Whose will be done?

I have a privileged life. I live a privileged life. Many who know me, and who know some of my life story, would think that I am mad and deluded for thinking that. But, I speak the truth. I am neither mad, nor deluded. Instead, I am privileged. I am privileged that out of the comfort I received in my own life journey, I am able to give others comfort. 

I am privileged in that for what has to be recognised as God’s grace on my life, that people readily open up to me and share their journey of life with me. It’s a privilege for me to tell someone I am praying for them. It’s a privilege when someone asks me to pray for them. And I call it a privilege, because I don’t ever want to take it for granted, that I am a participant and partner in God’s grace towards humanity. 

I have been journeying with a friend who is going through an extremely hard time. I am not going to go into the full details of their journey, except to say the spouse left in what can only be called extremely unusual, bewildering and painful circumstances. My friend apologetically calls me on a regular basis to which I reply – “If you want to talk about the rain, or lack of it, I will still talk to you.” 

Tonight we were talking about prayer. And he was surprised when I said, “I can’t pray for your spouse to come back to you! For I don’t think its right and proper for me to pray that prayer!”  Now by now, I am sure you my reader am a little shocked by my advice. “What” you ask? “Why;” you ask? “Don’t be daft”, you say. 

Allow me to make my case and if I don’t make it, then please comment and show me the error of my thinking. It appears that the deserting party has been living a double life. It appears this double life has been both covered up and encouraged by the family. It’s both deceitful and evil the extent of what has happened in his family. The family involved have a history where the husband or wife will just go on 3 month or 6 month holiday without the other, and not tell the other what they got up to. There are strong indications that there was abuse in the family, which was always covered over. 

Simply put, this family is truly broken by the effects of sin. 

It would only be a bandaid solution, if God was to grant the prayer for this person to return. In many ways, it would only save some face. In many ways the return may make the prayers sigh a sigh of relief. But the truth is, the returning spouse most likely is not returning with a sweetened heart. It doesn’t truly solve the problem of a heart broken by sin. 

“So Craig”, you ask me, “what should we pray?” To which I reply, “I am glad you asked.”

I find the prayers of the Apostle Paul a great help in knowing what to pray. You see he never prayed for someone to change their mind. He never prayed for someone to go and do something. Instead, he recognised the true condition of the heart. Hearts that are broken by and filled with sin. 

And so we find him asking the Lord of Lords that he would fill those broken hearts with the revelation of his love. That he would grant them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. That they may know the incredible and immeasurable power of his Spirit. That they would be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of holiness. That they may be rooted and firmly established in love. 

Do you notice the difference between the Apostle Paul’s ethos of praying, and the prayers we so often pray. Often our prayers are to modify someone’s behavior. We want those we pray for to modify their behaviour. The truth is, its impossible for any of us to modify our behaviour. It’s impossible for any of us to modify our hearts. And the truth is, I believe God isn’t into placebo’s and bandaids and modifying anyone’s behavior, so that they may appear to have a presence of godliness – but in actual fact, there has been no real heart change. 

Paul had a revelation that God is into changing the very essence of people dead in sin. He digs the God who makes alive those who are dead in trespass. And so I shared with my friend tonight;

I won’t pray that your wife comes back to you. Instead, I pray that you all will be strengthened in the inner being and that Jesus will dwell in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be rooted and established in the Love of God, knowing his will for your lives, and that you will be filled with all the fullness of God. 

When we read through the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us what the expectations and hallmarks of a Godly life are. But, I find it interesting that he doesn’t pray for the church in Ephesus to live that way. Instead, he prays that God will change the hearts and fill the inner being of those he is praying for, so that they will be able to live a life, displaying the hallmarks of a godly life. A life that glorifies God, simply because, its no longer they who live; but instead, its the living God, who lives within them. 

Which do you prefer. The band aid solution – or the surgeon to fix the real heart of the issue? 

 


Called to Pastor Where?

Yesterday my Joanne and I attended our old church where we said “Hi” to many old friends, celebrated the ministry of the interim pastor who had led the way the last 6 months and was now leaving for another gig. (And the celebration of a new full time pastor starting next week.)


It was good to visit and we enjoyed the fellowship, the sermon, the singing and the lunch which followed. (Though we had to leave early because of work commitments.) In many ways it was like walking into my parents family home. In many senses it is still home; but in many other ways, its no longer home. I have sensed since the age of 16, that I was called to be a pastor. Indeed, after that encounter where I heard the Lord say to me, “Craig, I am calling you, calling you, calling you!” and I knew I had told the biggest whooping lie of my life when I told our Boy’s Brigade Chaplain about it, saying “But I know God doesn’t want me to be a minister!” I knew then that the Lord had indeed called me to be a minister.

But, the question I never asked then and it has taken me 30 years to get to where I am now – was just what kind of minister had the Lord called me to be? I had once believed the stereotype and was caught up in the romanticism of what a minister is – dressed in a robe or dog collar around the neck – standing behind the pulpit, proclaiming with great authority God’s word. Now – I don’t want anything to do with the robes or the dog collar for that matter. I enjoy preaching – but the greatest lesson I have learnt is that I don’t ever want to preach to anyone ever again. Instead, I prefer to come alongside people and engage in their life, where they are at, and share God’s love with them – instead of preaching to them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the authority of God’s word. I enjoy preaching behind the pulpit. (Though truthfully, I hate standing behind it, and would rather walk in front of it to engage with the congregation.) These days I am much more at home sharing the good news with a local year 5 and 6 class on a weekly basis. Sitting around the campfire at our men’s group sharing the ups and downs of life, looking into the Scriptures to see what they say to us and praying for each other. I’m more at home at the Tuesday morning community BBQ, where we share a meal and life with those whom the majority of society tend to ignore or look down on. There are conversations that would make one blush and cry. And yet there are other conversations where the real nitty gritty’s of life are also discussed and perhaps the opportunity presents itself to encourage those that indeed there is a God who is for them and not against them. Then there is the ministry with the intellectually disabled and their carers whom I spend some time with…I had the joy of sharing the sermon with a small group just before Easter. And there is a possibility towards the end of the year, where I start doing some School Chaplaincy work.

Jesus sent his disciples out into the community. He sent them out to the back blocks, the highways and the byways of life – into every sphere of society to share his love. And he said, “If you do this, I will build my church!”  We have been having some discussions as to what church might look like if we plant one from the work we are doing. (When I say we, I mean the whole ministry team that I am a part of) At the moment we have women’s group, Sunday school, youth groups, men’s group, community groups, school ministry and a stack of other things that are going on and the reality is, this is the church in action. And while we may never all come together in one specific time : we do come together and celebrate the Lord when we meet together over a meal, a song, a word of encouragement, a time of prayer or Scripture sharing…and as we do this – its Christ who is continuing to build his church.

Truly, I love being a community pastor – it can’t get any more exciting then that, can it?


Life, pain and joy.

This weekend has been a busy weekend. It’s been one mixed with fun, purpose and pain. It’s been a weekend of fun and purpose, for our church came away together for our church camp. Sorry, no photo’s this time round, as a certain blogger forgot to take his camera and phone charger with him.

The theme and purpose was for celebration and rest. Our youth / young adults pastor was to have given the Friday night talk, but due to other commitments wasn’t able to be there in the night and asked me to give the talk for him. I spoke from Romans 1:12 where Paul wanted to go to Rome and impart a spiritual gift, which was to mutually encourage each other with our faith…and within the them of rest, I shared how we were meant to rest in Christ and in each others faith, as we shared life with each other and therefore, go and talk with people and find out more about each other.

Saturday morning saw one of our ladies share about really trusting in God. This meant that resting in God meant that we ensured we spent time with God. On Sunday morning we had a guest preacher who gave a tremendous encouragement as to what resting in God meant, and how we could only do that by being yoked to Christ.

The fun part involved a pamper room for the ladies, archery and canoeing, a movie night along with a number of card games, footy and basketball. Plus excellent food. One of our church elders spent most of the time in the kitchen, and his talents were truly appreciated as he ensured we were well fed. With of course the variety of groups organised to help prepare, serve and clean up afterwards.

The painful part was that I was struggling with a very painful back and hips. This pain  saw me many times having to lay on the floor to stretch out, when standing became unbearable.  The pain stemmed from a combination of ongoing health issues, recently having hurt it while packing for the move and bursitis. (inflammation) I did ask for prayer during the morning service and thankfully my back pain was greatly relieved after a number of people prayed for me.

But in the midst of the fun and pain, I was able to have many in-depth conversations with many whom I had not been able to in the past. Restrictions stemming from the time restraints that the morning cup of tea at church. I was impressed and encouraged by the faith I found from young and old, male and female, as we discussed the joys and trials of life, and mutually encouraged each other with our faith, and many friendships were strengthened and new friendships made.


The Christian message.

I wrote the following status on my Facebook page this morning.

In the modern era of uncertainty and the absence of a recognised existentialist truth – the Christian message is foundational for the development of the certainty of ones identity and fulfilment of purpose.

Someone wisely asked…But what is the Christian message? And one of the comments to that was that the Christian message is Hope!

I love the simplicity of that answer… for Hope is the message, Love is the means in which we give the message and Faith is the result.


Marriage, relationships and the church.

I have written a number of times how I believe the church has no mandate, nor Biblical support to perform a wedding ceremony, and that historically weddings have been a state and not a church issue.

My more recent post has generated a bit of heat in some circles; with one commentator saying that of course the church has a lot to say about marriage, and went on to say a lot of things about marriage… which for the most part – I have to agree.

There is one thing though really gets up my nose; and that is how the metaphor of the church being a bride of Christ is often only emphasised within the context of those who are married.There can be a tendency within this framework of church where we see singleness in many ways as a dysfunction and therefore those who are single are viewed as being somehow lesser within the framework of Gods purposes. Or that its only within the framework of marriage that people are taught about relationship.  I totally believe this is wrong. For the church cuts across all national, age, gender and class distinctions. Within the framework of class distinctions this includes both married and single people. It includes the divorced and re-married. It includes the never married and the widowed. And therefore the church fellowship is inclusive and not exclusive.

The Apostle Paul wrote extensively on relationships. In a nutshell to paraphrase all his writings he said… “I don’t care who you are…get on with each other, care for each other; because Christ is for you all!”

Therefore pastors, if your congregation is healthy and has healthy relationships, all relationships within the congregation will be healthy…and this will be reflected within the framework of healthy marriages within the church. However if your congregation is unhealthy…then this will reflect within the framework of marriage within your church.

A mark of a healthy relationship is also marked by your relationships with other Christians. How do you get along with other denominations. How do you get along with other churches within your denomination. I have heard the heretical teaching far too many times; that if someone leaves your church you black ban them..

What gives…is Christ divided. Is Christ not truly the head of the church. So what if someone dares to leave your congregation and go to another! So what if they might even dare go to another denomination to fellowship. Are they still not in Christ. Is not Christ still the head of their salvation?  Are you guilty of preaching division or do you preach the oneness of Christ and all that entails.

All in all; pastors, if you want healthy marriages in your congregation, teach, preach and practice healthy relationships within the whole framework of THE church and I can assure you that healthy marriages will follow. …


Creative Ministries Retreat

I was privileged to be invited to go along to the annual Creative Ministry Team’s retreat over the weekend. My wife Joanne; is one of the Worship Team Leaders and so I was tagging along with her :) The theme of the weekend was “Friendship with Jesus.”

Though I like singing, as a family we often joke about how the shower turns itself off whenever I do sing. :(  and I am also deeply handicapped when it comes to playing a musical instrument of any kind…therefore the talent of those who went was deeply inspiring – though a little intimidating.

One of the team members has a deep artistic bent and had drawn a picture for every one who went with a welcoming letter. The picture I received was one of a open Bible held in two hands with musical notes coming off the pages – While talking with Rachael  about the picture and how much I liked it; she shared with me how she felt I had the ability to make Gods word come alive… an encouragement which I received.

Though I came back from the weekend tired, I also came away with a fresh sense of God’s presence, empowerment, inspiration and a deeper appreciation for and awareness of the diversity and talent of many in our church. I also come to know a few more people on a deeper level where I was deeply privileged to hear their life stories, understand their passions and make new friends and strengthen existing friendships.

I truly believe that there will be much fruit to come from this weekend and to all who worked so hard to put it together I thank you – and to all who came I also thank you for making the weekend such a success.

 


Church family

I see my church family as my family. For the church is my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters.

As such I have a duty, an obligation and a calling to honour all so that all may go well with me. To treat all with brotherly kindness and to encourage all so that they may not be embittered.

How do you see your church family?


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