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Brexit reality

Waking up today was like no other. Here’s one of my favourite Psalms, reworked…….

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
whatever the economic predictions,
whatever the governmental shifts.
The FTSE and share numbers need not trouble us.
Though layers of turbulence and uncertainty lie ahead.
Though Cameron, Farage and Boris would falter
There is a sure-place,
a confidence we have in our one-true-God.
The never-failing promises of God in Jesus will prevail,
Heaven isn’t insecurely fragile as though under threat.
Whilst speculation, fear and horrid debate still result
Though prideful bluster may increase and access may be at risk,
God will see us through.
Tho’ tribalism may dominate, and this odd-Friday be remembered,
And our nations hopes dip and spike
We’re best trusting the care of our unchanging God;
We don’t need false triumphalism or threatening doom.
By God’s mercy and grace we can have bright forever tomorrows
For the God of Jacob is able and He will see us through.

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five on Friday

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy…….. It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And He is more than enough for us.” David Platt
1 Vocation and that old ordained-lay debate.
2 I like the idea of a biography of a book. 
3 Ten insights into burnout. Lots of helpful input here.
Christianity isn’t dying- it’s sleeping Here’s to revival!
5 Five marks of a fruitful church. Worth reflection.

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more

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3 v 20

God’s ways trump our wildest expectations. We forget this, asking for smaller things, satisfied with humdrum. What an adventure He calls us on! We need to dream bigger for the kingdom of God. When we do, Paul is clear, God supplies more than we need—greater answers to prayer than we ever expected.

How can this be? Paul says it’s the power that works within us. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes and walks with us through our lives. He gives us the power to do great things, by His strength. He will also enlarge our imaginations for the kingdom.

Yes, life is hard. Yes, bad things happen. Yes, we have much to heal from. But if we stay mired in those difficult places forever, we’ll forget to dream. Our vision will narrow and we’ll read the gospels and forget just how astounding they are. People were raised from the dead. The blind could see. The lame could dance. The poor were dignified—all this from the power of our great and surprising God.

‘Lord, enlarge my dreams for the kingdom. I trust You to answer in powerful ways. Have your way in me. Amen.’

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one-to-one

Alongside and distinct from growing homegroups I’ve been so encouraged by increased life-on-life discipleship. We’re nurturing that in triplets and they’re motoring! New combinations, unlikely combinations and kingdom combinations are popping up in surprising ways. Here’s why I think they matter….

Up-close discipleship invites everyone to bear his or her weight. It nurtures self-leadership and growth in accountable ways. We want what God desires in his church, and that’s spectators! Spiritual health comes through hunger and engagement. And simply put, prayer takes us to a pure place. Passive consummation and low-level silliness are diminished, when we sit with others and desire God’s best for our growth and transformation.

Up-close discipleship necessitates honest conversation. We speak profound untruth often when we default to those well-worn words, “I’m fine!” The vocabulary of the church should be noble, good, and true! Real life-on-life honesty to name our struggles, pursue holiness and seek the Holy Spirit’s help is challenging in a large scale context so smaller contexts are vital. Repentance and change come best in one-degree shifts and they best happen in small groups.

Up-close discipleship allows for personal application. Stories are the data of the soul, and where we work out our salvation. Big picture teaching concepts and scriptural ideals getting translated rather than lost happen best life-on-life. Smaller settings equip us for meaning and joyful whole life goodness with Jesus!

Up-close discipleship nurtures evangelism and more. Churches with a culture of one-on-one discipleship have no question with what to do with someone who comes to faith in their church. They are welcomed and plugged in. The flames are fanned, encouragement and equipping come from life-on-life. Imagine the long-term fruit that could result if every church could say to new believers, “We have someone who would love to walk with you over the next six months, as you grow in your faith?”

Up-close discipleship encourages ongoing accountability. Simply put, this reaches places little else can. It’s the place to go to as we submit to God’s word and His Spirit, in genuine community. Genuine change happens when we bring our lives and struggles into the light, both to God and to fellow brothers and sisters.

Up-close discipleship allows for struggles and burdens to be carried together. In an age of incessant social media chatter, we assume that every believer is surrounded by people who will pray when they hurt, and love and support them when they suffer. Yet, in an age of constant connectivity, people are as lonely as ever. Facebook ‘friends’ may be barely acquaintances and there’s the precious gift of others sitting with us, listening to our muddled conversations, making us something to eat, and praying us through the tears. This is irreplaceable. We need burden-bearing relationships.

Up-close discipleship enables other ministries and service to flourish. Discipleship relationships are not an alternative to other interactions, but rather a compliment to these. A church community filled with a culture of disciple-making can trust that their groups don’t have to do it all, freeing these groups to do the very things they do best.

Up-close discipleship supports mutual growth. It’s that glorious expression of the biblical ‘one-another’ mandate. One-on-one discipleship is often explained as if it is only for the benefit of the younger Christian who is being discipled. Yet, it is for all of us! Meet with someone who doesn’t have it all together and is looking to you for help. Do you want to see change in your personal sin struggles? Invite someone into your life and say, like Paul did, “follow me as I follow Christ.” And finally,…..

Up-close discipleship cheers on healthy relationships. Biblical community is a cheap buzzword in some circles: it can be easy to define, yet hard to find. Sunday gatherings alone are unlikely to nurture the deep love and community impact we long to see among the people of God. But one-on-one discipleship can. Imagine what faith hope and love in the power of the Holy Spirit might generate over five years!? Here’s to this shape of formation and this reality in our churches for the sake of the world.

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five

“At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: I will not give up my right to myself – the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Oswald Chambers
1 Baggage worth reclaiming?
2 Helping the quality of our application in preaching
3 Exploring our cutlure’s blindspots on calling 
4 Mark Dever on four elements of the discipleship process
5 Seven key relational sklls in leadership

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lower

“The gospel begins with our brokenness and inability, not our power and potential. Billy Graham once said that rarely is it someone’s sin that keeps them from heaven; usually, it is their good deeds. In the same way, it is our false sense of ability, not our inabilities, that keeps us from the power of the Spirit. Thinking we can get along fine “apart from” him keeps us from the gift of power available in Him – John 15 v 5

When you finally come to the place where you realise you have no true power, then you are ready to receive his. The great irony in the Christian life, you see, is that the way up is the way down. The lower we sink in ourselves, the higher we rise in him.”

Jesus continued, by JD Greear, p217

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five on Friday

“To the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed relationships in ministry. Sometimes the quickest path up is down, and likewise, the surest success comes through being honest about failure.” Dan Allender
1 Drop this vague-trio from your leadership!
2 Emotional intelligence is a treasure to be nurtured!
3 Immaturity of faith in the life of the believer?
4 Platforms and pride….and the reason for caution
5 ‘What if…..?’ is the most important question

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another day?

Peter and John had been in the forefront of ministry but they weren’t alone. As soon as they were released from prison, they returned to the other believers. This Acts 4 v 23-31 passage has provoked me over the last few days. Who do you and I go to when things get tough?

Simply put:- some days work out differently to the way we expect! It was only yesterday that Peter and John had made an entirely routine visit to the Temple. But look what had followed: healing, preaching, a huge influx into this young church, prison and an order to keep things quiet. They would have been exhausted and more than a bit stretched.

Their response was straightforward: they went back to base and prayed. And it’s quite the prayer. They were united – verse 24, focused on God verse 24, used scripture verse 25 & 26, remembered their previous experience verse 27, recognised God’s sovereignty verse 28, and concentrated on mission, not their own needs verses 29 and 30. And this pattern is for our encouragement and echo.

And the result? A mini-Pentecost, seen in verse 31! In trusting confidence, the community did not pray to be kept safe from persecution. They didn’t turn inward but rather kept outward facing in their desire to fully be God’s grace for their community. They did not seem to consider obeying the rulers. They appealed to God’s justice in dealing with their opponents. Then they prayed for strength, courage and boldness freely to proclaim his word, so that the good news would continue to spread and Jesus’ work of healing and performing signs would authenticate their witness to him.

Sometimes my prayers default to the self-centred and trivial. We are challenged to know God in a deeper way through his word and to pray, trusting that his purposes are being worked out in this troubled world. We need the Spirit’s courage to proclaim Jesus through our words and efforts in His name. Then we can be confident of Gods favour. Here’s to more of verse 31 in our communities!

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others and more…

“My greatest joy as a pastor is seeing people come alive in their spiritual gifts. If there ever has been someone I knew who had the spiritual gift of faith and intercession, Curtis was he. Curtis was an older gentleman in our church who had worked more than thirty years in the Veterans Affairs hospital. One day, in his late fifties, he listened to a message by Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle on how God answers prayer. Curtis confessed he’d never seen God clearly answer a prayer in his life, so he set aside five minutes a day to pray for others. That grew to ten minutes, then half an hour, then eventually an hour and a half each day. He developed a large email chain in our church that involved hundreds of people praying around the clock for one another’s needs. At every stage of our church’s growth, he bathed our steps in prayer. He spoke prophetic vision into my life, and into the future of our church.

Curtis has gone to be with Jesus, but he remains for our church an example of the extraordinary accomplishments God brings about through those who pursue his mission in step with the Spirit.”

from Jesus continued

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