later items >

05 April 2011

RESPONSE - Obedience matters!

This is in response to a brief post on the Nomad Blog. By being obedient the team were able to do exactly the right thing without even knowing there was a need. Yahshua is, frankly, awesome!

A bouquet of flowersHere's an extract from the post on Nomad.

We felt God prompting us to go into a local housing estate, but we all felt a bit discouraged at how quiet things were. Two of the team felt God draw their attention to a certain house. They knocked on the door and asked the lady who answered if they could pray for her. She began crying and said that her husband had died a few weeks before. The team spent the rest of the afternoon listening to her story and praying with her.

The next day someone gave the team an undelivered bouquet of flowers to use. As we prayed a number of us felt God saying to give the flowers to the lady we’d met the day before. So two of the team went back to her house and told her that Jesus wanted to give her the bouquet. She began crying and told us that it was the day of her 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s birthday! Again the team was able to spend the afternoon praying with her. God’s perfect timing!

There are several things to notice about this.

  • The team were prompted in a general way - to go into a housing estate. We may not get the guidance all at once. If we begin to follow, more will come as and when it's needed.
  • They felt discouraged as nothing much seemed to be happening. It's easy to feel discouraged, but it's important not to give up.
  • Two were drawn to a particular house. There's no certainty about these things, but they went prepared to see what would happen. We all need to learn to do this.
  • They knocked on the door. We have to take the initiative, we have to go for it! There's no point in wimping out; if there's a door knock on it; if someone comes smile and speak to them. People are unlikely to approach us; we must approach them.
  • They asked if they could pray. Bless people, don't discuss the Bible or tell them they are on the path to death or that they need to repent. Bless them! How simple can this be? Pray, listen, care, love - those are the things we are called to do. God is love. If Jesus lives in me love will leak out everywhere I go.
  • They listened and prayed with her. Nuff said.
  • Someone gave them a bouquet. Expect things like this to happen. Don't take the flowers home and put them into a vase. They were given for a purpose, ask Jesus to reveal it.
  • They asked Jesus what to do and he told them. How important to trust him like this. He will not let us down. He is teaching us to trust and expect.
  • Two went back and delivered the flowers from Jesus. Not from us - from him. We need to invite him to live and act and speak through us. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
  • More prayer, more listening, the right time. HalleluYah!
More? You want more? Good! Also read this Nomad item and then ponder a couple of questions.

Yahshua sent out the disciples in pairs and told them to share the good news, cast out demons, and heal the sick. In other words he told them to do what they had seen him do. (Luke 9:1-6)

Q1 - What does he want you to do?

Q2 - Oh, and while you're at it why not listen to some of the truly excellent stuff on the Nomad Podcast?

17 August 2010

Cornerstone Cafe and Books


Cornerstone has been keeping me very busy for the last few months. This great little cafe and bookshop has prevented me updating 'All About Jesus' for some time, and just as I was beginning to think I could move on to other things again, I seem to be in danger of getting drawn in even deeper!

The Cornerstone websiteThe Cornerstone website will give you much more information about the project itself, but I'm going to share some more personal thoughts here.

My life is indeed, 'All About Jesus'. I want him to be King in my life, I want to be obedient to him in the way a loyal subject would be obedient to a mediaeval king. Kings had absolute power in those days, disobedience was not an option.

Yahshua (Jesus) is always benevolent, and the reason is simple - he loves me. He simply has what is best for me in mind at all times and will lead me and command me in ways that keep me spiritually safe. That doesn't mean things will always turn out well as the world understands and judges these things. Bad things happen to us in life. But the world doesn't comprehend the truth.

So I have a dilemma. I want to help and serve my friends (and it is good to do that). But my overriding priority must always be to serve King Jesus. Cornerstone is a wonderful project and it is most assuredly a project conceived and enabled by the King. He has shown me without any doubt that I was to be involved in the development of the shop. But what is he requiring of me now? It's not enough to do what seems good or necessary, instead I must do what I am told. That's why listening is so important in our lives.

And what he seems to be telling me right now is that he wants me to be involved in Cornerstone in some way, but volunteering to work in the shop may not be quite what he has in mind. I am still feeling my way in this. Cornerstone certainly needs people to do the work, in fact it needs many, many people. Am I one of them? In a way, yes, but perhaps not as I might expect.

To be perfectly frank, I am not yet sure! My best guess as I write is that my role will be managing websites and helping provide direction. Straying into other areas could become a kind of disobediance. I need to be careful!

I am sure that over the next days and weeks it will become clear to me. It's not a matter of likes and dislikes, or of whether I am competent or not competent. It's a matter of obedience! I must wait to find out. Father, show me the right way forward.

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