Saturday, 26 February 2011

Finding your rhythm

“Get into the groove” Madonna pronounced “you’ve got to prove your love to me”. This lyric keeps returning to my head today and is driving me mad..

I was playing through some songs with my son David (whose drum lessons are starting to pay off) and I was acutely aware of 2 things.

  1. the necessity of the pace to be set by someone who can keep time
  2. the requirement for the rhythm used to be compatible to the style of the song being played.  - (the groove of the song)

You can be in time, but out of step.  The rhythm, or style, sets the feel of how the song progresses and connects with the pattern played by other instruments (namely the bass guitar and rhythm guitar) to create a layer on which the melody can sit and find it’s voice.

Many of us will be familiar with the clackity clack, clackity clack of a train on tracks, and the somehow soothing nature of its predictable call and response as each set of wheels crosses the same point on the track.

Without being in a predictable groove or rhythm it is difficult for others to join the song, and travel the same path. In our churches, if there’s not a simple, understandable, clear message how can others know where we’re heading and what we’re doing on the journey to ‘there’… ?

But there’s another rhythm, one that comes from the heartbeat of the Father. One that propels us to love and care, one that nurtures our compassion and unleashes it on the dispossessed and impoverished (physically or spiritually).  That groove is often drowned out by the noise of our own activity, and I can’t help wondering if God is asking us to prove our love for him, by getting into his groove.  When we’re in the groove, there’s an easiness (even if the work is tough), because we move in tandem with the spirit, and ride the momentum of what He is doing, being the hands and feet and mouth that he so readily chooses to use.

There are so many anthemic songs written in 4/4 Bb (capo 3G) and they ring out some truth or over, and we lap them up because we love that particular groove as it reminds us of the greatness of God. The power he used in raising Jesus from the dead, the same power he uses to save us.  We allow our voice to rise and our heart to celebrate and rejoice, we may even clap or dance along. We love how it feels to be praising God this way… and it is right to do so… but this other groove, this message from the Father, this commission from the Son, this direction from the spirit.. maybe we need to find that groove, learn it’s song and prove our love for Him?

Father I thank you for music and song. I thank you for the way it unites us and enables us all with one voice to praise and thank you specifically. It allows us to connect our emotions with our understanding, and focus our passions.  It’s an amazing gift to us.  help us to appreciate the truth in the words we sing for more than the moment that the song is on our lips. Where there is a promise from you, let us take it to our hearts. Where there is a promise from us, let us remember to follow through.   Cause us to hear from your throne room the rhythm of your heart, the beat you want us to follow and the path to walk down. God of Justice, Saviour to all give us ears to hear, hearts to love, hands to serve and feet to go.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Nehemiah, Organised builders and got building underway

I’m preparing for leading congregational singing and looking at the text for this week,  where we’re preaching through Nehemiah and looking towards moving from our current building to a new facility in the town.  I’ve struggled to get excited about Nehemiah 3 which is essentially a list of names of people who rebuilt parts of Jerusalem’s walls and finding songs that mesh even harder to find than normal!

I turned to Mark Driscoll’s series on Nehemiah for some inspiration.  These are the notes I took as I listened to him preach on this chapter.

  1. Leaders keep names of people they are leading to pray for them.  These were ordinary people building the walls, and were honoured by God when he listed them in the bible.
  2. The size of the project determines the size and function of the organisation to tackle the project. As an organisation grows, it complexifies.
    • Initially when an organisation is small, the pastor tends to do all and know all.
    • Then when there are two or three together, a little of the load is shared, but still pretty much everyone does everything
    • Get a little bigger and complexity starts to increase, it’s a bit more like a basket ball team, where there’s a single coach, and a play maker and a solid team with some guys on the bench
    • Bigger still and gets more like a American Football team where there’s specialisms and parts of the team don’t even know or serve together, you have offence and defence, and different coaches. They don’t all play at the same time and have different skills and tasks.
  3. Nehemiah can’t build the walls all by himself, it requires the help of everyone to do their part.
    • He broke the task down and allocated to smaller groups, who were unified in theology, purpose & relationally.
    • Teams were built on pre-existing relationships. (family, friendships, co-workers)
    • The bigger an organisation gets, the more important it is that there is trust.
      1. The task cannot be accomplished if people can’t be trusted to fulfil their part
      2. Trust the people you’re building with to do their part as you do yours
      3. Important to keep faithful to the vision, and not side snipe and become divisive.
    • Teams specialised on each section of the wall. Generalists are great when things are small, but when the tasks are larger, we need to use specialists who will be more effective at supporting the work.  (Consider the difference between your GP and a specialist at a hospital, where there are departments and consultants.)
      1. We need to change our focus on where we go to with issues – we can’t all run to the pastor when there are hundreds of us.
      2. Clearly identify who is doing what, and who the goto guys are
    • Have to focus on Air War and Ground War.
      1. Air war: communication to the masses (Chapter 2, preached to them)
        1. Necessary for explaining vision, correcting theology, setting the pace
        2. Some of us have only been affected by the air war. We listen to what is said, attend meetings but are not plugged in.  They’re identified with us, but not engaged in our task.
      2. Ground War: Training, leadership developments, community groups/relationships. biblical counselling. (Chapter 3, work connected to the vision takes place, to make the difference!)
        1. Those who are engaged in the ground war are:
          1. financially contributing
          2. engaged in service
          3. in a community group/relationship with others
          4. understands the vision and the part they play in achieving it.
  4. Nehemiah worked ON the organisation not IN it
    • Nehemiah didn’t build a section of the wall himself
    • He stayed attentive to what was going on in each group and how the work was progressing.
    • He looked for old stones. (140 year old stones, were re-used)
  5. God lists by name a list of people.  Because he loves people and loves to father them
    • God could have rebuilt the wall himself (he made the heavens and the earth didn’t he?)
    • We capture something of God’s heart when we work with him,
    • We can share in his joy of what is accomplished.
  6. Everything we do is ‘ministry’, even if we’re not paid for it, if we do it as ‘unto the Lord’
    • Jesus worked for 30 years in relative obscurity before his 3 year public ministry. During that time he was still Holy, still serving God.
    • Whatever it is we’re doing, it’s all sacred if it’s done unto the Lord.
      1. Some say, I wish God would use me. whatever you’re doing, if it’s unto the Lord,  HE IS!.
      2. some of the guys mentioned in Chapter 3, are mentioned for ‘picking up rocks’ and putting them in the wall.
  7. The nobles refused to work – don’t look to lead if you don’t serve.
    • Some people worked from Home.
      1. They worked outside their house
      2. Your house is an extension of your church facility
    • Minister as a family.
      1. Recognise gifts as they grow
      2. lead by example
  8. Some work is less desirable than others.
    • The dung gate.., someone volunteered. lets humble ourselves to get the work done.
  9. Old stones (older Godly people) have life, wisdom and experience of God working
    • Model godly behaviour, support new growth.
  10. With 38 teams of people the wall got built.

So what is my response to this?  How will I lead now?

I’m looking for songs that encourage us to:

  • Understand the ‘right now’ vision He has for us
  • Get our hands dirty and serve
  • See that God loves us and works with us
  • Be the new creations that God has made us


  • We’re working with God to his plans
  • That we have a place in his purposes
  • The family (natural, church and spiritual)

Lord I thank you that from a list of names torn from a journal entry in Nehemiah, we can see that you are a God of order and of purpose. I thank you that you choose to use ordinary people just like us to humbly serve you and fulfil your purposes.  I appreciate that you call different people to different tasks, some specialist, some general but all are necessary to get the job done.  I thank you for my family, and the maturity and gifting I see in them as we serve you together. I pray for my leaders that they will continue to grow in humble stature and skills and continue the transition from doing all IN the church to working ON the church, establishing healthy growing teams where growth can be accelerated as we work together to build your church.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Power Cuts

This morning we’ve experienced two power cuts.

I like many of you I suspect, use a laptop and so the first I know of a power cut was when I come to send an email or post a blog and find the broadband connection is down.

Now my laptop functions perfectly well without a connection to the internet. It can compute things, write things down and remember them, it can display information it has remembered and function pretty well.  It even has it’s own source of power so that it can work without being plugged in to the mains and it will continue to work like that for as long as the battery lasts.

The battery will last a long time if I put the computer in sleep mode.  Because I’m not asking the computer to do anything, it draws very little power.  If I use the laptop and turn down the brightness of the screen and change the power settings to idle when I’m not using it for a couple of minutes, I could expect the battery to last quite a long while.  But if I use it normally, the battery will last only a few hours and then it will turn off.  A computer without power is useless to me. It becomes a paperweight at best and a barrier to completing my work tasks for the day.

Even if I conserved it’s power, there’s only so long that I can be effective in my job without it. Sooner or later I’d need to check a system or send/receive an email, look over new work requests in our call management system or call someone on my voip phone. All of these things require a communications connection, and that connection needs power to work!

It struck me that I can sometimes be like a laptop disconnected from power.  I can function, but can only recall knowledge I already know. I can work things out, but without the benefit of Godly direction and I can serve but my reserves of energy are quickly depleted. It is important to remain plugged in to the triune God.  This is not to say that he ‘leaves us’ once we are His, but rather that we choose to ignore or work with our relationship in place (a bit like when I choose to ignore the satnav’s directions or say yes and no in what I hope are the right places in a conversation with my wife when I really want to be doing something else)..  Sooner or later (usually sooner) I recognise that I’ve become unplugged and I need to reconnect with God. I need to seek his spirit and his direction, I need to be thankful and cognisant of his salvation, his grace and his mercy. I need the refresh of the Spirit’s power, I need to draw from God’s love and tenderness, I need to confront the sin that so easily entangles and find the forgiveness of the father.

Lord, thank you for your steadfastness which goes on and on and on. There is nowhere I can run from you, and no place that I can hide. Thank you for your voice that remains speaking if only I will listen. Forgive me when I think my ways are better than yours or when I go off like a bull in a china shop and drain my resources faster than you provide them because I’m not doing what you say. Thank you that you restore me when I fail. Thank you for your power that works in me to fulfil your purposes.

Check Out Rick Warrens book:

for ways of staying plugged in and making a difference to your life

Numbers are meaningless

I am 14,000 days old today.  But no one counts their age this way, instead most of us click off the annual occurrence of the day of the month we were born based on the Gregorian calendar.  In the Gregorian system my ‘birthday’ is always in half term in October, but celebrating every 500 days enables celebrations at different points through the seasons.

I started thinking about all the things we apply what is loosely called ‘metrics’ to, and considered that some of them are arbitrary at best and unhelpful at worst and can significantly colour how we measure success.

For instance, we count people in attendance on Sunday’s as if physical presence was a measure of growth. What we’re actually counting there is number of seats needed + squarefootage + cups, chairs, leaflets etc required for family worship and for teaching activities in our facility.  Numerical growth may be indicated by the number of chairs required for Sunday meetings, but there’s a big difference between those attending and those ‘added’, and an even bigger difference between those added and those growing.

Growth is difficult to measure by numbers.  As a child each summer in my grandparents house I would stand against a wall and have my height marked off.  I remember that for the early years of life I was always some 4 to 6 inches (meaningless to those of a metric persuasion) behind my sister who was 393 days older than me. One year though, my growth had accelerated and I was a good 4 inches ahead of her. Tremendous growth in a calendar year.  Was I now older than her as well as taller?  No I was still 393 days younger.  Height was no measurement for maturity.

In the same way, increase in bums on seats is no measure for maturity of congregation. Neither is age of congregation, years saved, areas of service engaged in, responsibilities held, people in your growth/cell/small/connect/home group.   All of these may be ‘indications’ that enable an assessment against ‘is growth happening’, but are not measures of growth.  For instance, if someone has been ‘saved’ for 30 years, I might expect that they are well accustomed to the teachings of Christ and are able to apply his teachings for themselves and for others in what ever situations they find themselves, that they have learnt to hear the voice of God in the stillness and be prophetic, prayer warriors with many a story of God’s provision to underpin their faith and stir faith in others?  There are definitely many people for who this description fits to a T, but there are many others where it doesn’t so it’s not a reliable metric. Similar considerations can be made with nearly every metric.

The problem then with counting the things that are easy to count is that I can miss the tangible growth when it happens.  I don’t always see that Barry prayed with someone for the first time, or that Joanne took time to help someone get to hospital, or that Craig spent an hour helping someone understand something from scripture or that Gary stood with someone in their situation. Moreover, I’m not always privy to what is done in secret, so even if I was super observant I might miss growth as it happens.

Lord forgive me when I look but don’t see. When the tangible metrics cloud what’s really happening in the hearts and minds of those I stand shoulder to shoulder with.  Keep me focussed on growing with you, applying what is learnt in practical ways to love people and love You.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Does the Trinity affect your life?

I’ve recently read Donald Macleod’s book shared life in which he argues succinctly and understandably that we need to be mindful of the three persons of the trinity in our worship life.  To worship God the father without acknowledging the salvation brought through the Son or the guiding of the Holy Spirit is severely lacking..

Some oft used phrases can mislead us to thinking that only one member of the trinity is resident in our lives such as “God shaped hole”, “Invite Jesus into your heart” and “Indwelling of the holy spirit”, but Donald argues that scripture points to all three persons being resident in the redeemed soul.

The implication of this triune dwelling is security, power and ability to always be in the presence of God.  We share (through adoption, by grace) the special relationship that Christ enjoys with his Father and the Spirit… just think about that for a minute!

In his book Donald also provides an overview of the doctrine of the trinity and some observations about the differences with  Judiasm, Islam, Jehovah’s witnesses and mormonism.
For anyone confused with what the trinity is, and why it’s important to every Christian, I heartily recommend his book. Shared life.

Genuinely loving AND making disciples


Jesus Saves

Salvation is a sovereign work of God alone through Jesus (John 2:2.) There is nothing that we can do of ourselves to bring someone to Christ. Jesus, is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) This enables us to concentrate on being the salt and light that we are, ensuring that Christ is visible in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Make disciples

The mission from Christ is clear:  Go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and for many a year this has formed within us a strategy of seeing every person, every encounter as a God opportunity to win someone for Himself.  Being aware of this great commission while undertaking our daily activities is foundationally helpful, so we remain focussed on living a worshipful life and looking for opportunities, not letting them pass by.  But we must be clear that making disciples isn’t the same as converting people to Christ. Making disciples is journeying together towards Christ, it’s living life in the scrutiny of others, mutually following Christ and leading others to do the same. Maturing in Christ then encouraging others to mature. 

Love one another

The hallmark of being a follower of Jesus is that we love one another (John 13:35). It is in how we love, submit, serve, carry burdens, stand with, do good, support, care for, and encourage each other that it becomes easy to see that we are governed not by the desire to reach others for Christ, but by our desire to be Christ-like.  If our motivations for interactions with people are because we genuinely love them, that relationship will endure long after their decision to come to Christ for themselves.  Wouldn’t it be devastating to us if, once we came to Christ, he abandoned us to go find someone else to be friends with? So our motivation cannot be simply to reach people for Christ without wanting to be an eternally loving family.

  • It is possible for a while for me to fake love.  I can act loving, draw from experiences where I've been loved or felt loved and act that way towards others, but in the end my well of love will run dry, it will become a thankless task that will make my heart sad.  
  • It’s possible to assume that it is Christ’s love that will enable me to love people, and that in someway my own emotions and feelings won’t come into play because I'm about the Lord’s work, but love cannot be inferred from another. it will be my arms, my ears, my actions that will express love to another. It will be from my heart that the measure of love will be communicated.   
  • It’s possible to assume that I can determine when I'm leading others and maturing in faith and when I'm taking a day off, but whether I'm consciously engaging with others or being observed from afar, I'm still leading, Christ is still within me and I'm still a son of God.  If we could step out of his gaze, or the salvation won for us, I would be very worried indeed. If we are to diminish in stature for Christ to increase in us, should it not be that we are always ‘on duty’? Always worshipping, always caring, always loving?

If then I choose to be outside of my ivory tower or homestead castle, and live on the front line, everything I do, every day, matters.   Perhaps it is difficult to genuinely love others and make disciples if I'm not mindful of living a worshipful life 24/7. It can’t be something I pick and choose to do.  It is tiring and endless.  Jesus would retire regularly to pray and recharge with his father.  This is somewhat different to the ‘I need a holiday’ mentality i can sometimes take to get away from my responsibilities and ‘switch off’ and please myself.

Almighty God, my heavenly Father, I have sinned against you, through my own fault, in thought, word and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. For the sake of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive all my offenses, and grant that I may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your name, Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer)

Monday, 21 February 2011

This is our God (Your Grace is enough)


I think it would be good to learn this song in the near future:

This is Our God (your grace is enough)

Your grace is enough, more than I need
At Your word I will believe
I wait for You, draw near again
Let Your Spirit make me new
And I will fall at Your feet
I will fall at Your feet
And I will worship You here

Your presence in me, Jesus light the way
By the power of Your word
I am restored, I am redeemed
By Your Spirit I am free

Freely You gave it all for us
Surrendered Your life upon that cross
Great is the love poured out for all
This is our God
Lifted on high from death to life
Forever our God is glorified
Servant and King rescued the world
This is our God