Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Night and Day Prayer

At the encouragement of the Methodist Church in Ireland, we operated a prayer room for 24 hours on 25-26 January 2014. While the emphasis was put on helping as many people as possible to pray in a focused way during that time, rather than specifically covering every hour, only four hours went without cover - and the room was used a few times after the original 'night and day' period was complete.

There were six areas in the prayer room; the first depicted a waterfall and encouraged us to step into the water - a challenge to get 'wet feet' even during our time in the prayer room, an openness to God's leading and a commitment to follow.

The second area focused on the Methodist family in Ireland. Younger visitors painted their vision of the church family. Participants were invited to pray for one or two Methodist congregations in Ireland that they hadn't been to before. Some wrote their selections on a map - Ballymoney, Ballynanny, Bannfoot, Blanchardstown, Carlow, Carnlough, Cloughjordan, the Down District, East Belfast Mission, Galway, Pettigo, Shannon and Skibbereen.

The third area offered space to reflect on our personal holiness - an opportunity to confess sin to God and rest in his grace-filled presence. The fourth gave a simple example of how to share the change brought about through faith in Jesus: a step into courageous evangelism. People completed 'from... to...' cardboard testimonies, using just a few words to indicate God's transformation.

Some examples included: from being lost and lonely, to knowing God's life-changing peace and love; from being worried, to being the most happiest person in the world; from despair, to hope; from encountering a difficult time, to the ability to help and support others in a similar situation.

For many people, by this point their hour had already come to an end! But those who were able to linger engaged with the fifth area, with a challenge towards compassionate social action. The final part of the prayer room helped participants to consider what idols there might be in their own lives and in the church - a couple of responses pointed towards selfish pride, and fear regarding a lack of resources.

The impact of the prayer room was felt by each of the children and adults who used it. One younger person commented afterwards, "It made me think I am special and thoughtful. God is always there. He is so nice, kind, lovely, special." An adult wrote in the guest book, "Peace and understanding - a lovely experience. Perfect atmosphere to meditate and reflect." And another, "So peaceful. Quiet space. Just sat in His presence."

The effects of this prayer-full weekend continued to be felt in following weeks, with a fresh sense of God's presence in worship, a fruitful Church Council retreat day, and a commitment to pray for the town and its churches at a special praise and prayer event to be held in March.

Prayer rooms take a fair bit of work to set up, organise and maintain. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

12 Practical Tips On How To Do What Jesus Wants Us To Do

In January the Methodist Church in Ireland encouraged us to consider the theme, "Covenant and Choosing" so we could take extra time on the meaning and impact of the 'Covenant Prayer'. The third service focused on Christ at the Centre, using Luke 10:1-12. What follows is an excerpt of the script I was working from while preaching - I say 'working from' because it rarely comes out word for word the way it's written! You might like to read the bible passage before going any further...

There’s a type of article going around the internet at the moment that is gaining traction very quickly - Lists with quirky titles that aim to convey photos, facts or opinions in any number of subjects. Such as:

  • 12 Mind-Bending Facts About Your Brain
  • 18 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Really Short
  • The 26 Greatest Fake London Underground Signs In The History Of Fake London Underground Signs

They’re not all just incidental facts or time-wasting amusements. Two lists that I found helpful recently were:

  • 7 Crippling Parenting Behaviours That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders, and
  • 5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church

In Luke chapter ten, Jesus sends out his disciples on mission – it’s what he wants them (and us) to do. And because we want to live with Jesus at the Centre of our lives, we want to do what he wants us to do! Or at least try! So, here are:

12 Practical Tips On How To Do What Jesus Wants Us To Do

  1. Everybody Goes – let’s note from v1 that he wasn’t sending the church leaders on this particular trip (he did plenty of that at other times) – this mission team is 72 ‘others’: which is pretty much the size of this church. We are the perfect size of church for going where Jesus wants us to go.
  2. Pairs Are Perfect – Jesus’ preference is that his followers go into the world in twos: this isn’t a solitary calling. Who do you serve with?
  3. Be A Basket Case Believer – Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, and who are we to doubt him? If he can feed thousands and have 12 baskets of leftovers from tiny resources, why not save thousands through what we do in his name?
  4. There’s Always Room For More – we aren’t to be precious about our role in God’s mission, we don’t need to protect our niche activity or our pew, because there are so many people to be reached, we need all the help we can get.
  5. Pray For Protection – because lambs in a wolves’ world get eaten up for breakfast. Our battle is against the powers and principalities, and the only way to effectively fight them is through prayer.
  6. Go FROG Style – Fully Reliant On God’s provision: ‘the Lord will provide’
  7. Eyes On The Prize – what’s the easiest way for you to be distracted from God’s work? Embarrassment, fear of failure, or the attraction of easier or more interesting things? ‘Do not greet anyone on the road’ – keep focused on Jesus and who he’s calling you to.
  8. Give Peace A Chance – when you enter someone’s home or meet them on the street, what’s the first thing you talk about? - the weather? - What’s your deepest desire for them? - that the sun would shine?! - Jesus says to bring peace to them. Peace that goes to work in the middle of their mess.
  9. Stick With It – if the people God gives you are receptive to your life and your Saviour, don’t be tempted to move on prematurely, searching for more influential or interesting folks. He’s put you in their life for a reason; your presence, words and actions bring peace to them.
  10. Eat Their Food – Jesus has a lot to say about food, and he does a lot of teaching around the table. His disciples are to receive the hospitality offered by the people to whom they have been sent: doing so honours the host, blesses the recipient, and seals the welcome. We get to know folks more quickly, easily and fully when we eat at their table.
  11. Make Them Better – ah. These last two are a bit more awkward. For one thing, we have very little practice in healing sick people. Practically, we can make sure folks have enough healthy food and water; we can ensure they are in contact with their doctor. But will we have the faith and guts to pray for our new friends to be healed in Jesus’ name?
  12. Tell Them Good News – yes, there are ways that we can live our lives that speak abundantly of the effects of faith in Jesus, but in the end, ‘how will they hear unless someone tells them?’ This, above all things, is what is at the centre of our calling – “The Kingdom of God is near” ... Jesus is near. Befriend people, bless their socks off, but never forget to introduce your friend and King Jesus to the conversation.
Are there any other things that those verses encourage us to do while living on mission? Which 'tip' strikes you most? Is there something you can do to put it into action today?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Misery - Caught between Justice and Grace

Oh my, what a moving movie is Les Misérables! We saw the London show a number of years ago - Bring Him Home had me a blubbering, inconsolable wreck on that occasion - but I don't think I understood the story until last night. Two strands stood out for me in particular: one was the misery of squalid poverty, eradicated from our contemporary society to a large extent but still very much in existence in other parts of the world. The other was a cadence of 'justice and grace' whispered across the characters and the years.


I probably intended to further develop the thinking above, back in February 2013. But a year later it hasn't happened so I'm publishing a little rather than nothing. Good movie! Must watch the DVD I bought on 'special offer' now it's even cheaper and no longer new...

Blog Re-Booted?

I've been feeling the nudge to get back into blogging. Which I'm sure all of you avid MinisterMoo readers are very excited about. So, watch this space. I'm going to play with the layout and stuff and then might consider posting something.