Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Whats in a name.

Many of my friends belong to motorcycle clubs. They have in some cases provocative names, in others just a simple statement of them being bikers. But they are judged for those names, and the perception that goes with the name. A few years back a good friend of mine refused to come to a rally with me because of the name of the club who put it on, and how it would look to those within the established church, if he was seen at this gathering. At the time i was a bit hacked off with him, and let him know i thought he was being stupid. Today it's different, we have the emergent church, we have initiatives with fancy titles for going to the fringes of society to take the Gospel to them. Initiatives that are in some cases effective, in others less so.

Being separate from the world is a requirement of the Christian walk, and over the years many well meaning Christians have taken it to mean complete separation from the day to day, the struggles and the sin that goes with day to day life. But what does it actually mean to be separate from the world? Can we be effective witnesses if we never engage with a fallen broken society, and all those people who make it up. The simple answer is no we cannot, we have to go and proclaim the Gospel, we have to go and proclaim Gods love to a shattered society, a society that we are part of.

Some of us, myself included work better on the edge, it's where i'm most comfortable. There has to be a cliff i can look over, thats when i'm happiest. When i'm staring into the void, chatting with, praying with those people on the fringes of society, thats when i'm happiest as a Christian. The run of the mill mundane drives me mad. It saps my strength and dries me up. When i'm on the edge i feel closer to God, i feel alive. Some of my friends are members of bike clubs, they have names that make Christians squirm, but they squirm for the wrong reasons. We should be squirming because we judge a book by it's cover, we judge according to a name, we judge according to our understanding. If more people squirmed for the right reasons, we could see a massive shift in the way church functions, we can move from the traditional way of doing church into a vibrant, life giving ethos. It's time for the church to decide on wether the status quo is working or wether, we get a new dynamic running parrallel to it. There is a world waiting for the church to rise up, and we have to do it.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Doing the right thing.

In the last few weeks i have had a number of conversations with people about doing the right thing. Some of these conversations have been trivial, you know the sort of thing, do i get another beer, do i have an extra serving of crumble, that type of thing. But some have required strength of character, a sense of honour, and the ability to trust in God that you are doing the right thing. A minister friend of mine who i have known for longer than he would like to remember, made a very serious decision earlier this year, he resigned his ministerial credentials, he just never renewed them. He has over the years earnt my respect and my love for him, despite him being a Liverpool fan has grown in the 22 odd years i have known him. The decision was hard to make but he felt that in all honour and integrity he had to do it.

And this brings us to the crux of the matter, over a coffee at a costa ( i do not attend these places unless i'm with him by the way), he explained his reasonings behind why etc. He had worked within his particular denomination for over 20 years, so it was no drop and run process. But he got me to thinking, as Christians we talk of integrity, we talk about honour, we talk about how we are different than the world at large, but are we? Do our actions get dictated by tradition, do they get blasted by our own desires, worse still do we neglect to consult with God on those things that matter. Integrity HAS to be a large part of who we are, wether we are Christians or not. This last month there have been times, i have been less than honourable, less than nice and far from Christian. My failings have affected relationships i have, but not to a level of destruction. Integrity is not a commodity we throw around, its not a word we chuck in to make ourselves sound superior, it's got to be a life style choice. Sometimes those choices are hard and friends, family and church can poke their well meaning noses into the pot to stir it in the wrong direction. Yes it's good to listen to people, but people can come with an agenda, an agenda of their own that maybe at odds with Gods agenda for our lives. You above all people know what God is telling you to do, you alone are going to be responsible for how you act. Yes sometimes the choice is easy and as we say in my neck of the woods a no brainer. Sometimes it requires commitment and above all sacrifice to achieve the end result. Yes we can have another beer, yes an extra potion of crumble. But lets actually be honest about where we are, where we are going and how God fits into it all. To many people will hold back on doing Gods will because it means the habits of a lifetime need to change, or we move out of our comfort zone. It's time to shape up and let the rubber meet the road

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Emergency only

Last night i was eat on the loo, at our club house,when i got to looking at my mobile phone. Now in the loo, there is no signal, but my phone said EMERGENCY ONLY in big letters. Taking this to mean i could not send a text to whom i needed to, i got to wondering, with no signal how would i make an emergency call. I'm guessing if i had hit the 999 button i would have been able to get through to an emergency service, but how. This then got me thinking on a different track.

A lot of my time is spent praying for people i know who say " i can't pray myself", " i'm not religious" etc etc. So in these instances i pray for them or with them to help them along. It's what we do as Christians, it's part of our calling, to pray for those who cannot for what ever reason do so themselves.

EMERGENCY ONLY: The time when people are at the end of the rope, and cry out to God for assistance, "there is no such thing as an atheist in a Foxhole". So my thought pattern has gone down this road, is it okay to use God as an Emergency service, to call on him only as a last resort. Our ability to pray comes from our relationship with God the father through his son, if we have no real relationship, do we really know how to pray. After all what is a prayer? what does it convey? can we just chuck the odd one up towards heaven as a last resort, my thought is if we profess to be a believer in Jesus, we cannot get away with using god as an emergent number. Yes he will answer, yes he will bend his ear towards us, but is it honourable as Christians to just use God as the world does. No has to be the answer, but what of the world. Those people who struggle with the idea of praying, but get to the end of the rope and plead and cry out to God. It's not ideal but communication with our maker, no matter how small and dare i say no matter for what reason is awesome. God can be used as a 999 service, he has no problem with it. But actually what he really wants is an honest, open relationship. Where the communication is 2 way, we pray, God answers and leads us in what we feel to be right. We listen for that call, listen to hear, how why etc. God is an Emergency service, he wants and loves us to pray, we have to decide if calling on him only in our trials is honourable, or wether or not we want a dialogue with him on a day by day basis. I'm still no closer to working out how i make a phone call to the emergency services when i have no phone signal. But more importantly i really hope i never have to find out how it all works.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Where grace and judgement meet

The other day i received an email, bemoaning the fact that my theology was wrong, and i had no understanding of God. This came about because i stated that God was in the business of Judgement as well as grace. For those of you who want to turn off now and read the paper or watch tv.

I stand by what i said and heres why. God when he applies his grace to our lives and when we accept it, we accept there is a reason behind it. Normally the grace we receive is when we have sinned or done wrong, but this is not exclusive. So lets put this into ways we can understand it, and look at Judgement, grace and restoration.

We do wrong and a judgement has to take place, i know i have spent a lot of time in courts, being guilty of one thing or another. Then Grace gets applied to the situation, a loving hand, a helpful word, but somewhere along the line grace gets applied. Then we have restoration, the reason for judgement is that restoration can take place, this is a biblical precedent. Any time Judgement is meted out, it's to restore the person back to where they were, but with a better understanding of their mistakes. The Prodigal son, the thief on the cross. Discipline brings restoration, Judgement brings restoration it has to do so.

I'm a parent i think i'm pretty good at it, if you ask Jacob he will have a different take on what i'm like. But we have an odd relationship, we are best mates first and foremost, I'm his dad i embarrass him, because i'm meant to do so.

When i left his mother and he was growing up i was awful as a father, i let him down regularly, and our relationship was non existent for a long time. But over time i have learnt some valuable lessons, some of those things i wad doing had to be bought to account (Judgement) i had to clean up my act, leave the peruvian marching powder behind, and straighten out. After that initial period of straightening out, grace was put into action and the discipline i had undertaking started to pay dividends to me as an individual. Restoration followed. Firstly to my God whom i still let down, but also more importantly to my son, as a friend and a father. My family who had disowned me are now back in my life.
That process that i went through, the judgement, the grace, the restoration of my body and soul was needed.

Yes God is a God of grace, but he is also a God of judgement, he does it to restore us back to himself. It's never for any other reason. If you remove judgement, you remove grace they are intertwined. As the song by the great Frank Sinatra says "love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage". We may not like it, but these things go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.