Being Christ to our neighbour

There are so many discussions/arguments amongst folk at present on ‘gospel ministry’, ‘mercy ministry’, ‘good works’ etc. etc. etc. To call it a battle ground would be to give these discussions too much credit but they are having an impact on the work of the Church and its people, particularly in respect to its evangelistic endeavours. Much of the debate seems to centre on De Young and Gilberts book, What is the Mission of the Church? which has drawn a position that ‘mercy ministry’ is something we may do rather than what we must do – it is not an equal partner with evangelism and disciple making.

Whilst I understand this viewpoint, I see things in a slightly different way. My hand gets cold in winter and so I wear a glove……if I didn’t, I may get frostbite and then my hand would not function well, the glove enables me to maintain health and to function well. The glove on its own is very nice but remains a glove. So it is with ‘mercy ministry’ – anyone can do it, you don’t need to be a Christian, but when the church engages with it – everything begins to function as it ought and people then begin to see Christ and the Church as it was intended. My conservative evangelical friends will say that I am being oversimplistic but my reading of the Scriptures forces me to share the gospel in word and deed, in every situation and as Luther said;

“It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbour”.

Bible verses that sting me (part 2)

So it is time to reference the next verses that challenge my very soul.

Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Oh my! How challenging are these words? So often these words seem to be ignored by many Christians when we refer to conflict and the need for reconciliation, they are tough words to hear and, in my opinion, tougher to enact.

I find that it is much easier to pray for those who persecute me, easier to ‘love’ my enemies but forgiveness is so much harder. How on earth do you ‘let go’ and remember their sins no more? Is it right to? As a Christian, it is liberating to know that Jesus will forgive my sins and if my reading is correct, they are also forgotten when that forgiveness is received, though my sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow. I struggle with these verses in Matthew 6.

When reading the Old Testament narrative of Joseph, we see a man who goes through utter torment and also great blessing. He has fun with his brothers and concludes by saying, ‘what you intended for harm, God intended for good’ – what a beautiful expression. Joseph sees the bigger narrative than the one he lives, he sees the greater narrative of God himself. It is the gospel enacted,refreshing, challenging and liberating, but still, I struggle to behave this way myself.

I am fortunate that there are not many people where there is a struggle to forgive wrongs done but there are a couple (still too many). This struggle leaves me straining in the depths of my soul and I have all the excuses….’but they never said sorry’, ‘their behaviour has not changed, so why should I forgive’ etc. etc etc., yet, these arguments are weak if I want forgiveness, There is need to forgive too! Ouch! The truth is, there are people who may well feel the same about me, there are bound to be those whom I have hurt, knocked down and bruised, would I desire forgiveness from them? Of course, yet that seems easier to deal with than when things are in reverse.

I have not arrived there yet but will try. Time is a healer although one day the timer runs out…..my prayer is that it will not be too late.

Lord, help me to forgive, help me to love as you love, that you may be praised, honoured and glorified.

Familiarity…not always a good thing

Sunset silhouette by thehutch
Sunset silhouette, a photo by thehutch on Flickr.

There is something safe and secure about familiar things. They breed comfort, peace and can provide a sense of well being. However, we must be careful that we do not allow the familiar to prevent us exploring new things.
In london we have all the favourite tourist destinations, the places that people want to see, be a part of and take pictures of. However, London is more than its famous landmarks, more than the well trodden paths, it has plenty of character, hidden spaces and beauty beyond compare that is often overlooked and forgotten.
The same can be said of our lives, our families, our work places, our churches – when do we go exploring, get creative, plough new ground? We do not want to lose sight of the familiar and safe ground….nor should we lose sight of new possibilities and new horizons.

Thinking strategically is not enough!

In leadership circles, it is regular to hear people talk about ‘thinking strategically’ but thinking strategically is not enough, you need to act strategically too! You can have the greatest ideas, the best plans and vision oozing out of every pore in your body but unless it leads to action, it will be as meaningless as a chocolate fire guard. When there is a good marriage between the thinking and the acting there is another significant action that is required, sacrifice. There are very few, if any, leaders that have achieved anything without sacrifice. When the three things come together, you have a very powerful foundation to bring productive change and, as we know, change is always with us and needs to be managed effectively, after all, thats why we need leaders!

: resolutions or more resolute?

So many people with resolutions, as we discover every January, yet we know that many will fall by the wayside very quickly. Shattered and broken promises will start appearing within days and by the end of the month we may discover over 80% of resolutions have failed.
Rather than resolutions, we need to be more resolute in our plans – stay the course, keep to the narrow way and bear fruit. We may then discover that our plans do not need re-writing every 12 months but that they last a lifetime. That, my friends, is success.