Category Archives: random musings

Thankful

To the hundreds of friends, family and strangers who have given support, given encouragement, helped here and there in a myriad of ways small and great, or simply given us space over the last six weeks, thank you. Thank you doubly.

Totally grateful to be surrounded by such generous and compassionate folk.

The thanksgiving service was amazing; warm, informal, truly hearty and packed to the rafters. One of my cousins expected the roof to lift off with the volume of the singing.

I don’t think we find real life by trying to squeeze everything out of every opportunity offered by our years. Real life is found when we give. Sounds a little cheesy, I know.

Jesus voiced this truth in a similar way when he said “if you try to find your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel, you’ll find it.” Listening to the grateful crowd at his thanksgiving service yesterday, singing with heartfelt gusto, I think my dad kinda proved Jesus right. My dad gave himself. He lived in a bit of an unusual way, giving his years to his friends, his brothers, his community of faith, and in so doing he found a life worth living. Jesus is that life, and that’s why he had neither fear nor regrets in death.

If anyone’s interested in the background music that was playing before the start of the thanksgiving service it’s this:

God is good.

The Power of Empathy

Well, my Dad’s cancer is so advanced the oncologist doesn’t think it would be worth him going through chemotherapy as its side effects would outweigh it’s benefit, he may have had this cancer for years. He’ll be coming home from hospital tomorrow to spend his palliative care there.

It’s very good to be able to look at shite like this and appreciate the lessons and blessings that can only be found through it. Being the subject of a lot of sympathy recently has taught me a thing or two about empathy, and for that I’m grateful.

Some people offer sympathy. Very well meaningly they may try to cheer me up, or they may ask a lot of questions, to which I often think “yeah yeah, thanks, please go away”. A ton of questions and “I hope your Dad gets better soon” are very well-meaning but it can get wearing. But please, if you’ve ever asked me how my Dad’s doing, don’t stop asking questions altogether! I’m probably not talking about you anyway 🙂 . I know you need to know too and I need to be known.

But other people just offer themselves, and for them I am deeply grateful. They don’t demand news or suffocate with commiseration, they don’t feel a need to offer answers . They understand, even if they don’t know. They may not have gone through the slow weakening and dying of a close relative, but they know how to lighten someone’s grief; simply by coming alongside them and communicating a simple, heartfelt understanding. They empathise.

This brilliant video illustrated for me the distinction between sympathy and empathy:

“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.

I want to understand others. I know offering myself will do more than offering my answers, and I want to be that kind of person.

Do pray for us, especially for Dad’s healing and comfort and for my mum. Deep thanks.

Coffin

Funeral For The Church

A few months ago I was asked to come up with some sort of prophetic drama thing for one of our events, our annual Sheffield Praise Day. As I’m neither the world’s most natural thespian nor content with coming up with something shallow I spent a few weeks not knowing what to do, wrestling with ideas.

Last year has been described for my church as a make-or-break year. Years dim our vision and wane our energy and over time we can find ourselves short of the driving, fiery love which once infused everything we are. We started 2013 widely acknowledging our need of God (what better way to start a year?) and gave ourselves a theme of ‘hearts on fire’, looking to regain our first-love for God again. 

The year was ‘patchy’. Green spots sprung up and it seems like God has been accelerating the pace of change. Getting back to first love inevitably means getting back to our core mission, back to a spirit of pioneering, of movement, of adventure. We don’t really know where we’re going, but hey, who cares? We know who’s leading us.

It was because of that theme that I read Church Transfusion by Neil Cole, a book about transfusing old, stale churches with the life of Jesus, exactly what we need. One of the ideas presented by the book was that senior pastors could hold a funeral for their church, then a baby shower the week after! Sometimes our own ideas, bold or traditional, cynical or hopeful can get in the way of Jesus’ dreams for his church. Categorically central to the goal of bringing new Jesus-life into a church is the process of putting Jesus back at the centre of things. That means every individual has a personal two-way relationship with Jesus and that we allow Jesus to speak into (or against) everything we are and do, our systems, routines and modes of conduct.

‘Life out of death’ is clearly a core Kingdom-principle, and so the idea was born. The dramatic item was to be a funeral for our church, with a coffin carried from the back of the congregation (so it’s about ‘us’ rather than a stage-only item), and we were to bury it in the stage somehow. I wrote a script. However, complications with a lack of coffin meant I had to delay the dramatic demo to our next major church event, the New Year Celebration held on 28th December.

Between that time two things happened that made life oddly turbulent.

The first event was an encouragement. I’d been following Dr. Gary Thompson’s blog posts for a while because he’s an old boy who’s saying some cutting edge stuff that old boy’s rarely say. A post of his called The Church Must Die? caught my eye, not just because it has a provocative title but because it expressed exactly my thoughts. A quote:

The church has a choice: to die as a result of its resistance to change or to die in order to live.

I started studiously learning my script off by heart, more intent than before on communicating the message. We established we’d bury the coffin by submerging it in our baptistry.

The second event was not an encouragement.

I realised that for any major prophetic word to the church like this there’s a responsibility for the prophet to embody what (s)he speaks, and a testing of the word in their life. I wondered (and other guys had asked me) what kind of death I would have to go through as part of communicating this word to the church?

A couple of weeks ago my Dad admitted himself to hospital with stomach pain and sickness. A few scans and drugs later and we found out my Dad probably has cancer, and secondary (more advanced) cancer at that. That even hurts just to type.

I found this out just five days before the event, so the idea of walking in front of a coffin in front of a thousand or so people talking about our need to die in order to live wasn’t my greatest ambition right at that point, to put it mildly. I wondered if it was even appropriate and sensitive to do the demo, but the burning I felt inside when I’d heard from God and followed His train of thought gave me the conviction to still try.

Burying the coffin

I asked a friend to be ready to step in on the evening (reading the script live) if I wasn’t in a fit state to do it and I was very grateful to receive prayer offered for God’s grace for my mum & I.

God is faithful, and I managed to lead the item.

“All things work together for good for those who love the Lord”, and I hope my grief gave the delivery a poignant sincerity.

I’ve published the script below.

I’m calling us to cross a line.
It’s a very unpopular line, not often crossed.
I guess it’s the ultimate line that all others point to.
It’s the only way to life.
I’m calling us to die.
And really, death is unavoidable. But it’s up to us which kind of death we choose.

If, as a church and as individuals, we commit the sin of faithless self-preservation we will follow the way of many movements of God greater than us from movement, to machine, to monument. However, if we allow the death of Jesus to work in us, His church, our coming days will be brighter than our first.

We have a choice: to die as a result of our resistance to change or to die in order to live.

See this coffin? In invite you all to join in your hearts with what’s happening here symbolically. We’re going to bury this coffin tonight.

I want you to place all cynicism, all your disillusionment, all your grudges in this coffin… Place all your dreams in there too, and everything you desperately long for. Put in there everyone you love, your hobbies and the work that you do. What is of God He will give back to you with added blessing.

But more than all these individual things and more than just us as individuals, together as His church we must die.

God has taken us on an amazing journey. We found an incredible richness in the body of Christ when those who were formerly a collective of individuals were melted by Jesus into the colourful koinonia fellowship of ‘a people’ following Him. Everything we’ve done as a church has come from that, but for every step forward God has called us to die.

Of course God has led us to die to bad things: to die to our complacency, comforts, prides and sinfulness, but He’s also led us to die to good things too: to surrender our grasp on all we’ve accomplished, all that we are and where we think we should go.

A church that has died to what it has been or what it hopes to be is a church that can become all that Christ desires it to be. Our clever ideas will not produce the church. Our schemes, plans and routines alone cannot produce the church. Only the life of Jesus in his church brought through our joining him in his death, burial and resurrection will produce the church.

And so here at the Northampton Jesus Centre on the 28th December 2013 we put to death ourselves and all the work of our hands. Before God we surrender all our traditions, all our routines, our plans, our schemes, hopes and dreams. We lay them at the feet of Jesus.

We renounce the sin of self-preservation.
We renounce the sin of flogging dead horses.
We renounce the sin of working harder than we listen.
We renounce the sin of trusting in our schemes, plans and routines to produce life and growth.

Having entrusted our church into the hands of God, we now commit ourselves to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died, was buried, and rose again for us. To Him be glory for ever.

God, give us Your dreams.

Amen

Feel free to modify and reuse this text however you wish, so long as the essence of it’s meaning remains intact. Attribution is unnecessary.

Community That Dies, Lives

What would it look like if every one of our church communities either relocated or worked in partnership with a small house embedded in the fabric of a broken neighbourhood?

Like the seed that falls into the earth, dies, then sprouts and grows a lot of grain maybe we can see a neighbourhood as soil ready for us to plant ourselves there to die, become hidden in its mess and eventually grow up to transform it from the inside.

This is one such extraordinary community:

Give a bird a hand

The Danger of Corporate Wealth

Another guest post from a skonkworker:

Corporate wealth will always eventually end up as a snare and a stumbling block to the Church and ours will be no exception. How will we know when we are too rich? We seem so far from being the “Church of the poor” that we style ourselves as.

Do we really believe that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? If we did we’d always be skirting debt and miraculous provision would become blessedly normal. I believe both God and the members of our church would be much happier to give generously to a generous church than to a selfish church, protecting its assets for a rainy day.

The answer to the dilemma of corporate wealth is to decentralize it, and to give the purse strings and the decision-making processes that go with it, to the elders of each regional Body.

Autonomous, decentralised governance (with patriarchal rather than dictatorial apostles) is much more scriptural and has much more scope for ownership by the members in that locality, with charitable giving from the surplus wealth going into people and projects on their own doorstep. When members of a congregation know how much or how little is in the pot, they will recognize the need for faith and will claim God’s provision.

The “bank in the temple court” which threw Jesus into a zealous frenzy will be totally turned around as the moneymaking temple courts become a place of emancipating equality and generous distribution.

Light On Resources = Strong With God’s Power

A guest post from a friend continuing the We Are Too Safe series:

In the book of Judges Gideon heard the call of God to fight. He tested the Lord to make sure the calling was God’s plan and not his own. He started out to fight the Midianites with 32,000 men. The Lord stripped away his men (symbolising Israel’s own resources and natural strength) until he had only 300 men left. The enemy against them “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance”.
300 men.
300 men.
God’s plans are impossible and very simple.

When “The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them” (Num 23. v21) we will have nothing to fear.

We need to learn corporately to take risks and not rely on our own resources. If Jesus came to us with a desire to strip us of some or all of our wealth, houses and material possessions would we recognize it as Him? Or would we fight in the courts or take out insurance to protect our assets- not realizing that we are fighting God? You might ask- why would He want to do that? Because of the principle outlined in the story of Gideon, that a Church that has little or none of its own resources- but has faith- is strong with the power and authority of the Lord Jesus.

Yes there’s a need for discernment and wisdom. But Jesus wants a Bride with “nothing in my hands I bring- simply to Thy cross I cling”.

We Are David. Safety- The Enemy of God pt4

This is pt4 of the ‘Safety- The Enemy of God’ series of posts that I’m writing to express several threads of thoughts that God’s weaving together in my spirit, a growing conviction. Read pt 1- man to monument cycle, pt 2- skunkworks & pt 3- a Jean Vanier quote.

God made me realise something recently, or to use christian jargon- “I had a revelation”.

My generation is David struggling to put on Saul’s armour before battle.

child-armour

The teenager David’s dad gave him the day off tending sheep to deliver a lunch of bread, cereal and cheese to his elder brothers in the paralysed Israelite army (see 1 Samuel 17).

Horrified that the army sits motionless in fear before this giant who’s daring to curse God David offers to take down the warrior, who’s breastplate alone weighs 9 stone, maybe not much less than David.

King Saul sends for David and remarkably hears him out and offers David his own armour, which proves too heavy for him.

There is a generation stepping up to fight in the battle, stepping up to take their place in extending the rulership of the kingdom of heaven on this dark earth. Of course, individuals graduate from this rising generation but this generation always exists, it’s perpetual.

My generation is the young David.

When the David generation unelegantly heaves their elder’s helmet over their head some older onlookers in the church may say “look at them, are they really strong enough to fight for what’s dear to us?”

When the David generation strains under the weight of a heavy breastplate some will say “give them more, they must grow stronger.”

When the David generation discards the clunky armour with relief some may cry “they don’t want to get their hands dirty!”

Just give us five small stones and send us out.

David Lion

No, we don’t trust our own strength either, but there’s a giant in the land and we know a God who loves to stack the odds against Himself and His people so He can win through for them.

That’s a word to my elder friends, now a word to my younger friends.

That giant is our future on this earth and beyond him is what we’re fighting for- the future, eternity, our promised land. We’ll never defeat the giant with our hearts set solely on him, we must keep eternity in our hearts.

Now, it can be easy for us youngers to feel encumbered by the administration and heavy provisions of the church, the slow moving beaurocratic systems that aim to keep us safe. It’s easy for us to despise what we haven’t built. It’s easy for us to want to throw off the heavy, restrictive helmet. But can we echo David when he told the King of how he’d learnt to trust and rely on God?

“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.’
Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you.’
1 Samuel 17:34-37

Those of us who are young, can we say we know God’s heart, that we’ve been communing with Him like David did, psalming with his lyre while tending sheep in the hills? Can we say we love scripture, that we love the word of God, that His word runs and grows in our hearts and we’re filled to overflowing and passionate about living out His call on our lives?

If we can then we can drop the armour and go with a few small stones of faith and take the future.

Let’s know God and let’s be bolder than lions.