Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why I Stopped Trying To Be Clint Eastwood

A solitary figure stands against the desert background. A hat, a poncho and a cigar. All these things point to mean, tough, Clint – the man with no name. The Eastwood persona is one that we (I mostly, but I'll drag you into it too) can idolise. That man on his own, in need of no-one but himself, and capable of completing the task which he sees fit.

The problem with emulating him was made clear both by the fact that God has now made him grate on me – the often unforgiving violence from him and his films. But even Gran Torino shows him as a curmudgeonly old man, wanting to be left alone, and the story of the film is that he softens and does what is right; sacrificing his life, which is going anyway, to bring a better life for the neighborhood.

Why not be soft to start with?

I'm not saying we should be walked over, but it has come to my attention that in life I often try and walk through it alone, surrounded by many friends, but to what impact? Is it for my enjoyment and gratification, or is it something mutual, to which I need to bring my part. Over the last year I have seen God working in my life, often doing things I don't want, with the realisation of who he is. Having put god in a box, we can isolate ourselves, coming out when we need to, to help people and spiritualise. But if being spiritual is a state of being, in which we actively need God and other people, because loving these two groups are the only laws that we have, then this can't be.

Henri Nouwen's book 'In the Name of Jesus' has spoken right into this. As a Christian minister to students, it's easy to get confused between friendship and work. And therefore easy, when it is tough, to switch off and retreat. Nouwen was broken by God because he moved into a community where this was not possible. I am maybe one step away, but I am still a housemate, colleague, friend, son, brother... I need God to change the way I think and behave so that I can step away from solitary hero status, and into committed friend and co-disciple; willing and then able to naturally learn from each other, and most importantly Jesus.

To be God's people (plural), we need to be just that. Devoted to Jesus personally. Devoted to each other. Devoted to making him known together, 'In the Name of Jesus.'

Thursday, 3 February 2011

We have this treasure in jars of clay

Led a devotional for the team this morning on 2 Corinthians 4, about how much I love to serve. As much as serving can make me alive, it can drain me because I feel like I HAVE to serve for the Lord through this work. Or I hide, and forget that sometimes real service is living and speaking the gospel – the treasure we hold. This treasure is in jars, loved and created, continually moulded by the creator God. However, they were made for the treasure we hold. So often I have a high view of myself. I am appreciating being able to laugh at myself more, and having people around me who either are actually holier than me, or who are able to point out my weaknesses; loving me into change.

So often we focus on the jar, forgetting how priceless the treasure is. This treasure is the gospel; the power of God and is able to change us, but more importantly change the people and situations around us. I was reminded by a fellow brother, even on our first meeting today, that we should not hold onto this treasure but share it with those who don't know.

There is hope. God will do things without us, so I need to be where he is, doing his work, and not overworking in the areas he has not told me to overwork in. It does not depend on us, and so God will work despite of our weaknesses. It is not about us, and so we remain jars of clay, whilst God's glory goes ahead of us and brings life. We have to give God space, so that he can work, and we too can be most effective.

Therefore, I will not stop serving, but with renewed passion will serve well – yes physically, but also give leadership to people, help develop people and most of all put myself in a position of weakness, so that when I am afraid to talk to new people and share God's treasure, I humble myself and ask for God's glory to shine through.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

God is Not Embarrassed

We like to hide things away in the corners of our lives. We may not think of ourselves as boasters, but we often only talk about things we are happy about, that we are proud of. We segregate our lives so that if anyone should cross into another section, we become unnatural, and for me at least, it becomes an extra thing to communicate. We have to orientate our friend to their new surroundings and the people in them, when it would be easier to keep everyone in the pre-ordained structure where they belong.

Thus said, we are also embarrassed about little flaws, and things that if people find out we do, will they still like us? Knowing that people love us is the hardest thing to accept. God loves us, cares for us, and, so I'm led to believe, even likes us. But accepting this is so hard. Admitting to Him, even though he sees our lives, the things that we hide away is hard. Being the person he created us to be, and even the person we enjoy being is hard when we worry what others will make of us.

From the very beginning of humanity, we have hidden in the corners of the world. Adam and Eve hid from God as he walked in the garden and as he called for them they hid and created coverings for the places which we 'treat with special dignity'. Cain killed Abel and then denied knowing where he was when asked by God. Abraham called Sarah his sister that he might not be killed for having a beautiful wife whom Pharaoh might desire too.

All these people did not trust God for their salvation, they tried to trusted themselves. Adam and Eve did not confront the serpent with the word of God as a powerful fact, were wooed by doubts. They tried to buy their way out of it by covering themselves, by blaming others. Cain did not trust that God had accepted his brother's sacrifice and therefore change, learning to give God his best. No. He let his anger to get the better of him, and to act on his own accord to deal with his brother's righteousness. Abraham did not 'man up' and protect his wife from Pharaoh's advances even if it would mean death. He literally gave Pharaoh a free reign in order to protect himself.

All these people and more were more embarrassed about the truth than concerned with keeping it.

I will state now, that I am no better.

'If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.' (1 John 1:6-7)

Friday, 17 September 2010

Killing Christ

I have realised that sometimes I can be just as bad as Herod. I don't think we completely want to kill Jesus, but we definitely want to smother Him, having disregard for his word and wanting to be God ourselves. We want the control, we want the power to make decisions: did he not give us free will after all!!

I am reading Matthew's Gospel at the moment through the Medium of William Barclay's Study Bible. He said this about three reactions within Matthew 2: 3-9 that have lasted until this day:

"(i) There was the reaction of Herod, the reaction of hatred and hostility. Herod was afraid that this little child was going to interfere with his life, his place, his power, his influence, and therefore his first instinct was to destroy him...The man whose only desire is to do what he likes has never any use for Jesus Christ...

(ii) There was the reaction of the chief priests and scribes, the reaction of complete indifference...There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them.

(iii) There was the reaction of the wise men, the reaction of adoring worship, the desire to lay at the feet of Jesus Christ the noblest gifts which they could bring."

Lord Jesus, let us adore you that we lay the noblest of gifts upon at your feet and desire that students might wish to do the same. Let us not kill, or worse, be indifferent to you, but let us together recognise that we needed to worship you as a baby, let alone now, as the saviour of the world.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Summer Conference

We have all recently returned from the Agapé Summer Staff Conference.

During our time there we studied Acts and the rise of the early church.  What was it that the apostles did to help the spread of the gospel?  What startegies did they use?  How was their preaching part of this - how did they speak to different types of people the same message but in ways which they would understand?

I attempted to answer these questions during our times of study for our assignments.  It is clear that God used the apostles mightly in the growth of the church, however, Acts is more about the work of Jesus and His Spirit, which worked through the believers, anbd now works through us, to change the world arouind them.  All the believers had to do was to follow what the Spirit was doing, and not get in the way.  Peter for example, was led by God to teach Cornelius and his household about Jesus.  However, he was reistant at first, identifying the areas of his heart which did not want to touch un-clean food; thus not wishing to visit un-clean gentiles.  This was wrong, and a misrepresentation of what the law was there for, and could have hindered the spread of the gospel.  However, although God would have found someone else to do His work, Peter was obedient and his heart was changed so that he could reach many gentile (non-Jewish) believers.

In our lives, what are the boundries of ritual or just plain misunderstanding of God's plan for the gospel?  How can I be a part of what God is doing, and rejoice at what He does without me, as well as be surprised with who he does it through?

Let's pray that this year at the Universities, God does some amazing things through us, but also many things around and without us.