Thursday, 24 February 2011

No quick fix

I have been looking hard at Acts 2:42-47 recently, that is the embryonic fellowship which was the first Christian church. While I would not want to turn the clock back and try to recreate that situation I think there is a lot we can learn about being God's people from it.

A key part is in verse 42, they were devoted to prayer, communion, meeting together and the Apostles teaching (scripture today). The one that, for me, underpins the rest is prayer. As a people of God, all that we do should come from our relationship with him and that relationship can only grow if we are prepared to put some effort into it.

Looking at it another way, if we want to do well in a career we put effort into learning about it, reading about it and practicing it. If folks find someone with a "useful" or helpful life style method, they listen to the DVD's, read the book's, do the exercises and stick at it if they want any results.

Then comes the problem - results take effort and are sometimes a long time in coming. Reading about the Lewis revival in the late 1940's prayer was heavily involved and not just a quick throw away one either. We live in an age of instant entertainment, instant news, instant conversation and connection, but one in which if we don't get instant results we look for the next "instant" quick-fix solution.

Actually there is only one way to find out what God wants and that is on our knees in prayer, there is no quick fix to this, its all about relationship and that just takes time. One lesson, among many we can learn from the Old Testament is that, when the Israelites stopped talking and relating with God their plans fell apart, when they got on their knees and put that relationship back on the right footing, God heard them and helped them.

If we want to feel God's power in the things we are doing or think we should be doing, then we must be rooted and grounded in relationship with him. The cross is not a quick fix to life's issues, its a gateway to a life-time of relationship with God ... if we are prepared to put in the effort.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Ordinary Witnesses

Of all of the things that trouble us people who believe in Christ,one that comes up frequently, is how to share what we believe, without looking foolish, getting it wrong or completely switching off the folks we are talking to. Some of us think they are not capable of witnessing to others.

When I look at the Bible I see a right motley crew of  disciples - tradesmen, manual workers, Tax men, revolutionaries and so on. Yet when they were sent out by Jesus, they came back with tales of wonder at what they saw from their witness to him. Ordinary people, like you and me, doing extraordinary things because Christ enabled them to. As we come to The Acts, we find even more amazing things, those with little education as well as those with a good education winning people to Christ with their witness, their words and their enthusiasm in the face of every trial and problem.

Maybe the clue is that they seemed to have no regard for what others thought of them, only that the way they lived should provide opportunity to "preach" the gospel to as many as possible. Paul worked among others to get to know them and so let them find out about him, Peter stayed with a tanner, not only an unclean profession but also tends to infuse its stench onto all who are in contact with the tanner. Peter is welcomed by the Centurion who asks him to visit, Paul makes friends among every type of person.

Perhaps our focus should be on what Peter says, that all who believe in Christ should be ready in every situation to give a reason for the hope that they hold. But more important and less remembered, the words that follow - "But do this with gentleness and with respect".

Theres no great teaching to take on board from outreach specialists, just a need to live among people, share their lives, be ourselves and care about their immortal future more than we care about our reputation and community standing.

Oh ... and know why you believe and what that has meant to you ...

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Ordinary Everyday People

In a time when so much stock is paid to celebrity and what you appear to be, Christians are called to be who they are in Christ, nothing added, nothing taken away (as the advert used to say); Ordinary Everyday People, being who they are in Jesus and living the best way they can.

One of the big issues with celebrity is that it can cause us to mentally downgrade our own ability to make a difference because we are not all famous, well known, owners of expensive cars or homes. Not being famous can mean to us that we have no part to play in God's big picture.

So what about Christian living? How can each off us regardless of circumstances make a difference for Jesus? Well simply by living our lives as Christ would, the recent WWJD bands remind us to ask the question What Would Jesus Do? Well in my reading of the Bible he would be living, working, talking, encouraging, correcting, bringing healing and wholeness to broken people and through his words and actions attracting others to join the kingdom life.

Everyday of our lives we can make a difference for God's kingdom by living it out with our actions. loving each other and our neighbours, loving God and seeking to please him in our actions and words.

As I talked with a young woman today who is a full time evangelist, I was reminded of something I heard years ago ... For each well known evangelist who sees many respond to the gospel message, there are thousands of "unknown" Christians who have befriended someone, helped someone, been a good neighbour to someone who in turn has trusted them and gone to hear that well known speaker and so be touched by the Holy Spirit and accept Christ for themselves.

So each of us has a role to play, no exceptions, no special cases, we are all called to make real the kingdom for others who don't know it or have not experienced it. When we do that we will find our invitations to an Alpha course, a seekers course, or to come to a church service and look for themselves, will not fall on deaf ears - their experience of God's love through us will call them to look further.

There are many who have no experience of Christ, lets be the ones who will take him to them; lets be those Ordinary, Everyday People - Jesus' kingdom people.