Have you seen our latest video? Chris and Kathryn tell us about the Links story:
As we’ve talked with some of the new leaders over the summer the question that’s come up a couple of times is “what shall we do together?” The answer is quite simple – when you get together do Up, In and Out. As you get your rhythm going, as you try to live out your kingdom calling, simply make sure that when you get together there are regular rhythms that help you build relationship – UP to God, IN with each other and OUT to the world. You could do all three in one time together (eg. eat together and share stories of your week – In, worship, read the bible and pray together – Up, plan a way each of your community could bless someone around you in the following week – Out). You could also focus on a particular direction in different gatherings (as Chris and Kathryn mention in the Links video above).
Perhaps your community is re-booting after the summer and you are wondering what to do. Perhaps you are thinking about getting a new community going and aren’t sure how to start. Simply make sure you have a good mix of Up, In and Out together.
What do you think? We’d love to hear back from you. Why leave a comment and tell us what your current Up, In and Out pattern is or tell us a story about an Up, an In or an Out activity that worked really well.
“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.
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)
I have found myself thinking about this a lot recently. A lord has power and authority over other people. When we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord we are stating that Christ has power and authority over us – in effect, that we submit to his power and authority.
To state this and not to submit to his power and authority is a contradiction, and actually makes the confession, “Jesus is Lord”, meaningless. Declaring “Jesus is Lord” is not just uttering words but placing ourselves in the most effective place of kingdom action. As Greg Boyd puts it: “we enter the domain of God’s reign when we enthrone Christ as Lord of our life”.
The challenge for us is to cultivate lives of submission to Christ as Lord. This is especially important as we make space for more MSC activity, as we face challenges, make decisions and respond to uncertainty.We have a tendency to make ‘lordship’ decisions from the basis of our own power and authority – we try to rule our own domain. Actually, to authentically live as disciples is to use the declaration of “Jesus is Lord” as the entry point into the domain of the true Lord and to lay down our own measly attempt to be lord of our lives.
The Lordship of Jesus is effective. I think at present we need to recover some confidence in the Lordship of Jesus. When you find yourself feeling fearful, doubtful about whether it is possible to do the things you think God has called for, when you feel troubled try simply praying “Jesus is Lord”. It isn’t wishful thinking or a kind of positive thinking technique but rather a statement of fact: “Jesus IS Lord”…… it is his rule and reign, his dominion and domain that matters and is the place to be for a disciple of the Lord.
Let’s make this our statement of faith and lifestyle: Jesus is Lord!
We are pleased to be announce our next Discipleship and Mission Workshop will take place on Sat 27th Feb in Harrogate.
These Workshops are designed for anyone who wants to think through what discipleship and mission could look like in the 21st Century Church.
They are a day of teaching, interactive workshops, networking and a chance to hear how God is bringing transformation through Missional Communities of ordinary disciples. We are looking forward to welcoming Nic Harding from Frontline Church Liverpool and Kairos Connexion to share his insights and input during the day.
We will also be running a pioneer and planter stream alongside the whole day.
You will hear the story of what God has done in and through our church and others, and the principles we have learned along the way. There will be experienced Missional Leaders sharing their stories, and plenty of time to ask questions and interact with experienced practitioners.
Over the past month or so the news has been dominated by the Greece financial crisis. All this is a direct result of the worldwide financial crash of a few years ago. Finance and investment is a big deal for the whole world right now. The financial crisis has made us all more focused on getting value for money.
Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly thinking about
- How to invest our time
- Which relationships to invest in
- How to invest our money
So we need to be asking:
“What does our investment look like from a ‘kingdom of God’ perspective?”
Over the last five Central Gatherings we have been talking about the ‘Five Capitals’:
Spiritual, Relational, Physical, Intellectual; Today we are looking at the last of the five capitals: How will we invest our financial resources in pursuing the Kingdom of God?
What is God saying to you & what are you going to do about it?
Jesus taught his disciples how to invest their time, energy, and money for a bigger return than just financial reward.
The Gospels are filled with parables and conversations around money, capital and investment.
In Matthew 13 we are given five parables about the ‘Kingdom of God’.
These parables show us that we need to sow, to search for and to sift out the Kingdom. There is work involved. They show us we need to invest in the Kingdom of God.
The good news that Jesus announced was that the true wealth of a life with God in his kingdom was now available to everyone. And you do not need to be rich to obtain it. It’s like a treasure a man found in a field, Jesus said. In his joy, he sold everything he had and bought the field! Or it’s like the merchant when he found a fine pearl he went away and sold everything and brought it. Do you realise that it is well worth trading the temporal for the eternal? It’s a much better investment.
It’s said that, Martin Luther, the man who began the Protestant movement, stressed these three types of conversions: conversion of the head, conversion of the heart, and conversion of the wallet.
Jesus talked about money quite a bit. He talked about how we could turn it into an idol, if we are relying on it for significance or security. But he also affirmed that it’s simply a form of capital that allows us to invest in other capitals that are worth more.
When did you last asses you finances in the light of your giving and investment in God’s kingdom?
Every year we should be doing a financial audit.
Ask yourself what am I investing in financially?
Often this will reveal to you what you see as important.
Now read Matthew 6 v 19-21.
The money image is by Lawrence Lew on Flickr
On Sunday I spoke from Mark.4.33-41 where Jesus and the disciples are in a boat and face a storm.
Within this passage the disciples ask 2 interesting questions: “Do you not care we are about to drown?” “Who is this?”
These questions highlighted 3 key issues:
Do we recognise him in our lives? Do others recognise him in our lives? Are we investing our other capitals to see our Spiritual capital of recognising Jesus grow?
How much do we trust him? How vulnerable do we make ourselves before him to trust him deeper?
Relying on Jesus
How much are we prepared to give up control to totally rely upon Jesus? We can only rely if we trust and we will only trust if we recognise him!
Where do we need to do some work within our MSC’s to recognise Jesus more, trust him more and rely on him more?
The truth is that we will only see our MSC’s grow if we are prepared to make ourselves vulnerable and trust Jesus totally, relying upon him, and ensuring that others around us can recognise Jesus at work in, through and around us.