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Incarnation versus imitation

» Posted on 13 Feb 2012 •

I’ve struggled to write this week’s Pass the Salt – I’ve penned a lot of words, but nothing seemed to come close to what I felt I was to write.

I’ve had the heading ‘Incarnation versus imitation’ since the beginning but struggled with the rest.

The longer it has taken to write the more frustrated I have become. There was even a fleeting temptation to just put any old thing down. We all have off days, right?

And it came to me that this struggle was a great example of incarnation versus imitation. Let me explain.

You see, for me there’s the temptation to appear wise and all-knowing; to drop the profound golden thought and just let the credits roll in. But Jesus isn’t interested in making me profound so I can gain credit. He doesn’t want me to replace him, the all-wise. He wants me to let go of that burden and learn instead to just say as best I can what I think he is saying – nothing more, nothing less.

And this is the difference between incarnation and imitation. Imitation is me trying to be Christ in the sense of replacing him or taking his place in his absence. It’s the temptation to imitation that leads to questions like, ‘what would Jesus do?’

Incarnation is the belief that Jesus is still present and active right here and now. We don’t have to second-guess him. We get to ask, ‘what are you doing Jesus?’ and as we recognise his works we also see the invitation to join him.

This is a good ground for Nucleus Groups to explore: helping each other see where Jesus is present and active in our lives now and working with that...nothing more, nothing less.

From my perspective, he’s been penning this letter with me today. I’ve had plenty of false starts and re-dos but not one of them has been a failure. Instead they were all good examples of me trying to imitate Christ instead of listening to and working with Christ.

This final effort I hope is much closer to what Jesus stirred me to pass on. If so, then I am satisfied with letting God be God and learning to hear and obey.

I hope this makes sense. If not, talk to Jesus – he made me do it.

Relationships First

» Posted on 26 Jan 2012 • Pass the Salt

Pass the Salt - 25 January 2012

Relationships first

I declare this year the Year of the Relationship.

What does this mean? It means our planning for the year is going to be focused on promoting the essential place of relationships in our lives.

This of course is no surprise to you. It’s all part of our intention to promote and develop the Nucleus Groups for Chapel Hill as a complement to other relationship-building times such as Life Groups and Sunday Encounters (my name for ‘church services’).

Do you have some ideas on this? What would you like to see done, e.g. a marriage enrichment weekend? Think outside the square, and get radical...and be willing to engage in helping pull this off because sometimes the best relationship-forming times are those when we’re working elbow to elbow on something worth doing!

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Praise God who hears our prayers

On Sunday night, a large gathering of Chapel Hill members joined in prayer for those ill and suffering in our congregation. One of those prayed for is fighting against the swift onset of cancer. So swift and aggressive is this cancer that doctors were unsure whether our friend - whom we shall call John for privacy's sake - would stabilise to the point of even receiving treatment.

But, praise God for the miracle that has occurred – for it can only be a miracle. On Monday John had another series of blood tests to plot his progress. Not being a doctor, I don’t know exactly what they are looking for, except that his ‘blood levels’ were very high, and needed to come down dramatically. John returned to hospital Tuesday for the results only to find an amazed medical team – his blood results were extraordinarily good and well beyond expectations. Treatment can begin now with a hope of good results.

This is amazing. This is our God. Praise him for his love, and his power to overturn the impossible and transcend natural limitations. Pray with increased faith for greater works for all those among us who are suffering, struggling and are seeking God’s saving power to be made known in the here and now.

To request prayer, we have a prayer form on-site or contact Paddy in the office who can do this for you.

Pass the Salt - 7 Dec 2011

» Posted on 23 Jan 2012 • Pass the Salt

7 December 2011

Christmas – where did you come from?

Are you getting the feeling that Christmas has just appeared out of the gloom of life without warning?

Suddenly the season is upon us again whether we’re ready for it or not.

If it has come upon you with speed, it may be time to grab some ‘reflection’ time. The power of reflection is in helping us gain some perspective. With a better perspective, we can make responsible decisions about our priorities. Good questions to ask are:

How much time am I giving to my relationships?
How am I showing my family they come first at the moment?
Where is my joy coming from?
If I could change one thing about my life today, what might it be?
Christmas is a season of promise – that in Jesus, God is returning to us, his loved ones those things we have lost. He offers himself as the means to restore us to relationship with him, the power to find love, joy and peace in the trials of life, to free us from those patterns of life and thought that bind us.

Christmas may have come upon you fast – like it has for me – but it needn’t pass us by as quickly. All it takes to receive some measure of the peace God offers is actively taking hold of some time to reflect with God.

21 November 2011

Nucleus the powerhouse of any organism

There’s an old saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” to make the point that you can’t see the big picture if you’re too focused on the details.

That being true, the other truth is all forests are made up of individual trees and if you want to strengthen the forest, you need to focus on strengthening each plant. If the church is the forest, then we are each the trees that make up the forest. To strengthen the church then is about helping each other grow.

This is the principle behind our ‘spiritual formation’ groups, which are our Life Groups and the newly launched Nucleus Groups. Nucleus Groups are being introduced because of their microscope-like focus. By contrast, Life Groups are like mini-greenhouses creating wonderful nurturing environments that help people gain health and grow strong together, but we can also need more one-on-one attention.

Unlike plants though, we humans have free will. Though God may seek to prune and shape us, or provide nutrients to inspire new growth, we can reject the gardener’s attention. We can even get really good at doing this within a greenhouse environment, appearing to grow while actually resisting the pruning and shaping of the gardener.

A Nucleus Group is about eye-balling one or two other people and answering the hard questions and being held to what we say. It’s a great way to cut through our avoidance tactics. It will be uncomfortable at times, but can lead to new growth where we may have grown stuck and stagnant. If that sounds like something you want, or need, then see who wants to join you on that journey...be careful, it might be life changing.

9 November 2011

What Rex said

Haggai chapter one is expressive of a truth we have all experienced and wondered at – when things should be getting better, they seem to be growing worse.
There can be a sense of quiet despair at times: a passion for food doesn’t hit the spot, fashion is only as satisfying as the moment of purchase, and we live according to the salary we have ensuring our bills increase with our income. No matter what we pursue, it’s never enough.

John D Rockefeller, oil magnate of the last 1800s and possibly the world’s richest man since Solomon, was once asked how much money was enough. He thought for a moment and said, ‘just a little bit more.’

The Teacher of Ecclesiastes addresses the same questions of life. Many believe the author is King Solomon reflecting on a life lived to the maximum, fuelled by endless wealth and the God-given wisdom to apply it. He even applied himself to madness and folly hoping to find a path of meaning. His conclusion? Everything is passing, fleeting, a vapour and the only hope is to seek God and obey him while you can. Jesus said something similar in John 6:29 (last Sunday’s reading), ‘the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

Rex’s conclusion from Haggai chapter one was a call to build a precious space in our lives for God; we are the new temple of God, and he wishes to inhabit our everyday. What did God’s Spirit speak to you about on Sunday? How does he want you to create space for him as the temple of God?

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