Sunday, 24 June 2012

About six months ago I met a guy in a pub. He was with my mate, so we ended up having a beer together.

Today I met him again, but he's a completely different bloke to the person I met all those months back. This sounds weird, but this same guy was actually a totally different person to the one I had previously met in the Prince of Wales pub. The reason being - he gave his life to Jesus Christ this morning at church.

This might sound strange to you. Firstly, how can someone 'give their life' to a dead carpenter guy!? And secondly, why would that make him a different person?

Well, unbeknown to him, as he accepted the invitation from his church-going friend, and as he decided to give up an hour and a half of his Sunday to see what all the fuss was about, he was actually leaving his old life behind in the process. Surrendering the control of his life over to the God who's been delicately and gradually working him towards the moment when he would encounter the truth of His love properly for the first time. Encountering the fact that the dead carpenter was in fact a fully active, totally loving Saviour - contrary to what the world might have been telling him for the last 22 years.

You see, he didn't exactly know what to expect when he walked through those doors for the first time. But I suspect he wasn't anticipating that his life would be turned upside down, forgiven and re-defined all in one fell-swoop on the morning of June 24th 2012.

It started as any other day.

And then Jesus breathed that re-shaping truth. The truth that the guy's sins could be forgiven; that his life could be filled with a new purpose and that he could be swept up in an adventure with a very powerful and incredibly loving God.

The guy had never been to church before. He seemed lost for words when I spoke to him afterwards. His only way of describing it was that he felt an uncontrolable emotion inside his heart when the worship leader began singing. Kinda strange to consider a grown bloke welling up at a song; either he's gone crazy too or something is genuinely happening.

I bet he's glad that his friend loved him enough and cared about his eternal future enough to introduce him to Jesus.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

What's your worth?

Two minutes up the road from me is about a square mile of houses that are all worth well into the 7 figures. Serious wealth, right on our doorstep. And last night a group of us went to do some leafleting to inform them about some of the church work that goes on in their area.

Behind the huge gates, long driveways and giant front doors, it was hard to imagine the kind of lives that would have had to have been lived in order to get one of these places. A certain degree of worldly success can definitely be assumed though. 

As we walked along it was hard not to be in awe of some of these properties and I'm certain there are some amazing people behind the big porches and flash Porsches, but statistically very few of them are church attending Christians.

I think that when you have as much as they have and material life is incredibly comfortable, it's hard to see the need for a Saviour who’s first call is to ask you to give up your all to follow Him. Some just have too much to give up in most cases. 

But behind each mini castle are lives that are just as broken, confused and in need of Jesus as those in the high rise council flats a few minutes down the road - different kinds of addictions, anger and apathy in both. 

After I had gotten over the astounding architecture I realised/remembered that I wouldn't swap a moment in Jesus' presence for a lifetime of such opulence. My inheritance is secure forever in eternity; theirs is presently tied up in property or held in a safe.

A man once asked the question: "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" I hope the leaflets will reveal something of the truth behind that question to them. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

'For this is what the Sovereign lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.'
- Ezekial 34 v11-12

'Sovereign lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.'
- Psalm 140 v7

Sometimes life throws a curve ball. Last night as we chatted and prayed with two of our good friends, such a curve ball was discussed. We love these guys, but they are seriously going through it at the moment.

As they unpacked the situation it would have been easy to see the doom and gloom of it all - like a heavy black cloud thundering right over their heads. But all I could see was peace. 

If I was in their situation (which is totally not beyond the bounds of possibility), I'm not sure how I'd be responding; though I really hope and pray that my reaction might mirror theirs somewhat.

She said: "How could we NOT still praise God through this!?" 

When God takes the top spot in your life, that doesn't mean it's all flowers and sunshine from here on in. The tough times are sure to still come - as our friends can very recently testify. But the grace and peace that God floods you with is truly remarkable. 

They should be angry and confused with God - most would be, considering the situation. Instead, these guys still proclaim Him as Sovereign. 

Whatever the outcome, they're gonna make sure He's glorified.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

'Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabus (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.' (Acts 4 v36-37)

This isn't a topic that I've particularly commented on in depth before - though it's a huge theme to consider. Yesterday I received my pay cheque. The first full-month pay slip I've received in almost 2 and a half years.  ALL this time, God has provided for us. I have never once gone into my overdraft and I can't think of a point where we've had to scrimp or worry, despite long periods of volunteer work and unemployment.

It's quite common for people to think that Christians worship God in such ways as not swearing or not having sex before marriage. But to a world that is obsessed with money, worshipping Jesus with your finances doesn't really add up at all. Surely He doesn't need our money to work into lives? Surely if we've worked hard all week, we should be able to spend our money on what WE want?  Those are a couple of the more common lies at least.

I'm no accountant (which probably doesn't come as a surprise), and I was always shocking at Maths, but when it is suggested in the Bible that 10% of our money should be worshipfully given over to God's work each month, that strikes me as a pretty good deal! He gets 10% (even though it's from Him in the first place), and we get to keep the remainder (along with some for Mr Taxman).  He gives it to us and then He chooses to do work using a small percentage of it. I think I'll accept that offer.

I'm aware that a number of people reading this are not all that old, so I've worked out some practical thoughts that I have found very helpful over the last few years (apologies if you're a mature Christian who has been generously giving for longer than I've been alive!)

- worship Him when you give: don't don't do it begrudgingly or nervously. He gave you that money in the first place; you're investing it into an incredibly safe account with amazing returns.

- set up a direct debit with your church: don't rely on the shrapnel in your wallet each week. Think of a figure, increase that by about 50% just for fun, and then sit back and enjoy the feelings of adventure and adrenaline. Trust me - it's dangerous and counter-cultural and it's the kind of behaviour that starts big work!

- Don't tell anyone what the amount is: just keep it between you and Him and watch how He increases, stretches and blesses the other 90%.

There are heaps of other lessons to be learnt through this, but I've found these 3 to be helpful during the periods of feeling flush and when my wallet was covered in dust and cobwebs.  It's easy to get trapped over a million and one issues. But if you walk freely with your attitude towards money, many other areas of life are effected and developed.