Category: God speaks

time for Remembering

clocksFor those leading services on Remembrance Sunday it can be one of the most fraught days of the year. It is not necessarily because of the content but because most services start before or at 11am on the Sunday and we have to incorporate the 2 minutes’ silence at the right time. This requires a level of timing, anticipation, clock-watching and ‘seat of the pants’ ministering that can raise the blood pressure of even the most relaxed of Revs.

This year I was ministering at one of the churches I serve as a Regional Minister. Their service starts at 10am. The first part of the service was led by church members (really thoughtfully and sensitively) and then I stood up to preach. Normally it’s only those listening to me who have an eye on the clock, but this time I was keeping an eye on the time too. I was amused that during the sermon, just as I was reading Psalm 23, the town parade went past the outside of the church with a band playing at the head of the procession. The band stopped playing just as I finished reading the Psalm. I told the church that it was appropriate as the psalms were originally sung to music!

The sermon finished at about 10.45.

That would not normally be a problem with a view to having 2 minutes of silence at 11.00.

But the church also also wanted to share Communion* after the sermon and I wasn’t sure whether we would have time. We also had a song to sing before Communion. I invited people to sing and afterwards I led the church into sharing the bread and wine.  The sermon had been on Jesus saying, “I am the resurrection and the life” and I made a link with that and that he invited his followers to share bread and wine “In remembrance of me”. I broke the bread and shared it with those who were serving and they took it out to the congregation at about 10.50. It’s a large congregation which meant that serving the bread took a while and we finished that at 10.57.

Are you feeling the pressure too?

I knew that we would not be able to serve the wine in 3 minutes so I took the decision to have the 2 minutes’ silence in the middle of Communion. So I introduced what we were going to do and at 11.00 we stood in silence for 2 minutes, after which I read the familiar ‘they shall not grow old’ words and prayed. We then sat and continued with Communion as the wine was served in small cups to each person and we drank together and once again reflected on Jesus who died for us.

After the service lots of people said how much they had appreciated that we did things that way, and few seem to have realised that it was not by my design. And I was blessed by the experience too – I reflected on the act of Remembrance in the light of Communion and Jesus saying, “Greater love has no-one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends.” I reflected on Communion in the light of the act of Remembrance and what it means – more than just keeping a memory alive. The unplanned order of things was very poignant and significant to me.

Reflecting on it all now, a couple of days afterwards, I realise that God often does that… he takes our plans and if they don’t turn out the way we intended he finds a way of speaking in and through the ensuing disruption. So for some of Jesus’ friends who went on a fishing expedition that proved fruitless he turned it into an encounter with him that they would remember for the rest of their lives (John 21). And, if I am honest, that’s so often what inspires me to write bloggages – unexpected moments turn into moments when God speaks to me. Maybe it’s because in those moments I realise that I am not in control and need to reconnect with the One who simply is.

I suppose the question is whether, in the disruption, we try to listen to what God might be saying or whether we are too busy trying to resolve things ourselves.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Bread and Wine – depending on your tradition

three rings

old phone 2It used to be ‘three rings’. ‘Ring ring, ring ring, ring ring’.

In the dim and distant past, before mobile phones were a commonplace part of our experience, when people were travelling somewhere and needed to let someone else know that they had arrived safely they would give ‘three rings’. They would dial (probably actually on a rotary dial, young people) the number, let it ring three times and then ring off.

It meant that the call didn’t cost anything, no lengthy phone conversation was needed, and the person at the other end would know that their friend / loved one had arrived safely at their destination.

There were a few problems. One was that sometimes, when you listened at the other end, it would start with a ‘half ring’ – ‘ring’ before going into full ‘ring ring’ rings. Did that first half ring count as a proper ring? If it did, then you should hang up after another two rings, but would the person at the other end know that it counted? If you went for another ‘ring ring’ so there were three of them, the person at the other end might think it was four rings so it wasn’t you and pick up the phone, negating the reason for doing three rings.

And, when you think about it, it was technically six rings (or five), not three.

And of course there were also the times when the person you were ringing forgot to wait for three rings and picked up the phone anyway.

A seemingly simple process was fraught with complexity!

Today all we have to do is send a text message to another mobile phone, or an instant message on social media.

But we still have to remember to send a message. The technology may be better but, a bit like with my satnav (see Monday) the weakest part is the human part.

Prayer is an instantaneous and low-cost way of communicating with God. You don’t need special words, you don’t need to be in a special place, you don’t even need to dial. All you have to do is remember to pray. God’s there, listening and waiting. However the weakest part is still the human part isn’t it?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

satnav software problem

My satnav is an invaluable resource. Because it gives me live traffic updates it can navigate me around jams and queues. It has saved me hours of frustrated sitting in the car going nowhere.

But in the last few days it has irritated me. The first occasion was when it alerted me to a lengthy queue ahead and offered me a route that would be longer in distance but shorter in time. You may be wondering what’s wrong with that.

Timing.

It offered me the new route just as I went past the exit it was recommending and the queue started just around the corner. Why didn’t it tell me earlier?

The second was this morning when as I was happily going along a route I use regularly I turned off onto an exit only to find myself joining a lengthy queue on the slip road and beyond. Why didn’t it warn me? Was it sulking because I was unhappy with it at the weekend?

As I reflect on both situations I think there’s a common problem. A software problem.

image

Me.

You see I think, on reflection, that in the first case the satnav probably did offer me an alternative route sooner than I realised but because I was wearing sunglasses I couldn’t see it clearly. In the second situation I did hear the satnav say something but assumed it was telling me to turn off rather than keep going. I wasn’t listening properly because I was confident in my own ability.

I make the same mistakes with God. Sometimes I ignore him or I am distracted by other things or I am overconfident in my own ability. And then I wonder why he didn’t say anything.

Hmm.  Note to self: pay more attention to God and my satnav.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

can you hear him?

This next few days are very busy and my opportunities to inflict bloggages on you will be limited, so this will have to do for a while. Let me explain why…

Today I am planning to enjoy a day off. I am planning to go sailing with Sally (model yacht sailing) and this evening I will be with my friends at Mid Essex Magical Society.

Tomorrow I am spending the day in Newport Pagnell in a meeting that will be making recommendations about the level of support that can be given to churches that cannot afford a Minister on their own. And in the evening I will be at a leaders’ meeting for one of the 60 churches I serve.

On Thursday I will be at Spurgeon’s College Conference. It’s the annual get together for students (former and current) who have trained at the College and this year the incoming President is Juliet Kilpin who I believe is one of the prophets of our day – speaking out for those whom society (and churches) often ignore.

Friday will be spent catching up on emails that will have flooded in over the next 3 days and in preparation for our EBA Annual Assembly which will be taking place in Felixstowe over the weekend. I hope too to spend some time reading and reflecting before travelling to Felixstowe.

Saturday is the main day of the Assembly and there will be lots of opportunities for conversations with people, seminars to attend where I can learn, meetings to enable through the medium of PowerPoint, magic to perform in the afternoon free space, all age worship to enjoy, and an England football match to enjoy or endure.

Sunday will conclude the Assembly in the morning with a service, and then it’s a drive across the country to collect our daughter from University.

Then on Monday it’s some more meetings and in the evening I have my interview at the Magic Circle – part of the application process for me joining the prestigious organisation.

But just because I am not expecting many opportunities to write bloggages, it does not mean that I won’t be looking out for what God is saying to me. I fully expect to encounter him in all of the scheduled activities I have mentioned, and also in the gaps in between. In fact it’s often in the gaps that I find God speaks more obviously.

For example, he’s speaking through the dawn chorus at the moment as I type – reminding me that Jesus said that if God cares for a sparrow, how much more does he care for me? He speaks through the calmness and gentleness of quiet moments, encouraging me to relax in him. He speaks through a song on the radio as I am driving. He speaks through an unexpected encounter with someone while I am out in the street. He’s always speaking: the question is whether I am listening.

soundI am going to post a second bloggage today that reflects on sailing my boat, which I hope will expand on this thought. In the meantime be blessed and be a blessing.

 

one small voice

One of my guilty pleasures is supporting Ipswich Town Football Club. It’s good for humility and helps me learn to cope with disappointment. A couple of times a year I like to go to watch them at their home ground, and I like getting there early to watch the preparations for the match – watching the teams ‘warm up’ (if I had warmed up as vigorously as that before a match when I used to play I would have been worn out before we started); seeing the grounds staff set up sprinklers (secretly hoping to squirt one of the opposition players as they warm up – it happened once) and then sort out any rogue divots before the match starts; seeing the interaction between the Ipswich Town mascots (Bluey and Crazee (usually messing around too)) and the crowd; and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

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Crazee

2013-03-02 15.57.02

When you arrive early there are not many people in the stadium. If I tried shouting a football chant or cheering nobody outside the ground would hear me – very few people in the stadium would hear me, and those who did might move away a bit. But slowly the ground fills up and the noise level rises. Then, during the match, when the crowd chants together or cheers people a long way away from the ground will hear them. Indeed I have been told that when there were Sunday lunchtime matches a nearby church had to make sure they finished their services before the match started otherwise they would be drowned out by the crowd.

I was reminded of that this morning when I got an email. This is what it said:

Dear Nick Lear,

Parliament is going to debate the petition you signed – “Jeremy Hunt to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the BMA.”.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121262

The debate is scheduled for 21 March 2016.

Once the debate has happened, we’ll email you a video and transcript.

Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

On my own my voice would not have been heard. But when lots of people collectively gather together and raise their voice it can be heard and can make a difference. I think it’s part of what we call ‘democracy’. But if lots of small voices hadn’t spoken up nothing would have happened.

(I also wrote to my MP about the Refugee Crisis in Calais and got a letter back on official Houses of Parliament headed paper – but sadly it was a stock reply that didn’t answer any of the points I made. Still, at least my voice was raised and perhaps if lots of voices speak together someone might listen).

It’s funny how many Baptist churches think that they are democracies because they vote in Church Meetings. People think that it’s all about a majority of people getting their way. Yes, we believe that God speaks through a Church Meeting. Yes, one of the mechanisms for seeking to discern God’s voice is through voting. But it’s not a democracy because God doesn’t always speak through a majority. Part of the art of leading a church is to listen for God in the small voices as well as the loud ones. We also have to listen to him speaking through the unexpected, unanticipated person. We have to listen for him in the still small voice. And when we sense him speaking, it makes sense for us to stop and listen because he seems to enjoy speaking through the small, marginalised, apparently insignificant…

Consider Samuel hearing God speak when he was a small boy; Elijah in the cave sensing God in a gentle whisper rather than an earthquake, storm or wildfire; Mary the pregnant teenager; and of course the carpenter’s son from the back of beyond.

Your small voice can make a difference, and it might be that God is speaking through you. He might want you to join your small voice with others. So don’t be silent. And when lots of small voices join together sometimes the powerful stop and listen (which is a lesson to learn both if you are a small voice or if you are powerful).

Be blessed, be a blessing

corny joke

I hope that you had a good Christmas. I hope that you found what you were hoping for – not just in a stocking, pillow case or under a tree, but in the friendships, family relationships and your relationship with God.

other makes of corned beef are available

A man went on a camping trip with his wife. He had been left to do the catering and had only brought three cans of corned beef. She was a bit miffed, but decided to let it lie. The first evening they sat down to eat and his wife was intrigued to see him get out his multi-function penknife, open out the can opener tool, and proceed to open the can with the can opener. Again, she let it lie and they ate the corned beef.

The next evening he got out the second can of corned beef, and once again opened it using his can opener tool from his penknife. His wife almost said something, but decided against it as they were having such a good time away. They ate the corned beef in silence, though.

The third night the man got out the third tin of corned beef and started to open the can opener from his penknife. His wife couldn’t resist any longer.

“Honey,” she asked gently, playing the innocent, “What’s that key on the top of the can for?”

“Silly you,” patronised the man, “That’s for people who don’t have a penknife with a can opener attachment.”

If you are one of the male of the species about now is when you will have to consider consulting the instruction manuals that came with the gadgets and presents you were given because we all know that they are like the key on a can of corned beef – just there for people who can’t work it out on their own.

But when we do consult the instructions (or more likely download them) we find that they are actually quite useful. We find out what that button actually does, you know – the one that we thought didn’t do anything. We find out about how to get the best out of the present. We find out what it can really do.

Perhaps in 2016 we should treat our Bibles less like a bloke treats an instruction manual and find out how much more God has for us…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

is that for me?

A few days ago I was preparing to phone someone who has been going through a very difficult time. Just before I spoke to them I had a look at an app on my mobile phone that pings me a verse from the Bible each day. It seemed quite appropriate for the conversation I was about to have, so I looked in my book format Bible (as opposed to electronic versions on phones, tablets and kindles, etc) and noticed that one of the page marker ribbons was in exactly that place, but I had just slid it into that place on a previous occasion.

“Hmmm,” thought I. “Is this merely a coincidence, or is Someone trying to get me to share this with the person I am about to call?”

I made the call, and in the course of the conversation it became clear to me that the Bible verse may be something that God wanted them to be reminded of, so I took a risk and offered it to them. The words blessed them, which was wonderful.

Why do I share this with you? Well, not because I am super-spiritual or anything like that – far from it (indeed I don’t think ‘superspirituality’ actually exists). Nor because I am slapping myself on the back in a congratulatory way. It’s to encourage you to take a risk if you sense that God may have something he wants you to share with someone else. If you offer it gently and humbly in a ‘I’m not sure if this is from God but I offer it to you and let’s see’ (definitely not in a ‘thus saith the Lord’ way) then it gives the person on the receiving end a gracious way to say, “Thank you, but I don’t think it’s for me,” (or similar) without it being a criticism of you.

giftI am pretty sure that they will be blessed simply by the fact that you were prepared to take a risk to bless them – it’s a gift that you offer which shows you care. And if it is something God wants them to hear then they will be doubly blessed.

Go on. You know He wants you to.

And the verse? In case it is something you also need to hear (Psalm 94:18-19): ‘When I said, “My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Be blessed, be a blessing