Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Light in the Darkness

'For Jesus, everything is upside down. The best and greatest and most important are the ones who humble themselves, set their needs and desires aside, and selflessly serve others.

So what is a group of people living this way called? That's the church. The church doesn't exist for itself; it exists to serve the world. It is not ultimately about the church; it's about all the people that God wants to bless through the church. When the church loses sight of this, it loses its heart. This is especially true today in the world we live where so many people are hostile to the church, many for good reason. We reclaim the church as a blessing machine not only because that is what Jesus intended at the beginning but also because serving people is the only way their perceptions of church are ever going to change. This is why it is so toxic for the gospel when Christians picket and boycott and complain about how bad the world is. This behaviour doesn't help. It makes it worse. It isn't the kind of voice Jesus wants his followers to have in the world. Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn't as bright as it could be.' Rob Bell. Velvet Elvis - Repainting the Christian Faith p 165-166

I love this book. I love what it says and how it says it.

I think Rob Bell is continuing to say some important things since this book was published. I like what he has to say.

I've been thinking a lot lately about church, and the above quote makes sense to me in light of where I'm at. Again and again I hear churches saying how we should be telling people that they are sinners so that they can understand why the gospel is good news, otherwise it's just news. I heard a preach like this the other day. I spoke to someone not long ago who said a similar thing. Tell people that they are sinners, point it out, paint how bad the picture is, and then tell them the good news.

I just don't think that this is a healthy way of sharing the gospel.

Don't get me wrong, I believe Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. I believe we are sinners, but Jesus came to make us new people. But I don't believe we are called to preach at people that they/we are sinners. I believe we do not understand that we are sinners until we start following Jesus. Only when we start following Jesus and get to know and love him do we even begin to glimpse at the extent of the cross and why he went to the cross.
I also think we need to understand sin in light of the two greatest commandments, Love God and Love each other. Sin is that we haven't done these. A result of not loving God is that we don't properly love each other. So our actions reflect that. Too often we focus on sin being 'things' (stealing, lying etc) rather than it being about relationship. My relationship with God is not right - sin. My relationship with others is not right - sin. Somehow I don't see that my relationship with others isn't right until I get my relationship with God sorted.
Sooooooooo.........

If the church focuses on relationships where we love, love, love, then I believe we're heading in a better direction. If we are light into our community, showing people how good it is to know God and how good it is when we love each other the way God loves us, then I believe the light really will shine in the darkness and the darkness will begin to disappear.

But we have to be in the community being that light. Which means we have to get serious in our love for God and each other. No good me saying I love God, why don't you join me in getting to know this God, when I'm slagging off my Christian sister/brother. It also means we have to actually be where the people are. But not in some strange, ulterior motive. Simply being with people. Living life as a light of Jesus. The light will shine and people will ask 'why so bright?'

We just love everyone because we love everyone. No reason, no motive. Just love.

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Hit

So I crave it
I desire it
It makes me feel so good
I'm on such a high
I feel the buzz when I inject myself
The warmth through my whole being
The high as my thinking goes fuzzy
The ease as my vision blurs
I feel so good

Then I come down
The disillusenment
The hurt
The pain

My thinking becomes clear again
My vision comes into focus

It wasn't that good
It wasn't that high

But I was sucked in
I lived and breathed its world
It made me feel so good
It made me feel the best
My pride, my ego all boosted by the hit

Now I'm on a low
No longer is it coarsing through my viens
No longer is mixing fiction into reality
No longer are the lies sweet like honey on my tongue
Now it hurts
I need a hit, but cold turkey is better.
Can I cope without it?

But I go back to it
Crave it again
Desire its fiction
Escape reality
I look for ways to find the gear
Inject myself
This is my 'Hit'
I've let it define me
Am I made in its image?

What is this substance that I desire so much?
What is this that I need to get through the days?
.........

The praise and adoration of others.
It is the way I am defined by people around me.

This is my 'Hit'.
I feel so good when people love me and praise me.
I feel so good when I let others define me by the praise of me
It is a high that I thrive from
It makes fiction greater than reality
It makes my own ego swell and delight
It makes my vision blurred
My mind a mess
But it feels so good

Then they take it away
Then I become normal
No longer defined by their praise
No longer adored
Simply normal
Even disliked
So now I define myself this way
It is a low

Yet it shouldn't be like this
I shouldn't be like this
I should not be sucked into this world that I have created

I am me
I am who God has made me
I am not defined by the praise of others
I am not defined by the slander of others
I am defined by who God has made me to be.

I am created in His image
In the image of Christ I am created

I am me
I am not defined by my comparrison to someone else
I am not defined by the man on the poster
I am not defined by the things I own
I am not defiend by the books I read...

Yet I am...

How can I be in the image of God?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Rats

I'm walking with some friends home from a night out. We come to a giant metal tunnel, except the roof of the tunnel is partially ripped off so we can see the night sky. The tunnel is about 60 foot high.

As we approach the tunnel there is an overwhelming sense of danger and death. The tunnel has a metal floor with holes and rips through it. The floor rises and falls like a uneven ramp.

As we are walking through it we look up and notice countless bodies stacked up on the roof of the tunnel. Scuttling over the bodies are rats. They are bitting the bodies and a grey mist is rising from the rats.

As we start running through the tunnel the noise from our feet disturb rats that are hiding in the floor. It seems that they are blind but can trace us through the noises we make. We know that if they bite us they will kill us.

Some of the group get bitten.

I look up and see bodies falling from the sky.

We keep running and escape through the end of the tunnel.

Friday, 19 September 2008

My Beautiful Girls!


I love my girls so so much!  Here is a very short collection of photo's of them.  Gracie has got Sarah's looks.  Lucky girl!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Power Thirst


HA! HA! HA!

Jackal

A dream I had some years ago.

I'm a Jackal.

Me and all our kind are on the plains of America.  We're fighting our enemy who are the Lions. The scene pans across and I see all the fighting going on.  We're victorious!

We return home celebrating our victory.  Back at home a man on horseback comes to us (Men on Horseback are our allies).  He tells us that the Lions want to fight us again.

We return to the plains and begin the battle.  The scene pans across again but this time we are being destroyed.  The Lions are killing us rapidly.  Myself, a female Jackal and another friend run and find a rock overhang to rest under.  We are beaten up and exhausted.  The female Jackal goes off to find some water.

We are there for some time in the scorching sun finding a bit of relief under this overhang. Our female friend has not returned and we are getting really worried.  Suddenly we hear a noise on the top of the overhang.  We look up and it is a man on horseback.  We are so relieved to see him.  I reach up with my paw for him to lift me up when he suddenly raises his hands and put them behind his head.

I turn around and see a lone Lion walking slowly towards us, bearing his teeth and growling. The dream ends.

Jungle Adventure

Another dream...

I'm walking through a jungle. I'm following a lot of other people and we're walking on a very narrow sandy path.

As we are walking we notice in the trees (which are very dense) loads of snakes hanging in them. The snakes begin to hiss and show their teeth and launch themselves from the trees at us.  So we run.

As we are running we notice ahead of us on the path are loads of scorpions.  Beyond them are some concrete steps.  We can't go round the scorpions so we decide to run through them as fast as we can.

we manage to get through them and begin walking up these steps.  There are about 6 steps to walk up when we reach the top.  we reach the top and suddenly there is a massive earthquake which cracks the steps we are on.  It stops and we walk down the other side and reach a giant lake.

One of the group jumps in and has a swim, only for a shark to approach him.  It is here that the dream ends.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Dream

I had a great dream last night. When I say great, I mean really exciting and dramatic!!



I was in a large room full of people all at a desk with a computer. We all worked for a massive company that dealt with the world's affairs. The current task we were on was the safty of the world.

My computer suddenly showed a massive X on the screen. This meant something was seriously wrong. Everyone started to panic and start running around trying to get out of the building.



All of a sudden there was a giant explosion and the building was ripped apart. It showed the outside and we were stationed on the moon. We could see the earth from where we were and the earth was burning up and the force of this was tearing apart all the buildings on the moon.



I and four others had grabbed onto a metal railing. We managed to get behind the railing so it was infront of our chests, with another railing by our feet. One of the guys to my right was dragged out and swept away by the force. The force wasa mix of wind and fire.



I held on with dear life. The force was so powerful and scary. I knew if I let go I would die. All around me was destruction with people being swept away in the wind and fire. So I gritted my teeth and held on knowing it would all be over soon...Then I woke up!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Confused By Church

I feel a right mental mess.

I'm trying to work out in my head this whole thing called CHURCH.

It seems to me that the way the church in this country currently exists seems worn out. It seems to me that the way the church currently looks actually seems to be blind. People who follow Jesus and don't follow Jesus are more and more perplexed and uninterested in the established Church. My mates would never think about coming to church on a Sunday morning. They would not even come at Christmas time. Why?

When I sit in a 'typical' church service I feel like an alien on another planet. I do not understand what is going on. The words we use make no sense to me. This is not a symptom of some churches, it is a symptom of most. We speak in strange ways. How often I sit there and see someone who I know really well get up the front of a church, begin to preach or speak and then suddenly morph into another person altogether, using phrases and words they would never use in day to day living. How often I stand there confused by the words of the song I am singing. I'm confused as to why we are all standing together and singing. I'm confused because the conversations and 'friendships' seem so superficial (which leaves me less confused when we fall out and struggle to make up again). I'm confused because I morph and change and speak in weird ways.

I'm confused because a Sunday morning in no way reflects life from Sunday afternoon to Saturday. What I'm not confused about it why my mates don't want to come to church. So where do we go next? If there is a problem with how things currently exist, then usually we change things. If I have a cut and it's bleeding, I look to stop it bleeding. If it's a small cut, a plaster will do. It stops bleeding and heals. If it's a deep cut into a vein I need surgery, urgently.

I fear we've cut a vein but are not getting surgery.

The problem I have is I'm not sure where to go with how I'm feeling. Is this God speaking into my life, stirring something within me? Is this my own vain imagination? Is this a stage I'm in that I'll snap out of soon?

I believe it is God. Last year a stranger came up to me and told me to stay true to the calling God had given me. He said that God has called me to take risks and speak out hard things to the church. He told me at times I will be a lone voice and lonely, but persevere.

I'm not sure yet what I believe church will look like for those who currently do not see the church as a place for them. Let me say right now that I know that only God can build his Church. I know only God, by His Spirit can wake people up to their need of Jesus. So I begin this journey and struggle dependent upon God. But I take this journey believing it is God who is calling me to do it, believing the Holy Spirit will equip me to speak and act. Believing that Jesus has the victory and is calling me to share in that victory. Yet before such victory was a cross of suffering. So I look to carry my cross and follow wherever he leads.

I go on a retreat tomorrow. I pray I will hear His voice calling to me out of the wilderness.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Crunch for Causeway?

I'm feeling really strange today.  

Last night Causeway was on.  It was the first one at the church since July because of the summer holiday's.  During the summer we have had quiz nights at the pub and organised a night of live music at he pub.  Last night however was the first Causeway for a couple of months at the church where we discussed beauty and self-image and looked at our own perception of ourselves and then discussed how God sees us.  It was a really good evening and I believe so many of those who were there got a lot out of the evening and began to see themselves differently.  I believe they began to love themselves and understand that God has made them the way they are for a reason. I am so grateful that this took place last night and that people met with God. The thing I am unsure about though is whether Causeway fulfilled its purpose last night.

Causeway was created to share the gospel in real and relevant ways to the community around us.  This is mainly to 18-30 year olds, but is for anyone who wants to come along.  We try to use relevant and contemporary ways to do this (film, drama, discussion groups) and look to make anyone and everyone feel welcome and loved.  

A massive part of Causeway's ethos is the desire to build really good relationships with people. Not superficial and fake relationships, but real friendships that last.  Friendships that mean people can be themselves and speak honestly and openly about who they are.  A crucial part of this is to build relationships within the community of Mersea.  We're conscious not to become a little church bubble, but to be a visible and real part of Mersea who have good relationships with our community.  It was this desire that got us to go into the Victory Pub and be down there.  Last night though I felt Causeway had reached a crucial point in its journey.  I looked around at those who were there and realised that it was purely (except 1 person) a group of Christians.  So the evening had a very 'Christian' feel to it.  It was after the night had finished that I questioned whether last night we had done what Causeway is called to do.  

I don't think we did.

I wonder if new church ventures like Causeway always reach this sort of point?  If you have experience of church planting and evangelism, would you get in touch with me and let me know your experiences please?  I could do with some wisdom.

Are there moments when a fresh and lively venture that sees people coming to faith in Christ on a regular basis suddenly hit a point when they are in danger of going from 'mission' to 'maintenance'?    Then in 50 years time its the same congregation meeting each week doing the same thing they did 50 years ago occasionally seeing a new face.  They still believe they are 'cutting edge'.   Is it at these points of time that Causeway is at where you have to be brave and bold and seek to change and try new things?  Is it here that you go after the 1 who has strayed from home and leave the 99 behind?  

The question that I then wrestle with is 'what makes 'church' church?'  If Causeway go down the pub, have a quiz night and don't talk to anyone about Jesus, is that church?  Do we have seriously evaluate how we 'do' church?  Have we forgotten that we are meant to 'be' church? How do we 'be' church? 

Please get back to me if you have any thoughts.

I will blog again soon about my thoughts on how church may look in the future.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Scatter The Seed

I had a dream the other night which I've only just remembered.

I was standing in a field with a few other people. i know Sarah was there, but I can't remember who else was with us. The field was completely bare with no crops growing, so all we could see was soil.

We had loads of seeds with us and we began to sprinkle them all over the soil. There was no structure to what we were doing, we just sprinkled them wherever we were walking.

We came back the very next day and the field was full of fully grown crops. The crops were really tall and a beautiful darkish green colour. They were everywhere in this field. It was a big field.

I was amazed! I couldn't understand how the crops had grown so well and so fast. It was such a beautiful sight. I realised that I had nothing to do with how they grew. It was a miracle. As we walkied around the field delighting in the crops, we noticed a patch where the crops had hardly grown at all. They were withered and brown and had hardly sprung up from the soil. This confirmed to us how we had no control over what had happened in this field. Some had grown, some had not. We just scattered the seed.