Thursday, 25 March 2010

Making Assumptions

The other day, on my day off, I was sitting with Nicola, my wife, trying to decide what we might do together as we had cleared up all of the little things to do and really needed to get away from phones and emails.

Looking at places to go, we were stumped until Nicola mentioned that she had never been to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton (near us). I was dumb struck ... having spent much of my University time in Brighton and she had visited often, having lived near Brighton for the last 25 years, I assumed I must have taken her there at some time so it was not worth another trip. Wrong assumption, she had never been and so thats where we went and had a great time, even me exploring it all again, the look on Nicola's face when she saw the dinning room was exactly as the (then) Prince Regent meant it to be for his guests when he built it.

We make assumptions about what others know or remember or understand, what someone thinks about an issue or how they will understand the language we use when talking, sharing and discussing things. In church life, just like in many other groups, we have a language peculiar to us, which we think we understand and yet often won't admit that we don't and for those outside of the church, it is often gobbledygook.

Reflecting on this I can't help thinking of the confusion that surrounded Jesus in the period leading up to the Crucifixion. Many assumed he was the king that the scriptures had promised would come and free the Jewish people, at that point from the Roman occupation, and herald a new Jewish state. A man of power and might who would overthrow the authorities and become the king. Others assumed he was just another trouble maker, rabble rousing and likely to bring down the full horror of Roman retribution upon them.

The result of their assumptions was that one group turned their backs on him while the other sought to kill him, leading to the Crucifixion, Jesus hung on a cross to die. Of course there was one other assumption, that once someone was dead then they stayed dead, but they were wrong again. Jesus came back, was seen by many and lives today. His Church celebrates all that he has done through the events 2000 years ago in a weeks time, remembering, celebrating, rejoicing in the fact that all who know him personally as their saviour will also be there at the end with him. Thats not an assumption by the way but a certainty!

You can explore this more over Easter by visiting a local church, if you are anywhere near Burgess Hill, you might like to drop in on Gateway Baptist Church.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Transformation Business

We hear a lot these days about empowering those who are marginalised or excluded. That is those who often have no public voice and no way to be heard above the more articulate and powerful voices in society today. But when we talk about this, is it really just that, talk or do we mean it so passionately that we will do something about it?

Seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God say a powerful thing to me - they are all active, they all require me to do something - seeking, loving, walking. Recently I have been helping a group of people find their voice, fight for what they believe is right and help them to know that they can be heard at all levels of local authority.I find it humbling when I get to know the folks involved and realise their grit and determination, the issues they have to cope with every day and how hard it is for many to engage in this way, but as they do their confidence grows and their ability as well.

Jesus did a lot of empowering, I only have to look at the Apostles to see good examples of that, people transformed by walking with Christ, following his directions and eventually doing amazing things themselves, empowered by him. Christ is in the transformation business transforming individuals, groups and whole communities, empowering and raising up those who had no voice through those who do.

For church to take this seriously, means to get involved, I was told recently that the congregation that I am part of has been accepted in the community that it works in because it has accepted people as it finds them, delivers on its promises and is a positive influence on the community.

We are all called to join the transformation business, sharing Christs love in our communities and helping them experience the transforming work of the Holy Spirit among them through God's people, the church.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Fools rush in ...

Have you ever (I am sure you have) had that desire to leap in on something that is really bugging you and sort it out regardless?

Certainly tempting isn't it, ride in like Lancelot on his charger, deal with the trouble and win the accolades. The problem is life is not often that black and white. We live in a world where often we have to interact with a range of people and situations, taking care to maintain working relationships and other peoples' dignity, even when they seem to conspire to make it difficult!

Dealing with people and problems in a reasonable and effective way is a gift, sometimes the direct and blunt approach is needed, Jesus called some snakes (Matt 23:23) and whitewashed tombs (Matt 23:27), while on other occasions a more gentle approach is better - Jesus dealing with the adulterous woman (John 8:3-11).

Each situation needs thought and care if we are to relate with each other in a godly and caring way, only fools rush in ...

Friday, 5 March 2010

An overplayed emotion

At a group that I go to weekly, we have been looking at love recently. Love is a word that has so many meanings depending upon how we feel, in what way we are considering it and our own experiences.

We call it love when we see someone across a room and feel attracted to them, we call it love when we must have that new shiny car or when we see that must have life accessory - "I would just love to have ....". We call it love when we look at a baby and adore it,, like I do when I look at my 12 week old grand daughter.

Problem is all of these have some part of the whole but only a part, what is real love? Is it a desire to own, possess, take part in, consume or is it a choice to share, to care, to think the best of, to support, to encourage, to discipline and to be prepared to give up things for?

Its not love that is out of focus so much as what we think of love and what we see of it in the popular press and media. Perhaps the comment that there is nothing greater than the love that is prepared to give up life itself for those loved, holds a truth after all? A partnership not simply based on my needs but shared needs and desires and follows a model of being able to give up or sacrifice my own desires, wants, needs at times for those of the one I love.

Love, like faith demands action, they are both action words, an old song I recall has the line "love is not a feeling its an act of your will" - choosing to love and to act upon it is possibly the greatest thing any of us will do, loving our partner, our children and loving our Saviour, Jesus. Definitely a way of life ...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Connecting with God

Connecting with others is a major part of our culture today. It might be via texts, phone calls, blogs, facebook or some other cyber means. But something in us cries out for "company" or attention or to be noticed - a need to be cared about or even to be loved by others.

One of the most amazing facts is that God loves each of us, equally, totally and without end! His love is fresh every day, takes joy in the time we spend with him and is a love that shares every moment with us, in our joys, sorrows, triumphs and problems. He loves us.

Connecting with God is the most beautiful and awesome thing anyone can do, realising that he has paid a huge price, (well who would sacrifice a son for humanity in the hope that we might take notice?) - and yet in a world full of choices that we make every day, the one choice we find hard is connecting with God, through Jesus.

Is it the fear of loss of control, a concern that we don't know the whole story or that reason and rationale shout against there being a God? Perhaps a mix of these and other concerns, hold us back?

For me starting the day with 1 on 1 time with the one who loves me and has only my best  interests at heart is wonderful - and no there are not booming voices or angelic choirs or words leaping out of pages of the Bible ... but there are moments of pure wonder as scriptures come to life in my heart, my father in heaven stirs me in prayer and refreshes me in quiet joy.

Want to know more or experience this for yourself - just talk to him, say whats on your mind, share it with him and listen for him in the everyday things, connecting with God is the best choice you will ever make.