Wednesday, 22 April 2009

"Let the little children come to me"

I've heard that late-night blogging is a dangerous task, especially when dealing with emotion, but hey, sometimes danger is cool.

Today has been an odd day. I've been preparing for a talk I'm doing at Salford CU on Monday, and as such I've spent the day with my nose in some books trying to work out what Paul's cracking on about in Romans 5. The actual studying bit was a lot of fun. I enjoyed working through some commentaries and comparing a few translations - it reminded me of being at uni - but it was when I came to actually formulate it into a message that I began to stumble.

Now, this in itself is no big deal, but it just seemed to really rattle something inside of me. Everytime I tried to go down one route it just felt like I was toeing a party line, or filling in the blanks of an equation. Now on the one hand that's fine, as all the stuff I was writing is true, but on the other it just felt like something was missing. So, having tried to think of some clever interpretations/models, I left the house with the following words written down: "Preach Jesus." Sounds like a plan.

I then spent the next couple of hours stuggling my way through a meeting; struggling for no other reason than feeling sorry for myself and not really knowing why. These bouts of self-pity, to which I can be oft prone, are not a favourite pasttime of mine, but it especially annoys me when I start to become cynical and negative towards people who are in the opposite place - i.e. people who aren't sweating the little stuff but are just wholeheartedly enjoying Jesus (which, incidently, is what Romans 5 is about).

So I think my problem is this: I'm no longer child-like enough. I've started to get more settled into the 'business' of life and faith, and have lost some of that joy and freedom which I think used to really characterise me. To continue down the bible analogy, I'm probably more like the disciples telling the kids to scarper than those little ones who Jesus said we all need to copy if we want to get involved in his Kingdom. They probably only shouted at them because they were jealous of the intimacy the kids had with Jesus.

I reckon I've just not been delighting myself in God enough which is probably why I'm feeling quite dissatisfied with a lot of things (Ps 37:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart). And dissatisfication is a horrible attitude as it starts to breed that negative and cynical mindset that robs us of the freedom that is in Christ. There is so much of that about in the world, the devil is really waging a psychological war, but we, starting here, need to be renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom 12:2).

So that's the plan - stop moping around, stop trying to 'play the game', stop belittling the faith of others that I'm actually probably envious of, and just start loving Jesus again! Properly. Not just cos I think I have to, but because he's awesome. Literally.

I think I know what I should probably talk about on Monday.

Good night.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

An Existential Funk?

Easter weekend has been pretty awesome. I spent the Friday and Saturday in London with Liz and Pete from my Cuba team, Sunday with family, and yesterday with friends at the beach - a tiring yet highly enjoyable mix!

London was especially good. I always enjoy visiting (especially as more often than not it's to do exciting things/see exciting people) but this was the first time that the thought of living there genuinely crossed my mind. I'm very settled in Manchester and plan on being here for at least another year, but the idea of moving to the capital does seem very exciting. I guess it all depends on jobs really and where God wants me to be ministering.

Which leads me onto my next muse.... I think i'm becoming a lot more theologically/ecclesiologically conservative in my old(er) age. It's probably as much to do with the people I associate with such a position but sometimes it just seems really appealing! I love my church, and am so grateful for the spiritual growth I have experienced therein, but I really don't won't to neglect more traditional aspects of Christianity solely because they are traditional. I am a very strong believer that relgion for religion's sake is unhelpful and unbiblical, and I see a lot of irrelevant things in the church that only continue because 'that's what we've always done'. But at the same time, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are often things that more charismatic-y type people (of which I firmly count myself one) can neglect in the fear of being 'religious' that actually are funadmental Christian practices/disciplines and need to be outworked and developed.

So my goal is this: get that balance between operating in and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, and having a solid and disiciplined lifestyle that delights in the word of God and lives it out in a uncompromising, radical and relevant way. My limited experience seems to suggest to me the following sweeping generalisations: Conservative Christianity seems to provide an exceptional foundation and grounding for believers, primarily through biblical study, yet suffers from an outside perspective for being stuffy, irrelevant and elitist. On the other hand, charismatic Christianity excels in freeing people to worship God wholeheartedly and see the outworking of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and ministry, yet sometimes lacks the strength of foundation of spiritual discipline that is greater honed in the conservative church.

As far as I'm concerned, there shouldn't be a division between conservative and charismatic - we need to be a new breed of Christian that communicates the grace of God in a powerful ways to a generation that has become so greatly disenfranchised with 'church'. I shouldn't be worrying about which 'camp' I lean towards, I should just be out there living wholeheartedly for Christ - in all its fullness. Easy.

I picked up an old F.F. Bruce commentary on Romans from an Oxfam on Portobello Road at the weekend. I've read the start of the introduction and loved this quote, so I thought I'd share!:

"But it cannot be too strongly emphasised that Paul's theology was not based primarily on study and speculation. It was based primarily on his own experience of God, who 'revealed his son' in him (Gal 1:16) and flooded his inner being with divine love by the impartation of His Spirit ( Rom 5:5)"