Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shorter posts

from now on I will try to keep my posts shorter. Why? Because I've been accused of rambling on too much. So I'll try.

On a side note I have now posted more times this month than any other month since I started this blog... it's a good sign.

Lest we Forget

Christmas can be a very stressful and emotional time for a lot of people

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:10-14

Whenever this season seems to be getting extra crazy I like to take a little time out and meditate on this passage.simple. beautiful.

Never fails to bring me back to what really matters

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Concert update

Our concert last Friday raised over $1500 for cyclone relief in Bangladesh. That's pretty cool. Unspoken were awesome as always. They're a great band but more important than that they're a great bunch of guys. They're a pleasure to work with; humble, fun, passionate and inspiring. As Mike said during the night "it's not about all this" (gesturing to the band/stage etc.) "It's about Him." That's why they're being blessed, that's why people are blessed by their ministry. It's not about them, it's about HIM. God is at the heart of all they do. So this is a big thank you to Unspoken. If you ever need a band to perform or lead worship give these guys a call. heres the url again: http://www.itwasyou.com/ check em out.

Oh, and a HUGE thank you to my wife! She was a rock. Took care of a whole bunch of little details (and some not so little) the night would bnot have gone so well without her (and I would have been a LOT more stressed!)

And, of course, Thank you to everyone who helped out on the night. particularly the Youth who once again stepped up and did themselves proud. Good job, well done and thank you all.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thoughts in the storm

Looks like a storm hit my desk at the moment. And that's before you look in the draws and see how this last 2 monthes my idea of tidying has been to shove all non-essential stuff into a draw or any available space where it won't be seen. This last week i've given up any pretense of tidiness or organisation. Organised chaos? nope. just chaos. Doug Fields, in his excellent book 'What Matters Most?' suggests that excess clutter can be a symtptom of a life spiralling into excess busyness. Sounds about right Doug! So I'm working on it. I don't want to be lurching from event to event, project to project. I want to do youth ministry. I want to spend time withj youth, I want to mentor,, teach, lead, serve. I'm not an adminstrator yet I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my time administrating. innefficient. Jesus didn't work this way, he always found balance, he was in control.

ok, I have work to do. our concert is tonight, I'm looking foreward to it, i'm excited about it but there's a big part of me that will be happy when it's all over and i can relax... at least for a few moments then it's on to the next thing.

This is why I'm going to spend at least one day of my week off here in my office tidying, sorting and organising. Doesn't sound relaxing i know but if i don't do it while i have a week with no other responsibilities a) I won't ever get ahead and b) I'll not be able to really enjoy my
time off.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Truth

video

Thanks to Youth Specialties. this video clip is from their National Youth Workers Convention. Love it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Empty

I'm empty.

Not in a negative, depressed kind of way and not in a positive, peaceful kind of way. I don't really know what I mean by it. It's just how I feel. Empty.

Actually there's a lot of other stuff going on in my head which kind of makes the empty comment pretty meaningless but since no-one actually reads this crap anyway who cares if it makes any sense? Yes i'm tired and frustrated and annoyed and a little more alive than I've felt for a long time but through it all i just feel empty. I want to hide. not from anyone or anything in particular. I'm not one for running away. What's the point? where ever I run I'll be right there with me anyway. No, I just want to hide for a while so that i can just be me. Me. alone. empty. I need to be free to be empty. free to be an empty me. just me. alone.

I'm tired of carrying stuff. can I just put some of this crap down, dump all the garbage, dump these burdens I'm carrying (yes, that's the same burdens i keep telling my youth they have to let go. does that make me a hypocrite? i guess it does.) half of them aren't even mine anyway, most of the rest is just stuff I've picked up along the way and never seem to be able to put down. there's a good chunk of stuff that comes with my job, there's the family stuff and then theres the deep, dark, me stuff. all stuff, all heavy and i'm tired of carrying it all. I just want to dump it all, strip off and walked naked and free into hiding.

naked. empty. me.

that's it. rant over.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Ministry of Encouragment


At this mornings staff meeting Pr. Dave shared this scripture as the devotion. I wanted to share it with as many as possible. So on the off chance that anyone actually reads this blog, here it is.

*aside note* what a blessing to work in a place where meetings include a devotion!

2 Corinthians 7:5-6 (New Living Translation)
Paul writes:

When we arrived in Macedonia,...

That's the site of our ministry. As Paul was called to Macedonia, we are called to our own fields. Youth ministry is my Macedonia, whats' yours?

...there was no rest for us. We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.

(Sounds like Youth ministry to me!)

But God,...

There's some powerful theology in those two little words; 'but God...'

...who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us...

This is the cool bit, look at how God encouraged them; by a miracle? by an intense spiritual experience? by a dream or revelation?

...by the arrival of Titus.

Wow! That's all it took to lift them out of a pretty dark place. Titus' arrival. How beautifully simple. If you're struggling in your 'Macedonia' look for a Titus, God will often reach us by sending us an encourager.

And how about Titus? the scripture goes on to say

...His presence was a joy,

Note; 'his presence' was enough. He didn't need to find any fancy words, he didn't need to beat Paul over the head with scriptures and 'Godly advice' (Job's friends anyone?). 'His presence was a joy' We all know people like that. what if we were to strive to be people like that?The saying goes 'a burden shared is a burden halved' or something like that, but maybe sometimes 'a burden shared is a burden two people now have to carry!' I'm not saying we should struggle on alone, far from it, we were never meant to walk this walk alone. (Adam walked in perfect harmony with God yet God realised he still needed a companion. What makes us, with our fractured, halting, sporadic relationship with God, think we can do it alone?) But sometimes I think we're a little too quick to load our burdens on others.

What if Titus had come to Paul and he's said, 'Hey Paul, I'm facing conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.'
(maybe Titus was in Youth Ministry too)

Chances are Paul, despite his own heaviness of heart, would have stepped into his 'strong leader' mantle and done everything he could to encourage Titus while his own heaviness was be pushed aside and never lifted. Is it any wonder leaders burn out?

The scripture goes on to show how it's supposed to work

...but so was the news he brought of the encouragement he received from you.

That's pretty simple really. Titus was encouraged by others, that lifted his heart and he was able to encourage Paul. Even more impressive is that Paul was encouraged, not just by Titus, but also by the encouragement Titus received. So the encouragement given to Titus was compounded by the time it reached Paul and carried forward into Paul's ministry in Macedonia and as Pr. Dave brought it to our devotion this morning and as we read this scripture onward to us. Now THAT'S the kind of 'compound interest' I can get excited about!

So let's all look to be a Titus to each other. Encourage not burden.

it's a fine, yet significant line between:


and

(These cartoons are the simply wonderful creation of: http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/)

Get it right and maybe we can begin to understand what Jesus meant by 'The unforced Rhythms of Grace'

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cooking with Christ

Have you ever wondered why God, in his infinite power chooses us, fallible and weak as we are, to do his work? It’s something which always amazes me. That the creator of the universe chooses to use me, flawed, broken and unworthy as I am he still calls me to work with him. It’s humbling and tremendously exciting. But why? Surely, anything I can do he could do so much better. After all, he spoke the earth into being with a Word; surely he could reach out to the poor, the hurting, the sick, and the lonely with the same power. So why does he send us? Why does he use us when so often we fail and generally make a mess of things?
I’ve been thinking on this a lot lately and I’m reminded of an example form my childhood. I’m the middle of three; my sister is 2 years older, my brother 2 years younger than I. When we were kids my mother would bake and we would help her. Looking back I wonder if we were really that helpful. I mean, if the objective was to make a plethora of wonderful, tasty cakes, buns and other delights (mmm….! ) then surely having three small children in the kitchen, getting in the way, slowing things down, dropping stuff and generally making a mess is not going to help all that much. Yet my mother chose to have us there ‘helping’ and as I look back I can see three reasons which resonate with me as to why our heavenly Father chooses to allow us to be ‘fellow labourers’ with him.

  1. We learned how to cook. All three of us are now capable cooks more than able to take care of ourselves and our families. We learned the trade in those early years working alongside my mother, watching her working with her. The same applies to working and working with God "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28 (the Message) Jesus provided the example and now he calls us to put our hands to the plough and learn his work. Whether it’s ‘doing his work’ or just learning how to walk with him, by working alongside the Master, the great Teacher, we learn and we grow and we mature.
  2. We Loved to Cook. Those times were fun and in those times, by being involved, we came to love cooking, we shared in my mother’s love for the task and we came to love it ourselves. The same is true in God’s work, as we share in his work we begin to see the joy he has in the victories, the more time we spend working with the Master the more we see things through his eyes. We laugh when he laughs and we weep when he weeps. The task becomes more than a task. It becomes a labour of love.
  3. We drew closer to my mother and each other. Perhaps now we reach the greatest reason my mother let us help in the kitchen. She enjoyed it. She loved spending time with her children, we had fun together and we built relationships and memories. I still carry those warm memories today. God is our heavenly Father and although it may seem strange to us he actually wants to spend time with us. He loves us and he longs to have fellowship with us and by involving us in his work he is giving us a way to come closer to him. Spend some time working with him. He calls us “workers together with him” 2 Corinthians 6:1 (KJV) and he loves to share with us the great work he’s doing.
    Sure the work itself is important (trust me, those buns, cakes and such were VERY important to us as young kids!) but in the importance of the work let’s not get so wrapped up that we lose sight of the one who called us and why. Don’t forget to take a moment and enjoy working with him, grow closer to him through the work, hey, have some fun and make a little mess along the way, it’s all part of the journey.


Oh, and don’t forget, there are tangible rewards too. After all, when we ‘helped’ our mother bake we got to lick the spoons and the bowls! And God’s work is the same, except the work is so much greater and the spoon is SOOO much sweeter!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Solar Death Ray!

Seriously, this is one of my favourite websites ever! This guy is one of the worlds inspired maniacs. Sadly it seems he's closing shop, but I wish him well and I seriously encourage everyone who reads this (yes... both of you!) to check this out for a few laughs.
http://www.solardeathray.com

Enjoy

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stuff

This is version number three of this post. I write a paragraph or two then delete and start again. Either I write some stuff I'm just not ready to put here yet or I just think the writing stinks, or I have an idea of what I'd like to say but I don't have the time to actually put it all down, order my thoughts etc.
Does anyone read this guff I write anyway?
Am I just ranting to no-one?

There's a lot of stuff I want to say. Stuff about openness, raw truth, doubt, fear, insecurity, messy stuff like that.

I want to share my heart, my hopes and fears, my dreams and my doubts but I don't seem to be able to find the words.

But like I said; does anyone read this guff I write anyway?

Give me some time to think. maybe I'll post more when (or if) I get my thoughts into some semblance of order

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Been meditating on this a lot over the last week. We used it as the base of our worship last Friday, what an amazing piece of theology. Paul spends 1 Corinthians 12 talking about spiritual gifts and ministry and great stuff like that but then he takes everything the modern church seems to value so highly and hits us with this

1 Corinthians 12:31
…But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all…

1 Corinthians 13

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing
. (WOW!) If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.


Pretty challenging stuff! Paul tells us that pretty much whatever we DO is irrelevant without love. Without love, we may as well not bother at all! And in case we were ambiguous or unsure he goes on to define LOVE as God sees it

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Try reading that again, but this time substitute the word LOVE with the word GOD. After all God IS Love...


Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Future stuff here, to summarise; one day, when Jesus returns, or when we die, when we sit in God's presence, all this spiritual stuff like 'Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages' is going to be kind of irrelevant,, after all, who needs prophecy when you're sitting at the feet of Jesus? But he finishes by saying...

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

what more can you add to that?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Big Things in the Works

It's funny how God works. Long periods of a lot of waiting, a lot of seeking, a lot of hints and hopes, a lot of promise and potential, a lot of pressing forward without a whole lot of actually going anywhere. Kind of like reading my blog I guess! But then, just when the heady, conflicting mixture of expectation and frustration reaches critical mass and you find yourself wondering, questioning and doubting... That's when everything explodes.

Right now, in my life, it's supernova time! I'm sure if I'm excited, eager or just plain terrified. Probably a mixture of them all. I'm just glad that wherever this all goes the author of this whole crazy, wonderful, God-story is right along side me as I go.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What is the Church?

Too often we think of 'church' as a building, or a denomination, or an organisation. Even when we break out of the shackles of seeing the church as a place we go as opposed to something we're a part of, we still seem stuck on the idea of individual churches. We talk of 'my church' what arrogance! We talk of different churches and different denominations and different organisations or governing bodies, we hear people saying 'the church is the body of Christ' but what does that even mean?

In an era when many major denominations face turmoil, dissention and even potential splits are we getting tired of denominations? Seeing them as symbolic of the religious organisation which seems so often to have little to do with the life of Jesus?
I believe the post-modern world is moving away from the idea of denomination altogether. I believe we are moving towards a post-denominational Christianity and frankly I like that idea.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote:

"That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home." Ephesians 2:19-20 (The Message)

What an exciting scripture. As I read this I'm left in awe of God's plan for his church! That's a church I can get excited about. It's something organic, growing, changing, alive and vibrant. It began in the very beginning and it will keep growing and building right to the end. The foundations built in the likes of Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel, continued in people like Peter, Paul and John. Continued throughout the ages and right now, here today we are all part of that same project, new bricks, each with a specific shape and purpose, lovingly crafted and slotted into place by the master builder himself. It's 'a temple in which God is quite at home' Built by God for God, so it makes total sense to me that it stretches beyond our limited perception of a building or an organisation. God CANNOT be contained or described in anything we could make or build and his church is the same, bigger than any person, organisation or denomination, bigger than our understanding, it's all of us, from beginning to end, not bound by time or space from the moment he breathed life into Adam this church has been under construction. We are bricks, fitting in, each in his or her way in his or her time and it's all held together by Jesus, the cornerstone. I'm trying to write down stuff I can barely get my head around but I think in this scripture we have a glimpse of God and of what his church should be.
Like I said before, this is a church I am excited, awed, humbled and a little scared to be a part of!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Musings; Idle and Otherwise

This is a piece I wrote back in January. Just some thoughts on life and youth ministry. I've refined a few of these thoughts in the couple of months since then but we'll get to that in future posts.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. And this is just a surface scratching of some of the thoughts that are churning within me. Please forgive me if I ramble or lose focus, change direction or get simply confused. This is my thoughts and they're far from crystallized at this point. In fact, considering how my head is these days this piece is remarkably clear and concise! I hope by putting some of these thoughts down it will help clarify a few things. Or maybe I'll just end up more confused than I started.

I've been thinking a lot about how we portray the Bible, the Gospel and our faith as a whole. We living in a post-modern world and when we work with and minister to teenagers today we have to understand that this is what has been referred to as a post-Christian generation. This MTV/MySpace generation has grown up without the foundation of church and faith of previous generations, and so often we find that the old ways of teaching, the old ways of discipleship are missing the mark. Teenagers today will question things which their parent's generation accepted and to exacerbate the matter the modern Church has too often presented a sanitised Gospel, watering down the truth and avoiding the difficult questions in the name of 'reaching a lost generation'. Desperation has led to an attempt to make church and Jesus relevant and cool. In a lot of ways this approach, while well meaning and motivated by a real desire to reach a generation which seems to be careening towards destruction, has resulted in exactly the opposite. The youth ministry world is now beginning to realise that young people live in a superficial, world saturated by exciting experience, fast-paced excitement and dazzling imagery. They live in a world of instant gratification and rampant consumerism and yet survey after survey is showing a deeper longing for spirituality than ever before. A recent survey found that up to 99% of teenagers in America believe in God in some form yet the number of young people attending churches is dropping and of the number who do attend church in their teens an alarmingly low percentage stay the course through and beyond their college years. Now I am not totally sold on these statistics, as Benjamin Disraeli said, 'there are 3 kinds of lies; lies, damn lies, and statistics'. Surveys and statistics can be used to show pretty much anything you want them to show and almost always in my opinion have an agenda. However, these points do raise questions which need to be explored.

The way I see it, in a world where young people are looking for spiritual depth in a shallow world, the church, in an attempt to meet them in their world has sacrificed depth in an effort to be relevant and cool and as a result has become just as superficial as the world which has left our teenagers are frustrated and unsatisfied. They seek depth and the church gives them 'seeker friendly'. In place of genuine spirituality they have been given sound bites and catch phrases. What Would Jesus Do? Well, his methods weren't flashy, he wasn't cool, and he spoke hard truths and asked challenging questions. Jesus was radical and counter-cultural in his approach, he turned leadership principles upside down when he washed the feet of his disciples, he challenge the establishment and while fulfilling the law he attacked those who were slaves to it. At times his message is difficult, at times uncomfortable, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "When Christ calls a man he bids him; come and die." Jesus' message, as lived out in his life is one of extreme compassion, radical humility, amazing sacrifice, terrifying commitment and unfathomable love. And in light of that message how do we respond? By toning down his life? Fitting him into our comfortable picture? Treating him as a mascot? Marketing him as a genie in a bottle ready to meet our every need? Will we show the world a nice, safe, comfortable Jesus who'll help us when we're in trouble and will help our teenagers become responsible and well behaved, good students who live clean lives? The truth is that even many of the teens who go to church, who confess Christ and who are passionate about him are also smoking, drinking and sleeping around. The truth is that an alarming number of kids who grow up in the church go wild at the first sight of freedom. Many young people see the church as getting in the way of their freedom rather than seeing Jesus as the source of ultimate freedom.

There is a song we often sing, 'Trading my Sorrows', it has a rousing chorus;

"Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord.

Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord.

Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord. Amen."

Yet do we actually stop and think about how dangerous a prayer that is? Saying yes to God is saying yes to a life of sacrifice, a life of servant hood, a life turned upside down. Jesus is not comfortable, yet that is the message we give too often.

We fill our lives with busyness, desperately rushing to 'serve', to 'do his work' and our lives are more empty and shallow than ever before. We do so much we leave no room for the one we're doing it for. We spend so much time working for Jesus we leave no time for spending time with Jesus. He does not want our words; His word spoke the universe into being. He does not want our hands; His hands formed us from the dust. He does not want our wealth; He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He just wants our hearts. He wants us. I don't pretend to fully understand this but the creator of the universe loves me and wants a relationship with me so badly he was prepared to die for me. Because I sin, he died; not so I could be blessed, or so I could be safe, or so that I could go to Heaven when I die but so that I could know him, I can come to him, I, in my sin filled, messy life could have fellowship and communion with the perfect King of Kings. As Jesus dined with sinners, with thieves, prostitutes, crooks and worse he desires to dine with me. He set that example in his life on earth and we are called to follow suit. Saying yes to Jesus is saying yes to the kind of life he led. It's saying yes to a life of love, compassion, and sacrifice but most of all it's saying yes to a life lived, not for, but with him.

My point in all of this is simple; as long as we offer a superficial Gospel we will breed superficial Christians. But if we have the courage to stop, slow down, risk a few bumps and bruises and offer to share with others our journey of deeper devotion and real relationship with our Saviour and with each other, then I believe we will see change. If we commit to seeking genuine community, deeper spirituality and a life modeled after Jesus, then who knows what kind of revolution we'll see in our lives?

The Beginning...

Ta tatata ta Daaaaaaa! (that's a fanfare btw) So here's my first post. I have this nagging feeling that it should be something deep and powerful... or witty and erudite.... or at the very least funny and uplifting. But I guess I'll settle for rambling and incoherent!
Anyway, welcome to this blog, please feel free to comment... once I've written something to comment on that is. I intend (what is it that they say about good intentions?) to share some of my spiritual journey here. God is taking me in a lot of new directions and He's been challenging me in a lot of new ways lately, It's exciting, uncertain and a little scary. But it's a good scary. Anyway, hope it's of interest to someone, otherwise I'm wasting my time really.
There. I warned you. Rambling and incoherent. I'll improve though...
probably.