Monday, June 28, 2010

The 's' word!

About 25 minutes ago while making a juice for my gorgeous little girl (it is baking hot here in Watford) I heard the words that I hear far too often and which disgust me to put it mildly. Through our lounge windows which open on to the road to a kids' school a mother said to her little girl, "Well you're stupid..."

Parents, any of you, and my word even more so if you're believing parents, may I just make something overtly obvious to you: In the above equation there is only one person exposing their blatant stupidity and that is the parent.
To call a child stupid as part of the 'parenting package' exposes incivility, lack of grace, lack of wisdom, immaturity, impatience, and a form of barbaric nastiness.

It brings to my mind a marvelous little section of a superb book by C.S. Lewis called The Four Loves where I think Lewis expresses a similar incredulity at parenting of such a nature. Let him speak to us...

"We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters' side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. Who has not been the embarrassed guest at family meals where the father or mother treated their grown-up offspring with an incivility which, offered to any other young people, would simply have terminated the acquaintance? Dogmatic assertions on matters which the children understand and their elders don't, ruthless interruptions, flat contradictions, ridicule of things the young take seriously sometimes of their religion insulting references to their friends, all provide an easy answer to the question "Why are they always out? Why do they like every house better than their home?" Who does not prefer civility to barbarism?"

Let's love our little ones, and be so aware that 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but words... break my heart."


Corporate Praise

As a family we've been away from Christ First for a couple of weeks, missing two Sundays in the process. In that time we've been either traveling or a significant distance away from an evangelical church so have not had the opportunity to worship with the people of God. This Sunday was a return for us to our family within the body of Christ and it was truly sweet to worship within them once again.

We live at a time where there is a significant number of believers who are not at all 'bothered' about gathered worship (admittedly there are, of course, those who think that is all 'church' is). In fact even within X1 a typical attendance pattern for many would be 3 Sundays in every 5, and as the summer is upon us I see that figure shifting more to 2 in 5.

So many of us are so 'infected' with the rampant, prevailing individualism that makes capitalistic, consumerist culture exactly what it is that we can not detect in ourselves how our 'selfish' pursuit of Christ ("it's my faith", "it's about me and Jesus" mentality) is in exact opposition to God's intended pattern for us as members of God's body. Keeping that idea in mind, the idea of the body, to state, "Ah just kinda want it to be about me and Jesus this Sunday, I'll sneak in a little quiet time and then be still with Him," is like the toe saying to the knee, "Ah just going to take a break from the body today, you guys get on without me would you..."

There should be a hunger within us to be with the people of God, to gather to praise and worship the risen King. In that there is this astounding dynamic that as we lift up Yahweh, focus on Him, set our gaze upon Him, our affections are united, our emotions engaged and elevated, and, I hope in almost every case anyway, our faith reinvigorated and stoked for further mission fulfillment!

I think this is what we felt yesterday anyway, and it was good, very good, to be back with our 'family' knitting hearts and being blessed by the presence of the living God in our midst.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home Comforts

What is it about getting back home after you've been away. The words, "Ah it's great to be home," used to come off my folks' lips every time we returned from a holiday as I grew up and I can remember often thinking, "no it isn't I loved being on holiday in South Africa where you can get real sweets and awesome toys." Now I can fully identify with the root emotion that expressed those words all those years ago.

The LJ family have just returned from a simply lovely holiday in Brittany, France at a place called Moulin Begasse, near Meslan (click here for website). We were truly blessed to get the time away in a peaceful and idyllic setting encountering very little other than God's revelation of Himself both in nature and in personal communion (more on that in future blogs). But we're back and it is simply marvelous to be so. I don't fully get it but I felt it in a pronounced way as I prepared my morning cup of coffee.

As many know, and say, to my face actually, I am a rumoured 'coffee snob' - in other words I don't drink instant coffee and love to prepare filter coffee in a french press. Well I have a special and particular process of doing that which involves a particular mug, a defined amount of time heating that mug in the microwave prior to placing within the mug a certain number of sugar grains (I jest, but almost) and then after a well-worked-out-through-trial-and-error amount of time within my overused french press plunging the press and pouring the coffee. Yes, while doing this today I felt a surge of, "Ah it's great to be home."

I am sure there is something spiritual to it, and I would be the first to shout that I am a citizen of heaven and this is not my true home, but God seems to have instilled within us a longing for 'our place' where we know we are his definite 'under-shepherds' of that minimal, even minute, slice of His glorious creation.

Good to be back.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A commentator's insights on II Cor. 8 & 9

On the Logos 4 bible program (as I've mentioned before) there is 2 really helpful commentaries on the books of Corinthians. Here is some thoughts from one of them relating to Sunday's message on giving and the ideas espoused in these two chapters of scripture:
In these chapters are
1. Paul’s overall argument concerning Christian giving
1. example of others (Macedonians) vv. 1–5
2. giving is an aspect of spiritual growth, vv. 7–8
3. example of Christ, v. 9; 9:15
4. their own start, vv. 6, 10
5. encouragement to put desire into action, v. 10
6. motive, not amount, is the key, v. 12
7. giving equals out, v. 14

2. New Testament guidelines for Christian giving based on the model of the churches of Macedonia
1. joyous and genuine, even amidst poverty, v. 2; 9:7
2. gave to utmost of ability, v. 3
3. gave sacrificially beyond ability, vv. 3, 12
4. gave freely, v. 3; 9:7
5. gave sincerely, v. 4
6. gave more than money, v. 5

Utley, R. J. D. (2002). Vol. Volume 6: Paul's Letters to a Troubled Church: I and II Corinthians. Study Guide Commentary Series (260). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

Hope they are somewhat helpful.


On NOT speaking on 'Tithing.'

This week at X1 I had the joy/challenge of speaking, or NOT, speaking on tithing to our people. The reason it is a challenge is twofold really, I feel.
Firstly, you are entering into a great emotionally charged/ 'do not invade' space of the western believer's psyche. This is one of those 'do not go there' areas of our walk. The personal area where it is hard to determine how a church leadership displays any God-given authority.
Secondly, as I mentioned to the people of X1 on Sunday, it is a definite Spiritual Warfare battleground because we are confronting a very significant idol in the Western world. As a preacher and leader entering into this territory it is a case of 'get locked and loaded,' put on that 'heavenly armor' and get ready for some attack. As I suggested to the congregation it is akin to confronting biblically people from my home country of Zimbabwe about Ancestral Worship (African Traditional Religion) and declaring that these idols are to be knocked off their perches by the only true, living God. Some of you may know how that goes - speaking about money here is engaging in similar combat but the enemy here appears to wear far more inconspicuous clothing and one wonders where he is actively gunning people down.

My preaching was out of Joshua 21 continuing on in our series in Joshua - 'Living Life without the Fear.' Here we see the Levites given their cities out of the inheritance of their fellow Israelites and the obvious point is that without the God-honoring, other-centered obedience of the Israelites there would be no Levite cities to speak of.
Without them giving 48 of their cities and giving of their grain, livestock and income there would be no places of Spiritual input and direction within the nation of Israel. These Levite cities were the Spiritual Communities offering TRUTH, JUSTICE & MERCY within the Israelite community - which like any other human society (as seen by the tragic and dreadful Cumbria shootings of last week) was/is fragile and fractured and prone to soul-atrophying, rebel-making distance from God.

We too as God's people have the great joy and privilege (According to Paul in II Cor. 8 & 9) to give generously as tasters of God's grace in Christ to the building of Levite cities within our own fractured and fragile communities. And nowhere is it meant to be 10% - the NT makes absolutely no obligation along the lines of a percentile of your income it is purely as an overflow of being transformed by the grace of God and wanting true 'equality' for all people and 'investing' in such through their local 'home of spiritual sustenance' and hub for God's mission - the local Church.

I can only hope the people of X1 will arise to give much to see X1 truly be a Spiritual Community offering refuge, hope and direction to the community in Watford. It should not be my compulsion but a resposiveness to their tasting of the abundant, lavish grace of God.