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:

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Discipleship, Giving/Generousity., justice, love, Matthew 25., Servanthood., welcome

Making Disciples Jesus way… P3.

I almost entitled this blog “A little less conversation” because that is what discipleship sadly so often has become, people talking, and yet discipleship needs to be lived out, the world needs to see what following Jesus actually looks like in real, authentic everyday life.

I remember reading in Philip Yancey’s book “what is so amazing about grace?” of a story of a woman who really messed up big time, and she was asked about going to Church, to which she replied “I feel bad enough already, Church would only make me feel worse”.

Somehow this seems a million miles away from what Jesus said “by this will all people know you are my disciples, that you love one another as I have loved you”.

Discipleship I believe is about being that community that loves one another, and loves and welcomes in the broken, marginalised, ostracised and disenfranchised… A Church that welcomes the last, the least and the lost.

People talk a lot about creating an Acts 2 Church, but I wonder whether we need to create a Matthew 25 Church?

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Mother Teresa describes this as “Jesus in his most distressing disguises”, in serving the hungry, homeless, imprisoned or hurting, we are in fact serving Christ.

This has always been on God’s heart, in the book of Amos, God says he is fed up of all this religious activity and events whilst people were corrupt, unjust and lacking compassion…

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

In  Isaiah 58.6:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

In the book of Micah it says:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God”

And in the first letter of John it says:

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children,let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Discipleship is not about sitting around pontificating.

Too often western discipleship fills the head but does little in the heart, and even less to make the world a better place. I would argue that Discipleship should not only bring about transformation in us and out lives, but we are actually practically partnering with God in (to quote Bishop Stephen Conway) “turning this broken and upside down world the right way up for Jesus Christ”…

Christ reveals the priority of heaven when he encourages his people to pray “may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, we know eternity is where peace and love reign and where violence, corruption and hatred have no place, and we are called to see this translated onto the earth.

we read in Luke of his mandate -taken from Isaiah 61-

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”

I believe that we over spiritualise these passages, thinking Jesus is talking about the Spiritually blind, or the spiritually imprisoned, but I think he actually meant those who were actually blind, broken hearted, imprisoned.

Certainly extravagant love for people was how the early Church took the words of Jesus, now sadly it feels like we are far too selective in our use of scripture, preaching on Paul’s letters and John 3:!6 and omitting all this talk of justice, transformation and the Kingdom of God.

So few of our Churches practice radical hospitality, feed the hungry, help with housing, visit people in prison. John wimber once asked when the Church ‘did the stuff’ meaning signs and wonders (and I’m really, really up for that) but I think the same question could be asked for acts of love, ministries of mercy and the pursuit of justice.

The book of James says that “worship (although some versions mistranslates as religion) that God finds pure and faultless is to look after widows and orphans in their distress…”

One evening instead of doing our normal Bible Study I took my home-group out into the city to feed, bless and talk to the homeless… It was one of the deepest and most spiritual evenings we shared together as a group.

So, lets look at what is on the heart of Christ, lets not just talk a good game on comfy sofa’s, let us get out and partner with God in ushering his Kingdom in, and we start by welcoming Christ in his most distressing disguises.

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Giving/Generousity., love, Money

Money, Money, Money… A blog about giving.

Recently at Elevenses we sung a great old Kids Song which says: “I’m special because God has loved me, for he gave the best thing that he had to save me, his own Son Jesus, Crucified for all the wrong things I have done, thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, I know I don’t deserve anything, help me feel your love right now, to know deep in my heart that I’m your special friend”.

We serve a God who is extravagantly generous, a God who knows who give sacrificially that which is costly.

As I let these simple words speak to my Soul, I wondered what my response should be, and I was drawn to the lyrics of an old Hymn: “were the whole realm of nature mine, that was an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my Soul, my all”.

This struck me as a fitting start to a message about giving.

It’s not about guilt tripping people by reminding us of how expensive our buildings are to maintain and to heat (which is probably more than you imagine),  but rather thinking about whole life discipleship, giving all that we are, our talents, skills, abilities, relationships, time, energy and money for the glory of Christ (which of course includes stewarding what he has entrusted us with faithfully).

It all belongs to him anyway.

We say together before we take communion “all things come from you, and of your own do we give you”.

When we take communion we approach God with open but empty hand.

The call is to allow Christ to be Lord of all, in fact there is saying that ‘if Christ isn’t Lord of all, it he Lord at all?’

As we think in this letter about our giving, its not primarily all about “rattling the tin” but rather a call for us as the family of Christ called to this area to seek first his Kingdom.

Highway man Dick Turpin used to say “Your money or your life”. Jesus does not let us of do easily he says Both, he wants your heart and then everything else follows

Yet the principal of sacrificial giving isn’t just something we talk about when faced with a large bill, or a crisis, in fact whether or not we need money I would like us all to think about how our faith impacts how we spend our money.

Two quotes profoundly challenged me in my Christian journey were:

“would my bank manager know I was a Christian by glancing at my bank statement?”

“every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to see, is it a world that reflects Christ’s big idea of the Kingdom of God?”

I want to be an ethical consumer, investing in justice and not exploitation.

I want to use my resources wisely and righteously for the glory of Christ a Jesus and the advance of his wonderful Kingdom.

This is a question all of us as part of the Church family need to constantly be asking of our life together: Are we using our resources to their full potential?

Are we seeking the advancement of God’s Kingdom by the blessing of our local community, being glory to Jesus, bringing and being good news to the suffering, hurting, marginalized and disenfranchised?

What would Jesus say if he was setting our budgets, both our personal budgets and our corporate budgets as Church?

Would he say: “well done good and faithful servant” or would he be flipping over chairs and tables?

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Christmas, Giving/Generousity.

Ebenezer Scrooge…

One of my favourite Christmas stories is that of a Christmas Carol, where the hero (if that is the right word) Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted with himself, what he is really like, how his behaviour has hurt other people and the emptiness and shallowness of his idolatrous God, and he is changed, his life is permanently transformed, saved from himself.

Although I hope none of us are visited by Dickensian Ghosts on Christmas Eve(!) yet I would like us all this Advent, Christmas and New Year to be a time of reflection, insight and of changed and transformed lives.

Scrooge is a great picture of repentance, not just mumbling a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to God but actually turning his life around 180 degrees, a complete turn-around going in the opposite direction (did you know the Romans would shout “Repent” to mean “about Turn”).  More-over Scrooge’s transformation is not a few good intentions before returning to his old ways –like a Dog returning to its vomit or a sow going back to wallow again in the mud! (to use a great image from Jesus!).

No, The Story of Scrooge is a story of a leopard changing its spots.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us we are leopards who through Christ can change our spots. The cross, the resurrection and Pentecost proclaims that “how we were, how we have been, does not dictate our future of how we shall remain”.

As we approach the penitential season of Advent, a time to prayerfully look at ourselves and seek -with the Holy Spirits discerning but loving gaze- how we can become more Christ-like? What does it look like in our everyday lives to ‘pick up our cross and follow him?”

Traditionally Advent has been a season that gives us a chance to put ourselves right with God.

Traditionally Advent has been a season that gives us a chance to put ourselves right with one another.

Advent for the Christian can and should be a little like Christmas Eve for Ebenezer Scrooge, a time of looking at our lives and seeking transformation and change in the person we want to be.

A colleague of mine once talked about the “irresistible pull of a transformed life” which underpins the gospel message, the message of Christmas, a message made personal, a message worked out in the daily realities of our lives.

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faithfulness, Fruit and fruitfulness, Giving/Generousity., grace, hope, justice, Kingdom, Politica

Jesus for President.

Jesus for President, was the title of a book by one of my heroes Shane Claiborne, the title made me think, firstly I thought Jesus never wanted to be president, he was offered all the Kingdoms of the world when he was tempted by the devil, and yet he turned it down.

Instead Jesus was a nomadic preacher, with nowhere to lay his head, former child refugee who advocated loving enemies, rather than clicking his fingers in the board-room he took a towel and washed his disciples feet, including the one, Judas, who betrayed him.

Yet Jesus is the one I want to follow, his Kingdom may appear upside down to most of the world but to me I think it is the right way up, and his Kingdom is what I want to devote my life to building. The Lord’s Prayer seeks for Gods Kingdom to come “on earth as it is in heaven” so clearly something of the rule and reign of God can be seen today in real lives and communities, not as some weird theocratic rule, but in hearts and minds transformed by God and living out their faith in radical Kingdom ‘salt and light’ living.

As I was thinking was does a Christian world view look like, I am often confronted by the phrase ‘Christian Values’  which is often condensed to anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage and whose rhetoric often sounds pretty un-Christ-like –God hates fags? No, of course he doesn’t, he loves each and every person he has made. and longs for all peoples to come into relationship with him.
More over much of the American Christian Right seems very pro guns, anti health care for the poor and pro death penalty and I struggle how we can link these heinous ideas with the Jesus I find in scripture.

Yet surely If we are called to have Christian values, if we really believe Jesus meant it when he called us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” then we are called to care about the welfare of the planet, foreign aid, education, justice, health care, civil liberties, community cohesion and ethical investment in economic policy.

A Biblical world view is about bringing people together rather than building walls between each other… The Old Testament repeatedly tells Gods people not to I’ll treat the alien who resides in their country because they themselves were slaves in Egypt.

A Biblical world view talks about sharing our wealth with the poorest and most marginalised, the parable of the Good Samaritan works for nations too, and we need to heed the words of scripture that says “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

A Biblical world view is one that is outward looking and not inward looking, “I am my brothers keeper”, inward looking ideals end in implosion.

A Biblical world view realises that “the love of money is the root of all evil” and realises that financial prosperity and true happiness are not bedfellows.

A Biblical world view sees us from every nation as Gods children and extreme nationalism seems to me like a idol or fake God than needs to bow the knee to Christ, an illusion that hoodwinks many people.

A Biblical world view sees enemies being loved, the other cheek turned and the myth of redemptive violence seen for the lie that it is… As Ghandi said “if we take an eye for an eye then the world we be blind”. When we think of Christ entering into the city he came on a donkey like the ones we see at Weston, not on a war horse or sitting on an amounted vehicle or tank, this Prince is called the Prince of Peace, and at fulfilment of his Kingdom will see swords turned in ploughs and people practicing war no more.

A Biblical world view effects how we see one another who made in the image of God, can we imagine Jesus calling a woman –or anyone for that matter-  a “fat pig”? In fact, as Christians we are called to fight for human dignity “to bless not curse”, we need to see the rest of the world as precious to God, whether they be a Mexican refugee, a community leader in Iraq or someone who has a different opinion to you.

When I think of Jesus for President, I think the reason why I follow him is I can trust him, “let your yes be yes and your no be no”, when Jesus speaks we know it is the word of truth.

Sadly in the American election the major parties seemed less interested in their candidates character talking more of the competence or rely on their charisma, however “competence and charisma without character often results in Catastrophe”.

In a “Dog Eat Dog” world with people scrambling to be top dog we see Christ saying the last will be first.

My prayer for whoever is president is that they may “Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly before their God”… Knowing that with great power also comes great responsibility, the call to steward what you have been entrusted with well, knowing that are all answerable and must now the knee before Christ.

Leadership is costly and sacrificial… Jesus said that he had  not come “to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many”.

This leader isn’t hidden away in a bunker with other soldiers fighting on his behalf, this King, this servant King, gave his life that we may live.

This Servant King I will follow, and his upside-down Kingdom I will devote my life to seek and advance.

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Discipleship, Evil, Giving/Generousity., Risk and Change

The Root of all Evil?

One of the verses we often misquote, is “Money is the root of all evil” where as the actual verse says “The Love of Money is the root of all evil” which is different, it is actually about our attitude to it. We can have a wrong attitude to Money and not have any cash at all, or we can be millionaires and have a bad attitude to money, or somewhere in the middle.

I think much of the Christian life is about having the right attitude to things.

Mike Pilivachi said “a bad attitude is like a car with a flat tyre, until you change it you’re not going to get very far!”

Paul urges us that “Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”.

Yet how, and on what, we spend our money reveals a lot about where our hearts are (as does how we spend our time), it is something of a litmus test for our hearts.

Jesus says “where our hearts are there our treasure is too”… A true reveal of the state of our hearts.

I remember being challenged when I was much younger about whether my bank manager could tell I was a Christian from my bank statements, or did how I spend my cash look exactly like everyone my age?

Another verse Jesus said was “You cannot serve both God and Money” -pretty clear, if money is your God then quite clearly Jesus isn’t.

In fact actually Jesus said “you cannot serve both God and Mammon” -which was a pagan God with a pigs head, pig’s are insatiable, they are never satisfied, they just consume and consume and consume… Serving Mammon will take everything from you and yet will give you nothing back. Donald Trump once was asked “How much is enough” and his answer was “just a little more” -in other words, never satisfied.

Jesus clearly means what he said about not serving God and money, Levi leaves his cash desk and goes and follows Jesus, and the Rich Young Ruler is told to first go and sell all he has and give the money to the poor before he comes and follows Jesus.

Jesus said: “It is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of heaven”.

I think that Shane Claiborne is right, it isn’t a sin to be rich, but I do think it is a sin to stay rich, with great wealth also comes great responsibility.

How do we use our time, energy, gifts, talents, resources and money to “Seek First the Kingdom of God”?

It’s about whole life discipleship.

Following Jesus is something than requires us to be “all in” and “with everything” holding nothing back…

Sometimes we simply like to throw a bit of cash at a problem or a person, as a way of placating our consciences and making us feel better.

Yet Jesus wants our hearts, when he has our hearts everything else follows, it’s not about fobbing off the Vicar or doing our bit for Church. It’s the call to be a living sacrifices, service God not as a dead body plonked on the altar, but living as a sacrifice, living sacrificially for him, 24-7, 365 for the rest of our lives or until Christ comes again.

I’ll end with a quote from Dick Turpin “Your money or your life”…Jesus doesn’t give us a choice,when e give him our life our money and every other god in our lives has to bow the knee before him.

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Acts of Service, Bravery, Church, community of grace, Compassion, Discipleship, Giving/Generousity., Holiness, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, prayer, self awareness, Unity, Worship

A Dream for the local Church…

I wrote this in 2012, which was a time when nearly all the Churches in Kingswood had different leaders, All Souls hadn’t been planted yet and nor had some of the more savage ‘sheep bites’, but even so, it is still the picture that I long to see God do in this area… Although now where it says Kingswood, I think we’d have to say BS15 as we now work in Hanham too… In places, there are signs of this vision becoming reality and in other places there is still a fair way to go… (Anyway, hope it blesses you!)

Kingswood High Street might be littered with church buildings, and true they do have their own congregations and their own unique quirks, habits, funny ways but in one sense they really are one Church because they are all sold out on loving Christ and making him known.

They are all wanting to be filled with the spirit of the living God, they cry out for the lost in their prayers, they seek to seize every opportunity that Christ gives to make him known -pray and proclamation go together here, woven together with a beautiful seemlessness.

The Christian’s here  are deep and authentic about their faith and uncompromising in Holiness but awash with grace.

They pray together with such love that which congregation they belong to is hardly noticeable, they pray so passionately, and listen intently, and as they worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Church in Kingswood carries the very heartbeat of God.

It knows its identity, it is a holy and pure bride, but it is salt and light, wise as serpents but innocent as doves, it holds out the word that gives life, it shines out like stars in the darkness…

The church is attractive, marked as distinctive because of the hope that we have, filled with vibrant life, and deep authentic life shared together, this isn’t an hour on a Sunday morning  and an otherwise disparate community, but these are the men and women of God, ambassadors of Christ, solider called to take the ground of Kingswood for Christ.

They are living sacrifices.

They chose Christ in all they do through out the week.

The seize the moment never missing an opportunity to bless and seek and see God’s Kingdom break in.

They are  Church that hears God and has the courage to follow in obedience.

It is growing.

Ordinary people are meeting with an extraordinary God all the time, Kingdom encounters are normal part of our spiritual DNA.

The Churches are good incubators, people are loved, encouraged, mentored and walked with, we make disciples together as we all learn what following Jesus actually looks like.

People take risks on each other, leaders rise up from unlikely places, discipleship is organic and indigenous, and yet real and authentic with people being truly them and truly shining out Jesus.

Church looks funny, choatic even, but it is growing, it’s a movement of God in relationship, with people following where God leads, and it snowballs, it doesn’t play it safe and get comfortable, instead every group and sub group in Kingswood can hear about Jesus in a way they can understand..

This is the Church of Christ in Kingswood.

It is good news for all who are lost, hurting, marginalised, disenfranchised, ostracised, broken, it is good news for all. It is a community that reflects Jesus to the wider community.

It is a loving community, filled with compassion, and it is by this that all people know we belong to Christ, that we love one another…

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