A lesson in “why discipling”

 

There was a Man who provided a service. He was very knowledgeable, very experienced and very connected. He advertised, for how else would anyone know he even existed? He advertised in the places people would look for his services. And one day he received a distressed call. Someone who needed help. Someone let down by another “expert”. Someone who was paying the cost for the expert not being the expert he said he was.

This Man went to see the person in distress. And immediately saw why there was distress. The expert was indeed no expert at all. And the person in distress was right to be distressed. This Man listened to a tale of woe he had heard many times. He advised as he had advised many times. He took photographs as he had many times. But this Man could not make the past different. He could only make the future different. And the person in distress was no longer distressed – he was now angry – the “expert” had been proved to be no expert at all – and to put right the wrong would cost more money. The Man had also heard that anger many times.

The person in ex-distress and now ex-anger thanked the Man, and then set about researching the Man’s credentials – and found them to be good everywhere he looked. The Man indeed seemed to be the expert he claimed. So the job was agreed, and the job was done. By other Men who were indeed skilled at their different jobs. Men who had a pride in doing their different jobs to a very high standard. They were indeed good Men in the image of the Man.

The end.

 

That is a true story. The firm is a real firm. The job was a real job. And the job (done second time around) was to a very high standard.

 

It struck me that “the firm” – each person – was as good as the Man (the boss): each person had a job – each person understood their own job – each person knew the jobs of others and how all the different jobs fitted together. And I learned that each was valued by the boss, and each was necessary to the boss (and each other). Each had the skills, experience, tools and right attitude to do “the job” properly. And the pride in doing a good job was not for my benefit , not for their boss – it just “was” in each.

And the boss was absent a lot of the time. And there were no calls to reassure or enquire. He simply popped in on two occasions over one week. On both occasions his visit was not to impress me, it was to talk to his crew. The entire job was done to the very high standard, to the agreed price (including some details not included in the quote (and not charged either), and to the agreed schedule. All was as promised. And those details along the way … each was agreed as it happened. And that left a great impression.

Each of the crew was entrusted with the authority to change/adapt/amend his own bit without reference to the boss. I think it was because each had the same pride in their bit, and – as importantly – of the whole. Each knew they were part of the whole – and each worked their bit to achieve the whole. That was how they did things – it was that simple for each of them.

 

And – without any of us talking about God or no-God, church or no-church … I was given a fantastic living and real lesson in why disciples and “why discipling”.

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Confession with a Chuckle

So sad, but true. Here, in a 3 minute video, is a pretty accurate recap of the first 3/4 of my ministry life. I was a “fixer”, a “designer”, a “planner”, and “program author”. Could write all the manuals, teaching points, charts and illustrations, and bullet lists for any conceivable ministry effort. I was often lost in paperwork for days at a time.

Jesus laughed at me a lot. Nothing wrong with my heart, just sort of had my priorities a bit confused. I used to believe in “interruptions”. I don’t anymore. There’s just “opportunities”.

How about you and those you serve with? Which do you believe in?

“Interruptions to the Work of Ministry”

or

“Opportunities to Minister” ?

How do we look at an unexpected expression of need? I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! Grace to thee!

How will we be known?

The world is round. Around and around.
A ring is round. No beginning no end.
A circular reference.
The circle of life.
We are born we live we die.

And what of the living? What is that all about? How do we know it was all worth it? How will be remembered?

How will we be known … ?

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

How often do we each plod through living – walking to the beat of our own drummer? On the inside: It’s okay really … all doom and gloom … fun and frolics! And on the outside? We have our “grown up face” showing. We hide behind our grown-up face as a matter of course: act your age not your shoe size … the default greeting: “How are you?” … the default answer: “I’m fine” … the verbal “air kiss” … allowing nothing real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

I am not sure we practice fellowship enough. I think we confuse fellowship with relationship with socialising.

Socialising together. Eating together. Gossiping together. And amongst the church community there comes committee’ing together for a smaller number. Decisions and budgets and making Kingdom Things happen. It reminds me of social clubs, sports clubs, doing clubs. What do we have in common?

We have God in common. We have church in common.

Except doing church involves a lot of finances. A lot of different opinions about where things go, what things are repaired, what things should be bought, who should decide what things are bought. I have a session of just that this week. Good people with church in common. Good people with God in common.

Seems to me that unless we find God, talk God, a personal God, a loving God , a God who is real – to each of us. Unless we share that God, see that God, feel that God, touch that God, unite in the One we all “work so hard for” – we become more and more like the “stereotypical couple” whose lives slowly drift apart:

We don’t seem to have that much in common. Just the kids (God). And they are all grown up now. We just seem to argue about money (budgets) all the time. We seem to have different priorities (missions). I like doing my things (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising) and she/he likes his/hers (pastoral/theological./outreach/fundraising). I am fond of him/her but she/he is not the same person I married (was first saved). What’s the point of sticking together (going each Sunday) if it’s just out of habit – out of duty?

Every counsellor would ask how much that couple talked, how they talked, when they talked, and what they talked about. They would also ask how each listened, heard, allowed the other to be heard. And they would ask that couple to practice talking. Setting aside time to talk. Making it a practice to listen. To hear. To really hear.

Tonight I have fellowship with one other. Just one other. That is really exciting! Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus. With one other person and God. Over a table in a pub. Good food with good people. Tonight is exciting! The purpose? To get below the surface. And find God. And talk God. A personal God. A loving God. A God who is real.

Fellowship. Relationship with God as its purpose, its reason, its focus.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

We have more than God in common, more than “the church” in common. We have Love in common. The Love of all Love. An eternal love. A ceaseless love. A love so unconditional we are all loved. And if that “outflows” (as we all say it does) – then we should be real “fellowshipping” all the time (shouldn’t we?).

Because why would we not want to talk about this Love and how we are changed? About how we live differently? About how you have been changed and live differently – about how I have been changed and live differently?

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

I desire fellowship. I seek fellowship. Relationship where I am known and I am loved. Where you are known and you are loved. Where that knowing and this Love changes all of us. Because without fellowship – without being known – without being loved … How are we to be changed?

And if this Love does not change us …

All we have in common is another social club. One that is not particularly appealing. One that is very “clubby”. One that is full of air-kisses and the bible. Oh – and God. That God we worship the same way at the same time in the same place because that is how we are so often taught.

“For to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be known.”

Woman at the Well – John 4

I hope this short film moves you as well.

Restored to a forfeited condition

 Qualified.

That word says so much about us. What training have we had, what exams have we passed, what trust should be put in us now we are qualified … and the division is seeded.

Qualifications.

He is not qualified to do this, she should get some qualifications, why do I have to be qualified – it’s only a piece of paper … and on and on.

Church.

Has this exact problem: seminary training, theological training, the institution’s demand for “knowledge about” on the assumption that “knowledge of” is the minister’s problem – because the training and assessment will weed out those who have “not found the right God” already.

Division.

A qualified leader, shepherd, whatever you name you use – and an unqualified flock, congregation, called out something. A divine relationship made for heaven. A relationship relying on God to fix the shortcomings. That fixing relying on the fix-ees realising they need fixing, accepting they need fixing, and actively participating in the fixing (or saving and relationship as we more usually call this).

Allowing.

There is an assumption of “allowings” necessary in this cobbled together kind of pathway to heaven. And if one party sees no need for “allowing” – then the pathway to heaven is strewn with good intentions tripping up others along the way – which becomes a very narrow and bumpy road indeed (or salvation and relationship as we more usually call this).

“Jesus also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.”” Luke 6:39-42

There it is: “ … everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.”

From out of the mouth of The Teacher Himself.

Which counts me out – I am not fully qualified (or even partially qualified).

Oh well, let’s all leave to those who are (and we are taught that as well).

Hiya God, good to see you again – how are You doing this fine morning … ?

This morning God Soft Hands Jesus took me to Mounce and the Greek version of that word.  And as I am not fully qualified – I simply followed His lead.  Here is what “the Mounce version” has to say:

“… but everyone when fully prepared will be like his teacher”

And that word “prepared” – καταρτίζω (katartizō) – means this according to where GSHJ guided:

to adjust thoroughly; to knit together, unite completely, to prepare, provide, to qualify fully, to complete in character, fit, ripe, to repair, refit, to supply, make good, to restore to a forfeited condition, to reinstate.

“to restore to a forfeited condition”

Qualified – fully qualified – becomes not bits of paper …. becomes “fully prepared” (by Who if not The Teacher?) … becomes “restored to a forfeited condition” (by Who if not restored by The Teacher?).

A forfeited condition.

Life before allowing God. Life before allowing God to indwell. Life before allowing God Soft Hands Jesus to become “my better half”. Life before allowing me to become what I am today. And tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.

So long as I keep “allowing” my “forfeited condition” to become my real “living and loving condition” – my daily condition – my true condition: Him in me and me in Him – not for my benefit – my salvation – my life ever after … not that “only” …

But because that is contagious – it is a virus – it is the condition we each have forfeited. It is a condition we each deserve to have restored in an abundance of diversity. That rich abundance He creates in the very “lost world” we inhabit.

So some call it “Love”, some call it names our “fully qualified” institutions say is “not the right God”, some of us say is “not the right God”, all of us (!!) say is “not the right church” – and we tend to leave it to others (the ones who are qualified) to tell us “what is right and what is not” …

And in so doing  … ?   We forfeit our “true condition” again – and again – and again … Because we do not “allow” the very God we are arguing about.

God Soft Hands Jesus (or whatever your name and religion) does not demand pieces of paper.

He allows each of us to become One with Him. One in Him. And whether we accept that invitation or not … He is abundant in each of us – just waiting to blossom with us when we are ready to blossom with Him. Each of us. No matter the name we give Him.

He simply desires our “forfeited condition” to be restored to our empowering and liberating and loving reality.

Guess what?

If you do, if you have, if you are … that means (to the unqualified me) that YOU are like The Teacher!  YOU have the contagion!  I am like The Teacher – I have the contagion!

Because Love is like God – too big to be made safe, to be boxed, to be tucked away  in a neat cupboard: Love IS the answer – all we have to do is to allow ourselves to be restored in Love. Unconditional Love – universally similar, universally abundant, universally liberating, and universally uniting.

Do you serve the “right God” in the “right way”?

I do!

Then why not allow others to do the same in “their way” with “their God: also being restored to a “forfeited condition”.  What have you to lose?  What have you to gain?

So why not allow each to allow Him … why not allow yourself to allow Him … and allow me to allow Him … unconditionally universally and lovingly.  Just as He Loves.

That is light overcoming your own darkness, my own darkness – that is restoring (to a forfeited condition).

And that is uniting.  Because that is Love.  One Love that connects all.

Because that is what Love “does”.