God Chasers

I finished Tommy Tenney’s book, the God Chasers this week. Interestingly, I’d already read a different version of the book as a teenager, and so many of the concepts, ideas and challenges had already become foundational to my faith. But nevertheless it was good to revisit them.

I was personally challenged, that my hunger for God isn’t enough. I mean, I have a lot of the key practices down, I know how to cultivate my relationship with God, through Scripture, Prayer, Worship, Witnessing etc. But my hunger for God’s presence was not overwhelming enough.

The vision of hunger I want is to be so filled with God’s presence that people are drawn to Jesus, simply by me being present. That’s what I’m hungering for. I want lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to pursue God’s heart. I am boosted towards this goal by His presence in my life.

Before I had settled for being close to God. But now I want other people to be close to God, simply by being close to me. It takes the calling, to be Abraham’s descendants and a blessing to the nations (Gen 12) to a whole new level.

I do find it a bit odd to tell myself I’m not hungry enough. But these words echo those famously said by CS Lewis “we far are too easily pleased”:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Yes, the morning quiet times are good, yes the journaling and prayer walks are helpful and a useful step in the right direction. Yes, the dependency on Jesus’ works not my own…all of it good. What is now being challenged anew is the heart for God.

And yet, since being a teenager, I have been heavily influenced by Christian teaching that emphasises it is all by Grace alone, teaching I stand by. The temptation with a book like this is to feel like I’m not doing enough. And to make more effort to read more Bible, pray for longer, pray better, witness more, do more etc. And I don’t think this is what Tommy Tenney intends, and more importantly, I don’t think it’s what God wants.

The last thing we want to do is come under more guilt and shame, or put ourselves under a different “set of laws”. Trying to earn God’s presence with more purity, better prayers, more hunger for Him etc.

The truth is, it’s already been earned for me. I can come with confidence before God’s throne. (Good news, right?!) This book challenged me, not to try harder, but to aim higher. I can receive so much more from God than I’m currently experiencing. How? By trying harder? No. By having longer quiet times? No. But by coming to my Good Father who freely gives all that Christ has earnt for me, through faith-filled-prayer.

The White Flag: Called and Equipped to do much.

One of the significant activities God has been leading me into over the last 5 months is the process of ‘stepping out of ministry’. This has been an interesting time and I’ve learnt a lot. I wanted to share a bit of that journey and what it’s all been like.

Since October 2017, I have been doing what I called ‘bi-vocational’ ministry. I was working 9-5 for Cancer Research UK in their clinical trials unit, and at the same time running a student ministry with Navigators UK. It was great fun, it was a great challenge, it had it’s ups and downs like any ministry endeavour – but it was incredibly rewarding.

My average day started around 4.30-5am with all the regular routines and disciplines I needed to sustain me through the day (quiet times, exercise, reading and study), then I’d be out to meet with a small group of students on campus at around 8. We’d often simply read our Bibles and pray together. A fantastic way to start a working day, a fantastic way to approach discipleship, a fantastic way to grow friendships. Meeting daily in the mornings, you really do get to see each other on good and bad days – weaknesses exposed, yet together meeting to encourage each other and bring our days before God.

Then I’d be at work. I might meet someone at lunch (the trials unit was based at the university!). Then, depending on the weekday – I’d either be meeting a student 1-on-1, attending/leading/hosting a Bible study. It was busy. But being in my early twenties I have/had a lot of energy and time to spare for these good endeavours.

After a year at this pace, I added to my life FFM (Foundations For Ministry – a 3 year training course with Navs) and my wife and I took up our Church’s youth group’s mid-week gathering. Wow. Oh, and on top of all that, I was being allowed to preach once a month at Church (something I deeply cherish, and feel so honoured by!)…. Looking back on all this, it sounds like too much. But honestly, God sustained me.

I held firmly onto two verses which inspired and motivated and kept us both going…

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me!” – Col 1.28-29 (which continues beautifully and relevantly into chapter 2!)

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;” – Ecc 11:2 (I felt God give me this verse one morning in my quiet time, it also came with the word: there is a difference between investing and managing)

With these verses, which I genuinely believe God gave me, I was encouraged to do all the many works I felt He was asking me to do. He put the work before me, and then enabled me to do it. I would say to myself, and to anyone else, that they really shouldn’t do as much as I was doing, unless God has specifically called them to it – and to remember – He probably won’t call you to it permanently.

…And then at Christmas 2018, we felt very clearly God was telling us to start drawing back…


Unlikely “Minister’s of Grace”

There is a phrase I’ve been thinking about a bit latley “minister’s of Grace”. God wants to touch people’s lives and pour out His blessing on them. This blessing isn’t necessarily the financial type or health type although sometimes it is, but rather the spiritual blessing of knowing God.

Jesus said, after all, that this is eternal life – that they know You the living God. 

Whenever we are bought closer and deeper to this intimate knowledge of God we have experienced God ministering His Grace to us.

Ultimately it is Jesus who alone and foremostly ministers God’s Grace to us by His dying on the cross. In Him the way to know God has been opened, where before it was locked shut.

However it seems that Jesus uses people and objects through which to minister His Grace and this ultimate blessing of knowing God into our lives. Look at Paul’s descriptions of the Church Body in the letters.

Recently I have been listening to a rap group which I used to listen to as a young teenager. They write songs that are rooted in Christian teaching. While a part of me feels quite foolish listening to this music, another part of me has received God’s ministering to me through this music.

I have a feeling that we limit God’s work in our lives through these agents, these minister’s of His Grace, when we harbor contempt towards them. What do I mean? I mean God may really want to speak (minister His Grace) to us through the teenage preacher who is speaking at the youth service on Sunday. But because in our hearts, because of pride & arrogance, we have decided this lad has nothing to offer which we don’t already know etc…God’s  work is limited. 

I wonder how many hymns and times of worship at our Churches would be significant moments of encounter with God if we only looked past the style of music or the singer’s ability? I wonder how many sermon’s would have changed our life if we weren’t busy comparing the speaker to Mr. Charisma at so-and-so conference? Even on a day to day level, in our conversations. What if we were prepared to recieve God’s work in our lives through the lives of those we work alongside?

Where are the agents of Grace in your life? Who are you treating with contempt and therefore missing out on encounter s with Jesus?

One final thought as I saw this in action at the weekend. Part of the Navigator vision is this idea of ‘passing the baton’. This means letting those who are younger step into our roles. At one point during a sermon from a youngish looking bloke – probably late 30s – I looked round and saw all the gray haired heads of the 70s and 60s bowed scribbling down sermon notes. Here were veteran Christian leaders humbling themselves to receive from the likes of the young. 

If they can do that with a 30 year experience and age gap. How much more can I do that with the christian rap music written for children. Or the kids in the youth group. My wife? My siblings? The author of a book I find boring? Etc.

God keep me teachable, and may I learn to receive Your touch whenever, however, wherever and whoever it comes through!

Friends and Thankfulness

On Friday night we hosted a few friends round that we’ve not seen in a very very long time. These guys were all part of the Church youth group we went to when we were teenagers. We all headed off to uni and this Easter break was a good time to meet up and catch up.

I’ve never been to a school reunion so I don’t know if this is normal, but we all got on so well. It was really nice that the old friendships weren’t awkward or stunted coming back together.

I wanted to share a few things that really stood out to me from our hanging out:

Two of the guys who came are brothers, who both have an older brother. The youngest is graduating this year. They were telling us about their plan and I thought this is so cool! In September their going to be moving into the same rented house together, and pooling all their money together in order to buy a house with no mortgage! WOW. They were telling me, they’ve already been saving for a while and have enough to buy a really cheap place already! I find this so cool and great, that they get on so well and have a plan they can all get behind!

Secondly after food we started playing a few games. One I bought recently is called: 100 Questions (it’s really great, although it’s quite expensive for what it actually is – so I’d keep an eye out for 2nd hand). Anyways, I bought it because a guy who works with the Navs in Nottingham said its a great tool for conversations with strangers. We basically ask a question and everyone takes it in turn answering it. One question said ‘Do people envy you?’ And I added (if they do why? or in what way?). The other guy who came gave such a thought provoking answer. He said that he reckons people envy him because he grew up in a stable family with both parents.

This is something that’s very true of me, and I don’t half way appreciate it as much as I probably should. It’s odd how we can forget to be thankful for the amazing things that are constant, like our health, family, job ect. Because when these things are missing you notice!

Father I pray that you’d open my eyes to see all the amazing way You have already blessed and provided for me in this life. I thank You for the things which are constant and that I probably take for granted. Please help me to live with thankfulness and understanding.