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Quotes for a Thursday August 28, 2014

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“Transformation is the inevitable result of the incarnation” – Joel Edwards

“Cities and churches can display all of the outer trappings of success but still be lacking in the sight of God when it comes to the marginalised” – Sean Benesh

“Your core values are influenced not by what you see, but how you see” – Paul Manwaring

“Keeping promises is a hallmark of integrity because it demonstrates that we can be trusted to do what we say we will do” – Graham,Huntsman, Blanchard

Gone soft in our evangelism? August 27, 2014

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I wonder if the rise of courses like Alpha and Christianity Explored have encouraged Christian evangelists to lose some of their cutting edge in ministry? Before these courses, and others like them, it was not uncommon to hear those involved in evangelism make a direct call to either accept or reject Christ. Whether in the open air or from a church pulpit, there was a time when a call to stand, move forward or collect a tract would demand a physical and public response to the message of salvation that had been preached. Today, it appears that this is less likely and that there is usually an invitation to a course or a conversation, rather than a direct challenge to make a decision immediately.
This summer a question was asked of me; “have we gone soft in our evangelism?” The question was directly related to the lack of direct response when people shared the gospel of Jesus with others and the perceived reluctance to ‘seal a deal’ when talking to those interested in salvation. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit but there may be occasions when we have held back from asking for a response that would help underline the Spirits work. This may be down to a host of reasons such as fear, nerves, uncertainty and so on, but does it point to a loss of cutting edge? Does it suggest that we have ‘gone soft’?
Personally, I do not believe that we have gone soft but I do believe that we have sometimes taken an easier path by allowing courses (and their leaders) to do the work that we could be involved in. If we are truly unashamed of the Gospel of Christ then we would not be nervous of a negative response to the question, “do you accept Christ?” Asking such a question of others should be the responsibility of every christian and not just a select few, we must not abdicate our responsibility to be witnesses and we should not fear the responses we may receive from others by asking such a direct question.
This said, it is not always easy to be direct in a multi-faith and multi-cultural environment that requires sensitivity and political correctness but if we live for truth we can accommodate this and still be direct with others.
My experience tells me that people are far more open than we believe, more willing to listen than we have been told and happy to give an answer to the questions that we have. Let’s not be afraid but full of courage.
Finally, let me ask you, Do you follow Christ?

Loving one another in the online world August 26, 2014

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After being a little absent on the social networks these last few weeks, it has been interesting to review things that are happening and seeing the responses of people. One of the things that has caught my eye is the amount of vitriol that can come from the keypads of Christians when somebody appears to step on some of their own strongly held doctrinal viewpoints, or another ‘champion of faith’ is brought into question.
It is right that we contend for our faith and that we are careful to guard our doctrine but too often we have allowed ourselves to slip in to a barrage of abusive behaviours to others. Disagreement is a part of life, differences of opinion are to be expected but the line is surely crossed when we begin personal attacks that are, at best, abusive.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” is the verse that springs to mind – words that Jesus used as he predicted his betrayal and just before his conversation with Peter regarding Peters own denial of Jesus. In the darkest moments, love one another….it is the thing that marks out God’s people from others. Surely if we are to make an impact for the gospel, we should bear this in mind in the way we communicate with one another….even more so in the public forums that are available to us. Recently, many have gone beyond saying ‘You fool!’ (see Matthew 5:21) and that leads to destruction – let’s be people who are strong, yet loving, courageous, yet gentle and let’s love one another so that we may see many more enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a result of our witness.

We still haven’t found what we are looking for! July 24, 2014

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A little like Alice in wonderland, who did not know what road to take, we still haven’t found what we are looking for because we are not entirely sure what it is we are wanting.
So often we can begin the search for something without doing the necessary preparatory work. We are not sure what we want but will ‘know when we find it’……often this means that those nuggets of gold are missed because they are wrapped in a different veneer or are different to what we perceive. Searching without thought will take longer, will have many more hurdles and will frustrate others, yet we keep on searching knowing that once in a while, as we roll the dice, the sixes will come. The search is more luck than judgement.
Searching with the right preparation may save untold time, heartache and frustration. It may also mean that you are more successful because you have spent some time working out what is really wanted in the first place. Preparation time is never wasted….often it is a time saver. Keep looking but look with purpose, with reason and with ideas in mind…..searching may then become a little easier.

Growing Faith July 22, 2014

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The cries of a new born baby are often followed by words such as “isn’t she beautiful, she is perfect”. A few weeks later, the understanding of perfect may be somewhat different as sleepless nights, countless nappy changes and cries that demand ear plugs demand attention. Years later….the word perfect is rarely heard.
It can feel much the same as we seek to nurture our teenagers in faith. There may be moments when we see a teenager who makes great strides on their faith journey and there are moments when it feels as if we are walking in reverse. How do we nurture our teenagers in a life of faith, are there keys that will unlock the door to success? What could they be?
Relationship – As any child grows, they need the care of an adult and the friendship of others. Our teenagers need to have faith modelled by the wider congregation and friendships that will help them take hold of the eternal truths of the gospel of Christ in a changing culture. These relationships can sustain through difficult seasons and can help sustain others as we work together.
Affirmation – So many teenagers are being told what they do wrong, how much better things may be if they were encouraged for what they did right. Encouraging people changes their outlook and affirmation helps to reinforce a positive identity that nurtures growth and fruitfulness. All people value praise, it cheers the heart and inspires people to greater things.
Celebration – parties for birthdays or Christmas mark out special occasions. We all need those milestone markers that chart our story and it is no different with our faith. There is a need to mark key moments of the faith journey, most notably in baptism and confirmation but also in the more regular events and festivals where we can have reminders of the journey that we travel.
Time – you do not learn to walk in a day, growing in faith takes a lifetime. We need to be patient with our teenagers and provide ample space for them to explore, experiment and to encounter the life of faith for themselves. Providing time and space could be one of the greatest gifts that we give to our young people.
There is no magical solution to growing faith in our teenagers but there are keys that may unlock the door to a lifetime of faith that encourages others to join the Church. And just maybe, we ourselves may encounter something of God’s grace and may look at our young people, at whatever stage of the journey, and say…..”wow, perfect!”

HTB Leadership Conference 2014 May 5, 2014

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The annual Leadership Conference run by Alpha and Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) is upon us again. My social media feeds were filling up before the conference with marmite opinions being shared – love and hate – in equal measure.
Personally, it is a highlight of my year and the first day has lived up to expectations. There is a breadth of views and opinions expressed, all from a point of experience and all soaked in a love for God and His world.
HTB live out their values and approach the conference from an understanding that not all views expressed will be equally shared. However, they also know that as leaders it is possible to listen with discernment rather than judgement. This brings freedom and learning that surpasses many conferences.
I am glad to be here and grateful to learn from others. Less than half way through it has already proven to be ‘value for money’ – so pleased that once again this conference is made available to us.

flickers of hope…. April 28, 2014

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Hope can be an odd thing. It comes and goes with the wind and can be so transient as to be unbearable. A great example of this (for sports fans) is the current English Premiership campaign – last week, Liverpool were the favourites and there was a huge amount of hope that a 24 year barren spell was at an end. One bad result and another team could now take the title on goal difference……for many hope evaporated. However, there is still a great chance that Liverpool could win – still games to be played and results required for all teams. However, the news and reporters have transferred all their hope to another. Fickle, transient and denying what is possible.

It is the same with life. The smallest of margins can evaporate or sustain hope and we can be like the wind blowing in different directions with all the challenges and changes that come our way. How much easier life would be if our hope could be certain, if it was guaranteed.

In truth, it comes down to what we have faith in, to those things that will sustain us – we discover very quickly in life who and what can be trusted. Trust in those things that will bring hope, peace and happiness. Then and only then will the flickers of hope become a flood.

Good Quote Friday April 25, 2014

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Unfortunately, I have forgotten which book these first quotes came from – will try and recover those details and will amend

 

“A mentor is an acknowledged expert who is able to share experiences, past successes and failings in a manner that builds trust”

“Mentoring is an experience, not a destination”

“Recognise behaviours as well as results”

“Recognition is inexpensive – lack of recognition can be costly”

“People must be taught how to think, not what to think” – Margaret Mead

Braveheart – a story of culture? April 24, 2014

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Braveheart is not the most historically accurate of films but there are a few moments within it that provide some great story telling that make sense beyond the story. Most people pick the speeches but there are some other key moments for me, primarily centred around the battle at Falkirk, in the last hour of the film.

The strategy was set, the first part went to plan – then at the moment for the Scottish clans to engage, they rode away. Wallace looked downbeat but not beaten – despite treachery there were many more still fighting the cause. Wallace then follows the English king as he rides away to be stopped by a masked knight – the knight was his ‘friend’, ally and supposed supporter – the fight left Wallace distraught and he collapsed. Betrayed again. His allies were not trustworthy – in modern terms they talked the walk but did not walk it. A man cannot fight alone – success needs team – Wallace realised that his team was not all that he had been promised.

However, in the midst of it all – a single Irishman. He did not fit the mould, he was feisty, eccentric and quirky – but loyal, faithful and a man who went went beyond the call of duty. Earlier in the film, he saved Wallace life on a hunting trip, here he had ridden after him and carried him from the battlefield. A man who understood what was needed, what was required and answered it to the full.

Story at its best – Wallace had the strategy but the culture around him was not as supportive as it should have been. Culture always wins over strategy and in this story it demonstrated that brilliant strategy was not enough.

Don’t be surprised! April 10, 2014

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I am writing this on the fly and so the complete and correct quote eludes me but we have probably heard it in one form or another. “Why is the church the only army that wounds it’s own soldiers?” You probably read it and there is something that resonates.
In the last week or two, social media has been awash with Christians attacking one another in the public domain. It is not just in social media – our gatherings, our workplaces and our homes. Our witness to Christ and the gospel can be so easily tainted.
It’s nothing new though – religious leaders were not entirely welcoming to Jesus, Paul fell out with a few folk too….Christian history is full of it, that’s one reason for the Reformation.
However, not a our falling out is positive, the vast majority of the ‘wounding’ is damaging, painful and dishonouring to the one whose name we bear. The good news is that God can reclaim the ground eaten by the locust, that’s my prayer – God, reclaim the ground! Meanwhile, I challenge my own heart to see what I need to correct, my log is greater ;-)
I should not be surprised at what I see but I long for the day when we dwell together in unity and recognise that it is there that The Lord commands the blessing.

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