Achilles heel

March 20, 2010

Life has a habit of kicking you up the derriere and David Beckham just got a right kick! Money is no object for some and David is no exception and so he got fixed by a doctor in Finland.That was the physical injury dealt with but what about the emotional?  That will take a little longer I think. One point from the Italian Championship and eighty two days from the World Cup Finals in South Africa and David is in trouble with his feet just before another World Cup Disappointed?  No, heartbroken!

How do we recover when life does this to us? Well, some never do they just grow very bitter and stew in self pity. Some press on regardless and pretend it never happened but I would like to think that we can receive healing and that God can bring better things through it! The Bible says that God ‘heals the brokenhearted’ and He even ‘binds up all their wounds’. Sounds perfect to me. One thing is for sure ‘hurt people will hurt people’ and hurt people have their personal growth stunted.

I have a very good friend who somehow overcomes what most of us would view as a crippling disadvantage; she did not snap her achilles but rather she was born with no eyes. Instead of growing bitter or allowing fear to keep her locked away she is one of the most fearless and outgoing people I know. Nicky relies on Jesus and uses even misguided or patronising sympathies to her advantage and shares her faith with all and sundry. Positivity, optimism, forgiveness and courage are her values and I want to be more like her! ‘Becks’ as he is famously known suffered a telling blow but I pray he will have one last hurrah and I pray that you will too. Maybe we can learn from both Nicky and the husband of ‘Posh Spice’.  KEEP PRESSING ON!

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Change,” I’m loving it.”

June 15, 2009

Fast food is not always fast;especially in the UK. It’s also got a lot slower in the USA. When my family and I were leading the church in Fulham, London we would sometimes stop at McDonalds (or MACdonalds as Jonny used to call it) on Wandsworth Bridge for Sunday lunch. One Sunday we were lining up at the 6 tills and drive through window along with a hundred other people and a line of cars 200 yards long. It could be a terminal wait. The guy who had followed us in and demanded to know, from the back of the line, if the staff had any idea how long he had been waiting? the response was as per usual one of casual indifference and he was mad. ‘SIX WHOLE MINUTES I HAVE BEEN QUEING UP HERE’ he complained with undisguised disgust. His protest was greeted with mocking laughter by the cynical and irritated crowd of south Londoners.

In that moment, even before my coffee,I got a revelation. Everybody is in a hurry! Everybody wants it now! Nobody really wants to pay the price of perseverance! Unthinking Christians want baby Christians to become as “holy as them’ in record time, forgetting that the sanctification process takes time. God does not have great character traits nicely boxed up ready to order at the till or drive through. In his establishment he first has to slaughter the cow, grow the potatoes, manufacture the packaging and to prepare and  include the right personnel suitable to ‘serve’ you.

Paul Scanlon wrote the book “Crossing Over” every Christian leader should read and apply if we really want the church to ‘Change’ the nations. As we all know-It begins with us changing!’. Baby Christians need loving discipleship, loving nurture and a living example not rules and regs dreamed up by fallen man. We have no right to judge and speak into a baby Christians life until we have built relationship with them. Can I suggest we dive into the play area and get to know them? Learn and feel their pain and then PRAY.

This takes allowing God to change us. Change? I’m loving it!

Cigarette Evangelism?

June 9, 2009

I met Paul Gibbs for the first time on the day Waynes World was released in Manchester many years ago. We met at a Garden center for coffe and a chat which turned into a vision casting ‘moment’ that I have never forgotten. I went to inspire him and came away totally inspired myself. Now he runs his ‘Pais Project’ on four continents! Wow!

The secret to peoples success is different but I have learned from Paul and many others like him that one secret is to stay culturally relevant and primarily to be concerned about the eternal well being of those who have not comprehended the message yet. I have been fortunate to work alongside people with these values a lot and I have appreciated it.

Staying culturally relevant I think is a by-product of caring about people; they come before our ‘ministry beliefs’. Once my wife Ann had a vision of meeting a guy at a bus stop and inviting him to church and much more and so she went out and it happened just as she had ‘seen’, with the exception of one major thing. To get him to sit through a two hour service he would need a cigarette and he had no money. So she purchased twenty! I hear your gasps of indignation! In short, he left church and went for lunch with his mum who had received an invitation to another church and both  became Christ followers. All in one day, twelve hours in fact!

Am I promoting cigarette evangelism? No, just genuine concern for those we call ‘THE LOST”. People like Paul Gibbs paid a price for using secular video and music in their evangelism back in the day but their motive was the eternal well being of precious people. What price are we willing to pay to reach those for whom Christ died?

Jesus touched dead people, spat on the ground to make mud and picked corn on the sabbath, all forbidden. I have a feeling God has some requirements of us to grow older but to stay flexible.

If only I was like my Bible.

June 2, 2009

The  overnight train from Liege, Belgium to London was one I had travelled on many times. I hated the boat trip across the English Channel because after a week end of preaching I was so tired and it seemed like the channel was always rough no matter what time of the year it was. However, I did have seem great encounters with some fantastic people and I even has a Poseidon adventure type journey over to Zeebrugge once; it was awesome!

My favourite encounter was when I boarded the train in Liege or Luik as the other half of Belgium called it and it was packed with mainly students and I took the last seat in a compartment for eight people. In those days I was holy and my Bible was a KJV Thompsons Chain Reference from where I got most of my sermons and it was a very holy black! I had to put my Bible on the small wall mounted coffee table and it was greeted with derision from one of the passengers, a German professor. ‘What’s a young man (did I mention it was a long time ago?)  like you doing with a stupid book like that?’, he asked. My reply took the remaining passengers, all English students,by surprise when I declared extremely boldly that it had ‘totally changed my life!’

The next three hours were occupied by some of the best preaching I have ever heard even though I say so myself. At one point I had dozens of students climbing on top of each other just to hear my mighty preachings and finally to receive Jesus with me. It was glorious and I wish it could happen everyday!

The apostle Paul described us as ‘living epistles’. Bibles alive! I would like to suggest that if we are interested in sharing our faith and having supernatural and divine encounters then God will oblige us. No need to buy a Holy Bible just’ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE.’

HAVE A GREAT DAY!

“Where I’m going there’s no redemption!” (Wolverine)

May 8, 2009

The first X-Men film was one I wanted to go straight back in and watch it again.Awesomw! X-Men 111, blah! This latest one is great and the underlying tone is one of revenge. The love of Wolverines life is snatched from him and now he is as mad as a hatter and looking for blood. Without trying to give too much away (and I probably have) he goes to enormous lengths to inflict mortal pain on his tormentors. We are raised on a diet of these themes and so little wonder billions of dollars are wasted in ill health and divorce  due to broken relationships and the susequent aggravation! I remember, like it was yesterday being ‘blown away’ by God’s amazing love and that was almost thirty years ago. “While we were still enemies Christ died for us.” Paul got it and was transformed for ever. Logic will not get ‘it’ to you, psychology cannot take you out of darkness and put you into a place of phenomenal light. I went from being ‘cool’ to crying whilst I sang ‘Amazing Grace’ with a small band of believers whom I did not know very well. I was a former hooligan and I was sobbing at the love of God.

I cried when I watched the movie, ‘To End All Wars’- watch it and be really challenged. Love like Jesus but ignore the cussing if you can. I hope Wolverine encounters Jesus because that’s where REDEMPTION is.

April 11, 2009

The story goes that a man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing–we’re behind.”  “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.”  “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”

Every one of us admires that sense of defiance and that spirit of hope! One dictionary definition of the word hope is ‘to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.’

At times there are very few grounds for ‘reasonable confidence’ and Easter time this year is probably one of those times for many . How can we have ‘confidence’ in what the President recently described as ‘the worst recession since the great depression’? Times like these hurt ‘real people’ and TV news brings no comfort with daily gloom and doom!

Television evangelists and church services piped into our homes will tell us that God cares and understands what we are experiencing; but does He really?

Many Americans feel like the man who fell off a cliff and found himself  precariously clinging to a branch one hundred feet from the ground. He screams ‘someone please help me…is there anybody up there?’ A strange voice replies, ‘This is God, I’m here, I’ll help..just let go and I’ll catch you’.

The free fall victim replies, ‘Is there anybody else up there?’

Despite the fact that many Americans will go to church this Easter, some estimate as high as seventy per cent, it is true that many will not return again until Christmas. Why should they when maybe they feel that they are hanging by a thread or ‘branch’ and God is seemingly up there detached from all of our pain?

Does it help to be a part of a church? Does it do any good to have a belief in the One Who died at a time we call Easter? How does it help us if Jesus really did die and then rise again on the third day?

I did not use to think it did help, but now I do. Not just because of my own conversion from no belief system to believing in Jesus Christ as ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ but because of my observation of not only changed lives but changed communities all around the world.

I belong to a community of people known as Stone Creek Church here in Urbana,IL; this church is a microcosm of both this community of Champaign-Urbana and the whole world. The forty or so different nationalities represented here reflect the fact that God has touched the lives of people from all over this planet in a totally positive and life transforming way.

It is heartwarming to see the various cultures coming together in peace and harmony with the single purpose now of sharing the message that;

‘..God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but would have eternal life’ (John 3:16)

Going to church once or twice a year is good but to be committed to joining with others in a mission to help others is truly life transforming. Seems like the more we give the more blessed we are and good churches do just that. Why not look for a good church this Easter, go visit and make some friends but especially with the One Who is maybe saying, ‘I’m here, I’ll help..just let go and I’ll catch you’. One thing is for sure, none of us can handle life on our own and be truly peaceful and content. Go,make a difference! Happy Easter!

 

 

‘They are pulling me back in’-Michael Corleone

April 11, 2009

I love the “Godfather trilogy’. I love the part when Michael is with the righteous Archbishop confessing his sins. The ‘bell tolls’ each time he confesses and then he breaks. Years before, in ‘Godfather 2’ as he was doing his utmost to go ‘legit’ his family is attacked and the other families pull him back in.

Working with new believers is absolutely fascinating; watching and being involved with them in those early days is the most graphic image possible of spiritual warfare. It always requires a delicate balance of care and guidance. As with Michael(Godfather) the temptations are huge, the fight to remain ‘legit’ is immense and the pressure to be pulled back in is often with them.

The gospel though, IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION ! Especially to those who believe! Anyone who loves new Christians has to have the gift of encouragement and the fruit of patience; and most of all a love for people like Jesus does. I listened to Matt Chandler tell the story of his anger at a preacher who, holding up a damaged rose representing an aweful sinner demands to know’WHO WOULD REALLY WANT THIS ROSE?

Matt screamed in his head, ‘Jesus would want that rose!’It was us, His damaged and flawed creation for which He suffered and died. Reminds me that ‘At just the right time Christ died for us’ and His words “I have come that you might have life and…..’.He is ‘able to complete what He began in us.”

This message we have, this liberating truth, this living epistle is the power of God unto a powerful new way of living for us who believe. I told a young man today ‘that He would forget the shame of his youth.” He has been unfaithful to his wife and family 4 times, she has lost faith in Him and naturally his future is bleak. Yet, I tell him that if he draws near to God then God will draw near to Him. God is the ultimate restorer. It gives me massive confidence when I speak the word to sincere, repentant baby Christians who face the temptation and say in one way or another, ‘They are pulling me back in’ because I know ‘He who began a good work in them will complete it until the day Jesus returns’.

Take some time to hang out with new believers-you will grow exponentially!!