Little children, big ideas…

A lot of people think kids work, especially for the under 5’s, on a Sunday is about babysitting; allowing parents to meet with God without having to worry about their children, simply supervising their play and going on countless toilet trips. In some respects it is. But it is also a whole load more. For me that time I spend with the children on a Sunday morning is an opportunity to tell them about Jesus and build on the knowledge they already have from home. It is a chance to get them thinking about big questions and to develop a foundation for their future spiritual life.

Today I led a session about heaven for 3-4 year olds. We had a great time discussing what we thought heaven might be like and pretty much decided that it would be a hot place with paddling pools, singing, chocolate and the odd digger doing some building work here and there. But we also thought about the best thing about heaven: being with Jesus. Here I was blown away. One told me Jesus was in her heart, another wanted Jesus in his house and I got to talk to talk to him about the fact that even though we can’t see Jesus we know he is with us, that when we get to heaven we can meet him and even that there are lots of people in the world who don’t know Jesus and won’t get to meet him in heaven. He then asked how we get to heaven because he really wanted to see Jesus now.So getting to talk to them about the omnipresence of God and our calling as evangelists to 3-4 year olds was awesome.

But for me the session hit home hard. They taught me so much about child-like views on God – when was I last that excited about going to heaven and seeing our creator face to face. When was the last time I was completely blown away by what Jesus did for us so that we can enter heaven and be reunited with our Father? When was the last time I considered what heaven will be like and be so desperate to be there that I was prepared to leave everything on this earth right now to go? In Philippians 1, Paul says “for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Phil.1: 21-24 NIV) When was the last time we can say we truly desired to ‘depart and be with Christ’ – not just wanting our earthly problems and struggles to end (and be in a time with no more tears, no more pain, as we read in Revelation) but simply because we just desire to be continuously with Jesus? When was the last time we felt that being with Christ was better ‘by far’ than anything we experience on the earth. Maybe for you that has always been the case. For me, it has given me a lot to think about. I often find I get so caught up in this life, asking for help to keep going, to fight battles and to do the work I feel I am being called to do that I forget where my real home is. 

We need to take time out of our busy lives to remember where we are going and to grow that desire to be with Christ for eternity, to become humble and remember the price that was paid to allow us to do that and to develop a heart that longs and works to bring others along with us to heaven (after all, the desire to evangelise is lessened when we aren’t heaven-focused ourselves)

And, I don’t know about you, but I reckon if there is a paddling pool, singing, chocolate and a load of diggers in heaven then Jesus will be right there alongside us having a great time too. An eternal summer party with Christ sounds good to me.

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God is calling me (and you) to be a flamingo…yes, you did read that right.

The fact I am writing on being called to be a flamingo might cause some of you to be slightly concerned. No, I have not gone mad (well no more than usual anyway); instead I believe God really has a message he wants me to learn, implement and share.

I sometimes hear God speaking very clearly through pictures and words. While this doesn’t happen all that often, when it does, God keeps the same picture going for as long as it takes for me to understand it. It happened with ‘chains breaking’ at New Wine last summer, with being a ‘restful warrior’ the last couple of months and most recently with being a ‘flamingo’.

During the New Wine Worship Conference God showed me a picture of flamingos. I knew it had to be God because flamingos are really not something I tend to think about! This picture was accompanied by the word ‘vibrant’ and a clear focus on the fact that flamingos are pink. I decided to research flamingos a little more to try and see what God was saying.

The ever trustworthy Wikipedia was useful here:

A well-fed, healthy flamingo is more vibrantly colored and thus a more desirable mate; a white or pale flamingo, however, is usually unhealthy or malnourished. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamingo]

This is where it all seemed to make sense. The vibrancy of the colour of the flamingo is dependent on how nourished it is and what it is consuming. Our vibrancy as Christians is based on the same principle. The more spiritually nourished and healthy we are, through feeding on Scripture, meditating on what God is saying to us, and ensuring we have the correct rest-serve balance, the more vibrant we are and the more attractive we are to other people. God wants us to be vibrant, to be visible and to make Him attractive to other people.

Throughout the last week I have seen countless pictures of flamingos, from the dresses of the kids to quotes on Pinterest [‘be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons’]. This has cemented the picture in my mind and made me feel it is one to share with others too. It also seemed to fit with what I was leading on at lifegroup last week – in the book we are working through (Chasing Daylight by McManus) it is argued that

‘we can become dull for the purpose of avoiding any potential dangers and hide in the backdrop of life, or we can choose to take on colours, becoming more attractive to those around us and causing those who stand in our way to have second thoughts.’ [p.136]

Are we well-fed and healthy Christians? Are we attractive to other people? Are we choosing to step out and risk being colourful, visible and vibrant? God is calling us to be all these things. He is calling us to be a healthy flamingo. He is calling us to step out, be noticed and ‘be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons’.  Are you prepared to accept that call?

Resting in Him

I suddenly remembered yesterday that I had this blog that I was supposed to be writing my reflections of the Discipleship Year on; I started in September and now it is March and I haven’t posted anything. So here is my first post, finally! The DY year has been an amazing experience so far. I never thought I would be doing half the stuff that we have been encouraged to do this year. There have been so many opportunities to step out of our comfort zones and we have been given lots of inspiring teaching on so many different topics. I have been very blessed to have been surrounded by incredible men and women of God who have encouraged me and prayed for me. All this in 7 months – I can’t wait to see what will happen in the last 4.

The thing that has been on my mind recently is the concept of REST. Throughout my life I have always worked to the point of burn out – each time recovering and then doing exactly the same again. This became particularly obvious during my degree and I had hoped I had learnt my lesson after that. However, in the last few weeks the exact same thing has happened. Yet this wasn’t just physical burn out, but also emotional and spiritual and I reached the point where I had completely had enough.

During the DY year, as we are being trained in discipleship and being prepared to be future potential leaders of the church, we are often reminded that we need to take action to avoid burn out. I think there is a real danger for church leaders, and all those involved in working within the life of the church, for this three-way burn out (physical, emotional and spiritual) to occur. In one sense it seems like a juxtaposition to think that spiritual burn out can happen to those involved in the church – we are constantly surrounded by Christian influences, worship music, witnessing amazing works of the Spirit and teaching others. However, I have realised how easy it is for individual spiritual discipline to slip while you add more and more serving to your day. When I have worked in Kid’s Church for over 4 hours on a Sunday morning, my first thought is ‘time to relax’ rather than ‘I want to spend some time praying and reading scripture.’ Furthermore, the more physically burnt out you become the more likely it is that emotional and spiritual burn out will follow because you have no energy or desire to do any of things that would prevent this from happening.

While I don’t believe that spiritual attack is the only issue involved in burn out, I do believe that it does play its part. On the DY year we are on the frontline of the spiritual battle that is taking place – we are constantly stepping out of our comfort zones for the glory of God and really going deeper with God personally. This puts us in a place where the enemy wants to bring us down. As Christy Wimber said the other day – if we are being attacked then we are clearly doing something right and important (if we are experiencing no attack then we should be concerned and prepared to rethink what we are doing!)  The enemy loves to break us down and prevent us from being effective workers for God’s Kingdom. And, I believe, one of the ways this happens is to take away our desire to do the things (pray, read scripture, worship) that would prevent spiritual burn out and would keep us in a place of fresh revelation and intimacy with God.

I arrived at the DY Retreat Day on Monday in a complete mess. I was fully burnt out and disillusioned. Yet God saw me and began the process of restoration. From being prayed for after someone had a prophetic word about there being people in the room who had reached ‘the end of their rope’ to experiencing the Spirit in a powerful way during the afternoon when I ended up on the floor – God certainly was at work! The whole idea of ‘rest’, and in particular ‘resting in Him’, came to me while I was curled up on the floor in the spirit. Before I reached the floor the spirit had been pushing me further and further down while I was being prayed for in a very powerful way. This was intense and it felt like I was getting rid of things. I reached the floor and just lay there – I have never felt such a sense of peace in my life. I felt so still, at one point I had to check I was still alive and breathing as I couldn’t feel anything! While I was lying there I felt God say ‘just rest in me’ and I also had a picture of a deer and a river which reminded me of Psalm 42:1

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” (NIV)

This all got my thinking about how important rest is. Not only physical rest where we take time off from work but also spiritual rest. How often do we truly rest in God? I think I have usually gone to God with long prayers, I’ve cried out to Him countless times, I have spent time worshipping – these are all things we should do and are seen in the Psalms. However, just resting in His presence also needs to be done. This is where He can restore and renew us and then life us up on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40)

If we take time to be physically and spiritually rested then our emotional health will be on track too. Christy Wimber also mentioned that our souls are healthy (and emotions stabilised) when we have hope as an anchor for our soul (Hebrews 9) We get this hope from spiritual health (which means we need to be spiritually disciplined and spend time resting in His presence.) As I mentioned earlier, there is a spiritual battle going on and we are often at the front line of this – this not only puts us in a vulnerable position to the attack of the enemy but it also puts us in a place that means we can advance the kingdom if we don’t allow the enemy to bring us down. God really spoke to me about this on Monday – He gave me a picture of me standing at the frontline of the battle – out in the open and being constantly shot at by the enemy and allowing it to happen. I felt God saying that we are not defenceless. He has given us weapons to fight back and armour to defend ourselves. (See Ephesians 6 – especially The Message version!) Spiritual rest is needed in order to have the strength to fight back and to put on our armour. Therefore, we can stop the enemy’s plans to think we are defeated, worthless and overcome. We know that we are part of God’s ‘army’ and therefore, like it says in Psalm 91, we don’t need to fear the arrows that are sent in our direction. God has provided the weapons for us to use and gives us the strength to use them – if we REST IN HIM.

So if you are feeling under attack, burnt out or disillusioned (like I was), I want to encourage you to spend some time resting in His presence. To go to His river and receive the rest and peace He has for you. To regain your spiritual strength, put on your armour and pick up your weapons. Fight back. Even if we feel overcome and defeated we know that that is just one of the enemy’s lies and tactics to stop us, the truth is that Christ has already overcome – He is victorious and we belong to Him. When we are rested we can remember that truth and be ready to continue in our Kingdom Work.