Sunday, 29 June 2014

Leadership through 'given lives' - 1 Cor 9:15 - 23

Paul was free in Christ. Yet he strategically gave up his freedom in order to enter the world of different types of people in the hope of bringing them the gospel. He accepted limitations and embraced inconvenience for this purpose.

So who is God calling you to bring good news to?

How can we do that in the mix of all the other stuff in our lives. Our family, our work etc. pose legitimate calls on us. Can we be 'given over' to God's call without trashing these other life departments?

Christians have offered answers, for example suggesting a pecking order of God - spouse - children - and then church stuff. There is good reason for this: sadly there have been casualties in churches from time to time. Yet is that simple? If we put God as number one, then doesn't that compel us to serve ... and won't we do that with our faith community (i.e. do 'church stuff')?

Perhaps better to consider balancing a ball on a tray. The tray has various things on it that call for our attention, yet tip only in one direction and the others are neglected. Plus things change - family members get sick, redundancy at work comes along ... many things that change the landscape, requiring a re-balancing. Life is one long balancing act!

A couple of tips.
  1. Let your relationship with God permeate all departments, don't compartment off different aspects of life. Let your children see your faith in action ... even in the struggles of life.
  2. Work out your calling - what is your life (your 'tray') supposed to be about? Maybe there is stuff that shouldn't even be on your tray, or you can sit light with. If you honestly and prayerfully balance with your calling in mind, you can trust into God's hands the important factors in life (e.g. your children's longterm wellbeing). In other words, honour God and He will honour you.

An application of these tips is to bring your children to serve with you. Not always easy, and sometimes the source of conflict to be prayed and worked through.

Paul dialogues with the Corinthians about how they relate and view leaders. Paul makes it clear that it is not about rights but about 'given lives' - lives given to God's call and the ministry work. A church can only function with such lives operating at all levels (from the routine tasks up to strategic leadership). In Seeking to Worship, Seeking to Serve we will try to ensure what we do makes sense in terms of our mission purpose, simplifying where possible, re-arranging and re-distributing where that helps. Yet the bottom line is that each ministry area of the church can only happen if there are given lives.

We have different roles to play, but as per 1 Cor 3 it is God who brings the spiritual change, doing it through our efforts. Its not all about who has the most 'up front' personality, but who can God use through their character, gifting, and giving themselves to God's call. Hence the key question and challenge this week:

Key Qn: [OUT] Who is God calling you to bring good news to?
Challenge: Adjust your life balance to reflect this

How are you challenged, what do you need to adjust, to balance the tray that represents your life?

[OUT] Who is God calling you to bring good news to?

Challenge: Adjust your life balance to reflect this

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Spiritual Gifts II - 1 Cor 12:27 - 31 and 14:1 - 5

Acts 19 gives a story of some earnestly seeking believers who somehow seem to be missing something. They had John's baptism but not the overwhelming experience of receiving Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Receiving prayer they start speaking in tongues and speaking the words of God.

How many Christians live an earnest life yet seem to be missing something?

Any tradesman who comes to do a job will turn up with their toolbox - proper tools for the job. Recall from last week that to each one is given the Spirit for the common good. Some are given the ability to supernaturally know, others to speak God-directed words, others incredible Spirit-given faith, others see God work miraculously. These are like tools in the toolbox - why go out and try to serve with an empty toolbox?

I suspect the reason we often don't receive is that we are British - we like to be in full control. To receive and operate in the spiritual gifts means letting the Spirit work through us, i.e. surrender, allowing, risk and letting God be God. Yet the Spirit longs to empower us, each differently as He determines. Hence the key question and challenge:

Key Qn: [IN] What is God placing in you to play your part?
Key Challenge: Eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy → have someone pray with you

We hope to take God given life across the city, where people are broken and hurting. For this we need the Spirit to be empowering us with tools for the task.

A sensible suggestion for starters is to seek God regarding the gift of tongues - it can be viewed as an entry level gift, just as it signified the Spirit's first outpouring in Acts 2, initiating the Gentile church in Acts 10, and the Acts 19 story. It gives Christians a tangible experience of the supernatural. It is also uniquely a gift that individuals can use at their will.

The most common objection I hear is that people don't see the point. Yet that is because they are British - they want to be in control.The real point is to let the Spirit be in control, and pray through us. When I'm in a tight-spot I need God-prayers, not my own inadequate words!

Beyond tongues Paul clearly stresses prophesy, because it goes beyond the individual to benefiting the whole group by revealing the mind of God. For believers and even un-believers it can become very apparent that God is among you when the Spirit enables people to speak God's thoughts into the situation!

Whether you experience the Spirit in a whacky experience, an over-whelming sensation, or just a gentle breeze doesn't matter. Paul repeatedly says 'eagerly desire' ... so go on, take the challenge, step up and be open to receive.

[IN] What is God placing in you to play your part?

Key Challenge: Eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy → have someone pray with you

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Spiritual Gifts I - 1 Cor 12:4 - 14

New life in Christ for every Christian is a Spirit-animated life. It is no longer just a biochemical reaction, no longer just to consume. It is filled with God given purpose, and God given enabling and ability to strive towards that purpose.

The important words are often the little words. In Paul's letter it is quite clear that each one has a part to play. The Spirit gifting is not just for a select few or for some keenies, but for every believer. The parts will of course be different, and operate to varying degrees, but all have a role nonetheless.

The other important phrase in this passage is for the common good. The Spirit enables for God's purposes that build up everyone and reach out. As a church we want to take this God given life out across the city - God will do this by His Spirit working in each and every one of us.

You may feel God cannot possibly work through them, perhaps looking at how you have messed up so much in the past. Yet it is not about you, nor your mess. God has already come down in Jesus Christ to put that right, allowing the people of the day to consume and discard him, but in so doing setting down life as we know it. God raised this Jesus to new life: a Spirit-animated life which we can all now participate in.

Our past mistakes, the brokenness and fractures that result from them are all taken on that same cross. If we are prepared to let him, that old way of life can be washed away, drowned, lost for good. It is replaced by new life, with the Spirit working in us, giving us a whole new perspective, a purpose. Not just for us to feel better about ourselves, but to help restore a hurting world.