About Ben Askew
Posts by Ben Askew:
“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…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.” John 15:1-2,5
John 15 might be familiar to you. The picture is of Jesus the gardener who comes to prune off branches – both those that bear fruit and those that do not. Things don’t always grow in God’s Kingdom. We shouldn’t expect that the things of God will just keep on getting bigger and better – it’s not biblical!
In fact Jesus taught the opposite, that there are seasons of growth, and we should also expect that there will be seasons of pruning. This can feel like failure to us – and we don’t like to fail, we don’t like the things we lead to be seen to be shrinking or in decline. It’s tempting to ask the question ‘what’s gone wrong?’ and then try to come up with a reason that takes the blame off us, or try to fix the ‘problem’ in some way, striving and pushing to keep things going when what we’re actually doing is going against what God is wanting to do – it’s exhausting!
Want to think about pruning a bit more? To read an excellent blog article on embracing pruning click here.
You’ve probably heard us talk about “People of Peace.” People who like you, want to hang out with you and are open to and interested in learning how to follow Jesus from you. Jesus talks about them in Luke 10.
Hopefully you have a person of peace – someone you can identify who is responding to you in that way.
How do you help them grow in their discipleship? There are some simple principles – pray for them, look for ways to bless them, invite them to the things that your MSC is doing, and make the most of opportunities to share stories of what God is doing in your life. Sometimes you do need a bit more of a plan though. Here is a great little story from Clive and Ruth about what they did:
“A friend of ours had said she wanted to find out more about the Christian faith. We thought that Alphawould be great since it provides solid teaching combined with plenty of space for questions and discussion.
Kairos wasn’t scheduled to run an Alpha course in the near future, so we decided to run it at home. In practice, you can download all the talks and guides from the Alpha website.
Running it at home made it easier to fit in with family schedules and meant we could easily rearrange so our friend didn’t miss out. Holding it in our home gave it a more informal atmosphere and we able to build a deeper understanding with our friend than would have been the case in a larger group. Conversely, it did mean that the dynamic of being part of a group was missing. Also the sessions on the Holy Spirit were run over a few weeks and so didn’t have the same intensity as an away day.
Overall, it was a really good time and it was so encouraging to see our friend’s faith grow and her understanding develop of who God is and what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The recent start of Discovery Bible Studies with our friend has been a natural progression.”
You don’t have to do Alpha (although it is brilliant and increasingly easy to use with their new films). Some people in Ohana tried inviting some friends along to a Parenting Course that has just finished; this built stronger relationships and has left people wanting to join in with the main activity of the MSC. I know some communities made plans on Saturday to try out the Storyformed Way.
Remember: the harvest is plentiful! This isn’t about finding the right thing its about doing something and trusting that God will bless it and use it – he’s even more keen than you are that your friends get to know him!
Want to hear some more about the person God is calling you to reach? Watch this great video from Caesar Kalinowski.
How has your week been going? Have you managed to use the prayer texts we’re been sending out and make some time to pray?
This morning I was struck by Ezekiel 36.26. God promises to Isreal that he will put a new heart in his people and fill them with his spirit. As I read I remembered he has already done that. Our identity is changed, our heart is new, his spirit is with us, we are his beloved children.
At the same time I realised lots of us live as though this isn’t true, we spend ages feeling bad or sorry, we forget that we’re not slaves any more. How would you live if you really believed God was you almighty all loving Father? I’m longing for more of his Holy Spirit to be in me and for him to remind me of my true identity.
This weekend Kairos MSC leaders and team will be gathering for our Community of Practice. I’m looking forward to this time and expecting God to do some good things. If you are not coming please do be praying for your MSC leaders, that God would speak to them over the next 24 hours.
Finally don’t forget to come to The Up on Sunday!
We are ending our week of prayer with worship and prayer at the Resource Base from 7pm. I am fully expecting that God will use this time to answer some of our “fill us” prayers. Its going to be a good time – even if you don’t normally come out on a Sunday evening you really don’t want to miss this!
have a great weekend, see you at The Up! Ben.
Next week all sorts of different churches will be responding to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York’s call to pray “Thy Kingdom Come.”
The Archbishops are inviting us to pray for confidence and joy in sharing our faith. Watch the Archbishop of Canterbury explian the idea here:
We want to join in with this wave of prayer! The Lord has been speaking to us about letting him draw our attention back up to him and this week provides a great opporunity to respond.
As usual there will be prayer at 9am and 12noon at the Kairos resource base Monday – Thursday, open to all. We will also be praying as individuals and communities during the week.
To help you pray we’ll be sending out a daily text at 12noon. You could also use these prayer_cards (pdf file, some folding required). Earlier this week Sarah H recorded a short piano improvisation. She says “I played this one lunchtime then looked outside and could see the trees blowing slightly and made me think of the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit.” Feel free to download this and use it.
As you pray remember the phrases Mark wrote about last week. Wait for Him, Empty Me, Fill Us. May this week be a time that we experience a filling with God’s power as we faithfully wait together.
We will gather at the end of the week on Pentecost Sunday (15/05) for the Up at 7pm. We anticipate this being a powerful time of encounter with God. Do join us there!
I find it helpful to write things down that I am hearing from God – I will often put them in places where I can’t miss them. I want what God is saying to be written on my heart, in my mind, and influence my actions – this is how I ‘feed’ on God’s word – I want to live “…by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. At present above my desk, and hanging up in the Kairos Room where we pray daily are the following words:
Wait for Him Empty Me Fill Us
So often we don’t wait for God. If he doesn’t come with his power when we want we go and work in our own power. And then we wonder why things are hard work or we get exhausted or nothing
happens. If we wait we will be clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Without waiting we are like engines that aren’t being lubricated – eventually they seize up. When we wait we find out who God is; the one who sends the Spirit to empower us.
D.L. Moody used to say “Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray for him to empty us.” So often we pray to be filled when we are full of other things – often full of ourselves and our own needs. I find that emptying myself before God means I discover once more the truth of Jesus’s words “For apart from me you can do nothing.” I am brought to humility and God can do something with a person who is humble before him.
Fill US – not fill ME. That’s the problem. We so often think that it’s all about my little world and God helping me to live well within it. The power that compels us to witness to the good news of Jesus comes from the Spirit who indwells us. To pray ‘fill us’ is to welcome a filling of the Spirit that means we get dunamis (power) and exousia (authority) – we get to be witnesses because we get filled.
As we wait we find out who He is
As we are emptied we find out who we are
As we are filled we are commissioned and sent
Last week I watched The Railway Children twice. The classic movie followed by the stage show in a matinee performance at Harrogate Theatre. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes to see Bobby’s father appear through a cloud of engine steam and to hear her response “Daddy, my Daddy”. During the theatre performance I sensed the Lord nudging me.
During the week my attention was also nudged by a reference to a phrase used in some of the research with adopted and fostered children: ‘Genealogical Bewilderment’. This has to do with the desire of human beings to know who they truly are. Then came the newspaper revelation about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s discovery, disclosed to him by some clever and insistent journalism, that his father was not in fact the man he had been led to believe. Putting aside the disturbing thoughts that such deep and delicate things have to be played out in this high profile way, it was extraordinary how Justin Welby handled it. He set this profoundly bewildering experience in the context of the knowledge that his true identity is found in Jesus Christ.
Three ‘nudges’ that got my attention.
I have sensed the Lord highlighting that the time we are in is one of bewilderment and uncertainty. The Railway Children lived out their story against a backdrop of confusion, uncertainty and lack of knowledge of what was truly happening. One of the songs in the stage show had a refrain that went something like “when you are dreaming there is someone working to make your dream come true”. The Lord is working on our behalf. He is busy for us – we can be certain of this.
I don’t think any of us likes to be bewildered. We like clarity. As I have read the Resurrection Narratives in the Bible I have been struck by the way in which Jesus enabled journeys of revelation, gradually revealing himself, allowing people to be truly discipled by encounters with him. In Mary’s case it was through tears, on the road to Emmaus it was a walk through disappointment and bewilderment, In Peter’s case it was through failing at fishing. For the disciples it was through a locked door and for Thomas the challenge to place his doubting hands in the wounds of crucifixion.
God is working on our behalf. Trust him. Be prepared to wait and Jesus will reveal himself. But this is not passive waiting: The Railway Children got on with life, they helped others, loved one another, supported each other and saved people (remember the landslide and the young man in the railway tunnel?)
Be clear: God is your Daddy who emerges solid and sure from the fogs of confusion and bewilderment.
I’ve had a sense that this Pentecost will be a time of the giving of power and authority. Our Archbishop’s are right to call for a Pentecost wave of prayer for evangelism. Archbishop Sentamu has undertaken a prophetic pilgrimage of prayer, Justin Welby has stated clearly that our core identity is in Christ alone. We stand and pray with them in our identity as the children of God and look to the power from on high to fill us and send us.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)