Tag Archives: in_Christ

Behold Behemoth!

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The wounded healer is a book written by Henri JM Nouwen. The cover states, “In our woundedness, we can become a source of life for others.” The book is part of Nouwen’s teaching on Ministry. He concludes in a chapter on Ministry for a Rootless Generation, that the man of prayer offers leadership as an articulator of inner events, compassion and as a contemplative.

I really get this; Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves; he wept at the death of Lazarus, had compassion on the widow whose son had died and raised them form death as he did the ruler’s little daughter. He also withdrew often to pray alone.

It is so important we grow to love ourselves and know our inner depths; to know and love ourselves as God loves us. In loving God, wells of living water flow from our hearts – we are enabled to love ourselves. This is a revelation from the mouth of Jesus, recalling the creational joy of God at creation and the foundation of the saving word he gave to his people through Moses.

In loving God and loving one another as ourselves, we are able to redeem our times through Jesus. Those who are able to dig deep and articulate this love in a place of engagement with people, are able to lead. God poured himself out for us; as we pour ourselves out, taking our woundedness and rootlessness and articulating the miracle of our own healing in Christ, we offer leadership to our contemporary culture.  Leaders need to engage with and articulate their redemption.

Stemming from this articulating of the good news of Jesus, is a genuine compassion that breaks down walls; removes barriers; refuses to act to separate people from people. The suffering of others is our suffering, as much as our own pain.

The pain and violence that God chose to endure through saving Noah and his family, has a purpose –God doesn’t give up on us! Job and has counsellors are wrong, God is not to be praised despite suffering, but God is glorified in creation and His joy at what He has made is set before us, which works its way out in us through works of compassion.

The danger, wildness and messiness of creation; the very forces of nature that destroyed Job’s world embody the message God has for him. The fearful creatures of Chaos reveal the nature of God; though He is not them, they are his works. Behold Behemoth…

Compassion is fulfilled on the cross as God takes all pain, violence and sin upon himself and sets us free in Christ. Leaders live this reality, transforming suffering into hope.

And finally, prayer: the contemplation of God, the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and of earth. In Him all things, live and move and have their being. God lives in unapproachable light and yet we stand assured in his presence because of Christ.

Leadership so often seems to be about being right. Righteous leadership is about knowing the Holy. Contemplation of God calls from the heart for God’s Kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven, freedom from temptation and deliverance from evil.

Contemplation brings us to our knees in the knowledge that all our assertions about God’s nature and being are like arrogance and pride. Our words and theologies are sometimes a thin, self-important veil over confusion and fear, concealing anxiety and craving an identity which we then call god. We feel good because at least we are not as bad as them! True contemplation of God frees us from such delusions of grandeur and enables us to lead.

“Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?
(Job 40:2 New Living Translation (NLT))

Poem: Railing

One, two; one, two, three; one, two, three, four…

How often are we told that the hope of the world is to be found in the local church? Bill Hybels is a proponent of this view and as an idea it’s become currency certainly in the church I attend. For me its is true when Christ is found in its midst and people encounter God not in the words but in the everyday lives of those gathered – people see that the church isn’t out there but in their back yard – local.

When I recently heard the idea at the church I attend I had to pause as I didn’t feel the gathering I was in was very local to me. It certainly was a church gathering I am a member of – I was connected to the people in worship and the town is admirably served by the church members. I reasoned that maybe the village I lived in, the people I worked with and the places I walked came to encounter hope because through me they might come to be in this gathering and experience the various ministries offered.

Looking at myself, I saw how in the fragmented society we live in- the age of the nuclear family and ease of travel, I had selected a church I felt comfortable in without thinking about its locality. Its teaching was largely sound, its works were wholesome and its worship was usually to my taste. To begin with it was also important that our children were served. The decisive factor though was that many of our closest friends were part of the community. But is my attendance rebellious and self serving? The teaching’s effect on me was to make me feel disconnected.

The reason I was being challenged in the first place was because the teaching was about discipline and how some avoid this by flitting from gathering to gathering and not committing to the local church. It was used again to justify where my money should be going. Written here that looks awful; it makes the church out to be a place of control that wants your money. It was actually  advocating that people are able within the safety of a well ordered church to form relationships that matter and to which we are able to be accountable within a framework where individuals are released financially to serve.

I see this but is it a bit like the tail wagging the dog? Didn’t I often see poisonous relationships you couldn’t walk away from because they were institutionalised and money being squandered propping up dubious ministries.

The place I have seen growth in my life has been in the free relationships I have formed not bound by the church I go to, the meals I have shared and the frank discussions I have had whilst on walks with people committed to seeing me prosper as a person in God. I have seen growth in my faith through the relationships where I have been able to express frustration and commit to change; where I have known encouragement and the speaking of truths.

The medium this message was being carried in- the organised church, I have to say doesn’t ring true. I wonder if the organisation of the church is a wrong framing of the  truth of the hope the church offers and inappropriate.

Surely the medium of Jesus’ message was in himself, the three or four disciples he was close to, the Apostles and in the fact he sent out all those gathered to him in twos. Jesus says where two or three are gathered then he is present. This is the unit of the local church, like the tissues of a body, made of individuals who are the cells, whose DNA is Christ, each individual being the dwelling place of God.

Each person embodies God and in twos and threes present Christ in their midst through love. We need to have confidence that an encounter with God and an infilling of the Holy Spirit equips the individual to be a seed of hope, a focus for growth like yeast in  dough. In a body, cells form tissues, tissues form organs and organs form the body -each distinct.

I do worry that maybe we have lost sight of the fact that Jesus entrusted his presence to the twos and threes. Surely the glory of the gathered church is in the quality of the individual relationships within it and this is what makes the wider church winsome. The winsomeness of friendship in Christ is at the centre of the local church not its size or organisation. The health of the body depends on the health of each distinct member.

For me the church has come to be focused in the gatherings of the two or three in Jesus name and not an institution whilst remaining embedded in an institutionalised church. The seed of growth and renewal is in the twos and threes where life in Christ is evident in the love and draws others to it and then…

1,2
1,2,3
1,2,3,4
1,2; 1,2
1,2,3; 1,2,3
1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4
1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 1,2
1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3
1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4
1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 12; 1,2; 1,2
1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3; 1,2,3;
1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4;

Intentional

Having visited Lee Abbey for a holiday on a number of occasions now, I have become aware of the appeal of an intentional community. Becoming the body of Christ, each member valued, is purposeful.

How though can being a body be achieved when people are gathered to communities that are so apart? People rarely engage with one another and certainly, in the church I am part of, small communities are secondary to the vision of the whole church and a main meeting.

This suits a lot of people and they are very blessed by it. They are able to be effective in their settings and carry an energy that certainly appears to be fulfilling. Church communities are formed around ministries, such as leadership, worship, social enterprise or youth. The momentum is through the task or sometimes a particular type of meeting. But this is not what I want.

Some people are able to function by networking within their work place where Christians gather. Others find involvement in a hobby, sports club or Gym satisfies. Interests such as running, cycling or bird watching have a draw as does support for a sports team. Surprisingly, need or disaffection can be a seed for community. This again is not what I want.

Deep down I have a need to grow spiritually and to be active in society as a whole. In my heart I need a source for being that starts with God but ends up blessing my neighbour. At Takeley Chapel I have seen the beginnings of how this might be achieved. I hope and pray that one day I might see it fulfilled. Currently we meet for breakfast and prayer on a Sunday morning; I would like to see the Sunday evening cafe meeting flourish and a monthly Friday evening community supper added.

The spiritual aspect I will come to, but practically what we could have is a menu of activities based around sharing meal times. These are natural breaks; breakfast sets us up for the day, coffee for the evening and Friday supper ends a work week. All these meetings should have an all age focus where children are able to participate and there are no restrictions on who might participate; all learning styles should be encompassed. There should not be a burden of preparation only inspiration

Children can be involved with adults in craft activities without a great need to organise anything special. In fact there should be room for people to be outdoors or even break out in to other spaces. The purpose is to be friends and families together.

Time should be flexible with people being able to leave when they are ready. Of course where there are activities then people need to know when these are happening but they should not be at the start of any meeting, to allow for people to arrive when they are able and still be a part.

What I am envisioning is threefold:

  • A Sunday morning prayer group arranged around the materials provide by lyfe.org.uk; the pattern is to reflect on a spiritual discipline through a bible verse and various materials. Through prayer, reflection and as a result of the teaching, participants agree to explore spiritual challenges for the week. These challenges might result in poetry or song, art or craft which can be shared the next week so that each meeting is organic. People may then go home, go on to attend other church meetings or decide to engage in some kind of recreational activity.
  • During the week participants would also follow the New Daylight materials provided by brf.org.uk, journaling, sharing their insights when they can over refreshments on a Sunday evening. The benefits of this would be to have a sense that on each day, not only are we pursuing the weekly exercise from Sunday morning and growing in our Spiritual knowledge, but each of us is on a shared prayer journey based on scripture. The resource is convenient as each day has a printed version of the scripture, a comment and a reflection or prayer and an audio version is available.
  • Each month, on the first Friday, early in the evening, a simple supper could be shared where people bring contributions and there may be sung worship. Those who are gifted may be invited to preach; those with insight may share what they they believe God is showing them. Communion will be shared and after prayer ministry, any business could be discussed that needs to be decided ending with refreshments and recreational activities. The source of this inspiration would be intimate groups of two or three, maybe organised around the renovare resources or other ministries that participants felt met their needs, meeting weekly.

It is hoped that as  result of this intentional life together, members would be effective employees, engage in other communities and serve the society they are part of, effectively, from a heart grounded in God.

It would only take two or three people to commit to this community to make it work. From it we may renew the communities we are part of and revive the gospel witness in Takeley.

Authentic

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Matthew 7:12-27

Jesus calls us to judge ourselves and others by what we do and not by what we say. Even more, he teaches that he does not judge by what is done through us by God; Father, Son and Spirit who we worship as One – God is concerned with our authenticity. It is not our kingdom works but who we are that brings us in to the kingdom; in to his ever-flowing presence where heaven, the dwelling place of God, and earth are made one.

It is a mystery that in Jesus Christ, the kingdom is so present that it is revealed with a word. Many works of the Spirit may be performed, but the speaker who does not do the will of the Father is guilty of lawlessness. The question is; is our identity in speaking authentic? What is it based on?

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Sovereign

One of my key beliefs is in the sovereignty of the human will (Genesis 1:27).

I believe in the sovereignty of God; he is all powerful and holds the whole creation together. God is good.

I see in the act of creation, the incarnation and salvation sovereign acts of self limitation (Philippians 2:1-11). I strongly feel that God has limited himself for the glory of his wonderful grace and that all our wills are created sovereign. This is one way I understand being made in the image of God.

God’s will is supremely free. His will is not bound. To exercise free will, our sovereign wills  bind to his sovereign will. Free will does not mean we exercise our will outside the will of God. Our will is only free, I believe, when the will of God is sovereignly our will. This is how I understand the mystery of God, creator and God made flesh.

The futility of sin is the fact that our wills are no longer free but bound by the slavery of selfishness and disobedience to the call of God. Our concept of self determination cloaks free will with the idea that we are free to sin. We are not free when we sin, we are made free in Christ so that we do not sin.

Jesus sets people free and commands them to go on their way and sin no more. While we are still sinners and bound by sin, we are forgiven and our experience of love and acceptance illuminates our life so that we have the hope of salvation. Sin no more, is a command to us based on the grace of forgiveness(1 John 3:1-10). But God does not take away the gift of our sovereign wills, we still need to turn to him.

Believing in Christ, we never lose the promise of salvation as we struggle with sin. Belief in Christ is a moment of peace and joy, an experience that sets us on the way to be imitators of Jesus; to be holy as he is holy. Believing in Christ is the creation of a new identity from which our sovereign identity grows. It is a decision to follow Christ, to be faithful to him (John 3:16-18). The battle begins as our character and circumstances are challenged and the gift is, our hearts are turned from stone to flesh. We hear the perpetual call, Go, and sin no more.

This is a simple command; go, and sin no more (John 8:11); be holy as I am holy (1 Peter 1:13-16). It is a call to imitation, to realise the divine image within all of us. Jesus’ teaching is easy and its outworking light.  Jesus says, love God with every fibre of your being and love everyone else (Mark12:30-31).

It is a true metaphor that speaks of arming ourselves for this life. Life is not easy but Jesus’ message is (Romans 13:12). We need every defence and weapon available, as, for some of us, we meet failure after failure and despair upon despair. Some struggle against circumstances and suffer. Others, if not all, struggle with the heavy burden of self. Our hurts and disappointments and the hidden world of our experience crowd in on the truth of who we are in Christ as we stumble and stumble again. For some of us, that one word of belief, that single word of freedom, is all we have in the struggle. But it is enough; it is the seed planted in good soil which is not strangled.

Our confidence is in God, as in Christ we are new creations hidden in him. As we set our hearts to forgive and be kind, yet feel nothing; as we seek to serve others and only feel failure, we know that, even so, in Christ we are saved. God may invade us with supernatural revelation but he will not take control and enslave us to it. He may reveal himself through miracles and supernatural encounters but he will not take away grace and bind us to the repeat of transient experiences. God limits his sovereignty for the glory of his wonderful grace so that we might freely bind ourselves to his will.

When everything else falls around our ears, the word of faith; the still, small, quiet voice, speaks, …My burden is easy and my yoke is light. He does not say pull yourself together and cheer up he says, …Come to me (Matthew 11:28-30). He knows your heart; it is his new creation and he will never let go (John 10:27-30).

This is love, that I am free to love. This is power that I am free to take up my cross and follow Christ. This is grace that I am freed to live in Christ.