Adventure ahoy (pt. 1)

It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but in 3 days time I’ll be on a plane to California to visit my friend Mr. Beatton, and my other friend Ms Vogt. A few days at the end of my fortnight away will be spent mooching around in San Francisco, but the main point of my visit is to fulfil a long-term dream of mine to go visit Bethel church in Redding. I’m expecting great things, lots of God and some perspective on my life – I think in general different cities carry different vibes, and in order to get a bit of headspace you need to get out of your regular environment, but there’s something extra special about going to an environment that is so infamously glory-ridden as Bethel. I will surely be bringing loads of stories back with me. Bill Johnson has been quite possibly THE most influential teacher in my spiritual journey thus far, and here’s why:

 

Advertisements

The pitfalls of Kingdom potential

Okay, so I’m getting really excited by this season of MORE. God seems to be galvanising and bringing into reality things which had been bandied about by our community in theory-land for quite some time (I’ll perhaps share some stories with you next blog post or so). I can see the hand of God cranking up not only our worship life as a family, but also his influence in our daily lives. I’m having more God-conversations with friends and colleagues (don’t you just love those?), enjoying greater intimacy with God, hearing cool God stories from others and seeing a whole slew of answered prayers. The dam is bursting!

With this in mind, I want to discuss two potential pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with this sort of Kingdom amplification; pride and despair.
PRIDE
To paraphrase Bill Johnson, your weakest point is not at the moment of your greatest failure, but of your greatest victory. At times when things are clicking into place and we begin to live more and more radically for God, we are especially prone to the sin of pride – arguably the greatest sin in the Kingdom of God (it is, technically, what got Satan kicked out of heaven, as it were). Pride blinds us to our need for God and especially to our need for his grace.
One particular manifestation of pride that I have observed in myself and among followers of Jesus is the sort that creeps in when you are ‘getting it right’. We are called to live lives that are radically sold out for God, wherein we tap into all of heavens resources and pick up our cross daily. At Canterbury Vineyard, we believe unashamedly in not settling for anything less than the fullness and abundance of life promised to us by the scriptures – this means love, miracles, salvation, gifts of the spirit, fruit of the spirit, healing, deliverance, holiness, intimacy, passion and more. As we press into this lifestyle, frustration with the mediocrity of much of what passes for the Christian life today will arise; this is natural. However, we must never allow this to turn into pride or self-satisfaction. Don’t be deceived about your immunity from this; pride is like sand – it gets into every nook and cranny (even nooks and crannies you didn’t know you had). Have you ever looked at other Christians who are less on fire than you and gotten frustrated with them? Have you met Christians who don’t believe in miracles, who are hypocritical, who are too middle class, who aren’t as free as you think they should be, who don’t pray enough, who are not seeking God in every area of their life – and thought, “thank God I’m not like that”? Because I have.
Don’t ever forget that it is only by God’s grace that we get anything right. It is only by God’s grace that we found Jesus in the first place, and it is only by his grace that we find ourselves in a community that is going hard after God, and it is only by his grace that we actually take any of it on board ourselves.
DESPAIR
Another risk of not settling for mediocrity in Christian life is despair, or despondency. I see it rear its ugly head time and time again in my own life and in that of others. You pray for something and it doesn’t happen. You hear about the MORE that is promised to us by Jesus and wonder why you aren’t experiencing it. You see other people get set ablaze or experience victory and wonder what is wrong with you. You desire more of God, you desire miracles, you desire mountaintop experiences or a more tangible sense of his presence, you desire the salvation of your friends and enemies, you desire the influence of God over situations in your life, you desire spiritual gifts, you desire the Kingdom; these things don’t come as quickly as you’d like them to and you begin to wonder if they ever will.
‘Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”‘ – John 20:27-29
If we aren’t seeing all of the Kingdom that we want to, but keep pressing in anyway, we are blessed. It may be a cliche by now, but it’s vital to be intentional about which well to drink from – what God is doing – and his promises and potential – versus what he isn’t.
A couple of nights ago some friends and I wrote down some insanely outlandish prayers, just to put our money where our mouth is and mark out our territory as people who genuinely are seeking more. Among the stuff we listed came such gems as “I want to have frequent visions of heaven”, “I want to be sick with love for Jesus”, “I want people to be healed by just my walking into the room”, “I want every single one of my friends to know God”, “I want to see Jesus breakdance”, “I want to glow like Moses”, “I want to raise the dead” and so on. We did it because we know it’s possible, we did it because we know there’s more, and we did it because we know it’s ours. Does raising the dead and having frequent visions of heaven seem a long way off? Yes – so all the more reason to go ahead and make those huge requests! It’s all too easy to limit your imagination and faith in order to avoid disappointment, but we must at all costs resist the urge to shrink our vision to match our experience.

I challenge you to give your despondency to God and go ahead and make some ludicrously humongous demands on his generosity. Ask God to make you persistent and able to keep knocking until he opens that door. Do it now!

Hungry for more part 2

Following on from my previous post, please welcome head into the heavens‘ very first guest blogger Andrew!

I really enjoyed the whole of [Sunday]. Pastor Jim [ed: he would kick your ass if he heard you call him “Pastor Jim”!] was speaking about “the More” that we have access to as believers, as sons. He made a really powerful statement in the form of a question. He asked us this: “Have you encountered the love of God, or have you simply become a Christian?” In many ways Christianity has become just another religion, another way of life, a different way of seeing things. But it’s not about that. We are meant to live in a loving relationship with the person of God, to know His heart and love the things that He loves rather than love the theology based around Him.

My mind has been bombarded with a million thoughts this morning, and my emotions are kind of… not negative. I guess contemplative is the word I’m looking for. I just really want my life to be about that, about loving the person of God. I’ve experienced what it feels like to be surrounded by a culture, by amazing people who are passionately living that out. The bar has been raised for me. Now it’s that or it’s nothing. I’ve been through the process of compromising what I truly value for that feeling of acceptance too many times. It’s so hard not to give into it, because it’s easier or at least it feels that way. It feels easier to live in the moment and not consider what happens when that moment ends. But I think.. no I know that I am purposed for so much more than that.

Who I am, who God has created me to be is SO MUCH MORE than just a member of a church or another “good person” in the crowd. I am a son who love people into their destiny. The worth of that and the scope of how much I am going to achieve doing it carries more value than I know. I guess what’s really going on in me is this whole “breaking up the soil of my heart” so that I can grow more. It’s a mixture of that and simply watering those roots that are pushing deeper into God.

Emotions are annoying! haha. Because they are so irregular. That and they are not the end goal; they’re not what life is all about. But regardless, they still play a massive role in showing me what’s going on and where I’m at. And I think right now I’m learning the most important lesson for this season. Choosing to live for and love the God I’m desperate to know. It’s the choices that I make which most affect how that looks.

Connecting with God is a choice. Getting to know Him is a choice. Loving Him is a choice. Loving His children, my family is a choice. None of these things just supernaturally happen. The values you hold will be developed over time. And that’s what makes these choices easier – knowing how much I value them. You fight for what you value. You pursue what you value. You love what you value. And that’s where the switch happens. If you value something long enough you will eventually develop a love for it.
I value being around my God. I value the truth that He will always love me. I value seeing everything and everyone in my life enjoying a shared understanding of His love. I value seeing people encounter Him through my actions. I value family.

So my pursuit right now is knowing how to pursue that which I love an a daily basis. And I’m freaking excited! Joy is an amazing thing. It strengthens you because you know that Joy comes out of a good thing, something that is adding to your life, something you were born to experience.

Hungry for more…

I’m at an interesting place in my relationship with God at the moment. We’re working through a season as a church family at the moment on laying hold of the fullness of the Christian life that is promised in the scriptures, and particularly on encountering more of God. Actually, technically we’re calling it the “More” series, but I’m really not into the whole “sermon series” shizzle. I prefer to use the language of “seasons”. But I digress…

There is so much of God at hand and we’ve settled for so little. Why do you think so many people are walking away from church? Because they’re bored! And the answer isn’t snappier sermons or making church “more entertaining” – the answer is, let them encounter God. Give them the real thing! Once you’ve got the taste for proper coffee you never want to go back to instant.

On Sunday we focussed on Ephesians 3:14-19:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Can I make a confession? I usually read that bit and skip onwards, thinking, “well, it’s a nice idea, but I’m never going to get anywhere near that – that sort of relationship with God is only for the super-spiritual.” Well, why not me? It does say, “together with all the Lord’s holy people”, doesn’t it? As we went through it on Sunday, though, my response shifted and I had a sudden urge to go get that verse tattooed on my body (I didn’t, obviously – no idea where to put it). That’s my muthalickin’ inheritance!

On Monday night my new and very interesting acquaintance Nigel prayed for me, and got a few downloads from the Lord about my intimacy with him. He had a picture of me as a sunflower (sunflowers turn towards the sun), but there was a cloud blocking the sun. Jesus, with his mighty hand, swept the cloud away. He felt as though the Lord wanted the sort of relationship with me where I just spent hours in his presence and it felt like minutes (my immediate response: where am I going to find time to spend hours with God?), where he spoke to me about anything and everything. That closeness…it’s something I’ve tasted (when you get into the presence of God and can’t move), but not with any sort of regularity. But I’m spurred on to lay hold of everything I can.

 

 

Battle cry

From a text by William Booth:

You must do it.

You cannot hold back.

You have enjoyed yourself in pleasant Christianity long enough.

You’ve had your pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings and pleasant prospects.

There has been much human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises; very much heaven on earth.

But now, then, go to God and tell him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of the perishing multitudes whatever it may cost you.

You must do it.

With the light that is now broken in upon your mind, and the call now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative.

To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist of sharing in their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.

Now what will you do?

God kicks ass.

I was in the Boiler Room last night with a bunch of others from the community and we had a proper good ole’ fashioned revival meeting.

We’ve been praying daily for his presence to go with us, and he hasn’t failed us. Last night the atmosphere was thick with it. But I’m still hungry for more.

Unlike most of what following Jesus entails, which I find rather challenging to explain to outsiders at times, I find it very easy to describe God’s presence. Usually for me it’s like a very strong tingling feeling in my hands and wrists (I think this has very strong links with why we lay hands on people when we pray for them or raise our hands in the air when we sing to God). Other times it’s like your whole body is buzzing – I’ve only experienced this in small doses, but it’s a little like being stoned I guess, except good for you. I have friends who have experienced what we call being “drunk in the spirit”, where your experience of God’s love pouring down on you is so immediate that it feels like you’re hammered drunk. My friend Lewwy describes it as “like getting a big hug from Jesus, a big alcoholic hug”. Another friend of mine, who used to be something of a junkie before she became a Christian, has at times got a bigger high off God’s love than she did off drugs, but afterwards she felt amazing, renewed and transformed (hardly surprising; God’s presence is transformational).

I’m looking forward to the day that I’m intimate enough with God to walk in this stuff. I was having a debate with a friend the other week where he was basically questioning the efficacy of chasing God’s presence. He brought up a good point – that it might be a cultural thing, as all this culture wants is new and bigger and better experiences (hence why we go off and do drugs or screw loads of people in order to distract ourselves from our inner numbness).

I think there’s no point chasing this stuff for its own sake – if you’re not really after Jesus but just want a big spiritual high, it’s dead in the water. And then what happens when the fun times are over and you experience the dreaded “dark night of the soul”? But, clearly, amazing experiences are part of what God, by his grace, grants to his people. Clearly, then, they glorify God, and are part of what he wants to give to his people. So, why not seek it out?