Archive | July, 2013

Some thoughts on submission, by Tania Vaughan

31 Jul

This week’s challenge is all about submission – but that word might not quite mean what you think (or fear) it means… Here, Tania Vaughan writes about how Peter’s struggle to submit to God, sometimes mirrors her own…

Tania Vaughan2As disciplines go, this is probably the one I find most difficult; giving control over and submitting to God is probably my biggest struggle and I see some of that struggle in the life of Peter.

A refusal of cleansing. In John 13:8 Peter refused Jesus washing His feet, he was refusing the love and service that Jesus wanted to give Him. There are times when I refuse God’s correction, discipline, cleansing or care because I feel I’m not worthy of having His love and grace poured over me. Jesus told Peter that without this act He could have no part with Him and when I refuse to let God in to cleanse me it puts a strain on my relationship with Him.

The fear of getting it wrong. Matthew 14:28-29 is often used as a wonderful example of stepping out in faith but it also reminds me, that sometimes I think that if I take control the it’s less likely to go wrong.  When I see/hear God I step out in faith just like Peter stepped out of the boat, but then thinking I see the plan I start rushing forward without being prepared, I take my eyes off of Jesus and then things start going wrong, like Peter, I start sinking. Submitting isn’t about jumping in feet first, there is a submission in being quiet and still, waiting on God, listening and allowing Him to prepare me for the next step.

A plan that makes no sense. I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and every step in between, God doesn’t! God shows the next step, no final destination and no big plan laid out. Sometimes the next step makes no sense whatsoever! Like Peter in Matthew 16:22 I find myself having a word with God about what He thinks He’s doing and pointing out that this next step He seems to be focused on is pointless and unnecessary. When we focus on what makes sense in the here and now, we can miss out on a vital step to something great that God wants to do; we become our own stumbling block.

Stepping forward. At times we need to refuse, we need to fail and to fear, all so that we can learn that actually to truly move forward we have to submit. Submission is not about giving up or giving in, it’s about moving into a deeper relationship and accepting what God wants to give. Peter did all of these things and he learned and he grew and then he went out and fulfilled his God given ministry.

Tania Vaughan is a wife, mother, writer, speaker and “above all else a cherished child of God just trying to be faithful in a mixed up world to the call to share and encourage others in their walk”. Tania blogs at www.taniavaughan.com; follow her on Twitter @TaniaJVaughan 

God 52 – Week Thirty-One (30/7/2013)

30 Jul

One of the key elements of God 52 is exploring the Spiritual Disciplines, and how they can integrate practically with modern life. Some of them are more obvious or well-known than others; some feel easier than others to accommodate in 2013. If there’s one discipline however that fails to sit well in either of those categories, it’s the discipline of submission.

Submission is a very loaded word, immediately conjuring up images of oppressive patriarchs, over-bearing husbands or even slaves willingly conceding to their masters. In the context of the spiritual disciplines however, Submission doesn’t mean any of these things. Instead, it’s the working-through of Jesus’ challenge that ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’

Practicing submission is simply choosing to put the needs, joys and ambitions of others ahead of our own. It’s about considering, every day, how we can make ourselves ‘the very last’; to prefer our friends, our families, and even our enemies above ourselves.

In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster suggests seven ‘directions’ in which we can practice submission. Some of them are much easier than others- all involve personal sacrifice, self-discipline, and doing things we probably wouldn’t choose to. So we submit:

  • To God… being able to say to God: I’ll go where you want me to go, not just in the big things like where we choose to live or work, but in the minutia of every day.
  • To the Bible… making a lifelong commitment to reading and – through the intervention of the Spirit – understanding the Bible better, so that we might then be informed in every decision about the way of God.
  • To our family… we submit to our parents as we honour them, just as God commands Moses. As adults, we submit to our wives and husbands out of reverence for Christ, and thus look to ‘die’ for one another in the way that He ultimately loved the church.
  • To our neighbours… because true community is about seeing that no-one goes without. It is about stepping out of the isolation of our own homes, and recognising that we should ‘do life’ with the people whom we live alongside.
  • To the church… an intrinsic part of God’s rescue plan for the world – so we must learn to submit to it. Giving ourselves, and our resources to the local church – even when we don’t agree with every matter of style or policy – is a vital aspect of the discipline of submission.
  • To the broken… The Bible is literally overflowing with references to the poor, and to the imperative for God-followers to serve them. This is perhaps the most intuitive application of Jesus command for us to become ‘the very last’ – we are even to submit ourselves to those the world would value least of all.
  • To the world… In one of the most extraordinary passages in the New Testament, John 13: 1-17, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This is not about who they are – it is all about who He is. And Jesus really wants us to understand that this picture is for us to replicate. So for all of us, young and old, the discipline of submission requires us to ask: what does it mean to wash the feet of the world?

Submission is compelling because it points to and models the way of the crucified Christ. It requires us to ask, what does it really mean to live out Jesus’ words in Luke 9: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’

This week’s challenge then:

31: Choose to put first the needs and priorities of a group, individual or institution that you find it difficult to practice submission to.

Sound difficult? Of course it does. Persevere anyhow – and may God draw closer to you as a result.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of submission – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Thirty (23/7/2013)

25 Jul

2000px-Flag_of_South_Africa_SADCWebsiteI was in South Africa last week. I wrote a bit about it here, and that was the inspiration for this week’s challenge. I’ll copy and paste a bit of it, but take two minutes and read the whole thing. There’s a hilarious anecdote and some confusing imagery.

Here’s the crux of it  –

It wasn’t the poverty that struck me in South Africa.  What struck me was just how divided the nation still is. Apartheid is over, black people are, legally, equal with their white counterparts, but it remains a divided country. In the township we worked in we didn’t see another white face for the six days we were there. In the white town, Delmas, where we went to church on the day before work began, we barely saw anyone who wasn’t white. These two communities are a few miles apart. During the Sunday service the pastor alluded to the fact that many of the congregation would have never entered the township before, and would have no plans to ever do so. Throughout our week there white people were telling us of the challenge and provocation that our trip was providing while black people thanked us for showing them that white people do care.

To be honest, going to South Africa to tell kids about Jesus and build houses was, dare I say it, easy. Had I been asked to go and do the same on the local council estate, or with those people down the road, or that family I don’t get on with, I’d have found it a lot more difficult. Our segregation might not be as obvious as it was in Delmas but it still exists. 

 

I write a bit more about it on the Youthwork website, check it out. But here’s the challenge –

30: Cross a boundary (social, economic, whatever) that you wouldn’t normally cross to engage in the mission of God.

It could be as easy as buying a homeless person a cup of tea or talking to your local conservative party representative. Whatever you feel your mission is currently restricted by – ignore that restriction.

Got it? Good. Off you go.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on this subject – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Twenty-nine (16/7/2013)

16 Jul

fireworksOne of the main focuses of God52 is the Spiritual Disciplines; the ancient tools by which we try to draw closer to God. When we think of the disciplines, we might immediately picture someone fasting, or sitting in total silence for a prolonged period. We may not immediately think of the discipline of celebration.

That’s right. Fun is a spiritual discipline. Party is a principle of the Kingdom of God. We aren’t just followers of the man who died on a cross; we’re a Resurrection People. We have much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate. Learning to celebrate our life and our faith is an important part of the Christian journey. So this week, we’re giving ourselves an opportunity to practice it:

29: Celebrate with someone

Celebration is defined by Richard Foster as one of the corporate disciplines; meaning we don’t just practice it on our own, but in community. So see this week as a great opportunity to organise a celebration with friends, relatives or members of your community. You don’t need a reason – just create a space where you can encourage, build up and enjoy one another.

Remember – party is a principle of the Kingdom! Let’s extend the Kingdom of God this week!

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of celebration – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Twenty-eight (9/7/2013)

10 Jul

????????????????????????????????So, after a week’s amnesty and a week spent reflecting – God 52 is back with a new challenge, and it’s only (?!) one day late. Sorry about that. Anyway, a lot of the challenges to date have involved doing things, often spiritual disciplines, on our own. And this is all well and good, but wouldn’t it be nice to do something with someone else? Well, as we’re feeling generous…

28: Spend an hour praying with someone else.

Pretty simple this one, but valuable. If you’re anything like me you get far less distracted when praying in a group. You could use the time to pray for an issue or person that you’re both concerned about, praying for each other, or just spending time listening to God. It could be someone doing God 52 already, someone who’s never heard of it, or someone who’d like to get involved. It could be in person, down the phone, on skype. Basically, however you want to do it – do that.

Simple enough. Off you go.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of prayer – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

Some reflections on… reflection by Nick Parish

8 Jul

Writing in response to our recent challenge on reflection, Nick Parish looks forward and back, and risks encouraging his inner eeyore…

eeyoreWhat a perfect invitation. “This week we’re going to invite you to make a new half-year resolution – and get back on the God52 wagon…”

Last week’s amnesty was good (though in all honesty, I could do with a couple more weeks of amnesty…) and a chance to reassess. So this week’s invitation to recommit was timely.  Because it reminds me that being a Christian and living for Christ doesn’t simply require one decision. It requires daily choices being made.  It asks me to commit myself through words and actions day after day after day. In the week that Andy Murray won Wimbledon, it’s also worth remembering that the daily commitment to something, whilst demanding, can also bring rewards. We are doing these weekly challenges not just for the sake of it, but to draw closer to God.

And so I have devoted some time to reflecting.  Looking back and looking forward. In the process of reflecting, I wrote two headings:  “Stuff I’ve achieved” and “Stuff to come”. I wrote a couple of things down under each heading, glanced back at the challenge and realised my mistake (one I make all too easily). The challenge wasn’t, in fact, to chart my personal successes over the first six months of the year, it was to consider “what God has done in your life”. So I rewrote the first heading and had another crack at reflecting on it.  The fact of the matter is, the best things I achieve tend to be the ones that God and I work on together. Raising my boys (which is my main role) is the greatest thing we’ve worked on together. I often don’t get it right, but that doesn’t mean I give up, it just requires recommitting to it. The last six months have been one quarter of Luke’s entire life. That’s hugely significant for him, surely. But only in reflecting on the last six months has that been brought home to me.

As I continued to reflect, there was the ongoing danger of seeing my life through Eeyore’s eyes. With this sort of exercise, I find myself more likely to take a gloomy approach than a cheery one. But God has been working in my life over the last few months, and taking time to notice where is such a valuable exercise. It reminds me that I am not alone. It reminds me that my personal triumphs are not the be-all and end-all; life is bigger than that. Reflecting also excites me about the future. The coming six months will have some challenges, without a doubt. But they’ll have plenty of opportunity to grow closer to Him, to serve Him through the things that I prioritise. There will be a direct link between my commitment and my growth. This may or may not be visible in the coming months, but by taking time to reflect, I’m reminded that God has been good, and will be good in the future. Some things never change.

Nick Parish is a stay at home Dad who’s slowly learning that this fact doesn’t need to be justified by adding things like, ‘I’m writing a book’, and ‘I’m a Special Constable with Derbyshire Police’ (though both these facts are true…)  He is married to Anna, who runs the boarding house in which they live, and they have two boys, Joshua and Luke. Check out his blog and catch him on Twitter.

God 52 – Week Twenty-seven (2/7/2013)

2 Jul

rebootAfter last week’s amnesty – this week we’re going to invite you to make a new half-year resolution – and get back on the God52 wagon.

At the beginning of 2013, Jamie and I made a decision – throughout this year, we’re both going to try to get closer to God, through practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, acts that express Christian character, and mission activities. Every week we set ourselves a new challenge – and remarkably, lots of people have decided to join in. Through the guest blogs, through social media, and in local church and youth group communities, we’ve seen hundreds of people engage with the idea and adapt it for themselves.

However, if you’re anything like us, you’ll have found the consistency of this difficult at times. In recent weeks we’ve noticed that many people (including us, truthfully), have begun to run out of steam. January feels like a long time ago; December still seems a long way away. So we want to encourage you to join us in a half-year resolution – to get back on the God52 horse, and ride!

Why not make a promise to yourself this week to re-engage with God52? Or, if you’ve never got involved before, why not start now? Here’s your first/27th challenge:

27: Spend an hour reflecting on what God has done in your life over the last six months, and your hopes for the six months ahead.

This is a meditation exercise, so find somewhere quiet, without distractions, and carve out some quality time to rest, think and reflect in the presence of God. You might want to take a Bible with you, and a notebook to jot down anything that strikes you. Try to devote a really good period of time to this exercise, and use it as a springboard for the second half of 2013.

Back on that horse? Great stuff. Here’s to 25 more weeks of God52.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of meditation and reflection – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.