We need a new normal

Jesus in Pray

It starts with PRAYER

I’ve recently been convicted (on a few occasions now) on these words from Jesus.

You will see even greater things than these.” John 1:50

Now the problem I have is not that I don’t believe the words, but I don’t SEE it happening, and I guess it makes me ask… Why is that?

I personally think it’s because we are an arrogant generation…

We think of God not as our King or as our Saviour… but as a Magician… and like the magicians we see we want to know how he did the tricks… We know it’s not REAL magic so how did he do it???

We think we know how he made the Earth we think we know how the miracles in the Bible happened, we think we can explain things away… however we are then stuck with a problem… our god that we see is only just a little bit bigger than we are… When the truth is our God is  bigger and stronger and more powerful than we could ever care or could imagine.

The truth is we are most likely the most educated church in the history of the church and we have lost the AWE of God… We’ve lost the WOW of God… and we’ve lost the faith it takes to look silly in believing that. We are educated way beyond our means.

Pastor Mark Batterson recently made an observation:

“I wonder if our faith is so subnormal that the normal of the Bible seems abnormal.  We need a new normal.  Prayer meetings should be normal.  Miracles that are the byproduct of prayer should be normal.  Radical conversions should be the normal.  But there is a price to be paid.  The price is prayer.”

Do we need to get out of our trying to crack the code of The Bible… to stop trying to understand why God would do certain things… and maybe just let God be God and rediscover the awe and wonder of God.

Didn’t Jesus say that we are to be like Children?

Lets put our trust wholly in God and let him start the miracle within us…

Lets start to let the miracle overflow from us…

Lets start fighting by getting back down on our knees and be audacious enough to ask God to start showing us the ‘Greater’ that Jesus was talking about.

Accepting the savior… but rejecting the KING.

English: Stained glass panel in the transept o...

Rejecting the King????

I am super excited that our church is going to be talking about the “Kingdom of God”.

Those who have read the Bible and the things that Jesus talked about would know that the Kingdom of God was a big issue. In fact that was what Jesus talked about THE MOST.

The problem we face with it is… it all seems a bit cryptic, I mean I’m sure you could understand the plot of the first Mission Impossible Movie faster than this… and what has happened it has left us all divided standing in our own camps trying to argue if it’s now or later, here and now or then and there.

Now I have read a few books by people on the subject and they can be so varied… some say things like…

“The Kingdom of God is a spiritual thing… and we can fully realise it now, we can work miracles and we can do wonders” 

The problem with this is that… we all know that we are far from perfect and it would seem to me that Jesus was talking about things far more tangible… and not so completely spiritual and ‘fluffy’

I’ve hear someone else talk about it being about just the Church…

That’s great but that seems to make the Kingdom of God seem really really small. This theory to me makes it seem like Jesus took the whole Bible and reduced it to a bumper sticker… or took his prize Bull and turned him into a Beef Stock Cube. I don’t think Jesus would have wanted us to take the Kingdom of God idea and reduce it to such a small man sized idea.

And then I heard someone talk about the Kingdom of God being in the Future… nothing now… it’s all later. The Kingdom of God will only be realised in heaven.

However this doesn’t explain the miracles (that Jesus predicted)… it doesn’t explain why we have the Holy Spirit… there is a lot of loose ends, in this theory.

But here is the thing… I can understand why we want to box an idea like this up… I get that.

The Kingdom of God is a HUGE idea… and it’s not an easy one to get our little dust brains around. We are challenged by it… we are frightened by it…

The hardest thing for me the more I think about it is this…

We talk a lot about a God of love… about a savior… and it’s right, and good to do so… but here’s were it gets me… KINGdom

Jesus is not an elected member of parliament… he wasn’t voted in… he’s the KING.

That gives you NO wiggle room… and then if this is the case…

I once heard this phrase about 5 years ago and it’s stayed with me since.

What are the consequences of accepting the savior… but rejecting the KING???

Hmmm I may need some more Kingdom thinking…

The Gospel… a simple message.

English: Signature of Billy Graham.

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One of the elders at my church a fantastic guy called Colin Price spoke about the importance about reading the Bible… he did  a great job. During his sermon he told the famous story about Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.

The story goes like this… Billy and Charles worked together doing evangelical crusades together in the mid 1940’s, thousands of people came and gave their lives over to God… and committed Christ as their personal saviour in their lives. Charles was offered the opportunity to go to Princeton Theological seminary and study. During the time there Charles tried to convince Billy to come along… at the time Billy decided it wasn’t the best decision for him so he didn’t go. As time went on Billy kept in touch with Charles, and it seems that Charles was becoming more and more liberal in his teaching… to the point where Charles said to Billy that Billys message was “too simple”, as Charles studied more and more liberal views.

In the end Billy Graham became noted in history as preaching the Gospel message (in person) than anyone else… ever. He spoke in the ear of Presidents… world Leaders… he was awarded many awards inculding an honourary knighthood in the UK.

While Charles Templeton struggled with doubt and ended up calling himself an agnostic.

So why did this story stand out for me?

Because I like history… I like to study the patterns that happen in history for those who don’t take note of historic moments. For instance if Adolf Hitler had taken a look into history at Napoleon Bonaparte he wouldn’t have tried to invade Russia in  Winter… and his   war story could have been so different.

But if we look at the pattern with Billy and Charles you can see it happening again… but maybe in a bigger scale.

The simple Gospel message verse intellectual liberalism.

We have some church leaders and evangelists who are becoming more and more liberal… and they are trying to make the Gospel message into something that they can intellectualize it… box it… make it easy for them to understand… to explain… to make palatable.

However the Gospel message is not these things… it is simple… it is unappologetic… it’s not P.C.

And I find myself drawn more and more to church leaders, speakers and evangelists who lay the Gospel message on a plate and say simply “here is what the Bible actually says let God speak this into your heart… into your very soul”… and I find people who are trying to twist the Gospel to say something else more and more unpalatable.

I don’t think it’s right to ask “does the Bible really say….?” – that’s the equvelent of the Devil saying to Adam and Eve… “did God REALLY say….?” – in John 1:1 it says “In the Beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the word WAS God”

The word WAS God… so when we are starting to twist the Bible or to cast doubt into the Bible teaching… then it simply isn’t the Gospel message… it’s not the truth that the Bible gives.

The truth is so simple… it hurts… it heals… it opens us… it saves us.

IT SAVES US.

Album Review: Parachute Band ‘Matins : Vespers’

Matins : Vespers

Those who know me will know that I have a love hate relationship with concept albums… some albums by the best artist can we somewhat average, while other albums by average bands can be awesome and awe inspiring… so when Parachute Band said they had a ‘concept album’ I was a little nervous.

I shouldn’t have been because the concept was solid.

The idea of the albums is two discs… one of Matins (morning songs of praise) and a disc of Vespers (night prayers often of reflection). Now when I heard the idea for the album I have to admit I was looking forward to hearing it, especially as we see more and more churches forgetting their history (and what we have learnt from history) and deconstructing the Gospel message… here is a group of young men who are looking back at our Christian heritage and grabbing morsels to carry forward into our every day lives.

The first disc ‘Matins’ is 7 songs of praise… and to be honest there is a great mixture of styles and textures on this disc… without being distracting… In fact in a few of the tracks there is a great mixing of styles especially with acoustics and electronic merging. The first disc has a great drive to it, and the lead song “Keep the fires burning” is most certainly the highlight… However the track ‘City of the Lord’ is also a great track starting of very simple.

The second disc ‘Vespers’ is certainly more reflective, and I wonder if the band has taken the relective nature a bit too far… a bit too literally. The reason I ask this is that you will hear a lot of synth… almost dolphin noises in some parts… synth choir in a long angelic ‘Ahhhhh’ and piano slowly painting tinkles of colour… it’s an album full of the type of music you’ll hear in some churches while someone is praying. However… as you continue to listen you can’t help but reflect… you can’t help but be drawn into a sense of relaxation and you find yourself breathing slower… a time to refocus. And there are no words… this is disc is designed to make you unwind and look upward… as the ambient tunes float around you in a calming mood… helping you reflect on God and all he has done.

This is a brave move by a band clearly not afraid to listen to God and put out something that others aren’t.

A group that understands that by looking back at their past they know their steps are secure in their future… and a group that understands that moving with the day is a natural thing… especially as we move into business in our day to day lives.

Morning and evenings may never be the same again…

 

Pray First

"Women pray during Friday noonday prayer ...

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of things I like about our church and the church leadership… The church I go to is called Hornby Presbyterian Community Church (HPCC) in Christchurch New Zealand…

What makes me proud of our church is the fact they they have decided every year to have 3 weeks of prayer.

Why does this excite me?

Well first of all is that it is Biblical… all throughout the Bible we are told to pray first… It would be easy for a church like ours to try and get stuck into doing community work and start big ideas to have through the year… but here is the thing, unless we pray first all of the things that we are doing haven’t been given to God to deal with.

And Secondly… it’s not about us.

It’s easy to get stuck into the rut of praying for ourselves… our own needs… our own problems. However what my church leadership has done (and what other churches around the world continue to do) is given us an example of putting prayer first, but it’s more than that… it’s reflecting as job of the Holy Spirit – interceding for others.

What a great way to start the year… bringing the needs of others before the altar of God.

It shows that it’s not about us… it’s about a God who cares for all.

It shows that in all things pray first… or as it says in 1 Timothy

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1

 

 

Grey into Black & White

White&black

Black and White

I’ve been hearing a lot of my Christian friends telling me how our world is full of ‘grey areas’ … and to a point I can see what they mean… the world around us is filled with grey… however AS CHRISTIANS things are pretty black and white.

Now please here me… I’m speaking as a Christian… to Christians.

The ‘grey areas’ we live in are created BY US… by people… by poor choices… by us not knowing where the lines that God laid out so clearly in his word… the Bible.

People who say they are Christians have said to me… “I think there should be gay marriage’… and it usually come from a place where a friend or family member is gay, and the Christian wants the best for their friend or family member, and so they say things like “surely God wants my friend to be happy?”

But here is the thing… God doesn’t just want you to be happy… God wants you to be MORE than happy “Christ came to give life in abundance”… it’s not about just being happy. It’s about so much more than that… a life changing, soul converting turn around in nature.

As Christians we are to follow Gods word… and the Bible says that this is a sin… (now I don’t say this to condemn)

So I guess the question is why are we so quick to think it’s ok to violate God’s standards… to make our friends happy?

But it’s a real grey area you may say?

Cultures changed

No it’s not… the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s Black and White.

Now I’m not saying that you should boycott gay weddings or picket against such things… in fact these things in themselves are wrong… God loves EVERYONE, and it’s hard to get beside someone if you are against them… and we shouldn’t be condemning people.

The shades of grey are our own. We create them when we can’t tell where God lines are drawn… and we can’t know those line unless we know Gods word… intimately. Stop reading books about the Bible… and actually READ THE BIBLE.

You see the Bible is very very black and white… and where it is we are to follow. We are not to second guess because our culture tells us to… we as Christians are part of a history that changed culture.

We are all sinful… we all need a saviour and because some of our friends choose not to leave behind their lifestyles to find the life God planned for them “in fullness” it shouldn’t mean we change our culture for them.

I would much rather be offside with a friend on one subject than openly disobey our God. I’m not going to leave my friend because we disagree on one subject!

And at the end of the line… no matter how awkward it may make us feel as Christians sometimes we just have to suck it up and say I love you as a friend… I always will however I don’t agree with your lifestyle and what you do… however I am ALWAYS here for you.

Once again… what people who are non-Christians do is their thing… they aren’t bound by the same set of rules or laws that we are. We are to love all people, care for them, accept them… but this doesn’t mean we change our set of standards for them.

Marriage is HOLY matrimony… between God, a man and a women… that’s the Biblical teaching.

So why are we so fast to take what God has called Holy and add our own take?

Do I think Gay and Lesbian couples should have the same rights as every other human… of course I do.

So why do Christians have to give up one of the most Holy part of our beliefs?

How can we change culture if culture is changing us more?

We live in a world full of shades of Grey… however we live in the light of a God who’s laws are Black and White.

The greatest commandment is the Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength… the second is   LIKEWISE – Love your neighbour as yourself.

 

 

Album Review: David Crowder Band’ – ‘Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])

Give Us Rest (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])History is always made by people who are pioneers… people who have decided that they are not happy with how things are… and so they go about changing the landscape. They don’t do it because they are trying to break new ground they are doing it because no one told them it couldn’t be done like that… and if they were told that it couldn’t be done, they kept on working away at it doing it because it just felt right. David Crowder Band are such pioneers… and now the journey has finally come to and end… and what more fitting end than with a Requiem.

This is a massive double albums, and covers the full spectrum of the musical landscape that has been covered over the years by DC*B… they say that when you die your life flashes before your eyes… and this is the closest to a musical flashback as you can get without having a best of album (yet).

Musically ‘Give us Rest’ sits somewhere between ‘Illuminate’ and ‘A Collision’… and along the musical journey that you are taken on you will see the subtle head nod to all of the albums in the DC*B library. The album was always heralded  as ‘an album that showcases the band’s unique music style and touches on worship, pop, rock, bluegrass and electronic genres’ no one ever denied the group couldn’t pull it off… they just wondered how  ANY band pull it off this well.

The album starts with foot steps into a Cathedral or large hall into a Requiem Mass and we hear the words in Latin ‘Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis, Domine ‘ or in English ‘Grant them eternal rest, O Lord’ – before starting into the first song proper ‘Oh Great God give us Rest’ which starts of with a feel like ‘Come and listen’ (from A Collision) or ‘Remedy’ (From Remedy).

As with any DC*B you are set to be left in surprise and awe and wonder as you get drawn into the music… but where I was left most surprised was with the set of sequences (1-7) … I don’t want to give to much away but take the time to listen to each one… and just  listen and get taken away on a ride that will almost leave you… breathless.

So… for two discs, you are pulled and pushed as David and his Merry men take you on a journey that will leave you searching… and I think that is what worship is about… sure worship is about sitting and resting in Gods grace, his goodness, his love… but worship is about discovery, and coming to a deeper understanding of who God really is.

On the journey you may find some of this album hard (both lyrically and Musically)… and you will find parts of the album that naturally resonate with your spirit, take in those songs – for me they were songs like ‘Let me feel you Shine’ and ‘God have Mercy’ – but take time to go back to the songs that you find hard (maybe lyrically and maybe musically… maybe both) but even in those moments rest in God’s wonderful grace and let God speak to your soul… growing in Worship… it sure makes some of the songs we song on Sunday pretty uninspiring.

Buy this album and listen to it first from Top to Tail… let yourself be taken on the journey, and then after that… you’ll never be the same.

Farewell David Crowder Band ‘Thank you for the Music’