Sunday, 30 October 2011

Kensington Temple - final part of a great weekend

Worship began with a tremendous sense of gratitude for God's love and mercy.
Colin Dyer sharing the word...... and this is a mix of his word and where God lead me in the process.....

Focus on grace...... grace that activates service.
Begining a week of enabling God's people to be energised for service - refreshed, renewed - equipped for service.

Looking at the ministry of encouragement..... vital to the life of the Christian amd the health of the church.
Anyone who has the Holy Spirit has the ability to encourage.....

Heb. 10:24-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Etymology - 'in courage'
the act of supporting and helping' it serves to incite,increase confidence, motivate, give courage.
You can say something that enables or encourages someone to DO something
Inspire, invigorate, animate,strengthen, to rouse, stir, rekindle, console, awaken, stimulate
Someone with the ministry of encouragement can embed these things in the life of another....
The devil has an interest in keeping Christians discouraged......

The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement,
yet so few people get the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential

'correction does much but encouragement does more'

We often think that we are being clever when we critiscise - but anyone can see the obvious and knock it.
Criticism is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those who inspire us to great things spend more time encouraging us than criticizing us. And they encourage us all the more during times we are failing.

A minute of encouragement during a time of failure is worth an hour of praise at a time of success.

We do need to learn how to encourage ourselves in the Lord. David was encouraged in the Lord at low times andHe stirred himself through prayer and words which we read in the Psalms.

God's grace is the greatest encourager. In the Kingdom we can NEVER fail beyond recovery. The blood of Christ will always cleanse us as we return to Him.

How much conviction of sin does a Christian need - none!
How much conviction of sin does a non Christian need - plenty!

The ministry of the Holy Spirit changes in our lives when we are brought from death to life.
After becoming a Christian there is no further condemnation......but He does start to convince us of righteousness.
Once a Christian the Spirit moves from conviction to transformation.
Moving us from awareness of our need of forgiveness to a desire to be more like the One who forgives - Jesus.....

Some people do seem to spend a lot of time alone, discouraging themselves, convinced that they are far too busy to join with the family to receive encouragement.

How do / can we encourage others?

John 15:1-17

The Vine and the Branches
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glo ry, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples . “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete . My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command . I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

Firstly, disciples are promised grace (v3),unconditional love- you are already clean, you are accepted, you are in because of me.
However, there is a statement of truth that if you are not a fruitful Christian then you have excluded yourself from being used in the Kingdom. However the encouraging point is that this is not what is in God's heart for us - He has enabled and 'destined'us to be fruit bearers.

It is often difficult for us to really know God's presence when we are going through hard times, and it can require someone else to encourage us and confirm the truth of the promise that He will NEVER forsake us,

The implication of being joined to Christ in the way Jn 15 describes, means that we have God given supernatural ability to bear fruit. - He has the best in mind for us and has given us the capacity in Christ to achieve the best.

We are given the Spirit inspired capacity to be joyful in all circumstances..... with joy we will draw water from the well of salvation. We are given the Spirit inspired capacity NOT to worry.....because we are enabled to trust God.

Finally, the discipline of God.... the painful experiences we undergo can have positive purpose and fruitful outcomes....

When part of the vine is lying on the ground, dry, dusty and not bearing is gently lifted to the place where it can receive nourishment and start producing fruit again.

Pruning is fruitful! but it can be painful for a season. Taking out the good so the best can grow. The good is the enemy of the best. God has the best for us and equips us to achieve it.

Worship Central J John on perspective

After totally brilliant time of worship with Tim Hughes, J John about to start.......

No apologies for what follows - tried to keep up but that takes some doing with J John, so here goes....

Some people have so many irons in the fire that they have put the fire out.....

We need to use the 'f' word far more often ----- forgiveness

We need to have a bigger perspective,

3 key areas for Christians:

Look up - worship Look in - wellbeing Look out - witness

A worship leader would be given the same advice by Paul as he gave Timothy: ' do the work of an evangelist' (don't stop leading the church, just do it as an evangelist!).

A missionary isn't someone who crosses the sea, they are people who see the cross...

Circumstances are like a matress- when you're on top its comfortable, when you're underneath you suffocate.

2 attitudes to Goliath - he's too big, lets run away, or he's too big, how can I miss.

A Koi Carp, if kept in a fish bowl will only grow to a couple of inches, if in a fish pond then 12 or more inches, if in a lake then 42 inches. The Koi is restricted by it surroundings but it always has the potential to be 42 inches....We can be just like that in our lives and circumstances.

We restrict our vision and our potential..... becauses often we choose to stay in the fishbowl.

We can worship God, preach about Him, tell others to follow Him.....them we worry and get anxious about circumstances.......and that is because we too easily 'envisage' the future without God. We forget the very words we spend so much time singing and speaking.

Christians must be connected to Christ. If you remove Christ from christian you're left with 'ian' - and he isn't going to help you!

Where is Christ in your car? in the boot? in the back seat? a passenger in the front seat? or is He in the driving seat?

For all those of us who think Jesus is in the driving seat - are we a back seat driver?

What do we do when He drives us down a road we aren't comfortable with? The road of forgiveness (I don't want to forgive him/her) The road of generosity The road of self sacrifice

The christian life is about 2 things:

1. holiness
2. humility

And a worship leader should help the church to bow down.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Worship central: authority and compassion

#wcconf #worshipcentral #westcc

Al Gordon about to speak after an amazing (annointed) worship time lead by Matt Redman......

Let's catch that vision of seeing our communities transformed....

How do we become agents of change in our communities?

Matt 9:35-10:1

The Workers Are Few Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing ev‐ery disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd . Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, there‐fore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

When Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion... He gave the disciples authority to heal and drive out demons He sent the 12 to preach: 'the Kingdom of heaven is the stuff I showed you'

There was no great training, they had seen Jesus, they had heard they were expected to rely on the same Spirit as did Jesus. And He showed up big time!

3 keys

A. Accept God's authority. ( He gave them authority - divine power given from God) We can only be real change agents when we actually ACCEPT the authority Jesus gives. This process was recognised straight away by the centurion who asked for healing for his servant...

God the father, who is the source of power, works through the son Jesus, to give us 'delegated authority' to operate in the same way Jesus did.

B. Bring God's blessing - the worship team should be the most servant hearted team in the church- they are blessed to be a blessing. Our choice- to be servant hearted bringers of blessing or to be something else? Anything else is short of the calling

C. Carry God's compassion. Everything Jesus does is driven by compassion. This is the key to seeing communities transformed. Compassion breaks out in attitude and action, mere words are insufficient. If we don't love the people God has called us to lead - we are not leaders after God's heart. Love breaks out as compassion.

We do not go alone. God forms and equips teams - and by His Spirit He accopanies us with His presence and equips us with His power.

The challenge to be agents of change in the manner and after the heart of the Shepherd. Moving in the Spirit with authority, in power, driven by the compassion of Jesus.

If you found yourself among those twelve, what would you ask Jesus for?

New song same Spirit

Worship Central Sat 29th

These are my unedited notes and thoughts on the morning session (which was great)

New Sound, same Spirit

How do we introduce 'new sounds' and creativity into worship, but not forcing anything, not creating an artificial atmosphere, not manipulating ministry?

Principles : not about this or that genre but - how can we/do we firstly embrace the 'messiness' of the Spirit then be led into His presence in the 'mess' not in spite of it?

Ps 98 - sing to the Lord a new song See also v 4-6

How do we both lead, as called , but so step aside that the Spirit is not bound by our ideas of how things 'should' be?

Question: Have we 'evolved' away from leaving space for the Holy Spirit to work - AND - do people know what to do in that 'space'?

Response: What leader is finding is that we need to do some very basic teaching (cat sat on the mat level) -similarly there is a very basic level of teaching needed regarding how the Holy Spirit ministers ( not just new people, but those from a more traditional background)

We must have honesty and integrity and authenticity in the church - not forgetting who and what this is about - this is not just 'mouth' honesty - but 'action' honesty.

How we act and speak when NOT up in our leadership role is the key to determining if there is true honesty and authenticity. Ie what is our attitude towards those who are not with us or who disagree with us - and not what we say or don't say, but what is in our heart.

This is all about encounter,not just the leaders encountering, but serving the church in such away that, through the worship and the way it is led, the church encounters Jesus.

How to 'ensure' that our 'different' thinking is of the Spirit and not just us - what checks and balances do we put in place ( spiritually & relationally).

Desire to do something epic for God! We don't have formulas for this, but there are principles.

Never overestimate what can be achieved in 2 weeks but don't underestimate what can be achieved in 2 years.

There is a relationship between the power of the Spirit and the way worship happens. This is both making what we do more beautiful AND transforming with new sounds.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Are we not doormats?

It's ages since I have been moved to blog ( that sounds vaguely medical and quite unpleasant!).... Anyway, I was at housegroup last night and, as always, we spent quite a bit of time off piste ( but that's usually a good place to be) and I was struck by the 'fact' that there are implications to certain areas of Jesus teaching about which many, perhaps even most,good, 'bible believing' Christians are in denial. There is a phrase that is often used following an episode in which a Christian who should have turned the other cheek, didn't, who should have swallowed their pride, but didn't, who should have given the cloak as well, but didn't .... And the phrase is 'Well we aren't called to be doormats!'
And yet by any normal reading of the requirements of Jesus teaching it does look as though, in many circumstances, that this is precisely what we are called to be, at least from the perception of the world. The humble spirit that will lose the argument to win the soul,the person dealing with the antagonistic family member who will back down and swallow pride rather than prove an unnecessary point, the heart that will not only go the extra mile for an enemy ( an enemy note) but will do so while genuinely wishing that enemy to be blessed not cursed, a sheep that Wilkins be silent whilst being lead to the slaughter, prefering to trust in God. These are all pretty 'doormat like' traits to anybody looking in.

There are of course times when we are called to take a firm stand, to exert some significant 'authority' and turn over some tables. However these are always standing up for the honour or rights of others or a righteous anger when injustice is perpetrated against the weak or helpless.
There is a scripture which begins 'We are to become like like Christ Jesus'
A doormat when it comes to our own pride, petty point scoring and rights, but a warrior when it comes to standing up to injustice the honour of our God and 'defending' the faith. How often are we warriors in our own defense and silent and doormats in the face of injustice and the suffering of others? Just a thought I had during an off piste excursion at housegroup.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 2 May 2011

No ordinary rating

Here at Baafest (Bellingham All Acoustic Festival) we were told the story behind a song.....
From Sunderland - an apparently ordinary rating, Jack Crawford, had been press ganged to serve on a naval ship in the Battle of Camperdown (1797) - in which we were fighting the Dutch.

HMS Venerable was Admiral Duncan's flagship and during the battle, part of the Venerable's mast was felled, including the colours (flag). Lowering the colours was a sign of surrender, and even an unintentional fall was unacceptable. Despite being under intense gunfire, Jack Crawford climbed the mast and nailed the colours to the top.

The story goes that this act of heroism so stirred the demoralised and disheartened British, who were on the wrong end of this particular battle, that the battle turned from that point. With the colours again 'atop' the mast they went on to win a decisive victory. As with all such historic tales there are disputed elements of the story, some of which may be right some of which may be historians seeking a name for themselves, however, there undoubtedly truth contained within it. That the course of individual lives and of history can be changed by single heroic acts has been shown to be true many times. Such acts can touch lives, communities and nations and can prompt similar selfless actions.
In Hebrews 11 we read about a number of 'heroes' of faith whose stories are there,in part at least, as examples to stir those who come after them to similar or greater acts of faith which will, in turn, encourage and strengthen the coming generations of God's family.
However, those historic faith figures are not my focus - we are. The present generation that God has called and empowered and equipped are the one's who need to be, and among whom the next generation will have a right to look for, 'heroes of faith'.
We need to be people whose lives and actions turn the direction of history, serve as examples that stir others to follow and are responsible for raising the bar of expectation and action.
Jack Crawford didn't nail his own colours to the mast, he risked his life to nail the King's colours to the mast. An act of heroism becomes the invitation the inspiration and the challenge to present and future generations.
And my challenge? What part will I play in this story..........

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 1 May 2011

What are you qualified for

Qualifications are important for many reasons. In the case of certain academic qualifications they indicate you have reached a level of knowledge ( or have a good enough memory) to pass particular exams. Others can give a potential employer an indication of achievement from which potential ability may be inferred and still others can point to a level of professional competence that allows you to practice a certain profession. Some are a legal requirement, in the case of certain professions, and rightly so but in other cases they can be given so much 'weight' that you may be forgiven for thinking that you are worth no more than the sum of your qualifications.
Employers write off people they have never seen, irrespective of a whole range of other referenced and demonstrable achievements simply because someone is 5 marks short of gaining a paper qualification. Society always loved to reduce people to something that enables boxes to be ticked and relatively arbitrary decisions made on the basis of them. These decisions, however, which are often made about a person in their youth, can build, or destroy hope and vision for a lifetime. They are not light decisions and they are so often made without ever meeting the person! Made on the basis of qualifications alone which makes many of our processes for people selection extremely monochrome one dimensional and limiting.
Thanks goodness our God sees in multi dimensional colour, always has an expansive, visionary approach and always bases decisions about us based on an intimate knowledge of us. There is a great verse in Colossians where we read about something that no one, through their own ability, cleverness, wealth or passing any number of exams can ever qualify for. This could lead to hopelessness or despair or the feeling of 'then why bother?' until we read: " thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." Col 1:12

When it comes to the critical issues of our eternal future and of our personal relationship with our creator, He doesn't leave us to our own, inadequate, devices - He qualified us, He gives us the requirements for entry, He is our 'A' grade. Praise God that He does not leave us to our own cleverness and does not judge us on the basis of some arbitrary, impersonal measure - He gives us Himself and He is our qualification.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wind and Clouds

I was reading Jude recently and you know how it is sometimes, when you read the bible and a certain phrase takes on a life that you have not seen before even though you've read it many times? Yep, that happened. What's more the new life breathed into the words doesn't always link with the original intended meaning, but, nonetheless, you find another 'truth'. Yep, that happened.
There is often a lot of talk and prayer and singing along the lines of God appearing 'like the wind' or as a 'mighty rushing wind' as a reference to the Holy Spirit. There is certainly nothing wrong with this and our church is no exception in either its expression or the desire it represents.
However, as I read Jude 1:12,
..."They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; ..."

I saw something else, an all important factor that is sometimes missed in our desire for 'the wind to blow'.

To put a practical edge to this we often, correctly, imply that we will be 'blown' along by the Holy Spirit as clouds are blown along by the wind and in the process will end up being used by God in the places He wants us.

But if what is actually being blown along are 'clouds without water' - no rain, no refreshing, dry and fluffy then they are of little practical use.

Clouds that hold out the promise of something they just can't deliver?

I want to be a cloud that is totally loaded with rain before I am blown anywhere. I want to deliver what is promised. I want to be changed and empowered by the very same wind that blows,..... and then get caught and carried in the current.

For Christians, in terms of 'working out our salvation' the journey is crucial, however, in terms of our having been given a command and the authority to minister, the delivery is all important.
The lives of other people, both now and in eternity, are dependant upon us delivering the goods that God has called, commanded, empowered and sent us to deliver.

I'm all for getting blown along by the Spirit, provided I am also prepared and ready to deliver the goods He's given?

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Listen to the whisper

Some words given after reading Psalm 35:

As you stumble around
and every way seems like the wrong way,
cul de sacs leading to darkness, defeat and despair
a whispered promise
deep within your soul
'I am your salvation'

When you heart has been trampled
torn and broken beyond repair
living or dying, you don't really care
a whispered promise
deep within your soul
'I am your salvation'

Where fear is your only horizon
vision obscured by pain
hopelessness and failure in front
and behind
a whispered promise
deep within your soul
'I am your salvation'

When sin entangles and pollutes
and the highway that once led you into my presence
is as elusive as the wind
a whispered promise
deep within your soul
'I am your salvation'

When the wells have been blocked
and the water no longer flows
days of heaven, life and refreshing
no more than distant memories
a whispered promise
deep within your soul
'I am your salvation'
'I am light,life,healing and hope'
'I am'

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Word of Life

The word of life echoes throughout history, bursts into the now and sounds a clear call, signposting our  eternal destiny. Accompanied each step of the way by the living Word, who spoke something out of nothing,whispered order out of chaos and breathed life into an empty universe.
Dancing through the joys, sorrows and complexities of our existence always surprising us. Producing something wonderful from hats full of nothing , whispering the Word of peace and power that catches chaos unawares and leaves order in His trail. He takes our breath away as He breathes life and wholeness into death and brokenness .This is eternity's eternal song, from the heart of the Father, the words of the Son, carried along like a flood, driven by His breath. 
These waters flow deep and His compelling whisper invites us to swim on the leading wave of His presence, bringing life and peace and healing. 
This is life in all its fullness, this is what He intended with that first living breath, when the dust of the earth began the journey to become the children of the King

Friday, 28 January 2011

Looking for something?

If I only did this once then learned my lesson it wouldn’t be so bad, or, even if it took me a couple of times to learn I could live with it. However, when I constantly do it again and again, each time promising myself that I have now learned my lesson, it will be different next time, it can easily become a matter for despair...either that or I am just getting old and senile, something I think my kids have been persuaded of for a while...

I am of course talking about car keys, glasses, wallet..... After a long and fruitless search for my car keys, when I was of course in a hurry to get somewhere, as I got more and more frustrated with myself, accusing myself of all manner of ailments which got progressively worse from mere forgetfulness to seriously considering I should have myself sectioned, I eventually conceded defeat, reconciled to not getting to where I intended going. Defeated and demoralised I decided to have a cup of coffee and calm down. and, upon opening the fridge to get the milk, what do you think I found....I hardly dare admit it, ...Ok, milk, the keys weren’t there either.

We have a key hook near our front door (note to would be burglars – not close enough to get them using a coat hanger!) and the obvious answer, the solution to my problem, the thing I promise myself I will do, is simply to walk through the door, lock it, and hang the keys on the hook. Why, why, why , why don’t I do it? ..I don’t know.

But, apparently, my wife does do it, and that is where she had hung them when she found them in whatever random location I had abandoned them.....

Relatively minor in the bigger scheme of things but searching or yearning for something that seems constantly to elude you can be very frustrating. The more important the thing for which you search the more frustrating it becomes!

In the bible, in numerous places, God promises rest and peace to people. This is real rest, not merely a snooze or ‘power nap’ in the middle of a busy day. It is the deep heart knowledge that you are secure in the care and purpose of your creator, forever. You can rest in that knowledge, you can depend upon His presence in all situations. The peace He gives is a deep heart peace that comes from knowing you are where you should be in the universe, that your life is centred on God, that your purpose and direction are not simply the at the whim of unthinking and uncaring circumstances and forces, that you have ultimate meaning and value, that you are loved by the One who is always faithful and always able. This is the rest and the peace that so many people search for (however they articulate it) and that they find so very elusive.

The writer to the Hebrews, in chapter 3 says of people:

‘Their hearts are always going astray, they have not known my ways’...... ‘they shall not enter my rest’

This is the key hook, the answer to our longing for rest and peace, but why, why, why don’t we learn the lesson?

Make it a life priority to know God’s ways – make it a life goal to focus our heart on His ways , to have Him remould and remodel our lives so they are pointed in His direction, then, and only then will we enter that place of rest, experience that depth of peace that so often seems to lie just beyond our reach. This ‘key hook’ has a name – Jesus, ‘who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but instead, made himself a servant’ . He alone leads us into our rest and our peace.

Just like with my keys, it has taken me a very long time and a lot of fruitless and frustrating searching in the wrong places.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 10 January 2011

Off you go....?

I am working through the E100 programme – as are most of the church, and a couple of last week’s readings really challenged me. You know what it is like when you read something you have literally read hundreds of times but suddenly it springs to life in a totally new way and you know that God’s Word isn’t just alive ‘out there’ or ‘in someone else’ but in you!

In 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul tells Timothy the kind of things that he should expect to happen when reading or teaching God’s Word:
Teaching, reproving, correcting and training, or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message:

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God's way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

Sometimes I find all four happen at once.......and I guess that is a reflection of how far I have yet to travel!
Anyway as I read through Genesis 11 and into Genesis 12 we find the whole of the ‘Abram family’ (yes, he hasn’t been ‘renamed’ Abraham yet) are on the move. Terah the father and the rest of them have set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. However, they never get there because somewhere on the way they found a place, Harran, that they liked the look of. They settled there, put down roots, got comfortable and got on with their lives.
Until that is, we reach Gen 12, and God prods Abram something, I imagine, like this:

G: Oi, Abram, what happened?
A: Ummm, excuse me?
G: You were on a journey, but you seem to be on the longest ‘comfort break’ in history...
A: Well, Lord, it’s like this.....
G: I know what it’s like.. you got more comfortable with ‘settled’ than with ‘journey’, go on, off you go....
A: Where Lord?
G: To a land I will show you... – you, your wife, your nephew
A: Any clues Lord, even North, South, East or West would be a start....
G: Just go will you, I’ll give you directions once you’ve set off! – oh and you can take some stuff with you..
A: What stuff?
G: Oh, possessions and a few people, you know.....stuff

And off Abram went.....

It was at that point that the word that shows us truth also became the word that challenges – exposes rebellion, corrects and sets us off on a new phase of training....

What represents ‘Harran’ in our lives? Where is it that we have settled and made ourselves comfortable when, in fact, we should have simply moved on through as part of our journey?
It could be an activity, habitual or otherwise, that is not part of God’s travel plan for us, but we prefer to settle there rather than journey to the place God will show us.

It could be an attitude or a way of doing things or indeed of not doing things. Are there areas where we have settled within our comfort zones and are in the business of putting down roots, rather than stepping out into the things God has for us, all the time knowing that we are not where He wants us to be?
It feels a lot like Paul’s ‘that which I want to do, I don’t do, and that which I don’t want to do, I keep on doing. When God said ‘Go’ to Abram it was a command, a challenge and an invitation to break a cycle and continue on the journey. It was an invitation to discover both a new level of personal faith and God’s faithfulness and provision. It is a challenge and invitation He made to me as I read this story again. I know the areas of my life where the challenge was issued and I know that the invitation is not to be refused. Does any of this ring bells?

Finally, I like the way that Abram was not told to leave empty handed, but to take stuff on the journey. There are things in our lives that are important to take with us for different reasons. There are those things God has done, or has given, that will strengthen and encourage us and there are those things that we have gathered – experiences, lessons, relationships, even the bad ones, that can serve to teach, to warn and to strengthen resolve to carry on with the journey and, importantly, to increase even further the value and wonder of the invitation.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Out with the old?

I guess New Year is the time when 'out with the old' is much on people's minds, the New Year being a useful metaphor for the opportunities presented by 'new beginnings'. In this sense 'out with the old' can be a very powerful and positive driver, although only of real use if our theoretical commitment to the sentiment is actually matched by our practical completion of it. Paul, writing to the church in Corinth about their desire to do a particular thing says:
"Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it....." 2 Corinthians 8:11 (NIV)
This is great advice for anyone, especially at a time of commitment to new beginnings, when we have mentally resolved to take action.
However, the 'out with the old' bandwagon can also be very damaging if it is misunderstood, wrongly applied or used simply as a mechanism to achieve one's personal agenda.

There are a great couple of verses in Isaiah 43 that can, and should, be both an inspiration and a spiritual driving force. When we allow the Spirit to write them onto our heart and we seek to understand them in the light of both the original and our own current context they will be liberating and empowering.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
How full of hope and promise is that for those at the point of 'personal resolution', for those at the doorway of a fresh start, for those conscious of past failures but with a determination to 'move on in righteousness', for those who know about God's saving acts of the past and are looking for his salvation in the present?

And yet so often it is read or heard and the first reaction is to rip it out of its context and immediately apply it to a specific church or denominational situation something along these lines: 'great, we can forget all the traditions and activities of the past, the 'old stuff' and move on with everything modern and contemporary. It is then usually wielded 'weapon like' to trample on those whose view of how the past relates to the present and the future differs from ours! I know this because I have wielded that 'weapon' many times. On many of those occasions I could not have been more wrong.
It isn't that these verses don't have application to church or denominational situations,they do, they're just not the place to start!
American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (from "Life of Reason I") and this is a wise saying to remember when seeking to understand and apply Isaiah 43:18-20. There are many occasions where scripture positively exhorts us to remember things of the past:
Psalm 42:4 (NIV)
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Psalm 77:11-12 (NIV)
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

Isaiah 46:8-9 (NIV)
"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Isaiah 64:5 (NIV)
You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.

Ezekiel 16:43 (NIV)
" `Because you did not remember the days of your youth but enraged me with all these things, I will surely bring down on your head what you have done, declares the Sovereign Lord. Did you not add lewdness to all your other detestable practices?

These are just a few of the many..... and there are some common and important themes running through these samples and the others you may want to check for yourself.
It is god to remember actions and activities,failures and successes, salvation and judgement, with a view to leading us closer to God in the present. This 'leading us closer' can be brought about through shame or repentance, encouragement or worship or a myriad other triggers that are used by the Holy Spirit as we remember. I am often taken by surprise as I hear clear and powerful echoes in much of our modern worship from Wesley or Watts or Faber, old and important truths given new life - not because we have forgotten, but because the songwriter has remembered! I am often thrilled to remember how God has worked in the past, not because I want to revisit it or try and slavishly copy what God 'did then' but to feed my vision of the greater things He wants to do now.
So what are we to 'forget' in the Isaiah 43 sense?
Forget those sins for which you have repented and received forgiveness - which means do not let them exert any further influence in your life, because as Wesley reminds us 'He breaks the power of cancelled sin'.
Forget the ways that God did things in the past - not in the sense of 'not remembering' them at all, but rather in not assuming He will do things the same way now.
Don't even remember those activities or 'traditions' and so on that bound and didn't liberate - but be honest with God and ourselves as we do this so that we aren't using scripture in a self serving and shallow way.

On an individual and corporate level the important questions to ask prayerfully are:

'what do we need to forget, because to remember will tie us to the past rather than release us in the present?'

'what do we need to remember, and learn from the past, in order to prepare and equip us for the present and the future?'

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone