Monthly Archives: September 2012

Personal Vision

In Myers Briggs terms I am an Introverted Intuitive, that means that personal vision is really important to me. So I like the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It is vision that gets me up in the morning, energises and recharges me.

“You see things as they are and ask ‘Why’? But I dream things that never were, and ask ‘Why Not’?” George Bernard Shaw


“Unless you see it before you see it, you will never see it”

Reflecting back on the past months before my sabbatical it wasn’t the workload or the plethora of Christmas services that I found the most draining and that led me to a point of exhaustion at the end of 2011, but a lack of vision. As a result one of my prayers over the past few months has been for God to reignite and restore my vision of what he is calling me to be and to do.

Reflecting back on the past months before my sabbatical it wasn’t the workload or the plethora of Christmas services that I found the most draining and that led me to a point of exhaustion at the end of 2011, but a lack of vision. As a result one of my prayers over the past few months has been for God to reignite and restore my vision of what he is calling me to be and to do.

What has happened isn’t a new vision but a reaffirmation of an old vision. God has taken me back nine years to just before I came to St Paul’s. In those weeks before my interview God gave me a personal vision that I believed was also to be a vision for the church he would call me to lead.

It is summed up as this:

A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children

That statement is simple and yet immensely profound. It is a statement that I have found myself returning to again and again in the past weeks. What does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children?’ I’ll be unpacking that in my next few posts.

What has God called you to be and to do? You might like to share with others by commenting, I’d certainly be interested in hearing, and if you have no idea how about asking God and then listening to what he has to say?



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 16 A New Beginning …

There is a story told of a man named Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin.

But during his day he was as powerful a man as there was on earth. As Russian Communist leader he took part in the Bolshevik Revolution 1917, was editor of the Soviet newspaper Pravda (which by the way means truth), and was a full member of the Politburo. His works on economics and political science are still read today.

There is a story told about a journey he took from Moscow to Kiev in 1930 to address a huge assembly on the subject of atheism. Addressing the crowd he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity hurling insults, argument, and proof against it. An hour later he was finished. He looked out at what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. Deafening silence filled the auditorium but then one man approached the platform and mounted the lectern standing near the communist leader. He surveyed the crowd first to the left then to the right. Finally he shouted the ancient greeting known well in the Russian Orthodox Church: “CHRIST IS RISEN!”

En masse the crowd arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of thunder:


That first Easter morning the women and then the men visited the tomb and found the stone rolled away. That stone that had symbolised so powerfully the end of life and hope and future. All was lost as that stone was rolled across the tomb. It was the final moment of the reality of the death of the one they loved and who had brought love, life and hope to them.

That first Easter morning the stone was rolled away. The barrier between death and life was gone. The barrier between despair and hope was removed. The barrier between brokenness and wholeness was destroyed.

That first Easter God moved the stone, and he still moves stones today. Is there something that stands between you and life, between you and hope, between you and wholeness, between you and God? God still moves stones today. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find , knock and the door will be opened. So this Easter day let us ask God to remove all that stands between us and life, hope, wholeness and himself.

Alleluia Christ is RISEN!
He IS RISEN Indeed Alleluia!

We’ve got to the end of our journey through Mark. Well done. My hope and prayer is that each of us has done more than read words, but we’ve heard the author speak to us himself. I also pray that if you’ve never read the bible daily before you won’t stop. Reading the Bible each day is one of the best, and most important, foundations to living the life as an apprentice of Jesus.



Reading Mark Together – Chapter 15 The End…

Events move fast in Mark 15. Jerusalem was occupied territory of the Romans and so the Jews did not hold the ultimate authority here and had no authority to demand a person be executed, that had to go to the Romans. As a result the religions leaders had to take Jesus to Pilate and persuade him to agree to their demands that Jesus be executed, but they didn’t go alone, by this time they had a crowd along.

That itself is worth recognising because one of the things that was feared by the leaders of all Jewish cities was a dissent that would lead to rioting. Why? Because the result would be a Roman backlash, the killing of many innocent Jews and a greater force of Roman occupation. But here the Chief Priests stir up the crowd in order to have Jesus crucified. And faced with an unruly crowd Pilate took the route of least resistance – he gave them what they wanted.

So Jesus was handed over to be crucified. But his torture didn’t start on the cross. it started in the courtyard of the Roman garrison where he was flogged. This was not a gentle telling off, it was brutal torture from which some people died. If we look back to the Old Testament we find this torture and suffering prophesied. Read the passage from Mark alongside Isaiah 53 and allow God to speak to you about the Love of Jesus.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

And so we come to the crucifixion. We read this knowing the end of the story, it is like reading a good novel, but reading the last chapter before you read the first. Try reading is as if you didn’t know the end. Ask yourself what those who were watching would have thought/felt. Ask yourself what it would have been like to carry Jesus’ body from the cross to the tomb. And finally ask yourself what it would have been like to see the stone rolled across the entrance to the tomb. Live with Good Friday for a while. Thank Jesus for his deep and great love for you.

Reading Mark Together – Chapter 14 Betrayal and Denial

In Mark 14 we have Jesus at the start of the last week of his life earthly. He is anointed in what must have been a very emotional and moving way for him. We then have one of those connections in Scripture that we often look past. Then ….. Then Judas Iscariot went to find a way to betray Jesus. What was it about this last event that wound Judas up so much that he took this step? This was not the only event that led Judas on his path, but it was the final event that led to betrayal, so what was it about this woman and Jesus acceptance of her?

We don’t have an answer in the passage so we can only suppose. Was it the waste of money and extravagance on Jesus – the poor were in more need? Was it that Jesus has received this ministry from a woman – in Jewish society of the time they came a long way behind the men? Was it the statement of Jesus afterwards about being anointed for burial?

We don’t know what it was, but it is likely that this last step to betrayal had started with a  small seed many weeks or months before. This seed was not good seed planted by the sower but thorns planted by the enemy. The mistake that Judas made was in not recognising and uprooting the thorns when they were planted.

We may look at Judas and say we would never have done that, but all of us have the possibilities for turning our backs on Jesus and betraying him. We need to make sure that we recognise the seed and where it has come from and uproot the thorns of rebellion, denial and betrayal as soon as they are planted.

But Judas wasn’t the only one to turn his back on Jesus, Peter did too. I think that sometimes Peter gets bad press. When you look at the situation he walked into the hornets nest, and out of the 12 close disciples and the 72 other disciples, or followers Peter was the only one who had the guts to follow Jesus to try to see what was happening and perhaps to find the opportunity to express his love for Jesus in freeing him. All the rest had retreated to a safe distance. But that still does not mitigate or excuse Peter’s denial of Jesus. But before we get too critical let’s ask ourselves how many times we have failed to stick up for Jesus, how many times when we have been asked about the values and priorities in our lives we have failed to state our love for Jesus and in doing so have denied him.

In Peter’s denial is a reflection of the reality which many of us know. We too have denied Jesus, either overtly as Peter did when asked if we follow him, or by omission, by failing to stand up for him when we should do. So Peter begins to weep. Having stated that he would follow Jesus to death, he has denied Jesus and he now knows that and is heartbroken about it. Peter lives with that pain through the coming days until he is restored lovingly and wonderfully by Jesus himself.

Reflect on times when you have not stood up for Jesus in the way you would want to. What was there in you, or in the situation that prevented you from saying that you were a follower of Jesus? Ask God to forgive you for those times, and to empower you in his Spirit so that next time you will speak and stand for his love and life.

Reading Mark Together – Mark 13 What Impresses You?

The Temple was certainly impressive, the first temple was built by King Solomon. However this is not the temple that the disciple refers to. That temple was destroyed by the Babylonians when they conquered Israel and took the people into exile. The temple was rebuilt about a century later and we read about that in the book of Ezra. That is the temple that the disciple is referring to and that temple had been refurbished by Herod The Great about 30 years before Jesus was born. There is little left today of the Temple, or the platform on which it was built. But there is enough to still be impressed by it’s size and scale.

The Temple impressed this disciple – what impresses you? Maybe it is a wonderful building, maybe a wonder of engineering or the solution to an academic problem. It may be art or sculpture or sporting success.

Jesus’ response to this comment about the impressive nature of the temple was that it would be destroyed with not one stone left upon another. That prophecy came true in 70AD when then temple was once again destroyed by the Romans.

As I thought about that I started to think about the way that we can sometimes be taken in by the impressive nature of things in the world around us. It may be in bricks and mortar, or in the size of a bank balance or in the possessions we own. We can come to trust and rely on these things, not knowing that they can be removed in moments. If we come to trust and rely on these things we have a false hope and a false trust because all of these things can be gone in a moment.

Instead our trust our hope and our reliance is on God who can always be trusted.



Reading Mark Together – Mark 12 Living Faith

From reading the Gospels we may be left with the impression that all the religions leaders were opposed to Jesus and out to get him, read Mark 12:38-40 for an example of what Jesus had to say about them. But even amongst those who were opposed to him Jesus reached out in love to draw them to himself. One such person asks Jesus a simple question, or so it seems to us: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” In our minds we may think he is asking which of the 10 Commandments was most important, but the Jewish leaders had identified over 600 commandments from the Old Testament laws, of these about 250 were positive commands and the remainder were prohibitions. Of these commands they had placed greater emphasis on some rather than others.

The scribe is not asking which must we obey and which can we ignore, he was asking which are the foundational commands on which all the other individual commands depend. Jesus replies with the Jewish daily confession known as the Shema. This is based on passages from Deuteronomy and Numbers but mainly on Deuteronomy 6: 4-5. Jews today still consider this their most important prayer and it is repeated twice daily as part of morning and evening prayers.

The scribe replies to affirm what Jesus has said and then goes further to show that there is at least some understanding and support for what Jesus was teaching amongst the religions leaders. He says that to obey the Shema is far more important than the sacrificial system that was around them. The Jewish religious system was built around the sacrificial system, yet here one of their own religions leaders affirms that the heart of love is far more important than the outward actions.

You might have expected Jesus to reply – well done – come and join the gang! Instead he replies “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Or to put it another way, your not there yet, but you are very close. I suspect this religions leader was confused and maybe upset by Jesus’ reply, he was a good Jew and a religions leader why was he not already in the Kingdom of God, what else was needed? The simple answer is that intellectual agreement with the truth is not enough, it is whether we truly love God with all we are and have and love our neighbours as ourselves, saying we believe this is not sufficient we must live it as well.

Sadly today I believe there are all too many people who may be in the same position as this scribe. Some attend Christian services, some pray, some read the bible, some may even be in positions of leadership within the church. However they have not made the move from head to heart, they agree with the theory, but have not experienced the reality in their own lives. As a Christian leader I feel a great responsibility for that. I have a responsibility not just to convey, explain and teach truth, but to call those who hear to repentance and a living faith that affects how we live Monday to Saturday and not just on Sunday.

Think today of someone you know who may say I agree with all you say, but has not found the reality of a living faith for themselves, then pray for them for the love of Jesus to move the agreement in their head to an experience of his love in their hearts resulting in a changed life.