Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Piece By Piece

  

I have a confession to make. I wrote a book about puzzle pieces called “Piece by Piece”. I use puzzles in my teaching all the time. But they have always been 40 or 20, maybe 70 pieces maximum. You know the kid’s puzzles, which allow me to use them for a challenge or a teaching point in a short period of time and allow me to make my point quickly.


 

A few months ago, during COVID lock down I did my first 1000-piece puzzle ever.  After a few hours I couldn’t believe how far I had NOT got in doing the puzzle. I hadn’t even got the edges of the puzzle sorted out. It was so hard. I was thinking, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?  What is taking me so long? Once I did get the edges of the puzzle sorted, I thought that it would flow from there, but it just got harder. So many of the pieces looked exactly the same and the process of trying each piece one by one into each other to get a connection was a very slow process. 

 

Now, I know anyone who does puzzles, is not surprised. It is just silly me, for whom this was my first experience of a putting a large complex puzzle together. I got so hooked in conquering the process that when I looked at my watch and before I knew it, it was 3am in the morning. I was wired and thought, “oh what the heck, can’t go to bed now”. I just kept on going all night and by 7am I thought it might be good to stop and have breakfast.  But I still was nowhere finished. It took days and hours in each day, over 2 weeks to finally finish the puzzle. And to my shock and horror there were three pieces missing. It was such a letdown to do all that work and still not be able to finish it. 

 

The process of doing a 1000-piece puzzle was such a different process to doing a puzzle with 40 pieces. The pieces are obvious and with the cover picture to guide, placing each piece is quite an easy job. 



It put the statement “piece by piece” in a whole new light for me. But it did make me wonder…

 

When I consider faith communities, I wonder if we really are meant to be part of something so large that it takes so long to find your place?

 

I get how easy it is to gravitate easily to a group of like-minded people, a clump of people like you. I found it helpful to put the same-colored puzzle pieces together to help get me started. But I know that with a smaller puzzle each piece is often unique and very quickly distinguishable. You don't tend to form clumps as much as spread them out, find their distinguishing parts and then place them in the right space in the puzzle. It is a very different process. 

 

While I was doing the puzzle, I found myself staring at a whole lot of pieces that looked exactly the same and didn't know where to start. In a big faith community in its 1000’s, wherever you look you can see faces in a crowd and you can easily get lost. It would be easy to never be found or never feel like you are missed. It would be easy to imagine that your ‘piece’ really doesn’t matter and actually feel very


 unseen or unvalued. It would be very easy to feel like just a cog in a large wheel and although it is horrible to have a piece missing, when you are in the puzzle, no one really knows you are there, your piece doesn’t stand out that much.

 

I know that being in a smaller faith community, I am missed if I am not present. I am valued for the part I play, and I feel very connected to all the other pieces. Having been a part of a large faith community for the larger part of my life, I have looked over the sea of faces and never really knew many of them. Yes, it was great to be part of a large celebration, but I was never known like I am now. (Hebrews 10:25)

 

I know that God knows us all, He sees us all and there are many parts of the body of Christ. (Ps 139:1) But I couldn’t help but imagine that while we are a part of His Big Story, the big picture, during our time spent on this earth we only get glimpses of that BIG picture. His Kingdom is made up of lots and lots of little pictures where each person is seen, valued, heard and able to shine. 

 

I have done quite a few large puzzles since my first attempt months ago. I have enjoyed the process, it causes you to slow down, with long hours of focus and intentionality. Of course, I have realized over and over again that the journey is far more important than the final finished puzzle. In fact, after hours and hours of doing a puzzle, once finished I am not sure what to do with it, but to pack it up and put it away in the box again. It definitely gives you a sense of achievement but mostly it feels a little anti-climactic. I just want to start another one.

 


So, I get the temptation of achieving and doing something big, but I am not sure if that was God’s end game. If it was, Jesus would have come to this earth to draw a crowd, to gather 1000s. Instead, His end game was to gather 12-70 people, draw out their uniqueness, build them up and teach them that they have a small part to play in the big picture. And then He led by example by dying on a cross and rising again, with only a few watching and knowing that He was changing history. We were chosen to stand up and stand out, shine His light, not just to be a face of a large crowd. That is yet to come:

 

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

    be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. 

(Rev 5:11-14)

 

 

…until then I wonder if God’s design of faith communities was to walk deeply together in smaller puzzles so that everyone knows they have a place and that they are known and loved. 

Monday, 26 October 2020

Living the Christian life, can be reflected in the way we read the Bible!

I wonder how you read the Bible?

I wonder if the way we read our Bible tells us something about the way we live our Christian life?

 

I think often we pick and choose, jump from Scripture to Scripture to hear what we want to hear when we need to hear it. Or follow a devotional thought based on a theme like peace or hope.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ‘one sentence inspirational thought for the day’, and I know God brings us comfort or guidance in all those spaces. I wonder however, if it may reflect our faith walk as we jump in and out of whatever we want to hear at the time, when it suits us? 

 

The problem with only reading the Bible this way is that there are parts of the Bible we miss and never see in context of the whole picture. We could miss the bigger picture and how this helps us with the context and deeper meaning of many stories and statements in the Bible. 


Francis Chan says "In our impatient culture, we want to experience Biblical awe without biblical devotion. At the core of our dysfunction is not necessarily style or structure but lack of devotion" 

 

This year, our community decided to step away from the 6 weeks themed topics that we grabbed from here and there and started reading the book of Luke from beginning to end.  It has meant we have had to read the inspiring texts along with the hard texts and within the context in which they were spoken. It has made me realize again and again how important it is that my daily walk with Christ must be more than tapping into a nice ‘feel good’ verse of the day and then carrying on with life as if I can safely tick the box, “yes, I have spent time with God”. Yes, I may feel uplifted, but I am really prepared for what life will throw me and more importantly am I a living the called life He desires for me?

 

Luke follows the story of Jesus and while He did so many things we would all long to see today, like healings, freeing some from being socially outcast, releasing others from demons, amazing miracles … we also walk with a Man and band of followers who saw many walk away because the call was just too hard and life consuming. 

 

In Luke 9:57-62, we see some harsh statements that if plucked out of context make Jesus seem heartless and certainly not compassionate. It seems that Jesus talks bluntly about not taking the time to bury your father or fixing up affairs in the home.  So, we can be guilty of brushing over those verses and landing in Luke 10:27 where Jesus is saying something we want to hear. 

 

 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

But if we read it all together, not jumping to the good bits, we read that Luke 9:57-62 must be seen in context of verse 51 where it says: “As it came time for His Ascension … so He headed for Jerusalem”. This means that Jesus does care about family and compassion, but He also knew His time was urgent and that he needed to stay the course for the greater purpose of dying on the Cross, so those dead, dying and yet to be born have a greater chance of eternal life. He challenges us all about the things that distract us and deter us, that cause us to look back or get off course. To walk with Jesus is to live in a way that shows “no procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 MSG).

 

During all this time, the crowds came and went, with only a few faithful followers staying till the end. Although, even they fled and left him alone to walk the pain of crucifixion by himself. This is not a hero story in the eyes of the world, yet it is the most important thing Jesus does in his life and the ONLY reason we have forgiveness, His love, hope of eternity and the promise that things will get better.  

 

Yet, many of us would rather just grab an uplifting verse for the day, like a meme, that gives us a lift as we carry on looking for things that we can do or feel that will make life better for today. And when we do that, we are no different from the crowds that came, listened and left when the words got a little tough to hear. No wonder putting time aside time with God and doing life with a faith community of people is simply ONE choice in a range of many things that we might choose to do any given day and especially on Sundays.

 

2000 years later we are often as clueless as the disciples were leading up to Him dying on the cross. We are in danger of reading our Bible like we ‘DO' the Christian life.  A moment here or there when the busyness of life allows. When we do, we just want to hear the good bits about “life to the full” and “grace and love”. 

 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matt 16:24-26)

 

Jesus is still looking for people who will follow Him and count the whole cost. As we read Luke from beginning to end, immersed in the great and tough times of Jesus’ life, we are daily challenged to consider the cost of everyday life with Jesus and what that looks like in our everyday in 2020. 

 

I wonder how you read the Bible?

I wonder if the way you read your Bible tells you something about the way you live your Christian life?

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Rocking the Foundations

 

I have lived in the same house for over 20 years. Over the years we had noticed that there were cracks and movement occurring in the walls and floors.  It was subtle and happening very slowly over the years. Just recently we looked again and were shocked at how big the cracks and drop in the floor had become without us even noticing. We sought professional advice and were told that if we didn't get this fixed, our house would have some serious problems in the near future and would certainly become very hard to re-sell. The footings had moved. Although we thought they were built on solid rock, over time through the rain, storms and the weathering of life the footings were slowly sinking, and the house was cracking as a result. The extensions we put on a number of years ago didn't help and added to the strain on the footings. 

 It is common with houses over time. It was time to do something about it. We feared the worst. We knew there would be a cost, but with a few new beams and cement, that house could very quickly become strong and secure again. 

 

Last week the builders came and while I was in the kitchen, the work they were doing under me felt like the whole house was going to fall. I literally felt like I was rising, as they propped the floor back up beneath me. It was loud and scary and very intrusive. I went to my upper room to escape the noise and movement, to find a bit of peace.  I know the work needed to happen. I trusted that it was going to fix things. I simply had to wait it out.


At the end of the day, I came back into the kitchen where the original cracks and holes had


been fixed. BUT to my shock and horror, the movement back into place, had caused more cracks than ever before in new places. Doors no longer closed and some I couldn't open. There was even one wall that had busted open and the gyproc had separated from the wooden beams.  I suppose it made sense, that when work is done to move things back into place to fix the cracks that had formed, that this movement would mean a stretching and movement of another kind. The builder assured us that it was just cosmetic and that these cracks could be easily fixed.

 




 I felt like I was right in the middle of a parable, experiencing the reality that at times our footings need readjusting and if we are brave enough to count the cost and choose to come back to the Rock, He will secure our footings again. There will be cracks revealed, there will be scars that are cosmetic, but they can be fixed.

 

I chose many years ago to live my life with my foundations built on God, my rock. He hasn’t moved, but over time, while building more and navigating the strains of life, it has meant slight movement on my behalf. As I constantly come back to my foundations and secure myself into Him, He will prop me up, build me up, fix the cracks, but not without a cost. 

 


This year, 2020, is a year that has rocked me to my very foundations. What I thought was secure and strong, has crumbled. “But unexpected weaknesses, failure, and humiliation force us to go where we never would otherwise. We must stumble and be brought to our knees by reality. “God comes to you disguised as your life”[1]

 

God’s foundational truth presses in and challenges me to consider what I can choose when the cracks appear. Isaiah 8:13-17(MSG)

“If youre going to worry, worry about The Holy. 

Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

The Holy can be either a Hiding Place

    or a Boulder blocking your way,

The Rock standing in the willful way

    of both houses of Israel…

Many of them are going to run into that Rock

    and get their bones broken,

Get tangled up in that barbed wire

    and not get free of it.

Gather up the testimony,

    preserve the teaching for my followers,

While I wait for God as long as he remains in hiding,

 while I wait and hope for him.

I stand my ground and hope.”

 

I can choose to be broken by what 2020 has thrown at me or I can choose to wait on the Lord and put my trust in Him. I can see the new scars and cracks as fixable and something I can grow through or I can allow them to keep me in my humiliation and failure and sadness of what will never be again. The movement that occurred is a part of life, a consequence of choices and in this instance was very much of out of my control. The recalibration and fixing have been necessary. I cannot go back and I don't want to. So, what remains when we find ourselves broken is simply a choice. To get tangled up in the barbed wire and broken bones OR to stand my ground and HOPE.  I believe HOPE has been watching over me and has never left me, but I felt times when I have let go of it. Fear, panic, loss and pain can do that. We can see it as a boulder blocking the way or a hiding place. COVID has allowed me to hide at times, but it will not remain a boulder blocking the way. I choose to wait in HIM, stand my ground and HOPE. 

 

Just like the cracks in my house are literally are being restored and smoothed over this week and the floor I walk on is like floating on air because it has been restored, I stand in a living parable and claim it over my life and future. 


 

A song from Amy Grant that I loved many years ago continues to come back to me during this time...

                                      “Now when the house is dark

                                         And you’re all alone inside

                                    You’ve gotta listen to your heart

                                    And put away your foolish pride

                                      Though the storm is breaking

                                      And thunder shakes the walls

                                        Love with a firm foundation

                                           Ain’t never gonna fall”[2]

                               

 



[1] R.Rohr, “Order, Disorder, reorder: part two: It must happen to us”, quoting Paula D’Arcy, Monday, August 17th, 2020.

[2]Amy Grant, “House of love”, 2009

Thursday, 9 July 2020

His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven


 

  


Every now and then you are lucky enough to get a glimpse of His Kingdom on earth. I know, a few times a year I walk away from a space and feel that. I am sure if feels different for everyone, as I surely don’t have a monopoly on what His Kingdom on earth or in heaven might look like. For me, it feels like a glimpse of something so beautiful, that you think ‘wow’, if this is good, what must heaven feel like?


Last Sunday morning in our faith community gathering, there were no bells, no whistles, no slick presentations or productions. But as an intergenerational faith community gathering there was something that happened in the room because of the people who were in it and the way we gathered, that enriched my soul to its very core. I left feeling like I had just glimpsed “his Kingdom on earth.”

There were stories shared, struggles felt, there was food, fun, worship and prayer. The youngest led us in prayer, the youth shared visions and the old dreamed dreams.

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams". (Acts 2:17)

I wished I had recorded it, but the feeling of being there will stay with me for a long while. There is something very powerful when a space is created that is safe to simply be yourself. A placed where you feel loved and seen.

I loved seeing the youth leaders empowering the kids to pray for them. I loved seeing many bringing their gifts and serving the body of Christ. I loved seeing the ease with which people felt welcomed and the joy of the conversations being had. I loved to hear those who are not always so confident, taking the time to really consider what they wanted to share. I loved seeing a father, publicly commend and value her daughter. I loved the honesty with which he shared his struggles and joys. I loved listening to one of our eldest share with tears, her deep love for her heavenly father and implore us all to read His word as she led us in communion.

"You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the messianic meal” (Luke 6:20)

I never want to take for granted the richness of faith community and the strength it brings to my daily walk of faith. Sunday was how it should be : one cooks, one sings, one loves and cares for another, one sees one’s pain, one sits alongside, one listens, many share, many pray, many love … all sharing what we have.

“They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In the midst of COVID-19 it has never been so rich. In a community where much pain and loss is happening, His Kingdom is so real.

“You are blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s Kingdom is there for the finding.” (Luke 6:19)

I walked up to Ruth (our sage) who shared, wanting to simply say thank you. I stepped into a conversation she was having with a young adult. I listened as she spoke to this young woman, telling her that whenever you speak, you are not looking to please anyone but God and the place to really know Him is in the word.

“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests. Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke:26)

I watched this young lady absorb every word and my heart leapt as I watched His Kingdom come again.

I remembered in Luke 6 when people said of Jesus, “Every was trying to touch him … so much energy surging from Him.” I feel that with Ruth, that energy surging from her from the Father. Not only do I want to be like her when I grow up, but I never want to waste a moment when in the presence of such Godly, yet humble servants like Ruth.

Later that young adult shared with me how Ruth’s word confirmed a prophecy spoken over her last year and that she realised in the midst of COVID and family issues pressing in on her she had forgotten God’s words.

And this is only what I saw God doing last Sunday. I am sure He was doing much more.

Scripture was being lived out, as ‘Acts’ had been my reading that week and all our midweek clusters are studying Luke together. Watching His word, his people and his love converge and spread throughout the morning, brought His Kingdom on earth for just a moment.

I thank God for the Community I get to do life with and pray that we never take for granted how rich it is.

I know it is not what people want to hear or learn, when people ask me “what does an Intergenerational Community look like?” They are looking for programs to implement, systems to put into place, worship service outlines they can duplicate. So often we want to complicate it, but once true love and life together gains momentum, you get to sit back and watch it happen, like I did last Sunday, and simply thank God that you had eyes to see and ears to hear His Kingdom come.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

A Virus put us in "Time out"...

A Virus put us in “Time out.” What are we going to learn in there?



When my kids were little we had a “time out’ system. If they had done the wrong thing, or things really got out of control l would send them to “time out”. I am pretty sure it is standard practice in most households. It is a time when you must be isolated, on your own and have time to think, re-think and calm down. There was always accountability connected to it, with an expectation that your behaviour would change, and of course be better than when you were first sent to this space. I found it a very powerful tool for all involved, including me, the parent. Sometimes you really need to be able to have some space to stop and think about how you should proceed, so it brings us closer together and not further apart.

To be honest, at any age of life, this is a good practice to live by. It is just when children are young and they don't have the self-control or self-discipline to manage this process, that the ‘supposed’ more mature ones help create this boundary for them. As the parent I had been known to put myself into ‘time out’ and leave the kids to their own devices, which often had some interesting outcomes.

Deuteronomy 6 speaks of how we are to live our lives in abundance and in reverence to God. The famous promise is outlined to “Love God, your God, with your whole heart: Love Him with all that’s in you. Love Him with all you’ve got” (Deut 6:5 MSG).

Then because He knew we would forget it, He gave four keys to get it inside your hearts. He commanded that we: Talk about it wherever you are, sitting at home, walking in the street, talk about it in the morning, when you rise and the in the evening when you fall into bed. Place reminders wherever you can to make sure it happens. (v 6-9)

In this pandemic all we really have is our sitting at home, walking (two by two), our sleeping and waking. It is like the Virus has given us a BIG TIME OUT. I am not saying that we personally have done something wrong to deserve our TIME OUT. But the world has definitely got some serious things going wrong in order for everyone to be sent to their rooms.

And yet I am encouraged that even in this TIME OUT, we can carry on with God’s commands in order to have an abundant and full life. I know it is hard for some people to comprehend this, but to Love God with our whole heart and all we have, is actually one of the only things we can do right now.  Isn't it cool that just when we think, “how are we going to go to ‘Church’ and be the light to the World?” that maybe He is reminding us that the four simple things he asked us to do, we can still do.  And all He is asking us to do is to be obedient to that. 

I wonder if in this time to re-think, calm down and pause that we might miss the greatest chance to change our behaviour.  I wonder if during this TIME OUT, God might be wanting to teach us more about HIM. During this TIME OUT, wouldn't it be great, if we learned that in a world that is out of control, God is never out of control. In a world that is ever changing, God has never changed, and his commandments in Deuteronomy 6 are now more relevant and doable that ever before. 

When my kids did not change their behaviour when they left their rooms, they went straight back in. Even if they didn't like it or agree, they knew they had to make changes for the better if they wanted the chance to get out and do what they wanted to do. I hope we learn from this what God is wanting to teach us. That we bring the ‘best of us’ out of our rooms and live in a way that shows that we do love the Lord our God with our whole heart and with all we have got. And that is all He is asking of us, because I believe He can really use that to make a difference in this broken world.



I HOPE that when we are able to finally come out of our rooms that we don't go back to the old behaviours and what we thought was important. I HOPE that we rise to be better people, a better generation, a stronger world; a world where we value all people, we treat all people equally and we care for the least of these, whenever we get the chance.


Deuteronomy 6:1-5 MSG

This is the commandment, the rules and regulations, that God, your God, commanded me to teach you to live out in the land you’re about to cross into to possess. This is so that you’ll live in deep reverence before God lifelong, observing all his rules and regulations that I’m commanding you, you and your children and your grandchildren, living good long lives.
Listen obediently, Israel. Do what you’re told so that you’ll have a good life, a life of abundance and bounty, just as God promised, in a land abounding in milk and honey.
God, our God! God the one and only!
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!”
            

Friday, 1 May 2020

What will we do with this TIME?

As I walked outside my door the other day, I was greeted with a little package and letter. What a surprise, what a blessing, the message I needed to hear, coming from one who took the time to simply write her thoughts on paper, for me to be able to read over and over again.
 

Isolation for many has been a difficult thing, a loss of many things which we have no control over. Barbara Brown Taylor said about this TIME 

“We are not losing control, we are losing the illusion that we ever had any control.”

So, as the Illusion has hit home, for many of us of being under the tyranny of so many things that are out of our control, what do we do? Or maybe the question remains, what do we really actually have? What can we be assured of that will never change?


Much of the New Testament letters were written while in Isolation or under persecution. In Jail, Paul had so much TIME to be with himself and his God. There was no internet, TV, Netflix, messenger, iPhone in those days, and wouldn't have been allowed in jail anyway. He had a lot of alone time, to ponder the things that he really had and that which would never change? I wonder if he hadn’t had that TIME to sit and wonder and ponder, if we would have the promises and hope we have today as we read things such as: 

Phil 1:9-11
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christs return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT)

Phil 1:21
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Phil 2:1-3
“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Phil 2:14-16
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life”. 

Phil 3:8-11
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

It goes on and on, I simply encourage you to take the TIME to read the letter to the “Philippians” during this Isolation space, over and over again. 

Even in our current isolation, the internet allows instantaneous places to escape the nothingness. In fact, the overload of social media has felt like it has tripled since COVID-19 struck. And while I am very thankful for the internet in so many ways, nothing has been encouraging more than a number of personal hand-made letters that have been dropped at my door, hand-written in love. It didn't cost them anything but TIME.

The slow intentional place we find ourselves in when we choose to take the TIME to write a letter.  Putting paper to pen and taking the TIME to record our thoughts. We are in a time like never before where the depth of this space allows for it. A space where you may never know the gift you bring by taking the time to encourage others to deeply consider who God is and how deeply He loves us. 

Yes in this TIME, we are still all connected, but our “connectivity" does not mean “intimacy”. My prayer is that during this TIME we place a higher value on personal intimate interactions as this crisis lifts. But in the meantime, we can begin the intimacy process by writing and sharing our deeper feelings, rather than a quick one minute text or a two second emoji or a funny share on Facebook or twitter. Let that not be how we spend our TIME, just trawling the internet and sharing funny and thoughtful posts, but to take the TIME to consider those real relationships and how we can invest into them, truth and love that is lasting and will only change in a deeper and more real way. The choice we have control over, the question is “how will we love those we do life with better in spite of this crisis, in the midst of the crisis and after the crisis is gone?” 



Monday, 13 April 2020

The Church is calibrated for a world that doesn't exist.

On March 7th, 2020 Jake Mulder said, “The church is calibrated for a world that doesn’t exist”.  On that day I sat in an auditorium of 900+ people. I knew at the time it was a profound statement for the church, as it must be willing to consider how broken it has been to speak to the world it finds itself in. But none of us at the time knew how prophetic it would be, that within days of him speaking we would no longer be able to meet in groups of more than 100 inside and then a week later, no-one is able to meet face to face at all. 

The world is in shutdown and it is not just the church that is calibrated for the world that no longer exists. 

The church is now scrambling along with everyone else in the world to know how to function, and rightly so. 

These are profound times. “Unprecedented” is the word I continue to hear. Everyone has a voice, a special announcement, an opinion, a way forward. Almost every sector of the world must re-think how we must do life as we now live in a world we are not calibrated for! The church must also do the same. 

The mandate has never changed. It seems to me that the call is still to “love God and love our neighbor as ourselves”. And maybe because we have created lots of NEW ways to 'do' Church with all the right intentions, we NOW find ourselves scrambling to 'undo' all our structures to simply abide by new rules while still trying to maintain a “calibration” that maybe should have never existed in the first place. 

I want to say in the words of our Australian prime minster “stop it”.

Now is the time to go back to the original design, the simplicity of meeting together … ‘where two or three are gathered I am there in the midst’. It is clear for a while that will have to start with Households. To love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Never in a long time in history have we truly had the opportunity to simply live this out in a way that I believe may truly fulfill the great commission, help save lives, help people not feel so alone, and help bring peace and hope to a panicked world. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to change and re-think and recalibrate in a time when we HAVE to change. Let’s get it right this time. Let’s ask the right questions and not just think short term, but long term. Let’s not panic and react but deeply seek Him and what He is teaching us about how we are to respond. 

In these times of re-thinking everything, Jake Mulder said something else that day that struck me. So often when we have to make changes, we approach it by the quick fix rather than considering the long-term gains. It seems this is the biggest discord among all Australians about how to flatten the curve of the corona virus. There are short term and long-term decisions that are constantly being weighed up against each other as World Leaders do their best to lead in this difficult time. I am not making any judgement about how and what they should be doing. I respect the difficult position they are in. But when it comes to being a leader in the Church, that’s the space I am called to consider how to move forward. 

Jake described this as needing to decide between “lollies and chips” vs “Vegetables”. How many might choose “lollies and chips” over eating vegetables if we had to decide what we wanted to eat at a Saturday night party night. It’s the quick fix, the sugar rush, the thing that gets us through a tough spot, the thing that in the short term fills the gap and feels good at the same time. Although as leaders we have been thrown into needing to “think quick” in the past weeks, when we catch our breath, we need to think more long term and we know that the better thing to eat long term is vegetables. For many they are not as palatable and as easy to prepare and need more thought, but in the long term they are better for us and set us up for health long term. 

The Quick fix has been to do everything online. The world has been set up for years with every online resource you can imagine. Teaching is accessible on any topic by the best communicators in the kingdom. The quick fix is there and yet pastors of all ages have spent these last weeks trying to get studios set up and record services for this Sunday. I have heard people say for years that the ‘Online” world is so dangerous, and now it may just be our savior.

BUT I believe it could also STILL be our greatest hindrance. It is not about the resource but how we use it. In the immediate, where physical isolation is important to flatten the curve, of course access what the church already has. But let’s not forget the Body of Christ and how each part has an important part to play. Why do we think unless your community hears the PASTORS voice it is not “Ok”. There is so much wisdom in the Kingdom; Prophets and Pastors all vying for their voice to be heard in this space. Let’s share the best voices of this time with the Kingdom all over the world and then pastors, let’s spend our time thinking through the “vegetables” - the long term. In 6-12 months from now where do we want to be?  If it is still online and waiting for the next podcast we are in more trouble than ever. 

As we ponder what the church should look like, let’s not JUST answer this question for the short term, to get us out of this hotspot, and do the quick fix with the view to return to how we have done things in the past as quickly as possible. Let’s consider the long term and how God might want to re-shape the future for the long term, to be much healthier faith communities, to fulfill the great commission in 6-8 months from here, and beyond, with what He wants us to start now. 

There has never been a better time to be a good neighbor. 
There has never been a better time to take the time to get to know our God more deeply and find peace, love and grace in the midst of confusion. 
There has never been a better time to simplify what it means to truly do life together. 
There has never been a better time to be with those you love and care for each other well, to listen, to provide basic things like milk and bread. 
There has never been a better time to choose wisely what you will spend your time doing, now that many things are no longer possible. 
There has never been a better time to recalibrate what is really important in your life, what you need and don’t need. 
There has never been a better time to be a good citizen. 
There has never been a better time to lead by example.
 There has never been a better time to bring peace to a hurting world. 
There has never been a better time to be empathetic and other-centered.

It is time for the church of God to become re-calibrated for the world that exists now, and to rediscover that God has given us the tools and models all along. Its simply time to put them into practice.