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So… it was never really about me, was it?

One of the things that has struck me anew as we have journeyed together through our preaching series ‘Basics.’ here at The Oak has been that God is God and that we are His people (Exodus 6:7, Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 30:22). Shocking, I know. That a so-called ‘pastor’ should be struck by something so obvious, so biblical, so...basic!  

But hear me out.  

The world I live in, hopefully the same one you do, continually nudges me to think of myself and put myself first.  What I want.  What I need.  What I am doing with MY life.   

However, God blows that way out of the water and surpasses even a hint of its satisfaction, safety and happiness by declaring that we are HIS and that we are a people.  God, the redeemer and restorer, has created us to be His rather than someone else's and to be a people rather than roaming individuals.

You see in being HIS PEOPLE we are fundamentally different from anything else.

1. We are HIS

That means I am not my own and nor are you.  I am His.  I am set apart - out of my own world and it's me-centeredness and into His family.  I have brothers and sisters in Him now - you.  I am grafted into his family - and so are you by the way.  That somehow, through Christ, I have been made His. 

It means that I am free from trying to do it on my own, trying to compete with others, trying to tell the world I am somebody anymore - I am now His. The God of the universe speaks over me and says "huh hum, that one there...Chris...he's mine - hands off!"  

I don't have to fear anything.  I don't have to fear being alone (yes, I struggle with loneliness like many others). I don't have to fear other achievements or successes as if mine might be compared and come up less.

It means I have a refuge in one who is bigger than my situations or the difficulty that hits me in the face on a daily basis.

It means, also, I have to recognise the others in my family - all of them, even if they are unlike me or even if I don't them - and see them as 'In Christ' with me.   

2. We are a people

We, the church, are a people set apart and made holy by God for God.  A people caught up in a mission not to proselytise in some 'evangelistic campaign' but to display the joy of this 'peopleness' to a world that is hungry for something more than 'I'!

It means that in a growing church where there are more and more people in different situations and circumstances in life than me, different ages, different stages in life - I can find joy in places I never thought I could - particularly in those whose life looks different to mine.  

You see I like people like me.  There, I said it.  To be honest, everyone likes people that are like them, in the same life circumstances as them and into the same things as them.  It's easier to connect with people like me.  But the church is not me and is not made up of people like me - praise the Lord - so, I have a choice.

a. Choose to focus on the people like me.  When there are people like me around me I feel good.  When there aren't I feel bad.  I choose to live in my world.

b. Choose to focus on the people God has put me around.  When there are people like me around, joy.  When there are people different to me, joy.

a. is about me.  The world is about me so the church and God have to fit around me.  When I don't like it, it has to change.

b. is about a God.  The world is about God and His people so little 'me' has to fit around what He is doing.  When I don't like it, I have to change.

The difference is profound.  

Sundays become about God and everyone else.  Sundays are really difficult for our family, as they are for many people.  But Sundays aren't about my family.  They are about God and everyone else in the room.  When we come to The Oak on a Sunday morning we are asking each-other and our kids "What is God doing in other people", "how can we partner with God to bless others".  The opportunity to tell everyone else by us simply being there that 'HE IS OUR GOD AND WE ARE HIS PEOPLE' - this is more than me!

Work becomes about God and everyone else.  My career or my profession, my school, college or studies, my volunteering and the use of my time becomes about showing people how amazing they are and how incredible God is.  I am not fighting my own corner, I'm fighting for others.  I love Daniels story in the bible of commitment to the job at hand and commitment to God.  That through his obedience to God, and the honouring of his colleagues, a nation got changed - he also nearly got eaten alive by Lions - but guess what? He knew he was God's and he knew he was part of God's people.  Pharaohs take notice when God's children act in the knowledge that they are His.

Friendships and family get opened up to embrace others.  The perceived prizes of partners, best friends, time alone, kids or **insert your biggest wish** get surrendered to God in a way that doesn't deny the desire for them (or sometimes the pain of the offering) but welcomes others into the story of your life - journeying through the highs and lows together.  When it feels like there is no-one else in your situation, stage of life or circumstances God doesn't appear to call us out, to separate us, but to call us in, to embrace a bigger, more messy and diverse family. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be in a world of me's and in a church full of people like me. 

I am asking God, in response to this 'Basics.' series, to break my heart again for everyone else.  For His power to renew my mind (Romans 12:2) and to catch me up with what He is doing - regardless of who He puts around me.

Chris Mason
9th February 2018

So… it was never really about me, was it?

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Week of Prayer 2018 - Saturday

Variety is the spice of life or so they say, and there is massive variety in the smaller gatherings (Oak Communities) available at The Oak, which unsurprisingly tend to involve some element of food! Whether it’s getting together about a shared passion like FoodBank or Crafty Badgers, or with other people in the area in which you live, there’s plenty to get involved with.

If you’re new to The Oak or seeking to get to know some more people in our Oak family, Oak Communities are a great place to start, you may even pick up a great Life Group along the way.

It’s our passion that The Oak loves and serves not only our church family but also the people God has placed around us who need to know Him. As the Church we should be a source of light and hope to our broken world. Who is God placing on your heart to care for? What gifts and skills has he given you to use in serving others? Take a look at Jesus’ teaching below, what an act of worship and of loving Jesus serving others is;

Matthew 25:34-46 (ESV)

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

For Jesus said of Himself “….the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20 v 28. As we imitate Jesus, let’s desire to bless others and place their needs ahead of our own. Serving from His strength and equipping in love and not for our own gain.

Today let’s spend some time thanking God for those He has called us to serve, for all who serve tirelessly and for all who will find hope and healing in the next year.

Let’s invite His Spirit to highlight people, or activities He wants to give us His passion for, to serve in this season. Let’s seek His equipping with our hearts focussed on Him and His generosity to us, as we ask God to use us to bless others.

Elea Derry
27th January 2018

Week of Prayer 2018 - Saturday

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Prayers of Surrender

As we prepared for a week of prayer I witnessed an incident that has stuck in my mind and helped me understand a little more about the wonderful gift of prayer that we have been given.

The streets and pavements around our home have been icy and unsafe for much of the past month. On a particularly frosty day last week I noticed someone who had decided to tackle the slippery, icy ground but I realised that instead of shovelling the ice off of the ground, he was simply scattering handfuls of grit all over the place. Perhaps this would make the path less slippery for now but I knew that by mid morning it would be a sludgy, gritty mess.

As I walked away I felt a thought drop into my head. “What does this teach me about prayer?”

I thought about it and slowly I recognised how much of the time my prayer life mimics the actions of this well meaning and thoughtful neighbour. Take my parenting, I am struggling in this area so what do I do? I try to keep doing everything that I’m already doing and throw a load of prayer into the mix for good measure. Whether it’s on my knees in the quiet or surrounded by madness, I keep chucking out my thoughts about how I would like God to change me or my children. As the pressure increases, more prayers are scattered around me but somehow the mess just gets bigger. If parenting is the ice then my prayers are like the grit, chucked around willy nilly with great intent but not really addressing the deeper problem.

So how do I go deeper, how can I reach for my metaphorical shovel when I am praying about my parenting?

This requires a deeper truth and a deeper surrender. I have to give up my parenting to the One who gave it me to do in the first place. I need to surrender my desire to succeed or do a good job and trust that the One who created my life and the lives of my children has better plans for all of us than I can know or imagine. Instead of being on my knees saying “help me to solve this problem, help me to unlock this heart, help me to survive this day” I need to be placing my entire identity as a mum into God’s hands and saying “Lord, shape me today, please use me for Your glory, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, regardless of how hard I have to work or how many sacrifices I need to make.”

It’s only when I surrender my plans and desires to God that I can receive from Him the truth. He is greater than my successes and failures. I need Him and His salvation more than I need to be a great Mum or have happy children. His approval of me is not based on how well I have performed today but on Christ’s work for me on the cross that paid for my righteousness and adoption into His family.

The instructions that He has given me are clear: to seek first His Kingdom, then He will add the other things. (Matthew 6: 33)

This is not just true for my parenting but for every area of my life and the lives of others that I am praying for. Before I bring God a list of the things I would like Him to do, I need to dig deeper to the rock that can’t be shaken. I need to start every prayer at the foot of the cross, receiving my salvation and security from Jesus afresh before I ask for His beautiful will to be done in me and through me and in the world around me.

How about you? What is the “ice” in your life that you are trying to tackle?

How have you been trying to deal with it? Have you been scattering prayers like grit or have you been digging deeper in surrender and submission to God?

I am praying for you today, that as you place your life into the hands of your creator that you receive from His Spirit a deep peace and joy and a fresh hope in the One who loves you more than you can ever comprehend.

Lisa Mason
26th January 2018

Prayers of Surrender

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