Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lessons in Leadership: Self Imposed Leadership.

Ok, so I haven’t written a blog in a long time, but have decided that I should again. I’m going to share with you some of my journey through Kings 1 and 2. At the moment I am studying these two books in particular, because I have been told that they give great examples of good leaders and bad leaders. It is particularly important for me at the moment to look at leadership, as I am about to embark on another exciting chapter in my life, as a University Chaplaincy Assistant. I remember talking to a friend in the car about it a few weeks ago, who reminded me that although God gives people leadership, it is a big responsibility, and a lot of work.
But I think also it is an important thing for all of us, is it not? How many of us are involved in leadership in one area of our life, or the other? Whether that be a women’s basketball team, a senior lecturer at university, a senior waiter, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. How many of us feel called to leadership? How many of us are wondering why God hasn’t given us a leadership role? Yet people less experienced than us, seem to get snapped up as soon as we walk through the door?
In 1 Kings 1, we have the example of David’s son Adonijah, trying to tactically impose himself as King, even though David has already promised accession rights to Solomon. As David gets older and older, we see him thinking to himself ‘I will be King’, and preparing chariots and horsemen to run before him ( 1 Kings 1:5). But the reality is this didn’t work out for him. As much as he believed he should be King, and tried to take this role, God had other ideas. In the end, David is alerted to what Adonijah has done, and Solomon is promptly announced as successor to the thrown, leaving Adonijah fearing for his life. The key lesson for me is don’t try and impose yourself as a leader, because if it is not of God, then he will eventually cut you down.
I have felt called to leadership for a long time. People have prophesised it – many people that I don’t know, yet each time I have thought ‘right, this must be the moment, someone else has been put into that place, and it has always left me asking ‘what now?’. Each time, and this has caused big struggles for me, because it has caused me to almost try and think, push, manouver my way into leadership positions. It has left me ‘trying’ to become a leader. But let me tell you something, if you do this, and God doesn’t want you in that position, then it’s not going to work; you will find yourself flapping around, getting angry with people, causing tension – overall making tings more difficult for yourself. If people haven’t accepted you as a leader, and you try to FORCE leadership on them, you are going to create tension – whether that be from the arguments, or from trying to ‘people please’ – one of my major struggles.
I remember a particular time when because of this call to leadership, I have felt so desperate for people to like me, where I have thought 'If I don't get people to like me then I am never going to be a good leader.' I have spent a lot of the time feeling like a complete failure. 'God wants me to do this, but I'm not up for it!'. It has been really difficult for me to comprehend the idea that not everyone is the right kind of leader for every particular moment.
This is something that God DOES understand though, and if you spend that time listening to what God wants you to do, and let God put you into your position of leadership at the right time, then actually you will be far more use to God, to yourself, and to those around you. After all that time wondering what God was playing at, what I was doing wrong; well the upshot is that God has now put me in a leadership role, representing the Chaplaincy to 300 people on Pittville Campus – AND all the responsibility that goes with that. This role didn’t come about through my work, in fact I had almost nothing to do with it. It came about entirely through God talking to the Chaplains through prayer. I remember looking at the job description when it came to me, and it was perfect for me. The upshot of it all is this; God puts people in leadership positions, not man.If God does not want you in a particular role, then no matter how hard you try, he is not going to let you have it.  God knows best who is suited to each leadership role, not man, and has individual plans for all of us. Just because God is saying ‘not now’, does not mean he is saying ‘never’, some times he is saying ‘I things planned that are perfect for you, but you have to trust me and wait till the right moment, rather than trying to jump ahead of me’ Just so you know, the length of time between me being given this job, and the first prophesy about leadership, was about a year. God likes to take his time! How long did Noah have to wait for the floods to die down? But the point is that it happened and God kept his word, because he never breaks his promises.
How does this apply to you? Are there any areas of your life that you feel you may be trying to force leadership onto people?

Monday, 14 November 2011

The church starts here

"If everyone who fell asleep in church was laid end to end they'd be a lot more comfortable" - Abraham Lincoln.
When I was younger, my memories of church were sitting on wooden pews, listening to a man talk about stuff which happened thousands of years ago, and putting my hands together for a recital of the Lords Prayer, with a man (who's face was never visible) playing an old organ, in a cold church in the middle of winter. This is, I would imagine, the experience of many millions of people who have yet to rediscover Jesus.
I was talking to one man earlier today, who describes his childhood church experiences as meaningless, irrelevant, before going on to say 'The church never left the building'.
Of course, the recent events at St Pauls, involving the church seemingly shutting its doors to exactly those people whom it should be supporting, have done very little for the Church's public image.
I remember someone being suprised that I didn't know a particular hymn, and the amount of times people have appeared shocked when I have informed them that I don't spend Sunday services singing 'All things bright and beautifull', or 'Shine Jesus Shine'.
Since rediscovering my faith, one of the most frustraiting things has been seeing how different the public perception of Church is, compared to my own experience of it. This Sunday at trinity Cheltenham, we had just the most incredible baptism service. 15 people of all backgrounds were baptised in front of a full church, there was laughter, cheering, clips of comedians sending up Christian prayer positions, the message from the preacher was tied together nicely with a Lilly Allen video, people were singing and cheering with joy and dancing around to contemporary christian music. It felt like an amazing journey, It all meant something.
Trinity have just converted an old garage, and built showers, a kitchen, and a lounge area for homeless and vulnerable people. Tell me that this is irrelevent? I was there tonight, and everyone had a glint in there eye, the people I was talking to, who were either volunteers or service users, had all been positively influenced by this service - people who had got back off their feet from drugs problems, people who had experienced the lowest lows in life, and were now helping there.
I feel truly blessed to be at Trinity Cheltenham. It seems to me that there is a real buzz of excitement around the place at the moment, and that God has big plans for the place. They are doing exactly what the church should be doing; reaching out into the community, changing communities. They have also managed to remain relevant; able to speak into the lives of it's congregation, as well as giving them ample oppertunities to serve.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Hi everyone, how are you all?

Realise I haven't posted in a while now. This has been due to a lack of a computer, but I am at a computer now, and I just felt I should share something, because I was reading a question earlier from an atheist, wich was actually a really good one. What they were asking was whether forgiveness from God was more important than forgiveness from the person you have sinned against.

I actually think that for a Christian, the two are intertwined; Can you truly be sorry to God, if you are not sorry to the person that you have wronged? Likewise, as a Christian, can you truly be sorry to the person you have wronged, if you... are not sorry to God. Asking forgiveness and seeking reconciliation is talked about in Matt. 5:23,24. If we don't ask for forgiveness of others, we are displeasing God. To illustrate further, Matt 25:25, says this: '35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In a nutshell, if you sin against man, man, you sin against God, therefore if you sin against man, and don't ask for his forgiveness, you also sin against God, and don't ask for his forgiveness.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Johnny Cash

I was watching ‘Walk The Line’ the other night – something I had wanted to do for a long time but never had the chance. It was a fantastic film, and superbly acted, even if I didn’t recognise Elvis until I was told!

As I was watching the film, and his faith was touched upon at various points – such as when the record label guy question’s Cash’s faith in God, I started to ponder more on this side of his personality, and as the film moved on I started to build much more of a picture, and realised that in many ways Johnny Cash optimizes the Christian struggle; He struggle’s to deal with the many issue’s he has, and struggle’s to put lean on God, rather than on the drugs, and temporary solutions of the world, which actually aid in his continuing downward spiral. He hurts just about everyone he knows, drives his wife away, loses access to his kids, wrecks his career.

Then things begin to change, and God provides a light in the form of an intervention by his future wife, June, and his family. In June’s words, ‘God has given you a second chance to make this right. This is your chance’.

It just seems to me that there is probably a part in all of us as Christians who can relate to this. If we are honest, don’t we all have experiences which are not so dissimilar? But no matter how badly we mess up, God always gives us a second chance..,. and a third…. and a fourth… Even in the most hopeless situations, he never gives up on us. Johnny Cash messes up allot in his life, he is by no means perfect, sinless. But he has a relationship with God and he is saved by that.

I would bet that actually he knew more about what it meant to be a Christian than many other Christians do. I remember when a record label guy says ‘The boy’s don’t want to hear you tryin’ to cheer up a bunch of murderers.’, Johnny’s reply is ‘Well they’re not Christians then’.

So what can we learn from Johnny Cash? That no matter where we are on our Christian journey – no matter how profoundly we may ‘understand’ what it means to be a Christian, we are always going to have this struggle. We are always going to make mistakes. But we can also see that God continues to forgive us, pick us up, and give us second chances.

I think that this song illustrates Johnny’s Christian ‘message’ beautifully.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Burglary, A Fire, and a Job. All in a day’s work.

Saturday was one of those days when everything happens. I guess really though, for the point of view of this story, I must start a bit further back than this; One of the things that I have become acutely aware of the last few days, is how crazy this summer is going to be. I guess in a way I had put off dealing with it, because in a lot of ways it is actually quite scary. By the time my course restarts in September, I will have produced my first show, Performed at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time, and moved house. This entails me being in Cheltenham to rehearse for the Edinburgh Festival, in Canterbury (A five hour coach journey) To rehearse for my show, having somewhere to stay in Cheltenham, and having a Job.

I remember Thursday night having a real worrying session. I was actually watching a Matt Chandler video at the time, with him talking about how the Lord tells you not to worry, and how you should put everything in the Lord. Sometimes no matter how much you know it is true that you should be doing this, it just doesn’t seem to be that helpful advice does it? You think to yourself ‘No, no, no, I’ve got to hold onto this one.’ Sometimes you go even further and start thinking ‘Jesus WANTS me to keep thinking about this, even though I’m just going round in circles in my head, and really not achieving anything with it.’

Anyway so eventually it got to the stage where I thought ‘You know what, I’m probably not going to stop worrying about this, but I can at least get the Lord involved. So I prayed. I would say that I prayed for most of the rest of the night, in one form or another. I would love to say that my prayer was some grand peace of poetry, but it was actually a far more desperate ‘LORD PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND A JOB’, with my hands clenched together like to clamps. I was far more like a young child clinging for life to his mother, ‘PLEASE GET ME THAT GAME, I NEEEEEED THAT GAME!!!’

The next day, I phoned a nightclub in Cheltenham, and they said they needed glass collectors, and to pop in the following day.

So that night, I’m now worrying ‘what if I get this job? What am I gonna do?? How am I gonna do this job, go to Edinburgh, and do my own show back in Kent?? What have I let myself in for? I’m gonna have to concentrate all the rehearsals for my show into a short space of time. How is that gonna work? Will anyone be able to do the show like that? Will the show be any good even?

Then I remembered something which I had heard in church from a guy called David Gate. ‘We all wing it.’ Winging it is a part of life. I realised that I was just gonna have to make a decision and go with it, rather than procrastinating over it. I realised that I was gonna have to just make it work. This was the best option I had, and I was going to have to go with it, and that there was always going to be a certain amount of blindness about the situation, but I was going to have to go with it, to jump in the waves, and let them carry me.

How was I going to go tell these potential employers that I was going to need all this time off? I decided to take the advice of Matt Chandler, and not worry about it. I would judge the situation at the interview, and take it from there.

So onto Saturday. My plan for the day: Go get a job, then meet a friend in town, come back to mine to get ready and then go to a party. Well, two parties – one after the other. First thing’s first, the job interview. I got into town, stood outside the nightclub pretty nervously, partly hoping that the manager wouldn’t be there and I could go home, but mostly thinking ‘No, I need this job, and I need to start it as quickly as possible.’

After waiting for a while, the manager arrived, and I had my interview, which went very very well, and praise the Lord, he told me that I had pretty much got the job, and I just needed to come back on Monday to see the other managers.

So I went home, then went back out to meet my friend. On the way down there, spot a fire, so have to call the fire brigade. Actually it was just a bin fire, but to be honest, the area I live in, so full of drugs that it could have easily caused a massive chemical fire! Actually what got me about the bin fire, was everyone just seemed to be walking right on passed it, without even thinking to try and deal with it. To use biblical terms, ‘walking by on the other side’.

Anyway eventually the fire brigade came, I was able to leave. I met my friend. I had phoned my friend to tell her I was held up by this fire. It turned out what she heard was ‘held up, fire, bus, bomb’, so she was understandably a little scared!

Party was fine, me and my housemate came back home before going out again for the second one, which was at a nightclub. On the way out, I noticed some kids staring at us from across the road. ‘I bet they try and break in’ I said to him, as we walked into town.

The person who’s party it was, was a friend of my housemates. It was a really good night out actually. So good we didn’t get back till four in the morning, and we were more than a little drunk. We got out of the taxi, said goodbye to the others, and opened the porch door. Immediately we noticed that something wasn’t right. The door from the porch into the house was open.

‘Okay, that’s odd, this door is open’, my housemate said. We went in further, checking all over for signs that someone had been in the house. When we got into the living room, we saw the back door was wide open. Did we leave it open? We wandered. ‘Looks like nothing’s been taken’, my housemate said. ‘Yeah’, I replied. We were lucky.

Then it hit me. My laptop. Where was my laptop? I went back into the living room, where I had left it. It was gone. It had been stolen. I looked everywhere for it, but nothing. It had definitely been stolen, and we had definitely been burgled, so I phoned the police. My memory cast back to the boys across the road, and my words at the time, ‘I bet they try and break in!’.

I remember being very calm about it – something which has continued since then. ‘No point worrying about it, or getting upset about it’, I said to my housemate, ‘That won’t solve anything’. Looks like I had learned something from my experiences the previous days! I remember at the time as well just opening my Bible, and it turning to psalms which just helped me to express and sort out how I was feeling at the time so well, but at the end of it all, I kind of felt sorry for those who had broken in. I just thought ‘they risked there freedom for one piddly laptop? How desperate must they be? But it’s worth remembering as well, that – as easy as it would be to hate these kids in one way or another, are they not just the same as us? God views all sin as the same, and we are all sinners. It is important to remember that no matter how much someone sins against us, we need to try to hate the sin, not the sinner, because actually we are no better, or no worse than them, based on sin. You can only be made righteous by Jesus.

This weekend has been so full of experience, good and bad. But it is possible to get through anything with God – with his support. With him showing his understanding. With him helping you to fly through the hard times, and grounding you through the good. He always watches over and looks after us. No matter how many things may fly at you at once, how much you may feel like you are winging it, or how badly people treat each other at times, Jesus is the true path, and is the light in the dark to follow.

Isaiah 57 Series: God-Idol Part 1.

 3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children,
      you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
 4 Whom do you mock,
      making faces and sticking out your tongues?
      You children of sinners and liars!
 5 You worship your idols with great passion
      beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
   You sacrifice your children down in the valleys,
      among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
 6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
      You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
   They, not I, are your inheritance.
      Do you think all this makes me happy?
 7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.
 8 You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.
   You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
   You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.
 9 You have given olive oil to Molech[a]
      with many gifts of perfume.
   You have traveled far,
      even into the world of the dead,[b]
      to find new gods to love.
 10 You grew weary in your search,
      but you never gave up.
   Desire gave you renewed strength,
      and you did not grow weary.

Immediately here we see the focus changes from the men of God who are being rescued from the world they are IN, to the idolatrers who are OF the world.
The first thing that sticks out to me is this idea of being MOCKED wich appears in verse 4. It points out that the actions of these people is actually mocking to God. I would say that if this verse were to be paraphrased another way, it would say 'Who are you to mock God? You represent everything that is wrong, you give yourselves to sins and lies.'
It then goes on to point out what is wrong with the way they are living. This is important to us, because I think we are all guilty of many of these things - even as Christians. Here is the list, and in brackets I will put an example of how this could apply to us:
Worshiping Idols with a passion (sports stars, celebrities, etc)
Making sacrifices to them (paying money to them, buying the football shirts, etc)
'Your God's are the smooth stones of the valley' (substitute stones for something more modern - i.e a premiership footballer)
'They, not I, am your inheritance' (Instead of getting God, the gifts of the spirit, eternal life, a seat next to the Lord in Heaven, you're inheritence is... Wayne Rooney)
'You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.' (When you worship , for example, Wayne Rooney, you are actually commiting adultery with him against God. Nuff said)
'You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.' (Posters of celebrities, etc)
'You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.' (gods = celebrities)
'You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.'
'You have travelled far... to find new God's to Love' (X-Factor, American Idol, America's Next Top Model, etc)

Just something to think about. Although this was aimed at people living Well over 2000 years ago, are we not just as guilty today? Something to think about...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Isaiah 57 Series: The Blessed Death the World Disregards

In the last blog we put the book of Isaiah as a whole into context, as a way of better understanding Isaiah 57. No we are going to start to unpack it a little bit more, and this blog is going to focus on the first two verses.
1 Good people pass away;
      the godly often die before their time.
      But no one seems to care or wonder why.
   No one seems to understand
      that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
2 For those who follow godly paths
      will rest in peace when they die.
Personally I don’t understand why Christians don’t draw on these two verses more often; the amount of times I have been asked why people die by Non-Christians, and why God seems to desert his people, sometimes in seemingly the most horrific ways, ‘leaving them’ to die – well, this straight away provides an answer – People of God often die as a way of God protecting them from the evil to come.
Just on that subject, it often amazes me that Atheists in particular try to use God letting Christians die as some kind of sign that he must be an unjust God if he exists. I personally don’t see anything wrong with leaving this planet to go to heaven! If Heaven is this perfect place, where we are made right, and all pain ends, then surely leaving this fallen planet to get there is not a particularly unfair deal!
If heaven truly exists, then I don’t know about you, but when I get there, as hard as it may have seemed on earth, that process of death on this planet is going to seem very much worth it! I must make it clear here that I do not in any case condone suicide. We all know that this is wrong, the Bible says that it is wrong, Christianity is pro-life.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, then death is a bad thing in the sense that because of sin, we have to go through it – but it is surely worth it to get to the promised land. We as Christians have all of that to look forward to – it is promised to us!
God abandons us by letting us be reborn in Heaven? God would be abandoning us by leaving us here! According to the Bible, we should all be condemned to Hell. But because Jesus Christ died for our sins, we as Christians are saved.
By the way, this is all sentiment echoed by the Apostle Paul, when he says this:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (in this life)
                are not worthy to be compared with the glory
                which shall be revealed in us (in Heaven)." (Romans 8:18)
But going back to those first two verses of Isaiah 57, it seems fairly clear to me that this first verse is saying that people of God are taken out of compassion, so that they may not be subjected to, tormented, and tempted by evil any longer. That peace may be ours. I personally think that no matter what happens in this world, Jesus offers us the hope of Heaven, and this is something that we should be forever greatfull for. He doesn’t have to offer it to us, but because of his grace and compassion, he does. If we wish to accept it.
But, by implication, the verse suggests something else as well; ‘For those who follow God, will rest in peace when they die’. implies a contrast – that for those who do not follow God, life will be very different…
More next time. (available from Tuesday 24th May 2011)