Tag Archives: god

Keeping God Busy!

It is not that God has nothing to do! What I mean is that sometimes in our lives we might, experience moments of God being especially active with us! This week has been one of those weeks.

For me I caricature God or the angels working hard to help me avoid mistakes and helping me through tricky spots. I find it’s a positive way of looking at life’s bumpy roads and it makes me smile and reminds me of the bigger picture. 

On to this week, God has been busy with me through the words of earthly saints this week. Bringing new awareness into my life, painful at times but honest, leading me towards healing, pointing me to Jesus. One saint in particular helped reveal hidden things buried inside my heart.

Two saints have helped me begin transitioning to a healthier life style, (hense the photo!) these same saints have just inspired my boots off, by their openness and upholding of a vision of christian community and a church that is real. It makes me want to worship God in thankfulness. 

Another saint stood in front of people, and reminded us of a church that is so real it goes beyond social pleasantries. Together (I paraphrase) get into the hot tub of deeper relationships and deeper connection with the Lord. The image of church community being in a hot tub is a little awkward, but there is a deeper message of connectedness, breaking down of barriers, acceptance and the sheer delight of being in a hot tub. 

I post this on the seventh day, when according to the book of Genesis God rested because seeing all that had been done and declared it was good. This week has been a bit of a journey but I arrive today and echo the lords sentiment, it is good.

On one level it would be lovely for me to tell you, who these people were that God used, but that would discolour the purpose of their words and encouragement, which is to draw near to God, to abide in God, to glorify God. Ultimately to be reminded, that Gods’ love is sufficient and I am approved off. Amen to that.

This posts top photo is of my lunch yesterday. Which would normally be a packet of crisps and some can of tinned soup or maybe something more unhealthy. I found that it took me ages to eat what I had made, not because cheese bread sticks, crackers, carrots and red pepper humous, didn’t taste good, but it really, really filled me up and lasted until dinner! Which was not what I was expecting!

I wonder which saints you will speak through this week! Go well my brothers and sisters in Christ, and go with God, keeping your eyes open and ears tuned to Gods voice.

my aproval 1

Listening For God in your Life

When considering what God wants you to do, how you might be used to further the Kingdom of God, we must think about listening to God.  It may seem obvious and perhaps it is at first glance, but listening to anyone is a challenge at times. it takes attentiveness, quietness as well as speaking.

People have been listening to God for centuries and God seems to tell people all kinds of things, from the deranged to inspired and all the shades in between. Understanding how God speaks and what God might say is important for us to have perspective on the nature and personality of the one we follow.

If for a moment we step back from the stories in scripture and instead look at the vista, the overview of what it tells us, what do we see? We see a big picture of God’s action in various kinds of interaction with people?  With you and I? There are some things about being in and outside God’s kingdom.  There is a need to share the message, to all, believer or not, there is a need to liberate humanity and challenge oppression.

So when we are acting on Gods command in what ways does that offer hope, liberation, and challenge? Or perhaps in the words of Jesus, how does what we hear lead us to love our neighbour more?

When we are tuning into God’s broadcast, let’s fact check it, so that there is more of God and less of us, less of our agenda.  If when we walk with God we think He agrees with us 90% of the time, it may be time to check how well we are listening.

When we listen to people, being attentive is so important, it enhances the back and forth of the conversation, it shows we care about their opinion. It is too easy for our heavenly communications to become one sided.

When we speak to God let’s take the time to be attentive to what we might be listening too, not just to fact check, but listen in a way that deepens our walk with God and ultimately increases our faith in God.

So how we listen is important.  I expect God sounds different to all of us, perhaps he sounds like a man, women or child. How God sounds is influenced also by how we view God, either as a friend or benevolent dictator.  Our image of God affects how we listen. In the same way, I listen to a policeman differently than that of my own child or my wife.  (Though she may question if I listen at all lol!)

We know that God is omnipresent, in every moment, where you are is a moment of potential interaction with God, a point of communication. God may communicate to you audibly, or situationally, or in a myriad of ways. Let us be open in our conversations with God for God to speak to us in whatever way works.  That means we hear properly what he is calling us towards when we are unfiltered by our agenda.

Growing Your Church: Responsively

Week four of our exploration into UK church growth, we have covered HospitalityInclusivity  Leadership and we find ourselves this week looking at the topic of responsiveness. What does that look like? Before we delve into that here is an example of responsiveness.

Back in my parents day, TV Programmes were in black and white, the tv remote didn’t exist, and you actually had to press buttons on the telly! The news was listened to on the radio, viewed on the telly or read in the newspaper. Plasma, LED or touch screens didn’t exist, and the internet was confined to company communications.

Over the last 20 years, society has undergone a radical change, communities have  embraced the computer revolution.  There were silver surfer clubs, courses sprung up teaching people how to use the internet, write on a word processor rather than the electronic typewriter and so on and so on.

People were encouraged to get equipped and up to date and get online. Who can remember the sound of first modems? (click here to listen) Now long replaced by the quiet hum and blinky lights of modern routers.

Over time, as people have encountered the digital revolution help was at hand, there were people who would teach and offer assistance of many kinds. So that wherever you were on the scale of learning, your needs were met as you signed up to your digital life.

The point of today’s post is to consider what responsiveness looks like in terms of our church focus. We have seen that society has shifted massively from analogue to a digital existence and that there has been an understanding that people engage in their digital life in different ways and in using different methods.

The research suggests that how we are responsive across the life of the church really, really matters. Underpinning church based responsitivity is that we do not live in Christendom, not everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer. There are so many different spiritual, theological and philosophical ideas out there that the question of what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus inevitability gets jumbled up.

In short, if the life we offer people is a life following Jesus, we need to find ways for people to access that new life in Christ.

How do we help people then, at their point of access to the Christian faith?  Do we offer one type of worship or many, one way of being a Christian and discovering faith or several?

Responsive churches are in their DNA are flexible and willingly find ways to respond to different needs. They find approaches that engage a range of people and their own place in the walk of discipleship.

“People who are negative, who try to prevent change, rather than excluding them. Bringing these on board was seen as necessary for the church to grow.”

It’s easier said than done, we will always have those people for whom change is too difficult, and we should be responsive to them too.

looking for new initiatives keeping in step with what God is doing. Allowing those who don’t want to do the ‘new thing’ to enjoy the current expression of church, however still moving ahead with the willing.

The research says unsurprisingly, that different kinds of small discipleship groups, engaging in people’s faith development, leadership that was flexible and open to new ideas and who have the enthusiasm to meet the needs facing them were crucial in growing that diverse tapestry of faith development.

Would we love to go to a church where we were not told to sit in a particular seat, but instead find a space where we could flourish?

It’s not to say we should be tossed around by the waves of change, but instead church communities should steer a course that means for most, if not all, they could find a spiritual home centred on and in Christ.

Link to the research Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches’ webpage can be found here

Look back across the series on church growth:

Week 1: Grow Your Church: Hospitality

Week 2: Growing Your Church Inclusivity 

Week 3: Growing Your Church: Leadership

 

Starting Over With God

There are moments for all of us when we need to, metaphorically speaking, press our restart button. This might be because of the day we have had, a decision we have made or something that has been done in our name or to us.

When we press restart on our tablet or computer the logo of its maker appears briefly as it boots into its operating system. As a person, I wonder what the logo in your reboot procedure looks like when you press restart

Mine is the cross like the in the image above. In amongst the chaos of a day littered around me and in the business of life I came to the Holy Cross Chapel to pray.

To restart for me at least, the cross is where I rebuild from, recognising my need for Christ’s love, hope and above all grace-filled forgiveness.

As you restart, wherever you are and in whatever way is helpful, may my God be with you and made known to you.

God bless. Andy

Discovering Your Happy Place

If there was a place in the world where you can guarantee  that you would laugh more, feel more content, where happiness and positivity would be your companion more consistently than they are today.

Are you feeling, downcast, oppressed? Is it a struggle to remember the last time you smiled or laughed?

Would you want to discover where that place is and in discovering where that place is, would you move there? Or at least want to  learn from their way of life that would help us be more happy?

img39972-Iguazu-Falls-ParaguayBecause ‘they’ have found the most positive place on the planet, for real! This location is sunny, hot, its people are friendly, content and happy.  To live there does not cost a lot in terms of finances. It has history, ancient monuments beautiful vistas, incredible waterfalls, this place teams with life. It has earned itself the right to call itself the most positive place on the planet.

The most positive place on the planet is the small, beautiful landlocked nation of Paraguay scores and amazing 89/100 in terms of national feeling of positivity and well-being.

The Science Bit:

Let me explain how this has been defined. Questions were asked of people across the globe, simple and basic questions about their general state of well-being and happiness.

The Gallup poll asked such questions like, “did you feel well rested yesterday? Did you learn something it’s interesting or did you smile all laugh yesterday…”

The people of Paraguay are simply happy, their country is not wealthy by any standards, in fact is ranks 111 in global financial rankings a couple of points above Jamaica and next to the Ukraine. Paraguay finds itself 100 points behind the United States of America.

It’s economy is predominantly rural and focused around a mining, it is a fledgeling democracy having endured years of harsh dictatorships and 30-50% of its population are defined as poor.

Yet it’s people are predominantly happy, happier and more positive than its US neighbour in North America which is 10 points behind, the uk is 14 points less happy. Moreover the index tells us the next nine places after Paraguay that are the most positive, are filled with countries from south America.

These are countries that are predominantly Christian, (93%) and these are countries that remind us, that money does not bring happiness.

The Bible tells it to us over and over again, that material wealth does not, cannot, make us happy, earn us true love, or indeed eternal salvation. Lessons that these countries in South America seem to intrinsically understand, they have a wisdom about life that we do well to listen to.

What might we learn from these nations of positivity? I suggest you do that journey, dig deep into their culture and way of life, discover for yourself what it is that makes them tick. And then when you’ve found it, that nuggets of wisdom that offers you peace. Hold on to it, share it if you like, but hold on to it  and allow its light to change you.

 

1 Step Towards a Healthier You

There is nothing quite like that first waft of chocolate hitting the nostrils when you open the Easter egg box. Each of us has our own rituals, I’m sure.  I like to take all of my eggs and break them up in a tub so that for the days to come I have a lucky dip of chocolate delights.

Let me explain the step we need to take to become healthier Whilst eating your easter egg. Easter, perhaps more than any other point in the year, offers us the opportunity for a fresh start, to take hold of our health in a new way.
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The Song Of Fresh Expressions

It’s become apparent in recent years that people engage with church in different ways and new forms of church have been around in different guises for many years.

The people of God have sought to engage with the community in relevant ways they have discovered that new ways and forms of being church are needed, as traditional forms have continued to decline or as people have a new vision of what church might look like.

We might ask ourselves, ‘What is a Fresh Expression?’  In some sences defining Fresh Expressions is akin to catching jelly!  In that it comes in many forms!  Fresh Expressions isn’t an entity in its own right but is simply two words that denote the type of Church that seeks to be defined by them.  I think that’s a good thing.

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A Light To Focus On

For some darkness is scary and foreboding, it certainly is when you’re cycling down an unlit cycle track, with just the beam of your bike light to guide you. On this journey though, there is a view that always delights me. The occasional starry sky, meets the neon glow that surrounds this cities cathedral. That is lit up, like a waypoint or beacon on a hill guiding me home.

Part of our journey through life not least as christians can be through dark times and difficulties. It may seem strange for a christian to speak of difficulty, it’s not that there is a lack of faith, or some unbelief.

Instead my image of God is one who is willing to sit amongst all the grime of life, and doesn’t always make easy answers, the jesus CS lewis, Nicholas WolterstorffDietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa and my mum along with many others knew is one who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.

But there are those Christians and churches who want a fix all God and subscribe to a constant state of perpetual and sadly unrealistic, happiness. I have attended those types of churches where everyone smiles all of the time and experienced their wonky pastoral care!

Sadly and Unfortunately on one level, I do not think  this side of glory, true equality and understanding of peoples differences can be found within this broken world, in part because, very seldom do people genuinely have the same agenda in life.

But when those agendas converge there are nation changing moments. The fall of the Berlin wall, the end to the apartheid in South Africa, to name two. Of course there are countless moments of grace where people put aside their agendas for the cause of someone or something else.

The couple who decide to have a child or adopt one, the crowds that gather to support the refugees at bus stations, and ports, the two men from Newcastle Upon Tyne, who protected a muslim woman and her family from verbal abuse on the metro. The faithful men and women who truly embody what it means to love your neighbour, littered across our neighbourhoods like stars across the night sky and who remain unsung, and unnoticed, but no less cherished.

All these situations and people remind us that in the darkness can be found light, that even in our broken world with all of its struggles there in lies the audacity of hope which whispers to you and I, life can be better, evil can be over thrown, justice can be found after all.

We need a beacon of light in all of our lives a place or a person who holds us either physically or by their words. In this place we can be known, cherished and loved. I delight in my view because I know home, safety, warmth, family is within my reach. But also as the cathedral looks out across a land scape that has changed so much over its 998 year existence, i am reminded of a God who knows me, as I cycle down dark lanes, through lit streets, over a river to get home.

The psalmist writes ‘Even the darkness is light to God its as though it is day’, to the creator of the world, meaning that wherever we are we can be known by the source of light and love. Known by him who knows our name our coming and going.

Whatever your darkness is, I wonder what might be your beacon, a place, a person or even God? Something or someone which guides you, reminds you of what is important, and true and who holds up the best version of yourself to you like a mirror.

As parents we remind our children when they have a nightmare that they are not alone, that they are safe.  Perhaps as christians when darkness surrounds us like an oppressive fog, we are not as alone as we think we are. May your darkness become less scary, less suffocating, less emotionally wearing. As you look towards your beacon of light, that focuses you on your journey that draws you to your destination.

Have a great week

 Last Weeks Post:

Are You Getting The Whole Picture

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Heavens Life Lesson

Disappointed In God

Disappointed in God

Moses was adopted by the Pharaoh having been found in a basket in a stream, in his search for identity and trying to win favour with his birth culture, he killed a guy for being a bully, and then was an outlaw for 40 years.  He sees a burning bush that doesn’t burn up which is kind of weird, and here he meets with God for the first time.

God makes a big deal about how Moses needs to go back to Egypt and get the pharaoh to set the people free. This is just the beginning of Moses’s problems, and disappointments, which led him to break the originally chiselled priceless Ten Commandments, then having calmed down, Moses had to go back and ask God to make some more!

Equally the disciples were pretty disappointed with God. In the Torah (Jewish Scriptures) it is told of the Messiah to come. And there was every real hope that the Messiah would kick out the Romans. Which as it turned out Jesus was not that kind of Messiah!

I also get disappointed with God, I’m disappointed that England didn’t get very far in the Rugby World Cup! I’m disappointed that God doesn’t show up nearly often enough in the lives of broken people, I stare at disbelief at what is going on in the world and feel an affinity with all those around the globe, for whom their disappointment with God, has lead to doubt and ultimately disbelief.

In all our disappointment we lob at God, these worlds are echoed in the words of the Pharisee in the new testament. Who shouts at the cross Jesus is nailed too. ‘Come down, if you are the son of God’! We all know what happened next.

What does God do, well he loves us, us who are wrapped up in life disappointments and pain. He puts people around us, he offers us a community to be part of where we can thrive, and learn more of the God we still perhaps just believe in. Disappointment though is part of what makes our faith real and living, we don’t blindly believe a set of edicts, but are free in our faith to say or leave, to shout at God, or ask him continually to open the eyes of our hearts that we might see as God does.

Disappointment in God is more about us than God, more about humanities decision to be a disciple or not. Ultimately like Jesus’s disciples, Moses saw God do amazing things through him, the parting of the red sea, transform a staff to snake and back again, food in the dessert, and so much more. There is noting like being in the place where the Lord wants you to be. There is a sense of renewed identity and purpose even if the place where the lord has placed you is hard.

May God Bless You

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Last Times Post: Heavens Life lesson

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Heading Into The Waves

A boat that has never had the waves crash its bow, is in dry dock, or perhaps just a drawing or concept of an engineer. It has not lived as a boat, at all, it has not reached its full potential.

There is a part of me that wishes to be in dry dock, to exist amongst the simplicity of lines on a page or an artists imagination. The page or dry dock, is a safe space to be, unencumbered by the unpredictability of water crashing over the bow, or  traversing the deep swells of the rough seas. But life lived in that way whilst healing for a time, isn’t living! Faith founded and lived in the dry dock is untested, by the storms of doubt and discontent, or the piercing silence of the calm before the storm.

We follow one who walked on water, who calmed the storm, but even peters leap of faith landed him in the waves. So perhaps it is the waves that the Lord is calling us into, out of the dock into open water, it would be lovely if it was allways a flat calm but that’s not how I have experienced life.

More often I experience the lords call into the waves of life, and in those waves i am tested, sometimes battered by the winds, other peoples words and self doubt. Yet I keep going navigating towards the things of God. Attempting to serve him the best I can, seeking to draw people deeper into the things of the lord.

In God the peace we seek is not external but internal, it is that inner assurance that no wave is too big, no sea too rough, that keeps us navigating the seas of life. As we chart a course we do not do that in isolation, but with others and together we reach our destination, of that great harbour in eternity.

Tomorrow each of us heads out into sea, some of us rough seas await and for others its calm perhaps before a storm. May wherever we are, atop the waves or recovering in dry dock, know the grace, healing and love of God, the guidance of the holy spirit and the deep peace of God that keeps our hands unshaken on the ships wheel and our hearts at a steady beat like a propeller on a boat pushing us through lifes waters, bless us, keep us and shape us.

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