Thursday, 28 March 2013

Casting shadows

We are now fully ensconced in Easter time, and tomorrow in our city as with many towns and cities up and down the country Christians will march through their respective towns, forgetting their petty differences and focusing on the cross, and what happened on it.

Historically according to the Gospels three people were crucified on that day, 2 thieves and Christ himself, 3 crosses casting 3 shadows upon the ground and 3 broken bodies, with their joints a war while religious vipers cast hatred and ridicule at what was going on. Sometimes we get ridiculed for our faith, some of the time we deserve it, because of our actions, we can be proud, stiff necked, hurtful and all those things we love to point out in others we suffer from ourselves. When you look at the cross what do you see? Is it an instrument of death because it is, or do you see an instrument of life because it is that as well. The cross is a mystery, it can be many things to many people, ask yourself what does it mean to me? As a Christian i believe that cross bought about a change, that affected my life in a very real way.

But the death of Christ was not the end of it, you see to cast shadows you need light, darkness cannot cast a shadow as it's dark and a shadow is a trick of the light when light hits the object. We do not have to stand looking at the shadow of the cross and standing in the darkness it casts. But we can  look to the light which is casting that shadow, the light of a new day, the light of the resurrection, the light of the world, breaking into the darkness, setting the captives free, bringing new hope, new life for all who will accept it.

Have a blast celebrating the easter story this year, celebrate the new life given for us, the new day a fresh start for each and every one of us.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

It's like being in a Rock n Roll band

I'm often asked, how i know God is speaking to me about something. When i pray for people, guidance or for a problem, before i speak i need to know it's God and not just my own opinion jumping forward. In the past i have tried to answer this question and probably not very well in all honesty, so today i'm going to try and answer it again after a revelation on Sunday afternoon, while chatting to my son.

The band that i sing for had our very first gig to a live audience, this is a bit of a joke because 3 of us have played together before but we have a new drummer (who is a good tub thumper) as with all bands we rehearse like mad and try to get things right, sometimes songs work other times they just don't come together in any meaningful way so we drop them from the set list and drop something else into it, this week was no exception. At rehearsal we practised an AC/DC song called Highway to Hell, it's one of my favourite songs of all time and over the 30 years i have been in and out of bands we have all tried to play it. Now at rehearsal it was ok, not brilliant but ok, we knew we could do it and decided it was staying in the set.

Gig comes and we get to do the song, i was nervous because it requires a vocal range that i struggle with, and my good friend Mark Gilborson thinks we should turn the volume down so i dont have to scream at the top of my lungs, but we are a rock band and we play loud music. Anyway we started the song with that lovely riff and the people in the bar, started to take notice, some boogied, others started to nod their heads and sing along with us. We probably played it better than we ever have before, we in the parlance of our genre, we nailed it, it was as close to perfection as we were going to get it.

And this is when it dawned on me, when praying there are times i'm doing it and i know it's good, i know it's right and i know God is listening, it's a get by and hope routine. Then there are those times when i pray, when i know God is not only listening but is actually saying something through those prayers, either to me or to help the situation out. It's just something you know, it all falls into place, the words speak to the situation, the words help someone out, God gets involved in a very real way. We knew when the last chord hit the sound barrier we had nailed that song, we looked at each other with massive Chesire Cat grins on our faces, just knowing that we had done a great job.

And it's like that with prayer sometimes, we don't get answers right away so we keep on praying (rehearsing) we keep mindful of the situation and the situation or person we are praying for at the forefront of our mind. Then at some point the light bulb goes on and you know God is speaking (nailing that song). Answers do not always come easy, we need at times to keep on at God about the things we are praying for, after all if it's that important to us or those we are praying for we need to keep going until it's right. We are leading up to good Friday, and during this time Jesus goes into the garden at Gethsemene to pray, we know from bit's in the Gospel that he was in anguish, that he wanted to have the suffering taken away from him, but he prays something of utmost importance, which should set the bench mark for how we pray " if this cup of suffering can be taken away do so, BUT NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE" This is the crux of the matter when praying, seeking the will of God, if it was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for us. We pray and sometimes don't get answers because we are praying for selfish aims and ends, for things that we want. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, he is a loving father who wants whats best for us all the time. We can fight it, argue with him, but his way is the right way, his way is his will. As we come up to Good Friday and then on Sunday that glorious day of Resurrection, we can give thanks for all the things we don't have and all the things we do have. Sometimes you just know it's right, you just know it's God. We knew we nailed the song, it took some work but it was right and we all knew it. Finally could i ask you who read this to pray for Jacob my son, he is off to Romania again on his 2nd mission trip in 18 months, he turned 17 at Christmas, and despite his age and all those things you get with a 17 year old i worry about these things, i know he is doing Gods will for his life, because he has nailed the song he is singing.

God bless ya'all have a brilliant and awesome Easter, some of you i will see on the road if the wether is good enough for you dry weather bikers to get out and about lol.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Jesus walks into a bar.

I posed a question about what would we do if Jesus turned up to church today, came forward and took over the service. Some were going to be in awe, others wanted to know if it was the Historical Jesus or the Jesus of faith, others wondered what would actually happen. The answers were good and for those of my friends who don't belong to the group i posted it in i will post it to my wall if you want to see it. Now the question was fairly tongue in cheek, but like all these things an element of truth was needed to answer it. When you ask these sorts of questions you can see a lot about the person by the way they answer. But anyway back to JESUS WALKS INTO A BAR, because i want to put something out there.

Leading up to Easter we get lots of great images of Jesus and one of the big ones is the turning over of the tables in the temple, he turns over many tables and gets into all sorts of trouble, upsets the religious people of his day and gets a bit of a reputation. The good church going folk want him dealt with, they want him sorted out one way or another ( and in all honesty they got him dealt with one way, but the outcome was another) thing entirely. It's far to easy to say that was then this is now, but the truth is we still suffer from the same problems. We have tables both spiritual and structural that in some cases means more to us than god and his kingdom, we deny it and say no no no, but the truth is yes yes yes. We are too religious and rely to much on our structures and ways of doing things, and it happens in all churches, the service structure is relatively the same week in week out and woe betide you if you attempt something new, if i had a £1 (dollar for my American publisher friend) for every time someone has mentioned something not being in the right place or at the right time, i would be able to run Rosie (my bike) for a year. Here is the point and i know many of you will disagree and you are welcome too, our structure has become a table that needs to be overturned by Jesus, this is not just the structure of Church but also the structure of our lives and how we work out our faith. But it's not just Christians we all suffer with needing tables turned over. In a spiritual sense the turning over of those tables was a pulling down of strongholds, a pulling down of the things that keep us from doing. The act of turning over the tables was the start of a spiritual battle that had seen good people enslaved by good people. But they were slaves to order, slaves to structure and Jesus was about to pull it down.

As we come to Easter we need to look at the tables in the temples of our lives, look at those things that stop us doing, stop us fulfilling and just push them over. It will be hard in some cases because those tables have taken some deep deep roots in some cases, but they can be over turned. Maybe it's an anger table, maybe it's a work table, maybe it's a health table. No matter what it is i ask that we each look at those tables and pull them down. We can be as religious as the Pharisees and be in denial, we love our structures and they can be good. But when the structure takes over and becomes the all encompassing thing, they become a god and we get into the real danger of worshipping them.

If Jesus walked into a bar and you were there, what would you do?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Dirty words (for Easter)

When i got saved back in the early 80's a lot was made of the cost of following Jesus. Words like discipleship, carrying your cross, die to self and my selfish aims, forsaking all things for the kingdom. heck within the first year of being a Christian i had read the bible front to back, started preaching and was seeing God move in my life radically. My influences were from evangelical circles, with a couple of Catholics and a travelling Monk. Some were household names within Christendom others were just brilliant at giving me a chance to see God move in my life, they took a risk got into trouble for it (Bob Hyde)  They have gone on to have a ministry in God that is amazing ( Steve Parsons) and still people see me as a risk but are prepared to back me up and support me in what i do for as we call it the God thing (Mark Gilborson and Pete Pillinger) who from a Methodist view have really taken a risk with their support of me. Some of these people are new to my life others are old friends. Then there are those outside of the kingdom, those friends of mine who profess a different path, those who profess no faith at all, but support me with love and tolerance (Ian Norton, Carla shosoni, Phillip salisbury) to name a fewEach and every one of them and a shed load of unnamed people make my life what it is.

So why the title and why now? well it's Easter soon and at this time of year a great deal of my time is taken up with the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus something i'm so in love with, something that impacts on my life daily i need to shout it out in some way. For me Easter is the most important party of the Christian calendar, it's the part that when i look at it, makes more sense than anything else to me with regards to my faith. So i'm going to use and say over the next week or two words which will offend, words which will bring hope, words that will make us think.

I'm not ashamed of the gospel or the cross of Christ, i have a cross inked onto my chest, just above my heart, it's always there always a reminder. In this day and age a number of Christians try to play down the significance of the cross, they say it's not the central point of the faith we possess as Christians, and in part that is true. If we only focus on the cross we miss the part about the resurrection, we miss the new life that comes with the new day. But before we get to that we have to have the cross, we have to have it's brutality, we have to have it's ugliness, we have to have it's wonder. We cannot merrily skip by what happened on the cross like we are playing hopscotch in the playground, we cannot deny it in anyway, if we are going to be professing Christians, we may not like it, but we cannot ignore it.

Unashamedly i'm evangelical, never really been anything else and never will be, my thoughts and faith have changed over the years. But i hold to those core values that were instilled in me in the early days of my faith. We are coming to Easter, a time for celebration, chocolate eggs, families and for reflection. My hope is that over this time we reflect on what it all means to us as individuals, that we look at the cross and resurrection, we gain some sense of what it cost to bring us back to God, and to do that we do need to look at the cross.

The good book tells us" to pick up our Cross daily, and to carry it" not to worship it, but to carry it, at times it can be heavy, at times it's going to be a painful process. But through it all God is with us, helping us, holding us and most importantly loving us.
This is the start of my Easter blog and over the next few weeks i hope to change, my hope is that we all change, even just a little. For those of you who make my life what it is i thank you from the bottom of my heart, and in some way you all help me understand God a little better

God bless ya

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A sense of community

It's become apparent that i need to belong, that i need to feel loved, needed and valued. This is not about how that is happening, but something each and every person on the planet wants, we all want to be loved or cared for. We deny it and put on a rufty tufty front and hard ass masks, but when the lights go out and we are alone with our thoughts, we crave it almost like a drug. Is it a flaw in our character as human beings, is it a drug we cannot control and which if we do not get it, suffer withdrawal symptoms. There are many hurting people i know, those who daily, slog through the mire that life chucks at them, some do a great job at hiding it, others do a really poor job, because they cannot attach the mask properly. Last week someone told me it was "ok for you because God is on your side" yes thats true, but i believe God is on all our sides. The difference is i'm not immune to the troubles of life, i get down, i get stressed, boy do i get angry and at times i'm less than a good chap. But i believe God is there to see me through those times, i'm not alone, i'm not walking this path solo. Also i have some incredible friends, who despite their own difficulties are there for me when i need them, a phone call, a text, a stupid picture on my FB wall all helps in some way.

I have a very simple faith in God, it's not overly complicated in real terms. I'm no longer an analyst of what happens, i'm trying to move away from being theologically based and actually trying to be more compassionate, putting those things Jesus said into practise, and trying to show that even with my mass of imperfections that God is right beside me, he is walking with me, laughing with me, crying with me. That overall nothing i can do is going to make him think any less of me, he is truly a friend.

My friends mean the world to me, they make sense of a lot of what goes on and guide me along the path of my life. They show me by example what it takes to be a friend in the bad times as well as the good. I see God in my friends, i see people who despite me, love me, care for me and hold me up, they do just what God does. When i need to be corrected they do it, when i need a shoulder they are there. Looking for God does not require us to be constantly looking to heaven (it helps to occasionally) but that is not all we do. Look around you, see the grace people show to you as a gift from God, sometimes we concentrate so much on getting it right as Christians, that we miss the obvious, the right in front of us.
Being a Christian is not about always being right, it's not about how much better than you i am (because i'm not any better) it's not about, having the last word, or standing aloof from the troubles of life. For me a massive part of my faith is actually about standing in the trouble of life and paddling out of it and helping people paddle out of it, being involved in the good, the bad, the ugly. It's about involvement in all the things that being human are, not standing aside, but standing in the muck and the gold and celebrating with my friends.

I'm proud to be a Christian and i'm proud to stand with my friends in good and bad times, I'm so very proud of my wife as well, who is discovering her ministry and fulfilling what God wants her to do. IN FACT LIFE IS GREAT AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME, and it will be GREAT when the tough times come, because i will have people, who stand with me, show me they love me and support me. They will show me God even when they do not think they are.