Monday, 29 March 2010

Relationships 5 Tuesday Blog (The last in this 5 part series)


The Principal of Judgment

I am sure you must have often heard that frequently quoted phrase; ‘You mustn’t judge!’ When questioned, people will quote the bible verse saying ‘Judge not, or you will be judged’. Actually it does not say that, what is says is ‘be careful of your judgments, of how you judge, because the way that you judge others will be the way that you are judged.’ It goes on to say, ’how can you take a speck of dust out of someone’s eye when you have a great big plank of wood jutting out of yours.’

The fact is we all have weaknesses and strengths, and in the body of Christ it is good to collectively use each others strengths. But we must also help each other in our various weaknesses, and to some extent that will involve judgement on what is weak, what is strong, what is good and what is bad. I am not talking here about sin’ that is rebellion. I believe if we love God we don’t really want to live in rebellion, but we do make mistakes, we do have weak areas, some which are simply practical things. For example, if you are trying to book an appointment with me I will often ask you to speak to my wife, I don’t know why it is but booking dates is one of my weaknesses. I can book myself into meetings on three continents, with only 10 minutes between appointments and often see no conflict. It’s not helpful to say ‘that’s a weakness, I don’t do that’ I need to protect those who are booking appointments but I also need to try and improve that area, and I am, trying that is.

Often we are guilty of judging others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We give ourselves credit when things go wrong by saying ‘well my intentions were good’. The fact that we didn’t achieve what we were attempting is passed over because we had good intentions. The flip side is that we often do not extend the same judgement to others. Instead, we judge the action or the outcome of the action and never bring intentions into the equation. Funny that!

Some years ago, our leadership team set up a meeting with a group of people because we wanted to discuss with them their situation. They were people we wanted to help, but we were unsure about how to do this. They had ongoing problems which usually led them into bad situations. We were honest with them; we told them we wanted to help but did not know what to do next. Some of them got mad with us and said they didn’t have a problem, one or two broke down in tears and said ‘please tell us what to do, we want to change.’ Guess who got the best out of that situation.

Real relationships, real friendships must mean that we tell each other the truth, not because we want to hurt or destroy, but because we want the best for each other, we want our friends to succeed and to reach their potential. Dr. Donald Howard said, ‘Discipline is not something you do to someone, it is something you do for someone.’ In the words of scripture Father God says that he only discipline those he loves, lack of discipline indicates lack of love.
That’s all very well, but I am sure, like me, you have been in those situations when someone approaches you and tells you that they need to talk to you, and you can tell from their tone and their body language that they are going to put you right. Which they do, and for good measure, they tell you that they are only doing this because they love you. But you don’t feel loved, and perhaps like me, you wish you had metaphorically reached for your tin hat and bullet proof vest, because you know you are about to ‘get it’. The truth is we need to get to know someone, really know them as a true friend, in a real relationship before this type of conversation can be effective, fruitful and as pain free as possible. It is only within real and loving relationships that we can properly hear those hard things, and even then it’s not easy.

I know my wife loves me, but if she wants to ‘put me right’ then I have to swallow hard and listen, then agree that, yes, she is right, and something needs to change. But I am more likely to try to change because the words have come from someone with whom I have a real relationship, rather than someone who smothers their correcting punch with the pretence of doing it in love. The basic problem is that even if they are correct in their judgement, because I am not in loving friendship relationship with them, or them with me, it is going to be very hard for me to receive it.

I like to think of it in this way, that we ‘earn the right to speak’. Many years ago I lived in the north of England, in the church community there was a lady who was very hard to get on with, she was quite gruff in her approach to almost everyone. As I got to know her, I discovered she had a soft heart inside and a willingness to try to help make my life easy in whatever way she could. She was still gruff, but looking past that gruffness I discovered her heart, her intentions. Many times people said to me, ‘Why do you listen to her? You even try to do what she asks; she is such a difficult person, why do you do that?’ My response was always the same, ‘I know her, I know that she really cares, that’s what makes the difference, I know she wants the best for me, and that’s what counts.’ We had formed a real relationship, she had earned the right to speak and because of our friendship, I could hear what she said.

God loves us too much to want to leave us as we are, he plans change for our lives. To activate that change he uses our collectiveness to bring it about, our love for one another, our good judgement of one another, our willingness to care for each other. As we care for others, we also care how we affect others, and we want to change bad habits and wrong directions. But for this to work effectively there must be real friendship and real love, this is how people will know you are my disciples because you have Love for one another!

Adrian Hawkes
For Ourlab
21st February 2010
Editor A. Brooks

Sunday, 28 March 2010

My No.5 Relationship Blog will be with you Tue. its the Tuesday Blog, read all 5 and tell me what you think

Monday, 22 March 2010

Relationships 4 The Tuesday Blog


The Principal of First priority

We have talked about meetings and the reason for them. Now let’s now take a look at what I call the ‘principal of first priority’. What is the most important command for people who follow Jesus? We have discussed other commands, for example the need to love one another. But what is the first priority, or primary command? It is that ‘we seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’ and with this command is a reward, God says, I know that you need lots of other things, but seek me first, and everything else will follow on.

I used to think that there was no difference between the Kingdom and the church; I have strongly changed by views on that. Seeking the Kingdom is not the same as seeking church. Someone recently said, “The Kingdom is a dynamic greater than the church. If you pursue the church you won’t find the Kingdom, but if you pursue the Kingdom you will find the church.” (Simon Markham with adaptations from Howard Snyder) God is at work in his world; the Kingdom has come, although not yet in it’s fullness, but it is here, and has broken into this time-space world. We have the ability to pull down handfuls of his Kingdom that can impact and change situations.

I appreciate that is a bold statement, that we can grab a handful of the Kingdom. Let me give you a couple of examples to help you understand what I mean. Sometime ago one of our leadership team came home very tired, we were due to go to a meeting together that evening, but when I looked at him closely I could see he had had a bad day. I asked about his day, had it been tough? He told me it had been terrible, one of his colleagues had been sacked, blamed for not completing a task for an important project. I asked, innocently if he believed that his colleague was at fault. My friend told me ‘No, it was not his fault at all.’ I asked ‘Did you speak up for him?’ He told me ‘You don’t understand, if I had done that, perhaps I would have been blamed and I would have lost my job.’ My response was blunt, ‘You missed out on doing what we are supposed to do as first priority, ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’. My friend was not happy with my response, but I needed to say what I believe to be right, I needed to state where it’s at!

What we know as The Lords Prayer gives us a clue to what the Kingdom looks like. That is helpful, as we need to know what we are seeking. The prayer says ‘your Kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ From my perspective, heaven, or where the rule of the Kingdom of God is will be a place where there is justice, righteousness, peace, love goodness and wholeness. Therefore, it follows that if we see those things missing on earth, we need to ‘seek the Kingdom’. My friend could have grabbed a handful of Kingdom, he could then have sprinkled justice and righteousness into the meeting, but he was afraid.

Here is another example, for many years my wife and I fostered children. One of the young ladies we fostered had, due to her lies, caused much trouble for social workers, some had even been dismissed. In one of the meetings that regularly take place with Social Services when you are a foster career, I became convinced that the young lady was on the same tack. I strongly believed that she was on a campaign to get the current social worker dismissed, or at the very least, in serious trouble. I was also convinced that what she was saying was untrue.

During the meeting, out of the blue my wife said to the young lady, ‘Does your boyfriend ever do anything wrong’ ‘Yes of course’ she responded quickly. ‘And do you forgive him?’ my wife asked, ‘Of course I do, he’s my boyfriend’. My wife then put the young lady on the spot, ‘Could you, on this occasion, forgive your social worker?’ The girl fidgeted, aware she was cornered, and then looked at the social worker, ‘Yes, I could forgive you.’ At that the meeting concluded, although I noticed a queue of people lining up to ask my wife about this new method of resolving conflict. But it’s not a new method, it just bringing the Kingdom of God into our space time world.

How does this fit into a series of articles on relationships? It troubles me that there are those who think relationship is the be all and end all. Everything hinges on being together, so a lovely shared dinner, in a cosy environment, is the sum total of life. We meet because we meet and that is all there is, that is the point of everything.

I believe relationships are incredibly important, perhaps the most important thing of all. But surely we ought to be together for something? What about mission? Shouldn’t our relationships be about doing something, seeking The Kingdom? Then we would come together to equip each other, and support each other as we seek The Kingdom. I can already hear some of you retorting ‘Oh how task orientated! How terrible! We just need to chill! We need to learn to be. We are who we are not what we do’ Yes and No. Who we are often leads on to what we do, and what we do together. If you can, imagine a couple who meet every night, but never do anything together. Very boring, and I strongly feel the relationship would flounder.

I think we are in this God relationship for a purpose, his purpose. I think all our other relationships also need purpose, his purpose, which ultimately becomes our purpose. And that purpose? To be doers, not just hearers of his words, to be Kingdom seekers in relationship with God and each other.

Adrian Hawkes

For Ourlab Blog

20th February 2010
(Editor A. Brookes)


Monday, 15 March 2010

Relationships 3 The Tuesday Blog


The Principal of the collective
We have looked at the first principals of relationship, now we need to look at how that should work out in practice. Let us look more closely at the issue of collectivism, the coming together of the followers of Jesus. This subject, for some at least, looms large and is discussed widely, the whole action of meeting.
I hear some crazy discussions about meetings which are not sound arguments; are reactionary and emotive, and not based on solid reasoning and good understanding. One phrase I frequently hear is, ‘I love God, I am a Christian, but there is no need for meeting with other Christians.’ A very strange and unhealthy comment which is diametrically opposed to what the bible says, which is ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,’ (Heb 10:24 NIV)
At the opposite end of the scale of the meeting debate is feeling that we have ended up with meetingitus, or meeting for meetings sake. Meetings have become the standard mark of ‘spirituality’. If you are not at the meeting then you must be ‘unspiritual’ whatever that means. What is the purpose of meetings? To comfort preachers who need to see lots of ‘bums of seats’? To make sure that the offering is taken?
I also hear people say, ‘I love God but hate church’. I find this hard to swallow, because the bible says that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5:25 NIV). Although I do have sympathy with some of these expressions and feelings, even though I don’t think that they are well thought through.
A friend of mine asked me if I thought God would tell jokes, I said that as we have a sense of humour then it must have come from somewhere, and I am willing to believe that my friend God has a sense of humour. My friend went on to ask me if I would like to hear one of God’s jokes, of course I agreed and this is what he told me ‘I was at a meeting, and I was due to speak later in the programme. Sitting at the back I was finding the whole event boring, tedious and pointless. I started to chat to God, “Father, this is so awful, I don’t believe that you are even here!” to which God responded, “Son, I am here, omnipresence has its problems!”’
So yes, I do have sympathy for those who get tired of pointless meetings, but another friend of mine has this simple quote with which I wholeheartedly agree, ‘the answer to wrong use is not no use but right use!’

The other problem is our perception of church, which is not the building, but of course you know that don’t you? But then you announce, ‘I am going to church’. How can you do that? You are church. Christians, singly and collectively, are the body of Christ, or church. So you can’t ‘go to church’ you can only be church, but that does not mean that you don’t need to meet!
Why do we need to meet? Quite simply because you cannot form real, long term relationships via Face Book or My Space, although I am sure there are some of you that think you can. I am reminded of the little child who wanted her mother to stay with her at bedtime until sleep arrived. The mother said ‘I can’t, I have lots of work to do, but don’t worry, God is with you all the time.’ The wise child replied, ‘I know that, but at the moment I want someone with skin on!’
Real relationships require contact, real contact between real people, and that includes all of us, with our hang ups, foibles, peculiarities, difficulties and awkwardness, as well as the positive aspects that we all have of being ‘just lovely’.
The development of real love requires that we connect with each other physically, not just over the ether via our favourite social networking site, but with our skin on, in real time. We need to get to know each other, to explore each others needs and to benefit from the gifts that God gives to each of us individually. These gifts strengthen and develop the church, that is, us. Certainly the videos, the blogs, the books, the CDs all have their place, but nothing can totally replace that personal contact, and you cannot get that without meeting.
The final question is what kind of meeting should it be? The answer is very broad, from a formal meeting with a timetable, to an informal ‘let’s see what happens’ meeting, when we worship and pray together. There are ‘learn together’ meetings, ‘share our stories’ meetings and meetings when we just want to be together and provoke one another to LOVE. Then there are the meetings when we just hang out together and have fun. Whatever we do, we don’t want to be meeting just to have a ‘meeting’, the ‘hymn-prayer sandwich’ type meeting, the one I must go to in order to look ‘spiritual’. All the other meetings I have mentioned have a purpose, but no one was proposing anything else were they?

Adrian Hawkes
For our lab Blog
16th February 2010
(Editor A.S. Brookes)
New Tuesday Blog now up a little early...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Relationships 2 The Tuesday Blog


Principal in Action

We have established that being a Christian is not at all the same as being religious. How does that work out in practice, or at least how should it work?

One of the major problems is that over the centuries we have made Christianity much like a religion, perhaps it was Constantine’s fault as much as anyone’s. However, we cannot lay all the blame at his door, it’s time for us to think for ourselves, and if necessary, to change. And if possible, influence others to change. It is vital that we do not accept the ‘norm’, that we don’t maintain the status quo, rather let us be alternative.

Jesus said, ‘This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other..’ (John 13:35 TM)

The word love has some strange connotations in western culture, especially its use in the English language; we love each other, we love our children, we love our boyfriend, and we love tomato ketchup. We use the same word for all of it. When marriage breaks down, we say we have fallen out of love, whatever that means.

The bible talks about the fact that Jesus loved us enough to die for us ‘while we were still sinners’. In other words, while we did not like him, know him or love him, in fact we might very well have been actively rebellious against him. Yet while we were like that, he loved us enough to die for us. That is amazing and real love!

Love, of course, has its emotional element, but ultimately, real love is an act of the will. The love that God has for us, and the way that he wants us to love each other is a love that is consistent and unwavering, a love that keeps on loving even when that love is not returned. For that is how God loves us. That’s hard, I hear you cry! Yes, I agree, that’s why we need that kind of love to be put into us by God. We are not very good at that type of love are we? But we are very good at the namby pamby sort of love that falls away when the emotions fade, the type of love that when tough times come, pops like a soap bubble.

The love that God has for us keeps on flowing even when it is not returned. Let me be clear, that does not mean that in our loving relationships nothing is questioned or challenged, that’s the namby pamby type of love. Real love challenges and does not accept wrong. It does not say in a friendship, ‘because you are my friend, and I love you, I will bless you whatever you do or say, always going along with anything and everything you say and do’. The Bible says that ‘you are blessed when you receive wounds in the house of your friends.’ A strange saying that means friends who truly love you will tell you the truth, and will let you know when they see you going off track, they love you enough to help you get back on the right path.

That’s the theology, the theory, but how does that work out in practice? People often say to me, ‘I have real problems at work or college or school (you fill in the blank) because I am a Christian’. But I think to myself, ‘actually, that is not the case at all, the truth is you are an awkward person, someone who is very difficult to get along with’. I rarely voice that, but nonetheless I think it. From experience I know that voicing it can often make matters much works. I do try to be a little more tactful.

These same people will also say, in the presence of others they perceive to be Christians, ‘God has accepted me as I am so you must too!’ In these instances I usually do have something to say, which is this, ‘Sure, God loved you while you were rebellious and not even liking him, but because he love you so much he does not want to leave you like he found you. His plan is to change you, actually his ultimate plan is to make you like his unique son Jesus, and to do that he uses your friends as well as his Holy Spirit. These change elements, over time, will rub off your rough edges, and I will not let you cop our by trying to stay as difficult as you are at the moment.’

If we are going to have real love in our relationships, then we will carefully correct each other, giving and receiving advice and guidance in love. But this correction tactic is to be use gently and wisely and not as a weapon. Sometimes, when a so-called friend says, ‘I love you but…..’ You know it’s time to swiftly don that tin hat! We must earn the right to speak, before we can speak we need to know that person, understand the path they are walking, recognise their struggles and avoid a judgmental heart at all costs. Our example is Jesus; he showed us he loved us long before he brought about any change. That showing must come before the telling!

We need that 70 x 7 approach to forgiveness that Jesus speaks about.

I also think we need faith. It’s odd how much easier it is to have faith for stuff like money, cars, jobs and events but so very hard to have faith that people can change and be different. But we need to have that expectant faith, that God can and will do new things in our friends, as much as we need to have faith that God can change us.

That’s all it takes, let’s start having God’s love in our relationship. Let our love for others be so clear that no-one will be in any doubt that we are his followers.

Adrian Hawkes
14th February 2010
(Valentines Day)
For Ourlab blog
Editor A. Brookes
Well I have not put up new Blogs for a while but they are there now check it out.