'For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord….'

Archive for truth

Hope does not disappoint…

Uh oh!  Just when you thought it was safe to read blogs again in 2010…….not another reflective post about the changing of the decade!  Ok, I admit it.  I am feeling all soft about the New Year and what it might hold.  But gimme a moment to persuade you of a hope-filled 2010.

I have no idea what 2009 was like for you…….but I can gaurantee it comprised a confusing mixture of the following : mundane work; great fun with loved ones; moments where you felt rejected; times where you felt you could burst with joy; days where you wondered where God was; and so on and so on……..

Life is not straightforward.  In fact, Jesus spoke plainly about this being so (John 16:33).  And our response?  Well, if your emotions follow the ups and downs of life, your reactions will also be mixed.  You will be relying on how you feel, and respond accordingly.  Living life in this way is exhausting!

But there is another way to respond…..logically.  In his letter to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul tells it how it is in Romans 5:1-11 , laying truth out for us so we are without excuse in understanding the extent of the mercy of God.

So whatever 2009 brought, treat yourself to an eternal perspective.  It’s what God would want you to do, and it’s why He puts lasting and robust joy in you by His Holy Spirit.   Someone once told me, ‘happiness depends on what happens to you.  Joy, however, is a steady assurance of a future hope, so live your life accordingly.’  Deal.


Mood food…

One of my favourite ways of relaxing is watching cooking programmes, and then having a go at reproducing something on the plate.  Some of the most entertaining  and inspiring TV programmes are ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen’, ‘Masterchef’ and ‘Nigel Slaters Simple Suppers’.

There have been a few successes over the years (which are oft-repeated!), and I like to think I can give most dishes a bash.  When I say success, I mean the kind of food that you can toss together pretty quickly, chuck in a few spices and hey presto!  Something like this, which is a hot favourite in the Davis household.

Jamie's chilli prawns!

Jamie's chilli prawns!

More recently I’ve been watching Nigel Slater’s offerings on the BBC.  Aside from the gorgeous photography, his slick patter and smart kitchen (ridiculously oversized & minimalist), the food combo’s are really equisite.

This time of year, with the days shortening (quickly it seems), what we need is ‘mood food’ apparently, and this pithy statement got me thinking.  Food is comforting, satisfying  and mood-changing.  There is a lot to be said for a lamb hotpot with steaming dumplings and a side of savoy cabbage on your plate on a wet and windy Sunday lunchtime!  No?  That’s just me then!  Of course, this needs to be acompanied by a large glass of claret and a 20 minute nap for it’s true effectiveness to to be fully enjoyed.

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Am I pandering to the ‘mood’ thing?  Has the season (Autumn to Winter) got the better of me?  Is it sending me into a spiral of depression that can only be asuaged by culinary skill and adventure?  Yes, if Nigel Slater is to be believed, and his offerings aim to lift the mood.  To a certain degree, I have to concur.  A hearty dish of something tasty really helps.

Feeding the flesh is really only part of the story though.  What actually brings real radical change to my attitude to life is the genuine ‘mood food’………bible truth in all it’s variety.  Completely satisfying, meaty, sometimes spicy, in every way transforming.  It defys all seasons, times and places.  It never fails to fulfil completely.

Jesus taught that He is the bread of life.  The original ‘mood food’….  He was talking about spiritual matters of course.  ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…’ (John 6:54).  Many of His followers didn’t understand, because they were thinking too much about their physical needs.  He was actually teaching that believing and obeying His words would give them eternal life.

From that day forward, many went away from Jesus.  But Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (John 6:68-69).   It was pretty clear to Peter that the food Jesus had on offer was of ultimate sustenance.

Want to lift you mood in this season of shorter and cooler days?  By all means enjoy the seasonal fare (hot pot, roasts, hearty soup etc.), but dont ignore the real stuff……. the ‘mood food’ that Jesus offers, which He invites us to feast upon.

Great value…

I really appreciated the considered comments made by Dave Bish (of Frontiers Exeter) on the value of building effective Small Groups in our churches.

Like Dave, I totally believe in Small Groups as the essential fabric of church life.  Being in community is not our made up scheme, but actually God’s design.  He exists in community, and the model is there for us to observe and draw from.  We also see it outworked by the early church in Acts 2:42-47.

Small Groups are one way the church carrys out effective pastoring.  If you are actively engaged in a Small Group, then you are ‘known’.  When you are known, you can enjoy the spiritual, physical, emotional and practical care of skilful shepherds whom Jesus has given the church.

I also believe in preaching, and the power of God to change people in their seats through it.  The challenge for us is connecting ‘preached truth’ (pulpit-pastoring) with real life outside of Sunday.  Small Groups need to be the context for making this happen, and seeing moments in God truly outworked in an atmosphere of grace and accountability.

When we dont think hard about or neglect the Small Group element of building church (in whatever form it takes), we fail to create sanctifying, gospel-centered communities that strengthen our foundations.

Here are Dave’s helpful thoughts (paraphrased a bit by me!) that argue for the value of robust community-building frameworks :

~ The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong

~ The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon (ie. being provoked but taking no action) is part of our human weakness

~ Listeners in a Sunday crowd can more easily evade redemptive crises.  If tears well up in your eyes in a Small Group, wise friends will gently find out why, but in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it

~ Listeners in a Sunday crowd tend to neglect efforts of personal application.  The preach may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in (like a Small Group pal), it can easily be avoided

~ Opportunity for questions leading to growth are missing.  Sermons are not dialogue……nor should they be.  But asking questions is a key to understanding and to growth.  Small groups are great occasions for this

~ Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing.  But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger

~ Prayer support for a specific need, conviction or resolve goes wanting.  How many blessings do we not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us?

Small Groups provide great value and build strong church communities……..