Fathering, Apostles, Maturity an all that…

UnknownI was an avid fan, probably still am of the radio series that caught people’s imagination back in 1978, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it was a crazy science fiction comedy radio series written by Douglas Adams.   It followed the adventures of hapless Englishman Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, who happens to be an alien writing for ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, a pan-galactic encyclopaedia and travel guide.    The exploits of Arthur begin with the Earth being destroyed only to find themselves aboard a stolen spaceship piloted by a motley crew including Zaphod Beeblebrox a depressed robot Marvin, and Trillian, the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.  

During Arthur’s travels he encounters many strange aliens and tongues, to enable him to understand he has a fish called a Babel Fish that enables translation it is a fictitious alien fish that performs instant translations.   I don’t 

know about you but I think life would be a lot easier if we all could insert a babel fish in our ear to understand what’s being communicated.

 I find myself in need of a babel fish quite often, common words that we all adopt and use frequently only to fall into problems when we realise we didn’t understand what was being said. Although we quote back the sentence we are told “I didn’t mean that”. O for a babel fish!

Words that I thought I understood, I discovered I don’t, and they are not complicated words. I don’t know if it’s assumptions we make or just we need to explain. I have found that there is a continual need for vocabulary upgrades, and understanding upgrades, vocabulary is our ongoing challenge in life. Oh Lord for a Babel Fish 

imagesI was part of a conversation recently with the question being asking around various networks, what is an apostle?  I seem to hear quite this regularly, I have come to the conclusion it really is asking what is the function of the apostle and what is the authority of the apostle.  The question is quickly followed by the following statement,  “I would rather use the word father to the house, fathering…’.   O for a Babel Fish…

Fathering, parenting a people, a church…what does that mean, how can it work out.  For some people I’m sure it is an alien language, and for others it is understood and in use.  Each of the words used have significance in different ways for so many people. It would be a lot easier to have the most honest thing in the universe sticking out of our ears so that we could understand each other’s perception and the vocabulary in use.

I will address the issue of being a spiritual parent to individuals or to churches this has an interesting outworking.     We are to enable people to come to maturity who ever we are, every believer providing and encouraging people to maturity to the fullness of Christ. That is, every Christ follower is to be helped to meet their own needs and the needs of others, not to make us needy but certain to help every one mature and be the supplier for their neighbour, brother and sister.   

Your example of living for Christ will set the scene, aim for every  one you  touch becomes Christ like in maturity.   Maturity, a journey that takes the challenges of each day, what ever they may be, taking the strain and breaking through in maturity.  Good care, fathering, apostleship, discipling will  cost you much in time and care through prayer.

I watch my three children now grown and watch my 2 grandchildren, presently growing it is amazing to see them grow in the details of life to carry life in its fullness for them then for others.

I noted that all five children and grandchildren have the same basic needs however the realisation that is necessary, in each is also unique.   All require personal, individual attention, this growing people up,  also reflects through to spiritual parenting and apostleship to people communities, the church.  Each community is unique and cannot be helped and encouraged without relationship, not networks, or organisations but knowing relationship in each others lives.

Each person and community, church have basic needs that are the same but each one also has specific distinct ways.   Herein is a challenge to relationship, disciples are hand-tooled not mass-produced (Sam Shoemaker).   An organisation cannot turn out leaders and people cannot church people as a supply chain it is the hand -tooled of relationship.

God involves in our lives, onwardly he continues with us until it is competed we are hand tooled (Phil 1:6), the call of Eph 4:11 is to be in constant relational process preparing people for life – works of service.   

While recently reading Genesis 1 I looked at the flow of the poetry in the verses and realised it was not just a catalogue of world, atmosphere, plants, seas and animals being created. I really was a chapter of relationship, God outlining the relationship between the unseen and the seen, plants and animals, humanity and creation, sun stars and moon, a chapter of relationship. Communicating to us that you cannot do anything in isolation. It is said that it takes a village to grow a child every friend, every neighbour, every instructor all adding to the maturity. It’s the same when we look at the Community Church it is every gift, every ministry, each one supplying.

In spiritual maturity for the body every church needs help and stimulation from many others. All that is happening when there is the background of parenting, fathering, mothering, ‘apostling’ to the church.

In the midst of the necessity of many, Paul still reminded us of his personal care in 1 Corinthians 4-15  Paul was the spiritual father to gain the maturity in Christ, all laboured, expended energy in his relationship to bring about Christ in each community.

Discipling into maturity, fathering to fatherhood, my spiritual father Bryn Jones used to say you cannot father without being fathered. That opens up a big debate for many, you could add it takes a disciple to make disciples. Am I a disciple?   In order to disciple, have I been fathered so I could father? Not looking for perfection only but have these been extended to you and me.

Spiritual parenting, we are called to be an example (1 Cor 11:1) to the people the retoucher, strain a little harder to follow Christ more closely.   To anchor people in the truth, that is Christ, make Scripture alive, to keep people centred in Christ.    

Christ likeness does not mean the conformity to certain patterns of behaviour, does not mean memorising versus. These may be involved in the process but they are not the end. The real test of Christ likeness comes in the package of life, through the School of the spirit the stresses and strains of everyday life. This is where we are to mature. As background to this maturity it is true that we need a grasp of the promises of God. I don’t mean more money,  more comfort, more for me, but what is God after,  as a promise to all of creation, maturity needs to understand and believe the promises of the scriptures.

Our everyday experience since being moulded and conformed by these promises is much more the indicator of a disciple, a maturing follower of Christ.

As a spiritual parent, as a fathering gift, as an apostolic ministry it requires that you stay relationally through with people,  it is hard, it requires you to give your life to someone. It takes your time and your energy, whilst opening up yourself to close observation.

It is a great need for spiritual parenting within the community of God, true fathering gifts, true mothering gifts, I love that Paul said he mothered the churches and not only fathered, true apostolic, not those by title only, holding people together by dominating emotionally and financially, but those that who pour themselves out so that others may walk more Christ-like.

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Chaos all Around

images.jpegLet me see if I can take your mind back to moments and experiences we have all had causing the rise of feelings and emotions.    Recall the first stage school when the classroom seemed so large and the buildings towered over you, when you first started a job, the challenge of being thrust into a new environment and the mixed feelings of excitement and the uncertainty of where you belong, the changes you went through in your teenage years, wondering what all the emotions and feelings were about, feelings misunderstood, or the emotions that coincide with moving from full-time employment to retirement what a disorientating moment. Whatever you look at, there are exchanges, even when with open arms you run towards the change with anticipation and excitement, even in the welcoming there are challenges to cope with.

I came across a word recently which is used by those who have given their lives to study people, the study of various aspects of peoples within past and present societies, the word “liminality”, it’s the word that is used in describing a sense of chaos and ambiguity that a group endures in a time of transition.   It is further described at the point during a rite of passage when we become no longer what we were and yet we have not arrived at what we will be, a point of “betwixt and between”.  During these moments and associated feelings, these that change us one of the major assesses and I would say helpful ways o dealing with ‘betwixt and between’ is to discover a point of connection, this is highly important in regard to when a community is at its height and is necessary to achieve transformation healthily.

These changes and transformations necessary in our advance and in any journey, turn out well because the culture we live in underpins all and transforms the change with a deep sense of purpose. Without this change falters and falls.

The emotions we feel come out of organisational patterns, rhythms of life seem to get suspended when our expectations and responsibilities change. It is then we need an empowerment to ensure that the experience of change has a sense of solidarity and community rather than in a void where resentment and envy invades.

Unknown.jpegTherefore to successfully negotiate these moments, that seem to come fast and furious can we, with a sense of purpose ensure advance in the continuation of our journey.

There is no greater narrative that indicates the sense of purpose than we find in the Christ of God, in the midst of major transformation and change declaring a sense of purpose. When Jesus “sweat drops of blood”in the garden, when the creator of the garden becomes the grain of wheat to be planted, to die enabling a new life, resurrection life. At that moment the statement “if this cup” is so powerful, Jesus is looking at the transformation from his perspective and then declares “not my will, but yours”, that purpose becomes the driving purpose that holds all in perspective during change and transformation.

Jesus projects himself and draws his strength from the community of the Godhead, the Trinitarian  relationship of community, the covenant of life and states his purpose is to live my life by the will of another. Purpose becomes the stadium and guiding cause but it should always be. A purpose that is greater than self.    

So true in our lives also, to discover a purpose, to live by a purpose beyond ourselves is the only way to navigate our journey. Let me say I’m not talking about small visions and goals, our own vision statements and plans, but a purpose that adds value to all of creation. The divine covenant, the invitation of the Father, Son and Spirit is to join a community and be part of a purpose bringing total stability in the times of emotional and transitional challenges that every one of us will participate in.

My desire is that you and I find the purpose of God, the eternal and ultimate intention of God is our purpose for the day in which we live in.    That “Christ filling all in all” becomes the purpose of bringing stability to us.  For this purpose  “No eye has seen, no ear heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2: 9 NIV).    What a major impact of this purpose when we deicover and become one with the vast visions of Gods aim and then see our union with this purpose which is not our own to begin with but becomes ours .

Early Christians believed not that the church “had a mission” but that the church was God’s mission in the world, the very living body of Christ, the actual visible embodiment of the good news.   All creation groans (Romans 8:22) joining with those purpose and transition.  The Trinitarian God in Spirit intercedes for us “with groaning which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8: 26 KJV); “with sighs too deep for words” (NRSV).

The restoration of God’s creation was the reason for the incarnation of the eternal Son and Word of God in Jesus Christ, this being the over riding will of God and this purpose we have been invited to join while becoming one with, thsi purpose that will make stable all for us who believe.

The Apostle Paul and other New Testament writers (as well as Old Testament prophets) elaborate the scope of the purpose being one with God’s larger economy or plan “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1: 10 NIV), 

For Jesus, finishing God’s work meant his sacrificial death (“ It is finished,” John 19: 30) and the eventual total triumph of the kingdom of God (“ It is done!” Rev 21: 6).  We now hold this purpose above all else and celebrate “the finished work” while working and praying “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as in heaven”, may our stabilising purpose be the will of ANOTHER.

Holiness Re Configured

Unknown.jpegWhen thinking of Holiness in the past one thought of dark coated men with solemn faces, faces that as child I would fear as a smile could never appear on these faces, as i thought. These tall dark columns of people were holy, ladies with their black hats that drew their faces into a sharp demeanour, they dressed in colourless gowns that made me wonder if there was any colour at all in life. They walked with an apparent disconnect to life and all movement around them, solemn, removed, a higher life, this was the portal of holiness.

This is so far from what I have now realised and come to see, their religious straight jacket , kept me along with others away from a relationship, a relationship filled with colour, movement and adventure. Holiness was grey, holiness was somber, holiness was to be honest boring and we did not want anything to do with it.

I discovered that holiness was actually in wild and opposition to such blandness. Holiness in the Scriptures paints pictures, trying to create in our imagination a dynamic life that explodes with divine life. Story’s of wild fire, smoke, angels flying, during great deliveries, life of the edges radically brought with pace and power to center stage of view.

Holiness is being present with God ALIVE, LIVING, a live exploding far beyond what we have ever imagined. Colour, diverse, movement, sounds and holiness are far removed from the world when i first encountered them, holy people.

I have since realised holiness cannot be brought into control, being made manageable. We are invited into this life this holy life, and we have to receive it on its own terms not on ours. We are the ones that need to adjust and take up the invitation, we are the ones that need to reflect the colour splashed, the divine movement of this dance. Just as the people of the Book, the Scriptures reflecting the very life, fire, on fire them selves, a life emptying adventure of a life in Holy Spirit, a life manifest by the marks of Holy Spirit joy, not grey.

Not a life submitted to legalism and laws but a life expressing a holiness of dynamic enjoyment, being in the image and likeness of God.

So what does your and my holiness look like? What to we communicate to people as holiness in our lives style? Holiness did not make you something less than image and likeness of God, it does not make God small so we could manage God but explodes you, energizes you, enlarges you as the gift of God, being those who give out and display the very life, this holy life. A huge life expression, totally over the top, full of colour, spontaneous, by the way I am not talking of the extrovert, wether you are an extrovert of introvert this life is the same.

Let us do away with the cathedrals of sourness, the somber tall steeples, isolated towers of blandness, cold faces of tall cliff like sternness, none of these resemble this living holy God. Put back life giving, enhancing holiness. The life of creation expressed holiness, the life that put colour into the field, installed wildness, forest and jungles, the life that invented colour and paints continually the sky’s colour every night. How can holiness be that bland and sour? God has brought us to a holiness of colour, diverse, wild, uncontrolled life in its fullness, abundant life.

The world will see the depth and beauty of God, the beauty of this holiness I would even God on to say beauty is the vehicle of communicating the divine holiness, the the way we relate to holiness, lost in the beauty of creating we discover God, abandoned to the beauty in people, we find God.

God in holiness is creation, I think we now need to smell the aromas of Creation. In many places in Africa I walk by jasmine bushes as ground cover, as I do my nose is filled with an amazing aroma to the point where I want to linger, and thoroughly enjoy the aroma. I want to smell and engage with this beauty of holiness expression. Stop and smell the roses, let it awake holiness in you from within its holiness. Rubbing shoulders with our world, pressing our feet into the sand and earth, moulding its clay in order for us to worship God in the beauty of holiness.

This is not meant to be a theological search and defining of holiness but a desire to bring extravagant, exhilarating, spontaneous life to us, a showiness through which we might reflect that very holiness. Re read Psalms again especially 29 and see there holiness in the narrative of voice. The words in holiness expressed in wild, crashing sounds and movements, storms, God displaying movements. the play of great trees in holiness, with light illumination for us what holiness looks like, earthquakes, forest affecting shaking earth holiness choreographing movement. You have to conclude holiness has God speaking not being sober or silent, in the temple, the place of the church meeting creating all with a shout to a living God “the beauty of holiness”

Let us display the colour, let us embody the diversity, let us be the adventure and worship God in holiness. Holiness reconfigured I experience and reflect in my every day daily life, what i say, what a wear, how i live…

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”