Monday, September 29, 2008

Live Vertizontal

Flew into Dallas to speak at a church down in Temple, Texasthis weekend just gone. It was over two months ago that I was struck with what I would share with these young people at the weekend.
If one goes to the bible and looks at the book of Matthew and chapter 22 there is a magnificent section of text which is where Christ is interacting with a whole bunch of guys that are trying to attack Him and undermine Him. Particularly they want to destroy the claim that He made all through His life that He was the Messiah, the anointed one of God who would deliver people from bondage; one who would inaugurate a new Kingdom of the rule of God that would bring peace, and restoration to a broken, destruction-bound world.

In this section Jesus in the unbelievably powerful way He was so often capable of doing sums up all of faith, all of life & solidifies the matrix of what it is to live out the life God has desired for mankind. In a word Christ tells us to live VERTIZONTALLY.
This word that I use to sum up the stunning call that Christ makes which is this. Love toward God (vertically) with all of your heart, soul, and mind; then as a visible expression of this love for God love your neighbour (horizontally) as you love yourself. Christ says give all of your being to loving God, and if you claim to love God you will love people in the way they most need. The greatest way you can love others is to love God in the way defined here by Christ.

Mark these words of John Piper

“…there is a sense in which the second commandment (to love your neighbor) is the visible goal of the whole Word of God. It's not as though loving God is not here, or that loving God is less important; rather loving God is made visible and manifest and full in our visibly, practically, sacrificially loving others...
'Love your neighbour as yourself…': It is overwhelming because it seems to demand that I tear the skin off my body and wrap it around another person so that I feel that I am that other person; and all the longings that I have for my own safety and health and success and happiness I now feel for that other person as though he were me."

Live it!


Flying back to London today from Dallas, Texas. Have had a great time, but have to admit that I have missed the wife and little guy immensely. If I refer back to an earlier blog that I wrote with regards to how my wife has become my greatest friend I can now bring some thoughts to how that shift has influenced my feelings on this trip.

I have certainly missed her in a far more obvious way then I have in times before. It is not that I am totally incapacitated or anything like that. It is more like a strong, inward awareness that I am not meant to be alone. I am not meant to wake up alone and turn to the side and realize that my beautiful angel is not with me. This is has certainly influenced me emotionally.
One thing for certain is that my friends know that the family is missing. Even though I made all of my friends here before I met my wife, it is as if I am incomplete to them without her. There is so much to me then just being alone. Even though I was fully sufficient to them as a friend etc. when I was alone, now there is a certainty that with my family I am most who I am.

It is a wonderful transition. Not one that I expected to make, and certainly not one to make with the ease and settledness that I have. We have a new little one on the way, so I wonder what that she/he will add to us.
Can't wait to be get back to that family. Miss them immensely, just counting the hours now.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There was a sense of disappointment as we left the mall
All the young people looked the same
Wearing their masks of cool and indifference
Commerce dressed up as rebellion

Because we are so handsome and we are so bored
So entertain us, tell me a joke
Make it long, make it last forever
Make it cruel just make me laugh
We can't be hurt

Drink to forget your blues on the weekend
Think about more things to buy
The TV taught me how to sulk and to love nothing
And how to grow my hair long

These are words from a song by the British band Bloc Party, Uniform. They are eye-catching to me because they poetically express, in the words of a secular band, the product of one of the most invasive ills of our time, APATHY.

The effect and extent of Apathy among young people alarms me. It has a soul-numbing, even destroying power. As I go to preach in Dallas this weekend I want this song to bring home a point that I want to make. In Matthew 22, Christ gives an overarching answer to the question of a lawyer as to what is the greatest commandment in scripture. He states that it is to Love God with all your being, and to love your neighbour as yourself. A primary enemy of that love, particularly in young Christians in the West is Apathy.

It robs us of passion, or even any feeling, and can seriously stunt our ‘experience’ of faith in Jesus Christ.


Unleashing the Church

Started a three part series at the church this past Sunday:

The series is drawn out of this passage I Peter 2: 4-12.
Part 1 was all centered on the stunning initiative of God to release ‘the city’ from bondage with a person and a people. The person, the glorious Hero of the redeeming story of God is, of course, Jesus Christ.
Below is a brief summary-

Purpose of Passage- This passage is written to the scattered, persecuted Hebrews throughout the Diaspora. In this brief passage Peter directs their (and ours) gaze to the stunning initiative of God to break in and redeem His people.

Introducing Christ- In these verses Peter introduces shows these ancient readers of the letter and us the great person who has brought in the inexplicably majestic initiative of God to release captives from the curse of sin: Jesus Christ

We first need to confirm that Jesus is the hero and it is in scripture that we find absolute confirmation of that. Then we can look see two phrases in this brief passage of scripture that explain why it is Jesus that is the great Hero of the Father’s ‘redeeming’ story for mankind.

1. How can we be sure?- Is. 9:1, 6-7; Lk. 2: 8-14; 25-32; 4: 17-21; Acts 2:36 JESUS CHRIST IS THE HERO
2. Living Stone Chosen and precious’
i. CHOSEN- ALONE ABLE: Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12
UNEQUIVOCALLY UNIQUE: unique in His being (God/man) unique life Heb 4: 15; unique high priest Heb. 10: 11-12
ii. PRECIOUS- ETERNAL INTIMACY: relationship between father and Son in the eternal Trinitarian relationship. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Talk about my new but wonderful insight into this with Malachi)
BEAUTY/PERFECTIONS: “For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent; and all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who has an infinite fullness of brightness and glory.” Jonathan Edwards


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Day

Phew! So it is all out now, I can finally tell the world—The gorgeous Mrs., Malachi, and I are heading to Watford, UK to lead a church.
Yesterday (Sunday 14th Septmber) was our ‘Introduction Sunday’ and what a brilliant Sunday it was. Unity, excitement and vision seemed to rest over us like a comforting cloud of God’s grace.

Watford is a great place, and seems to be a place where God is doing some unique stuff among church leaders who want to come together and take the town for Christ. There are about 75000 people in the greater area, lots of young folks and a brief walk down the high street gives a glimpse of the life in the town.
Watched the Liverpool Manchester United game (Oh what a day!) in the Walkabout pub there and just soaked in every ounce of the atmosphere and had a couple of fantastic conversations with guys who seem to love the place. Feel a real favour here for what God has called us to.

It has been a journey I am not going to lie. One of many years for me I would say, but even the last 12 to 14 months have been real difficult (always so hard to transition and there is always a ‘bigger story’) but I think it is cause God is knocking edges off of us and equipping us with a far greater capacity to lead.
We know we are in the right place now and I think we just want to be blown away as God downloads vision, unites us with the two brilliant elders there (big up to Andy & Craig) and prepares us for a stunning future.

We’re exited and I want to blog here often so watch this space.
Added below what I shared at the church, take a look, let me know what you think.


First Thoughts

What do you say to intoduce yourself to a church you hope to lead with all the love, energy and vision you feel God has given you? I am not too sure. I decided to just lift their eyes to the vision of God for His church and the glorious role it plays in the ‘redemption story’ that is reality.

Here is a brief summary of the exhortation I gave to the church in Watford:

The dynamic church leader Bill Hybels has made this stunning statement, “The local church is the hope of the world…” I believe this wholeheartedly. Every moment of my life is driven by a consciousness of this glorious truth. Hybels did not just pluck this from the air, he did not just come up with it, this is the overarching truth of God’s redemption plan.

The whole story of the bible is a story of redemption, a story of a gloriously just and loving God orchestrating a marvelous plan to redeem lost, broken, self-destructive people back to Himself. The story is now in its final chapters and these are the best ones—these chapters are about THE CHURCH.

Just let these verses strike you:
Is. 2: 2-3; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:33-36; jn. 17: 21-23; Eph. 3:10

All these verses are about this time, they are about you and me. They are about the startling story that God is now using you and me to redeem the world to Himself. He is using you and me to advance the Kingdom of God…

“[and] we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”- II Cor. 3:18

This verse is all about transformation, it is all about God the Spirit transforming us into bright reflections of Christ that display His glory to the people surrounding us. Do you get that, how powerfully does that strike you? I am riveted to this verse. This verse grasps the ‘life’ of the church perfectly. It speaks of MISSION because it is written to a community of people so it means that WE, the church, should reflect the glory of Christ to a lost, broken, and dying world.

The community of God’s people is the agent of change for this world. This vision, the vision of this church transforming lives, changing communities and impacting nations is the overarching, driving hope that has united these men of God, your brilliant elders with me as God has worked in bringing us together ‘for such a time as this.’

We know what God has called us to. We see a future and it is captivating, exhilirating but will be extremely demanding.

We will not be an army of people with a family mindset that is stunted by self-love we will be a family with an army mentality, strategically advancing the Kingdom of God in Watford and watching the ripple effects influence the ends of the world.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leaning In

Just finished writing in my journal how much I long to hear from God in this season. Funny, some people would read that comment and dismiss all I am for claiming that I believe you can hear from God, I am not going to engage in that conversation.

We, my wife, Malachi and I, are in one of those seasons where you are made acutely aware of how you need the guidance of God in making right decisions and following the most fruitful path that is divinely ordained. It is one of those seasons when, if you get it wrong, it could take a real long time to repair the damage and a lot of other people could get hurt.

When in college in Dallas, my philosophy professor (legend that he was and is) made us read the book of Proverbs quite intensely as part of a Philosophy of Language class. It was at that time that I read a verse in Proverbs chapter one that seems almost to expose the longing of God to speak intimately to us, but the tragedy is that often we do not ‘heed His rebuke’ (pay attention, stop to listen, receive the outcome of His disciplining) for long enough to be still and listen.

Right now I am trying to take Him at His promise and wanting to hear Him so much. I can imagine the fruit of a life that is lived responding to the intimate whispers of the Divine Conductor of all would be quite stunning to behold.


Leaving Church

We’re leaving our church. Had enough really, looking for something that is more ‘us.’
NO NO, I am joking big time! Strangely, there are scores of people I know, and tens of thousands that I don’t, who see church attendance with this consumerism mentality. It is a bit of a tragedy really and I am sure it does not reflect the heart of Christ when He sets out the importance of loving a local family of believers and giving all of oneself to become a ‘member’ of that family.

I am sure Christ really did not compensate for the, “Well I am not too sure I can do church without a smoke machine Nigel;” or the, “Cyril those drums are just too loud and I know that God would not have it that way in heaven” approach to church. Oh I know He knows it exists and always knew it would, but I do not think that reflects His fascination with the local church.

I am certainly of the opinion that it is essential to find a place where you fit and where you know you can participate. I just think it is important we set out biblical precedents as to the governing paradigm determining where we live out our Christian faith. The effects of consumerism are so widespread that I am certain very few people really come to grips with them. We must search our hearts and embody Christ’s powerful lesson that ‘to give is better than to receive.’

Ps. We are leaving our church but I can’t quite say why or where yet… watch this blogspace!


Monday, September 1, 2008

Peace Squared

Ancient philosophers like Plato and Socrates spoke of ‘the happy life’, a place of absolute serenity, tranquillity and harmony of soul. They said happiness was something or someone that was to be pursued because it was completely fulfilling and satisfying in and of itself—it needed nothing added to it. St. Augustine (the early and great Christian philosopher) made it plain where he knew happiness to lie—in a deeply intimate relationship with Christ. He stated in his Confessions, “Our hearts were made for you and we are restless until we find our place in you.”

I preached yesterday and said that two quintessential elements of ‘the happy life’ are peace and joy; they are inextricably linked you cannot have one without the other! The book of Philippians in the bible is a letter all about joy and then at the end, in the last chapter there is the promise of a divine peace ‘that transcends all understanding.’ Wow that is the peace we all long for.

What is unique about this peace? Well it is peace squared. The ultimate peace that is necessary is not peace between the warring military giants squaring up over Georgia but the peace between man and God. Man chooses rebellion to God and this uprising will be dealt with. Faith in the peace-making work of Christ on the cross is the only way to restore fellowship with God and I assure you this peace is all-important.

What makes this peace ‘peace squared?’ Well in the last chapter of Philippians Paul promises not only the peace of God but the God of peace!
Christians can not only know a peace that calms us in difficult times, peace that wars against the cancerous work of anxiety and all its fruits but we can know closeness with the God of peace.
I can live knowing there is no longer war between God and me. I can live strengthened and blessed that I can lift all my needs and cares to God in prayer. Finally, I can live in wonderful relationship with this God who gives peace.

Bring on ‘the happy life.’


What We’re Looking For (III) RELEVANCY

This is a very important component of the faith and churches that people of this generation are looking for. Sadly, some churches have gone to such extremes ensuring that they are ‘relevant’ they actually place that as the essential element of who they are thus losing sharpness in the process.
Relevancy to me is something that needs to be taught into people and combined with teaching OUT of people some things. People have come to honour the forms by which church used to do things in past generations to a point where those forms can never be changed and are therefore so outdated and shockingly irrelevant that it turns people away from the truth that the church offers. This must be taught OUT of people.
Forms must change with the times and forms must connect with and impact the people that we need to reach or we are not fulfilling the mandate we were given by Christ.

What must be taught into people to enable relevancy is that all of life can be lived and enjoyed when done so to the glory of God. Good music is good music and must be celebrated; good wine is a fantastic gift to mankind and must be enjoyed biblically; rest and play originate in the heart of God so we as Christians should be doing it the best way. (Those are just examples to try make a point.)

Here are some words written by the ever prophetic Francis Schaeffer that speak to this entry
Not being able, as times change, to change under the Holy Spirit is ugly. The same applies to church polity and practice. In a rapidly changing age like ours, an age of total upheaval like ours, to make nonabsolutes absolutes guarantees both isolation and the death of the institutional, organized church.

We have an increasingly secularised culture to reach and to save people from that culture we must look at the form/packaging of everything that we do! Let’s pursue relevancy but remember that we do not have to give up any of our core values in the process.