My ‘Christian’ Hobby.

A  recent church survey has adjusted what is considered a church member to one/s whom attend church once a month.  A well-known Christian leader in the UK commented that people, church members, are now attending on average only once, or if you are lucky two times, per month.  I’m not sure who is the unlucky one, although I do have my suspicions.

The reasons cited are various and occasionally valid.  If we take out holidays, unusual seasons of grief or difficulty (which are consistent with being human) and other unforseen circumstances, we are still dealing with a huge change of  commitment to God’s church –  and that is exactly what this phenomena is.   In effect this means people are getting to church maybe ten times per year, with Easter and Christmas thrown in for good measure.

Church is becoming a hobby – something that we enjoy, spend some time and money on, but just as easily, something that doesn’t require anything more of us than a hobby.  Hobbies are generally fun and distracting, and not much more.

My Problem.  When this becomes the norm much of the NT writings of Paul are voided and avoided.  It simply is not possible to actively serve Jesus Christ and his Church at home.  And the end result will be a faith that gradually drifts into a private  perception; that is before it becomes irrelevant.  The New Testament knows of no such faith as the privatised perceptions of early 21st century  people.  We stand together, we collapse apart –  if I understand anything about the church and the practise of our faith.

Some Answers.  A fresh insight into the nature, value and ultimate importance of the church as revealed by Paul – the great master builder.   A renewal by the Holy Spirit of connection, contribution and commitment to the church.  A church worth going to  - that matters, as some aren’t.  A wake up call by God’s new ‘Diaspora’ – the scattered and disconnected people – who should be neither.  An opening of the eyes to the subtle and insidious workings of the devil.  And maybe some new expressions of viable church and community wouldn’t hurt as well.

But however we look at it – church was never intended to be a hobby, much less ‘A Christian Hobby.’


I Resolve To …

I don’t make New Years resolutions, for no other reason than I don’t think life is different from Dec 31st to Jan 1st.  Of course it could be if I made New Year’s resolutions.

A resolve to do something springs from a necessity, a vision, or guilt and mild panic.

If you decide to change based on guilt it is likely to increase your guilt quotient when you fail in your resolution.  (You have to allow failure to succeed)  Diets are infamous for increasing guilt, which leads to eating which leads to guilt … Besides which eating less is not the best way of looking at eating less.  It requires much more than simply locking the fridge or running past McDonalds/Burger King.  Engage in activity that isn’t couch bound, exercising in ways best for you – group sports, walking, whatever.  In other words doing things and not just not doing things.

Resolution based on a vision, something grander than mere survival, has more chance of carrying us through detoxing – what ever it is that we need to not do.  A larger purpose is more likely to inspire the kind of choices that make changes, that increase our fruitfulness, and that have the kickback of a greater sense of integration and joy.

So I resolve to … (fill in the spaces).

 


Didn’t See That Coming!

Christmas Time again – and what a wonderful time it is, and should be.  We are steeped in the story of the Madonna, Joseph and the child to be born – Jesus.  We celebrate with Christmas productions featuring all the homeliness and cuteness of our children, or, in my case, grandchildren.  ‘Never work with animals or children,’ may be a Hollywood maxim for every other day of the year but not this day – the little ones tend to feature.

To us, used to this story, nothing seems out of the ordinary –  although, it isn’t exactly ordinary is it?

And to the inhabitants of Palestine in the 1st Century AD, it wasn’t very ordinary either.  But to them it was even less so.  Nothing that transpired at the birth of the Saviour was anticipated by those who were meant to know.  They got one thing right –  that he would be born in Bethlehem according to the prophecy.  Otherwise they didn’t see it coming.  Nothing about it fitted the well-worn prophetic contours of the scriptures, It was all there all right, but nobody saw it coming in the manner it did.

A child – not a King (but he was the King).

A manger – not a palace (although the universe was his palace).

A virgin – not a virgin, that’s impossible (and so it is, except where God says it isn’t)!

A young woman – not a Deborah, a Miriam, a Queen (although much more).

Nothing was as anticipated which is exactly the reason they missed it – more than missed it –  they crucified the Lord of Glory.  How we think God is going to do something, and how God actually does something, is two different worlds.  His ways are both above our ways and better than our ways –  but we continue to insist God conforms to us, and not us to him.

Christmas reminds me not only of the birth of the Saviour of mankind, but of the prayer  -  ‘Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done.’  Things don’t always go as we’d imagined but God works his will like a weaver of tapestry  -  messy from one view, beautiful from another.

A Very Merry and Revelatory Christmas, and a Prosperous New Year.

Simon and Valerie in London.

 


What, More Questions??!!

Matthew 24:1-3.   The disciples wandering through Jerusalem, the city of the great King, were in awe of the great building/s that constituted the Temple.“What a building,” they proudly exclaimed – as you would have, had you been an inhabitant of that city, or the land, for that matter.  What came next was out of the blue, and may have made them see red.

Jesus shocks the disciples by saying the temple will be unceremoniously dismantled.  Dismantled is a nice word, smacking of safe work place practises, union officials and big coloured safety vests.  It was obliterated, smashed to pieces with a fury.  The temple had figured largely in their expectations of a coming Kingdom/King and here was Jesus saying it was to be destroyed.  This messed with their deepest expectations and beliefs about the end of the age, and the rule of Israel.  How could this be?  And what of the promises of restoration and the Messiah?  Jesus turned their dreams on its head.  Yet he never thought something unusual was happening, as though God had missed his opportunity, or muffed it once and for all.

Expecting one thing and being given another is disconcerting, to say the least.  It isn’t uncommon for our expectations re. God and his rule and promises to be aberrant or, at least, misguided.  He is not the problem.  We often misunderstand, and misinterpret what God is doing.  We are fixed on things going one way, and they often don’t.  This is no defeat, nor is it a lack of care or the lack of providing an answer – we just have to readjust to see what God is doing.

 

 

 

 

 


More Questions

More questions?  Always more questions!  Children ask their parents things easy to explain and things inexplicable.  And we don’t really mind as inquisitiveness is both natural and needed.  If they don’t ask they won’t know.  No parent should ever treat their questions as ‘non-sense’ or ‘never to be asked.’  Unless of course they are questions that are mere nonsense, or questions that should never be asked.

In Matthew 20 Jesus was approached by the mother of John and James, requesting they get places of honour, privilege and power at his right hand in the coming Kingdom.

Same chapter – Jesus was approached by a couple of rowdy beggars wanting desperately to see – being blind.  Strangely, or not so, the same disciples that wanted something from him refused others a chance at getting what they wanted.

Maybe the former (the disciples) should have known better, maybe the latter (the two blind men) didn’t know any better.  The latter had their request fulfilled, the former – maybe? but with caveats that looked as good as a refusal, for all practical purposes.

Questions are loaded.  They come from different sources and motivations.  In this case, the beggars from simple pressing need, but the disciples from a place of the need for power – the very thing Jesus was at pains to explain to them was the last thing they should be asking, besides which, he stated, such requests are the prerogative and private domain of the Father –  in other words, ‘you asked the wrong person’ – precisely because the request was corrupt to start with.

And one last thought.   Questions should be able to be asked.  It is a reasonable right that we can ask.  So we do.  And that is exactly where our problems begin (sometimes).  Why, how?  It appears that the person asking is in many cases wanting and assuming, and therefore not really asking.  If I ask I can be refused. That is the nature of the ask.  But not so for many people.  They can’t take no for an answer and they make the person who gives it feel as if they have just ruined the life of the one asking.  We need to be consistent. We have a right to ask and the person so asked has the right of refusal with out being accosted with petulance and emoted disappointment.  It is a mature soul who can take a NO.

Think before you ask.  You might not ask, or you may.  Just depends.

 

 

 


Whose Fault is it Anyway?

National Debt – A European, nay, Western Pastime.

Whose fault is it, or is that even the right question?  We were in Spain recently, Barcelona, and it got me thinking.  Apparently their debt is simply awful in its magnitude, and unlikely to be paid by the best of Catalonia intentions.  So who is going to pay the bill?

If I approach a man in the street, something I didn’t do, and ask him how he is going to help the answer is likely a blank stare – at best.  Other options are probable.  More likely he will blame an overspending government, who will in turn blame a demanding electorate/public.  Not much luck there.

It is actually impossible for an individual to pay the debt, and even if they got generous with their pay, donating it all to the national debt, it wouldn’t appear on the radar as anything of significance.  I doubt it could even be considered a token.   A token is something you can see.

If you asked the community to take collective responsibility it is equally unlikely that you will dent the debt.  Why?

We are so used to thinking individually that taking collective responsibility will always be something ‘every one else’ should do.  And yet this is part of the answer –  thinking like communities that have to sacrifice and work together in a way that the whole is seen as more holy than the parts.

‘We’ isn’t just lots of ‘me’s’ – its much more.  It is a community that realises in its unified being/centre that action is greater than what one can do, and more than we can allow one not to do.  But this is either legislated (the poor option) or volunteered (the impossible option –  almost).

The way out is not like the way in – spending, demanding and acquiring.  It requires an agreement of soul before it ever becomes an agreement of action.  And it means less of me and more of us.  This may be too much for us!

Who  is going to start?  Whose fault is it anyway?
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Some Questions Are Better Not Asked!!

In Matthew 17 Jesus answers the disciple’s question – a loaded question, about who was the greatest.    They obviously imagined that one of them, jostling for position, or maybe one of the great prophets, would get the vote/nod.  Jesus answer was both surprising and shocking, and entailed a stern warning.

Many of our questions are loaded with presuppositions and preferential answers.  Theirs certainly was.  So imagine the jaw dropping surprise when he installed a child amongst them.  His answer, initially but not eventually, didn’t even address their question.

He stated that unless you become like a child, and enter with repentance and trust you won’t even get into the Kingdom, let alone be seen as being great in that kingdom.  Personal ambition and adult reasoning don’t open this door.  On the contrary, they double padlock the door.

Greatness is not a position, an attainment, an office, something earned, something grasped for, something you get by reason of seniority/longevity – it is an attitude of simple trust like that of a child, when the proper object of trust is in front of them – such a parent or a family member.

The paradox is that greatness is never the goal and only ever an outcome.  If you look for it alludes you; if you don’t seek it, it comes to you.

So once again the way up is the way down.

But as a warning about how we may treat a child, Jesus issues a severe warning about the better option for those who cause, “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.”   

Not only is a child an example of how to enter and be great in the Kingdom, but also a believing child is a precious person to the Lord, and it is best to treat them with respect and grace, unless you wish to incur his protective wrath.

Guess they wished they didn’t asked – but best that they did.


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