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Moments | Psalms 63:6-8

I lie awake thinking of you, 

Meditating on you through the night. 

because you are my helper, 

I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

 I cling to you; 

 your strong right hand holds me securely.

Moments | Philippians 4:8

And now, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Everything isn’t about us….

A few years ago, Templeway Church began with moments spent with God in our living room dreaming, listening, reading and sharing conversations with friends.

It has been hugely difficult at times. We have struggled personally in the face of mounting responsibilities. Leading a community has often required tangible expressions of this dream in order for it to feel alive and we were constantly learning in reverse, struggling to frame this vision.

In the wave of all of this, sometimes God’s voice would become small and insignificant, sometimes we cheated by depending solely on our own abilities and charm. There have been so many moments where God has literally torn us from the edge, reminding us of his presence, whispering to us his all consuming love for a heart that is humble and willing to listen.

This morning my simple prayer for you is that as you navigate the path you are on, you will pause to listen, you be humble to receive, you be gracious when filled with God’s power and you will come alive when used as a channel of God’s love.

It is only then that you will be able to see and experience God’s power to change lives and transform hearts. I love that.

Jesus, Fireflies and Bonfires- Part 3

Who doesn’t love a good story?

As a boy I grew up in the countryside and in the absence of video games, mobiles phones and the internet I regularly had moments with friends where we would sit in wonder with the sound-effects of crickets and the soft glow of fireflies all around us, listening to rich stories. We covered our faces, we cried, we shouted when things got exciting. I was involved in the physicality of the story. My mind was always alive, imagining the scenarios.

But what makes a story epic?
I know for many people a great story is all about the plot. What is the sequence of things that are important? For others a good story is sometimes about the rules. What commands are important. What is the secret code that needs to be unlocked perhaps? Maybe a good story is all about me. It’s about my personal enrichment; so we ask ourselves questions like,

1. How can I live a better life.
2. What are some of the things that are important for me like, being financially stable, building a better home, being successful in the things I put my hands to.

In my last two posts we’ve looked at Jesus’ story in Luke 10 and over that time I started to realise something very important. The more I think about it, the more I see that what makes up a good story is actually not the bit parts. For example, any really good storyteller knows that the most important thing in the whole wide world is for the writer to have the ability to bring us the readers into the story.

That we feel the emotions.
That we get caught up in the rhythms
That we identify with the main characters in the drama.

A classic example is music. I loved buying CDs . I know today the mention of CDs sounds like a millions years ago. But there was something pretty special about it. The best bit for me was always sitting down, opening the package (that’s right, the package), taking off the wrapper and just looking at it. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 1998. Classic example. I remember sitting there looking at the artwork and thinking about how creative the artist was. It didn’t stop there. Inside the cover, was this sleeve that had every thing there is to know about the singer.

Who was in their band
Who was the producer
and very soon, beyond anything you could ever get for 99p, you were invited to listen, to dream and immerse yourself into the story of the creator.

I think so it is with God.
This story offers us the opportunity to taste and experience God. It’s so sad that sometimes all off that goodness gets lost because we make this story about other things;

Like plots and sequences. We’re always searching for the most important bits we should follow or that is more relevant for us. For others the story of God is all about rules. There’s this interest in questions that asks ,”what should we do? What should we not do? Sometimes, we believe with all our hearts that this story is all about us. It’s about Joel. How can I be a better leader. Perhaps I can be better by studying more, by being more disciplined? Our lives suddenly becomes this never ending battle where we try to frame all the bits of Gods grand story to our tiny human DNA. We’ve seen this so many times in mankind’s history where in the end – we end up all sweaty and edgy because we are constantly fighting for our corner to be recognised as supremely important.

What I absolutely love about God’s story is simply this.
This story has never been about us
This story is about God
We are not the subject.
We don’t need to invite God to anything
God has always been here
And all God asks, is that you and I immerse ourselves in it.
That you BE a part of what God is doing.

I want to return to that time, of the immersive story. The story that requires us to be still and know. A story that is connective, tangible. A living and breathing story. It’s a story that invites us to be active participants in a drama that is bigger than us. A story that is way bigger than our ambitions. To perhaps stop, break bread, eat. To care, to be unafraid to sit with those who’s stories are vastly different to our own.

This is the story I want to telL
What about you?

Jesus, Secrets and Lies- Part 2

Okay confession.

One of the things  I fear more than life itself is the thought of letting people down. It’s one of those relics that has stayed with me from a time when I had very little control over my life. Growing up, I lived in an environment that was built on a lot of pain; physically and emotionally; and so one of the ways I learned to cope was by presenting a picture of emotional wellness that was actually really really far from reality.  Just the possibility of being seen in someones eyes as less of a person was super difficult and so whenever I found myself  in a conversation with someone, I always imagined this other Joel standing there smiling, with  a sort of glassy  tension behind his eyes and a restrained painful laugh that was reactive, but incredibly hollow.

I’ve literally spent most of my life always mentally cutting and editing my conversations before they went  LIVE.  I was always very noticeably thinking of the next step, always straining  to keep this virtual reality version of myself public so the real me can be safe and hidden from everyone. I didn’t want to be found out to be this broken insecure guy.

Over the last few months I have been so privileged to sit and eat with so many friends, listening to their stories. It’s been amazing because I’ve also realised that I am not as alone as I thought. This planet is full of people who themselves have this constantly unfolding narrative that is intensely personal, rich and powerful, but like me a lot of folks simply see these stories as dirty, shameful  and beyond understanding; and so those narratives remain untold.

For example, my friend Michael. For years he silently felt that the only option in this life was to live disconnected from his family and friends. He believed with all his heart that his story did not matter. One day Michael realised that his narrative, his life, was simply too much. He was literally on the edge of making a decision that was so absolutely final that in the blink of an eye he was in danger of disappearing forever. He believed that the world would’ve been happier for it.  I will share with you what I shared with Michael.

Remember last week in Jesus, Pizza and Community we talked about how Jesus in Luke had this process he used a lot with the people he met.  In chapter 10 he sent out his apostles or messengers telling them,

 “When you enter a town and are received, eat what is  set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’

I mentioned that Step one was, Eat with people — eat their food; listen to their story. Today step two is simply this; As you eat; Heal, which is all about your story.

The truth is, your story is so important. These stories teaches us important lessons about being caring, about love, patience, hope for you, hope for our neighbours, hope for all mankind. Not only are the fairytale ending stories important; but so are the stories of the good, the bad; Stories of injustice and of justice. That divorce you went through is important. The abuse you and I suffered, the challenges you are going through right now; are important stories. They are all important because you’re important to God.

So step one: Eat-eat their food, listen to their story
Step two: as you eat heal-share your story
and finally as you heal say: The kingdom of God is at your doorstep which is all about God’s story. We will talk about that more next week.

Oh by the way! Michael is doing fine. See you next week…..

You can also see the video for this blog here. Jesus, secrets and lies