Failure opens doors - Jesus Army Life

 Some of us had a great discussion the other night about... failure. 

The really interesting thing about failing is how it actually opens up opportunities. At the very least it teaches us lessons and allowing for failure encourages grass roots creativity. But, too often, we fear to fail and miss the opportunity to do something new. Worst of all, we never get to see who we really could be if we'd just taken that chance.

Success obsessed people don't like to accept difficulties. Consider how badly organisations deal with scandal and how often they try to conceal it.

And, as individuals we're often not keen to welcome troublesome situations either. While we're busy thinking of a thousand reasons why we shouldn't face the challenge, we forget that in reality we're training ourselves to avoid risk and can often miss an opportunity to truly help someone in need.

Worse still, for Christians, when things go wrong, we often blame our practices and, when we've exhausted that, we blame God. It strikes me that sometimes the reason God could choose not to answer prayer is because he wants to shake our spiritual self-importance.

While churches can seem almost like a corporation, counting conversions and boasting about growth, God may be more concerned with how much we're expressing his grace and favour to people.

Dare we even consider how Jesus may have failed? (There are certainly examples of it: not being able to heal many, losing disciples, withdrawing from political heat, weeping over Jerusalem.) He didn't go around driven by success and feeding his ego. And he didn't try to fit people into neat spiritual boxes. Instead, in brokenness, grief and frustration he accepted people in their mess, coped with God's paradoxes and faced up to the call of self sacrifice.

 Jesus was very human, he knew failure, pressed on and opened the door to help us realise that God truly cares.

Other examples are plentiful... Isaiah was promised that people would not listen to him. Paul considered himself the worst apostle alive! So the question I must ask myself is this: Why am I not so willing to take the risks that could open new doors?...

I'm not so sure that my ego wants me to find out.


Never lose hope - Jesus Army Life

I drafted this blog a while back when times were tough. Now that we're coming through, it's a timely reminder...

Making the most of life. Photo by Ritesh Man Tamrakar on Flickr.com
There's a big question for our church at the moment:
What next?
Not everyone's verbally asking the question but I think everyone feels it - some more than others.
Some are feeling it badly, getting shaky, questioning vision, needing encouragement.
Some are dreaming dreams, grasping at straws, complaining to God.
But I don't know anyone who's handling things particularly well...

What I do know is that God is still with us, bringing us new people, offering his spirit. We should be able to trust Him.
Personally, I've been wondering how we can grow stronger and more confident in God, especially in such seemingly dry times?
I think I see an answer in not just counting, but investing in, God's blessing. Tough times can lead us to lean on God: 'Will God help us?' But good times can also teach us to trust if we ask: 'How can I make the most of God's blessing?'
In richer societies, where its easy to put our confidence in other things, we need to capitalise on God's provision and see him coming through even more - that way our confidence can grow.
And, deliberately celebrating God's goodness will also prepare us to endure through darker times, knowing that it's worth putting our trust in the living God.
Let us never lose the confidence we have gained.


Budding Out - Jesus Army Life

by James Gaither from Flickr.com

I found this picture of a horse chestnut the other day: A dry tree amidst a world of green.

At the time I felt it perfectly described my life.

My little church group which, at times, has seen so much success has come to an end. We're spreading out to strengthen other local groups, and admittedly it's sad for us.


If you look carefully, the tree, though seemingly dry, is putting forward new buds.

(My last blog had a similar picture.)

I hope this represents the promise of the future. I have no doubt that God is still with us, even if we've known much failure of late. And I'm also able to believe this because of the very accurate prophetic words and dreams we've had lately - it speaks peace to my grieving heart.


Healing - The Jesus Army Life

It's good when the people around you are positive.

There's been times lately I've been in church and the worship has just soared.

It's been great.

And you know what? More of my friends have seen healing at work in their lives too.

I don't think we're out of the woods yet, there are battles to come, but I have to be glad because there's a lot more life around.

And me personally? Yeah, it's good there too. I've really struggled to continue with God at times, but in spite of all the tough stuff, I/we can't escape his goodness.

I guess that's the nature of healing.


Waning - Jesus Army Life

My heart for community is waning. I want nothing else, but struggles and distanced relationships are making it hard to dream.

What do I do?

What if circumstances beyond my control steal my dreams?

Then how do I learn to dream again?

Spring is coming at last and with it a call to new adventures.

I don't want to lose my dreams, but I'm scared that maybe my dreams are losing me.

no shapes sail on the dark deep lakes by zato on flickr


A melody of love - Jesus Army Life

I don't go for liturgy very much.

I don't like the thought of someone else deciding what I should pray.

Even though it's likely to be something far better than I could ever hash together.

But I have to admit there's something very useful in coming to God with words you've used before, and doing it as a community too.

Recently my church group has been exploring Compline which I understand to be a set of closing prayers for the day, allowing you to go over the events of the day with God.

And I haven't enjoyed them very much, even though others have.

However, it has got me thinking about the usefulness of a daily rhythm in a person's life. It's incredibly valuable to have a structure to the day. It actually allows me to be more deliberate about what I do with my time when I know there's a pattern to it.

Community living carries a rhythm no matter how unstructured it seems to be. Perhaps it's simply the heartbeat of common society. Togetherness naturally makes a melody, marking time by shared experience.

And as community creates moments I find I can exist in the gaps. My life defined by the peaks and troughs of a loving environment.

I need that rhythm. Even though I am trusting my independence to others, I feel I am nothing without it.


Borne for a purpose - Jesus Army Life

And who knows if you were not brought to the kingdom for such a time as this?
     The Book of Esther
(Please forgive the pun in the title. I like to play poetry with my words sometimes.)

indonesia bali cattlemen
There's value in a people's story.
One of my many ponderings this week has been whether it's possible for a small society of people to perform a role that serves the rest of humanity?

Of course it is.

I think of villages of fishermen, or warrior clans, or tribes of priests, and I realise that communities of people in the past were used to specialising in specific services far more than they are today.

But it raises further questions for me... What makes a local community choose one specialism over another? What causes a people to become priests rather than warriors? How are these communities shaped? And then, how is our community being shaped? What effect does our journey have on our character?

You know, it occurs to me that the calling of a people is perhaps more important than the calling of individuals.

Well, we've known a number of similar ailments among us lately. So much so that we're slowly becoming experts in helping one another to find a way through them. More than that, we've attended courses, consulted professionals, read reams of books and manuals between us and, of course, known first hand experience of certain maladies. We've even known some healings along the way.

And so, I find myself asking, 'Just what is God preparing us for?'

What is the work God has for us to do?

I believe that as a small community and as a larger church, we will not only survive but thrive in the future, but what skills will we have learned as a community? What character will we have? And how will it serve the society of God's people and our neighbours?

With these thoughts in mind an so many questions about the present, there's a line of a famous hymn comes to me:
Christ of my own heart, whatever befall - still be my vision, thou ruler of all.