best and the worst.

The best and the worst…

Yesterday I posted a blog about a lovely member of out Church who was homeless. Later on that evening I saw on facebook that someone had set fire to the shelter she lives in and all her possessions. A truly evil act.

As I rushed down there I saw lots of people gathered around caring, concerned and compassionate.

She has told me about people having urinated on her, whilst others have brought her food and hot drinks.

Human beings are capable of acts of both hatred and love.

Jo’s situation shown us the best and the worst of the character of Kingswood.

wonderful people of love, some cruel people capably of dreadful acts.

The same is visible in our Street Pastors work, I have seen some vile bullying and some incredible loyalty, friends kneeling in the gutter, holding their friend, whilst being covered in vomit.

People sometimes ask me this philosophical questions: “Are people basically good?” or “Are people basically bad?”

The Bible talks of us being made in the image of God, of his breath breathed into us, of him declaring humanity as “good”.

Yet the Bible also makes it clear we are fallen people, “all we like sheep have gone astray, each one turned to his (or her) own way”, “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “No one is righteous”. All of us (apart from Jesus) have sin within us and are far from perfect.

God gave us the ability to do either the right thing or the wrong thing, choice, the gift of free-will.

So both is true, the battle of good and evil is not just something that exists in movies like Star wars, but actually a daily reality in our own hearts and lives.

The Apostle Paul talks of the warring factions within him when he said in his letter to the Romans “the good I want to do I don’t do and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do”. I’m sure that most of us identify to some extent with this wrestle.

Yet you might be thinking, I’ve never done anything like THAT wrong (although I sometimes ask myself whether I have done anything THAT good either), but we all know that at times we have thought, said and done wrong things we shouldn’t have and not thought, sad and done things we shouldn’t have.

Each of us on occasions have made the world a slightly better place, and sadly each of us on occasions have made the world a slightly worse place.

The Bible is I think more realistic about the human condition than we are.

I once read someone say that each of us have two dogs inside us, a good one and a bad one, which one wins will depend on which one we feed the most.

Certainly in Romans 7 this sounds like the battle Paul is having with “his old self” and his “new self in Christ”. It feels like a boxing match with the commentator saying “In the red corner is ME and in the blue corner is ME as well”

If God is God who is Holy and righteous -dwelling in unapproachable light- and we know deep down we aren’t perfect people, we can’t really claim that we can impress God by our good deeds enough to get into heaven. Fortunately that isn’t how heaven works, rather than us reaching up to God -straining for the unattainable- he reaches and reached down to us in the person of his son Jesus Christ, to rescue us from ourselves, our sin, our wrong doing.

A God who longs to forgive us and restore us.

The book of common prayer talks about “not weighing our merits but pardoning our offences”.

People often say “it can’t be that easy some scumbag is horrible all their life and turns to Christ and they get forgiven, that’s not fair!”

I often point out two key verses, firstly, grace is amazing because it is undeserved, but also the clue if found in the absolution prayer in the Church of England “Almighty God who forgives all those who truly repent”.

Repentance had to be real and meant, not just crossing our fingers behind our back and planning to carry on exactly as we were before.

God offers us forgiveness and a fresh start with him, he offers to fill us with his spirit to enable us to live our life his way. I know I can’t live the way God wants me to in my own strength, I need his help all the time.

Often when I say this people tell me about a truly wonderful friend they have who isn’t a Christian. This is great. Yet I wonder if this person who isn’t a Christian has managed to so instinctively live the life of love God intends for them in their own strength, how much more fantastic would they be if the author of love, the Lord of life, was helping them?

People, are a mix of good and bad.

Yet we have the offer from God of a fresh start, a new beginning, and his help from his Spirit to help us live our lives his way.

Come Holy Spirit and fill me afresh, help me to lead my life your way.

Do check out this song from hooberstank, echoes my search to be a better person that I found in Jesus.

2 Samuel 23 15-17, best and the worst., Extravagance, Giving/Generousity., Luke 21. 1-4 (widows mite)., values, Water

Value Church?

we have this wonderful person called Jo in our Church, she is homeless and lives in a bus shelter near the Church, and she is also a transsexual, which causes some in the Church to struggle.

I chatted to Jo as I was walking past and she asked me how I was doing, I laughed and said “nothing a beer and a holiday in Barbados wouldn’t fix, but not much chance of either!” we both laughed, and I forgot about the conversation and went off to lead a Bible Study in our Church Cafe (which is a converted toilet -write your own joke here!). Later on I spotted Jo’s wig by the window, and she had brought me up a tin of bass beer (Bass is Jo’s favourite, she hadn’t just got me a cheapy larger, but one she’s drink herself).

Although I love beer, that beer for me is too precious to drink. One of the most extravagant examples of grace and generosity I have come across. Sadly our Church has sometimes lacked both generosity and grace, and sometimes looked down on Jo too, and yet here she was showing something of the wonderful extravagance of God, a lesson and a challenge for us all.

For me, this story reminded me of King David and the well at Bethlehem.

13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

There is something wonderful and humbling about an extravagant gift.

I work most weeks at the foodbank, and it is interesting that some people bring along “Tesco value food” and others bring along “Tesco finest”. Any donations are gratefully received by hungry people, but I did think if I was having Jesus around for a meal would I serve him value food, or would I get the best I could afford? Jesus said: “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me?”

David refused to give God a sacrifice that hadn’t cost him anything, he wanted his worship to show God his worth-ship.

Another story that struck me as I was writing this blog is the story of the elderly widow with two copper coins, who gave what little she had to God, whilst the rich and the famous were giving large sums of cash in a showy way, she gave ALL she had. Although they gave a lot, they actually gave nothing at all, although she gave very little she actually gave more than them all.

what we spend our money on shows what we value. I had a job interview a while back in Portsmouth (the same Church that asked me 3 times about my opinion of LGBT people but not once about the cross). we went to their Sunday Supper for the homeless people of their area and they served up big saucepans full of instant soup, bread, and some cake. Then we went off to a meet the Church Council, we drank wine and had an extravagant spread of food. It is great that they are feeding the homeless each week, but the contrast between the two evening meals really struck me.

whilst I was at Salisbury I was involved in a project called Morning Star and they used to do a “Banquet run” giving out food to the homeless, but they made sure that is it was “food fit for a King” using their home-grown produce and serving food for the cities homeless that really showed them the extravagant love of Jesus.

I want to be a Christian that has a heart like Jo’s.

Jesus love for us is not “Tesco Value” love, but “Tesco Finest”, perhaps sometimes we need a little more extravagance in our love and our giving?

I’ll end with one of my favourite clips from the film Les Miserables where the Bishop gives the thief Jean Valjean not what he deserves but extravagant and amazing grace… Take a moment to watch this: