"Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time."
James 4: 6 The Message
As we open the door and embrace 2018 we welcome new opportunities that the new year and its fresh start affords us. One thing we are certain of is that, whatever 2018 holds, Father God is with us, mountain high or valley low. The Bible is full of God's promises to all of humanity and the entirety of his creation but we find a promise in the letter from James in the New Testament that we want to draw your attention to through 2018. James 4:6 says that as we take steps to draw close to God, He will draw near to us. It is a heaven-made guarantee that, as we 'lean in' to Father God, he will be close to us.
As you will note from James this incredible offer of intimacy between humanity and God is an intentional act that also requires our initiation. We get to activate God's closeness to us by simply setting our focus on him. As we approach He notes our movement and comes running to us.
Over the last year as a Leaders Team, we have made an obvious but radical decision to focus our time and work first by drawing close to God. It has inevitably had a knock on with how we do things requiring reprioritisation. The change has been tangible and hugely beneficial as Father God's economy kicks in. This was the way we have approached pursuing other more permanent building options for the church with a time of listening before any action was taken. The Quaker tradition frame this sort of discernment process as leaders in this way; 'a meeting for worship where business is conducted.’
We are keen to encourage this re-ordering across the whole church family in 2018. There will be an opportunity to do this together as we run 24-7 Prayer Spaces, Biblical Reflection Groups, and NT60 launching again after Easter. As much as we do things together we also need to be a people that 'lean in' to his presence in private and then everything else will find its right place and be well.
I read last week online that the Statue of Liberty in New York is struck by lightning 600 times a year. For those not so hot at mental arithmetic (like me) that is nearly 12 strikes a week! I was so surprised I decided to invest another 2 minutes online research! This revealed a lower yet still surprising estimate of 3 strikes a week. Either way this is a lot more than I suspected. I knew it would be susceptible but I would have guessed once or twice a year!
The reason for this prolific strike rate is obvious if you think about it. The first and main reason is simply how it was made. Its very structure is the metal copper that gives it a distinct green look. Secondly, its size and finally its posture.
God used this simple fact to speak to me as I pondered this. My reflections and conversation with God went like this…..
Father God is desperate to connect us. It’s in the very way he made us to be. God’s eyes are focused on us. His gaze is upon and love is for all of us through Jesus Christ. John in the New Testament describes us not just as something the Father has affection for but that we are his children. As both a dad and a son I know some of what a huge statement this is. We are giants in his sight.
God made us to regularly connect with him like the lightning with the Statue of Liberty because of how he made us and our stature in his sight.
So what about our posture and position? Well the first two parts of this metaphor are not about us. They are about how we are made and how we are seen, neither of which we have control over. However, we are in control of our posture. What posture will you choose to adopt this year, which will allow Father God to connect with you daily? Is your heart, mind and body open to him? I find that my conscious body posture often opens the door for my heart and mind to follow suit.
I was staggered and shocked to read recently online that the biggest airport in Venezuela has started to levy a fee to have the right to breathe clean air. Now we are all used to paying taxes and sometimes for odd things, but Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas has taken this a step further! Passengers flying out now have to pay 127 bolivars tax (£12) for the very air they breathe.
This is to cover the cost of a newly installed system that uses ozone to purify the building's air conditioning system. It has been received with an equal mixture of anger and amusement. Breathing air is an essential element to sustaining life for humankind. The thought of someone owning the air in the atmosphere is crazy at best.
As I read this report, the prophetic vision of Ezekiel sprang to mind, as recorded in the Bible in chapter 37 of the book recording his God story, thoughts and visions;
“Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’ So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.” Ezekiel 37:8-10
It is Father God whose breath breathes life into our lives. Two billion followers of Christ around the globe would testify to God’s breath on our lives being the real deal. His breath comes into our lives and we truly live again. It is pure air and way more life giving and transforming than any flashy, state of the art filter system. More than that though, is that there is no cost attached; in fact, he is pursuing you, wanting to give it to all. Allow his breath to fill your bones today. Come alive and stand to your feet. This is his promise for you.
I read a shocking story this week online of a man called Nathaniel Bolwell who was more than alarmed when he saw his bank account balance. It was overdrawn by a mere £179,000 when he was expecting it to be in credit by £400! He innocently ordered a pizza for delivery and paid with a debit card. Domino’s proceeded to draw £179,923.32 from his account instead of the £17.99 it should have been. What was even more surprising was that the bank authorized the payment! Thankfully Lloyds and Domino’s got together and put it right within two days. He even received £100 by way of apology.
In a few weeks time, as we continue through ‘The Red Letters’ theme in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, we step through some difficult sections on the journey. There are parts that make for uncomfortable reading as it disturbs our western desires of an easy, peaceful life. In Matthew 8 Jesus reminds us that there is a large cost attached to being a follower of Christ. As disciples we should not be surprised, unlike Nathaniel.
Like many followers of Jesus I often do battle and wrestle with the ungodly aspects of my life. Usually these matchups are little old me trying to get a giant pinned to the floor and submit. This used to be a huge focus for me as I sought to be more like Christ. Often I would momentarily glace at the smaller issues and quickly return my sights to the bigger battles. The smaller annoying things seemed to not offer enough win for the contest that was needed. So all my energies went to the grudge matches with the giants.
I recently read an article online about Sir Dave Brailsford, which made me readjust my sights somewhat. Sir Dave (love that title and name combo btw) is the former Director of British Cycling and current manager of Team Sky. Sir Dave has been instrumental in the rise of British cycling’s world domination over the past 5 years.
He oversaw team GB as they bagged 8 Gold medals at the Bejing 2008 games. He continued in his role at London 2012 where Team GB took 12 medals in the London Velopark and on the roads of the capital. This was an impressive doubling of the number of medals secured by the second placed Team Germany.
Sir Dave in 2010 stepped into the management role of the newly formed British based professional cycling team Sky. He oversaw the new team in its quick rise to the top of professional cycling. The pinnacle of this so far has seen Team Sky secure back-to-back Tour de France victories in the last two years with Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
My errant assumption was that his success was down to huge leaps in sport science, psychology and technology. I was truly mistaken. Of course they seek developments in these key big areas along with all their rivals. They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
However, Sir Dave has taken on a different strategy of trying to accrue as many small improvements of 1% as possible, which inevitably add up to more significant overall gains. He says,
"The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together."
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there with the obvious areas of development. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time. He was wrong. They won it in three years.
Everything I choose, even the small little things, can create the possibility to bring gains in the Kingdom of Heaven. Just because they are small does not mean they are insignificant or irrelevant. If you do not believe me ask Sir Dave!
Come & pop into our new home for a cuppa and a nose around!
We want to invite you to pop in and see our new home ‘Revelation Central’ in the city centre. Over the last two months we have been moving home and are now at a stage were we are in and settled. We would love to give you all the opportunity to pop in and see the new place. So many of you invested so generously to help us with all the moving for which we are immensely grateful.
Saturday 10th May, 9am until 10.30am
Revelation Central, 1 & 2 St Pancras, Chichester, PO19 7SJ.
It is on the 1st floor above Guitar Sounds shop (door to the left) sandwiched between St Pancras Church and The Nags Head pub.
Nearest car parks are Market Avenue and New Park Road. Both are Pay & Display.
We will be serving coffee and refreshments
Now is the time!
The busyness and bustle of relocating so much of the Churches activities has prompted me to do some reflecting over the last couple of weeks. It also provoked me to think about the future too as we step into a new season.
There is something very attractive about reminiscing about the past wearing rose tinted spectacles. I recalled the days of playing 5-a-side without needing to warm up for 20mins and not hurting so bad the next day you end up walking like an extra out of the Thriller video.
I know for others the past can be a snare. We can get entangled and wounded which stop us walking fully out of those days into our present and onto our future.
We get stuck living someplace we never planned or wanted to. The past no matter how good or bad was never intended to be our home. The past is meant to be a platform for our present and future. For me and my faith the past reminds me of his rescue. He has done it before…. Light always disperses the darkness… etc.
However there is equal danger in living too far ahead of ourselves. If we long for the future not rooted in our past and alive in our present we will achieve little other than some great daydreams. If we live awaiting for the perfect moment in the future to really launch into our dreams and calling we will wait an entire lifetime. As someone who has walked in the faith for 20 years let me tell you that the perfect moment does not exist. You could wait forever to see that all the ducks will never line up as you hoped. Thinking and dreaming of the future is no bad thing in fact I recommend a regular prescription of daydreaming. However we have to be a people that are present and active now not just dreaming of what might be.
We are to be fully present and alive in the moment. I love the way Jim McNeish puts it.
“Today is all you really have. Yesterday is a story and tomorrow might never come. What will you do today to take ground with your dreams?”
Why do we need to be focused on today? Simply because that is where you are this second. Now brings God into this never repeating moment of your life.
We can live a life yearning for the old days or snared by the pain/trauma of them and we miss the now. Equally we can live so fixated on the Future we also miss the present.
Whilst thankful for the past and looking to the future I need to grab hold of the destiny and what he has for me today
Using Mordecai transforming words to Queen Esther let us remember “you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 14)
Religion relegates God to yesterday and God becomes a trapped in history.
We must remain thankful for what God has done for us but it is not where he wants us to live.
We are hope filled for the future he has in store for us but people of faith reside in the NOW.
I was reading the Bible the other day using a year long programme taking you through the whole book in a year when most unexpectedly I had one of those God hijacking moments. I’ll be honest in that I was reading fast to get through the large section of text set aside for the day when the story leaped off the page and took me hostage. God speaks even when we are not fully with the right motivation!
It is the moment where God starts commissioning Abraham to be the leader of the nation of Israel as recorded in Genesis 17 & 18. There were four things that I got from the story and the notes that helped explain.
1) Walk with me
Gods plan has always been to walk and journey with humanity. We see it from the very dawn of creation in the early days of the Garden of Eden as God walks in the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve (Gen 3: 8). He can’t find them so calls to them (Gen 3: 9). There is a desire to be with his people and journey with them. In Genesis 17: 1 we see God offer to walk and journey through life with Abraham. So in all that you are facing today know that God calls you too as he wishes to walk with you throughout the day.
2) The Big Plan
God had big plans for Abraham and Sarah which he starts to share with them through Genesis 17 & 18. The plans God unveils are for a whole nation. The scale of this literally floors Abraham three time in the two chapters (17: 3 & 17, 18: 2). When God speaks his BIG Plan over your life (because whether or not you know it he has big plans for you) the best response if you find it a bit much is to follow Abrahams suit. Fall to your knees in prayer and submission to God.
3) God will always do more
Abraham heard the plan which was immense and beyond anything that he could have dreamed. God was creating a nation through him and his bloodline to come. The promise was of this nation of God to flow through his unborn son Isaac. Abraham dares to ask for more (17:18). Please also bless Ishmael and his descendants too. God agreed (17: 20). Never be scared to ask for God’s blessing in all areas of what you are doing in life. God will always do more
4) Is anything too hard for God?
Finally in the midst of this exciting news that Sarah was finding impossible to get her head around the Trinity speaking with one voice (18:5) asks the greatest rhetorical question of all time “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” No matter what you are facing today look the issue right in the eyes and ask “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
I was in a forum recently with a Member of Parliament from the UK and a room full of Church Leaders. A skilled interviewer drew out of the politician the need for the Church to play its part in shaping society. The interviewer then got really nitty gritty and asked how we do that? Build bridges and work with your local statutory bodies seemed to be the gist of the reply. We were then asked to raise our hands if we had ever written to our MP about an issue? A lot of hands rose which was encouraging. The interviewer then turned the question back to the MP asking if they received a lot of correspondence from Church leaders. Yes, was the reply but often about certain seemingly important issues to the church. The proposed changes to legislation around ‘Gay Marriage’ for example had caused their mail box to swell in recent times as Christians wrote in. The MP then paused and reflected saying these soul piercing words “I am yet to receive a letter from a church leader about the growing challenges of Child Poverty in the UK.” It hit me like an arrow through my soul!
There is so much for us to speak up about as believers and those of us who represent the people of God in the Church but do sometimes we miss some of the desperate areas of injustice. Please hear me I am not condemning those of us opposing the fundamental changes to the constitution of marriage. It is indeed an area I have spoke up for which is probably why the words cut so deep. I need to work a lot harder at taking my MP by surprise.