We live in exciting times. Yes we do. And I don’t just mean because Christmas is coming, or the Olympics are around the corner or Strictly or X-Factor are back on our screens. Sorry I don’t know any good football references but perhaps you can think of some. I believe we live in exciting times because the Christian community is reengaging with its identity. All over the church, in almost every denomination we are having the conversations about who we are as the church.
We are uncertain, desperate to hold onto what we know yet even more desperate to truly understand our faith. Is there more than Sunday mornings? How do I live out my faith in day to day living? Am I really saved and if I am how does that change my priorities? I am reading lots at the moment – whether scripture or any number of authors around the area of missional communities. Try Mike Breen, Alan Hirsch, or Hugh Halter for a challenging journey into discipleship and living our faith. Each one has their own take and when you come at all three you see the parallels and it becomes so exciting.
With every book I read I feel a deeper call to throw away the rule book (not Scripture) and think again. We have become programmed into following certain rules, abiding in certain etiquette and generally down playing our witness. We have become so swept up in statistics and performance indicators that we miss the real message of faith. Does that sound arrogant? It isn’t meant too – honestly. God isn’t about performance indicators or even bank balances – he is all about people and relationships. Look at what Jesus did. He ate with people (usually the down and outs of society), he taught unlikely students – check out his disciples or the woman at the well (a Samaritan), he hung out at parties and went fishing. Yes, he went to church (synagogue) but he did his learning and then lived it, becoming a powerful witness to Gods love. He challenged he status quo, he annoyed the leaders, he loved the unloveable, he cured the sick, welcomed the unchurched and developed the faith of those who would listen and comprehend even just a fraction. This is the God who knocks on the door of our hearts.
How much learning have you done over the years? What have you done with the learning? I always wanted to preach to a large gathering (thousands if possible). For a while I thought if I became a great preacher and worked my way up the (imaginary) ranks I might get there. Now, as much as I love preaching, what I really want to do is live a life of faith and hopefully still preach to thousands but only because Gods family grows that much that there are thousands who want to learn in order to live a rich faithful life. Faith is more than words. Faith is love in action – in our words, in our body language, in the time we give to another in need, in opening our homes, in embracing the unloveable.
Living our faith will bring huge sacrifices and I pray that I will practice what I preach. I recognise that change is happening and I am excited but not scared, because no matter what God is constant. There are thousands of people who need to meet the God who actually loves them and we will only do that we finally learn the lessons, and get off our soap boxes and start loving and living.
The huge realisation I came to tonight is that we are doing that in a myriad of ways but not giving God the credit. Jesus always gave God the credit – we don’t. Well not deliberately because culture makes us too self effacing. It is often said the church doesn’t sell itself and we don’t. So when you read this and think I am getting at you – I am not. I am encouraging you to reflect on what you have said and done this day, this week, that has shown others Gods love. And then I want you to give God the credit he deserves. That is the hard bit yet oh so important.
I want us to celebrate those moments when we have made time for others especially when it has cost us dearly. When we have bitten back the cruel retort because that is the Christian thing to do. When we have visited or phoned our difficult neighbour whoever that be knowing it will upset our routine or inconvenience us. When we have given generously knowing that our sacrifice will bring great joy to another. I could go on but I won’t.
Jesus said “whatever you have done for the least of my bothers or sisters, you did for me.” Celebrate and give God the credit in prayer and when people ask you why you did what you did. That is how we change the culture of the church and people’s perception of God.
God works with and through all who trust in him.
Lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.