Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Twinned with the Trinity

It is a myth that the Trinity is difficult to understand and should be left to the theologians. The arrival of Jesus as a human was the moment when the Trinity became accessible to us all. Through belief in Jesus we are told in the bible that we have full access into the Throne room, the veil has been torn. So it does not therefore add up that we cannot discover the truth about the Trinity, it also says in Colossians that we have Christ dwelling within us, in Ephesians that the Holy Spirit is given as a deposit and in John, Jesus prays that we will have full unity with the father as he has unity with him. Colossians goes on to say that all the fullness of the deity is in Christ and we too have been given the fullness. So looking at scripture our access to the Trinity can be externally, as in walking through the veil, and internally on the basis that it is within us which leads me to conclude that understanding the Trinity is not just for the professionals but for all of us.

My reading of scripture suggests that God likes the idea of us being with him, wants us to discover more about him and the same can be said for Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If we believe only the one scripture, ‘Gods ways are higher than our ways’ regarding understanding God and then settle for only the one verse and use it for justifying why we can’t understand the Trinity, how do we then align scriptures such as; ‘we have the mind of Christ’, ‘fully reconciled to God’, ‘co-heirs with Christ’ and ‘you have been given fullness in Christ’?

There is a discovery to be made, an adventure to go on where the secrets of God are revealed to his children – that is you and me. God is relational; he lives in relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit and thanks to all that Jesus accomplished on the cross also with us. He is not a distant deity floating on a cloud somewhere playing chess with humanity completely out of reach and unfathomable. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 sets out some good words to inspire us that understanding God is possible through his Spirit. No training necessary, no good report card necessary, a free gift of God’s own Spirit.

I am not saying that we will fully understand everything about God, that would make us God, but I think we have been put off learning about the Trinity on the basis that it’s just too hard for us mere mortals. One more lie from the enemy that we perpetuate through certain beliefs; some people have a better relationship with God than us, some people are more gifted to understand God than us, some people are more favoured by God, some people find it easier to understand deep theological mysteries like the Trinity, and so we miss out on the treasures available to us. The stories in the bible show person after person understanding so much without any teaching, without a mentor, or a leader/priest, even a bible! John the Baptist would have been an interesting character in Sunday school! We too can understand the Trinity, how they work together, what that kind of relationship looks like and where/how/ do we fit into their relationship.

Somewhere we lost the ability to learn about God for ourselves, to hear from God directly. Our need to send somebody else wasn’t left in the desert with Moses and the Israelites. In any other of our relationships we do not accept third hand information, imagine being married and only talking to your partner through a third party. That only tends to happen with the relationship is either brand new – ‘my mate says will you go out with him’ or when it has totally broken down ‘tell the applicant that the respondent in the divorce wants the house’. It is nonsense and yet this can be our relationship with the Trinity. People become dependent on their leaders to access God for them, read a million books about God, watch God TV to hear what others have discovered, ask the prophetic/ministry team to find out what God thinks about them, spend hours in mental distress because they believe hearing from God is so difficult and there is a need for accuracy. So in amongst our desire to send someone else we have traded our relationship and live a third party one instead. We think the bible is too difficult for us to understand and yet we have its author living inside us. We think we are so distant from God that he can’t hear us. We think we are ‘in sin’ and therefore cannot now here from God as opposed to the truth that we are ‘in Christ’ and therefore can hear directly from God anything that we want an answer to. We make comments like – ‘oh when I get to heaven I’ve got so many questions for God when I get there’, according to scripture you are seated in heavenly places, why not ask now?

The time is gone for the special man with the special ministry with the next best impartation, the cat is out of the bag or the revelation of Christ in you is being declared. The full gospel is once again being preached, the gospel that tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what Jesus did at the cross. The truth that on the cross Jesus dealt the death blow to our sinful nature and brought full reconciliation to God. The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that you are now included in Him, you are in Christ and therefore you have full access to the full Trinity. Now you have been co-crucified your sinful nature has died and you are no longer subject to sin and cannot therefore become distant from God because of sin. You do not bungee jump in and out of your relationship with God and he does not find you favourable one day and difficult the next. He is not hiding from you hoping that you one day you will find him, if you pray really hard/loud/consistently/earnestly and search 24/7 for him, showing him enough passion and ensuring you don’t do anything that is naughty otherwise he will have to go and hide again. How can he hide when he is inside you? He does not fully reveal everything about himself to us in one go as we would explode but this is not to be confused with hiding from us. He does not live in a desert or send us into one because Jesus already went into the desert for us. He does not give us the silent treatment to make us love him or search for him more, he does not punish us or withhold anything from us. The full outrageous gospel is that we have been given everything, have access to everything and have been restored into a full relationship with all of the Trinity.

The truth of the gospel is that we have now been twinned with Jesus, he is our twin-brother, he is our identity, and everything we are is dependent on everything he is. We have been co-everything with Christ. Co-crucified, co-resurrected and co-heirs. Our relationship with God is fully dependant on Jesus’ relationship with God, co-linked, integrated into, he is in us and we are in him. We totally belong to him, he has purchased us, paid full price for us and adopted us into the family. The Spirit of adoption confirms it and we only need to believe it.

Even here we have been hoodwinked that some have more belief than others, more faith to believe than others and yet even our faith is a gift given to us by God. Faith is not spelt R.I.S.K., it is spelt G.I.F.T.! All we are required to do is say ‘Yes’ to what Jesus has already done for us. Our agreement is all that is needed. He gives us the faith to believe in Jesus, he gives us the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us and to remind us of all truth and he has done everything necessary for us to be fully reconciled to him.

The gospel has the power to set us free, and not just from our sinful nature, it will also set us free to believe that we are completely in Christ and live in the midst of the Trinity.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


It’s funny how when you hear a phrase or are having a conversation and something just doesn’t seem right but at the time you can’t really explain what and why. I can find myself continuing the conversation, listening to the other person and agreeing with them but knowing that somewhere in my head I just don’t agree but can’t seem to collect the thoughts together enough in that moment to be able to express it. The other person is making good points, agreeable points, nothing wrong with points, but still I retain a feeling that I don’t agree, there’s something niggling me that means I am unsure of my agreement. The conversation ends and the other person walks away thinking I agree with them, probably because I just have, and I wander off to ponder why I just don’t like the phrase or the agreement seemingly reached.

So this blog comes from a conversation about church and this particular phrase; ‘you can’t just walk away from your responsibilities’– which I agreed with at the time but now I’m not so sure. I think whether you can or not depends on whether those responsibilities are rightly placed or based on a questionable structure in the first place. It has me thinking about what are these ‘responsibilities’ where do they come from and can you walk away from them with a clear conscience. I think some of the answers to that question lie in our understanding of what is a church and what is a community and where does being ‘responsible’ for the structure and its members come from and is it forever. Living in relationship with other people creates a sense of responsibility. Society has a collection of rules, which apply to everyone, dictating how to behave in the best interests of other members of the society. When people become linked by more than society i.e. work or club membership, the rules for behaviour intensify. These rules are usually well known, recognised, mostly agreeable and depending on how much you want to be in the specific group of people you will abide by the rules. Maybe this is where our thoughts on ‘belonging before you believe’ come from, because of people’s need to be part of a community we changed the rules of ‘church membership’ to be able to incorporate into the church community people with no belief in Jesus. We include people and whilst there is no consensus on belief there is a sense of responsibility for their welfare and their journey into belief.

The rules and responsibilities between friends and partners can be more intense, rules/obligations relating to honouring, caring, respecting, being the shoulder to cry on, being the person who will get out of bed in the night for you. It is perhaps true to say the closer the relationships, the more responsibilities there are to each other. There are some relationships that you cannot walk away from, there is a depth of love that means you don’t want to stop being responsible for each other. A parent never wants to stop being responsible for their child, the sense of being needed for something, having an input in their lives, doing what is possible to ensure their well-being. Sometimes such depth exists between friends, where regardless of distance or time there is a tie that looks covenantal.

Here’s a dictionary definition of community: - a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage / a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists. A couple of points from that definition; shared government is an interesting concept and has the implications of government of others, a sense of leadership and submissiveness, agreement and consensus to rules. When moved across to understanding church community we can see that there is governance in church structures. Based on our interpretation of biblical principles, our culture, and depending on the style of church, the government is either very clearly established, easy to identify and traditional or has the appearance of being more vague but in reality it is still strongly established. The leaders make the decisions based on their interpretation of the scripture and sometimes, but not always, with the mandate of the congregation. There perhaps lies one of the reasons for a clergy laity split, somebody has to be responsible for the governance of the church and our interpretation has led us down the path that the governance is specific men/women who have either applied for the job, been to seminary or have been seen to carry the qualities of leadership. As a leader in a church how can you walk away from this governance responsibility? I would suggest that it is possible if you also walk away from the style of church that requires a style of governance that dictates the beliefs of the group and governs from a place of platform/pedestal. Jesus’ leadership comes from a place of submission to God, servant-hood and certainty of his identity and his church leaders should come from that place also. I don’t think it is a church leader’s responsibility to lead like a king, to sit on a pedestal and dictate what God is saying to the congregation today. I believe we have one king and all believers are his priesthood. Church structures might need people who will be administrators of the finances and the schedule but not leaders in the place of Jesus. I don’t believe this is one-sided; congregations love their kings (aka strong leadership) and being consumers, (only contribute when asked specifically and usually by manipulation). It is much easier to be told what the bible means or what God is saying and much easier to lead when you do it all yourself and stop trying to equip people! What would happen if all the leaders in all the church decided they were stepping down, (an interesting phrase) and instead left the meeting open to everyone to bring what God is saying to them, perhaps a song, a good news story, a prayer, a prophecy, a teaching session, a need, would it still be church? What if only one person brought a talk to encourage others in their journey, would that still be church? What if all you did was drink tea and share lives, would that still be church? In these scenarios I don’t see the need for governance, administration and organisation perhaps but not the governance in the sense of one person/s over the others. There should be only one person over our heads and his name is Jesus.

Back to the definition, ‘distinct from the larger society’ and I think this one is a whopper for our social engagement and our understanding of responsibility - ‘in the world but not of it’.

The word 'church' in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word 'ekklesia' which comes from two words 'ek' meaning 'out' and 'kaleo' meaning to 'call.' An ekklesia or 'calling out' was not just an assembly. The word ekklesia was a political term, not a religious term. The New Testament writers could have chosen other words for church that would represent a group gathering together but they chose a political term, one that had the added element of coming out of the established system. Something about this gathering of people that was to be distinct from other gatherings.

Today our churches are set apart from the local communities and this has led to a massive call to re-engage, to re-emerge, to be seeker-friendly, make our meetings much more attractive and accessible to the unbelievers. Let’s give away prizes and make everything excellent and this will encourage people into church, once they realise we are ‘fun’ they will want to join. This is great for church numbers, it may work to get people through the doors to hear the gospel from the pulpit, it may help people belong to a community and help people once ‘in’ to journey into belief. Another shape of emerging church is to engage with the community outside of ‘church’ hours and move away from the central focus of the church meeting. We’ve done teaching relating to being Christ where you engage with community, in your sphere of influence, being outward, and kingdom focused rather than trying to attract folk into the church meeting.

Perhaps this leads to the ‘called-out’ local community being torn between their desire or vision to be good news to the community in which it resides and the distinctive nature of being a church, the called out community. The phrase ‘in it to win it’ would suggest that we stop being ‘called-out’ because we want to be seen to be the same, not too different, not too weird, to fully engage with our communities on their level. (Not to be confused with 'in it to win it' on a personal level where that is the calling for most christians on a daily basis). The shift in emphasis means there is a shift in perceived, but not necessarily agreed, responsibilities. The rules start to change, the responsibilities widen from those in the church to the whole community outside the walls. Tension arises on the basis that people are no longer fulfilling their responsibilities to the church structure. The cry of ‘what about my needs’ ‘who will be looking after me now’ starts to filter to the surface. It is now more than just sending out the evangelists on raiding parties now the rules have changed and we are all evangelists, all carrying the message of good news. It is part of who we are – go and make disciples, preach the good news, heal the sick and raise the dead. How can we walk away from this responsibility? The church is the bride of Christ, it declares the manifest wisdom of God, it is Christ’s body, and once we believe that, it will affect how we respond to our responsibilities to the church and the community. Perhaps we have misunderstood the meaning of the word ekklesia, it was not to be a closing of the doors and cultural separation, a fear of being contaminated by the world outside and perhaps not even a blending in to the community so we can’t be seen. Perhaps instead it is to be a distinct group of people who know Jesus to be their saviour, called out from darkness into the light and nothing to do with structures and meetings and everything to do with our relationship with Jesus and humanity..

So back to the reason for the blog - ‘responsibilities’, which ones can you walk away from? Certainly those that we were never meant to carry in the first place and one of the biggest in the church structure is the responsibility for other people’s relationship with God. We have confused leadership/discipleship roles with that of becoming somebody else’s priest. If I step into the role of being responsible for a person’s relationship with God I am becoming their mediator and that job is already taken. I can teach, I can disciple but the ultimate responsibility is the individuals and I do them a massive disservice if I don’t teach them to access God personally, to learn from God independently from the church and its leadership, to have a dependency on Jesus not on the leader of the church. This is a responsibility we should all be walking nay running away from!

There is the responsibility to each other that goes beyond the structure and here I think is the core responsibilities that you cannot walk away from. We are in relationship with the people in our churches and it is here that if people become responsibilities rather than relationships we’ve lost the plot. Our responsibilities flow from our relationships and this flows from our relationship with Jesus. As soon as we forget our relationship with Jesus then we forget our identity and we forget to see people. We forget that Jesus works from a place of restful relationship with his father and we too can work in complete restfulness where people are a pleasure and a privilege to be around.

The Science dictionary states a community as: - A group of organisms or populations living and interacting with one another in a particular environment. The organisms in a community affect each other's abundance, distribution, and evolutionary adaptation.

A good definition of the church perhaps; the living organism that is more than its meetings and structures, the living entity that affects people’s abundance. The place where we are responsible to each other for well-being, goodness and love. A community where the structures and the meetings are secondary to the relationships and where the responsibilities are based on loving relationships rather than historic or governmental rule keeping.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Broken Britain?

Just a short rant today!

I'm heartily sick of this 'Broken Britain' nonsense!  Britain isn't broken, it may be mildly sprained at worst but it sure ain't broken!  Why is this?  Because we don't live in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia or any one of the many other countries or regions around the world whose society can truly be called 'broken'.

No-one is likely, on a daily basis, to blow up your car with a land-mine or grenade on your way to work, or lie on a roof top with a sniper rifle shooting at innocent passers-by.
Our government is largely honest, even if we disagree with its policies.
Our police are overwhelmingly trustworthy and honest.
Our courts are overwhelmingly honest and you're unlikely to be sent to jail for something you didn't do, nor will you be executed by the state no matter what you did.
Our schools, by and large, teach our children well and care for them.
Our hospitals are staffed by well trained & professional doctors and nurses.
Our banks and financial institutions are mostly stable and reliable, even the ones that wobbled were propped up and not allowed to fail.
We have freedom to follow any faith, even the ones that appear as mad as a bucket of frogs.
We have food, water, shelter, heat, light and entertainment all readily available.

There may be some problems with Britain but STOP calling it 'broken', call it Great again.

The church, in particular, needs to start prophesying blessing to our land when it speaks about it instead of constantly cursing it with the label 'broken'.  The Gospel is good news to our land, not a wailing lament, a critical judgement or a pity-party for those who like to sit around slagging everything off or moaning about how everything used to be better in some rose-tinted 'golden age'.  The golden age is now.  God is good, the Gospel is true, the kingdom is at hand.

I live in 'Blessed Britain' you can too.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I quit!

I read an article today on the BBC website called ‘I Quit!’ It talked about the recent, numerous high-profile resignations and the different reasons and methods people use to resign. The strapline read ‘Some hang on until the bitter end and some leave under a cloud but is there a way to go with grace?’ What a fantastic question; is there a way to go with grace?

The article pointed out that resignations have sometimes been used as a kind of protest that people will resign from their position when they feel they can no longer tolerate or be associated with the policy of those employing them. Our conscience will at times, despite the consequences of our actions, inform us that resignation is the only way to do what is right, to do the right thing. Clearly one person’s definition of right and another’s can differ which leads to calls for resignation where there is the appearance of wrong doing. The article points out ‘When some resign they leave with their heads hung in shame, for others it's a moment of defiance, and there are those who acknowledge that they have done wrong and leave quietly.’

It was the phrase ‘I quit’ that sparked a few thoughts about quitting; it reminded me of the Brother Lawrence quote – ‘I have quitted all forms of devotion and set prayers but those to which my state obliges me.’ which has been a marker phrase in our house for a few months. It is the call to avoid going through the motions, going to the meetings because we should, it has been a call to resist the status quo, to stop doing things that we have just always done and taken time to think about what we actually believe. To stop doing those things that perpetuate myths and fallacies. Our intent is to focus our attention on practising the presence and believing more what Jesus has already done for us rather than inattentively meandering along a well-worn path. To consider prayer a continuation of our relationship with God, to simply turn our gaze towards his face and continue the on-going conversation rather than enacting something that suggests there is a separation between us and God or a separation between the sacred times and the secular times.

I have quitted using phrases that make no sense in the light of the finished work of the cross, such as; praying for an open heaven, when Jesus opened heaven and left it open for humanity to enter; praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit when he has already been poured out on all flesh; referring to the land as dry or a place as hard as we carry the springs of living water and all of the earth is the Lords. I have quitted living under the old covenant terminology when I have been rescued by the new covenant. I have quitted looking to others for impartations and anointing when God tells me I have the fullness of the deity within me and have been fully anointed. I have quitted thinking that I have to pray the right prayers in the right order at the right time in order to be heard. I have tried to quit pointless squabbles about doctrine as nobody has the whole truth and trying to change somebody else’s beliefs is not my job.

Is there a way to go with grace? Yes, Yes and Yes. To go with grace means to quit all forms of law. I can quit anything that suggests I can earn or keep my salvation or that my relationship with God is about me keeping the rules. I am blessed because he loves to bless me, it is his character not mine that leads to blessing. I am righteous and holy because he says so, I am reconciled, accepted and loved because he says so and he tells the truth. Jesus came full of grace and truth and anything more than that or mingled with that is not for me. I cannot mix in some law, just to be sure of my salvation, keep all the rules just in case it is too good to be true. Mixing law and grace is the same as saying the cross was not sufficient to fulfil the law, that sacrifice is still needed and law keeping is still necessary, something which Paul rebuked the Galatian church for believing. So I have quit law keeping and have gone the way of grace. His grace is sufficient for me.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Beauty and Hope

‘He makes all things beautiful in its time’ Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV

‘The whole He hath made beautiful in its season’ (Youngs Literal Translation)

All things in harmony with the whole work of God. A verse bursting with hope.

I wonder if we can link this verse to Isaiah 61:3 – ‘to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair’, where perhaps the ashes are hopes that have turned to dust. People are full of hopes and dreams, some of which they see fulfilled and some they see crumble in their hands like dust. I wonder whether when we consider our purpose for today we could add the dimension of bringing hope back to people. Can we speak words of life to create hope again? To inform them that God always has good plans for them, that his word is true and everything God does is forever, nothing added, nothing taken away.

The bible is full of scriptures that encourage us to look up, to hope, to trust, to know that help is on the way, to know that all will be well. Where perhaps in the past the church has been concerned too much with judgement day and the consequences of sin we could shift our emphasis to redemption and hope for today.

I wonder if we can ask God to shift the times and seasons to bring beauty today where there are ashes, to bring hope where there is despair. Yesterday we were praying for two young women, one with breast cancer, one with cervical cancer, (the two cancers that affect woman-ness, femininity, beauty, identity). Cancer brings with it a devastation of hopes, from the very moment it is diagnosed the hope to avoid it is in ashes whilst other hopes hang in the balance; the hope to have more children, the hope to avoid medical interventions, the hope to avoid hair loss, the hope to avoid sickness, the hope to live. One of the biggest hopes we have – to be healthy and the main thought throughout pregnancy – the hope for a healthy baby. So we prayed for these two women, we prayed for beauty today instead of the ashes that came with the diagnosis and medical intervention. We prayed for today because that is what we have - we hope today for beauty today. We asked God to call the time for beauty ‘today’ not in the distant future.

This is not new information; it is just a reminder that we are the hope carriers.

Here’s a good prayer. It was delivered by Mother Theresa when she addressed the United Nations in 1985 (according to Wikipedia)

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.

That where there is hatred I may bring love,

That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,

That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,

That where there is error I may bring truth,

That where there is doubt I may bring faith,

That where there is despair I may bring hope,

That where there are shadows I may bring light,

That where there is sadness I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,

To understand than to be understood,

To love than to be loved.

For it is by forgetting self that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,

it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.