Living on the front line

Study 11: All in a day's work

“It’s not fair!” How often have you and I heard those words?
These words are common amongst children where one child has something the other doesn’t have or one child has something the other wants.

Then again, as adults, we have a kind of pecking order over things we feel entitled to. Even if we have reservations about putting emotions, feelings or attitudes into words – a vengeful look or an act of petty spitefulness usually suffices. What we’re really doing is saying “it’s not fair.”

Study 10: Facing the future

A crossroads presents us with a difficult choice. Do we turn to the right or to the left, move straight on or do we retrace our steps?
earth handsSpiritually speaking we will arrive at the crossroads from time   to time - perhaps more frequently than we might be prepared to admit. If our faith is dynamic, growing and reflective we should expect those "stop, look, listen and move on" moments: we might even come to welcome them.

Stopping causes us to re-evaluate our priorities and to (perhaps) re-orientate our direction of travel. It's an opportunity to renew our communication with God if it's been a bit fitful, as well as to reconsider and even restate our key goals and purposes.  God is always doing a new work in the lives of those who commit to following Him but He delivers that in the tried and trusted ways and with the everlasting love that reflects His true nature.

Study 8: Christ or culture?

Who or what is the greatest influence on your life?
Values and pictures
Are you more concerned about following God than you are about what your friends might think? Or, does your inbuilt desire to fit in override your (very real) concerns about the cultural standards you are expected to conform to?

We’re pulled every which way. The invitation to embrace all that the world has to offer is tempered by the clarity of the bible’s moral compass. How though do we make sure that we cross the right lines, with the appropriate motives to the correct ends?

Study 5: The choice is yours

Railway trackWhen you leave the building what do you take with you?

I’m not talking umbrellas on rainy days here nor smart suits for job interviews. It’s more of an attitude thing: what are we like and what values do we take into everyday life.

Leaving a building is more than simply going out the door. It’s a step into a different world often far removed from our place of safety (home or church). We may be going out like lambs amongst wolves (Luke 10:3) but, whatever the circumstances, it will mean that our values will be on the line if we are to remain true to ourselves.

Study 3: How do I share my faith?

Faith is not a spectator sport. We learn from the example of others and from the teachings of the bible it’s true, but discipleship involves a lot more than watching (observation) and waiting (reflection).

Faith Share
True discipleship means that we follow God’s will and live by His standards. We’re involved in His mission and we’re committed to His cause. As a result, the attitudes we adopt and the way we live, will be (or should be) markedly different from those values generally adopted by wider society.

In a media rich age, communication takes many forms and all of them have been used, at one time or another, to explain the gospel. How, though, do we take our explanation of Jesus’ love beyond the level of personal example? How might we put our experience of Christ into very simple and straightforward terms that becomes both understandable and attractive to our friends?

Study 1: How can I know God?

Standing on the mountain top and looking around is a great way of seeing where the road ahead might be leading. The thing is, we’ll get nowhere unless we come down from the heights and set off on the road into 2018 and beyond.

We grow more from participation than we do from observation. It isn’t enough, though, just to dip our toes in the spiritual water - perseverance (keeping on) is a means by which we get closer to Christ. Not controlled by our past but learning through experience, we look forward with single minded purpose to where Christ is leading us.

Study 9 - Faith in a confused climate

Living as God intends isn’t paying lip service to a cause: it is committing who we are and everything we do to Christ.
confusionNothing is beyond God’s reach and no element of our life is to be excluded from His rule. How, though, do we know what God wants? Given the many possibilities on offer, what is the correct decision to make and the right thing to do?

It’s even more confusing when, side by side with the competing challenges of a materialistic (secular) culture, the church does not always seem to be speaking with one voice. That should make us think really hard about what we believe and consider how we could behave even on issues which are of secondary importance.

Study 6: Where are we going?

Picture1Pearly Gates (a way in not a cockney whelk seller). Blue sky. White fluffy clouds. Haloes and white kaftans.

Renaissance artists really do have a lot to answer for. Ok I know it’s not easy laying on your back painting the ceiling but I sometimes wonder why they didn’t stick to their equivalent of Trade Matt White emulsion instead of trying to explain the bible in big pictures.

Their vision of heaven (for that is what this is all about) has coloured the thinking – and, dare I say it – twisted a fair bit of the church’s theology down the years. As a result, we’ve lost sight of the real heaven even if we know why we’re going there and how we’ll arrive at our destination.

Study 4: Living faith - Sharing Christ

Elvis may have left the building but are you ready to leave too? 

sharing_is_caring.jpgFor too long the church has cultivated a siege mentality when what we really need to recognise is that we are in a battle where the fight needs to be taken to the enemy.

It is not a question of overcoming opposition by constructing the strongest defences, it is a call to arms to take the fight out of the building and onto the front line.

Study 2 - How can I grow up?

Rights: we all like to stand our ground or fight our corner for our deepest convictions or for those we love the most. Without that kind of dogged determination, we’d have few of the freedoms we associate with our modern world.

Rights do not stand alone.  If we are to be true citizens, our identity will be determined by the privileges and responsibilities we share, alongside the rights we have fought so fiercely for and (occasionally) so vehemently demand.

Citizenship seems an antiquated concept today when we all live very individual lives. Yet the very heart of citizenship touches on our very identity – who we really are and what makes us tick. It’s a helpful picture when we consider our spiritual development: no longer citizens of this world, our responsibility and privileges reflect our identity in Christ and our call to become the church as we grow and learn together.