Archive | Challenges RSS feed for this section

God 52 – Week Thirty Six (3/9/13)

5 Sep

Yep, we’re late again. But there’s a really good reason for that – both halves of the God 52 machine have started new jobs this week. (For more details, search around the interwebs.) And I think I can speak on behalf of both of us when I say that we’re both really excited about what we’re stepping in to. 

There’s something brilliant about starting something new…

36: Start something new

It could be a hobby, an activity, a diet, an area of ministry, a discipline, maybe even a new job (please don’t quit your job and blame u), but use the start of September (I’m a youth worker and a football fan, this is the real new year) to dive into something new, something that feeds you, something that energizes you, something that gets you out of bed in the morning.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of praying for friends to know and experience the love of God; if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Thirty Five (27/8/2013)

29 Aug

We all (and by ‘we’ I mean those of us who define ourselves as Christians) want our friends to know the love of God for themselves, right? I trust we’re not so fragmented a body that we can’t all agree on that one.

Yet if that’s what we want, how much of our time do we actually invest in helping that to happen? Perhaps the answer to that is actually ‘a lot’. Perhaps you spend a lot of your time performing practical acts of love for others which reflect God’s love for them. And if so, great.

This week’s challenge isn’t about that though. This week we’re not thinking about what we can do, but how we can pray for those same friends. This week, we’re going to be disciplined to pray regularly for those friends:

35: Write down the names of three friends, and begin praying for each of them to know and experience the love of God.

For some of us, that’s a lot harder than performing practical acts (for others of us it’s a lot easier). Still, the parable of the persistent widow demonstrates that God is persuaded to act when we petition him in prayer. So this week, let’s show some persistence for those who we long to see in relationship with God. Let’s not just talk, think or tweet about praying for our friends – let’s actually do it.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of praying for friends to know and experience the love of God; if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

God 52 – Week Thirty Four (20/8/2013)

20 Aug

I just moved house and, whenever I move or pack I discover one thing – I’m a hoarder. (Martin has already covered some of this in week fifteen). Me and my girlfriend went through mountains of clothes, many of which I haven’t worn or even remembered for years, and yet whenever she went to chuck anything away my response was the same – ‘Yeah, but what if…’

‘What if?’ I think this might be one of the more damaging statements we can define ourselves by.  When Jesus sent off the disciples to go and do stuff (technical theological term) he said, ‘Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.’

I imagine the response went something like -‘Woah, but Jesus…’ ‘Did you misunderstand that? DID I STUTTER?’ ‘No, but what if…?’

BOOM. There it is. What if…?

I’m beginning to realise that following Jesus is about letting go of our ‘what  ifs’ and embracing the risk-taking, terrifying, uncertain, world-changing life to the full that he offers. So here’s this week’s challenge…

34: Get rid of a safety net

Right, key youth work point – some safety nets are good. Others are not. Get rid of the ones that are holding you back. This is pretty vague but hopefully as you read this something is popping into your head. That will (hopefullly) be God. Job’s-a-good’un.

We’re always on the look out for guest bloggers. If you’d like to write a guest post this week on getting rid of safety nets or risk taking, please read our writing guidelines, then drop Martin an email.

God 52 – Week Thirty Three (13/8/2013)

13 Aug

unplugThis week, many of my friends will be heading to an inevitably-soggy field in Shepton Mallet for the Soul Survivor youth festival. I’m not going this year (feel my pain), as my heavily-pregnant wife would not be blessed by six days of unassisted bath-times and bedtimes for our three other little smashers. So instead, I’m able to spend the week reflecting on what I’ve previously learned from attending what I’ve found to be a fantastic event.

Last year, I felt God speak to me during the sung worship at the event. I was really enjoying the experience – it’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by 10,000 enthusiastic teenagers, jumping up and down and shouting ‘whoa-oa-oa’ (surely the primal cry of the great psalmists). But what I felt God might be asking me was this: ‘it’s great that you enjoy worshipping me like this… but is this all worship is?’ It gave me pause as I considered that question. Do I just perform acts of worship, or do I live a life of worship?

The spiritual discipline of worship is about making a hundred different choices, every day, to honour and step closer to God, rather than making a movement in the opposite direction. Worship and sin are polar opposites, and as we navigate each day, we choose to point, in everything we do, toward one pole or the other. So this week’s challenge is about developing an awareness of our choices – to either worship God, or ignore and reject him, in the minute details of our day.

33: Worship God this week through the way you live, not just through singing

If you’re at the Soul Survivor festival this week, you might find this challenge particularly helpful – but wherever you are, see it as an opportunity to become more aware of your decisions, and how God might feel about them.

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

God 52 – Week Thirty Two (6/8/2013)

6 Aug

laughter1(Warning, this first thought  sounds far more self-important and pompous than it actually is.) Sometimes the most spiritual acts are the most natural ones. Example – I spent a lot of time in the last week visiting friends I hadn’t seen in a while, laughing with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, driving between friends I hadn’t seen in a while.

If we don’t acknowledge these relationships as being spiritual then we lose so much of what these relationships have to offer. We’re created as inherently relational beings, ones who crave love. Ones who want to be known, to be secure and, perhaps most crucially, to enjoy. And God is in the midst of that.

So this week’s challenge might be the most fun one yet.

32: Carve out some intentional time with good friends.

Sound easy? Good. Enjoy it.

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

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.

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.