Friday, 25 February 2011

What Are We About?

Jesus was not crucified on an alter between some candles in a lavish old building filled with gold that is worth more than many earn in a decade. He was not crucified behind a platform in a smart warm building with flashing lights illuminating his cross for extra effect. Guitars were not playing and choirs were not singing when the Son of God hung on that crucifixion stake. No, Jesus died on a cross between two thieves, outside of the city, in a place fit only for rubbish, filth and death. The people who walked past him would have been so diverse from so many streams of life and culture they decided to write the sign above his head in Greek, Aramaic and Latin, and this was the kind of place where gambling and drunk soldiers engaged in coarse and filthy conversations; cursing thieves denied the existence of God; cynical bystanders mocked and ridiculed with a mob mentality. This is the place where Jesus died and this is what Jesus is all about. The call of the church is to be in these places and be about these things.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

An interview, sermon and lecture

A few links today of things I've been involved in recently.

Go here to listen to an interview I did for BBC radio Devon on freedom. There is a new bible out called the Freedom Bible that highlights those verses in scripture that speak about freedom and liberation. I shared my own story on how I was given freedom through a relationship with Jesus. The interview is about 41 minutes into the programme.

I was in Falmouth at the weekend preaching at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

I spoke in the morning about the Cross of Jesus and asking what our response is to the man on the cross. Go here to listen to the sermon.

In the evening I did a lecture exploring what the Emerging Church conversation is all about. Go here to listen to the lecture.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

True Happiness?

I've been pondering the beatitudes recently and what they mean.

Last night I watched The World's Worst Place to be Gay. You can watch at on this link or read about it here.

It was a shocking programme and revealed deep hatred and paranoia by many in Uganda towards homosexuals. The propaganda and blatant lies circulated by preachers, the media and government simply stir up the country into a frenzy of fear and hatred towards people who are gay.

I then thought about Jesus' words now commonly known as the beatitudes:

'Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'

In the Greek the word 'blessed' can literally be translated as 'happy'.

I do not think Jesus is listing a set of virtues here or giving us a model of how we should live our lives as Christians. I do not think Jesus is telling us that this is how we should be and then we will be blessed or happy.

I think what Jesus is saying here is that those who mourn or in poverty, and by that I mean material poverty which is what I think Jesus is talking about here, these people will be blessed by God.

I believe Jesus is saying that God is with these people. I believe Jesus is saying that God is especially with such people; the meek, poor, mournful, peacemakers, merciful, those thirsty for what is right, the pure in heart and persecuted.

I believe Jesus is talking here about his own mission to especially be with such people. He came to people such as these in order to bless them and reveal to them the goal and purpose of life; to be in relationship and to know the living God.

And this is what real happiness is.

And the church is called to continue in this mission to go to such people and seek to be a blessing to them. The church is called to continue in Jesus' mission to subvert what the world deems as 'happiness' and 'fulfilled living' and to show another way, a better way. That life has a goal, and that goal is to know God.

Which brings me back to Uganda.

Those men and woman who have been driven out of their homes and towns, who have been abused, persecuted, tortured and humiliated because of their sexuality, are the people who the church is called to go to and weep with, comfort, help, support and love.

The venom coming out of the Ugandan church is not from God. Their actions are not of Jesus. And I think God is disgusted with them. Yet I am sure there are still followers of Jesus in that country who will and are going to those gay people who have been so appallingly treated and be a blessing to them and to simply love them.

At least I hope there is.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Kingdom Cricket

Here is an example of something of God's Kingdom breaking into tough places through the most surprising ways.

There is nothing in this video about God or the Kingdom of God, but the way these guys lives are being transformed through a sport that most Americans have never even heard of is, in my opinion, something truly of God.

The Spirit of God is surprising and creative and transforming. Keep your eyes open to where and how God is working in your community and look for ways to get stuck in and join Him in what he is already doing.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Cringe Story!

Get this for a cringe story:

I met a lady yesterday and got chatting to her about life and faith.

She told me that not long ago she was walking down the street in town when a man approached her. This lady was wearing a cross necklace and the man pointed to the necklace and asked her if she was a Christian. This lady said that she wasn't but that she did believe in God.
The man asked her if she went to church. The lady said no she didn't because she wasn't sure about religion. So the man proceeded to condemn her for not going to church and told her she shouldn't be wearing a necklace with a cross on it if she wasn't a Christian.
This lady said she liked the necklace and he had no right telling her what she should or shouldn't do.
The man then told her that she should start going to church otherwise she would go to hell. He then walked off.

Stories like that make me really sad. Thankfully this lady recognised that this guy was a bit of a loon and is continuing to explore what faith is all about. But how often do experiences like that, albeit varying in their craziness, how often do they put people off even beginning to explore who Jesus is.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Music Worship

There is a meme going round at the moment to name one CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) song that you find unbearable and explain briefly why.

I've had a think and I've decided that I'm not going to get involved with this meme for a number of reasons.

Firstly I want to say that I am not someone who finds it very easy to engage with music worship in general. I could live without it. There are hymns and songs from old to new that I appreciate, but I could happily live out my life as a follower of Jesus without ever engaging in music worship.
That said I also want to say that I appreciate there are some excellent worship songs out there that do enable people to point their lives to God.

I think that this meme is a too critical and too easily attacks individuals.

I recognise that there is a whole marketing and conveyor belt of Christian music out there and that this in itself is deeply worrying. I recognise that music worship has done a lot of damage to how people engage with God. I recognise that music worship has pushed out the reading of Scripture out load in our churches, and that is a great travesty. I recognise that music worship has reenforced why people assume faith and feelings are one and the same thing.


I also recognise that music worship has helped people orientate their lives towards God. It has helped people seek God and given them hope in times of real despair. I believe modern music worship does have its place in some of our churches and that it can be a real gift and blessing to the church community.

I know the whole 'worship leader' debate rages out there, but I do think there are some who have a gift and calling from God to enable people, through music, to point there lives to God and to recognise that worship is about God increasing and us decreasing.

Theology matters. Theology enables us, by God's Spirit, to go deeper into the wonders of who God is. Good theology will lead us to the living God and will send us out to live as faithful disciples. Bad theology will lead us into idolatry and will disorientate us in our journey with Jesus.

So music worship needs to have good theology. And it is important to push for this in our churches.


All our theology is inadequate. What we say about God never fully grasps the depth and reality of God. It is like standing with a bucket under Niagara Falls. What's in the bucket is beautiful and sacred and to be celebrated. But there is still a whole waterfall.

So we should strive for good theology in our music worship and good practice too. But we also have a God who is far more gracious and loving than we dare conceive or imagine.
And there will be moments up and down this country this coming week when God will reach beyond our inadequacies and by his Spirit enable us to worship him.
And the beauty is that we are all diverse and different. For some CCM will help them worship God. For others it won't.

But whatever the medium, whether it is mission, music, the sacraments, Scripture, the goal is Jesus, to point to him and to one day find our goal in him.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A Story of Change

Darla French talks about her journey from drug addiction and prostitution to a new life with Jesus.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Crime Maps...

So new crime maps were released yesterday that give the general public statistics and insight into where crimes are committed in the UK. We, the public, can enter a post code or street name and find out how many crimes have been committed in that area.

People are raving about how great this will be as it will empower communities to hold the police accountable and enable communities to work with the police and deal with crime at a grass root level.
Apparently this is a part of the 'Big Society'...

I have to say that I am extremely wary and disturbed by this.

What I think this will do is further the fear, paranoia and segregation of our communities that has been increasing over the last 20 years. Crime maps are not and will not be the only cause of this, but they will increase these things happening. They are a consequence of the fear and segregation that already exists in our communities.

People will look on the crime maps, see how much crime is in their area and become more fearful about where they live. In turn it will create fear of 'the other', fear of strangers and a fear of where they live.

It will create paranoia about your home and where you live.

It will cause people to take matters into their own hands and deal with crime outside of the police.

It will also create ghetto's. So the rich will have the power to move out of an area that 'appears' to have a high crime rate. So we will have ever more exclusive communities where the rich live and dwell.
The poor will be powerless to do anything about it.
Those in poverty will find their situation even worse than now.

This is a bad idea.

I might sound a bit extremist, but I think crime maps are an example of where society has been heading for some time now.

The church needs to respond well. We need to be creating space for people to be loved, welcomed and accepted. We need to be creating space where people are not 'demonised' or made to live in fear. We need to be creating opportunity for people to be themselves and be loved.
The church needs to GO into their communities to look for ways in which groups can find unity, peace and reconciliation.
The church needs to GO into their communities and find ways to help the powerless and abused.
The church has a responsibility to address the fear by providing faith.
The church has a responsibility to create trust instead of paranoia.
The church has a responsibility to provide a safe space where all are welcome.

How will we respond?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Another Church Plant Update

Things are going well here. We are 5 months into this church planting adventure and feel really encouraged by what has been happening.

I have now set up a group who meet every two weeks to explore Christian faith and spirituality. We are going through Mark's Gospel and are going to use a variety of ways to explore the life of Jesus as told through Mark's narrative. Some weeks we will eat together and have a 'Crash' evening whilst other times we will watch film as a lead into a time of discussion looking at a particular theme from the gospel. People are keen to grapple with the Mark's gospel and wrestle with what it says, so I'm looking forward to the discussions we are going to have.
The first time we met there were three of us. The following time there were five of us. Next time two more people have said they are coming. So we will see how things progress. Above and beyond anything I hope that this group build authentic relationships where people love each other.

I have also started a role as a pastoral and spiritual carer for Hannah's at Seale Hayne. Go to this link and see what they are all about.
Seale Hayne used to be an agricultural college owned by Plymouth University but then sold it to the Dame Hannah Roger's Trust who seek to support young people and adults with a range of disabilities. There is a cafe, music studio's, art studio's, gallery and many other things that make up this space. People come for a day of respite and are introduced to a variety of activities geared especially to those with disabilities.
Local businesses also hire out space within the community as a way of inviting the community of Newton Abbot to become a part of this community. It means that people of all abilities are together, learning from each other and breaking down barriers of prejudice and fear. Those businesses who hire out space are required to give something back into the Seale Hayne community. So artists teach classes and do workshops. There is a blacksmith who does the same.
I am now there to support the whole community and be a listening ear and to offer spiritual care and support for those who would like it. I'm really excited about being there and have met some great people.

I have been talking with the local Family and Schools worker for the Methodist church and this month we are going to begin to offer support and help on two of the estates in Newton Abbot who are suffering with social and economic difficulties. We are running a support group for parents and a drop in activity group for the children on the estates.

I have been to see Young Devon who seek to help young adults gain qualifications and skills that will equip them for work and life. They were really keen for me to be a part of their group and community so I am going to spend some time praying about how I might serve them.

I continue to have prayer walking as a priority and spend a lot of my time continuing to do this. I see it as THE most vital part of my ministry here in Devon and believe time listening to God is the best time spent.

As a family we are loving life here in Devon. We are able to spend good quality time together and it's really good to see my girls growing and flourishing in life.