[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Category Archives: miscellaneous

It’s all about Rescue – Part 1

Creation is not the first belief about God!

In the ancient Hebrew world, God was not primarily ‘Creator’.

The first real nation-wide interaction and exposure to God for the Israelite people was at the Exodus. The people were rescued from slavery in Egypt, hence the first part of Exodus 20

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Exodus 20:2

The people, rescued from slavery, led out by Moses, who then really introduced them fully to God in the next few chapters, initially thought of God as rescuer, then went on to explore what else God was. They posed the question “Who is this rescuer God, what else has he done?”

And then the story of creation was explored and told and passed from generation to generation as were a lot of other stories throughout history. Many of them are other stories about rescue!

In fact, if we read the creation story as not a completely literal, historical account, it too can be thought of as a type of rescue. There is a growing acceptance that in aligning the evidence we have available through scientific exploration and reasoning, and the biblical text, we should be viewing the ‘Adam and Eve’ story as more symbolic, and that in the event of the two – Adam and Eve being real people who actually existed (I’m not denying it as a plausible possibility), they were called away from the race of people that existed at the time and as-it-were, ‘rescued’ – set apart to and for God. See ‘Who Were Adam and Eve Part 1 and Who Were Adam and Eve Part 2 for a bit more exploration into these concepts.

From the beginning then, we can see God is a rescuer, saving people, drawing individuals out into relationship with Him.

The next most obvious, perhaps most famous rescue story is of course that of Noah in Genesis 6 + 7.

God the rescuer, rescuing Noah from the adverse and oppressive, the wicked and sinful.

But (at risk of being accused of jumping around) if we go back almost to the beginning and look at some of the earlier stories in a bit more detail, we can discover yet more rescue.

One of the most striking is God’s rescue of the first convicted murderer.

Genesis 2 holds the story of Cain & Abel – the story of the first farming rage incident and the first recorded murder.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 2:2-16

What fascinates me is God’s double rescue – firstly in verse 7

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God is offering Cain a way out before he even gets to murdering his brother – God is saying, bring me a sacrifice in the way I have asked for it and there’s no problem any longer. God is also warning Cain that if he doesn’t, God can see that he is going to face temptation that he will find hard to resist.

Then, after Cain murders Abel, you might think that as punishment, God would just finish him off, but instead, God protects him from anyone else – Verse 15

“the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him”

God rescues the first murderer. Yes, Cain faces a punishment / consequences of his actions, but God will not allow him to be harmed. That’s fascinating. That’s incredible grace. Not to totally condemn or reject the first murderer, the first person to kill someone else is rescued by God from anyone seeking revenge.

It’s all about rescue, really, all about rescue.

There are more, lots more, but they will have to be covered in part 2.

Advertisements

Divine Comedy?

Reading John 5, I was confused by the seeming incongruity of verse 14.

The context: Jesus has just healed a man who had been an ‘invalid’ for 38 years, told the man to ‘pick up his mat and walk’ and promptly vanished. The man is then reprimanded by the pharisees for carrying his mat on the sabbath, and a little while later, Jesus finds him at the temple and says to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

It is possible, and has been suggested by many that the man had gone on to the temple, set himself back up as a beggar (likely as not his previous ‘occupation’ whilst being an invalid) again, and Jesus is warning him not to deceive people when he is actually well.
As an explanation, that’s fair enough and perfectly plausible.

However, I wonder if actually, because we can’t hear the tone of voice, we are missing something in the way Jesus says that sentence “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” I wonder if, instead of threatening the man, rather than this being some kind of warning of divine punishment if the guy doesn’t stop sinning, perhaps, Jesus is having a little ‘private’ joke with the guy.

Is it possible that Jesus sidles up to the chap and says, with a big grin and a sparkle in his eye, (reading between the lines) “you know the pharisees, their inflexibility, their attention to the minute detail, their officious judgemental ruling that even carrying your mat on the sabbath is work and therefore a sin… well, make sure you don’t go on ‘sinning’ {wink} (doing things the pharisees disapprove of) or something worse might happen!”?

Could it be that Jesus is having a little dig at the pharisees and a little laugh with the healed man?

Jesus knew that in the cultural context of the day, people thought that God punished sin fairly immediately or at least that people’s disabilities or misfortunes were thought to be because of their sin. He also knew that God doesn’t work like that. Maybe, what seems to be a veiled threat of God’s imminent judgement, could be Jesus making light of how the man had been perceived by the pharisees.

And maybe after that, the man goes off and tells the pharisees it was Jesus who healed him because he knows it will not only wind them up but it will get them off his back for carrying his mat?

I don’t know, but I could just imagine Jesus having a bit of a lark with the man about the oppressive yoke that the pharisees were trying to lay on the poor guy.

I could well be wrong, but it doesn’t seem very Jesussy to make that sort of dark threat to the guy he has just healed, especially a threat that is hollow in as much as we know that God doesn’t generally punish people specifically for specific sins, but that sin brings it’s own punishment & carries it’s own consequences.

Jesus is all about forgiveness and the only people he condemns are those that think they have it all ‘right’ – i.e. mostly the pharisees and ‘teachers of the law’.

Would he really turn to threatening someone he had just taken the trouble to seek out and heal?

Busy

busy-character2I am trying to expunge the word ‘busy’ from my vocabulary.

I learned the other week from Steve Wiens that the Chinese pictograph for the word busy (at the top) is composed of two different characters: heart and killing.

Yet, when digging a bit deeper, I have discovered that this is not quite the case. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature refutes the claim in a very precise etymological post.

However, his conclusions don’t detract very much from the idea that there is a drain on our hearts if we overload ourselves. Even if, as Prof. Mair suggests, the second character is strictly a phonophore, or phonetic indicator, not a character that attributes meaning to the word in question, it is clear that the ancient wisdom of the Chinese connects the concept of business directly to the heart.

With that in mind, I’m stopping saying I’m ‘busy’. I have plenty of work but I love every minute of it. I am involved in a partially hectic and occasionally frantic home-life, with the activities and general hubbub of three children, but all of it still feels life-giving, life-affirming, not heart-draining. I’m still contributing to various activities within our church (despite the sabbatical) yet none of these feel like a burden.

So no, I’m not busy. I’m active and occupied and sometimes don’t have all the time that I feel like I need to complete what I want to complete, but I’m not endangering my heart in any way and I’m going to stop saying the word, because I am, at the moment, incredibly happy and content with the way things are.

Which is probably when I ought to be careful not to get complacent or smug. It could be dangerous if I got trapped into thinking that either I was ‘busy’ or that I could just coast along.

I’m still working at living up to the words of 1 Timonthy 6:6

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.”

Letting Go

I don’t know if you have ever had the experience of doing something for a long time and then stopping and stepping back and deliberately not doing it.

I’m not talking about breaking a bad habit, but about the things that you do, through choice or occasionally by default that often while you are doing it, you look around you and wonder if anyone else could do it or if you are actually the best person to continue it in that situation.

I stepped away from most of my church duties at the beginning of December 2012, partly because of the birth of our third child and partly because I needed some distance and a bit of a rest from all the many different things I was doing.

I wanted to have space to think, space to write (I committed to writing at least one blog post per month) and space for things that had been going round my head, thoughts to emerge and be able to expand things without time constraints. My idea was hopefully to be able to have a few developed things under my belt for when I decided was the right time to pick up some of the things that I had previously been doing.

One of the responsibilities I had previously held was of preparing all flyers, posters, promotional material etc. for all the different church activities. This included a certain amount of design, a heavy weight of time, lashings of patience and developing a diplomatic streak that I had previously not been aware I possessed. Over the last several (I can’t remember well enough to count) years, I had tried, by use of layouts, fonts and styles to develop a recognisable ‘branding’ or ‘identity’ that would make it clear and apparent to people looking at some invitation or information from The Bethel, that it was from the same place, that a thread ran through, that we were unified in our approach, not just a disparate random selection of activities with no collective or binding core. I’m not sure how well I did, but I think that by the time I stopped, the church ‘literature’ (hate that word) had some level of common, recognisable identity. In fact most of the good stuff was developed in creative partnership with real, genuine artist Sarah Gillingham (not available on the web).

When I stepped away from this, I didn’t know what would happen, I wasn’t sure whether some things would be done at all. I was anxious that it would fall back to the previous state of things not being obviously linked or coming from the same group of people.

Sometimes when you let something go, it’s hard and there is a sense of mourning in some ways, and it creates a void that looks like it might not be adequately filled.

And more often than not, stepping away from something that you are proficient enough at, to have a rest and let someone else do it becomes the best thing that you could ever have done…

…because the person who comes in to replace you is so much better than you could ever have been and they create things of genuine beauty and creative genius and if you hadn’t let go of it, they would never have had the chance.

And that’s what happened.  Thank you Tim Stock, a truly sparkling, creative mind, bulging with fresh, stunning design, with a fierce passion for fonts to match my own and rather too much interest in creating the perfect height for a parenthesis or exclamation mark.  More to the point, Tim’s natural flair and proper training in graphic design truly dwarfs my inherited / genetic and mostly cobbled together ‘design’ credentials.

life-love-hope-cutout

You might not believe how much I feel relieved, enthused, excited, like a weight has been lifted, like I know that I can pass everything over into some really good hands. The first genius stroke was the design for the ‘life love hope‘ Easter programme we put on. The web page doesn’t really give the design the credit it’s due, the print media was just brilliant.

Maybe you can learn from my experience. Maybe there’s something you need to let go of to allow someone else to take on and fulfil their potential. And maybe the results will be more incredible than you could ever imagine.

Mercy Seat

I was reading the story of the wilderness journey and the construction of the tabernacle and it made me think about the ‘Ark of the Covenant’.

Whilst initially, the construction of the gold-covered wooden box with cherubim either side might look like Israel’s version of an idol, this building directive is in stark contrast to the culture around them at the time, a culture of images / idols carved out of wood or cast from precious metals.

The difference that drew my attention was this:

Then make a mercy-seat from pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. Make two cherubim out of beaten gold. Make them at the two ends of the mercy-seat. Make one cherub on one end and one cherub on the other end. Make the top of the mercy-seat, with the cherubim at each end, of one piece. The wings of the cherubim should spread up over the mercy-seat. Their faces should be toward each other, and toward the mercy-seat. Put the mercy-seat on top of the box. Put the Law which I will give you into the box. I will meet with you there. Between the two cherubim which are upon the special box of the Law, I will speak to you about all the Laws I will give you for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:17-22 (New Life Version)

God requested a seat to be made for him to come and meet with the representative of the people. (at this stage it was spoken to Moses but later on it would be the high priest).

God didn’t want anything to be made to represent Him, or something that could be worshipped in itself, he wanted somewhere to ‘sit’ while he talked with the people.

It’s fully in keeping with both the God who says ‘make no image‘ and also the God who comes to live in and with us, first through the person of Jesus (John 10:38 / John 14:10+11) and then for those that choose to have relationship with Christ, in and through us (John 14:20 / John 17:21).

The box is not the important bit, nor is the ‘mercy seat’, but the one who comes to sit on it and be with his people.

It reminded me of a ‘voice of the day’ from the ‘God’s Politics’ Sojourners web site.

The resurrection of Jesus was simply God’s unwillingness to take our ‘no’ for an answer. He raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that he himself has now established permanent, eternal residence here on earth. He is standing beside us, strengthening us in this life. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.

Clarence Jordan

God came to be with the people of Israel as he sat on the ‘mercy seat’ (mercy being a good word worth looking up yourself), in amongst the grime and muck of a wilderness nomadic community.

God sent His only Son, who emptied himself (Philippians 2:7) of himself and filled himself up with his Father, into a world full of the grime and muck that came with roman occupation, torture, military dictatorship etc.

God promises to come to the earth again (Revelation 21), (not that he has ever left – “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Ephesians 4:6) not to whisk people away to somewhere else, but to live with them and be their God in and amongst them, initially at least – in and with the grime and muck of the 21st century, in all the mess that we have allowed our world and lives to get into.

That’s a pretty significant forward-looking symbol in just a wooden seat covered in gold!

Our Street

We live on the best street in the world!!!

It may not be the prettiest, though it is pretty at times.
It is definitely not the most expensive or most salubrious, but its still the best street in the world.

And that’s because of the people.

Our neighbours are just fabulous.

The people that live around us were there to support us and provide a shoulder to lean on as we tried to pull things back together in the aftermath our burglary.

There’s nothing that our neighbours didn’t offer in the way of help, resources and comfort to get us back on our feet, they are kind and considerate, they are generous and friendly.

And that’s why we live on the best street in the world.

In many ways, our street acts as our church as much as our church does. It provides community in the way we support each other. There is love between us as neighbours in friendship and in the display of patience, kindness, unselfishness, no envy or boastfulness, no rudeness or pride.

It reminds me of a song by the band faithless “God is a DJ“, the relevant lines being:

This is my church
This is where I heal my hurt
It’s a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It’s in minor keys
Solutions and remedies
Enemies becoming friends
When bitterness ends
This is my church

It’s a great tune and a great fit for our street. Have a listen (spotify install needed).

In general, the whole community in Old Trafford is great, full of incredible and fantastic people, but we feel that our street has got that little something extra special.

Deserving vs Entitled

I know this person.

They are, for want of a better phrase, quite incredible. They have an oxbridge degree, probably a Masters unless I’m much mistaken. They do that triathlon thing (shudders at the thought). They are intelligent, thoughtful, humble to the point of self-effacing, even self-critical, they are well spoken, kind, present themselves well and are thoroughly in the ‘good looking’ camp. The sun shines out of their smile and they write. I don’t mean just they write stuff, but they craft words in an incisive, creative, original, thought-provoking, non-selfimportant or self-indulgent or obsequious, quite excellent really, kind of way.

In fact, I know two of them. Both have that wordsmith quality, the ‘let me read the next bit because I want to imbibe more of those carefully sculpted sentences’.

Both of these lovely people, despite their delightful way with language, have struggled to land decent jobs or indeed hold on to jobs they have had (for various and disparate reasons). Now this second person, probably due to a more ‘devil-may-care’ attitude to the whole situation and scenario might have gone about things slightly differently if they were really serious about getting a job, but the end result is that they applied for over 400 jobs with no positive outcome. (see http://curriculumvitiate.wordpress.com [you will have to excuse the expletives if you are offended by them, just ignore them, it’s not your place to judge just because of a few f-bombs or other profanity]). Now you have hopefully calmed down and wiped the tears of laughter from your eyes; I know this chap, he is absolutely diamond to the core, borderline complete genius, unconventional but brilliant and great fun to be with. It might be clear to you why a job was not forthcoming but he is now gainfully employed in something that is satisfying, enjoyable and fulfilling to him (I think).

But back to my other dear friend. They have put considerable effort not just into their education, but also into job hunting, attending interviews, submitting their written material to agents etc. but to no avail. Their approach was more conventional, less confrontational you might say than the fellow you have (hopefully) just read from. Indeed, you might think and I have on many occasions… “Why on earth has nobody snapped up this gem of a person to employ them?”
It seems odd and has, I know, been disheartening, that, not content to collect Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), they have sought work and sought it pretty hard.

If you ask me, if anyone deserves a job, this person does. In fact, if you have a job going, let me know and I will request a CV to be sent to you!

It all seems a little unfair.

I also met someone else recently.

This person seems to have a different approach to their situation. They seem to be completely content without employment. They claim their JSA and numerous other benefits and every two weeks look forward to what they call ‘pay-day’. (I believe that in some sections of society, this is the term used for dole / benefit payments.) But seriously… ‘pay-day’, makes me want to ask “what are you being ‘paid’ for when you do no work?”
I’m not judging [ok, maybe I am a bit but I am trying not to], don’t get me wrong, but there doesn’t seem to be any desire to look for a job, even less actively go out to secure one. The posture is one of entitlement; “I am owed” by someone or something I’m not sure, I don’t want to elaborate and give specific examples but there are plenty.

And so we observe the awkward paradox.

Two incredibly gifted people, highly intelligent, university graduates struggle to get work, though they desperately want to be working.
One other person slipping into the trap of thinking that they are owed or entitled to the rest of society (via government hand-outs) supporting them not working.

Deserving people finding it impossible to land jobs.
Passive, inactive person content, maybe even feeling justified or having a right to ‘free money’.

It seems a little unbalanced and perhaps to our mind, unfair.

On the one hand, our ‘entitled’ example falling foul of the concept in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Yet perhaps ending up in the situation highlighted in a famous Russian political joke, “the authorities pretend they are paying wages, workers pretend they are working.” Motivation is diminished where benefits are so easily claimed.

Yet on the other hand, the two, eager to be employed, diligently putting in the leg work seem to have the experience that flies in the face of Proverbs 6:10-12 “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” They worked hard for no reward or recompense!

You were expecting a neat answer, a solution, a tidy ending with all loose ends tied up.

I’m sorry to disappoint, sometimes we have to hold things with open hands to allow the paradoxes and inconsistencies of life to exist without resolving everything to our ordered way.

Maybe someone has an answer. Until they share it with me, I’m just going to be praying for my friends, that the hard work will pay off and they will be rewarded with the right job, and my acquaintances, that they might learn the value of earning a living as opposed to accepting an existence.

Lance Armstrong

This is being written on the eve of the airing of the Oprah show where it is suspected that Lance Armstrong, once seven-times Tour de France winner (stripped of his titles by USADA) will confess to doping throughout large portions of his career.

As I was listening to BBC Radio 5Live tonight, I heard two presenters discussing whether it would be better for Lance to be interviewed by a “terrier like Paxman” or by someone who is more like a friend or confidant. They came to the conclusion that someone gentle who could talk with Mr Armstrong as one friend talks to another, encouraging him
to open up and be more candid would make it more likely that we would “see the real Armstrong”.

That immediately got me thinking.

And my mind jumped to Peter Rollins and a talk he did at Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The core of what Peter was saying was that the ‘real us’ is not the ‘us’ we see behind closed doors or on the couch with a friend, it is not the stylised and sanitised self projection of who we want people to thing we are that we out up on Facebook, but the ‘real us’ is the sum of the ‘totality of our existence’.

Meaning that to look at the whole picture of a person is to see the truth about their material reality. Peter used the idea that behind closed doors, Hitler may well have been a ‘really nice guy’, when he was playing the piano and people were drinking tea and having dinner with the polite house painter. But the material reality of Hitler – the totality of his existence, the big, whole picture was that he sanctioned and ordered the ethnic and elitist ‘cleansing’ of Germany and the killing of over six million Jews.

Which led me to the thought that, if Lance does admit to the doping allegations, then no matter who interviews him, we have already seen the ‘real Armstrong’. The ‘real Armstrong’ is in the totality of his material reality, not in the soft, contrite and repentant man that we might see on a tv screen attempting to win back the favour of the public.

If the allegations are true, the ‘real Armstrong’ has already revealed his hand and shown his true colours: someone who is ruthless, prepared to systematically cheat his way to the top of a sport, push others out, lie repeatedly about it, bully his way through to rule the peloton and bully a number of journalists on the way as he churned out untruth after obfuscated distraction over and over again (I’ve heard many of the interviews over the years). Someone who has to be in control and on top and will stop at nothing to get there.

I’m afraid that no amount of tears or contrition can change the ‘real Armstrong’ that we have already seen.

That doesn’t mean there is no room for forgiveness, redemption, healing and change, and yes, the Livestrong foundation has done some great things, but we are going to need to see a whole, long, complete change of Armstrong’s material reality to be convinced that he is someone different to who he has already shown himself to be, should the allegations be true.

Which brings us back to me and to you! What material reality do we live in? Do we constantly live the ironic gesture

  • saying we are against child labour but still buying products made in sweatshops
  • bemoaning global warming whilst cruising along the motorway at 80mph in our gas guzzling SUV
  • ranting about evil multinationals while we sip our Starbucks cappuccino or shop in Tesco because it’s convenient
  • whatever other example you want to choose

I accept most of us live in a certain amount of paradox and hypocrisy, it’s hard to live any other way in our culture, but, especially for those of us who are claiming to follow Jesus, does the totality of our material reality genuinely reflect that claim as a way of life or are we fooling ourselves and just going through the motions and saying we believe something without actually putting it into practice?

Nobody can answer that question for me but me and nobody but you can answer it for you. Maybe observing what has happened to someone who was once a hero to many might just be the mirror we needed to look in to help ‘clean up’ our own act?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James 1:22-25

Burgled

Just in case you missed the news… We were burgled on Saturday night, some time between when it went dark and 21:00 ish when we got home.

The kitchen window was smashed. The burglar came in to the dining room to take our 3 laptops that were stacked neatly on our dining table, snatched a pillowcase from our bed to stash them in and made off out of the back door.

barely anything else was disturbed, nothing else was taken because we don’t own anything else of any value except the cars.

Before I continue, I’m mildly annoyed at the frustration of having to write this post on a 4 1/2 year old iPhone 3G using wordpress for iOS, but I am also aware of the incredibly fortunate position I am in:

  • I have an iOS device to use
  • None of us were injured or anything like that
  • We are so comparatively fabulously wealthy that we had 3 laptops in the first place
  • We are insured (another benefit of comparative wealth)

With that said, I am more frustrated at the hassle than anything else. Yes, I worked hard and saved up for a few years to buy the most recent Mac in September. Yes, I had just spent a few hours set up my 9-year old ‘retiring’ Mac for the use of my children – for school work and general safe surfing etc. I can live with that.
I’m disappointed that my most recent backup may not be recent enough to include some of the best most-recent pictures of little (arguable depending on you perspective) Harry.
It’s annoying that it may take up to 8 to 10 weeks to get the windows sorted as they are specialist widows that we originally sourced from the US (yep, another identifier of incredible comparative wealth).
I’m hoping that we don’t get any bumps in the insurance claim process, I’ve heard about people having insurers wriggle to try to get out of paying!

But all that aside, I’ve learned yet again that even in the least comfortable and most unpleasant of circumstances, there is always a spiritual lesson or two.

1.

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19+20

It is another reminder for us not to get too attached to stuff. It’s just stuff, stuff is replaceable, people and relationships are way more important than stuff.
When we replace our technology, this is what I need to hold on to, to make sure I use I as a tool, and not be a slave to it.

2.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We still have so much, we are so fortunate / well blessed (however you want to view it) we are all unharmed and healthy among many other first-world benefits!

3.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11

We have enough, more than enough and we are refusing to either live in fear or pine for something we don’t have or that has been taken.

4.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Mattthew 5:16

The way we respond to the things that happen to us shows what kind of people we are. If we are God’s people, we need to display that and not repay evil with evil, we need to be exercising forgiveness and a desire for redemption, not vengeance and retribution.

I figure perhaps this is one of our best opportunities to witness to others and demonstrate who Christ is and how he has impacted our lives.

bless. Business

bless
I spent this morning having breakfast with Gerard Kelly whilst he presented the vision of bless. to a gathered few.

From this breakfast meeting, some incredible salient points came out.

What bless. are doing in Bethanie and in their mission trips into Eastern-Europe is amazing, giving young people a taste for God’s mission in this world by taking them into Eastern-Europe, providing spiritual input and support and processing their experiences together through prayer.

One of the most important things that they have found is the cultural displacement that happens on these trips, which creates change within the missionaries, bearing incredible ‘fruit’ in them, perhaps more and maybe more crucially than the ‘fruit’ that is borne in the communities that they engage with ‘on mission’.
The change in the young people’s circumstances in the mission context in that pivotal time in their lives – the mid teens to mid twenties, seems to lead to greater engagement in and heart for God’s mission in the world and a growth in desire to serve others.

Some of the most dramatic maturing that they have observed in young people who have taken part in bless. programmes has been as the young people discover their usefulness within the team in the micro-community that forms on these mission trips. As they find their place, discover they are needed and accepted, it opens them up to God, and God’s drawing out of their gifts, some of which they themselves were completely unaware of.

bless. have seen that the combination of cultural displacement, serving others, spiritual guidance coupled and sealed with prayer has led to permanent, long-term engagement of people with the mission of God in Europe.

In discussion, the ‘business plan’ (for want of a better phrase) of the project was questioned. People were very much enthused and compelled by Gerard and the bless. vision, but felt the business plan and fundraising model (essentially at this point to raise ~£320,000 by the end of the year), was flawed.

This led me to think about (and incidentally share) the business plan I created and was once asked to give to a friend who was hoping to use some ideas for a university project to create a business plan for a private practice.

So, here it is.

  • Do the best I can for the people that come to see me as a practitioner
  • Trust that God will provide what I need to pay my bills and feed my family
  • Pray the prayer from Proverbs 30:7-9 daily and mean it.

    Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
    Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
    Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
    Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

  • Give away more than I think I can afford to give

I suggested that the tutor probably wouldn’t be too interested in that as a business plan, but I always wanted to say to people who asked “how did you build a successful practice over these years”…
“I didn’t, God did.”

I’ve never gone hungry or without anything we need, God has always provided enough!

In not knowing where the funding for a project (or even your day to day life) is coming from, in not having everything sown up and neatly boxed, you are leaving space for God to work and so often you see something supernatural happen. I feel like that’s always what we are called to do (something I was reminded of by Shaun Groves’ last blog – Accepting no Substitutes), whilst planning and preparation are important, prayer and leaving space for God is more important.

Full reliance and surrender to God , His plans, His pace, His agenda is difficult and scary, but the reward of seeing the movement of God among his people, doing things that can only be attributed to Him is wonderful and powerful.

You can see the vision and the project at http://www.blessnet.eu/125 and I strongly recommend you take part in donating or finding others to donate to the bless. project. The people are honest, worthy, honourable and have such a great heart for the mission of God in Europe (including the UK). The point? Well, bless. are equipping these young people to come back to be the creative leaders of the next generation of Church, instead of them being a ‘missing generation’, they will become a ‘mission generation’ and grow into being the driving force, leading the Church for the next thirty years and more. That’s a long-term plan worth getting involved with.

%d bloggers like this: