Friday, December 18, 2009

Have a blessed Christmas

Merry Christmas ANIMATION from Ascending Productions on Vimeo.



Not sure who may actually get to see this but I just want to thank each of you for taking time out on a regular basis to peer into the thoughts I've had over this past year.
I want to pray that each of you would have a blessed Christmas season that is saturated with the presence of Jesus our Saviour. Enjoy the break and let yourself truly cherish this season that is a beautiful reminder of God's stunning initiative to reconcile all of reality to ultimate beauty.

May 2010 bring glorious favour to you. May it be filled with the grace and peace of Jesus Christ.

In Him
Simon

Monday, December 14, 2009

Burn Out

You know about it - if you don't you should - but it is that distinct 'weariness' that comes over you that cannot be rectified by any amount of sleep. It is that Spiritual Apathy that you can try dissect and conquer but which you have to take stock of and halt its destructive path immediately.
What am I talking about? BURN OUT! And it is something I have read about, heard about, and received strong instruction to be aware of and to halt with any Spiritual Aggression necessary.
I fear it is something that has recently started to knock on my door.

It has been a stunningly divine, yet seriously demanding year of ministry over here in Watford. There have been so many joys that it is difficult to recollect them all with clarity, but alongside of those, sometimes even within those, joys have been some heart wrenching difficulties. The magnitude of the emotional demands of a church replant - implanting and inspiring not only vision but NEW (different - 'O no not change!') vision has been remarkable to me. As has been confirmed by men far more appropriate to the task, and for greater than me - this is no calling for sissys! As a result of that I have noted a certain apathy in my desire for God, a certain inability to maintain fervency of any level in prayer, and a lack of FEAR for the Lord and His holiness.

Last Thursday this become so obvious to me and I realized that the axe had to be laid to the root of this 'slide.' Well at least the motion of bringing the axe up and placing the force within the strike to destroy the root had to be initiated. So that's what I did - I actually just rested and tried to pray only for me, my soul and the restoration of the desire, the hunger, the thirst for God and the resetting of my mind and affections. The process continues, but I hope the most important thing has taken place: the Recognition of this deadly enemy to passionate discipleship.

We must watch ourselves and guard our hearts.

Simon

Advocate or Witness

Reading some simply stunning thoughts by Dr. Lloyd Jones at the moment. His most recent of which relate to the Baptism of the Spirit and the Filling of the Spirit. They have been helpful and provocative, a necessary mix for good theology I think. I sensed I needed to share these in particular as he discusses our effectiveness as beleivers bearing testimony to Christ without the filling of the Spirit:

"Let me put it like this: There is all the difference in the world between being a witness and being an advocate. Men and women can be advocates of these things without the Holy Spirit. I mean that they can have an understanding of the doctrine; they can receive the truth, and can present it, argue for it and defend it. Yes they are acting as advocates. But primarily, as Christians, we are called upon to be witnesses, to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Saviour of the world, as our own Saviour, as the Saviour of all who put their faith and trust in Him. And it is only the Holy Spirit who can enable us to do that. You can address people and act as advocates for the truth but you will not convince anybody. If, however, you are filled with the Spirit, and are witnessing to the truth, which is true in your life, by the Power of the Spirit that is made efficacious. So this filling is essential to all our Christian service."


More of You Holy Spirit, fill me for bold, dynamic, effective service!

Simon

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bonhoeffer on 'Truth'

I'm studying in my little office at the bottom of the garden for an Advent series that I want to take the people of X1 through in this season. As part of that study I have been reading a little book called Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons.s Which is actually my first real induction into the writing's of Bonhoeffer. I have read many a quote by him in a multitude of other books I have read, but this has been truly affecting.
One of his sermons preached with the looming election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933 in mind is one about truth - God's Truth. It is preached from the text of John 8: 32 and is simply heart-opening. Here is one powerful section:

"The truth will make you free. It is not something we have to do, not our courage, our church, our people, our truth; but God's truth alone that makes us free. Why? Because to become free does not mean becoming great in the world, not becoming free from your brother, nor even free from God, but to become free from oneself, one's lie. It means to become free from thinking only of myself, from being the center of my world, from hate, by which I despise God's creation. It means to be free to be for the other: the person for others. Only God's truth can enable me to see the other as he really is. It tears out the twisted image that I have of the other within me and shows him to me in a new light. And insofar as God's truth does that, it bestows upon me the action, the love, the grace of God. It destroys our lies and creates the truth. It destroys hatred and creates love. God's truth is God's love and God's love makes us free from ourselves for others."


O to be truly freed by and for God's Truth - the one to whom Pilate posed the ironic question, "What is truth?"

Simon

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Living Life Without the Fear Videos - Number 8 Thanks Vimeo

8-11-2009 - Simon LJ - Joshua - Part 1 #5 from X1 Video on Vimeo.

Living Life Without the Fear Videos - Number 7 Thanks Vimeo

01-11-2009 - Simon LJ - Joshua - Part 1 #4 from X1 Video on Vimeo.

Lloyd Jones on not being 'theological' about the cross

Far too often we can dismiss theology and doctrine for the intellectual heavyweights of our faith while we focus only on emotion or feeling toward/from it. Lloyd Jones speaks heartily into this notion in this quote:

"Now I know that many people are not really concerned to know [what is meaning, the explanation of Christ's death] that. They say, 'No, I am not theological or doctrinal; all I know is that the cross is marvelous and wonderful and that the Lord died there.' And there are many who think that is the right attitude. They think that this is too sacred for anybody to examine, that you must never come to the cross with your mind but only with your heart, that the doctrine of the cross is something to be felt, not understood. But nothing is more terribly dangerous than that. If I understand the New testament aright, there is no place where we should be more careful to go with our minds fully operating as to the cross on Calvary's hill. And I will tell you why: it is because this is the central thing; there is not truth concerning which the adversary and the enemy of our souls is so anxious to muddle and confuse us as this particular truth."


How glorious. Love Him heart, soul & mind.

Simon

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Living life without the Fear" Week 8

An overview of this week's sermon at X1 Watford in our series, "Living Life without the Fear"

RAHAB: FREED THROUGH FEARLESS FAITH!
This week as we return to Joshua 2 we will turn our attention from the select missional men who encountered an ‘awakened seeker’ within the walls of Jericho and look at this woman RAHAB who hid them from the King’s army.

OUR CENTRAL FOCUS – HER FAITH
As we look at this woman, what stands out about her, what distinguishes her from the other people in Jericho?

• NOT HER NATIONALITY
• NOT HER RELIGIOSITY
• NOT HER SUPERIOR MORALITY

It is not our goodness; it is not our attendance, it is not our morality, our likeability, our nationality, our superiority, not even our good works or anything of ourselves that causes God to look upon us and say well you deserve all my lavish love, affection and grace here is eternal, abundant life. NO! It is one thing and one thing alone and we see it here in the life of Rahab – FAITH. The apostle James makes that clear (Ja. 2: 24)

With this in mind I want us to clarify 3 fundamental elements of faith seen in the life of Rahab...

FAITH RECEIVES
Rahab heard the messages that were being rumoured throughout the streets of Jericho, she listened in attentively to the fearful retelling of tales by the fear – bound soldiers frequenting her establishment. Upon that testimony, on hearing these facts Rahab states, “I KNOW...” “She heard, she believed, she acted upon that belief...”

FAITH RESCUES
I know we are told to never turn to the last page of a good story as it will spoil the whole thing, we all know there is nothing worse than ‘that guy’ who cannot help but tell you what is about to happen in a movie while you are watching it. But, turn with me to Jo. 6: 22 -3 and see the outworking of this amazing ‘deal’ between two ‘missional’ men and an Amorite harlot. She is rescued from the crumbling Jericho!

FAITH REVEALS
This is for those of us who have received this message (or maybe think we have) who have been rescued from a life without life and been made alive by the inner working of the Spirit of God who has given us abundant life. Make sure you know this: Faith reveals itself.

Read the words of the 15th century Italian reformer Benedetto –
Faith imprints us with a certain violent love of good works.
Here is another way of saying that,
We are justified (declared right before God) by faith alone, but the faith which justifies is inevitably accompanied by works: which are the evidence of that faith!” – Peckham

The faith that saves the soul is the faith that gives that soul holy affections, spiritual energy to serve God for the coming of the Kingdom. It is visible, and active!

Blessings
Simon

"Living life without the Fear" Week 7

Wow, seems silly how time passes by on occasion. I realize I have not updated this blog the last two times I have had the joy of preaching at X1 in our series: "Living Life without the Fear" from the book of Joshua. These past two times have been rooted in chapter 2 of the book and have been extremely helpful to us as a church. Here is an overview of week 7:

FEARLESS MISSIONAL IMMERSION – ‘GET IN!’
This passage of scripture catches us up in the Missio Dei - God's mission to restore, heal and redeem!

SELECT MISSIONAL MEN
These two were Joshua’s Special Forces providing essential Human INTEL.

These men are chosen to engage with a pagan culture, to live out their faith in the midst of a hostile, impure culture because -
OBEDIENT - Joshua would have known the character of these men.
PURE - Able to engage with non-faith culture but not get sucked into the seedy underworld driving it.
FAITH - FILLED - Unlike 10 of the spies sent 40 years earlier these men were full of faith even when encountering any opposition, they knew the power and delivering work of God. (Jo. 2: 14)

If we are to be 'missional', if we are to be those willing to engage with secular culture around us, we must be Obedient, Pure & full of Faith.
Will you be an anonymous missional warrior refusing all self-comforts, self-glory that this world seeks to force feed you for the great glory of the saving power of God to bring the lost and broken to new life?


THREE PEOPLE TYPES YOU WILL ENGAGE
If you are willing to take on the ‘Missional’ battle; if you are willing to let the power and work of the Holy Spirit to mould you then be aware of the ‘people types’ you will engage:
1) Aggravated authorities - 'King of Jericho'; the enemy Himself will conspire against you, authorities of mind and world-views ( Dawkins etc)
2) Spiritual Masses - ‘We have heard...” “For forty years God had been giving the people of Canaan an opportunity to turn to Him.” Now we can see that for 1900 years the story of Christ has been ‘out there.’ But people will reject and ignore it because they want life their way.
3) Awakened Seekers - And then the glorious marvellous truth that there will be those that our Powerful God is awakening: asking the deep questions, feeling new feelings, certain ‘there is more to this!’

GO! SECURE IN GOD’S SOVEREIGN SAVING GRACE
God’s infinite grace and power to restore the broken and the lost to himself cannot be thwarted. No matter how ‘impossible’ it appears for some to know Christ, we see here that God can change the heart and transform the life of anyone!

God can and will transform the lives of even the most ‘lost’ people that we will encounter if we are willing to faithfully, obediently, purely engage them missionally. If you think I am pushing a personal theology here, why don’t you turn with me to John 4 to see another missional warrior engaging a lost soul that God had freely, gracefully and mercifully wanted to know

GOD’S IRRESISTABLE LOVE & GRACE TO RESTORE THE UNCHURCHED – HIS PEOPLE
Why am I so certain that we should be engaging with those immersed in a secular culture with only a media-governed view of Christ? Simple because the immense love and grace of God is irresistible to those He awakens, and there are more than we can estimate outside the walls of the church.

Get into culture, be pure, be obedient, be bold, be fill of faith, God will change lives!

Simon

Monday, October 26, 2009

What is Scripture?

This is one of the blogs I just received from my RSS feed of the Resurgence Blog. Assuring and inspiring I thought:

What is Scripture? The good news is that we are not the first to try to answer this question. In fact, 2,000 years of Christian history provide us a tradition of helpful answers.

Inerrant, Trustworthy, and Authoritative
The Bible is inspired by God, is without error, and does not misrepresent the facts. It is entirely trustworthy and is the final authority in everything it teaches. The Bible records the drama of redemption in both the history of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As Christians we acknowledge both Jesus (John 1:1-4) and Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17) as the “Word of God.” Christians should not focus solely on Christ and treat Scripture just like any other “classic text.” Nor should we focus so much on the Bible as God’s divine inerrant word and treat Jesus as simply a character in a small part of the texts.

Scripture Reveals Jesus

Jesus is the message—God participating in human life, coming near to us, bringing his good news, expressing God’s love for us, dying as our substitute, rising as the victor over death, and building his church as a community of grace. Jesus is not just the main person in one of many events in the story of God’s people. Jesus is the final revelation of God’s drama of redemption. Humanity sees God in full light in Jesus. Jesus is God’s ultimate word about human life and the Bible is God’s word about God’s self-revelation through human life. This is what Christian theologians have been saying in various ways for 2,000 years.


Simon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Here are the Joshua series Videos Part V - thanks Vimeo

18th October - Living life without the fear- Joshua Week 5 - Simon LJ from X1 Video on Vimeo.

Here are the Joshua series Videos Part IV - thanks Vimeo

11-10-2009 - Simon LJ - Joshua - Part 1 #1 from X1 Video on Vimeo.

C.S. Lewis on what to read - Old or New?

Here is C.S. Lewis writing in an introduction to a work by Athanasius about what he would urge others to read as practice.

"It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more
delightful to acquire. This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.

Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even
myself. [To be replaced today with M. Driscoll or J. Osteen or J. Meyer] Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old
."


Very few of us read what forces us to think preferring instead to have the thinking done for us often to the detriment of original depth and quality.

Oh yes, and please don't read what's not being written here! I'm just encouraging reading the ancients....

Simon

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Living life without the Fear" Week 5

So 5 weeks in, and I feel as if we are barely scraping the surface of this 'immense' book of Scripture.
This week was one of those weeks when a preacher is acutely aware of the challenging nature of what Spirit has given him to share. I felt certain not to rush on from the first nine verses of the first chapter as there was one more notable command from God to Joshua (and very much to us today) that seems to me a pivotal condition of him enjoying the fruit of the 4 promises noted last week.

I entitled the message: FEAST ON THIS FOOD FOR FAITH FOR FEARLESS LIVING

At a point where Joshua would surely be expecting some divine strategy or superior elemt of war with which to encouter the enemies within 'The Promised Land' God says only this:
"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
God basically says to him

“THIS, THIS Joshua! (Scripture) If you want to be ‘prosperous & successful’, if you long to enjoy the stunning array of promises that I have just laid before you then READ THIS, STUDY THIS, LIVE THIS LOVE THIS EAT THIS!”
Joshua was to feed on (meditate) the words of the book of the Law that Moses had been entrusted and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write.
Within the verses ( 7 - 9) you can see there appears to be a four part 'way' by which to feast on Scripture, the food for fearless living:
1) ‘know God’s word’ – Be constantly looking at in order to fulfil command of having it as guide; Joshua would need to get it from ‘ark of covenant’ often
2) ‘talk about God’s word’– (Josh. 1: 8) Clearly Joshua was to be conversing about the bible in his normal day-by-day contacts with family, soldiers, friends.
3) ‘meditate on God’s Word’– Meditation implies reasoning about the Word & deducing things from it. Meditation has application as its goal.
4) ‘obey God’s Word’– The last element in this list of requirements is the most important... Not only know it, speak, obey it...he was also and chiefly to obey it. NOT TURNING TO LEFT OR RIGHT. Keep on Line determined by God’s word.

It is impossible to over-emphasize the need for us as 21st Century believers to apply this command and this process to our lives. I say this because, and I quote my words from Sunday:
"Feeding on God’s word is absent from so many of our lives, it is an afterthought after glutting ourselves on the lies of our culture through media over-saturation...People are more willing to believe the ‘fiction’ of Dan Brown, the quasi-biblical teachings of 80% of the Christian world over and above the profoundly glorious truth of scripture!
And it’s wreaking havoc! We become emaciated, withered followers of Jesus being kicked about by our enemies and unable to engage in the battle necessary for us to claim the glorious promises offered to us in Christ!
"


Feast on the divine truth of God for faith for fearless living!

Simon

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Living life without the Fear" Week 4 - Quotes

Here are some quotes to help:

THE PRESENCE OF GOD:
“ It is wonderful that the same leader [The Captain of the army of the Lord] is with us...Must we struggle today in our own wisdom & puny strength? No – the power is there...Are we to know the power of this Leader? Well, then let us get our shoes off! Let us never forget the words of Paul: ‘I am the slave of Jesus Christ.’ If our shoes are not off before this leader, we will not know his power...[T]he Person at the burning bush, the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob, the captain of the Lord’s host, Jesus Christ – this one is still with us.“
- Schaeffer

THE SUCCESS OF GOD:
“Our tendency is to decode this into narcissistic terms. But let’s trust God for more than that. God doesn’t function just in cosmetic terms. He’s not in the business of tummy tucks & nose jobs or of making life easy. He’s in the business of transforming us into His image. He’s in the business of helping us to serve Him, meeting the deepest needs of others who hurts, who are in pain, who need deliverance from sin, who need their bodies healed and their minds restored. God is in the business of helping us to lead people to a personal, vital relationship with Him, the Saviour Lord.”
– Huffman Jr.

PROMISES ARE TO A 'MISSIONAL' PEOPLE:
“Jesus said ‘Go’ to his disciples, and that word has resounded around the globe. It moves the heart and fires the soul. The commission comes from heaven. The Christ who left heaven’s glory and spent himself so utterly is in my heart urging me to go as he himself went. His presence with me responds to His mighty word to me – ‘Go!’ I am caught up in the eternal thrust of God. I cannot escape it, for I am part of it; the word lives to me & lives in me – ‘Go!’”
– Peckham

STRENGTH & COURAGE:
"We are living for something glorious. We are seeking to be radically different. Our mandate is to engage the destructive elements of society, to bring God’s presence, God’s love, and God’s truth where there is emptiness, hate and endless lies. The reality of ‘missional’ living is intense confrontation with the world the flesh and the devil and we will need inconceivable strength and courage.
But it is not a strength we work up or make happen, it is the faith in the promises of God and the person of God that give us the supernatural strength & courage of God. It is reciprocal."
- Leigh-Jones

Simon

"Living life without the Fear" Week 4

Ok, we finally entered the magnificent book of Joshua for real this week. We have spent 3 weeks trying to give a helpful background to this time in the life and history of the Israelite people, this man Joshua, and of course the stunning relevance to our own lives and situation.

I intended to preach one sermon from the first nine verses but of course on deeper investigation discovered that there was more than enough Spiritual Meat to chew on for 2 weeks.
So we entitled this weeks sermon
NOTE THIS: GOD'S PRECIOUS PROMISES FOR FEARLESS LIVING NOT DELIVERED WITHIN REALITY VACUUM


The major emphasis of the sermon was as follows

THE IMMENSITY OF GOD'S PROMISES:

Within these few verses God gives 4 Immense promises to Joshua in preparing to enter the promised land that are so real for us as New Covenant believers. Those 4 are -
BEING IN THE WILL OF GOD -right there, right then God had Joshua exactly where he wanted him. We too have this promises if we respond to the leading of the Spirit.
THE POWER OF GOD - Vs. 3 & 4 All the power made available to Moses in his leading the people is promised to Joshua. This power is promised to us, see Acts 1: 8; I Jn. 4: 4; II Cor. 10: 4; Col. 1: 11.
THE PRESENCE OF GOD - Vs. 5, 8 Far greater than the promise of Power was this glorious promise of the actual presence of the 'I Am', YAHWEH the living, redeeming, covenant keeping God. That promise is for us see Acts 2; Heb. 13: 5; MAt. 28: 20
THE SUCCESS OF GOD - Vs. 8 Not to be reduced to human, narcissistic terms. The success of God is the joy of living in such a way that our lives draw other to His glorious love.

Note: These promises are made to a people on mission.

THE INDISPENSABILITY OF STRENGTH & COURAGE

"...see here that Joshua receives promise and assurance one after the other and then suddenly he is told he needs to be STRONG & COURAGEOUS. In fact God is almost like a stuck record on this one see vs. 6, 7, 9 (x2), Deut. 31: 6, 7, 8, 23.
Why is this the case? Surely after these magnificent words spoken to him he could have sat back on his camel-skin couch, munching on some dates and catching up on his favourite episodes of ‘Survivor: Sinai Desert ’ on his Sky+ box.

The opposite is true. It is exactly because there were such promises to claim, so much to be possessed that Joshua would need all the strength and courage imaginable. To embrace all the joy and the fruits of this new place there would need to be constant conflict against and eradication of all that would deny that.
It is exactly the same today! Every great promise of Ephesians 1 and which are distributed on almost every page of scripture are not delivered to us devoid of living within the reality of a fallen, secular, fear-inducing culture."



So that was the gist of it. There are stunning promises available but as is promised in II Tim. 1: 7, the need for Faith-inspired Strength & Courage to posess the promises.

Simon

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Bible: "All Christ"

So, so many people seem to remain distant from the Old Testament of the bible, seeing it as inferior to, or unnecessary now that we have the New Testament. (It's typically just laziness, but...)
I recently read a brilliant insight into the importance of reading the bible as a whole book (not as a library of different books) and that included the primary reason to read the OT: CHRIST!
Here it is

"... We call this book the Bible, and we divide it into two portions, the Old Testament and the New Testament. What does this mean? It means that the Old Testament and the New are both concerned about the same person, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. The OT is the preparation, the promise, the prophecy of His coming. There, back in Genesis 3, you have it; the whole thing is put so plainly. Who is the seed of the woman that is going to crush and bruise the serpent's head? It is none other than the Son of God, and He did it upon the cross on Calvary's hill. The Old testament from beginning to end points to Him.
Then what is the NT but the glorious fulfillment of every type and shadow? He is the substance of all the shadows. He is the great antitype of all the types. He is the fulfillment of everything that God had indicated He was going to be. So there is the bible - OT, NT - but it is all in Christ. The plan, the purpose, the way of redemption are always in Him
." -Lloyd Jones


Don't just read it, eat it!

Simon

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Living life without the Fear" Week 2 - Quotes

Here are some quotes from several of the books studied in preparation for this series;

“ [In the defeat of the Amalekites] Joshua & Israel clearly understood that the victory was accomplished by God, not the strength of the army. Joshua’s military action in the valley was necessary but it was not sufficient in itself to defeat the enemy.” - Downey

“[Joshua] did not selfishly desire personal advantage. There was no lust for selfish gain. His life was characterized by obedient faith, dauntless courage, indomitable perseverance and a total dedication to God & his word. He revealed cheerful confidence in the face of difficulties. Others gave him high honour because of his unselfish disregard of his own personal interests...In every circumstance he displayed a supreme desire to know the will of God...”

“ Joshua was [acutely aware] of the seen and the unseen worlds. There is no vast chasm between them; the unseen world is right here. The unseen world is always immediately present, not far off. Above everything and overshadowing everything is the reality of God in His glory. It obviously stood Joshua in good stead many times for Him to understand that God was close at hand, that HE is the God who exists and who is ‘here.’” – Schaeffer

“He has seldom been given the full credit he deserves as perhaps the greatest man of faith ever to set foot on the stage of human history. In fact, his entire brilliant career was a straightforward story of simply setting down one foot after another in quiet compliance with the commands of God.” – Phillip Keller


Hope these help.

In Him
Simon

"Living life without the Fear" Week 2

Week 2 of our Joshua series: "Living life without the fear!" Still in Joshua 1: 1 so we could be here for a while.
Whereas in the first week we noted some principles as to why the book Joshua was so important for us this week we sought to discern why Joshua was a
'3500 year old model for living life without the fear'

One thing I noted was this

"I think one definite reason so many of us get sucked into the culture of fear that surrounds us, a primary factor that draws us into living life according to the principles and fear-inducing beliefs of our time is the NEED to be someone and of course in a ‘celebrity-obsessed’ media-saturated culture that someone is better looking than us, more famous than us, more wealthy than us, more ‘happy’ than us."


Then I made this point -

WE ARE DESTINED TO INFERIORITY

Joshua to could have lived his life defined by inferiority, starting off as a slave and then living constantly in the shadow of Moses the great Jewish 'celebrity.' But he didn't he became a fearless leader who delivered the people of Israel into their promised land.

There are FIVE FACETS FOR FEARLESS LIVING that I believe we can glean from his life that will 'equip' us as followers of Jesus (or not) to live our lives without being sucked into the fear-culture in which we are immersed.
Here they are:

LIVED LIFE AGAINST THE FLOW – One of only 2 (Caleb) to actually survive the wilderness wanderings. (Nu. 13 & 14)
All 12 spies return with the same story. It is just that 10 spies “focused on the difficulties rather than on the promise of god...” See also Ex. 24 – 32 and the events detailed there.
While all Israel rebel & pursue idolatry again Joshua stands with Moses and for the Lord against the masses.

ENGAGED THE BATTLE– Ex. 17: 8 – 9 this is seen also in his report from Canaan.
In this he would have learnt that a life of following God is a lifestyle of warfare. (Eph 6: 10 – 18) “Victory is always possible but always depends on both faith in God & obedience to His commands.

PRIORITIZED GOD’S AGENDA – His agenda, his comfort was not primary. Humble submission to the leading of God to undertake the mission of God was what marked him. It is the same for us, if our agenda or comfort is primary we will get sucked into and tainted by the ‘fear-culture’ that surrounds us.

OBEDIENT TO GOD– He learned the lesson of “the terribleness of sin” in the camp Ex. 32.
Resisting the temptations of living in a secular culture and standing against the pressure to live according to its agenda is far better than disobedience & the destructive consequences of that lifestyle.

PURSUED INTIMACY WITH GOD – He knew the ‘reality of God’ & the ‘glory of God.’ (Ex. 33: 11)
Joshua loved lingering in the presence of God.
There is simply no more effective way of counteracting ‘the fear’ than a deep, personal intimacy with Christ. See John 15.

Are you willing to be a Joshua in your generation?

Simon

'I hide myself in you.'

Life is tumultuous of that there is no doubt. We may be living in the 'noisiest', 'busiest' generation ever, and resting or finding peace may be harder than at any time before.
Where do we go? How do we counteract the rush? Where does the rat go to get out of the rat race?
We are facing different difficulties than generations before us: we are devoid of war on our turf, health care and social structure has eradicated numerous problems that would have afflicted generations before us. Our difficulties are more about stress, overwhelming time demands, cultural pressure to conform at all costs, community fracture and internal conflicts. They are difficulties all the same.

Sometimes you cry out for an 'all-embracing' solution to all your problems, something that would maybe be your rescue. Well how about doing what David did 3000 years ago: HIDE YOURSELF IN GOD! Psalm 143 in the OT scriptures tell us that David did exactly that, he writes,
"Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you."


Immerse yourself in the presence of God, revel in His love and compassion for you. Hear His well, dwell in His promises. I assure you there is no 'safer' empowering place.

HIDE YOURSELF IN GOD!

Simon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Living life without the Fear" Week 1 - Further Quote

Here is another great quote which gives some background and insight to the strength of the book of Joshua to speak into our Christian lives:

"The book of Joshua has a very practical application to the believer today. The Promised Land cannot be a type of heaven since heaven is not a place of conflict & conquest. Heaven is received as a gift of the grace of God. Rather, the Promised Land represents the place to which believers are brought right here in this world today. The book of Joshua corresponds to the Epistle to the Ephesians in the NT where we see that the believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings. The practical possession and experience of them depends upon conflict and conquest. These are never attained through the energy of the flesh, but through the power of the Holy Spirit in the yielded life of the believer."


Simon

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Mars Hill Blog | Blog Archive » Luke’s Gospel: Where We’re Going

Just found this as it came into my rss feed from The Resurgence Network. What a powerful confirmation to us that we are taking on a challenging but right thing as a church on this journey through Joshua.
Thank you Lord.

The Mars Hill Blog | Blog Archive » Luke’s Gospel: Where We’re Going

Posted using ShareThis

Simon

"Living life without the Fear" Week 1 - Quotes

I will share three quotes that I mentioned on Sunday morning (in fact one I did not get to share) as a help for all of us considering the book of Joshua and what it means for us today.

“Spiritual victory comes through obedient faith... [T]he believer who wants to defeat the enemies of his soul – the world, the flesh, and the devil – must believe God’s promises & obey God’s instructions.” - Paul Downey (click author's name for link)

“While wandering in the wilderness in fear & disobedience may characterize the lives of many believers, it is not normative Christian living.” Paul Downey

“While in the wilderness, although they had been redeemed by blood, they were not in the place of their appointed inheritance... Because they did not believe that God could give them the land in the face of all the giants and walled cities they died in the wilderness... Like them, through unbelief and disobedience we too can miss the wonderful fullness and the blessed nearness of the Lord Jesus, indwelling and enthroned, possessing, controlling and motivating our lives. We too can die in the wilderness of blighted hopes and unfulfilled aspirations, of inward battles and outward failures, of sad defeats and wasted years... That weak, ineffective Christian life is most certainly not the inheritance which we have in Christ.” - Colin Peckham


Hope these help.

Simon

"Living life without the Fear" Week 1

Well we have kicked off what I believe will be a truly significant series for us as a church but hopefully for many individuals beyond the walls of screen 7 of Vue Cinema Watford. It is quite a landmark for me as a pastor as it will be the first time I have committed to take on a whole book of Scripture. It can be an ominous thing as you carry concern that people may see it as oncoming monotony - "What a whole Old Testament book of scripture?" - and their dread that they are destined for hours of sleep on Sunday mornings at X1. Also it is extremely demanding of the preaching & teaching elder(s) of a church to earnestly, faithfully, and effectively draw out of a book of scripture the life changing, transcendent truths that are most certainly within the text.

I hope we had a good start. We did not even complete Joshua 1: 1 as we introduced this series. Videos will start going up at Vimeo.com in the very near future and I will be sure to give relevant links if you have any desire to join us on this journey with this great OT man of God, Joshua, both an inspiration and provocation to living life without the fear that stains, and drains so many of us in our faith.

I am fully certain that Joshua's embracing of the challenges and the warfare necessary to delight in the fruits of the 'promised land'is a type and a picture of the faith-filled, obedient, conquering lifestyle essential for us as 21st century Followers of Jesus to live out our Faith without being overcome by 'The Fear' grasping the culture in which we are immersed.


Join us, if you'd like.

SImon

Monday, September 14, 2009

12 Marks of a Christ-like church.

We have spent the last 2 weeks of our life as a church seeking God's heart for His vision for us as a people. We have been literally battered by Satan in the interim but have also sensed the Lord speak so powerfully into where this local church is heading.
I spent yesterday preaching into the truth that God has called Christ First as a local Christ Community into the stunning ongoing story of His Global Rehab project. We as a church are an essential section of the great tapestry that is God's Universal Redemptive initiative.

My thought is that as much as a church can seek to create a community that is a 'foretaste' of the CITY we see in Revelation chapter 21 the closer we are to being fully on board with the Missio Dei. It is a stunning thought! 70 people meeting in a cinema in Watford, England are spirit-empowered, spirit-gifted ambassadors of the Kingdom of God.

A charge I set before us as a people (that which I hope God would say to us) was this:

"A body of believers most like Christ is the 'most healthy' church."

These are just 12 marks that I feel would reflect that:
*COMMITTED *HEALING
*SERVING *HUMBLE
*REDEEMING *MISSIONAL
*PURE *SELFLESS
*OBEDIENT *LOVING
*GRACEFUL *TRUTH SOURCE


I hope to maybe expand each of those marks in this week. But hope they will be helpful.

Simon

I said, "Teach them the fear of the Lord."



I am pretty certain this is not what God meant when He called me to teach His people 'the fear of the Lord.' This didn't even scare my 2 year old munchkin.

Well thought I'd give it a go....

Simon

Thursday, September 10, 2009

15th Century Thoughts on 'Confirming Faith with Experience'

Juan De Valdes was a 15th century Italian reformer, coming to the revelation of Justification by faith through the grace of God in Christ alone without any knowledge of Luther and his ongoing revelations elsewhere in Europe. I am just getting caught up in some of his writings so share some here with you.

These regard the importance of confirming our faith with experience;

"Supposing someone asks me, 'How shall I, a believer, confirm my faith by experience?' I would reply with two things.
First of all, let him divest himself of all Christless modes of justification, both of those that are negative and those that are positive. Let him only embrace the justification that is in Christ, which consists in believing. Let him strive in prayer to God ans ask that He would cause him to feel peace of conscience, that He would mortify him, and that He would quicken him.
In the second place, let him keep the strictest reckoning with himself as to his works, words, and thoughts. He will know by these means what progress he has made in mortification and quickening. Let his purpose be to increase every day in his experience of mortification and quickening so that he strives to acquire that Christian experience by which faith is established.
"


Basically die to self daily and seek only to pursue all Christian works with your righteousness in Christ as the only basis. Not easy, but no one ever said truly living this faith was.

Simon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doing Something Right?

Oftentimes in our journey of faith, particularly in Christian Leadership we encounter seasons where we feel we are literally at war. This reflects the reality revealed to us by scripture that there is an enemy of those who follow Christ. He is the 'father of lies' he comes to 'steal, kill & destroy,' he is the 'accuser of the brothers [follower of Jesus' and he is constantly at work to distract us from the mission and to steal our joy and assurance in the great love of Christ!

Spurgeon alludes to this with fantastic words here:

"[if anything] makes me believe the work [fruitful ministry] is genuine is just this - that the enemies of Christ are exceedingly mad at it! When the devil roars at anything, you may rest assured there is some good in it. The devil is not like some dogs we know of; he never barks unless there is something to bark at. When Satan howls, we may rest assured he is afraid his kingdom is in danger."


We war against a conquered foe.

Simon

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is mum's 'sad face'



The face Malachi pulls when symbolizing mum's sadness!

SImon

Oh no someone's taken over the church office.




He just pushed me out the chair and told me he could do a better job. Who am I to argue?

Simon

Gosh makes you want to give all you are to the church

People, people, people if you are a part of God's church, you have been called to be a part of the greatest organism in all of reality. What a joy. Just let Driscoll in this video EXPLODE your mind about what is the church!

What is the Church by Mark Driscoll from Vintage21 Church on Vimeo.



Thank you Jesus that you died to make such a glorious bride!

Simon

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Serious Clash

Sorry for not blogging last week, bit of a hectic one.

Reading through the book of Proverbs, yes again, I know I was there late last year it is just a book that is wonderful to return to again and again. I commend you do the same. Anyway this morning I read chapter 19 and was struck by this short but provocative phrase:

"better to be poor than to be a liar."


Now it may not be too provocative to you, but let me explain why it is so to me.
Our culture has become one which cherishes image over substance. This extends into simply every area of life. Where it is most noticeable is our worship of celebrity. Celebrities, those who possess fame, wealth, and image are seen to be role-models and those whom we would seek to be like almost always because of their money (and the lifestyle that apparently comes with that) not their morality.

Morality, in fact, is an increasing hinderance to celebrity it seems so why would you cherish integrity and honesty (which is what this verse is trying to highlight) if it appears to distract from the lifestyle so idolized in our society. Those that are followers of Jesus have to cut radically across the grain in this. We have to be different. We have to believe the promises of God, even when we will get no support from secular-materialist culture, that being poor is not as damaging, not as 'inwardly' destructive as being a liar.

Better to be without money than without morality. That's not what I say, it's what He says!

Simon

PS. I know there are rich, honest people, please do not hear what I am not saying

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why I would suggest extreme caution to any watching God TV

I have become increasingly aware that living in a media-heavy age enabling us to access resources literally from every corner of the globe has, like many things, its pros and its cons. One thing that has struck me in the past two to three years is the prevalence of God TV as a reference point for many believers. Often in conversation with individuals I will hear a reference to this channel (or group of channels) and more and more it has left me more concerned than encouraged.

It is often easier to just stay silent on topics like this; but as someone called to shepherd the people entrusted to my/our care I have come to see that it is essential to speak for truth in order to protect. Such words do not need to be heeded, but that does not necessarily mean they should be left unsaid. So I place here, briefly, three reasons why I would be extremely tentative in encouraging anyone to spend much time watching the predominant portion God TV:

1) IT DOES NOT REFLECT AUTHENTIC BIBLICAL COMMUNITY - All of the writings, commands, exhortations of the NT are written to those living out the reality of being immersed within an authentic, damaged, often difficult, grace-demanding body of believers. This is church, and unless you are pursuing your Christian life within such a context you are not actually pursuing your Christian life. God TV offers you an 'edited' world which can withdraw you from and actually make you sour towards the local church. Seek to immerse yourself within 'actual' community with all its flaws for that is true Church.

2) MANY TEACHERS DO NOT SHARE YOUR THEOLOGY - I think it would shock (even rock the faith) of many of the individuals spending many hours watching God TV that some of the most 'profiled' speakers on these shows differ in some absolutely fundamental elements of Theology to them. One such teacher is Modalist Trinitarian something which is totally unbiblical but this man is often referred to by those I have conversation with. Many Western Christians are spending little if any time locked into God's truth and so can be easily misled by those who do not actually have an intention to pastor them and care for their faith discipling and interacting with them relationally. Be very careful, be pastored by 'real' people who are your shepherds, share your values and Theology.

3) ULTIMATELY THESE MEN AND WOMAN ARE NOT YOUR LEADERS - Many people can, sadly I believe, be 'pastored' more by these mega-stars of the Christian world then their own pastors. As I mentioned earlier (point 1) people can actually remove themselves from community and submission to biblical-spiritual-governance because they slip into 'lazy perfect church' that is beamed into their lounges without accountability or responsibility.

Be careful friends, pour your lives into local-biblical community. If each of us is doing that there will be radically different churches reflecting the stunning reality of Gospel-living to those without God.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sibbes on the 'Difficulty' of true faith

I had a conversation with my wife yesterday about her becoming a believer and sacrificing a relationship at the time that it would have been far easier to have maintained. We discussed the often-levelled-at-christians phrase, "christianity is just a crutch for the week" and how untrue it was of her at that time. Today I have found a quote by the simply wonderful Richard Sibbes which sheds some light:

"It were an easy thing to be a Christian, if religion stood only in a few outward works and duties, but to take the soul to task, and to deal roundly with our hearts,
and to let conscience have its full work,
and to bring the soul into spiritual subjection unto God, This is not so easy a matter,
because the soul out of self-love is loath [hates] to enter into itself, lest it should have other thoughts of itself than it would have."

'Soul deep' Christianity is so very difficult it is humanly impossible. It is only in His power that any achieve it.

Simon

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Anti-Culture

I have entered a strange scenario these past few days. I am up in Norwich at a large New Frontiers hosted youth event called NEWDAY. (Check out http://www.newday.xtn.org ) Basically there are roughly 6500 people here 80% probably under the age of 21 so it is an intense concentration of what would be called the 'youth of today', but let me tell you where the scenario starts to take on strangeness.

Simply put a huge number of these youngsters are 'born again Christians.' Individuals who would say they have had a life-changing encounter with the Living God in the person of Jesus Christ and are therefore somewhat 'different' to most people of their age. They are exceedingly exciteable when it comes to the musical applause/praise of the one who has changed them- Jesus. Can I just say a tent housing 6000 people simply takes off. Now I will tell you what is most strange, what is even 'anti-culture'...

In the group of 30 people we have brought here at least 4 would say they are not 'followers of Jesus.' They are here for a time out with their friends (I would assume this percentage crosses pretty much the broad population here so maybe 600 people here are in the same boat) and a good time with others. But what happens when we are in the formentioned tent is that the power and the wonder of being absorbed into this group of people praising Jesus draws them in and soaks them up in its overflow.

What is happening here and almost certainly never ever happens in the everyday life of a Westerner is that Christianity is the primary feature and definer of culture and people are 'pressured' to want to be of like identity. It's amazing to me.
In the end I know that whether you are alone on a Zimbabwean hill (my story of encounter) or amidst 6000 passionate Christ-lovers it is the sovereign power and drawing love of God that transforms you.
Hope it happens to many here...

Simon

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Cross of Christ in daily life



Been drawn back into reading 'True Spirituality' by Schaeffer as it is so very rich. He has spoken to me once again this afternoon.

So many of us as modern Christians are drawn into an understanding of our journey of following Jesus as STARTING with a 'death to self' and being made new in Christ. We tend to leave it there though. In one sense we think that may be the last time we have to face that horrific Cross of Jesus Christ, that is so far from the truth, and here is a brief thought from Mr. Schaeffer to remind us of that

"I am to face the cross of Christ in every part of life and with my whole man. The cross of Christ is to be a reality to me not only once for all at my conversion, but all through my life as a Christian."


Pick it up daily, die to self and live the Christ life!

Simon

Monday, July 27, 2009

How about a bit of Calvin

Thought it would be a great idea to start the week with a little taster of the great John Calvin as he writes on the progressive nature of God's revelation to us in the scriptures:

"...at the beginning when the first promise of salvation was given to Adam (Gen. 3:15) only a few slender sparks beamed forth: additions being afterwards made, a greater degree of light began to be displayed, & continued gradually to increase & shine with greater brightness, until at length, all the clouds being dispersed, Christ the Sun of righteousness arose, and with full refulgence illumined all the earth..." ( Institutes II.10.20)

He's good isn't he?

Simon

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What do I want?

Last week Friday at 8pm GMT www.x1church.com went live as we seek to impact people digitally and draw them into the great Christ Culture of the church. There is a blog there where I am entrusted to share thoughts as the lead elder at X1. Here is some thoughts I shared with our people this Monday:

A legitimate question that could, and probably should, be asked by any member of a church (or any Christian within a church) to its pastor is, "What do you most want from me?" I would love to be asked that question by everyone at X1. What I mean by this question is not in the arena of service (although the answer to this question will have immense implications upon service), or giving, or attendance, or purity of life, or even effective evangelism (although again every one of these things will be completely affected). What I mean is what do I want for my people to grasp as the central component that would astoundingly transform their lives and therefore the life of X1 as a community of Christ followers.

My answer, and maybe different church leaders would give different ones (or the same but worded differently) is simple and is scriptural. It is discovered in the life of that man who was known as 'a man after God's own heart', King David. It is in these verses found at the very beginning of Psalm 63

1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.


David gets it, he gets what I would want from every member of the X1 family! He knows the Lord. His life, every single element of it, stems from an intimate communion with the Lord. You see that in vs 2. The result is the overwhelming consciousness of the love of God for Him ('better than life'). The final overflow is a life of sheer contentment, a life of praise, a life that lives every minute in passionate response to the 'power[ful] glor[ious]' King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

What I want from every member of X1 is that you seek, above all other things, every distraction or seemingly good thing, total and complete intimacy with the Lord. An intimacy that draws you into HIs presence and allows you to see Him as He truly is.

Everything will be different!

Simon

Monday, July 20, 2009

Horatius Bonar Charges us to Labour

Horatius Bonar was a nineteenth century Scottish 'divine' and he preached a series called, "Words to Wnners of Souls." I have just begun it and right at the outset are these words from a hymn he wrote:

"Go, labour on while it is day,
The world's dark night is hastening on.
Speed, speed thy work, cast sloth [laziness] away-
It is not thus that souls are won."

This is his way of saying: Get busy people are dying without Christ!

Brilliant

Simon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All is Grace

It is not every day that I take a serious dip into the writings of the great American Puritan Jonathan Edwards, That's a bit of a pity really because then it is not every day that I get to read words like this about the astounding grace of God towards us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

"The grace of God, exhibited in the gospel, is glorious,

1st) Because of the greatness of it. Every circumstance of the gospel, grace surprisingly heightens it; let us look on what part we will, we shall see enough to fill us and all the angels in heaven with admiration forever. If we consider it as the grace of God the Father, and consider his greatness, his holiness, his power and justice, immensity and eternity; if we diligently consider how great a being he is, who took such pity and compassion on mankind, it is enough to astonish us. Or, if we consider ourselves, on whom this great God has bestowed this grace, we are nothing but worms, yea less than worms, before God; and not only so, but sinful worms, worms swollen with enmity against God. If we consider him by whom we receive [grace], the Son of God who made heaven and, by his almighty power, [is] equal with the Father; if we consider the greatness of what he did- he died most ignominiously and painfully in our nature it all infinitely heightens the grace of the gospel.

2nd) Because of the glorious fruit of this. No less than salvation and eternal glory are the fruits of this grace of the gospel; adoption, union with Christ, communion with God, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the heavenly happiness, the pleasure of the eternal paradise, the new Jerusalem, the glorious and triumphant resurrection of the body, and an everlasting reign with Christ in the height of glory, and pleasure and happiness: no less than these things are the effects of this marvelous grace.

What a vast difference is there between a poor, miserable sinner, full of sin, condemned to hellfire, and, a saint shining forth in robes of glory, and crowned with a crown of victory and triumph; but 'tis no less difference than this, is made in the same man by the grace of God in Christ.
"


Thank you God for rescuing me from my terrible state!

Simon

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finances

So much has been happening in my heart and mind regarding money, finance and vision over the past 3 or 4 weeks. A lot of it sprung out of some personal thoughts one morning, but then was confirmed after a discussion with a leader of a church in Hillingdon, London. His thoughts were provocative, particularly in how finance and vision are inherently linked. The point seemed to be that for all that God is calling a Body of Believers to do there has to be provision to support that- obvious I know but new revelation for me.

As we start to weave this into the fabric of our church life (early days) I am aware that the primary means is to release people from a false understanding of money and to set them free into the CONTENTMENT that comes from God's view of giving and attitude towards money. I want this for my own life first. I know I am immersed in a culture which worships money... there is no other way of seeing it. Piper makes this clear so powerfully as he talks about the nature of God or money:

"There is something about God and money that makes them tend to mastery. Either you are mastered by money and therefore ignore God or make him a bellhop for your business, or you are mastered by God and make money a servant of the kingdom. But if either tries to master you while you are mastered by the other you will hate and despise it. This is why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Much money makes a cruel master."


Many are 'mastered' by money. I mean good people, not people that use it for evil or hoard it, but those who cannot let it go out of fear. Placing such immense faith in money saying, "If I have it, if I give less away then I'm ok." We need to be freed from this fear, and discover the great contentment and joy of storing treasures in heaven. I will write more on this but read more of Piper's words here!

Simon

Friday, July 10, 2009

Last Night

Here is an image of people going crazy and giving their money to the mission of God to change the world.
Simon

Now from Blackberry

I am probably really slow on this but I have just realized I can set up my Blackberry from which to blog. How sweet is that. This whole world of comms is pretty astounding. What next?



Simon

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Craziness

A lot of people label Christians as a whacky bunch. Sadly, there are many groups of us that give serious justification for such an opinion. Along with that I would also like to state that many people that make such comments though, really have little or no idea of authentic Christianity and make statements based on hearsay and preconceptions. Anyway, tonight I did see some crazy stuff.

Firstly, I saw 5000 people from 50 nations simply pumping with passion and excitement for the fact God is real and that He is making amazing impact throughout this broken globe through His church. His church is just the communal expression of redemption and transformation that Christ was Himself as an individual. He came to restore us to our best place: dynamic relationship with our Father God. The church just carries on displaying and proclaiming that, drawing people into that same place. It was 'crazy.'

Secondly, and this is seriously 'crazy', I saw those same 5000 people all stand together, and race forward to the front of a conference centre to give £1 500 000 to empower this amazing mission of being the people of God and showing the love and grace of God. It is simply mental and so inspiring.

God transforms people and is able to take them a million miles from worshiping the God that holds so many in bondage; MONEY, and give over that control and make them free.

It's crazy!

SImon

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Brighton Conference

I have the great privilege and pleasure of being down in Brighton for our yearly conference as a movement of churches: Newfrontiers. I believe we gather very well as a group of churches and this is the place where one can taste it most completely. One gets immersed in the power of the communal praise of thousands (rather than 10s as is the case at Christ First). One gets a picture of heaven when surrounded by individuals who have been radically transformed by the grace of God from all over the world.

We have already received two extremely encouraging and confirming messages during the main sessions.

Mbonisi Malaba from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe took us into Jonah to unveil the Global Heart of God; His incomparable love for the individuals of the nations. Then straight into Acts 18 to discuss the Global Strategy (he noted Paul was a strategist) needed to embrace the global heart of God and to effectively reach the nations: Go to where people are!

Stef Liston from Camden, London then spoke powerfully on being Childlike in leadership. With several humorous quips about the nature of children (reminding me constantly of my monster mouse Malachi): no catering to hierarchy, always asking, always follow their dads, are besotted with their daddies etc. Combined with some powerful biblical insights into Christ-like leadership he reminded us to keep it simple (God is saying something to me definitely) and imitate the Christ.

Hoping for much more but what a joy, I am so hopeful He will mould my heart in these days.

Simon

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Romance of Preaching

As I had mentioned in my last post I have been reading Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd Jones and it has been extremely beneficial to me. It seems to me that I have very few conversations with individuals where there is an almost unhindered joy as they speak of preaching that is affecting their lives. Again and again I will hear people recount their love for worship within their church context, or how they love the expression of Spiritual Gifts, but alas, very few times do I have conversations like this regarding preaching. I find this a great tragedy. I think there are multiple doors at which to lay the blame, but it is very sad.

Lloyd Jones would echo my sentiments exactly, I think he would be heartbroken at this age of 'preaching' within churches. Why am I so certain of that? Well listen to these words that expose his thoughts regarding preaching and the wonder of it

"Let us hurry on to something much more important - the romance of preaching! There is nothing like it. It is the greatest work in the world, the most thrilling, the most exciting, the most rewarding, and the most wonderful. I know nothing comparable to the feeling one has as one walks up the steps [now the pulpit certainly is not 'up' any stairs] of one's pulpit with a fresh sermon on a Sunday morning or a Sunday evening, especially when you feel that you have a message from God and are longing to give it to the people."


His words betray his idea of the importance and prominence of preaching I think. Maybe he was just a product of his time and church has moved on? I do not think so at all.

Preachers, is that the way you feel about preaching. Is it something of such significance to you that you labour in prayer and preparation to present the greatest 'fresh' words for the joy of your peoples and the glory of God? Or is it just the dull part of the meeting after the worship, which gets a minor percentage of the time in your gathering time?

Lord restore preaching that transforms lives and explodes the minds and affections of hearers with the glorious truths of the word of God!

Simon

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

KISS & Preach

The family and I had the joy of traveling to the Isle of Wight for 6 days last week. We were blessed with the use of a Caravan belonging to a couple in the church. Oh, and when I say caravan, I mean something far more than the petty vehicles abused by Jeremy Clarkson and the boys on Top Gear. This was a fixed, three bedroom beast and it was very comfortable and accommodating.

Anyway, one of the essential elements of being away for me was to just be still and allow God to speak to me. I felt I needed it more at this time than I have on previous occasions as I think leading a work is more demanding than other roles I have had, so it leaves you a little emptied after 5 1/2 months. Time spent reading Martin Lloyd Jones on Preaching and Preachers, combined with good times in the two letters to Timothy in the NT drove home two vital things to me.

Firstly, preaching is unbelievably important and if one has the gift to use it to lead and feed Christ's people. I think I had begun to doubt the role of preaching in some very small manner. Maybe doubting my own gift and listening to too many voices instead of seeking to honor God by being His messenger of His truth to His people with His power and His anointing. I must invest in this more and not feel I am failing the people of God while I am investing in greater capacity and devotion in this area.

Secondly, K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. There are an infinite number of things that grab your attention and sap your energies as you lead a changing work. There are also a huge number of voices and opinions trying to inform you how to spend your time and what should be done. I felt the Lord just remind me to seek Him, to pursue my intimate relationship with Him and to listen to His voice. Also to flourish within my gifting and style and not to impersonate or deviate.

Make sure you give time to the voice of God, He does speak.

Simon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

For those who haven't seen her yet!


The wife is off running, yeah I do feel guilty but keep it down would you, Malachi is swimming with his uncle so I decided to bring the new LJ down to the office to watch me as I work. I am preparing a document for those who are being Baptized at X1 to read through and to discuss in a group tonight- so excited about that.

But I know a ton of you good friends out there are moaning at me for not getting a picture of Madison Shae out there for you to see, so here is a humble attempt. Excuse the old bloke.

SImon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Glory of Christ

John Owen was one of the most incisive writers of his generation. His generation was that of the Puritans so that is saying a lot. I love returning to his words when I am needing to be pushed deeper in my understanding of Christ and I did so today as part of some preparation. Here is some words he has to say regarding The Glory of Christ

"In Christ we behold the wisdom, goodness, love, grace, mercy and power of God all working together for the great work of our redemption and salvation. The wisdom and love of God are in themselves infinitely glorious. But we cannot see how glorious they are except in the redemptions and salvation of the church which is achieved only in and by Christ. Then the beams of their glory shine on us with unspeakable comfort and joy...
...We believe in God only in and through Christ. This is the life of our souls. God Himself, whose nature is infinitely perfect, is the highest object of our faith. But we cannot come directly to God by faith. We must come by the way and by the helps he has appointed for us. This is the way by which he has revealed His infinite perfections to us, which is Jesus Christ who said, 'I am the way... No one comes to the Father except through me.' By our faith in Christ we come to put our faith in God Himself. And we cannot do this in any other way but by beholding the glory of God in Christ..
."


Deep stuff hey.

Simon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thinking His Thoughts, Seeing His Way

It is still very early days as a pastor here in Watford; seems I have had to learn so much in such a short space of time. One pivotal area of learning is that of Pastoral Counseling. Many, many people are overwhelmed with problems no matter into which Pastoral context God places you, so it is good to seek His wisdom and insight as to how to best go about this. I have been led to a book (mentioned by several individuals actually) and early on am struck by what the author (David Powlinson) has to say regarding how knowing God changes your awareness and understanding of Humanity, allowing you to search far deeper than others who 'lock' His views regarding human nature out of their process.(Both the nature of others and your own)

Here are some brilliant words from the opening pages:

"To think Christianly is 'to think God's thoughts after him.' Of course, our thinking is both finite and distorted. We never see it all; and we often misconstrue what we do see. We see in a glass darkly, skewed reflections in a battered bronze mirror - but we do see. God, who sees all things directly in full daylight, enlightens the eyes of our hearts. We see surfaces, catching glimpses of interiors; God sees into the inky or radiant depth of every heart, all the way down to the fundamental hate or fundamental love. Our glasses are sometimes rosy, sometimes jaundiced, sometimes bluesy, sometimes mirrored on the inside of the lens (so that all we can see are the turbulent contents of our own interiors). The madness of our hearts generates warped spectra. But God sees all things in bright, clear light - and this God is the straightener of crooked thoughts."


Seek His thoughts...

Simon

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What do you talk about?

I wonder how many words we do actually say a day. There has always been the joke hasn't there that a woman speaks twice as many words in a day then a man. Or is it that a man has got through 90% of his by the time he gets home in the evening whilst the woman is only at 40% hence the silent men sighing at their extremely talkative wives at night. Whatever really, I am not sure any of that is true, and I digress anyway.

Was struck by a verse in Psalm 71 today which is as follows:
"My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure."


It made me think about whether, as a follower of the Lord Jesus, this is my testimony. Does my mouth speak often of what it is like to live 'this side' of my having encountered the 'salvation' and 'righteousness' of God so completely almost 16 years ago now?
Or is my mouth typically caught up in petty discussion about meaningless reality TV shows and the desires to have the next 'cool' gadget? Maybe my mouth is engaged in activity even worse than that; maybe my mouth is speaking bad of others, bringing them down, mocking or accusing them in order to keep myself in a lofty position. Whatever it may be, I think all of us would have to admit that we are not able to say unequivocally with the Psalmist that our mouths speak of the lofty, glorious wonders of the salvation and righteousness of God all day long.

Maybe we should make a much more conscious effort to do that. I do not think that it means sitting down and talking through the theological concepts of election, salvation, justification, regeneration and such (although I feel there is absolutely no harm in that if it is to deepen our awareness that such glorious truths are beyond our 'measure') but just speaking highly of new life in Christ. Being positive, hopeful, passionate about who He is and how He changes lives.

Simon

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

2 Whole Years

My beautiful boy Malachi was two years old last Sunday (07.06). It is startling as a parent how that time rushes by. In one sense you are so very aware that the time is gone because memories fade and do not have the absolute brilliance and clarity they had initially. In another though, it is impossible to believe that you have shared 730 days with this new being, where did those days go? Why does it seem I have missed out on so much?

Two is a glorious age! My little boy is absorbing things into his little mind in a manner and with a speed that just cannot be matched by any adult. His vocabulary literally grows by the hour and his ability to interact and to express himself morphs constantly. It is an age that I have felt myself aching to actually accept will pass. Surely if these years have passed so quickly, and now that he has a gorgeous sister (who herself will demand energy and focus and time and attention) my time with him will be even less and it will pass even more rapidly and soon he will be considering his university or something and I will dream of these moments.

I never thought I would ache this way. There are so many things he does that infuriate and yet I really do not want to have him grow up and lose the beauty of innocence and unhindered passion. My heart is that Jesus will win Malachi to an adventure so enthralling that he will be able to express unhindered passion toward that even when innocence is necessarily lost. He does enthrall me and I hope that the ache will fade as each new season begins, but I am sure I will ache when that one is passing on as well.

How did God offer up His Son, that is love incomprehensible!

Simon

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Psalm 62

As if life wasn't enough to beat you up and get you up against the ropes at occasions, Christian ministry can add the final knock out punches at times. Life throws an assortment of things through us as we take its pre-set journey. I would not need to search too far to find some of those journeys riddled with pain and heartbreak at almost unbearable levels.
How Christian ministry adds to this is that you take the role of a servant, the role of a giver, one who loves and gives not necessarily ever receiving- this leads to extreme vulnerability! When the proverbial 'stuff' hits the fan within ministry it is over, above, and added to the pursuit of life with its bits and pieces.

It is in moments like these that the depth and beauty of some Scriptures are arresting in their affects, consoling and encouraging with amazing ability. Psalm 62 is such a Scripture and I will share just a few bits to encourage you:

1 My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken...

5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.

6 He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Selah


Bless you all
Simon

Friday, May 29, 2009

Johnny Cash on 'the sting.'

After yesterday's provocative post on death and it's sting, I thought I would let the great Johnny Cash drive it home with a force that makes it even more real. Listen to this man who knew God, ran away from Him and then realizes in 'the latter years' that there is so so much more to life than having 'it all.'





Simon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The 'Sting' of Death

There is a biblical phrase that refers to the 'sting' of death. Having grown up in Zimbabwe and encountered African Bees on many occasions (real bees, not like their puny British cousins) I have a vivid sensory picture of what is meant by the word sting. The word refers to that which is painful, striking, certain, eye-opening in one sense. There is no way, when stung, that you can avoid the fact.

In our church over the past 4 weeks there has been two deaths that have deeply stung people that are dear to us as a congregation. I do not mean those who have been taken from this life, 'fallen asleep' as Paul would say as I am sure both were followers of Jesus, but those who are left behind.
Searching, aching, asking, longing, dreaming, feeling, hurting, STINGING!
I certainly feel words are pointless at times like this, more often than not people offer words that do nothing more than add to the sting, not bring relief.

Death is removed from our direct sight as modern people. Oh of course all our young people are killing thousands on video games every day, and there is not a thrilling box office hit without blood and guts and death strewn across the script. But not real death, not the death that STINGS. We have become desensitized to the power and hurt of death. We humans seem to do everything in our power to distance ourselves from what God's divine revelation is pointing us to.

Over the course of 24 hours my wife and I spent time with the two individuals most poignantly affected by death at this time within our church. It is heart-wrenching as you realize the scarring and tearing that has taken place emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. It, death, is the last great reminder of our frailty and finiteness. It is where we great conquerors of all are conquered. It is so final so absolute.

Certainly, if it were not for Christ's & Paul's beautifully reassuring words littered through the pages of the New Testament for those of us who have put their faith in Christ, death would be the ultimate thief and the rightful destroyer of any possible hope. (For those who do not believe, it is... isn't it?) But we do have these words, we must be reassured, we are certain of the great inheritance of those who have trusted in Christ. My hope is for those now suffering from the sting in our midst, and the many many more we will encounter as pastors here, they will receive from the Holy Spirit of God the marvelous assurance of life eternal for those who have gone 'to be with Christ' which 'is better by far!'

Simon

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ordo Amorie

Quite often in my brief journey of leadership I have found myself trying to explain things for which I just do not have enough insight or depth of wisdom to put as well as I would like. A case and point has just been proven to me again whilst doing some reading regarding Small Group leader- what you must look for in them.

I have always tried to intimate that at the root of all that can be said and done about growth in faith etc. the key is something seated deep in the heart, an absolute devotion to Christ. Well today while reading an author quoted another author who referred to something that St. Augustine (the great Western Church thinker) wrote of. Here is the quote

"Whatever its characteristics, every one of us has a spirituality, what Augustine called an ordo amorie, an ordering of our loves. What do we most cherish? What do we most desire? What is the treasure hidden in the core of our being? Our spirituality is not what we profess to believe, but how we order our loves." -- Margaret Guenther


Augustine had it spot on! Growing in faith, being a faithful servant to your church or beyond, touching this world for the cause of the gospel of the Kingdom is not dependent on input, who you hung out with, how much you read, who you knew (it is about each of these things yes but...) it is thoroughly dependent on the order of your loves. What is our first love?

WHAT DO WE LOVE ULTIMATELY?

Simon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Golden Nugget Moment

Lat night was what I call a 'Golden Nugget' moment of ministry. I say that because it was one of those moments that grow in worth and satisfaction the more you reflect upon it.
We have 21 men at our church above GCSE age and last night 17 of them were at my home enjoying a meal of fish/pie/battered sausage and chips and then watching a message that spoke very powerfully into 'men and marriage.' Church and men do not seem to mix any more; church has become quite effeminate in its leanings and true masculinity has been sidelined in culture, a deadly potion that means 'men don't do church!' Well last night at X1 men were doing church, and it was a fantastic thing to be a part of.

I want us to make a stand as a church right from the outset in the area of Biblical Masculinity. Now while we only have 21 I want the Spirit of God to quickly make Christ like manhood a real passion and endeavor for us. We watched a sermon by Mark Driscoll called 'Men & Marriage' part of his The Trial series from I Peter. I know every one of our men were convicted and inspired to pursue godly manhood with renewed vigor. That can only be good.
We need to call each other to stand for a masculinity that is dynamic and inspiring, we cannot and must not fail our God, our ladies, our kids and our church.

Bless you Xmen!

Simon

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gratitude in the 'Everyday'


My humble estimation is that someone has got this 'Christian Faith' thing when there is a massive RAMP UP in their gratitude towards all aspects of life, from the mundane to the exquisitely serendipitous. When one comes to see, through faith and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, that every moment is a gift from God there should be a change in the affections of the heart.

I had an example only last night. We have begun to shop online with Tesco and have found it an absolute treat. This week we needed tea bags and discovered while 'in' the online grocery store that Twinings Everyday tea bags were the best bet when bought in quantity. Twinings is normally above our spending bracket but we gave it a go. WELL... what can I say? The Tesco man (as we call the great men who deliver our sustenance on a weekly basis) arrived at about 9pm last night and we partook of a cup of 'Everyday' tea, it was sheer delight.

I am about to have one now, and so thought, "Tell them Simon, tell them that you really get this faith thing when your life is marked by gratitude for the every day."

Simon

A Bridge for the Good News

It was sort of our re-launch Sunday as a church this past week. We had used Sunday May 10th as a run through of how it would all go and then asked people to bring friends and guests to VUE for this week.
I have said to a few people already that it was a morning where I felt we could really use the word 'BUZZ' in relation to us as a church. There was energy and enthusiasm oozing from everywhere which is brilliant because it is very attractive for anyone looking in. People got to the tasks of setting up, welcoming, serving refreshments leading the worship and all sorts of other essential bits with fervor and vigor.

I felt it strongly on my heart to preach about moving to VUE out of a real desire to bridge the gap between church and culture. It was a fantastic opportunity and I finished off explaining how I hoped we would go about doing that. Here is the gist of it:

This is the mission we think we must proclaim and embody, we will certainly give it our best shot at least.
We must overcome that which has made the church invisible in culture, we must:

NO LONGER FLEE FROM CULTURE OR HAVE A 'BOMB SHELTER' CHURCH MENTALITY
NO LONGER IMPOSE OUTDATED CULTURE BUT ADAPT TO CULTURE TO GIVE OUR MESSAGE
OFFER DIVINE COMMUNITY TO A FRACTURED CULTURE
LOVE AND NOT JUDGE (DON'T ASK SOMEONE TO CHANGE BEFORE THEY HAVE ENCOUNTERED THE AGENT OF CHANGE- GOD)
'SHOW' THAT FOLLOWING CHRIST IS THE GREATEST THING AND NOT JUST 'TELL' PEOPLE IT IS!


I finished off stating that if the church has a message that can transform the lives of 21st Century people, if the gospel is true than everyone should get a chance to hear it without having to leave their cultural reality to do it!

We want to make a difference, we must.

Simon