His Chosen Inheritance

I have recently been blown away by the fact that you and I are God’s inheritance and he is ours.

He chose us before he even created the world, to be his inheritance. We are his chosen inheritance, he wants you and me! I just find that amazing. And so the story since then is about the lengths to which he goes to make sure he receives his inheritance. He knew that sin would mess things up and destroy us, his inheritance, so he dealt with sin himself so that he could still be with us. But it’s never been a given, he gave us free will so that we could choose not to be with him, so we could choose not to be his inheritance, but his intention is quite clear.

And that’s not all, as his inheritance, he chose to give us an inheritance… he chose to make us heirs of all that he is. In order for this to work and be a permanent thing, he made sure that we could become his actual sons and daughters, part of the family, not just servants or even friends. Only then would the inheritance he has for us be ours, forever. What is that inheritance? Again, it’s him, himself and all that he has. His presence and indwelling with us by Holy Spirit is just a deposit – o my goodness – there’s so much more to come and I know that I certainly haven’t learnt to walk in the fullness of life with Holy Spirit now. Amazing!

So yes, we are the Father’s inheritance and he is ours.

‘Lord You alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing…. the land you have given me is a pleasant land, what a wonderful inheritance!’ PS16:5&6

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Transforming Neighbourhoods: Discipling Communities.

Last Saturday we had the 11th annual South Reading Churches Fun Day with an estimated 5000 community members in attendance. It was just fabulous watching people move from being spectators to participators and having a whale of a time! It had me reminiscing about the different communities where I have helped facilitate community building festivals; across South Africa, northern Ghana, Kaduna in Nigeria, Trench Town in Jamaica… to mention just a few.

In each of these communities there are local people plugging away using various programs as ways to mentor others. On Sunday night I caught up with Derrick Trout who leads the work in South Africa, he had had a roller coaster week. When you are working to see your community transformed there are times of incredible breakthrough and encouragement, and there are times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. Communities are transformed when paradigms shift and people make different life choices, lives are changed and the very systems and structures of the community are renewed: that’s no small feat!

Jesus called us to make disciples of all people teaching them to live the way he taught; this is what he was talking about – it’s not just about working to see individuals find freedom, it’s about seeing whole communities and societies transformed.

Jesus came declaring that there was a new king on the throne whose rule was now paramount; God himself was now king. This meant that there was a different way of doing life that was all about harmonising with the will of the new King. The implications were for individuals, families, politicians, leaders, and society as a whole. To prove the reality of this new Kingdom, Jesus embarked in a systematic demolition of the kingdom of darkness. Everywhere he went God’s rule overturned and reversed every form of death, darkness and destruction. And once his part of the mission was completed, he sent us out to continue the same.

In fellowship with local believers, every Fusion team in each community they operate asks ‘What does the will of the King look like here? What works of death and darkness are to be overturned here?’. The answers to these questions are then born out in a long haul journey punctuated by events and programs, seasons of fruitfulness and of dearth. There are moments of celebration and moments when, like Jesus, we cry out in exasperation ‘How long must I bear with you?!’. But all the while individuals, families, politicians and leaders, and even society as a whole are being challenged and mentored in a different way of doing life. This is community transformation!

A Fusion Community building Festival is just one small microcosm of this transformation taking place…

So let us not grow weary in doing good, but keep going, because in due time we will see the harvest! This Saturday morning Fusion Y&C UK is running a training event to equip leaders and laity alike for the long haul journey of discipling communities and seeing our neighbourhoods transformed. Each of the 5 workshops is about declaring the rule of the King and demolishing the kingdom of darkness in a particular sphere. Why not join us if you can? Click here to find out more.

Pastor Nick

Last week my colleague and I got to spend an afternoon being shown round a community by a friend, the local Pastor. He had invited me to speak on community transformation that evening at the AGM of the local Churches Together group. As I reflected on what I saw that afternoon, my thought was: the most effective way to transform this community and others would be for this Pastor to mentor and coach others in what he was doing!

As we walked past the blocks of apartments he would tell us about the different individuals and families that lived there. It was school home time so we wondered down to the primary school to be greeted by parents and kids alike, some stopped to talk and share news. ‘Hello Pastor Nick’ was the call of most of the kids as they rushed by, free from school for the day! After some friendly banter with the Head, ‘Pastor Nick’ showed us round the school, stopping to greet and chat with various members of staff. We spent 15 minutes with a couple of teachers at the end of which we had a plan for dealing with the issue of kids turning up to school on an empty stomach and dehydrating through the school day. (When I say we, I mean Pastor Nick and the teachers of course!).

Pastor Nick is gently leading his congregation to reach out and welcome the local residents into their lives. They open up as a café a few times a week and recently ran a curry night in partnership with the local curry house: 80 members of the local community showed up!

What has all this got to do with community transformation and for that matter, what does it mean to transform a community? Traditionally we have focused on two areas in answer to this question, firstly ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to give their lives to Christ and secondly meeting the practical needs of the community. But is that enough? In our effort to build from these two starting blocks we have often tied ourselves in knots confusing discipleship with indoctrination or ‘house training for church life’. Then we get stumped over the ‘need’ to bridge the gap between social action and sharing the gospel.

What if we took Jesus mandate to us as our template for transformation? He told us to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey my teachings’. Jesus’ teaching was about living with God as the centre and Lord of life – your life and the world around you. Everything he did and taught was about living that way. He didn’t bring a set of rules or doctrines, he brought a revolutionary value system based on a relationship with our eternally loving Creator God, the saviour and redeemer of the world. Apparently Jesus expected us to teach entire communities and nations to live that way.

Not surprising when we recall God’s plan expressed in his promise to Abraham whereby all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. We are told in Hebrews that Abraham had a God given vision of a city or community that had God as the source and the centre of its design and very life. Or during the exile in Babylon when God instructed the people to work for the Shalom of the place where they had been sent. For centuries God had been calling his people out, pointing them to the things that would make for their Peace, then with Jesus he births and models this new order, this new creation. Which it turns out isn’t so new after all but is simply what God designed for us from the start.

So could it be that our mission therefore is to disciple our communities in the ways of Christ thus bringing about a transformation of our values, our way of life and so too the transformation of our culture?

Pastor Nick does life with his community; at every point of conversation, collaboration, grief or celebration, he brings a God centred (NOT religious) presence. As others join with him in this mission, gently but irresistibly a new norm will form as the community is discipled. Some may come to profess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, many will not, but all will experience God’s action in their lives and learn those things that ‘make for our Peace’… and they will teach the next generation the same. In this way we will see our nation discipled and transformed.

Forget Give and Take!

I was recently reflecting on the relationships I have experienced throughout the journey of my life. Those kind of musings take me through painful territory that remind me why trust is such a complex, powerful, tough and beautiful thing for so many of us. On this occasion, however, Holy Spirit was on a mission to reveal to me the heart of God and his intentions for each one of his beloved children. I am grateful!

Most of us will have experienced close relationships in which we have had things taken from us, at times we have been the ones doing the taking. All of us are familiar with having someone come and take what they wanted from us. This is the trading system that much of life is based on. I want something from you so I give you something in return for the thing I want. Theft is when I take what I want from you without giving what was due. This system is so deeply embedded in society’s culture that it pervades all aspects of life, even our relationships. Relationships are all about give and take, we are told. In our relationships we tend to trade with affection, loyalty, honour, power, fear, life, freedom, connection, status, belonging, pleasure and many other things that we prize. We believe it’s OK to take from those around us, so long as we have given something in return. (and sometimes we simply take what we want with no return.) All this has been my experience.

Then I look at God and I see that it’s not how he relates to us, it’s not how he relates within the Trinity and I get the feeling it’s not how he intended us to relate to one another. When I look at how God relates, I see him operate through giving and receiving; taking doesn’t not seem to be a feature, ever. In his relating to us he gives everything of himself and takes nothing from us. He waits for our response and if we choose to give him he delights to receive it. Whether it’s our attention, our gratitude, our allegiance or even, more appropriately our lives in loving worship… he lovingly receives. But he never seems to demand or take these things from us. If we were to use our trading system, he would be well within his rights to do so, but that’s not the system he is operating by.

What if we operated that way in our relationships? Life would be very different indeed. The movie Pay it Forward was a merciful expression of something like this that tried to break the trading dynamic in our relationships. What if we lived by the rule of giving freely, receiving freely and never taking? What would it take? I think what we would see is the redemption of our relationships, the redemption of our families and neighbourhoods, the redemption of society.

Come Holy Spirit, heal us, free us and fill us to live and relate in ways that make for our peace, in the ways that you designed for us… and in so doing may your Kingdom be expressed and your glory seen and experienced in our world.

a star in a black night

This gallery contains 7 photos.

A week ago, after being a way for fortnight I read through the papers becoming increasingly weighed down by the escalation of wars and crimes against humanity that has been in motion recently. I got to the sports section and saw with some relief that there was an article on the Commonwealth Games. My heart […]

God’s not schizoid….

Its nice to be back to blogging. In the break  I have moved house, relocated office, been to Rome, viewed my Mother’s prospective new home and attended 4 different churches. From all that and much more I have plenty to reflect on and share with you!

One of the things I appreciate about the movement that I am part of is that there are very few decisions of importance and wide reaching consequence that anyone gets to make on their own. Over the last few weeks I have been involved in a number of important decision making processes, many of which will have consequences that will be felt right across the international movement.

As a Christian mission movement we believe that God has an opinion and a say in our life and the decisions we make. In a discussion recently I found myself saying ‘God’s not schizophrenic’. My statement was a reflection on the current complexity we were facing brought about by the fact that not only do we believe that God has a say in what we do, but we do NOT believe that any one person or group has the monopoly on revelation from God as to what he wants; but rather that ‘together we have the mind of Christ’. So what happens when different ones seem to have opposing notions (equally felt to be of God by the respective proponents) of the right way forward?

In this situation, in our movement’s context, we would have one of three main options; the first and easiest is to assume that one person or group does have the monopoly on ‘God’s truth’ after all – they’re the more spiritual ones or they prayed longest and hardest, or they know the bible really well or … whatever. The second is that God is in fact ‘schizophrenic’, and in one setting he said one thing and in another he said something quite different; so really it doesn’t matter which we choose, opt for the one we like best, its all just a game of roulette anyway. The third is that God has indeed spoken to each of his children who have asked and listened, what each have shared is a complex mixture of personal agenda and divine inspiration, but the joyous task is for us together in grace and mercy, with Holy Spirit’s continued help, to discern the whole of what God is saying as we piece together the different parts… separating out the stuff that we threw into the mix of ourselves.

If I am honest, I reckon we go for the first two options more often than we would like to admit! However when we do go for the third, I reckon heaven celebrates and the powers of darkness are stricken with terror. Because I believe that the third option is an expression of Trinitarian unity in action, it is humble disciples with their master, seeking first his Kingdom. The third option is extremely ‘unnatural’, it requires all those concerned to yield to the others, it asks for an unusual level of humility, it demands an acknowledgment that God is as much at work in others as he is in you (and vise versa), it relies on each party articulating what they see and demands that the group take the necessary time and action to create the environment where all these things are in fact possible.

Its easy to see that there are no end of factors that make that third option so difficult to achieve. For me with my back ground in Soul Survivor and Vineyard, one of the most important things I learnt was to say ‘I could be wrong, or only partly right, but I think God might be saying ….’. this not only acknowledges my fallibility as a human being, but it also welcomes fellowship in discerning God’s voice. (it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from the more classic Pentecostal style I had grown up with!) The down side is that I now react when people say things like ‘God said… ‘ or ‘God’s spoken very clearly and therefore we should ….’, the closedness that communicates to me then becomes a hurdle to me stopping and hearing what God might in fact be saying in what they bring.

As a movement we have chosen the hard rout in this area and one that not all Christian organisations would choose they choose the harder routs in other areas. It’s not a superiority thing, it’s simply about staying true to your organisation’s mandate and mode of operation. As we do the work to go for option three even when its really tough and time is short, we experience his favour and blessing because I believe that when all the things that make that option possible are in place, we are much more in line with God’s nature which means that his kingdom is able to emerge a little more in us and through us.

‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (uncontaminated). It is also peace loving (shalom) and gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere.’ (James 3v17) I think that’s what we’re talking about!

Unorthodox effectiveness

Derrick is one of my heroes. I have a few, but he’s certainly one of them! I recently returned from South Africa where I had been with Derrick and his team for two weeks. Through delivering our Foundations for life and ministry course, hanging out with the team, running workshops and many other things, I learnt a fair bit about grace… and stuff.

Derrick and his wife Priscilla are fabulous – as different from each other as a lion and a lamb, they form an awesome team. I learnt two simple and profound lessons as I watched and worked with both of them and through these I am beginning to learn the incredible power of grace.

As my colleague put it, Derrick is unorthodox in his approach to life and ministry and relating to others. In Fusion we have certain ways of doing things and running programs, but the outcomes we are after are pretty clear – that people have experienced something of the way Jesus would relate to them, were he here in physical person. Derrick doesn’t always do things the ‘right way’! Sometimes it’s because he doesn’t have the man power, or the hours, or the finance, and often it’s simply because he does it better a different way! But always the young adults he works with know he loves them and he is giving his life for them. Through their interactions with him and his team, they are learning to walk with Christ. A Day Trip may look pretty different but the outcomes are the same.

Priscilla has a different approach to Derrick. She likes her ducks all in a row… systems, parameters, frameworks, if there are rules she’ll keep to them. This sister is a force of nature in the chaos of life; literally. She was able to take a budget of next to zero and created good food for 20 hungry young adults (and old!), constantly looking ahead and creating, she anticipated and met the group’s needs for care and sustenance. And Priscilla does all this from a gentle, fun-loving nature that’s firm and fair and leaves everyone knowing that she loves them and is happy to be serving them.

This couple have shown me that if Christ’s love is compelling us and we are intentionally seeking ways to express that love authentically so it can be heard and received, then God’s favour is on us and he takes delight in revealing himself to others through us. Whether we are living by the rules… or not.