Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lament for a son

I don't want to waste these years with my wife and young family. Chloe read me this the other day and it made me check again my priorities the amount of quality time I am giving. This is written by Nicholas Wolterstorff who writes about the loss of his son.

"What do I do now with my regrets - over the time I neglected to take him along hiking, over the times I placed work ahead of being with him, over the times I postponed writing letters, over the times I unreasonably got angry with him - over all the times I hurt him, times I noticed the hurt and times I didn't but should have. Over the the times he was sad and I saw, but did little or nothing to console. Over all the times I did not prize the inscape of the image of God in our midst which was he; and over all the other times I did but did not tell him so. Over all the times he was something wonderful or did something fine and I was oblivious or silent - sometimes because my own projects were my single minded pursuit, sometimes because my own worries were my single minded concern. And sometimes because I did not want his excellence to "go to his head."

What do I do with this basket of regrets? What do I do with my regret that I did not warn him more often and more firmly with the dangers of climbing? When the person is living we can make amends - can say sorry, if our pride is not too large to swallow; can change our ways, if our projects are not loved more than the other person. But when the person is dead, what do we do with our regrets?

A friend warned me against this question. Don't rehearse your regrets, he said. But they come to mind unrehearsed. Should I try to stop them? Should I undertake some discipline of memory to stop this parade of all I wish had been different? 

No I will not do that. Putting it out of my mind is not my way.

I believe God forgives me. I do not doubt that. The matter between me and God is closed. But what about the matter between me and Eric? For my regrets remain. What do I do with my God-forgiven regrets? Maybe some of what I regret doesn't even need forgiving; maybe sometimes I did as well as I could. Full love isn't always possible in this fallen world of ours. Still, I regret.

I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memory to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry."

The God of love will surely grant us such a day. Love needs that."

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bootcamp begins...

This week we began our young men's discipleship bootcamp. My learning curve continues as I look for new ways to gather men together for openness, honesty and spiritual growth.

Inspired by Matt Hatch of Mosaic Church Leeds, this year we are running seven week high intensity discipleship boot camps.

Six of us met for our first session this week. The sessions are running from 6.30am to 8.30am. This is quite early for students! The sessions include participation, studies, stories, prayer and memory verses and set reading.

In our first session we discussed expectations from ourselves and from each other. I gave a framework and we also opened the Bible together. I am pleased with the way the guys responded and am really looking forward to being together again next week.

Over the seven weeks some of the themes we will be looking at will include Handling the sword; Self Leadership; Sexual Purity; True Greatness and Biblical Masculinity.

We met in the house of some of our guys. At around 7am one of their house mates walked in. His face was one of utter bewilderment. Initially he thought we were still sat up from the night before. Then he realised we were not and he was even more confused. He finally remarked, 'this is horrible' and walked away with apparent disgust and confusion. It was very funny. :-)   

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

God Heals

Some people are up for anything. Some people are up for crystal gazing, fortune tellers, spiritualism and faith healings. Some people seem to think that statues of Mary bring physical healing. Others would regard this type of thing as ridiculous. Many people who I know would view all 'supernatural activity' with huge suspicion. Many would seem to dismiss all without taking the time to consider any possibility that there something other than physical matter.

A number of people in our Church at the moment are praying for people to be healed and are claiming that God is healing people through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have heard stories of cysts disappearing from ovaries, pain removed and fingernails growing back!

For those who claim to be 'scientifically minded' one cannot dismiss claims without a thoughtful investigation. We have to lay blind faith to one side and take time to consider all sides and look at the medical evidence. I hope that is what we do in our Church. I am inspired by people in our Church who are praying for many people and seeing some healed. I expect to see more testimonies and look forward to seeing x-ray pictures of before and after!

I believe Jesus was killed. On weight of evidence I also believe that he was seen alive afterwards. I believe that he proved that he is God. I believe that through his people he brings his kingdom which includes healing from illness. I believe that Jesus heals people as a 'sign' to point people to himself.

There seems to be a variety of views on healing even within the Church. It seems that traditionally those who are up for healing are not very good at reading their Bibles. People can be stereotyped as unhelpful and experience driven without a love for the word of God. On the other hand people who read their Bibles thoroughly and study hard appear to lack the power of the disciples in the Bible when it comes to signs and wonders.

The Apostle Paul in particular seemed to walk a 'radical middle'. He knew the Word and lived in the power of the Spirit through extreme suffering! I love the Bible and want to see God move like He does in the Bible. Here is a good paper which may help bring some clarity and challenge Christians to look for God to move more.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Money Talks...

I still find it quite strange talking about money in the context of Church. For me it conjures images of all types of horrible television preachers with silver hair and gold teeth, while at the same time rather strangely reminding me of door to door fund raisers asking me for money through a guilt trip.

When it comes to asking our people in Church to give I find it an interesting one. Jesus talks about money loads in the Bible. He seems to link money very closely to our hearts. Among people generally we seem to recognise that money is somewhat of a vehicle by which we express love, commitment, trust and faith in a particular direction. We know people are serious when then put 'their money where their mouth is.' We always care about our investments and so it seems money has the power to some degree to lead our hearts and our affections.

As we walk through recession it's interesting to see how our hearts are revealed. In our nation football seems to be recession proof according to one article I recently read on the BBC website. Recession raises all kinds of questions for us as Christians. Some of them are answered by one of my favourite preachers John Piper in a  breathtaking sermon.

As a Church this year we are behind in our giving targets after month 1. This raises the question, how much are we giving? Why? Why not? What is our view of money? How do we seek to improve this area? As a young man with a wife, son and another baby on the way I decided that this summer I wanted to develop a more robust theology of money. As recommended by many I took time to read Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn.  I found it to be a truly amazing read. Very helpful, very deep and very shaping for me as I seek to lead my household. I'd recommend this for anyone who is asking questions over money particularly in the current climate, particularly in our Church! :-)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Leaders Training

One of our current discussions among our elders is how to help and coach our leaders most effectively in Church. We were pondering the content of our small group leaders training which has led us into this broader discussion.

Looking at the life of Jesus we are looking to initiate, cultivate and continue to build along the following lines...

Heart sharing

We are looking for Spirit led inspiration, a depth of conviction and a real sense of faith in our relationships. Jesus spent all night in prayer before approaching his apostles. Jesus took the initiative in making the 'big ask' and was looking for a genuine response in those he asked. We are looking for a sense of mutual faith and genuine chemistry in our relationships where we can.

Life sharing

Jesus took his disciples on a real adventure. They were with him at weddings, they ate with him, they saw him angry, they travelled with him, they saw him teaching, they asked questions and had times of prayer. We are looking to ask the question, 'how can we journey with our leaders?' Which areas of life can we invite our leaders to share with us? Where are we walking with God which others could share and participate and learn from?

Coaching wheel

In the context of a heart conviction and a depth of relationship we are looking to help develop the skills and gifts of our leaders.

Our coaching wheel consists of the following:

Commissioning. Goals, expectations, framework, planning etc.
Listening. How did it go? Thorough assessment.
Celebration. We're looking to identify and celebrate evidences of God's grace in every circumstance.
'You could be more effective if...' We're looking to give practical 'how to's' to help people get better at what they do.
Offer/Resource. We are looking to cross pollinate. We will invite from others in the team, suggest reading, training and outside help to facilitate the learning of our leaders.

The wheel will continue to roll!

We discussed this at the weekend and I'm sure we'll evolve the process as we try to serve our people with all our might!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Week 2 - Frontiers Church Central

Last Sunday we enjoyed our second ever Frontiers Church Central. We saw around 45 people gather to hear teaching about Jesus, worship him and spend time together.

I was glad to be let into the building early this week so that Dan and I were able to see the room and have a chat. The team arrived and we continued to set up. We blacked out the windows, put up the low lights, set up the projector and started to get ready. The chairs were out, the banner was up and people began to arrive. The 'feel' of the evening is very low key and relaxed.

I preached part 1 of our three part series 'LXI'. My hope is that our students and 20's will increasingly catch up and take hold of our main thrust as a Church.

It was quite special for me on Sunday serving among some of my good friends. Matt Giles led worship for us. He was brilliant. Anna Giles came with a view to help with the discipleship of our women leaders. Ben and Leah Arscott were faithfully part of the team even though feeling a bit under the weather. Dan Partridge was such a blessing from start to finish, and it was good to be working along side Rach Harrison. We have a great team and many other people I could mention.

The worship time saw many contributions. We had tongues, interpretation, prophetic words, prayers and communion. I felt a huge blessing from God as we joined together to sing our praises. As a group we have made a commitment not only to God but to each other. It was good to see so many of us at the pub afterwards. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with newcomers and have a good catch up with our team.

With our Sunday mornings full it seems that this may naturally grow into a second meeting for us. This is one of our discussion points for our elders meeting tonight. I can't wait to see what God has in store for us.


Saturday, 2 October 2010

New Series - Bodybuilding

Really looking forward to kicking off our new series in Ephesians this week at Church. It's been a bit of a crazy week.

Thoroughly enjoyed preaching at ECU on Tuesday night. A couple of people became Christians and many people stood to restart with the Lord.

I have been in London for lectures wed, thurs, fri. We had a great elders day today. Really good stuff. Big day tomorrow with new series and our second meeting of Frontiers Church Central. What an adventure!