Category Archives: faith

People Finding Jesus Again, Just Like It’s Supposed To Be!

Life is full of seasons, and at the moment in my church community we’re in one of those exciting seasons of blessing, of harvest. Stuff’s cracking off all over the place!

About seven weeks ago two lads turned up on our doorstep. One spoke for his friend: they were from a couple of local villages and his friend needed a roof over his head for a few days, could we help? As it goes the chap who needed help, 21-year-old Elliott, stayed at his friend’s house for a few days after that but eventually turned up again and started stopping over with us.

Roadtrip
On a roadtrip

We found him to be very open, ready to get stuck in and thankful so we soon realised he was someone worth giving a chance. His honest questions about our way of life, faith and many big subjects came thicker and faster. Every now and then we’d see clues to his openness, whether it was teary eyes during a house church meeting, asking for prayer or his pointed questions. Someone gave him a copy of ‘Mere Christianity’ and he read it twice in one week! He became a tentative sort-of believer.

Three weeks ago he asked Simeon and I to pray with him for God to forgive him and to thank God for what He’d done in his life. What happened that evening was pretty incredible as he was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time. He said afterwards “I feel like a kid in a sweet shop; like I thought Haribo was all there was but now… look at all this!” It was the kind of God-happening that makes you pinch yourself and wonder if it’s really happening, seeming too good to be true at the time.

Bonfire
Around the bonfire

He’s with us now and doing brilliantly and really keen for more of God, organising a prayer meeting seemingly every over day! Last Sunday he decided he wanted to get a few lads together to pray together after supper that evening, so we picked a time and texted a few friends. At 10:30pm 16 guys turned up at our home from various house churches nearby and we crammed into our relatively small prayer room. What followed was a few engaging hours of prayer, worship and ministering to one another. It was such an engaged and alive atmosphere at a level I haven’t been in for a long time.

At one point someone spoke out a word of knowledge from God and one lad acknowledged it was for him, so we gathered around him to pay for him. What happened after that was pretty amazing, it was like one of those moments when God suddenly drops a Holy Spirit bombshell and the place erupts, the neighbours must have heard the noise! Needless to say this second lad, who’d long been wandering, was filled with the Holy Spirit too and is now taking about baptism, his life now being set on a very different course.

Supper time
Supper time

I get a sense in all this that this is just the start. When a group who are desperately hungry for God and up for Kingdom action get together to pray and go wherever God leads, it’s not going to just end at the door, is it? When we feel the first few drops of rain on a dry day we look up at the sky and wonder if more is on the way, maybe anticipating a deluge. These few happenings are like big drops of rain to anyone prophetic and tuned in to what God has up His Almighty Sleeves.

We’ve had quite a few semi-impromptu prayer meetings over the last few weeks. There’s a bit of a momentum building. All it takes is for a few hungry men to listen to the Spirit and get together deciding to get on board with what they hear Father’s doing.

There’s much more going on but I don’t have time to tell you about the other 3 young people around from Switzerland and Hungary and our trip to Norwich, that will have to do for today.

Thank you Jesus.

Light On Resources = Strong With God’s Power

A guest post from a friend continuing the We Are Too Safe series:

In the book of Judges Gideon heard the call of God to fight. He tested the Lord to make sure the calling was God’s plan and not his own. He started out to fight the Midianites with 32,000 men. The Lord stripped away his men (symbolising Israel’s own resources and natural strength) until he had only 300 men left. The enemy against them “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance”.
300 men.
300 men.
God’s plans are impossible and very simple.

When “The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them” (Num 23. v21) we will have nothing to fear.

We need to learn corporately to take risks and not rely on our own resources. If Jesus came to us with a desire to strip us of some or all of our wealth, houses and material possessions would we recognize it as Him? Or would we fight in the courts or take out insurance to protect our assets- not realizing that we are fighting God? You might ask- why would He want to do that? Because of the principle outlined in the story of Gideon, that a Church that has little or none of its own resources- but has faith- is strong with the power and authority of the Lord Jesus.

Yes there’s a need for discernment and wisdom. But Jesus wants a Bride with “nothing in my hands I bring- simply to Thy cross I cling”.

God Make Me Weak, God Give Me Lunch – The Enemy of God pt5

God loves to stack the odds against Himself and His people.

God loves to put all His eggs in one basket, and He asks us to do the same with Him- throw everything recklessly in to His kingdom. Faith is impossible without trust Faith is trust.

Think of Gideon’s army- God whittled them down from 32,000 to 300. That’s, like, 0.9% of their original number. He deliberately and openly thwarted their natural strength because He wanted to be their strength.

Then think of the incarnation- Almighty Creator Eternal made visible, touchable. And how does he choose to arrive on the scene? As a weak, naked baby, born to a couple of nobodies who soon become asylum seekers.

And ultimately, let’s consider the cross- just some middle eastern carpenter hung on a tree, at the very turning point of history. Again naked, weak, bruised and torn with a heart turned to wax (See Psalm 22, the prophetic poem Christ invoked as he died).

God’s moment of greatest victory is His moment of greatest weakness.

Triumphalists and people looking for an easy, self serving God will put that statement the other way around- “God will change your weaknesses, He will make your life lovely again.” And of course, they’re right in part- Jesus heals the broken.

But lean closer, here’s where it gets interesting.

God doesn’t simply succeed or help us succeed despite our weakness, he succeeds through weakness.

Why? In part, because that’s truly poetic and beautiful, and in part because God winning with and for us through weakness and suffering allows Him to change us fundamentally inside through it in a way nothing else can.

And maybe it’s also because God loves a challenge, He loves to rescue us. I’m sure God sometimes engineers adversity to throw His church back to Himself. God wants a people who don’t trust their natural strength but who work to be strongly-weak and dependent on Him.

As God has all the resources of the universe at His disposal but needs our willingness; He can do less with our resources than our empty, open hands. In fact, it’s possible for us to edge God out with organisational efficiency; we no longer need Him because the machine rolls along happily. But the machine is dead. God is not in the machine but out on the water, where we’re too weak to walk out of the boat without His authority, given through His call.

And walk we will, because He’s calling, and because that’s the only way to follow Jesus.

Let’s get back to a place where we need God, where we’d actually go hungry, poor, stuffed without His help. I’m not joking. Then watch Him show up and provide for us, redeem us and immeasurably bless us because that’s what He’s been longing to do for years.

Now let’s make it practical.

If we don’t learn to trust God in small, everyday things, how will we manage to trust Him with bigger things when He leads us into the risky place He’s pulling us with benevolent delight? How about not taking lunch (or lunch money) to work for one day every week, and asking God to get you some lunch?

Of course, it’s best not to tell anyone you’re doing it, that would be untrusting!

Just trust God and see what happens 🙂

We Are David. Safety- The Enemy of God pt4

This is pt4 of the ‘Safety- The Enemy of God’ series of posts that I’m writing to express several threads of thoughts that God’s weaving together in my spirit, a growing conviction. Read pt 1- man to monument cycle, pt 2- skunkworks & pt 3- a Jean Vanier quote.

God made me realise something recently, or to use christian jargon- “I had a revelation”.

My generation is David struggling to put on Saul’s armour before battle.

child-armour

The teenager David’s dad gave him the day off tending sheep to deliver a lunch of bread, cereal and cheese to his elder brothers in the paralysed Israelite army (see 1 Samuel 17).

Horrified that the army sits motionless in fear before this giant who’s daring to curse God David offers to take down the warrior, who’s breastplate alone weighs 9 stone, maybe not much less than David.

King Saul sends for David and remarkably hears him out and offers David his own armour, which proves too heavy for him.

There is a generation stepping up to fight in the battle, stepping up to take their place in extending the rulership of the kingdom of heaven on this dark earth. Of course, individuals graduate from this rising generation but this generation always exists, it’s perpetual.

My generation is the young David.

When the David generation unelegantly heaves their elder’s helmet over their head some older onlookers in the church may say “look at them, are they really strong enough to fight for what’s dear to us?”

When the David generation strains under the weight of a heavy breastplate some will say “give them more, they must grow stronger.”

When the David generation discards the clunky armour with relief some may cry “they don’t want to get their hands dirty!”

Just give us five small stones and send us out.

David Lion

No, we don’t trust our own strength either, but there’s a giant in the land and we know a God who loves to stack the odds against Himself and His people so He can win through for them.

That’s a word to my elder friends, now a word to my younger friends.

That giant is our future on this earth and beyond him is what we’re fighting for- the future, eternity, our promised land. We’ll never defeat the giant with our hearts set solely on him, we must keep eternity in our hearts.

Now, it can be easy for us youngers to feel encumbered by the administration and heavy provisions of the church, the slow moving beaurocratic systems that aim to keep us safe. It’s easy for us to despise what we haven’t built. It’s easy for us to want to throw off the heavy, restrictive helmet. But can we echo David when he told the King of how he’d learnt to trust and rely on God?

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’
Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’
1 Samuel 17:34-37

Those of us who are young, can we say we know God’s heart, that we’ve been communing with Him like David did, psalming with his lyre while tending sheep in the hills? Can we say we love scripture, that we love the word of God, that His word runs and grows in our hearts and we’re filled to overflowing and passionate about living out His call on our lives?

If we can then we can drop the armour and go with a few small stones of faith and take the future.

Let’s know God and let’s be bolder than lions.

The Church Needs Skunk Works

I consider this post as pt2 of the ‘Safety- The Enemy of God’ series of posts that I’m writing to express several threads of thoughts that God’s weaving together in my spirit, a growing conviction. Read part 1 about busting the man, movement, machine, monument cycle.

I want to be a part of a movement, not just an organisation.

The point of a movement is that it’s moving. When Jesus talked about his earth-impacting heavenly kingdom (which was most of the time) he often used analogies from nature- mustard seeds, leaven, fishing, a farmer scattering seeds or ploughing, a vine & branches, a vineyard, a bride, an engagement, a wedding, his own body. Paul used the illustration of a building (traditionally a dead structure) but this one has stones that are alive! These illustrations clearly and overwhelmingly describe the kingdom as something that grows, that lives, that is connected in sap and blood and bears fruit.

The church (as an expression of the kingdom) must never become an inflexible wineskin that isn’t fit to contain the new wine of God’s always-new effervescent life. The kingdom is bigger than any church’s view of it so churches must always be building on the foundation of Jesus, not the foundation of their own traditions. Except for God it’s dead things that never change. To live is to change so we must change or die.

We must keep envisioning the future, but vision is not enough- we must actively venture into it. How do we venture into new vision? I recently read this brilliant little true story explaining ‘Skonk Works’:

In 1943, at the height of World War II, the engineers coming from the same schools being taught by the same professors were not producing the technological breakthroughs that were needed. To get faster and better results, Lockheed decided to try something different. The company selected its most creative engineers and put them all in a tent set up at the end of a runway next to a plastics factory in Burbank, California. The engineers were told to think together outside the box on a specific project.

The members of this group began to push boundaries and try new things. Without all the red tape of the standard business bureaucracy, they were able to get things done much faster, usually ahead of schedule, and often with nothing more than a verbal agreement and a handshake.

They became known as “skunk works” because of the smell of the plastic factory wafting into the tent. The name came from the Li’l Abner comic strip, and it stuck. Today skunk works has become a technical term in research and development and in the diffusion of innovation. It is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, often tasked with working on advanced or secret projects. The original Lockheed Skonk Works (which still exists) is responsible for some of the most notable advancements in technology in aerospace and defense. Such things as stealth technology and smart bombs were developed there. The Macintosh computer was developed in a skunk works project under the demanding leadership of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The first laptop was designed and developed by a skunk works group that was literally kept secret from the very organization that made it and had determined that it was not a worthy investment—Toshiba.
[ source ]

The truth is that the church in the west has needed skunk works for some time.

The church must always be open to formerly hidden visionaries rising from within their ranks, pushing the boundaries of what it means for the kingdom to be incarnate among us. We mustn’t stifle any discontent that is motivated by lack of fruitfulness but must allow it to provoke what’s dead and dying in our churches. The prophetic spirit will always be creatively subversive and must not be confused with cynical, loveless opionionation but must be championed, encouraged and given breathing room by those in positions of official church leadership.

For any new generation of Christians to take the baton of the church they must pay their own price to win it and must have the freedom they need to work out it’s wild and unruly call on their lives. Otherwise we will well-meaningly propagate a halfbaked, mechanised, soon dead church.

In short- let’s pass on a vision, not a blueprint. Let’s allow those with positive vision and initiative about what the church could be to dream their God given dreams and make them reality. It’s less safe but it’s alive and will grow into something we’ve never dreamed of.

I’ve been reading, praying, listening & chatting to co-conspirators. Interestingly a few Skunk Works have been popping up (Jesus Army Action, a Franciscan Southampton trip…) that are pushing the boundaries of mission.

Movement is stirring, a generation is prophetically pregnant.

Safety- The Enemy of God

Or this post could be titled ‘God- The Enemy of Safety”.

Recently God’s been speaking a lot to me, inspiring me, giving me a burden and a deeper love for His church. This is going to be the first of several posts, detailing a few major thoughts which all speak into one growing conviction.

Let’s begin.

God’s major word to our church at the moment is about our need to repent and receive the fire of the Holy Spirit’s life and power again which has been running dry in us over recent years. We need to get away from relying on ourselves and the way we’ve always done things and back to living from a vivacious love for Jesus.

You know the ‘man, movement, machine, monument’ cycle that describes the rise and fall of churches and movements of God throughout history? A couple of weeks ago I decided to add the steps in between each stage of that cycle to understand what takes us from one stage to another. This is what I came up with-

Man (or woman, of course)
    Anointing then ministry
Movement
    Organisation
Machine
    Exodus/physical death
Monument

I reckon we’re on the machine side of organisation. That naturally leads to the conclusion that more organisation won’t get us back to the heart of Jesus, won’t add fuel to the movement of the Kingdom among us. It’s scary to write these words, but maybe some deliberate deconstruction of the scaffolding, of the organisation, may be where God is leading us. Our wheels are so well oiled it’s easy for us to keep rolling on empty without realising. Maybe we need to get out of the car and start running again.

40 years ago we followed God into the unknown. Initiated by a powerful baptism in the Holy Spirit many people heard God’s call to sell everything, jacking in jobs and dreams to live together, dream together and to love one another like the early church of the Acts of the apostles. Those pioneers took massive risks with great faith, bidding at auction for properties for which they only had enough for the deposit. Now we’re rich and our organised nature has grown and made risk (and therefore faith) not so necessary, nearly obsolete. I want to dream again. I want to take risks of faith and build God’s beautiful kingdom. But how?

Recently I’ve been reading a lot about what has been called ‘organic church’, ‘church multiplication’ or ‘missional communities’. I see this new movement as big as the charismatic movement of the late 20th century, though far more hidden in nature. It’s like Jesus is weaving a hidden, prophetic and very positive thread through His church. He’s planting mustard seeds and leaven, He’s scattering salt. I reckon the New Testament/ Kingdom of heaven/ Acts 2/ organic church multiplication/ whatever lifecycle looks something like this:

Man
    Anointing, ministry
Movement
    Anointing & releasing more men
Movements
    Anointing & releasing more men
Movements
    Anointing & releasing more men
Movements
    Anointing & releasing more men
Movements
    …etc

The key in this model is that from each movement men are released. The focus of this model is not adding people to the church but sending them out! That’s the difference between an ‘addition’ mentality and a ‘multiplication’ mentality. The baton of the church can’t be handed on if the person handing it on doesn’t let go. Trust is the cost of empowerment. I’ll say it again, trust is the cost of empowerment. I read a while ago that New Frontiers are aiming for all their new church plants in coming years to be led by guys under the age of 25. Risky huh? Sounds like the new testament.

Reading Huw’s interview with Pete Greig recently (the 24-7 dude) this line of his stood out to me-

“We must carry on subverting our own systems without destroying what God has given to us – break rules to build relationships”

May our old men and women keep dreaming dreams. May those older ones trust our young men and women enough to allow them to see their visions fulfilled.