Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A church with a View

It appears God still works with non-church organizations and leadership in the same way as the days of old with Nehemiah, Ezra, & Daniel. If you look at each of those three books of Scripture you will find stunning little relations between these men of God and the 'Secular Powers that Be' where God has totally worked on these 'powers' beforehand and used them to provide astonishing things for the people of God.

Well God is still at it, and He has done it for the little church that God has called the wife and I to lead.
It is pretty amazing.

We have thought long and hard about our response as a church leadership to the certain calling upon us to be a visible witness, a 'RADIANT CITY WITHIN THE CITY" as a church. Out of this has come interactions with various organizations, one of which we thought would simply never happen as it would all be simply to phenomenal if it worked out as it would be too plum to relate in this brief blog.
Well after a meeting last Monday with said organization, where it appeared the phrase most often mentioned by them was, "What else can we do for you," or "Why don't you try this as well?" the door has flung open for us to meet in an amazing location.

Why, cause we're special? Heck no, because God is ultimately sovereign over all.
Basically, we're absolutely pumped by all that He's doing.

Have faith.


Acquaintance with God

I guess I quote the puritans a whole lot here, but there words are typically hugely more beneficial than my own, so that is probably the main reason why.
Any way here are some thoughts from a largely unknown Puritan- James Janeway speaking on the subject of 'Acquaintance with God' or what we would probably call today, 'Intimacy with God.' He has many brilliant thoughts, but here is a taster

"Another glorious effect of acquaintance with God is, that it makes a man like God... Company is of an assimilating nature. He that before was unholy, and like the devil, by conversion to God and converse with Him is made holy like God... A full and perfect conformity and likeness to God is the very glory of glory... Be acquainted with Him, and you shall be like Him. Keep much in His company by faith, secret prayer, and meditation, and you will be more holy, divine, and spiritual. The last effect of this acquaintance with God: It will make a man better, far more excellent in all states and relations. All his friends will have the better life with him, the whole family... will fare the better for him."

Is this true of our lives, has knowing and drawing near to Christ our Saviour had a transforming effect. If not I fear there may be a fundamental misunderstanding of what knowing God actually is.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Contentment Redefined

March 24th 2009 and my understanding of 'contentment' was redefined. I got the phone call at 12.56AM. They said don't rush, AS IF! I jumped in the car, gave a quick call to the Mother in Law to say, "It's on!" Got to the hospital at 1.12AM and there was more than enough evidence that things were going crazy- my wife's pain contorted face. Yip, my second little child was finally (my wife was already 12 days overdue, this little one loved it where it is all nice and warm and cosy) deciding upon making an appearance for mum and dad.

The next 3 hours (yes ladies who have had children, three hours, have a go at her not me) are, I believe, the biggest journey into understanding, or having a glimpse of, the sublime that contemporary humanity may still have. The delivery, and all that surrounds it, of a new born baby. It is an unbelievable experience.

I could not confine my joy when I realized that the glorious creator God had blessed me with a daughter. It was a huge surprise and a moment that will mark me for ever. I now have a beautiful baby boy and a stunning little girl and I just cannot come to grips with the contentment I feel.

Contentment, for me has been redefined.

Thank you Gracious King!


Tozer on Service... This Could Hurt

I try make it a daily practice to read a brief insight on leadership from A. W. Tozer. His views are most certainly not business-minded or pop-psychology induced so that is refreshing. They are also typically convicting and correcting. Most leaders, in fact most all of us, need both. Here is the one from 23rd March

"Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done. In God's sight my giving is measured not by how much I have given but by how much I could have given and how much I had left after I made my gift. The needs of the world and my total ability to minister to those needs decide the worth of my service.

Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. NO MAN GIVES AT ALL UNTIL HE HAS GIVEN ALL. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice.

In the work of the church the amount one man must do to accomplish a given task is determined by how much or how little the rest of the company is willing to do. It is a rare church whose members all put their shoulder to the wheel. The typical church us composed of the few whose shoulders are bruised by their faithful labours and the many who are unwilling to raise a blister in the service of God and their fellowmen.

He could not be more insightful...


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Atonement Thoughts III

My ongoing reading through Paul Wells' Cross Words continues to enthuse and encourage me about the marvelous work of Christ on behalf of all creation but of course most particularly for those bought by His blood shed at calvary.

Today I share thoughts from a man called Peter Lewis from a book entitled The Glory of Christ. They relate to the role of Christ as a King in his work of mediation

"The kingship of Christ is of a kind that could never be rightly claimed or really exercised except by one who was both God and man, divine and human. It stretches through the entire cosmos and it reaches into the hearts and minds of men. Where God alone rules there Christ the Lord is king. In perfect knowledge of the thoughts and hearts, the feelings and fears of millions of souls, Christ presides over his church, knowing every one of his subjects as only God could do, but knowing them too as only a fellow human could do; that is, knowing them not only from within the divine omniscience [all knowing], but also from within the human condition."

May these words be an encouragement to you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mowing the Lawn

Today I experienced the joyful concept of mowing my own lawn. Now a regular practice of mine in Zimbabwe was mowing my dad's lawn, but there seemed to be an air of resistance then, a lack of fulfillment. My experience today was so much different.

I found it a hard concept to explain to my wife. I suggested that it may be similar to the way she looks about the house after she has laboured over it with the hoover. I only say that not because that is what women are meant to do, but because there is an air about her, a look of conquest as she turns to me and asks how it looks.
We are funny things men! Such pride in this minor task. Such delight as I yanked off the grass container to the rear of the mower and poured out the freshly hewn green fiber.

You may ask why this is such a new experience for me, and it has nothing to do with laziness (well a tiny bit). Some UK homes are a phenomena in that it astounds me how many houses the English people can fit on a piece of land that would not even measure up to a Zimbabwean garden. These houses are the types we have lived in up until now, so the delight is magnified because God has given me such a fantastic home.

What is that saying about simple minds....


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Atonement Thoughts II

The orthodox, reformed view of the Atonement (Vicarious Penal Substitutionary Atonement) has faced much criticism in recent years (in fact for far longer than that). One accusation is that it puts across a God who is shockingly angry with His own Son which seems impossible as it pits God the Father against God the Son... this is Anti-trinitarian. Well Paul Wells puts sword to such an accusation with these words I read today.

"The mediator removes liability to penal judgment and guilt in the sense of condemnation leading to death. That Christ 'bore our sins' means He took on Himself their fatal consequences and died the death we ought to have died...

Surely God could never be angry with His own Son? That is wholly the case. God was never for an instant angry against the beloved Son. God was not at odds with Christ, He was at odds with sin. His anger was not pointed at the person of Christ like the anger of one person can be directed at another or at an object. In the particular function of mediator He accepted for others, Christ acted together with and for God and too the anger of God on Himself. Forgiveness is not wrung from a violent and a grudging God. Christ is the subject and the object of His own acts. By taking the anger of God against sin to Himself, and dying for it, He obtained forgiveness

Such love Divine, O Saviour Mine


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Atonement Thoughts

I am preparing for a series we will do as a church for 4 weeks over easter called '72: The Three days that Changed the World.'

I am reading a book giving simply marvelous insights into the Atonement (Jesus as a sacrificial substitution for our sin and the restoration of relationship with God) and thought I would give a quick one which helps us understand the necessity of the death of Christ in relation to Sin and the nature of God. Here goes:

"If sin as guilt is man's debt, estrangement, and a crime against God, the removal of sin MUST be seen as debt being paid, reconciliation replacing alienation, and the crime eliminated.
The MUST is essential as these conditions exist because man's sin against God bears upon His essential attributes-- Holiness, righteousness, and justice. Atonement for sin requires a satisfaction demanded by these attributes if the relationship between God and man as sinner is to be restored. God, by His very nature, cannot wipe the slate clean. For Him to do so would be a denial of His character and principles of law. If the personal relation between God and man is to be renewed, a solution must be provided, which corresponds to man's need and God's demands.
- Paul Wells 'Cross Words'

Powerful I thought


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Leadership 101

It has been a little over 2 months that we have had the joy of leading this church here in Watford. I think as you step into a role like this if you are not completely aware of your need for God you are not seeing it as you should. There are an almost inestimable amount of situations that occur on a regular basis which demand more than is just stored in the grey organ within your skull.

The past 10 days have probably been a real testimony to me of that. Situations occur that I would never have imagined (certainly not any that I would have been prepared for in all my 'studies'). I have been called to interact with facilities managers as you seek to know a more central place in which you could worship in; a platform from which to be a greater impact to the city (we are called to do this, to love the city, to serve it, not just to huddle away). Strong discussion with fellow leaders as you move forward and start noting the strain that it puts upon leadership teams. Writing movie scripts for an Easter Sermon series. And then dealing with people from one family who can worship together under one roof, but are unable to even talk to one another when back outside the doors.

This is leadership 101! For me it is leadership raw. In these seasons one has to tap into, submit to the inner working of the Spirit of God who I know has infinitely more to offer than any wisdom of my own. As the scriptures say: "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord."

Thank God our Father that He equips us for the task!


Friday, March 6, 2009

Puritan Talk

Here are two of the real Spiritual Heavies who make me ache for God with all my heart:

"This perfection of God [omniscience] fits Him to be a special object of trust. If He were forgetful, what comfort could we have in any promise? How could we depend on Him if he were ignorant of our state? His compassion to pity us, His readiness to revive us, His power to protect and assist us, would be insignificant without His omniscience to inform His goodness and direct the arm of His power. This perfection is, as it were, God's office of intelligence... You may depend upon His mercy that has promised, and upon his truth to perform, upon His sufficiency to supply and His goodness to relieve, and His righteousness to reward you, because He has an infinite understanding of you and your needs."
- Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)

Prepare to be stunned...

"This Son [Jesus]... was a gift to us; for our sakes he descended from His throne, and dwelt on earth; for our sakes He was made flesh... made a curse, and scorched in the furnace of His Father's wrath... He gave Him to us, to suffer for us as a man, and redeem us as a God; to be a sacrifice to expiate our sin by translating the punishment upon Himself, which was merited by us. Thus he was made low to exalt us, and debased to advance us, made poor to enrich us (II Cor. 8.9)... He was ordered to taste the bitter cup of death, that we might drink the rivers of immortal life... Thus was the righteous given for sin, the innocent for criminals, the glory of Heaven for the dregs of death, and the immense riches of a Deity expended to restock man."
- Charnock

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eat It!

Thought I would share two quotes relating to scripture. The first from Louis Berkhof speaks of the 'proximate aim' or the human-bound goal of God giving us revelation in the form of His word. The second is from Eugene Peterson and is from a simply excellent book called Eat this Book which is a must read if one wants to come to grips for the Spiritual aspect of bible reading and the power it has to transform the soul.

Anyway, here goes:

The proximate aim of of revelation (however), is found in the complete renewal of sinners, in order that they may mirror the virtues and perfections of God... It seeks to deliver from the power of sin, of the devil, and of death, the entire man, body and soul, with all his talents and powers, and to renew him spiritually, morally, and ultimately also physically to the glory of God; and not only the individual man, but mankind as an organic whole...

"Holy Scripture is the source document, the authoritative font, the work of the Spirit that is definitive in all true Spirituality.
What I mean to insist upon is that spiritual writing-- Spirit-sourced writing-- requires spiritual reading, a reading that honors words as holy, words as a basic means of forming an intricate web of relationships between God and the human, between all things visible and invisible.

"There is only one way of reading that is congruent with our Holy Scriptures, writing that trusts in the power of words to penetrate our lives and create truth and beauty and goodness, writing that requires a reader who, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, 'does not always remain bent over his pages; he often leans back and closes his eyes over a line he has been reading again, and its meaning spreads through his blood.' This is the kind of reading names by our ancestors as LECTIO DIVINA, often translated 'spiritual reading,' reading that enters our souls as food enters our stomachs, spreads through our blood, and becomes holiness and love and wisdom.

Eat it!