Sunday, 9 February 2014

Prayer Resources

Here is the information about prayer resources that was put out for people to browse this Sunday.

Retreat! Luke 6:12

We know deep down that the most important thing we can give our children is our time and focussed attention - communicating to them that we love them because.

Of course distractions cram in and threaten to undermine our ability to give this attention and love. Ironically it is the same deal with our relationship with God - yet in this case it is again us who are distracted, with a myriad of things crowding in stopping us from simply 'being' and receiving the love that God our Father longs to pour into our lives.

Jesus prioritised time spent with the Father, deliberately withdrawing to pray. See in Luke how many times this happens, see how most precede a major new phase of ministry. Shouldn't we take a hint for our own lives? Hence the key question:

[OUT] Does my living for God out in the world flow from resting in Him?

Rather than giving God the answers, or doing some kind of super-broadband upload of info that we call prayer, maybe God just wants us to allow Him to gaze on us, to quietly let us know that He is in control, that He loves us because.

Getting this right is crucial. Thats why in our strategic thinking about corporate prayer we talk about rhythm and diet so much. Thats why key groups in the church are invited to hold a prayer retreat once a term.

The ministry of Jesus flowed from his relationship with the Father. It can only be the same for us. Anything else degenerates to our works, or leaves us burnt out. If we are to sustain reaching out, if to reach further or deeper we must return to Him to receive afresh. There are different practices, resources and ways of doing this [4 examples were given in the Sunday service]. But the bottom line is that it is down to each of us to make it happen.

What practice of being still before God will you give a try going forward, so that you can gear things to work and minister flowing from your rest in Him.

[OUT] Does my living for God out in the world flow from resting in Him?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Luke Reading Challenge - Times Jesus Prays

As you read the gospel of Luke (suggest two chapters a week, with a few catchup weeks, and you will complete this term) make a mental note of the different times Luke records Jesus as praying. Especially withdrawing to pray.

For bonus points think about the flow of the story following these prayer times. What do the prayer times precede?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

To the Needy - Luke 5:12-16, 27-32 Part Two

In another seemingly random encounter Jesus sees the tax collector. Another social outcast, a collaborator with the enemy Romans, a Sinner with a capital S, someone locked in an oppressive system. Another a person seen by society as good as dead.

Yet somehow Jesus has faith in this person, that he could turn around, that he could be friend. To this the person replies 'YES', bold font, large letters! He will have to leave a lot behind, his weasel dealing for one thing.  But that doesn't mean abandoning his friends! Having been welcomed by Jesus he now welcomes Jesus to his home for a party, which is a place full of dodgy characters.

Jesus seems to go with the flow - but we don't know the outcome. There is little evidence of church growth (or even moral reform) involving these others! That's an important lesson about Kingdom work: we seek God's Kingdom first and foremost, not simple addition or conformance to our church. We do the Kingdom work as Jesus did, but cannot ourselves guarantee church growth.  That work is for the Spirit in due course.

An example is our work through the Foodbank. We interact with people who are struggling, sometimes messed up with addictions and the like, people for which society has all but written off with no answers. Yet what do we do? Ring-fence them off, ensure we protect ourselves? Or do we stay on the lookout for Kingdom possibility, holding out for that 'YES' in God?

Life out there is messy. We do not have all the answers. As we get involved we will have disappointments and setbacks. Yet our call is to go anyway with Jesus' Kingdom 'YES'. To let Jesus' Kingdom fill our thinking and vision so that we never let ourselves believe that anyone is unreachable, too far gone, unable to be touched by the transforming power of God.

We must therefore go out, quite likely having to leave some of our own stuff behind (as Peter did, as the tax collector did), being ready for those seemingly arbitrary moments when we are faced with incredible need or hurt. Ready to pronounce the 'YES' of Jesus Christ over their lives.

To the Needy - Luke 5:12-16, 27-32 Part One

Some of the gospel events seem to start with a random/chance encounter. The leper is one example. He would have been outcast, pronounced perpetually 'unclean', which in reality meant he was seen as good as dead. Yet somehow he had enough faith to throw himself before Jesus and say 'If you are willing ...'.

Jesus answer to this was 'YES'. Bold font, big letters! Jesus identifies with him (touching him), i.e. puts himself with the one who was dead and restores him to life. That is the Kingdom vision right there: in the randomness of ordinary life being faced with the most hideous and broken, yet saying 'YES - God has life for you, be clean, get back on your feet'.

Note how Jesus also works in tandem with the ordinary systems of society. In his day it was to present to the priest as final arbiter. Today of course it would be to confirm your healing by going back to the doctor.

Yet Jesus then does something interesting - he goes to a solitary place to spend time with his heavenly Father. The 'yes' of Jesus flows from his relationship with God the Father. We need to go out seeing Kingdom possibility ... but not with our own cleverness or zeal, but flowing from our relationship with the Father. Specific time spent close to God will have a direct correlation to what we see and the Godly influence we have on those around us.