Thursday, June 30, 2005

Allowing God to speak

One of the most interesting small groups I've ever been apart of started when three of us from church decided to get together and pray. After a while we thought it would be good to do some Bible study. So we would randomly pick a psalm and during the week we would read it several times expecting God to speak to us from that psalm. When we met the next week we would share what God had said to us. We wouldn't use a commentary or study guide, we would just allow God to speak to us through His Word. As the leader of the group it was a bit daunting. I mean what if God didn't say anything to me and I had nothing to share? We ran the group that way for about a semester and God never left me with nothing to share. Then circumstances changed and we didn't continue meeting. If we continued I would have liked to have moved on to other books of the Bible, but Psalms was a good place to start.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pictures of me

Thought it was time I updated by photo.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Photo for blog

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sharing faith

I think the reason Christians are generally reluctant to share their faith is because they don't have much faith to share. A lot of Christians don't expect God to do anything out of the ordinary unless they have a problem so if pressured to share a faith story they tell second hand stories of other people's answered prayer. It seems like their faith doesn't impact their lives Mondays to Saturdays. I wonder if they ever pray for direction or wisdom or guidance on Mondays to Saturdays? Or if they do pray for it, do they then look for it or expect it?

It was very apparent to me while I was away on holidays earlier this year that God was orchestrating our days and on several occasions we unexpectedly met people we knew but perhaps the most striking evidence of God's involvement in our holiday happened on my birthday. On that day we were travelling along an isolated part of the highway. About lunch time we came across a petrol station with a small cafe. Since the next opportunity for lunch might be some way off we decided to stop. As we entered the cafe I was struck by the "Happy Birthday" signs that were stuck on the windows and noticed that one of the long tables was set with birthday decorations. Someone from the community was celebrating their birthday in the same cafe that we chose for lunch on the same day as my birthday. I felt very blessed to eat my lunch surrounded by happy birthday signs. Some may say it was a mere coincidence but I expect and believe that God is going to impact my daily life and some days He does so in obvious ways. Parents some times arrange special blessings for their children and some days God arranges special blessings for us, if we have eyes to see them. I believe this was one of those occasions.

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Why does God allow children to be abused?

I haven't been able to stop thinking about the comment that was posted anonymously on a website (if I was really clever at this point I would insert the link, but I haven't learnt how to yet). Anyway this was the comment: "I tell people that I don't believe in God, when really I just refuse to worship a god that would let my grandfather HURT me like he did." This comment tells us many things about the person who wrote it. Firstly they are not an atheist, secondly they believe God was powerful enough to stop the abuse, thirdly they believe that God doesn't care and fourthly they have an honest heart.

I think the most difficult theological question we will ever have to wrestle with is why does God allow children to be abused? Scripture provides some partial answers (John 9:3; Ephesians 3:10-13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Job 1&2) but I don't find these completely satisfying. The problem is we stand too close to the action and can't stand far enough back to take in the full panorama of God's purposes.

We also need to remember that God didn't change the rules when His Son lived on earth. Jesus was innocent of any wrong but He experienced rejection, humiliation, abuse and injustice. He knows what we go through.

God doesn't always rescue us from life's dramas but rather He promises His Presence in the midst of them. God wants us know that He is always there for us. In the same way we need to be there for the people who write these sorts of comments on websites. We need to be God's hands and hearts and let them know God does care.

For a more definitive answer we will have to wait, as I believe the tragic things in life will only make sense from the perceptive of heaven.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Does Jesus make a difference?

I found another poem I like but I don't know who wrote it. Contains a similar thought to the last one. Is it obvious that Jesus makes a difference in our lives?

SURPRISE

I dreamed Death came the other night
And heaven's gate swing wide,
With kindly face, an angel
Ushered me inside.
And there to my astonishment
Stood folks I'd known on earth,
Some I'd judged and labelled
Unfit … and little worth
Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise
No one expected me.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sample banner

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Having a Heavenly Father

This is my other favourite poem (I think I only have two favourite poems).

Said the Robin to the Sparrow
I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.

Said the Sparrow to the Robin
Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.
E. Cheney

The poem carries the challenge: do our lives look any different to those who don't know God as their Father? Or is it obvious that we live our lives being deeply convinced that we do have a Heavenly Father who will take care of us no matter what?

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

God the Pursuer

I'm really into books more than poems but I do have a couple of favourite poems. Many years ago Francis Thompson wrote a poem where he describes God as the "Hound of Heaven", as the God who desires, pursues and actively seeks us out. Thompson describes how he fled from God, "down the nights and down the days" ... "down the arches of the years" and ... "down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind." He describes God pursuing him with these words, "But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy". The poem then continues with Thompson's rather unhappy life story and how God continues to seek him. In the end Thompson asks, "Is my gloom, after all, shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?" Thompson became a Christian and wrote other things but he is really only remembered for his poem "The Hound of Heaven".

We sometimes hear testimonies where people say they "found" God but they only found Him because He was first looking for them. Like the farmer found the lost sheep, like the woman found the lost coin and like the father found his lost son. It is amazing to reflect on how much God loves us - His incredible patience, His unfailing determination and the staggering price He paid. "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us."

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Friday, June 17, 2005

More Scary Songs

When I was a young Christian we sang, "Your loving kindness is better than life" at the time I thought it sounded almost suicidal. Recently we sang "You are more than enough for me" which contains a similar idea, that if all we had in our lives was our relationship with God that would be enough, in fact it would be more than enough.

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Singing Scary Songs

Do you ever think how scary some of the songs we sing in church are?

Annie Dillard must have thought about the songs at her church. She is quoted as saying this about worship services, "Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? … It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews" ~ Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

Fortunately for us God would rather woo us with His love than overwhelm us with His power. But it certainly makes you think, do we real mean what we sing?

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Church Has Left The Building

From "The Shaping of Things To Come" by Frost & Hirsch:

"If we're living holy lives, praying for not yet Christians friends, socializing regularly and building friendships with them and introducing them to our evangelist friends, we will be creating the fertile soil for God to do his exclusive work, giving people the gift of faith. This is the incarnational approach to outreach."

If we do this the church has in fact left the building and the building is not the problem. If we are not doing this, it is not the building that is stopping us.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Keeping God in the building

I've been reading Selwyn Hughes in Every Day with Jesus and he said some interesting things lately about churches: "People like the idea of a God who keeps His distance, who provides but doesn't intrude, who protects but never demands, who never judges and never meddles. There are thousands of nominal Christians who view God in this way. They like a God who is there but who doesn't intrude on their daily lives, except when they are in trouble."

He then goes on to talk about church buildings. Nominal Christians want to view God as dwelling in a building because that way He won't interfere with their lives from Monday to Saturday. Meaning that the buildings are not the problem it is the nominal Christians who deliberately (but unconsciously) choose to keep God in a building so He won't interfere with their lives. If we change the "shape" of church we probably won't solve the problem. They would still be nominal Christians who would find ways of making the "new shape" safe. After all the wheat and the weeds will both grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:30).

The question is, how prepared are we to let God intrude and meddle with our lives on Mondays to Saturdays?

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Prayer as surrender

Praying in a prayer room can be scary. We come to God without an agenda or actually we allow Him to set the agenda. It is much more comfortable to pray according to a list or an acrostic like ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). We are in control we know where we are going, it is safe and predictable but often dull and boring. But when we come to God and just sit in His presence anything could happen … or nothing could happen. Both outcomes are unnerving.

John Powell had this to say in his book, "Happiness is an inside job."
"At first none of us wants to admit it, but we are all afraid of getting too close to God. A thousand questions and doubts flood into us at the very thought of being close to God. What will God say to me? What will God ask of me? Where will God lead me? The unknown is always a little frightening. And in this case, the stakes are high. My whole life is involved …
Another essential condition for successful prayer is surrender. The very word terrifies us. But the fact of the matter is that the posture of surrender is a non negotiable for prayer."

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Prayer and art

Mark Buchanan also sees the connection between prayer and art. In his book "The Holy Wild" he begins one chapter bemoaning the fact that there is no good art in Protestant churches. Then ask the question, "If the same Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, also lives in you and me, why aren't we more creative? Lovers of God should, by osmosis, know an irrepressible urge to be poets, artists, artisans. We should make things and make them well." Later in the chapter he answers the question, "Our creativity, at least in part, comes from resting in His creativity until it seeps in. It springs from prayer. Not the busy chatty prayer we often do, but the other kind: prayer as emptiness, prayer as silence, prayer as stillness. Prayer as the absence of wanting and asking. Not the clamoring man waking his neighbor, desperate for bread, but the suckled child curled up, satisfied in the mother's arms."

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Creating holy space

"Red Moon Rising" (as per last post) is not so much about intercessory prayer, but it is about creating a prayer room that becomes a holy space, a place of intimacy with God. The practicalities of it are that it runs on a roster system where people put down their names either individually or as a group and fill up every time slot. But the aim is to create a place where people met God.

Perhaps this description will help: "A creative prayer room covered in artwork, with music pumping (for those who want it) and three-dimensional 'prayer-provokers' dotted around, simply recognizes the fact that we are a diverse people with different ways of expressing ourselves at different times. Sometimes the creativity flows from you; sometimes the provocations to prayer are a creative invitation to you. Some like silence and a simple prayer book; some need to pace and proclaim. There is no best way to pray and no fixed method. If a prayer idea honours God, reflects the overall tenor of the Bible and causes us to be able to talk to or hear from Him, that's fine."

The thing that tends to happen in this holy space is that a person opens themselves to God's presence in a way they don't usually do in their regular prayers or in their intercessory prayers and the person meets God in an intimate way. God speaks into their life and various ideas for mission are birthed in this atmosphere of prayer.

While we were away on holidays our church ran a prayer room for a week which went very well. While there were no "miracles" as such, people did experience God in deeper ways. Now they are planning to run a prayer room for a month.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

How to plant a church

I was reading "Red Moon Rising" (by Pete Greig & Dave Roberts, pub. Kingsway, UK, 2004) and he tells the story of how Mike Brawan started a church in Eldoret, Kenya which now has several hundred members:

Mike's instinctive approach to church planting had been simple. He gathered a dozen friends in a room and they prayed non-stop for 40 days. The two who didn't have jobs had to cover most of the night shifts by themselves, as well as ferrying the others to their prayer slots in a beaten-up old car. But they did it. They just assumed that this was the way you should plant a church.

And isn't that the way God planted the first church? In Acts 1:14-15 we read that 120 believers prayed constantly from the time of Jesus' ascension until the day of Pentecost a period of 10 days.

So in Kenya there was 12 people praying for 40 days and in Jerusalem there was 120 people praying for 10 days.

Now that's how you plant a church.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

My first blog

Wow! My first blog, how exciting. Do you think we'll get the whole world blogging?

Anyway I'm always reading lots of intereting things like this by Pete Greig about his vision for 24-7 Prayer:

The vision?
The vision is JESUS - obsessively, dangerously, undeniably Jesus
The vision is an army of young people. You see bones?
I see an army.
And they are FREE from materialism.
They laugh at 9-5 little prisons.
They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday.
They wouldn't even notice.
They know the meaning of the Matrix, the way the west was won.
They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations.
They need not passport. People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.
They are free yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying.

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