God is up to something in the neighbourhoods

“God is up to something in neighborhoods, on the ground in real places. The church, in all its diversity, needs to figure out how to join in. We think God is putting forth a dare that, if practiced, could both revitalize church traditions, and develop a growing unity among members of various denominational expressions in the parish. More than that, it could help the church learn to give itself away in love to the world around it.”

Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, Dwight J. Friesen

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes

Elisabeth Elliot died today. It was her story, and that of Jim, who helped shape the story of my teenage Christian years. Here are some of her greatest quotes: 

“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”

“Leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.”

“Faith is not an instinct. It certainly is not a feeling—feelings don’t help much when you’re in the lions’ den or hanging on a wooden Cross. Faith is not inferred from the happy way things work. It is an act of will, a choice, based on the unbreakable Word of God who cannot lie, and who showed us what love and obedience and sacrifice mean, in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Seek the Welfare of the City

seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

God loves the city but the way we act as Christians does not always demonstrate this. We have chosen a mission field that fits our comfortable lives rather than the mission field of God. God wants everyone in the city to know Himself but we can act with fear and trembling when it comes to certain ‘no-go’ areas. Our own well being is linked to the well being of ALL the people that live near us and around us….note that…ALL! This is real community and we need to see ‘all’ of the city as our mission field and that includes some people that we will find difficult, uncomfortable and not necessarily those that we would associate with.

In my current role, I speak with churches and groups who desire to make a difference. The first thing that I am asked is for the ‘winner takes all’ strategy, thankfully they do not quit when one is not offered. There are things that can be done;

Pray for your community
Blindingly obvious but often a step that is missed

Be in your community
In a mobile city this step can be ignored but it is often the poorer and more marginalised that are least mobile and forgotten. The organisation that I work for is seeking to adopt a strategy for key workers of ‘live, work and worship’ in the community. Not everyone can adopt this but it is worth considering

Know your community
Be the expert of your community; who lives where? what is available? where are the services? what is the history? Be the sage of the area….it matters!

Love your community
This can be done in many ways. Pick up litter as you pass, open your home to people, be available to people, talk with people, listen to people. Love the people and care for the environment, you will be surprised how people respond.

Seek the welfare of the city….go for it….be amazed at what God can do!

Loving one another in the online world

After being a little absent on the social networks these last few weeks, it has been interesting to review things that are happening and seeing the responses of people. One of the things that has caught my eye is the amount of vitriol that can come from the keypads of Christians when somebody appears to step on some of their own strongly held doctrinal viewpoints, or another ‘champion of faith’ is brought into question.
It is right that we contend for our faith and that we are careful to guard our doctrine but too often we have allowed ourselves to slip in to a barrage of abusive behaviours to others. Disagreement is a part of life, differences of opinion are to be expected but the line is surely crossed when we begin personal attacks that are, at best, abusive.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” is the verse that springs to mind – words that Jesus used as he predicted his betrayal and just before his conversation with Peter regarding Peters own denial of Jesus. In the darkest moments, love one another….it is the thing that marks out God’s people from others. Surely if we are to make an impact for the gospel, we should bear this in mind in the way we communicate with one another….even more so in the public forums that are available to us. Recently, many have gone beyond saying ‘You fool!’ (see Matthew 5:21) and that leads to destruction – let’s be people who are strong, yet loving, courageous, yet gentle and let’s love one another so that we may see many more enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a result of our witness.

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.

almost christian

Once again, another challenging read from Kenda Creasy-Dean.  Whilst set firmly in the American church setting, there are many parallels and similarities with the UK church.  Youthworkers will enjoy the challenges set, better still if church leaders were to grasp some of the issues and pro-actively engage.

There are more capable people who will no doubt review the book – over to you Ian – but its greatest challenge is not for teenagers but for adults and the ways in which they relate to teenagers.  In 3 words – “reclaim the story”.  Once this is done, a more meaningful faith will develop and then be cultivated.

My excuse for holding back is the imminent book launch “The Faith of Generation Y” (Mayo, Mayo, Nash, Cocksworth) which has also done significant research over the last 5-6 years – it also will talk about “the story”.  The 2 books together may be a very useful challenge to Christian youthworkers as they reflect and adapt to the world around them.

Will offer more thoughts after reading that.