Living urgently, alertly and appropriately replete in the 21st Century has been the focus of this blog series so far. Thomas, Andy and Joshua have kindly helped us to honestly consider our Christian lifestyles, provoked by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and to what extent we’re living with urgency or lethargy, with alertness or sleepiness and with souls well-fed or deficient in even basic, Bible nutrition.
The Need For Learning
The early church exploded from a small group of misfit disciples into the most dynamic and cohesive movement within the Roman empire in just three hundred years. They were the new kids on the block and they were taking over the place. One early critic was claiming that they had ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17.6).
In seeking to cultivate a lifestyle that is truly ready for Jesus’ second coming, directed by His Sermon on the Mount, we could contribute their success to a few factors:
They were courageous. They witnessed that Jesus was Lord in the face of persecution.
They prayed. Without much money, celebrities, or smoke machines, they relied on the power of God.
They were alternative. They preached a fiercely counter cultural message against both sexual immorality and greed. They lived chaste lives and gave freely to the poor.
All of these factors were essential to their success. But there is one more factor that is often overlooked… (more…)
Psalm 29 pictures the holy voice of Yahweh as being like a thundering force of such powerful glory that it breaks Cedars of Lebanon, strips vast forests back to their bone and provokes adoring worship in all the earth.
His speaking voice is like a cloud of stone-softening exhale as Kings and Presidents plot, as ethne balk and as nations conspire in vain.
But, to those who *know Him*, John 10 describes His voice as a Shepherd’s call into closer proximity, something more akin to a calling-by-name through gentle, Galilean accents of parental knowing. Indeed, Father God is always speaking like the perfect trailing sentence – always present & always continuous.
The communication of His heart to yours will, at times, be subtle and even mistakable; in other moments, it will be so flooring that nothing & no-one could lead you to conclude that He hadn’t and isn’t speaking.
Occasionally, His voice will sovereignly crush the persistent traffic in your mind; more often, it will emerge like the warmth of sunshine on your face as you determine to silence it first.
The Spiritually Comatose Church
Sardis Church was one of those churches which everyone knew was a ‘great church’. Its auditorium was packed, its worship services were humming, it was involved in loads of great stuff in the community, its statement of faith was sound, it was growing, it was a strong church… but then Jesus gave his verdict: “You are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:1-2)
I think Sardis would have been stunned by that diagnosis. In fact, all the surrounding churches would have been shocked as well. Surely not Sardis Church! Everyone knew that they were the alive church, the happening church, the buzzing church (Rev. 3:1). But Jesus says they are the spiritually comatose church. They have “soiled their clothes” – how’s that for an image!
What was the problem?
Kissing a Lifestyle of Convenience Goodbye
I’ll be up front – I am writing this at the worst possible time for my family and me. Rachel and I are in the throes of moving from Thailand to Vietnam. Not only are there the logistical challenges of visas, accommodation, flights, ‘yard sales’ (to borrow a term from our American friends) and endless packing, there’s also the emotional upheaval of goodbye meals with friends and colleagues, daily ‘lasts’ of what have been routine activities for the past five years, and a variety of emotions that range between excitement, sentiment and a growing realisation that we have little idea of what we are heading into.
We had our final packing day on Tuesday, and then we officially leave Chiang Mai, Thailand, on Thursday. In fact, since this is scheduled to go live on the second Friday in April, you’re most likely reading it on our very first day as official residents of Hanoi. Oh, and add a three and one-year-old into the mix, and you will be rightly wondering if spending time writing this is the wisest use of my time… and you’d be in good company with my long-suffering wife. (Editor’s note: thank you, Rachel!).
What’s This All About?
Most of you who read Firebrand Notes on even a semi-regular basis will know that about eighteen months ago we produced a film/music project called Jesus Come. Not only were Mairi and I really pleased with the way the project turned out, we passionately believe in the message that it carries: that the world is in a desperate, desperate mess (more than we can see) and people are hurting (beyond our capacity to understand); Jesus Christ is the only hope to bring justice and order and He is coming again.
For generations, the church has flitted between the excessive polarities of, on the one hand, talking about the Second Coming too much (while doing very little) and, on the other, focusing on an ‘attractional’, ‘relevant’, seeker-sensitive model of church (while failing to teach disciples to live in the reality of His coming).
In both cases, the gospel is generally more of a fix-my-life-make-it-better prescription than it is an invitation to surrender, suffer, die and live in the evangelistic power of the early church.
Houston, we have a problem.
What Is The Problem?
To find someone in need who desperately needs your help, complete the following 5 simple steps:
1) Wherever you are about your day, look up from whatever you’re doing
2) consider what you see
3) pray for discernment
4) pray for courage and wisdom and power
5) open your mouth/move your feet
We’re soon starting a new blog series called “Ready” because we’re convinced that most of us aren’t.
Ready for what?
For the second coming of Jesus Christ!
In Ephesians 2:12 a scene is painted that is unimaginably awful: living in the world without Christ and without hope.
The chronic brokenness in people’s lives is as obvious and constant as the rising sun and you and I are called to be life-giving hope in Jesus’ name!
Whether you think about it a lot, only occasionally, increasingly, infrequently or as little as possible, the reality is that Jesus Christ is en route to planet Earth as King and as Judge. We have to be found living ready, like a present, continuous tense.
We’re called not to bunker mentalities of passive, fruitless waiting, but to *urgent* lifestyles of prayer and worship and bold intention to tell of Jesus.
You know you are!
We’re looking forward to welcoming special guest writers to the blog so please join us over the coming weeks and make this blog series happen.
Thanks so much for reading
A Brave New World
An amazing Brazilian couple we’ve recently made friends with came over to our house last night for dinner. Monday evening isn’t exactly the usual time of the week for having friends over but it suited our guests who have a very hectic working schedule that involves them both regularly working into the early hours of the morning – via pretty unsociable patterns – and Monday was a day off. Having only previously met and talked briefly at church, we were about two minutes into conversation over dinner when it dawned on me that this beautiful couple sitting opposite us were mighty in faith!
About a year ago they had made the decision to radically relocate their lives, along with their two children, from Brazil to Scotland simply because God had asked them to. Now we were enjoying dinner together as they both shared stories about the goodness and the power of God in their lives. With all of the many challenges you can imagine in moving from one country to another (employment, schooling, food, weather, culture, language, friends etc etc), they are now prayerfully waiting on the Father to show them how He wants to use them in this brave new world.
Faith is a Muscle
In the natural world of exercise and health, when you regularly participate in resistance training your muscles get bigger (hypertrophy); when you don’t get involved in said resistance training your muscles waste and become weak and small (atrophy).
I had worked in the world of fitness and health for more than ten years so when my new friend used this phrase (faith is a muscle) to explain his understanding of the key difference between the Brazilian and UK churches, it struck me powerfully. But mainly it registered forcefully with me because it was a phrase that had come out of the mouth of a believer who was truly living by faith in front of my very eyes!
It was also because I am someone who does regularly lift weights to keep in good physical condition that this metaphor had a profound impact on me: it’s all very well training and looking after your physical muscles but if you’re not exercising your muscle of faith you’re weak on the inside. I hate the idea of being weak and flabby in the physical so how much more horrible is the thought of being a weak and flabby spiritual man of faith?
Primed by the miraculous, awe-inspiring stories of our friends, I wanted to start exercising faith there and then!
Thinking about this simple analogy for the spiritual life of faith, how healthy is your faith, would you say?
Chat to someone about it.
Do you feel like you exercise your faith regularly or perhaps you feel a little out of shape?
People don’t exercise in the natural for lots of reasons many of which are often very valid but perhaps God is asking you to talk to Him about starting to exercise your faith in a new way?
What does the Bible say?
“…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Why not drop us a line or leave a comment to continue the conversation?
It’s been a complete joy for me to run this blog for the last decade. My own fire to see Jesus known and loved has, I hope, grown in intensity through the storms and calms of life.
Now I thought it was time that I offered my services in photography/videography and writing production to help anyone wanting to improve their own digital presence.
So, have a look at the new portfolio site below! I’d love to hear from you if I can help and would be very grateful if you might be happy to send a shout-out.
Thank you 😎🎈
When you’re relaxed and at peace, when things are sweet between you and God, (currently not just fundamentally), you tend to notice things. This is because the spaces that you need in order to hear, and the discipline that you need in order to listen, are too-often rammed with the traffic fumes of anxiety and fear, idleness and unbelief.
I was with Mairi walking through a small Scottish village on the Eastern coast of the UK a few hours before Christmas last year, passing through plumes of our own breath and treading the seasonal crispness under foot. It had been a stressful end to a stressful year and we were easing in to a couple of weeks away from the front line. (more…)