Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The ENCOUNTER must be yours.....

Our encounters with Jesus must be our own. A Christian will not get very far on someone else’s encounters.  This is a very important formation piece. When Jesus left this earth, He said “It is better that I Leave so the spirit can come.” (John 16:7) If Jesus was still present and visible on this earth our focus would be on Him, where He is, what He is doing, seeing Him as much as we can and trying to get contact with Him. After all, He is the Son of God, so who wouldn’t?  It is our human nature to get our inspiration from tangible things.

Jesus said that the comforter would come; a guide, a teacher who would be available to everyone, everywhere, anytime. The spirit has been described as the wind, breath, life that flows, a fire and much more.

“The wind can be blowing, but if your sail isn’t raised, you wont go far. You can be surrounded by oxygen, but if you don’t breathe, it won’t do you any good. The sap can be flowing, but if the branch is not connected to the vine, it will wither. If you don’t put wood in your hearth, a lit match won’t burn long. It is the same with the spirit. All that remains is for us to learn how to let the spirit fill, flow and glow within us.” (McLaren, PG 254)

While there is important strength to be found in the community of faith and being with others that spur us on, our encounters with the Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit must be our own.

Sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t live in the time of Jesus, and get to actually meet Him and sit at His feet and see the miracles He did, but then I realise that now I have something so beautiful. I have His spirit inside me, guiding me daily, never leaving me. I don’t have to go to a service, a meeting, a conference, trek to a far off land to meet a man who may place his hand on me and bless me. I can encounter Jesus daily, just Him, as I get up in the morning, as I walk through the day, as I lay down at night.

Formation and growth can happen at any time, when you “walk with the spirit of Jesus”. But this must be your own journey.

Sometimes the church “mis-communicated” to young and old, that programs, services, teachers and leaders are who you must come to, to encounter Jesus?  Have we created spaces, liturgy, services, practices and processes where we have come to believe that if we do, recite, or attend, then and only then, Jesus will fill us again? We must be aware that this is our human nature that needs to make a formula out of things; that desires to have 4 steps to assure an encounter. It becomes a dangerous thing when people come to church for the purpose of getting another fix, another shot to keep them going for the next week.  

As I read more and more about the life of Jesus, He sensed when people were enjoying the spectacle of being with Him, and it was then that He would often retreat. Jesus did things differently all the time. Each encounter with individuals was exactly that, unique and individual?  There are some things that never change … the fruit of the spirit is always love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This fruit guides us in what is really the Spirit of Jesus working in us and its purpose is always about transformation of a person’s life. 

We ask why are so many people leaving the church? I believe it is partly because they are withering from being unconnected and have found the conduit of a service or a leader is not enough anymore. Because they can’t breath throughout the week well enough, and the oxygen they get on a Sunday morning is just not enough. Because they have not been encouraged or taught to put their own sails up and catch the daily wind of the spirit. Because their kindling has all burnt up as they are waiting from Sunday to Sunday, or from event to event, and it is just too long. In the meantime they find other things to get the fire going. If we are going to be to "Here2Stay" in life long discipleship, our encounters must be our own.

We cannot put a program, a set time a day, an age limit, or 6-week course on the Spirit of Jesus. The spirit of Jesus is not limited for some to access and share out as they will. Our encounter with Jesus must be our own. The greatest thing any program, ministry, leader or church can do is to keep drawing us closer to the truth that our encounter with Christ must be our own. The spirit is always moving, always present and we must learn how to let the spirit fill, flow and glow within us.

What is your “Jesus Encounter” story?

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Do you feel lost and alone?

It's a scary thing to be lost in a country where you don't know the language or the culture.  As I travelled through Phnom Penh (Cambodia) by Tuk Tuk just recently, It felt like the local Tuk Tuk drivers are always getting lost.  Talk about the blind leading the blind.

I remember the first time I came here with my family, I loved it, but it was an incredible culture shock. The Cambodian people are beautiful. They always smile and say ‘yes – I know where you want to go’ – even when they don’t, because they always want to be helpful! You explain where you want to go, and they confidently respond yes and then we inevitably get lost.

 I remember one day when I had my children with me; they were travelling in the other Tuk Tuk (with an adult friend who was Australian). We got separated and lost and I had no idea where I was let alone where my kids were. It was a scary 15 minutes that felt like forever. When we finally found each other, even my friend was scared. It’s that feeling of being completely lost, helpless and vulnerable.

As a result of visiting Cambodia over the past 5 years we have made good friends. So now travelling around, even when I don't know where I am going, is now a different experience altogether. I have learned to rely on locals who have become wonderful friends.

So on this recent trip, when travelling the streets that still are foreign to me, once I realised my driver was lost, I was at peace. I could even enjoy the adventure because I knew my friend Pheakdey (a Cambodian local) was only one phone call away. But even then, it was amazing how quickly you can find yourself in a situation you hadn't expected.

This day we had to ring Pheakdey, 4 times and by the 4th time we were still no closer to our destination. But for me, I was feeling at peace and enjoying the ride. As we travelled through a completely unknown area of the city I was just watching the view, which is enlightening, feeling calm, until my phone went dead.

I hadn't charged it when I left home - it was only on two bars when I left home. So very quickly I find myself sitting with my sweet Tuk Tuk driver, who is still smiling and nodding on the side of the road, together and waiting. I thought to myself, at the very worst I can go back to my hotel. I think I can find my way there. As I was thinking what I should do, I could not help but think if this was 4 years ago I may not feel so calm. I am a white woman, all on my own, in the back streets of a big foreign city, with Cambodian men talking all around me, no one looking any the wiser as to where we are.

I wondered how it might feel to be truly lost, feeling all alone, helpless, with certain options taken away and being at the mercy of a foreign outside force. Some people find themselves in this place by choice; others don't have a choice at all.

It can be a scary place to feel that you might not know how to get to a safe place; it is scary not to know who to call or who to trust or who can really help you. It is scary not to have the assurance of a higher power that will never leave you.

Of course this day I learned that my part to play in this situation is to make sure I am fully connected, always charged with His presence and in constant communication with the one who can help me best. If I had done this, on this day I wouldn't have been in this position.

But the underlying comfort for me was that I had heard my friend’s voice only 5 minutes before and after 10 minutes waiting and wondering what to do, my friend came and found me. He was my savior, rescuing me that day.

God is like that. We need never feel alone. We may get lost but if we seek Him He will find us. If you feel helpless He will comfort you. We may be like a foreigner in this world, but walking with Him means it can become an adventure, not a scary ride, until we finally come to the place where we live with Him forever and never have to feel foreign again.

It was just a Tuk Tuk ride in a foreign land, but this adventure could have been so different if I didn’t know where I had come from, if I didn't have a friend who was only a call away, if he wasn't tracking me and if I had my method of communication to Him fully charged.