Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Lord ... more!

A good friend of mine from theological college in Bristol, UK eventually got around to publishing his first book a couple of years ago. I only recently got my hands on a copy when friends from England visited us back in August. The book is entitled "More .. How you can have more of the Spirit when you already have everything in Christ". It touched a deep longing within me for more of God in my life and in our community. It also challenged me to consider afresh what the Lord is looking for in my heart and life.

Recently I have spoken with one or two people within BridgePoint and it has excited to hear of a growing desire in them for a deeper experience of God in their lives. I sense this is something that the Lord is working in us and wonder if the testimony of others is a similar hunger. This real desire has led at least a couple of us to commit to look for opportunity to get together each week to encourage one another and to pray specifically that the Lord would pour out his blessings but that also the reality of the Spirit within 'me', would be a greater force, a wider, deeper river, whatever the metaphor we prefer.

This coming weekend I will be teaching and preaching at a Church of Christ church in Grand Prairie, near Dallas. They have invited me to speak at their Alpha away-day on the subject of "How can I be filled with the Spirit" and then to preach at their Sunday gathering and teach in Sunday School - so a busy weekend. I would appreciate your prayers for the Lord's anointing upon our time together.

It is interesting to me that these things are all happening together - perhaps a mere coincidence, but I sense that the Lord is also speaking to us through these events. In particular, that he continues to scour the earth, looking for worshippers who will worship in Spirit and in truth. What will he find when he visits your home?

In his book, my friend Simon Ponsonby speaks of different ways we can both hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by 'putting on the brakes' but also ways we can 'clear the path'. I wanted to include them here for your own meditation and prayer.

Putting on the brakes
  1. An unexpectant heart
  2. An unyielded life
  3. An unconfessed sin
  4. An undiscerned enemy
  5. An unclaimed inheritance
  6. Unwanted gifts
  7. Unbelief because of unworthiness
Clearing the path
  1. Repentance
  2. Obedience
  3. Unity
  4. Prayerfulness
I close with a quote from John Piper;
What we should seek (and this applies to all Christians) is that God pour His Spirit out upon us so completely that we are filled with joy, victorious over sin, and bold to witness. And the ways He brings us to that fullness are probably as varied as people are. It may come in a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and tongues. It may come through a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and no tongues. It may come through a crisis of suffering when you abandon yourself totally to God. Or it may come gradually through a steady diet of God's word and prayer and fellowship and worship and service. However it comes, our first experience of the fullness of the Spirit is only the beginning of a life-long battle to stay filled with the Spirit. (sermon on Eph 5:18 - "Be filled with the Spirit")
So, let us wait upon Him for the promise, for His glory alone.

Praying for righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Do you Care?"

An oft-quoted refrain in our household, "do you care?" may just be a somewhat random, unrelated response to the particular topic of discussion. But sometimes it may well be a serious question about our willingness to lay aside our preoccupation with our own world, and respond to someone else's need. It is a question that the Lord seems to be placing on my heart often as I reflect about my life, BridgePoint, the people in my own Simple Church community, not to mention those around me who I see but don't truly know.

My thinking has also no doubt been impacted by my work with the Center for Relational Leadership and subsequent involvement, at an intimate level, with people I may have just met for the first time that day. The 'tag line' for our network that I wrote on some recent vision documentation invited us to be a "Knowing ... Caring ... Serving" kind of community, understanding that the first step in the process, "Knowing" (or "Befriending") is essential if we are truly care for people. It is hard to care for someone unless we make an effort to really know them. Such 'knowing' is at the heart of the Christian faith. It is a relational knowing, supremely of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - an intimate union that is designed to produce life-giving fruit as described by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5.

Just today in our Scripture reading together, Carol and I read from Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (2:4) We went on to read that such an attitude would most closely resemble that of Jesus himself, one that comes only with humility and often with personal sacrifice. But such an attitude is most pleasing to our Father in heaven who promises to so graciously exalt us when that is our preoccupation.

I heard recently of someone encouraging us towards 'Covenantal Relevance' rather than a focus upon 'Cultural Relevance'. He was suggesting that our lives and ministry should focus upon helping to strengthen our ability to live into the great commandment to love God and love our neighbor. The primary human expression of God's covenant relationship with us as the people of God, is that of marriage and the family. A few days ago we were reading Ephesians 5, where Paul urges us to be filled with the Spirit in order to 'live a life of love' (5:1) and then immediately goes on to describe how this spiritual life needs to be 'earthed' (or we might say 'incarnated') in our marriages, families and workplaces.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his followers that they are to be empowered through the Holy Spirit to become witnesses (a translation from the Greek word from which we get the word 'martyr'), in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. These are like extending circles of impact for which we might think about our own relational impact extending outwards in the following sequence;
  1. At HOME with spouse/children/parents ... our Jerusalem (where I live)
  2. With FRIENDS ... our Judea (those most like me)
  3. Among WORK COLLEAGUES ... our Samaria (similar but different!)
  4. WHEREVER God sends us ... the Ends of the Earth (people 'foreign' to us)
It has been on my heart for some time, to gather together with any who wish, to explore how to deepen our relationships with spouses, friends, parents, children and work colleagues. There is a growing need for this within our culture and I dare say within our faith community, and therefore within each of our hearts if our lives are to be increasingly characterized as focused upon knowing ... caring ... serving in a selfless and sacrificial manner.

So, here's the plan. Carol and I want to invite any who can come to our home on Sunday October 14th at 7pm for some refreshment and cake .... or pie! Just to have an evening together where we can share more of our heart on this as well as interact together. Out of that time, we would want to invite any who wish, into a process of personal growth to help develop more authentic, intimate relationships with family and friends. The Sunday evening is a one-off event, so you can just come to that if you wish to hear more and hopefully enjoy some fellowship (and pie!) together.