Tag Archive: follow Jesus


2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.

REFUSE THIS THING

so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.

When following Jesus, forgiveness of others is not optional

Some of Jesus’ last words [when hanging on a cross] were ‘Father, forgive them’

Unless we forgive everyone, He can’t forgive us

Forgiveness doesn’t make what they did “Okay”

It just prevents it from continuing to take us down.

[For an under 50 word blog post on Being Loving, click here]

eyepatchThis is one of those passages that we like to speed our way through and assure ourselves how understood it is that Jesus is speaking completely in metaphor.

The cost would simply be too high if He wasn’t. Gouge out your eye? Really? Well obviously Jesus doesn’t mean that… or does He? Not in terms of actually wanting anyone to literally take a spoon [or whatever you use for eye-gouging, to me a spoon feels right] and go at their eye… but in terms of really hearing the seriousness with which He makes the suggestion that THIS THING is just THAT IMPORTANT…

This reminds me of the passage where Jesus says it is better for a man to lose the whole world rather than forfeit His own soul… Let’s take a look at Mark 9: 42-50:

[To read the next passage where Jesus deals with Divorce, click here]

last time on ‘What makes Jesus sadder?’:

‘but it’s me. i mean that’s the answer right? the only person i can really change is myself, brett fish anderson [where fish seems to be proved more and more to be something i’m desperately aiming at as opposed to anything i hit regularly enough] and so that is really where i have to look.

and i do and i have and i am and a lot of it just leaves me with questions that i am struggling to answer.’

This is the picture of the exact mug i have.

This is the picture of the exact mug i have.

so i was sitting on my step the other nite sipping coffee out of my Marvin the Martian mug and thinking about life [which i definitely don’t do enough – i really do enjoy the times when i can slow it all down and just ponder great things… so maybe the start is to be more intentional about creating those times when i just move away from the busyness and distraction it’s so easy to fall into slash facebook] and i had a couple of thought [thinking will do that to you]…

the one which has been plaguing me for a while kind of fits into that category of ‘I’ll do that when…’ which so many of us have been taken down by i think – the idea that at the next stage of life or season of living or pay increase or whatever, that somehow miraculously the thing you aren’t doing now is going to happen. and for the most part it’s a lie.

and i imagine that often it is linked to following Jesus. I’ll get really committed when I’m done with exams… when my kids are at school… when my kids are out the house… when this project is done… when i have my own car… when i’ve finished paying off my studies… and so on…

‘WHEN’ WON’T HAPPEN UNLESS YOU MAKE IT TO BE SO

it’s a lie. if you’re not doing it now then it is unlikely to miraculously happen. something significant has to change for your current behaviour not to be your future behaviour.

i suspect that often it’s AS EASY [and AS DIFFICULT] as just getting off your ass and doing it.

for me, sitting on the step, it was the awful truth of me just not knowing any of my neighbours. like not really. and not cos i don’t want to [well maybe the ones next door who are so inappropriately loud and who scream at their kids most of the time, i don’t really have great desires in myself to know them] but just cos it hasn’t happened and it might be for a hundred different reasons but it still bums me out.

The need is to just do it already.

The need is to just do it already.

tbV and i live in  four apartment complex [two upstairs, two downstairs] and a lot of it maybe has something to do with timing as we don’t often see the people. it may be because we are white and everyone else is black/African American and so there is not a natural cultural connection. it may be a stage of life thing as there are young children in i think each of the other apartments. and it may be because, apart from the one guy, our neighbors haven’t seemed particularly friendly but then maybe they are thinking or feeling the same thing about us.

but the one that bums me out the most is ‘African American guy’. you see what happened there? that is the part where his name was meant to go, but i don’t know it. and the main problem is that he knows my name. he learnt it the first time he met me and has greeted me with, ‘Hi Brett, how are you doing?’ ever since [and ‘Hey man’ feels more and more pathetic every time i mumble it back to him in the friendliest way possible]. The first time it was, ‘Oh no, I don’t know his name’ which quickly became, ‘Oh man, he knows my name and has called me Brett three times now’ to where we now stand at, ‘He has called me Brett 90 times and so it feels worse and worse to get my brain around the idea that i have to go to him and confess my panic [and just ridiculously bad manners] in that area.

do you know what the worst thing is? he looks really cool. he’s an older black man and i really want to get to know him and hear some of his story and hopefully we can be friends.

what sucks is that i feel like i have a strong heart for community and Val and i talk openly about how great it was in Potter street [at the Simple Way] where we knew everyone and life happened on the streets and we’d be in each others houses and so this all feels like an epic fail to me.

I THINK YOU’RE BEING TOO HARD ON YOURSELF!

and i don’t think i’m being too hard on myself. possibly not enough. there are definitely some reasons why it has been harder to stamp on my pride and just go and confess and put it right [the biggest being time – we don’t see him often and it’s usually between his car and the door and there are other family members around and stuff] but this last week i think i have come to the conclusion that this is something that i want and i will probably look for a chance while Val is away at the Wild Goose festival [she leaves tonite] to try and get that opportunity and put it right. so it feels definitely on the cards. and it actually not the biggest deal for me to have to go and make that confession and try and put it right. just a bummer that it has taken so long.

when i was sitting on the step though, the biggest question i faced in myself was the question of what is different between what i believe, or what i say i believe or preach/write that i believe and that which i am living out. and what am i going to do about it? and when?

the biggest problem, perhaps, is that the answers are not so simple. they are complicated. it is not as easy as it is with ‘African American man’ where i know what i have to do and just need to do it – there are a bunch of areas of ‘well i don’t know how to get from where i am to where i want to be?’ There might be a bunch of fears of ‘what if i try and it doesn’t work or happen the way i expect?’ and there are also some disappointments of things i have already tried or hoped for that didn’t turn out the way i was hoping for. where i did do the thing i needed to do but the person on the other end didn’t respond or not as i hoped. and so what now?

one small example of that is that there is a young girl in the house where ‘African American man’ lives and i don’t know if it’s his daughter or grandkid or anything but on the occasions i have walked past and she has been at the door and i’ve tried to be friendly to her [connecting with people in Philly was done largely by befriending and looking after their children] i’ve got the strong feeling that her mom is not super amped. she feels a lot suspicious of this dreadlocked white guy from upstairs. so that makes it a little harder cos i definitely want to respect the mom and so generally just try to be friendly to them when they’re out together and hopefully in time something will shift. or maybe i just need to bake something and take it around. that might be a plan.

the conclusion of all this for me is that the thinking part is so important. the noticing of ‘hey the reality i’m living doesn’t match up exactly with what i’m speaking or even what i’m hoping for’ and it’s insane to me to think that i will have amazing community in the next place i live if i haven’t even properly tried to reach out to those around me here [or remember one name! sigh].

but then it HAS to move to the action point. and soon. we don’t know how long we’re going to be here and if  want it to be easier to find it in the next place then the best way is stepping out here and even if things don’t go according to plan, at least i will know i’ve tried.

so i imagine Jesus gets sad when we just get caught up in living lives that are self-absorbed and focused and miss out on the opportunities He may have been prodding us towards

i imagine Jesus gets bummed when we say and think one thing and live a completely or even somewhat different thing [He may have calmly mentioned that to the Pharisees that one time]

i imagine Jesus is a little disappointed if i get stuck in the thinking phase and never step out of the boat He has called me to step out of and take a bit of a risk

this is not condemnation [which leaves you in a loud and stinky mess on the floor, paralysed and unable to change] – this is conviction [which inspires you and directs you to change]

oh and something about God putting His Holy Spirit in me so i should be alright in the empowered-to-do-this-whole-thing department.

you might not be cool enough to have a Marvin the Martian coffee mug, but i would still recommend grabbing some form of beverage and a step and taking some moments on how your life is looking right now… let’s do this thing. for real.

This might be comedy if it wasn't so tragedy.

This might be comedy if it wasn’t so tragedy.

and let Him loose in my life…

was end of grade 10 or 11 [or standard 8/9 as we used to call it in the days when we had to trudge 50 miles barefoot in the snow just to get a glass bottle of milk!] when that happened, but let me back track.

i was five years old when i asked Jesus into my heart – looking back now i may have not understood the metaphor – at least i’m hoping not, cos i’m not sure at 38 that i get it now – but i am convinced that i knew enough about what i was doing for it to matter – my parents had taught me well about the love of God and how that was demonstrated through Jesus and more importantly lived that out in loving ‘the least of these’ who constantly seemed to be in and around or near our lives… and so it doesn’t really matter that the terminology may have been a bit off, what happened was important – i believed in God and i did something [asked Jesus into my heart] to demonstrate that belief.

when i was nearing the end of school though i had some youth leaders pray for me to be filled with the Spirit – again, terminology a lot of people may not be happy with or fully get, and again i don’t think it matters… what changed pretty dramatically in me at that time was that i moved from believing in Jesus to following Jesus – instead of just my heart, i invited Jesus to be a part of every part of my life… and my life changed.

i have never looked back. it has gotten bumpier for sure and there were many moments of struggle and wrestling with doubt and confusion and there was a near death moment which coincided with a crisis of faith ‘well do i really believe this stuff or not?’ moment [Malawi, 2000 – nothing like a near death moment to help you figure out the answer to the do you believe this or not? question, by the way] and there have been times of experiencing the Presence of God and seeing Him work in powerful ways and other less fun times of feeling so far away from God and wondering if He really cares cos it doesn’t feel like it so much right now… and yet through it all i have continued because i know that i know [deep, deep inside of me the Truth lives and is real and burning and nothing will put it out]

following is way different to believing
while Jesus was locked in my heart, i was safe to live life as i wanted to, pretty much
but He is not content with that – He wants everything and i needed to give it to Him
and that is a decision i have not regretted no matter how hard it has been at times

i just think it might be helpful for anyone still using the ‘invite Jesus into your heart’ language to consider moving to a more Biblical ‘invitation to follow Jesus’ especially where children are concerned. i think it might be a lot easier to understand. and a lot harder to be unaware that you’re not living it.

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