My Struggle With Noah…

I find the story of Noah to be one of the hardest and most challenging bits of the Bible as we see God judging his world, real people died as a result of God’s judgement and that I find hard.

Yet this story has been sanitized and cartoonised, turned into an all age worship talk, and loses it shocking starkness. At the heart of this story we see God’s hatred of sin, too often we live to emphasize God’s love, goodness and grace –and it is right to do so- but not we cannot escape that God is just the embodiment of justice, a God who is holy and righteous in all he does. Too often we assume that God has an apathetic ‘Lasse faire’ attitude to sin, which he doesn’t, God takes sin personally, just look at the cross to see how deeply he feels about what is wrong, evil and cruel in his world.

We hear in Genesis 6 of the world gone wrong and turned from God, it talks of the Nepheline having children with humans –and there is much speculation about what this means, but it sounds as though something demonic is running amok in God’s creation, and God is saying ‘NO MORE’.

Yet, in the midst of judgement we also see that God is a God of rescue, he spares Noah and his family, he tells them to build and ark.
This ark is the size of several football pitches and like a floating ‘multi-story carpark’ –it would have taken a long time to build –probably years, decades even- a massive undertaking, and a huge step of faith and trust. Yet their obedience resulted in their salvation. They were saved through faith in God’s rescue plan.

Building a boat seems an odd thing to do when you are far from the water, they probably faced ridicule, and no doubt having doubts about what they are doing and why they are doing it, often when God asks us to do something, we don’t always understand the bigger picture at the time he asks us to be obedient and to trust him. It is only later on that we may see God’s plan and be glad that we were faithful and obedient.

I wonder too, and this maybe reading too much into the text, but I wonder whether in building an Ark God was giving a rescue message to the people to avoid the coming judgement? A God whose mercy triumphs over judgement?

The rain and floods start and when all are on the Ark we see God shutting the door.

Sometimes we struggle to understand God’s plan, or why things happen as they do, yet even though Noah and his family probably had lots of questions as they floated to a new an uncertain future, but with a faithful God. A God who shuts the door on our past lives and a God who brings us to new life, a changed and transformed life.

We see the animals come on to the ark, we see sin washed away, and we see God of the new beginnings, rescue, salvation and God of the Fresh Start.

As I think of faith resulting in salvation for Noah and his family, I wonder too whether we sometimes are a little half-hearted in our obedience, only starting to build when it is raining, rather than building before the rain comes?


Know your enermy

We were mid-way through Alpha, which is a group where people come together and explore together some of the questions of life and what the Christian Faith says about them. My friend said: “I have just about come to accept a belief in God… but believing in a devil seems like one step too far!” Another guy in the group said: “I’ve no problem believing in the devil, but I’m still not sure about whether God exists!”

As we chatted part of my friends struggle with believing in the devil was his image of the devil was derived from religious art, hooves, red cape, pointy beard, horns and a pitch fork (probably inspired by Dante’s Inferno) -which seemed just unbelievable, which is because it is, just as believing in God as an old man on a cloud (as depicted in Michaelangelo on the Sistine Chapel) is just as unhelpful. Our images of God and the Devil, good and evil, often are not helped by popular characture, what I call the Simpsonization of theology, where we think of temptation as Homer with a little angel on one shoulder and a little Devil on the other.

Yet we cannot escape a belief in evil and in a devil from scripture, we see his tempting in Genesis 3, and in the book of Job -the first book of the Bible to be written he features heavily, revealed not as God’s equal -God is the Almighty one- but someone limited and answerable to God. Jesus believed in the existence of the Devil as did the apostles writing the epistles.

In the book of Revelation, the Devil is given a number 666, which is less than 7 (God’s number, of wholeness and perfection), symbolising the Devils vast inferiority to God, indeed all imagery of light and dark show the light to be more powerful than the darkness “the light shines and the darkness cannot put it out.

The theologian C.S. Lewis writes in his book the Screwtape letters “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves (the devils) are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight”.

Indeed, there are some Churches and Christians who never mention the Devil at all and others see Demons hiding behind every lamp-post, I would concur with C.S. Lewis, that neither is particularly helpful. -Which side of the tightrope do we fall from?

The Devil is called ‘The Father of Lies, a liar from the beginning’ it is him who tempted humanity at the beginning of creation. Scripture talks of the Devil who got proud and fell hence the expression ‘pride comes before a fall’ -a vice that sadly catches us all at times.

There used to be a con called ‘a honey-trap’ whereby a beautiful girl (a prostitute) stood by a door to lure in customers but behind the door was a gang of thugs that would knock them out and rob them. Satan’s trap operates in much the same way, lures us in to stepping away from God, believing it to be great ‘you will like God’ he told Eve, and yet this results in disaster. Satan is the accuser of the brethren, pointing out our sin, and yet because of Jesus death and resurrection our sin has been taken from us by God ‘as far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us’.

The Fall shows Satan’s ability to thwart that which is good, but the Cross shows God’s ability to redeem and rescue, the Resurrection was God’s Victory over him, and he will be judged and his influence will end. Someone once said: “when Satan reminds me of my past, I can remind him of his future”.

Pentecost shows us God giving us his Spirit, to enable, equip and empower us to live our lives his ways and not fall for the Devils schemes: “he (Christ’s Holy Spirit) that is in us is greater than he (Satan) that is in the World”.
I’ll end with a prayer from the Apostle Peter for us all:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”


A Tale Of Two Adam’s.

“O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.” –From a hymn by John Henry Newman.

As we have looked a little at the creation narrative over the last couple of days and we have seen the story –in many our story- of the first Adam.

According to St. Paul in his letter to the Churches of Rome and Corinth Christianity is the story of two men, the first Adam, the first human-being and

the man who did not live his life God’s way and in turning from God he brought, sin, shame, suffering and death.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5.12).

The first story is a tragedy, bad news for all humanity. A story of sin and separation -eternal separation- from God. We (humanity) were powerless to save ourselves, all of us –like Adam- having sinned and fallen short of Gods Holy and perfect standard (Rom.3:23), where none of us can claim to be good enough for God by our own actions: “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Yet there is a final story, a second story is of another man, a second Adam.
The second Adam according to Paul is Jesus is Christ Jesus -God himself, the light of the world that stepped down into darkness, took on flesh and lived amongst us. Jesus lived his life God’s way, his life was the life that God intended for each of us.

Jesus the one who knew no sin, lived a perfect life, and died a perfect death, making a full and complete sacrifice for sin once and for all. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor.21).

Adam’s life was marked by sin and its consequences, Jesus’ –the second Adam- was marked by righteousness and its consequences.

“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1Cor,15.21-22).

The first Adam brought death but Jesus, whilst we were still sinners, dead in our transgressions that Christ died for us”.

God in Christ, rips up the old deal broken by Adam, and in Jesus gives us a new deal, a new covenant, a better deal, whereby because of Christ’s death and resurrection we can receive eternal life, forgiveness of our sins, restoration of our broken relationship with God, no longer enemies of God separated by sin but as beloved children embraced and accepted by him, no longer slaves but heirs of the promise of the Kingdom of God.

“For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many” (Romans 5.15).

This amazing new deal offered to us through Christ freely offered to anyone who would accept it and place their faith him –in Jesus.

In the choice between Adam and Christ (the second Adam) is a choice between life and death, eternal life and death and a choice between sin and salvation.

If we accept Christ, repent of our sins “God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, in Christ -the new Adam- we are rescued, restored and redeemed.

“Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 18&19).

“The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor.15:45).

God breathed his life into Adam, and through Christ God breathes his life –eternal life by his Spirit (breath and spirit are interchangeable in Hebrew).

I’ll close with a challenged issued to the people of Israel by Moses:

“This day…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life,” (Deut. 30:19).


The Fall makes sense of it all?

You may have read yesterday’s message with the question in your head “What about the fall? Didn’t that change everything?”

‘The fall’ is a phrase used as a bit of a short hand for Genesis Chapter Three.
It tells of Eve and Adam were tempted to turn away from God and go their own way, Eve first is tempted by the serpent.

The serpent asked her “Did God really say?” (Gen. 3.1) and begins to sow seeds of doubt about God’s character, the idea that in diverting from God’s plan things will be better for us, the idea that God is a cosmic kill joy rather than a loving Father wanting the best for us.

Eve then she in turn tempts Adam, and they end up eating the fruit of the knowledge of the tree of good and evil, they realise they are naked and they feel shame.

To my reading of scripture, both Adam and Eve seem equally culpable for their actions, both equally to blame and really without excuse.

God walks through the garden calling out to Adam and Eve, but they are hiding, and then before they admit they have turned away from God, they blame one another for their actions.

It is easier to make excuses for the wrong things we do, blame someone else, than to take responsibility for our own actions. Righteousness, looks takes responsibility and is honest and truthful.
The word that gets used later on in the Bible to describe this is ‘Sin’. Sin has consequences, consequences we are still living with today.

As a teenager I went for a while to a Boys Brigade and to their parade service, and each time we would (without fail) hear the same sermon “sin spoils, sin separates and sin spreads!” and Genesis 3 is a clear example of that sin enters and everything falls.

The fall is a good phrase as it explains a lot: Adam and Eve fell out of the relationship that God intended for them, they fell out of relationship with creation the planet they inhabited and they fell out of relationship with each other.

Indeed, the fall not only happened but happens, not just a historical and theological truth but a personal reality in our every day lives. We all mess up, we all make bad choices, we all do/think/say things that we know are wrong, and we don’t do the things we know are right.

Since the fall of humanity everything has changed, sin, shame, suffering and death have entered the world and we all live with their effects, we all feel them every-day.

A good world that has gone wrong.

Even if you are not a Christian when bad things happen they feel wrong instinctively we struggle to accept it.

The Atheist will say “**** happens!” but that is not an answer that deeply satisfies. I remember when a friend died, Samantha Wood, when we were both 19, I remember walking along Eastbourne beach telling God “I didn’t £$%*ing believe in him!” -I realise that this prayer (yes, in a way I think it was a prayer, albeit an irreverent one!) was just an angry protest at the pain of the fall, and many people who call themselves atheists or agnostics are like I was just hurt and angry with God and lashing out in their pain and confusion.

This isn’t how life is supposed to be. It feels wrong because it is wrong. We were made for something different. A good world that is fallen.

In a weird paradox pain and sorrow, joy and tragedy, light and darkness are all part of the normal human experience and encounter, and despite the ‘wrongness’ of how we feel about the fall we cannot fully image what the original blue-print was meant to be without sin, shame, suffering and death infecting and affecting our beautiful world.

I believe as Christians we sometimes have too higher view of the fall, as the world is filled with so much that is wonderful and good, beautiful and noble that at times it feels good to be alive, and life feels like a precious gift, God indelible goodness, blessing and grace cannot be irradiated by human-beings propensity to sin, the darkness of the world cannot put out the light of God.
Whilst at theological college there was a (much over used) phrase ‘hold that in tension’ which means that two things can be true at the same time, indeed just as with a bow and an arrow the tension in the bow allows the arrow to fire so seemingly opposing truths.

Often, I think Christians shy away from talking about Genesis 3, probably because it has a talking snake in it (later on I’ll be doing a message about a talking donkey!) and much ink has been spilled about whether this is pictorial or literal, and yet that misses the point as we look out the window and look in the mirror we know the powers of temptation in our world and in ourselves, if we were Adam or Eve, would we make the same choice?

The snake, is often seen as a representation of Satan, and in God’s word to him he talks about the decedents of Adam and Eve whose heel he will bite, but they will crush his head.

A metaphor at the start of scripture pointing to the cross of Christ when Satan indeed ‘bites the heel’ of Adams son and he in his resurrection power ‘crushes the head of the serpent’ (Gen.3.15).


The Genesis of it all.

In the assembly I took today I got all the children to look at their thumb print, I then got each of them to look at the person sat next to them their ears and eyes, and then told them that no one else who has ever lived -or will ever live- and through out the world will ever the same eyes, ears, fingerprint or personality than them.

They, indeed we, are unique, individual known by God -even the hairs on their head are numbered!- each of us are called by name (Is.43.1) and loved by God -loved with an everlasting love (Jer.31.3)-, ‘precious and honoured in my (God’s) sight and loved by him’ (Is.43.4) . Humanity is loved so much that God himself stepped down from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ and died for us, humanity God thinks is worth giving up everything for and dying for.

The message of Christianity is a God who loves us, and want us to love him to, he wants a relationship with us, indeed relationship is at the heart of who God is -Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a community of perfect love.
We were created for relationship.

Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection was to restore the broken relationship between us and God. The cross and empty tomb speaks of God’s desire for relationship, salvation has at its heart relationship. We were saved for relationship. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost to facilitate and enable that relationship with God. Christianity is about a relationship. Indeed, it is our purpose in life to know the God who created us as the Westminster Catechism says: “the chief end of men and woman is to worship God and enjoy him forever”.

To understand who we are we need to look back at the start of our Bibles, back to Genesis, to understand our origin narrative, which I believe really matters.
Genesis tells of God walking with his creation, man and woman, Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the garden (Gen.3.8), a wonderful and powerful picture of divine and human intimacy as God originally intended.

Whilst I was a curate in Salisbury I went to visit a family, where the older teenage son was teasing his mum, by making ‘jokes’ about “being a mistake” -his mums phrase ‘no you were a lovely surprise’ didn’t dissuade the awkwardness of the conversation.

Our origin story really matters.

It speaks into the biggest questions of humanity “who am I?” and “what am I worth?”

We live in a world where the prevailing message is that humanity is a result of some ‘big bang fluke accident in time and space’, our existence was not an intentional act stemming from deep love but rather of ‘random chance’ and ‘survival of the fittest’.

We as Christians have different message, a different story, a message of dignity, hope, worth and value -A story which I believe can combat the tragic statistics around the issues of self-worth -85 men kill themselves every year and children ever younger are self-harming.

Our message from Genesis is clear, our origin account (Gen 1&2). It is a story of a world created deliberately by God out of love and for relationship, he created a world and described it as good (), divinely approved, and he created humanity as the pinnacle of his creation, created ‘male and female in his own image’ (Gen.1.27) and declared ‘very good’ (Gen.1.31). Humanity are unique amongst creation with God himself breathing his life and spirit into them, humanity is filled with God’s divine breath (Gen.2.7)!

Although made for relationship, love is not love if it is forced, God places an awesome gift to Adam and Eve -the tree of the knowledge of good and evil- where we see God give his humanity ‘free-will’ the ability to be able to accept or reject God’s love.

Yet this love comes first and is undeserved, a truth I discovered afresh when I held my baby daughter for the first time, she had done nothing to earn my love (other than 9 months of morning sickness for my wife!) but I loved from before she was born and I would have done anything for her, how much more would God feel about us?


24-7 Church 4. Some lessons from Birmingham: And a vision for the future?

Over the last couple of days I have looked at what it means to be the Church dispersed, gathered and as a family. In my head this little series was finished. That was until today.

This weekend has been a weekend residential with my colleague course at CMS and we are visiting Birmingham, Winston Green, and one of our visits was to the local Sikh Gurdwara, everyone was welcome and food was being served for free for whoever wanted to come and eat, indeed they are open from the early hours of the morning until about 10:00 in the evening just serving free food, and serve 40’000 free meals a week!

Everyone received food just because Sikh’s want to bless, we weren’t asked to prove poverty, or explain ourselves and our presence there, we were welcomed, fed –fed some more!-, smiled at and spoken too warmly.

As I thought back to our foodbank, which I love, we asked clients (note the word) to come and ‘prove their need’ with a voucher, and they were only allowed three in six months, whereas the Gurdwara would feed you all day everyday with no questions asked.

In the mind of the Sikh they hadn’t split people into ‘deserving and undeserving’ the ‘worthy and the unworthy’ but rather ‘if you are hungry you are welcome here!’

As I thought about it, I realized that they probably have the idea of what it means to live out the generous hospitable Kingdom life that we are called to live as the Church of Jesus Christ. Alongside the food the buzz of prayer can be heard, and I heard later that that this particular Gurdwara had had 38 years of unbroken prayer and worship.

More over this did not feel like a transactional arrangement, we feed you and in turn you come along to our service, there was no pressured expectation from them just the desire to bless.

I have long been challenged about whether we love people even if they may never come to Christ, do we love them because they are people and therefore inherently valuable? Or do we love them in order to save them?

This weekend I heard a fantastic phrase “The price of our friendship is not your Soul” –In other words saying “We want to be your friends even if you never accept Jesus, we will still love you, share our lives with you and want to bless you”.

I was really profoundly struck by this and I thought that we as Church have a lot to learn from these wonderful people. Indeed this struck me as a glimpse of the Church we see in Acts 6 with Stephen and the deacons with the daily distribution of food. In the history of the Church works like this were common-place within the monastic movement, something I long to see happening again across this nation with people coming to the Christian Community and being fed without having to ‘prove their poverty’.

More over as I thought about prayer, worship and practical acts of kindness and compassion happening together I thought that this is what I feel mission and ministry is all about, why I went into vicaring in the first place!

Then I began to dream of the movement I believe it could be.
Young people learning vocations steeped in radical service, compassion and hospitality that is interwoven with the prayer and worship, seen not as separate activities but the same activity outworked in different ways. Rather than seeing Church as establishment crush the very life out of people with endless meetings and other work which seems (because much of it is) fruitless and futile.

Perhaps people could take time out, year outs, and come and work with a new monastic order, a kind of Christian Gurdwara(!) encourage volunteers from local Churches to come and serve and bless, so more and more people see Christianity as expressed by the fruit of the Spirit “Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Kindness and Self Control” rather than being able to recite liturgy and cannon law! –I smiled thinking we have had revolutions around Orthodoxy (right belief) but what about a revolution around Orthopraxy (right behavior)!

-A Christianity that as Shane Claiborne said: “looks like Jesus again!”

I thought of my friend Simon Turner who died too young, and his work both with the homeless in the early part of his career and then later with rehab. I wonder how many people are homeless and hungry due to addictions and other life controlling problems?

How could we meet people where they are at –often cold, hungry and feeling rubbish- and be able to befriend them and walk with them each step of the journey to healing, wholeness and from active addiction to active recovery.

Then thinking what would it take to be a place of post-recovery care? Often people need support with life skills, education and employability skills? More-over I believe that being bored and purposeless is soul destroying and often a reason for relapse, people need something worthwhile and significant to do, a reason to get up in the morning and to stay clean and sober.

As I continued to think -I thought of food grown locally planted, harvested cooked by people learning new skills, which could lead to work. I thought of social enterprises, giving people opportunities and encouraging people to develop gifts and learn skills, life skills, skills that could lead to employment, that gives people a hand up rather than just a hand out.

The dream of a 24-7 Church feels like I know a little more what that looks like, but now the question is “how do we turn this dream into a reality?”

…And maybe as you read this you might be sensing God’s stirring in you? Perhaps he is calling you to come and build with us?


24-7 Church. Come and join the family, even if it’s at 3:00 in the morning…

Over the last couple of days I have been profoundly challenged as I have reflected and thought about the call to be a 24-7 Church, following my initial discussion with my friend Alan Jenner.

2 years ago I went to visit some projects in London with my friend Chris Harwood, we visited the “House of Divine Compassion” and the Catholic Workers’ House of hospitality. In the midst of a mad and lonely city here were two little hubs where people could drop in and get help.

One of the Franciscan Brothers said ‘everyone needs a friend sometimes, and a family to drop in on when it all goes wrong!’ –I loved that idea that they were a family and a community that people could ‘just join with for as long or as short time as people needed them.

Having been to many Christian groups, that feel like an institution rather than a family. Even our use of language referring to people as ‘clients’ rather than guests, friends or brother/sister.

Indeed, often these places feel scruffy and unloved, smelling of disinfectant, full of laminated signs everywhere tell you what you can and can’t do –a reminder that you are in someone else’s space and they don’t want you to forget it!

Yet, both these places felt very different, they felt like they were homes, that real people lived there, the furniture was nice, there was art on the walls and books on the shelves, it said you were welcome, indeed you were wanted.

I loved the idea of Church being ‘a family you can come and hang out with’, more than that ‘a family that welcomes you and wants to hang out with you’.
The house of hospitality was much the same a welcome for all, indeed it was a welcome that was free because they had chosen not to take money from the government, realizing that ‘finance limits our ability to love’ and they don’t want government strings being attached to our mission and ministry.

I thought about child benefit, it is a small contribution to help with the child’s up bringing, and we don’t stop caring for our kids when they cease to become eligible for benefits. We as Christians shouldn’t sop caring just because the Governments assistance stops.

Instead, we need to send the message loud and clear that you are loved because you are valuable, not because we have managed to secure a short term funding stream to help you.

Indeed whilst we were staying at the Catholic Worker Movement someone came and was given a bed for the night in the early hours of the morning.
The next day we laughed with the staff as someone mentioned a truth about Christian Ministry, the truth is that real life doesn’t keep the 9-5 rules, real life works weekends and bank holidays.

Family is needed all the time, and at odd times especially.

Indeed as I write this, my brother in law is going to pick up my sister-in-law and her husband and daughter from the airport at 1:00am. Family goes the extra-mile out of love, and it is reciprocated too.

Indeed the Catholic worker place said “come and make yourself at home” so much so that we ended up helping with the washing up!

The more I thought about Church as family, the more I realized that Church has to be 24-7, because families are 24-7, life is 24-7, and crisis and trouble doesn’t consult their watch or their dairy but can rear its head at any time.

Yet family is a collective, it is not just one person doing all the work, a family where the mum does everything is not a healthy family, nor is a Church family healthy when the Vicar does it all. Instead a healthy family pulls together ‘bears one another’s burdens’, ‘spurs one another on towards love a good deeds’ and ‘when one part hurts we all hurt and when one part rejecioces we all rejoice’.

As we talked to the guys at the Catholic Worker Movement and the Francian Brothers we were reminded afresh of the need for rhythms and team, the brothers serve in a pretty full-on way, but then they go off on a retreat, with space and solitude, whilst another Brother stands in for them, and so as they serve, they also develop a rhythm, of giving out and receiving back from God, this type of life is full on, it is tough and costly, and can only be maintained by looking after one’s self, scheduling in times of intentional recovery, time to be.

The picture that came to my mind with this was sport, when one person tires another comes on and takes their place, yet the game continues uninterrupted.

A 24-7 Community may require times of complete engagement and total immersion, but God is a 24-7 God and know we need to receive from him in order to give out afresh, to re-fill, refuel and re-vitalize.

The power of retreat is to enable us to advance, the power of team to allow rest and recovery whilst someone else serves and vice versa.
Something we don’t fully understand as Church in the UK, sometimes I feel we engage in a poor way for fear of sustainability but even this is not sustainable over the long haul.

Yet, what if we engaged well, fully and properly, knowing that our life had rhythm and that a tranquil season was around the corner, someone else would engage and allow you to take a step back, and then later you can return.
So, as we engage and be the family that Christ intended us to be, we also realize our need of rhythms.

As a parent, often when our little girl was younger, I would come home and see a frazzled looking wife and say “do you want me to take her for a while”, and she would do the same for me. On one occasion when she was very little, my wife’s mum looked after my little girl for a little bit so my wife and I could get some sleep! Other times I have seen siblings rally around to ‘do shifts’ to care for a sick parent.

In families we need one another to support one another so we can care for one another in the best way possible.

The family is at its best a reciprocal unit of love and support for one another, in a world where families are often fractured and dysfunctional the call and the challenge for the Church to be a family, that looks and feels like the family of a loving God has never been more urgent or more needed.


Upside Down Maths.

Recently a friend, Martin, preached at All Souls about 1 + 2 + 3 =4 and earlier the week before I had heard my friend/colleague from the Black Majority Church next door, Pastor Yemi, and he preached what was in many ways a similar message…

Lets look at these two messages:


1) Trust in the Lord with all your heart
2) Do not lean on your own understanding
3) In all your ways acknowledge him.


4) And he will make your paths straight.

We have to learn to trust Christ in ‘stepping out the boat’ in whatever situation Christ has us in, all the time, in everything and we have the promise of his presence and provision with us…

Pastor Yemi showed similar upside down Maths… 1 + 2 + 3 = 4, 5 & 6

1) If my people who are called by my name,
2) and will humble themselves and (fast and) Pray,
3) And turn from their wicked ways


4) then will I hear from heaven, and 5) forgive their sins and 6) heal their land.

I think that we sometimes are so used to the gospel of coming with nothing and getting everything (he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might have the righteousness of God)… We forget that God calls us to live for him. A call to do life his way, and when we follow the makers instructions we find that life works and it stands firm and when we go our own way we find our sandy houses falling splat…

Salvation is a free gift, yet living life Gods way requires obedience, but although we aren’t always faithful, he will remain faithful.

Lets live lives of upside down Maths… putting as individuals 1+2+3 into practice and corporately put 1+2+3 into practice so we may see 4 being fulfilled with God making our paths straight, hearing from heaven, forgiving our sins and healing our land… isn’t this something we long to see?


24-7 Church. Part 2. A Corporate Call.

Yesterday I wrote about a ‘24-7 Church’ being about the dispersed people of God living out their Kingdom lives where-ever they go and whatever they do. Indeed I feel that ‘equipping the saints for works of service’ (Eph.4.12) is what I believe it means to serve and pastor Christian brothers and sisters.

As Churches we have become far to wedded to programs and events and an obsession with ‘bums on seats for the Sunday show’.

Yet what if we see ourselves differently the community tasked with the mission of seeing the Kingdom of Christ coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven’?

The Kingdom demands our total surrender, and calls us to be those 24-7 living sacrifices both as a personal response as an individual and also the call to be the Church, a call to be joined together with one another as a Community of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus promises that “when two or three are gathered together there I will be with them” (Matthew 18.20), and theologian Paula Gooder reminds us “the plural of disciple is Church”.

We are called to be fruitful and faithful as a dispersed community but we are a community that functions in both modes of dispersed and gathered together. As we read the book of Acts there are lots of references to ‘being together’ and clearly the early Church (although large) saw themselves as connected together, belonging to something bigger than themselves, being more than the sum of our component parts.

We need one another if we are to faithfully follow and fulfil Christ’s call on our life, and other people will need us too if they are to faithfully follow and fulfil Christ’s call on their lives.

Yet, we are more than a mutual support group, more than the sum of our component parts, rather when working as the body and bride of Christ entrusted with the mission “to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven”.

Indeed our togetherness was once brilliantly described by one of my college lecturers in understanding his identity in Christ in relationship with each other as “I am because we are and he is”, we can be who we were meant to be in Christ only when viewed through the lenses of being in the community of the people of Christ and in Christ who dwells within the community of the Trinity.

There clearly is strong sense of the corporate within our reading of Acts (although no references to ‘going to a service’ this was something that evolved when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire).

The Church works best as a team, T-E-A-M is an acronym for “Together Everyone Achieves More”, and clearly there is a togetherness in ‘the daily distribution of food’ (Acts 6:1), coming together to pray, to hear the apostles teaching and to make decisions. It clearly was a community that functioned both as corporate and dispersed, although it seems as though it looks very different from our experience of Church.

The phrase ‘The daily distribution of food’ is so different from most of our experiences of Church where such events happen at most once or twice a week.
The book of Acts talks about ‘there was no needy person amongst them’ (Acts 4:34), to ‘give to anyone as they had need’ (Acts 2:45) and the Church was constantly doing good deeds -just as ‘Jesus went around doing good’ (Acts 10:38). People gathered to hear the disciples, to receive healing and for practical help, the early Church heeding the message of Christ that “what you do to the least of these you do for me” (Matthew 25:40).

We see the book of Acts 24-7 gathered Church living out the DNA of Jesus and the Kingdom of God, living to his missional heartbeat, making disciples and bringing in the Kingdom both in supernatural miracles along with continued acts of compassion.

Too often we have abdicated a personal responsibility for the corporate body trying to ‘off-load the work of the Kingdom’ onto the shoulders of a few Church staff, rather than the responsibility of us all, together, corporately as the body and Bride of Christ.

Yet it is a vision of a more biblical Church, this 24-7 community, that manages to be transformative both in its dispersed and corporate ministry lived concurrently.

What does that mean for us as people dispersed and people gathered together, as we seek to be the people of God trying to wrestle with his call on us that is both a personal response and a corporate call.


24-7 Church (Part 1: The dispersed people of God).

I have I have a fantastic friend called Alan Jenner, he has an amazing heart for Christ and for people.

Somehow one day we ended up randomly doing a bit of blue sky thinking and he talked about a 24-7 Church.

I laughed thinking I have sat through some services (from all traditions) where I have wondered if I will ever come out alive –will the speaker ever stop talking, how many more hymns have we got to plough through!

Yet I began to think about this phrase a little more theologically, firstly we are already part of a 24-7 Church movement, because the Church is not the building but rather the people of God throughout the world, time and history!

In Anglican Churches we end the service with what is called “the dismissal” which is appalling theology and ecclesiology, we are not the Church dismissed back to ‘business as usual’ but the Church dispersed proclaiming the Kingdom of God in all we say and do, Kingdom life embodied in our daily existence.
Indeed, many Churches have at the back of their Church ‘a missionary’ board which (normally faded) photo’s of missionaries in remote places overseas, often with a picture of a map and a little bit of red wool linking their picture with their mission-field location.

My friend Jon Oliver wrote about this once (it is in his book called “Night Vision”, and he said that he would love to take a service where everyone brings along a photo and are given a bit of red wool and they pin their photo to the mission-board and the red bit of wool pointing to their mission-field at school, work, college, their street, their family home, their gym or evening class where-ever they go and work, rest and play.

Following Jesus is a whole life mission, when I was a Vicar people used to ask about when I went into ‘full-time-Christian Ministry’ and I normally answer ‘the day I was converted and said to God the rest of my life is yours” –the question is wrong, it is not Vicars as Churchy workers who are in full time Christian ministry but rather every Christian is in full time ministry because if we love and want to follow Jesus and have a pulse we are in full time Christian ministry.

Indeed, if we believe that we are the Church 24-7 this alters how we think about the Church gathered, why are we here? Too often we ask new people how they would like to serve (which normally means ‘what rota can we stick you on?’ rather than asking how we as the body of believers can help, equip, empower and enable them to be more fruitful on their frontlines?

Wimber had grasped something of this truth when he talked of “the meat is on the street” that Church is not meant to be a holy huddle or a place for the consumption of our preferred mix of Christendom consumables.

David Pytches talked of the “meeting place being the training place for the market place” whereby we learn what we need to be able to serve in the context where Christ has put us. Indeed another saying talks about not judging a Church by the number of bums on seats that attend but rather about how people live differently having been there.

Yet as I pondered all this, I think Alan’s vision was different from this, and this is something I am exploring in the next blog… Do read on!