Who answers your prayers?

Hello again. I do enjoy writing this blog. And by the response I receive, I am happy that readers are enjoying them too.

As I mentioned last time, we are going to talk today about the strange things that we get in terms of answers from God.  I do wonder if we only think they are strange answers because sometimes we have a peculiar view about what God is like.  I remember one guy, at my theology college, praying for hours asking God not to make him marry so and so because he didn’t like her. I don’t quite know where he got the idea from that God wanted him to marry her anyway. However, I do think that he thought that God would only chose things for him that were hard or difficult, or things that he wouldn’t normally like.  How is that for a very strange view of God indeed. Oh! And just to put your mind at rest, he never did marry “so and so.”

It is so very strange how some of us view God. And how we view him must colour  the way that we expect him to answer our prayer. And I have to say that sometimes, the colour of our perception is so strong that we can’t see clearly what he is doing. And that  blurs how we hear what God is saying to us.  I am often surprised when people say what they think they have heard from God, even if it is something I have said.  I know what I said, and I know what they are saying, and I know for certain, sometimes, that they have heard wrong.  Has this happened to any of my readers when doing pastoral work? Someone comes to thank you for something you said to them, saying, “Thank you so very much. You must have been in the Spirit. It really helped me,” – and you were really sure you never said what they say you said. Ah well! Never mind. It’s good to know that what I did not say at all helped them so much. LOL.

The colouring of our presupposed and/or preset views is a very strong thing. Those are the things that we have in us that make us come to conclusions we arrive at, whether we realise it or not. Presuppositions make us expect things to occur in a certain way. , a bit like when you have spoken to someone on the phone and have built up a picture in your mind of what they look like, and when you meet them they look nothing like the presupposition, and what a shock that can be.  The thing is that we do that with God.  And we do it when we pray; is that we have often presumed the right answer in our head, and often not only the right answer but even the method of delivery.

 

 

I have always loved the story of Naaman in the Old Testament, there are lots of things that can be seen in that story, and maybe one day we could go through it together. But for now lets just think about the part of the story where he finally gets to his right destination, the prophets front door, he knocks on the door and never actually gets to meet the prophet, only the servant, who tells him how to get well from his sickness. And if you know the story then you will know that at this point Naaman gets mad because he doesn’t like the method that is offered for him to get better.  Actually what is happening is that his presuppositions are kicking in and it shows by his reaction, Naaman says, ‘this is not what I expected, I thought that the prophet would come out of his house, strike the place of my sickness and I would be healed!’  Where did he get that idea from? I wonder if he had been watching too much Christian television!  Only joking!
So when we pray what are our expectations of the method of answer, what the answer will be and of what God is like?  The thing I think we need to have in mind is that this is the God who said he wants to call us friends, not only friends but he wants to be our father, not only to be our father but to share with us the inheritance of his only begotten son Jesus, so what kind of answer would that kind of God give to us?
I think one of the most humbling things that God does to his children, his friends is to say things like, ‘what do you think?’ or ‘what would you like to do?’  I often want to reply to God when he says something like that to me, ‘God, it’s little me that you are talking to.’  Perhaps you think I am making up this idea, I’m not, remember what God said in Genesis, ‘this is what I plan to do but before I do it, let me go and ask my friend Abraham what he thinks.’  That is amazing, the king of kings, the creator God asking a mere human what he thinks! But then if we don’t have a presupposition of that kind of God then we will not, of course, expect that kind of reaction from God.   When God speaks to us in that way we will be so surprised, so amazed that we will be totally sure that we have not heard from God but that we have made it up.  That’s why I say, sometimes God’s answers are very strange.
When you think about it, particularly in the area of doing things that God wants, if you love God wouldn’t you want to do what he wants, and if you love him why should it be a surprise that when we ask him, ’what do you want me to do?’  He who loves us, and knows that we love him, should reply, ‘well now what would you like to do?’  For if your desires and actions are coming out of your love for him, I should think you will probably want to do what he wants anyway.  And the more you know him the more you will get it right and the end result will be you will be pleased to do it and God will be pleased you did it.  Isn’t that great!

Adrian Hawkes
For UCB
W. 1030
Editor A. Brookes

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Funny Prayers? Are you Serious? Serious Prayers? Don’t be funny.

Funny 1I did say in earlier blogs that I would try and tackle the subject of serious conversation in terms of prayer.  Last time we said that prayer, i.e. conversation with God, can be seen as exciting and enjoyable, not just as… well  …what many people see it as:  A chore? A pressure?  A duty?  What a shame, why isn’t it absorbing and/or joyful?  On top of it all -why isn’t it just normal life?

Before I tell you about that serious conversation, let me first tell you a story.

A good friend of mine one day, in a sort of half-serious conversation asked me if I thought that God could or would tell jokes or make fun. I think he was a little unsure of my reaction. I thought about it for a moment, and then I said, “Well! It seems to me that if God is our designer, and we can enjoy jokes and we have a sense of humour, then I guess God must also have a sense of humour as he invented us that way.”  I sensed he was relieved by my answer, because he then said, “Would you like to hear a joke that God told me?’  I wasn’t sure what was coming next, but I definitely wanted to know.

My friend told me that he was in a church meeting. He was there because he was taking part in the meeting. The thing was, he was definitely not enjoying it. He was sitting by himself at the back of the hall and feeling really bored.  He didn’t like it and he didn’t want to be there. Nothing that was being said seemed relevant to life as far as he understood.  He thought to himself, “This is so boring! I bet God isn’t even here.”  Then he started to pray in a light-hearted way, saying, “Father. I don’t like this meeting. It’s boring. It’s irrelevant. I don’t think you are even here.” My friend said that it seemed God spoke to him there and then and said, ‘Oh no son, you are wrong. I am here. Omnipresence has its problems.”  My friend, sitting at the back of the meeting had put his hand over his mouth to stifle a chuckle. He said he gave better attention to the people that were there in the meeting after that joke with his heavenly Father.

So onto that serious stuff.

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Just wondering whether or not the admin in heaven uses a PC or an iMac. Lol.

I work in a very busy office with lots of busy people. My wife also works with me – better stated, we work together.  Sometimes people give me messages for my wife when she is not in the office, and then say to me the next day, “Did you give your wife the message?” And I will say, “Sorry. I haven’t had a chance to talk with her yet”

They quite often frown at this comment and ask if I actually live with my wife, and if I do live with her, do I actually talk to her.  Well I do live with my wife, and I do talk to her. However, there is talking  – and then there is talking. My home, as well as my office is a very busy place. Usually, we share it with at least four or five other people. This means that exclusive conversation is not always easy.  Both my wife and I understand this.

Sometimes I will say to my wife, Pauline, “We need to talk.” Of course, I am talking to her when I speak that very sentence. But Pauline understands what I mean when I say, “We need to talk.” She usually responds by saying, “Okay. Let’s go out for a coffee and a chat.”’  Now that kind of talk that we get to alone and without interruption is more in-depth, more serious and more constructive.  It is usually a sharing of ideas. It is, perhaps, making plans. Sometimes it is trying to solve some knotty problem, or difficulties that we or others are facing. We use this kind of exclusive time to air our thoughts and ideas in a more in-depth manner. This talking time goes beyond our surface conversations. It would not work to attempt this kind of inter-action in the office full of people or at home when people are in and out, eating or drinking, or just present and listening.

funny 3I often take that approach and use this principle when wanting to talk with God. I find it is possible to talk to God in very general terms and to pray for all sorts of things. I like to think of it as the sort of conversation that goes on between friends all the time. Of course, good friends don’t need to be talking all the time. That is sometimes unnecessary and can be frustrating ,can’t it?  Friends can just be together and not talk. There is even communication in silence. And sometimes that kind of silence can be the clearest kind of communication.

So my communication and intimate approach to Father God is often the same as with my wife. Of course, we talk all the time at a certain level. But as we all know and understand there are times when I say to Pauline, “We need to talk.”  With Father God, I say, “Father we need to talk. I know that you know where I am at. I know we have had conversations of brevity and haste. However, I need to talk to You seriously, and more importantly, I need to listen to you seriously. I need to understand what you want, think and expect from me right now at this moment and in this situation. I desperately need you to help me understand where this situation is going.”

funny 4That’s what I call “the serious type of conversation.” I guess that’s what we could call “Serious prayer,” but it’s still talking to God and it’s still two-way. I have to also say that actually, on occasions, what God does say to me (and others) can be very surprising indeed. His surprises can sometimes throw us. He throws us particularly if we have a presupposed or preset view on how God works with his friends. But that’s another subject, maybe for next time.

The great thing about talking to God is that He can share in the fun stuff, the enjoyable and exciting stuff as well as the serious stuff. We can talk to him on every level. And if we listen for Him and to Him, He will respond to us in the same way.

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    Editor A Brookes and Keith Lannon
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Prayer and Men in White Coats.

speaking 1As promised, today I’m going to talk about the problem of hearing God right when we are praying. And by praying,  I mean not just saying things to the ceiling, but literal, actual two way conversation between God Almighty and you.  Of course, I don’t overlook the problem these days, especially in the West, of the fact that if you tell people you are talking to God and/or listening to God, they might rush you off to a place where they put people who are – shall we say “hearing things”.

speaking 0That almost happened to me. One day, I was visiting a person in hospital. Actually, this person had been sectioned because they were “hearing things”. I’m not sure where what they heard came from.  I had brought a friend with me to visit the patient. My friend was a Doctor – of medicine, not psychiatry. We were chatting to the psychiatrist, discussing the prognosis of the patient and the mutual care we both felt for the person concerned. My friend, the medical doctor who was a Christian, happened to mention that he had “heard from God.”  I was instantly very nervous for my friend. The psychiatrist commenced writing notes as my friend, the medical Doctor, spoke, I thought he was going to have my friend sectioned as well.  Aha! Therein lies the problem. Some people Speaking 2are hearing “things,” rather than hearing from God.

Let me tell you a story. This is one of the stories in a book I wrote called, “Hello! Is that you God?” That book is all about hearing from God. And this is how this particular true story goes:

Some years ago I took a crowd of young people to a friend’s church. The group were mainly English young people. Most of them were Londoners, born and bred.  The church we were visiting was a Ghanaian church community. In the past when I had spoken there, they had run their meetings in their own language, providing me with an interpreter.  Although the church was based in London, and the majority of the members spoke English – to a greater or lesser degree, they felt it was easier to run meetings in their first language.  On this particular occasion, as I was visiting with a group of English speaking youngsters, they kindly decided to run the whole service in English.

Speaking 5It was a long meeting with lots of singing, dancing and preaching. It was, as I say, all in English to accommodate the group I had brought along for the experience. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Towards the end of the meeting, I turned to the group I had brought and said, “Isn’t it kind of them to run the whole thing in English because we are here.” Without exception, they all looked at me with a bemused expression. Then one of2said, “But no-one has said a word of English the whole way through!”

It was now my turn to look bemused. I didn’t know what they were on about. I queried them.

“What do you mean? They are singing in English at this moment!’

“No, they’re not! We can’t understand a single word.” They said to me.

As the song went on, I pointed out the words to them. Admittedly, the words carried a heavy West African accent, but gradually the light of understanding dawned on the faces of my young friends.

“Wow!” You’re right!” they said. “They are singing in English!’

Speaking 6My conclusion was that I had been there so many times, and listened to the people sing and speak so often that I was now easily able to understand the accent and I truly hardly noticed it was there at all. For my young friends, however, this was their first time to listening to Africans speak English over such a concentrated period of  time. The whole experience was something entirely new, and so their understanding was clouded.

It’s interesting that the same kind of phenomena occurs in the Bible. For example, when Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan, and God spoke from heaven to him, it’s obvious that Jesus heard and understood the words that His Heavwnly Father had said. However,  the crowd of onlookers, just heard a noise. It was a little bit like my young friends at the Ghanaian church meeting.

Then again, in the account of Paul on the Damascus Road, he sees a light, falls to the floor, and then hears Jesus saying, “Why are you persecuting me?”  Paul clearly hears the words. Paul is wilfully converted, and his life is turned around. However, those men that were with him didn’t hear the words at all. In fact, they testified that “It thundered.”

So; it does seem to me that sometimes, perhaps many, many times, God is speaking to us but we don’t hear him, what we hear is “like thunder,” or what we think is our own mind – or worse – we think it is the results of too much drink or cheese from the night before.

So where do we go from here?

Speaking 4Well! Like a young child learning to talk, understanding comes gradually, and takes practice. The same applies to an older child learning a new language, and all its various sounds. This takes practice. Watch a young child experimenting with language. They are practicing. They don’t always get it right – and they don’t always get it wrong. On top of that, the practicing doesn’t seem like hard work at all. It’s good fun. It is often good for a laugh when they get the words wrong, or when they speak to an adult and we get it wrong listening to them.  Take notice that to hear from God will take practice too. I don’t think talking to God is hard work. It is quite often just plain exciting fun. There will be some serious talks, which may not be so much fun. However, that’s another subject for another day.

It would be great to hear your stories and opinions.

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Monologue? Prayer? Are you serious?

Monologue 0

Can God speak to me as clearly as I speak to Him?

Well: Hello again! And yet again, I am still thinking about the issues of prayer. And I am still wondering about lots of things concerning this life making (or life breaking) point of life. Here is one question for starters today: Why is it that. for lots of people, it seems to involve lots and lots of talking?  I guess they think it’s a one way conversation. I am sure that many consider praying to be a monologue, rather than a dialogue.

I have travelled quite a lot and seen many things concerning prayer. I have seen prayers that are written on paper and then pinned to trees to flutter in the wind. Lots of religious people seem to have things like beads of differing colours and shapes to pray with. Perhaps these things are helpful, I don’t know, I don’t think it would help me, but going through the “rosary beads” still seems like a one way traffic with God, expecting Him to silently listen while the one praying delivers his monologue prayer.

Woman PrayingOnce, when I was abroad, travelling in the back of a taxi, the driver suddenly stopped the car, scribbled something on a piece of paper, jumped out of the car and put the paper (and some money)  into a box on the wall.  When he got back into the taxi I was curious and asked him what that was all about. The driver smiled and told me, “It was a prayer.”

In another country, there was a crowd of people around a big glass box that had a statue housed in it.  I sidled up to one of the people on the edge of the crowd and asked, “Do you speak English?” I find that’s always a good way for me to start a conversation. ” Yes!” they said with a smile. So I asked him what the crowd of people were doing. He told me, “We are praying to our god.” I asked him,  “Why is your god in a big glass box?”  He smiled benignly and explained. “You see, if the god wasn’t in a box, everyone would touch the god and the god would get dirty!” Mmmm! OK! (?)

Monologue 2It seems to me that the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, that is his birth, death and resurrection, is all about repairing the broken relationship between us humans and Father God. Now, for a relationship to be a real one it does seem to me that there ought to be two-way communication, rather than just one way.  I know that some people do talk a lot and expect others to just listen, but I really don’t think God is like that at all.  Jesus said to his followers, “I don’t want to call you “servants,” because a servant does not know what the master is going to do. Instead,  I call you “friends,” because you do understand that I have told you what the father has told me.”  That’s in John’s Gospel by the way. Chapter 15. Verse 15.

Monologue 3Now I don’t think that communication and conversation with God ended with the first followers, those early disciples that were later called Apostles. Hey! I am a follower and a disciple of Jesus. Maybe you are too!  And I want to know what the Father’s business is. Don’t you?  Yes! I know we have the Bible. But this is a new era and whilst the values don’t change, clearly, some things do.  For example, I don’t worry too much about falling off a donkey like Paul did. I do, however get concerned about crashing my car. So: Yes! I do want a two way conversation with God.

So; it seems to me that I need not only to talk to God, to pray, but I also need to listen to God, to see what He is saying to me.  Let me tell you a little story:

Monologue 4I was working with a guy called George Canty. He has died recently and was a great follower of Jesus. He would sit on the platform with me in a church meeting, and would, quite often tell me things that were going on in the lives of people sitting in the audience. These were people he had never ever met previously, and, I need to add,  neither had I.  I said to him one day, “Why does God tell you these things and not me?” His answer was; “Maybe you’re not listening. Or maybe you just talk too much.”  I remember going home many times, lying in bed and saying to God (praying that is), “God!  I do want to talk to you, but I also want to hear from you. Can you talk to me so that I understand, please?”

Now, I would often say,  “God spoke to me!” However, it wasn’t a voice I heard with my physical ears. It is more often more of a perception in my mind. It seemed as though God said to me, “Yes! I will talk to you. I have always been here and wanted to talk to you. However, you have been too busy talking to me and not listening to me”.  So, I said to God: “Okay! If this is you talking to me, and not something I am making up in my head, and it’s not me having a conversation with myself, help me to know that it really is you.” God said to me, ‘Well now, what does this verse say?’ and he gave me a chapter and verse in a certain book in the bible.

I lay there quite a while thinking and thinking. Finally I said to the voice in my head; “Actually, I don’t even know how many chapters are in that book, and I certainly don’t know what that verse says even though I have thought and thought.” The voice in my head said, “Well! There is that many chapters in that book, and this is what the verse says …”  And the words of a verse ticked through my head. Then, the voice said, “You have a Bible right by your bed on the cabinet. Look it up now and see if that really is what the verse says.”  I switched on the light, picked up the Bible and thought to myself, “Oh dear! This is not the version I usually read, so, what it says in here will not be in the right language. It won’t in the words that I originally learned it in. I’ve got this completely wrong.  This is just my imagination.” And then I heard the voice say, “Did you think that I didn’t know what version of the Bible was by your bed?”’

How embarrassing!

I turned to the verse and it said, word for word, what I had heard in my head.

I know God wants to talk with us. Learning to listen is the hard thing. Hearing correctly is sometimes even harder. We will talk more about that next time.

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Questions! Queries! And Quandries about Prayer.

Memories of Church Prayer meetings in my teens.

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Memories of Church Prayer meetings in my teens.

PRAYER    1. 

While thinking about Prayer, I often realise that there are lots of things that puzzle me. For instance, let me ask you some questions.  Why is it that Prayer through the night -all night is better than prayer through the day all day?

Why is it that some people have to shout loud when they pray? Perhaps God is a little deaf. That is one of the things that happens when you get older. However, I have to say, it would surprise me (if not shock me) if that has happened to God. Though I have to say that I doubt that he is nervous either, so shouting probably doesn’t bother Him.

Why is it that when some people pray they pray quietly in a whisper? Maybe its because someone told them that if you whisper people believe you, even if its not true and that by whispering they are hoping to catch God out. Aha! What do you think?

Why is it that we close our eyes and bow our heads when we pray? Again, speaking as a golden ager … eh … senior citizen, eyes shut and head down is a recipe for dropping off.

Why is it that when some people pray they have to scrunch up their face? They don’t do that when they are talking to other people. Is there something spiritual about scrunched up faces? Perhaps folks are trying to prove to God that they are being serious.

Why is it that when people talk about prayer – and of course, fasting – they make a big announcement and a song and dance about it? What is that about anyway? Are we trying to twist God’s arm and persuade Him to agree with us?  Strange that when Jesus talked about fasting, in that odd instant, he said “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

I have thought a lot about prayer.

When I was a youngster, around my late teens, I got it into my head that praying was very good. It is. However, I went along to our regular weekly church prayer meeting, every Tuesday evening. It was a bit strange really as I was the only one under about 55 years old there. Most times it was very boring, Let me be really honest. The strangest thing was that there was one man who always prayed at 8.40pm every Tuesday evening in these prayer meetings. It was a long, long prayer. And, to tell the truth, seriously, I never had a clue what he was actually praying about. I just remember that there were lots of, “Father”, “Jesus”, “God”, “Lord”, “Our Lord”, “Our God” in it. It did seem as though the sentences were all conjoined up by those words rather than “and”, or “but” or “anyway,” and things like that.  I pictured my English teacher writing a report and saying, “Could do better!” The thing I always noticed was that when he stopped his marathon prayer,  the leader of the meeting would say a very loud, “Amen”. And then the meeting would be over. I could never fathom whether all the “Amen’s” were in happy agreement with the prayer, or joyful contentment that the meeting was over.

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How some prayer meetings used to impact many people

Now I am a few decades older (you are forbidden to ask how many) I often wonder why I went there every single Tuesday evening. I guess I thought it was the right thing to do.  Perhaps it was.  However, it taught me other things, even if it was not about prayer. Those Tuesday evenings taught me characteristics like patience, stickability and consistency to name a few.

So! Anyway! there are some of my questions about prayer for you to think about. Maybe you could email me your questions, or better still tell me about the things that puzzle you about prayer.

Oh! Another thing! Why does God need us to pray? He knows what we will say anyway – doesn’t He?

Let me tell you a story. It is, I think a strange story. This happened to one of my prayers.

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Prayer and prayer meetings should be the place where fire from heaven is received and distributed.

I was in a guest house in Wales. I was suddenly woken up from my sleep. I can’t explain quite what I mean by that, apart from saying that it was a bit like: God shook me and said to me, “Get up and pray for your friend.” He even said his name. Atleast I woke up with acertain friend’s name and face in my mind.  Now; I was only in touch with this friend spasmodically.  I met him some years previously in Italy. He was Finnish.  So, I physically got out of bed and prayed for him.  I prayed and prayed. I know not what I prayed because I didn’t really know why I was praying at all.  I suppose, naturally speaking, I could have stayed in bed and prayed. However, it seemed to me that the issue was a serious one. It was a deep concern that had “fallen” on me to the degree that it woke me up. It was this sense of deep concern that motivated me to get out of bed about it. I even knelt down by my bed side. Now that was rather unusual for me I must confess.  I just kept talking to God about my friend, asking Him to keep my friend safe and sound and to keep His hand on him. Finally – I felt the burden lift and coul;d relax. “O.K. God !” I said out loud, “I reckon you have heard my prayer and answered it, whatever the answer is!”

By the way this all happened during those prehistoric days of ignorance before emails, mobile phones and text messages were invented and created. However, I did write a “snail mail” letter to my friend, asking him how he was, and where was he at 3.00am on that date, and what was he actually doing?  A few weeks later he wrote back and told me, “I was out late at night talking with people about Jesus. Finally, I was by myself and a man came up to me with a knife and pushed me down a dark alleyway. I thought it was the end. He was obviously trying to rob me.  I was up against a wall with the knife held to my throat, when suddenly he just dropped the knife and ran away. I don’t know why. There was no one else about the place. Nobody came to my rescue.  Why do you ask?”.

This gave me a huge question to put to God. I know and believe that God obviously knows everybody’s situation and circumstance on the globe. I know that God did something about it . But why should I be involved?  I guess I was  strange wasn’t it? Maybe it’s because God just loves to involve us in all that he is doing.

incredibly encouraged by the timing of it, and the answer to the prayer that I didn’t know what issue I was praying for or about. It was still incredibly

Adrian Hawkes

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Where Are We Now?

 Where are we now?

VALUES

Many people do not understand that spending a heritage is like draining capital; in this case it is cultural capital

Many do not understand that our UK cultural capital has been laid down over many centuries via strong Judeo-Christian emphasis; that does not mean that I believe we have ever been a ‘Christian country’ whatever that means.  But we have inculcated values that help us live, keep us safe, make us generous and help us to treat each other with respect and dignity.

Each time a bit of the law of the land reverses that cultural capital, or erodes it by practice it makes many things harder for all of us.  In what way you might ask, well in very practical ways, for example:

  • The pressure to keep married if you are married

ILL: as someone said on Radio 4 question time recently, we have dismantled the family and replaced it with the welfare state and it really isn’t working.

  • The pressure to stay sexually healthy
  • The pressure to benefit your children with a stable home and good role models both male and female
  • The pressure to stay financially solvent
  • The pressure to care for the stranger who comes into our country
  • The pressure to work and care for others

 

We need to understand that these values are in the culture, and actually they did not appear from nowhere.

ILL: Recently I was in a government think tank environment and we were asked to come up with ways that OFSTEAD inspectors could judge if a school is working well ‘morally’; OFSTEAD are required to inspect a school on that subject by UK law.  We were told we couldn’t change the law, but we could advise best way forward.

My problem straight away was how do you get a moral base unless you have a moral giver or to put it another way a law giver.  In my group were Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Roman Catholics and some from ACE Christian schools, oh yes and one humanist.  All agreed moral imperatives don’t come from nowhere, all except that is the humanist.  I asked him why is it that Britain is often so generous to other countries who are far away but who are going through natural disasters like earthquakes, or famine or floods.  Why is it the British are actually very good givers, yet there are other nations who are as rich as we are if not richer yet they see no need to help, his response was, ‘well that’s their problem we have ours.’

The humanist argued with all those who expressed any kind of faith saying to me, we are generous because we used to be a colonial power!   Hang on a minute I thought colonialism was, to a great extent, about getting what we could from others, or did I miss something.

Yes I know it was about trade, and also Christians went along to share the message of good news, but there was a lot of exploitation too. In the end I said to the humanist, I am so glad you disagree with me, (he did on every subject), and he looked puzzled and asked why.  I said well if you agreed with me I would think I must be wrong!

People of a faith may disagree on a lot of things, but they know one thing and that is moral prerogatives do not come from inside mankind; rather it comes from another source.  Each time the culture takes its own supposedly amoral direction, but more often than not, immoral direction then we have squandered a little more of our culture value capital, and in the end we are broke, morally, and that’s worse than having an economic downturn or financial cut backs or being  financially broke.

STRATEGY

I worry about those who think there is no strategy to people of the way, or that we do not need one. I am sure we do, but not one that hems us in, or turns us into ‘religious’ people or that becomes humanised, corporate, institutionalised and fixed. We need that Celtic wild goose experience that is God led, and let me tell you He has a strategy.

 Why do you think that in the early first century people like Paul set their face toward Rome, it was a lot more than the tourist in him, he new that Rome then was influential and he want to influence.  Why does Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, he is determined to go there, scripture says it was the plan, it was the Fathers strategy for rescue.

So what is our strategy?  It ought to be to influence, to be salt, to be light.  Not to attack, notice Paul starts at the point where people are, he circumcises John Mark, because he believes that he should be so, not because he was willing to go in that direction but to enable others to hear him.

On Mars Hill, he starts where the people are. He says ‘I see you have an alter to the unknown God, I have come to show you him!’  Does he start by quoting scripture at them no; rather he says, ‘your poets have said….’  Our strategy must not be condemnation, but friendship and cooperation without letting go of who we are and what we hold dear.

How many Muslim, Hindu or Sikh friends do you have? You need them. If you haven’t got any then go and find some, understand them, understand their culture, understand their ways, not for false compromise but because scripture says that he that who wins people is wise, very wise.

One of the frightening things that we do is to dehumanise people, we do this by giving humans strange names that make them less than human which then enables us to treat them as other than wonderful beings made in the Image of God. I noted in the Northern Island troubles that Catholics would refer to Protestants as Prods and the Protestants would refer to the Catholics as Papists, both in a sense dehumanising each other so it’s almost as if, when you kill them you are not killing a human being. And also like phrases used in war: ‘body count’  or ‘civilian collateral damage’ for those phrases read ‘dead people’, or worse still mothers, sons,  fathers, daughters; that changes our perception, do not dehumanise people they are people whom God loves.

 VISION

What will it look like?

Do we know what we are looking for – personally I want to be obedient to the command to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ and if we are seeking it we should have some idea what it will look like when we find it.

‘Our Father which art in Heaven, your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Peace, righteousness, justice, wholeness, let’s find it, Let us be the salt / influence that brings it to earth. Let us be a light that shows the way.  You cannot do that without being involved in the culture, changing it, seeking the Kingdom in it, in the areas that make and mould the culture education, arts and media, politics, business. And you can’t do any of that without getting your hands dirty and being involved and that means touching all the people not just the ones that you perceive are nice enough to become Christians; whatever that means.

 

 

 

Newcastle on Tyne 22nd October 2010

Adrian Blog

www.adrianhawkes.co.uk

Editor A. Brookes

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To structure or not to structure, that is the question

To structure or not to structure, that is the question

The people I mix with have got somewhat bored with, and no longer wish to think about or discuss church structure. That’s rather a shame as I believe it’s important and perhaps seminal to the current time and the cultural collapse.

If pressed into a debate they say that it doesn’t matter what form of ecclesiology the ‘local’ church takes as long as we love God. The problem I have with this train of thought, the sentiment of which I understand, is that tradition and form often has a huge molding effect on our thinking and thus our actions. And as we know, wrong thinking leads to wrong actions, and wrong principals to wrong values.

There are also those who constantly plead for a return to New Testament church practice, as if we know precisely how it was organised, and even if we did, are we going to avoid development and live in the past? A problem with this debate is that they don’t distinguish donkeys from Daimlers or a slave based structure from a democratic society. They also seem to overlook the problems experienced by the early church and its practices, much of the New Testament was written to correct such practices and problems.

As I often say to theology students, beavering away on their degrees, with ambitions to take up positions overseeing a local community following their graduation. ‘Hmmm… not quite sure your ideas would work out too smoothly in a church in ancient Corinth; I don’t think I would want to be a leader sorting out those crazy values.’ But idealistic students do tend to have this rosy view of what church life is like, and have very black and white answers on how to deal ‘theologically correctly’ with problems.

So we have this rejection of structure, and as I have stated above, I do have sympathy for this point of view when I see what some ‘structured churches’ are like, or what I would call organised religion, but I don’t believe it’s the structure that is at fault. As human beings we need structure and regularity in our lives even if it is only to remember a basic requirement like cleaning our teeth each day.

If you look at history in general and church history in particular you can see how it ebbs and flows, there will come a time of refreshment, increased knowledge of God, a renewing of horizontal and vertical relationships but then gradually man takes over and it solidifies, stultifies, settles and secularises. This says more about our sinful nature that seeks money, power and sex, than about the structure. Ultimately we can even end up allowing God’s power to corrupt us so that we rule and lord it over people, bringing them under our control rather than into God’s love and freedom. Eventually the organisation or denomination takes on a life of its own, often far removed from Godly values. Power rules and people ask the legitimate question ‘is this how a simple follower of Jesus would act?’

We need to remember the foundational building block which is, Jesus said, ‘I will build my church.’ Perhaps we think that as he has gone away that we should now take up the baton, and when we do that, what a mess we make. This is because we confuse the ‘church’ with the ‘kingdom’. God told us to seek the kingdom and he will build the church. The church is not the kingdom and the kingdom is not the church. The church should be seeking the kingdom, which is so much bigger than the church. We get sidetracked building the church, when actually we should be seeking the kingdom.

The challenge therefore is to be kingdom-minded; here are a couple of quotations which you may find helpful as you take up this challenge;

“The church gets into trouble whenever it thinks it is in the church business rather than the Kingdom business. In the church business, people are concerned with church activities, religious behavior and spiritual things. In the Kingdom business, people are concerned with Kingdom activities, all human behavior and everything God has made, visible and invisible. Church people think about how to get people into the church, kingdom people think about how to get the kingdom into the world.
Church people worry that the world might change the church, Kingdom people work to see the church change the world!” Howard Snyder.

“The Kingdom is a dynamic greater than the church. If you pursue the church you won’t find the Kingdom, but if you pursue the Kingdom you will find the church.” Simon Markham.

Adrian Hawkes
For Adrian’s Blog
http://www.adrianhawkes.blogspot.com
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Editor A. Brookes

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