Posts Tagged ‘church’

3 words for mission.

I’ve got three words for the church in Ireland. Words I think we don’t include in our thinking when we endeavor to preach the Gospel with our lives together. Proclaiming the Gospel, in Ireland, we need to remember to be; Simple, Urgent and Flexible.

The Gospel takes the greatest of minds to understand the complexity and fullness of it’s mysteries, however a 3 year old can accept it, and we must continually keep our witness simple enough for people to understand, and if asked or receive opportunity, we must, for Christ’s sake we must explain simply the Gospel message.

Mission is urgent. Why? Because there is a Heaven to gain and a Hell to loose for every single person you will ever; talk to over the shopping counter, be class-mates with, see through your car window, shake hands with, pass on the street.  It’s urgent, but it’s not to be rushed. When we’re in a rush we forget things, and do them half-assed but when something is urgent, we make sure it’s done right, fully and in good time.

Or proclaiming for the Gospel should be simple and urgent but flexible, not a one size fits all approach.  The Gospel is the same message for everyone, God has made grace available who whoever calls Jesus ‘Lord’. But you simply don’t tell a friend the same way you’d tell a stranger, you don’t explain it to a child the same way you’d explain it to your mum.  Jesus when talking to the rich man said, ‘sell all you have,’ when talking to nicodemus he said, ‘you must be born again,’ or to peter, ‘follow me and I’ll make you a fisher of men.’ The Gospel must not be diluted but we must make sure our friends/families etc understand the Gospel in their level of understanding. Using hip and trendy phrases wont make the Gospel any more understandable to a 60 year old bachelor farmer, nor will using big words help a child understand.   

Simple, Urgent, Flexible.


The Devil’s Outreach and the forgotten tool of evangelism (Jesus’ will Jesus’ way part 2)

We cannot live for Jesus without living like Jesus.  
We cannot do the will of Jesus without living the way of Jesus.

Jesus’ will Jesus’ way. (part 2)
please let me know what you think of this, all discussion is welcome! 

Once we have a grasp on the fact that we cannot and should not do the will of God without doing it in the way of God.  That is, for the Father’s glory, copying the life of Jesus and doing it through the Spirits power.  This new age that Jesus brought in, and the mission He left us with, to make disciples in His name teaching them to love.  It must be done in the way of Jesus.  Jesus’ life matters immensely.  It is the example that God choose to show us, how life is meant to be lived, how we are to live this Kingdom Life, this Resurrection Life.  The sermon on the mount, the parables, the encounters He had with people, the way He addressed His parents and followers, the way He played with children, the things He wept about, the things He celebrated, should be the nut’s and bolts of what we use to put our lives together.  All of His weeping, jumping, playing, teaching, story telling, eating, chatting, Sabbath observing, praying, waiting, sacrificing, walking on water, cooking breakfast, these things should be always on our minds, if we are going to live like Jesus; if we are to follow.
The first thing you do when following is observe, and you keep observing that which you’re following as you begin to walk in the pre-trodden footprints.  

So as we specifically look at the mission of Disciple making, the extending of God’s kingdom which we are all called to, I think we need to look at the start of Jesus’ mission when He started. 
When we think about making disciples, I’m beginning to find that Satan is trying to tempt us into doing the right thing the wrong way, he tries to get us so focused on the will of God, that we forget the way of God.   We still give it the label ‘outreach’ and it seems to do the job of making us feel good about our engagement in God’s kingdom.
This seems to be satan’s first tactic. 
He get’s us to simply serve God not be a servant of God.  You can serve someone solely on your terms, however you cannot be a servant on your terms.  You do not follow Jesus by ‘helping’ Him along in his mission. No. You partake in it, you become a servant and follower you personify his mission as a lifestyle.  

Jesus didn’t just tell the truth, He was the truth; Jesus didn’t just show the way, He was the way; Jesus didn’t just introduce you to the life, He lived the life.  

So when Jesus was about to start announcing the Kingdom of God, the kingdom He would rule, He was tempted by Satan in three ways. I believe this is recorded for us as a warning that when we start to think of How we are going to make disciples, we will be tempted in the same way and to watch we don’t fall into the trap of setting up God’s kingdom in a faster, more efficient manner, one which we think God hasn’t yet considered.  The story is in Matt 4 and Luke 4.

Jesus was tempted to make stones into bread.
And He could have, in-fact he could have made all the stones in the world into bread and ended world poverty.  He could have lived showing off His ‘super-powers’ and lets be honest that would have been a real eye catcher. He could have promised bread for all who pledged alliance to him, he could of pointed his finger at trees and made them crumble to dust and then re-grow in 10 seconds.
He could have, but He didn’t. 
He didn’t bribe people into the kingdom, He was no prosperity Gospel preacher, He did not put on a magic show to ‘attract’ people into the church. He built relationships with people, He told people it was their faith that healed them, He wasn’t looking for a pledge of alliance for some surface level “you serve me and I’ll change your stones into bread” contract.  He knew only the world of covenant, a messy relationship filled community.
Jesus didn’t come to save the world by preaching prosperity and bribing people into the kingdom and neither should we.

Jesus was tempted to show-off His standing with Heaven.
The Devil temps Jesus to jump off the temple into a crowed market place, I’m sure with many important people in the crowd.  The angels from heaven would come to His rescue and everyone would see just how important He is and bow down and worship Him.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, He could have made a celebrity out of Himself, walking around with visible angels at His side. He could of kept that huge choir of angels that appeared at His birth as His opening act when he came to a town near you.
He could have but He didn’t. 
He didn’t try to make a celebrity out of Himself, when He was in Jewish regions and someone said ‘you’re the son of God’ He was like ‘keep that down will you’.  Relationships were so important to Him that He wanted to get right down to our level so He could have real friendships.  He wasn’t looking for some sort of celebrate status so He could increase His influence levels and impact the world.  He knew only the world of humble loving, relationships.
Jesus didn’t come to save the world by showing off and becoming a celebrity whose better than other people and neither should we.

Jesus temped to have control over people by force.
The Devil temps Jesus by showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and saying, “you came to be their king didn’t you? Well, I can make that happen for you right now, no need for Geathsamine no need for the cross just pure lordship.” well I’m sure that was tempting! But then came the decision making comment from the lier, “only if you bow to me first.”  Now He could have became king by force, He could have followed the way of the devil. He could have used his power to manipulate and intimidate people into being subject to His rule. 

He could have but He didn’t.  
He didn’t force people to obey, He didn’t make people come into His kingdom, He didn’t take advantage of people’s emotional state.  Relationships have to be a free choice, Jesus knew this. So many times He let people reject Him sometimes without much care it seems.  He always gave people the choice to follow or not, He didn’t even butter up his kingdom, often telling people how much they’d have to give up. He knew only the world of a trusting, freely following relationship. Jesus didn’t bring people into His kingdom by force or taking advantage of them and neither should we.

Neither should we, preach prosperity Gospel, come into the kingdom and all your stones will turn to bread!

Neither should we, embrace celebrity culture, come to the kingdom because David Beckham thinks it’s a good idea.

Neither should we, leave people with no choice, taking advantage of their emotional state or leaving them with no choice. 

The three big temptations of Jesus, are still very evident as we continue in Jesus’ mission to the world, we are tempted to do the right thing the wrong way:
To preach that all your stones will become bread if you come to our church
To preach that, ‘hey look being a Christian is cool, just look at this cool rock star we have who became a Christian.’
And to force people into the church with threats and bribes into professing Christ. 
Would be to follow the devil’s plan for church outreach.  

We need to study Jesus’ life in detail, we need to read the gospels as part of our routine, to allow them to absorb into our character and into our church mission plans.  What if we were to plan our church’s outreach with using no other references or templates other than the 4 gospels.  The woman at the well, Jesus’ focus on prayer, how he challenged hypocrites, who he spent time with, His over dinner conversations, His public speaking.  How would our churches look if we didn’t follow the:
‘come to our service and get free tea/coffee a KFC voucher, oh, and you’ll get richer’,
‘come to our service and meet a celeb’,
‘come to our service, or else’, approach.

Relationship is the scaffolding of Jesus’ kingdom building, a real one, with a real Jesus.
Is relationship the forgotten tool of evangelism?
my prayer
‘Oh to have a pure witness, unwavering and boldly following Jesus.
Please Holy Spirit lead me to be more like your son. I love you and long for you.’

Standing on Grace.

Sorry if this sounded harsh. I feel I myself fall into the devils temptation to do the right thing the wrong way often. 
I’m hoping to do part 3 of “Jesus’ will Jesus’ way” 

if we lose this generation:

If we lose this generation of young people from God’s kingdom:

It wont be because we challenged them too much, but because we challenged them too little.
It wont be because we asked too much of them, but because we didn’t believe in them enough.
It wont be because we pushed them too much, but because we didn’t dare them enough.
It wont be because our teaching isn’t relevant enough, but because it’s not radical enough.
It wont be because of the expression of our worship, but because of the reason why we worship.
It wont be because we’ve made the life of faith too complicated, but because we’ve made it too comfortable.
It wont be because we haven’t been responsible enough, but because we haven’t trusted them with responsibility.
It wont be because our church isn’t culturally relevant enough, but because our church isn’t culture changing enough.

If we lose this generation from the kingdom of God
It wont be because we haven’t made the Gospel simple enough, but because we haven’t made it life changing enough.

Because we haven’t believed, I mean really believed in the life-changing power of Scripture, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who longs to guide them on the adventure which is the life of faith.

Standing on Grace

POEM for EASTER SUNDAY (the future’s not what it used to be)

Easter Sunday 

Here’s a wee poem written in the celebration of the Resurrection!  Praise God, Sing It Loud. Christ Has Risen From The Grave.

The future’s not what it used to be

The future’s not what it used to be
Not what it used to be anymore
You’ve given us a sure hope
I can almost smell the promised shore

The curtain’s torn
Our shame’s been worn
The lost can come running home
The price is paid
He’s rose to say
I’ve saved you from sin, but not Rome

For we still live in this world
Be strangers in this land
But through faith now we can fully know
Our redemption’s fully planned

Sing and shout and dance for joy
Towards earths shores come salvation’s fleet
“All aboard all aboard” free but not cheep
Is the story out on the street

Christ has risen
Grace is given
The dead to life have been raised
Real life can be ours
In giving Him our hours
May the name of Yahweh be praised

For new life is now flooding our veins
Like streams after the snow of winter
Your grace we couldn’t survive without
Praise Christ. We’d be lost without Easter.


Standing on Grace

COMMUNION (first experience of the ritual)

I was in a traffic jam in Burnfoot (small village near home) today, now that only means one thing. A car crash.  I was just driving home, the normal road, as usual.  As I saw the car in front of me pulling to a stop I immediately turned off the radio and wound down the window, listening for any signs that would tell me something of what was happening.  What was going on beyond the string of red lights?  I began to think what should I do, turn, see what everyone else does, just wait, wait to be told. I turned on the radio to Highland Radio (donegal’s home station) just incase they’d give me any clues as to this great mystery.  My senses were on awareness mode, taking notice of every sound, sight, smell.  I could hear a siren in the distance.  Cars start to turn from the traffic, in hope of a quicker root home. But I just stayed put, too interested and worried, maybe someone’s hurt or worse. One thing for sure,  there was something big was going on. Something big enough to effect everyone. Something bigger than keeping travelers happy. Something bigger than 100 dinners being burnt. Something bigger than normality. And it was happening now the feeling was there, this was not a time for someone to blast music from their boombox, or for someone to overtake cars, an edict which you never knew was there fell upon everyone as they waited patiently in an impatient world for an unknown reason but one they knew, because of the trusted blue flashing lights ahead, was more important than getting home before the weakest link starts.

It was in the same spirit that I came to church the first time I witnessed a communion service (I didn’t take communion, just watched).  Something was different.  I was just coming to church, walked in the same door, saw the same people, but something was different. Everyone was sitting in the middle, they weren’t talking in that laughter talk that normally happens, come to think about it, nothing too normal was happening.  There was a white cloth on my pew-book-holder-shelf thing.  My eye’s were wide. My ears were pricked up.  My senses were heightened as I tried to take in this new experience.  

There was something going on here.  Something big.  Something worthy of interrupting the normality of church life.  I didn’t want to miss anything.  People who normally just talked about their weeks before the minister said good morning were in prayer, they were quite, solemn.  I entered into this new territory, almost scared and worried that I didn’t know what was happening.  It was one of those moments I almost knew how to behave in even though I’d never been there before.  I knew not to raise my voice, or to tell a joke, I knew not to ask my Dad why everyone was sitting in the middle but to just follow.  We sat down, my Dad bowing to pray, he normally would teach me new things, why was he not explaining.  Was I the only one who didn’t know what was going on?  I bowed my head and pretended to pray, but really I just waited. Confused. Excited. I waited, not worried but with an engaged sense of wondering.  I trusted the man who sat beside me to lead me into something good, there was a reason he didn’t explain this to me.  The minister began to read from a black book, the one that come’s out at baptisms.  He read from it word for word, carful that every word is well pronounced and that no phrase is missed (which was not his style).  I watched as my Dad, eat and drank the bread and wine in one long prayer like fashion, I looked around watching everyone else, each taking their time, each not looking round them, the only one looking at anything was me.  Even the minister took the bread and wine.  What is this? What’s going on? One thing for sure was that something big was going on. Something big enough to effect everyone.  Something bigger than friendly conversation.  Something bigger than my understanding.  Something bigger than normality.  This was important. 

Communion/Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is a ritual where salvation is remembered and proclaimed.  By being a ritual it is a way of preserving, what is done and said across time and among people of various ideas and understandings.
A ritual protects and introduces.
The ritual of marriage is a way of introducing people to sex and family and protecting sex and family from exploitation. The ritual of burial and funeral rites 
protects the dignity to life lost and introduces the mystery and hope of what lies beyond.  The ritual of a handshake protects one from thinking that another human is worth more or less than they are and introduces them as equals.  A ritual protects elements of our ordinary lives like family, greetings, death, salvation from exploitation, degradation and reduction.  A ritual introduces us to these along with many other elements of life.  You cannot create a ritual, nor can you have a ritual on your own.  It is only something you can enter into.  Rituals are reminders and symbols that we do life with others and that life is something we live not something we have created.  Just like salvation.  It is not something we have made up, it’s something we enter into; nor is it something we can accomplish it’s something we receive.   

So the ritual of eating and drinking Communion protects our Lord’s death from being taking away from the very central centre of our salvation.  And it introduces us to forgiveness and Grace free to those who wish to receive.  It is a symbol and reminder that we take, eating and drinking the bread and wine offered. We receive.  Salvation is not a good idea we’ve made up, it’s not something we can accomplish, it can only be accepted.  Jesus is our only hope, communion stops us from thinking any different.  My Dad knew this, so did other’s in my church, they needed Christ’s forgiveness, they needed to receive.
That Sunday morning I think I discovered 2 things: My Dad was a sinner in need of a saviour and so was my minister! 

We’re all sinner’s looking for forgiveness at the foot of the cross, and there we find Grace.  There we are equals.
Communion reminds us of that.
The Lord’s Supper introduces and protects the death of Christ as the centre of our salvation.

Standing on Grace

THE PEOPLE OF THE KING (ypc – friday)

Ok so Friday nights talk is very difficult to sum-up however I’ll give it a go!  John took us through the life of the church from Acts 2 all the way till 2012 in half an hour. And as one not studied too much into church history I speak as one informed not the informer!  So my summery is this. 

‘The true church of God has been and is consistently being pushed into distraction and consistently has to remember her mission. However Jesus is accomplishing His mission of redemption of the world.‘ 
It seems that God is well used to using sinful, mixed-up people, people who are being saved to achieve His plan of redemption of the world.  I was greatly humbled to be proclaimed a part of King Jesus’ great work. That He would want to use us is simply mindblowing!

There is 3 challenges that have faced the church down through the ages.

  1. Persecution.  Both of christians and also christians persecuting non believers.  Both are sore on the church, but the later, History has told us is very sore on the churches real growth! Remember belief cannot be forced!
  2. False teaching.  The main false teachings down through history has been.  Jesus never became fully man.  Jesus is less than God.  That you can work for your salvation.  We need to be sure that Jesus is both God and man and is our only hope for salvation.  believing anything get’s us into more than trouble! 
  3. Disunity.  This came when the church started to assign bishops then argued which bishop was the most important, so the bishop of Rome ‘won’ and eventually became the pope. And you know where all that has brought the church, divided to say the least.
    If anything but the Word of God becomes a more important decision maker in the church, Disunity will happen and probably rightly happen.  The church must be open to reforming from the word of God, not from anywhere else.

Well that’s what I took from the talk, it wasn’t a talk with much given practical application.  But I will add one.  ‘Praise is rising, eyes are turning to You, hope is stirring hearts are yearning for You!’  The church and people are longing for God to come close to them, and God is working, He is at work and ‘Christ will have the prize for which He died, an inheritance of nations.‘  What a hope, to know where things are going to end up, brings a great sense of peace!

Standing on Grace

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