This blog isn't updated too much any longer. Everything written on here is all still very true, but the writer is busy helping to build a new church venue in south-west London.
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Tuesday, 29 March 2011
'If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is false.'
18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.
'No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.'
- CS Lewis
Last night 130-odd people, the vast majority non-Christian teenagers met at a church for a rave. A smoke-filled room was bombarded by laser lighting and pounding dub-step baselines. The evening was labelled 'Rave for a Reason', and some of them were. The Bible says that ALL Heaven erupts with praise, celebration and partying when even just one person gives their life to Jesus. And some of these people did just that last night.
We had to start tidying up at 11ish ... but I suspect the partying will still be continuing in Heaven for quite some time.
‘Their little life is entirely controlled by the organization of the world. They think as the world thinks. They take their opinions ready-made from their favourite newspaper. Their very appearance is controlled by the world and its changing fashions. They all conform; it must be done; they dare not disobey; they are afraid of the consequences. That is tyranny, this is absolute control—clothing, hair style, everything, absolutely controlled. The mind of the world! ... Most lives are being controlled by it and governed by it, all their opinions, their language, the way they spend their money, what they desire, where they go, where they spend their holidays; it is all controlled, governed completely ... by this world, the mind of the world, the age of propaganda, the age of advertising, the mass mind, the mass man, the mass individual, without knowing it. Is it not tragic? But that is man in sin ... he is controlled by the mind of the world.’
(From 'God’s Way of Reconciliation' by Martin Lloyd-Jones.)
I like to think that I'm relatively chilled out. Most of the time...although I do get pretty frustrated easily. But the other night a mate of mine was telling me how often he prays for peace in his heart for situations he's going through. He might pray for world peace too, but he was specifically referring to inner peace (without the yoga mats and Feng-Shui!)
I sat there thinking..'I never do that!?'
I always need to be doing something and keeping active, so many of my prayers end up being 'doing' prayers.
'God please do this in this area.'
'God please bring healing here.'
'God please open this door....' ...etc etc.
To be reminded to stop and pray for peace was pretty important for me to hear.
13-15It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
This illustration is taken from a talk by John Piper in 1995:
Sometimes we are so familiar with spectacular it doesn't move us as it should. We have to look at something lesser, be amazed, and then look back to really feel the wonder of the original. Chuck Colson told the story of a group of American prisoners of war during the Second World War, who were made to do hard labor in a prison camp. Each had a shovel and would dig all day, then come in and give an account of his tool in the evening. One evening 20 prisoners were lined up by the guard and the shovels were counted. The guard counted nineteen shovels and turned in rage on the 20 prisoners demanding to know which one did not bring his shovel back. No one responded. The guard took out his gun and said that he would shoot five men if the guilty prisoner did not step forward. After a moment of tense silence, a 19-year-old soldier stepped forward with his head bowed down. The guard grabbed him, took him to the side and shot him in the head, and turned to warn the others that they better be more careful than he was. When he left, the men counted the shovels and there were 20. The guard had miscounted. And the boy had given his life for his friends.
Can you imagine the emotions that must have filled their hearts as they knelt down over his body? In the five or ten seconds of silence, the boy had weighed his whole future in the balance—a future wife, an education, a new truck, children, a career, fishing with his dad—and he chose death so that others might live. Jesus said in John 15:13, ""Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
I recently received a message from someone (who shall remain nameless). I had previously sent this person a message encouraging them to join a church home group. It would help them find their feet in their unsteady faith, get them alongside some great spirit-filled people and plug them into church life - probably for the first time.
'Life is too hectic.' 'We just haven't got the time.' ...etc etc...
These guys aren't alone in their excuses. What are yours?
'I'd rather focus on my career'? 'We're thinking of starting a family soon'? 'I'm too tired'? 'We're taking a break from this kinda thing for a bit'? 'We're engaged, so that's as good as married'? 'We just really needed a lie-in this morning'? 'I can't tonight, I'm going to this club for my friend's girlfriend's sister's birthday'?
We all have our excuses. But none of us our an exception to the rule.
Which excuses do you think you'll try and blag when you stand before Jesus? It cost Him quite a lot, so you may wish to choose your words more wisely when you decide to ignore the Kingdom for a while longer.
And I'm not referring to a boob job or for United to win the league.
It might be a happy marriage. To be a good parent. To launch a new church in a scary part of town. To overcome the battle with cancer. To pass that important exam. To provide for your family for another month. To see that latest business venture to completion. To fall in love with that one person. To get over that tragic loss. To see that friend healed from depression.
Deep down we all have very real, very important, very genuine desires.
It would need to take something like the death and resurrection of Jesus to be able to pull any one of them off.
This blog has just been viewed by someone in Japan. I'm sitting fairly comfortably on my sofa in London. It's a nice day outside. That person is living in a country that is being bombarded by a Tsunami as I write this.
In the Bible, it says that on the far side of the sea, even there His righteous hand will hold and guide. I hope that person knows that more than ever today. Whoever they are.
If you're struggling to comprehend this, please picture yourself standing before Jesus. It may be tomorrow; it may be in seventy years time. But picture yourself standing there discussing the peaks and troughs of your life with Him, and imagine what He'd have to say about the first statement.
Personally, I wouldn't wanna take the risk of ignoring the second statement.
I could try and put pen to paper on this, but Johnny Cash has done such a good job of it himself already, I'll let him to do the talking...
'Here was a man.
A man who was born in a small village. The son of a peasant woman, he grew up in another small village. Until he reached the age of thirty he worked as a carpenter. Then for three years he was a travelling minister. But he never travelled more than two hundred miles from where he was born. And where he did go he usually walked. He never held political office; he never wrote a book; never bought a home. Never had a family; he never went to college and he never set foot inside a big city
Yes here was a man.
Though he never did any of the things usually associated with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.He had nothing to do with this world, except through the devine purpose that brought him to this world. While he was still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him. Most of his friends ran away; one of them denied him. One of them betrayed him and turned him over to his enemies. Then he went through the mockery of a trial. And was nailed to a cross between two thieves. And even while he was dying his executioners gambled for the only piece of property that he had in this world. And that was his robe.
When he was dead he was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave provided by compassionate friends. More than nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he's a centerpiece of the human race. Our leader in the column to human destiny. I think I'm well within the mark when I say that all of the armies that ever marched; all of the navies that ever sailed the seas; all of the legislative bodies that ever sat and all of the kings that ever reigned..
All of them put together have not affected the life of man on this earth so powerfully as that one solitary life.
Here was a man.'
The problem isn't with the evidence. The problem is with our ability to get our heads around it.
The process of sanctification is an addiction to holiness, a compulsive fixation on Christ and an impulsive pattern of compassion, virtue and love. This is what we are wired for. This is what we are meant for.
- William Struthers
A compulsive fixation!? Ok, I'll give you an example. Last night, my mother-in-law spent the whole night on the floor of their church. Fact.
So overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit during an evening prayer meeting, she was unable to turn her gaze from His presence. So stayed lying there until 8am this morning!
Some might say that's crazy behaviour. I'd say it's pretty damn cool.
A few months back, a friend of mine described visiting a Church as like visiting Wales. 'It kinda feels familiar, but it's definitely not like living in England.' A very astute and interesting observation I thought (no offence to Welsh people!).
Well, last night, I met up with a mate who was also present during that conversation a little while back. He too had no church background at all. He hadn't been too fussed about God and was fairly resolutely entering into discussion each week when we met as a group. He had looked like a tough nut to crack from the outset.
Last night, he sat across from me in my living room and informed me that it no longer felt like he was in Wales. 'It feels like I've come home,' he said, with a big smile.
In a couple of weeks time this foul-mouthed, rock 'n rolling drinker is getting baptised.
'I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels.'
- John Calvin
You've gotta admit, that's quite a funny quote!? When you're swearing your face off at the driver next to you or when you're gossiping about that person in the office who everyone sneers and sniggers at, just consider the discomfort of the second 'defect'.
Also, if you have chosen to say the words 'I love you, Jesus'...count the cost of those four words. Have you spoken them loosely or does it actually have a backbone to it?
"If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, I will send the rains in their seasons, the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. You will thresh until the grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting time; you'll have more than enough to eat and will live safe and secure in your land. I'll make the country a place of peace—you'll be able to go to sleep at night without fear; I'll get rid of the wild beasts; I'll eliminate war. You'll chase out your enemies and defeat them: Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand and do away with them. I'll give you my full attention: I'll make sure you prosper, make sure you grow in numbers, and keep my covenant with you in good working order. You'll still be eating from last year's harvest when you have to clean out the barns to make room for the new crops. I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won't avoid or shun you; I'll stroll through your streets. I'll be your God; you'll be my people."
I used to get absolutely wasted at a local club a few years back. Tonight I walked around the streets surrounding it, to pray for that community, hoping that Jesus' message might impact them too. Maybe those prayers will make a difference? Either way, I know that it was a better use of my time than the aforementioned evenings spent wandering aimlessly and bleary-eyed around those same pavements.
'Don't begin by travelling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here.' (Matt 10 v5-7)
Seems like a pretty clear direction to me. I suspect this won't be the last time I comment on this one.