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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call, cost, priorities, values, vision

More than just keeping the show on the road?

I remember the Vicar who is leading one of the Churches my dad used to lead, telling a story of his previous parish in the leafy Sussex Countryside which went something like this, :

“Treasurer:- Unless we sought out our giving this Church will shut!
Vicar:- Unless we sought out our evangelism, mission and outreach people will go to a lost eternity”.

We often get obsessed about keeping the lights on in our Church building, rather than our calling of “seeking God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven” as we fulfil the great commission and “make disciples of all nations”.

Jesus never promised to keep open our particular building, but he did say “I will build my Church and even the gates of hell won’t prevail against it”. Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God”.

Too often we neglect the “seeking first the Kingdom of God” to worry and stress about our building, our constitutions, our processes and 101 trivialities, which from an eternal perspective are cul de sac’s, diversions from our main focus.

Paradoxically, I have seen on many occasions, when we focus on the Kingdom of God the things we so often stress about are resolved -unexpected legacies come in, or people with needed gifting come out of the woodwork.

When we put Jesus first, he sorts out the rest, in fact that is what he promises “seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you”.

You see it is not the Church that has the mission of God, rather it is the missionary God who has the Church. We collaborate and partner with the ‘Missio Deo -the mission of God’, yet too often we become curators of dusty buildings.

As I thought more about this tragic picture I remembered the story of Mary and Martha, Martha was busy making Jesus a sandwich he didn’t want (in fact the one who fed the 5000 probably wasn’t that worried about missing lunch!), how often are our Churches stressing and wasting our time stressing on things that God himself will sort.

Ironically too, the best way of ‘keeping your building open’ is by keeping in step -living in obedience- with the Holy Spirit of the Living God.

The often stated phrase of “keeping the show on the road” is only a laudable aim when the show is orchestrated and choreographed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, otherwise it is simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We forget the warning in scripture that reminds us that “unless the Lord builds the workers labour in vain”.

Often people are very keen on keeping their buildings open, but the question has to be asked, is there anything in this building that is worth preserving? Are we being a Matthew 25 Church? Are we being an Acts 2 Church? Are lives being transformed by Christ?

To me, it seems like much of the Church in the UK has the telescope the wrong way around distancing us from what should be close at hand, a false perspective -a distortion- that brings complacency.

So, let’s ask God to transform our vision to coincide with his vision.

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call, Democracy, Politica, trust, values, vision, vocation, Vote

Voting is a lifestyle…

Today people will be voting in the general election, for who they want to represent and govern them. It is really important to vote, so if you’ve not done it already go and do it!

Yet democracy ought to be more than marking a bit of paper every four years? As I began to think about it, we actually vote all the time, often a vote for the status quo, but a vote none the less.

It has been said that every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in, scary when we think that if we have the internet in our homes we are in the top 4% of the worlds richest people. How we spend our money shouts loudly to this capitalist world.

Interestingly if we look back to the 80’s when many banks wanted to invest heavily in South Africa at the height of the apartheid they stopped doing so when people -mainly students and the now infamous picture of Jeremy Corbyn getting arrested- boycotted their banks.

As consumers what we think really matters, if in any doubt look at the millions that are spent devising algorithms to match our viewing habits to commercial sales.

So, although it might be only a baby step even a facebook share or twitter comment at least does make something of an impact.

The lie we are fed is that we are too small or insignificant to make a difference.

Yet as Confucius once said “Too small to make a difference? Try spending the night with a mosquito”. -He also said, that “A mosquito on your testicles teaches man that not every problem is best solved with violence”-.

The problem is that we are often don’t make a stand about anything much at all. A great question that has always challenged me is “would my bank manager know I was a Christian by the way I lived and spent my money?”

What are my choices when I buy, do I seek to be an ethical consumer? Do I value fair-trade? Do I enquire about sourcing? Or animal welfare? Do I ever do any on-line research about company ethics? Is there anything I boycott due to ethical grounds? -How does our (honest) answers on this chime with our response to a position of God entrusting us with the responsible stewardship of creation?

Yet, I think that we can do more than spend wisely, read labels and write strongly worded tweets on social media.

I passionately oppose the sale of weapons especially to states with awful records on human-rights, but yet I have never been on a protest, or picketed and arms faire, if I care about this issue I need to step up to the plate and make my protest felt.

Although Christians statistically are good citizens when it comes to doing their civic duty and vote, we perhaps need to be better at protesting against injustice, do we sign petitions? Do we write to our MP’s? Do we go on marches? Do we campaign for a better world?

The truth is that if the people of God don’t step up for the things that are upon the heart of God then who will step into that void?

So a call not just to vote, but live a life that seeks to usher in and advance the Kingdom of God, voting as a lifestyle each day, choosing to be a campaigner for the Kingdom of heaven and the cause of the heart-cry of Christ.

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call, cost, Isaiah 55., values, Worth

A Bizarre Burglary at the Jewellers.

I heard this story once (almost certainly made up) of a burglary at an expensive west-end jewellers, oddly nothing was taken, the only thing the intruders did was to swap the price tags around on everything, so no one knew what was worth what and they were able to legitimately buy great treasures for tiny prices.

Sometimes life feels a bit like this, as though everything’s values are just gone wrong and the worlds gone crazy!

Yet then sometimes I realise how much I am sucked into the world when I realise that the worlds warped and crazy values have become my values. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 12 with “don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould” don’t fall for the lie that things can make you happy, or work is more important than your family, or that this promotion will leave you feeling satisfied, or if I can make people laugh and be popular I will be fulfilled…

There is a phrase “knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing”.

I once heard someone say “advertisers are false evangelists selling fake salvation” -this idea that happiness can be obtained by (whatever) and then when we buy the product it doesn’t bring the hoped for fulfilment.

J.John once said “we buy things we will never use, with money we haven’t got, to impress people we don’t like” doesn’t this sound like a world where our values need to be readjusted.

we can have everything, and actually have nothing.

we can have nothing, but yet actually have everything.

Here is some words of Isaiah that sound a bit like what I believe Jesus longs to say to me and too you (Is.55).

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?

we need to look at the world not with our distorted human lenses but with they eyes of Christ through faith. As I type this I am reminded of a kids worship song “Fix your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace”.

Seeing things with Gods vision sets us free from the false values of a fallen world.

Scripture talks of the Christian building with Gold, Silver and Costly stones not with mud, straw and clay that get burned up in the dross, the problem is from this side of eternity it is the empty things that seem to shine the most brightly, but yet as we know often that which glistens is not always Gold.

Lets ask God to see the world with his values not our own limited and partial vision of an upside down world being turned the right way up for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

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priorities, values, Worth

Fools Gold.

On Friday I met up with my friends AJ and Chris, and we hung out for a couple of hours, consumed some saturated fats, shared and prayed together.

My friend Chris used a phrase “living from your guts” meaning living from your deepest convictions at the heart of who you are.

This is something I find hugely challenging (as well as incredibly inspiring) as it is really easy to say I am passionate about things, but living in such a way that my deep convictions are shown in my life is very different.

Chris has sat in the path of a tank whilst picketing and arms fayre, would I do that, or would I simply write a ‘strongly worded tweet’?!  -these things that make us feel like we are doing something, without actually doing anything, are dangerous for authentic discipleship that looks Christ-like.

Conversation moved to talking about discipleship, and saying about how we often listen to people because they appear successful, ministers of large Churches, and yet the challenge isn’t primarily for broad appeal, but rather depth of discipleship.

The Bible talks of building with Gold, Silver and Costly Stones, rather than with straw and hey which get burned up in the fire. The question behind this verse is asking if what we are investing so much of our lives in actually having any lasting or eternal value?

As we talked AJ or Chris talked about ‘fools gold’ -iron pyrites- it looks like gold but is worthless. Often sometimes we get so caught up with keeping the show on the road, delivering the product called Church, keeping everyone happy that we end up filling our treasurers in heaven with ‘fools Gold’.

It is very easy to build where Christ isn’t building, it is very easy to fill a diary rather than find ‘only doing what I see my Father doing”, “O let me see thy footprints  and in them plant my own, my hope to follow duly is in thy strength alone”.

Perhaps growing a large and comfortable Church, might look wonderful, but unless people are moving deeper in their relationship with Christ actually its fools gold.

It is easy to run around and keep everyone happy,  but unless people are changed and transformed by Christ -not just fobbed off and made to feel better- again its simply trying to build with fools Gold.

Or perhaps a Bible Study/Sermon filled with Greek and other pretentious knowledge which might sound truly wonderful, but if it has no results in making people more like Jesus then it is simply a waste of hot air, or fools Gold.

When we go along with everything anyone says and please people, although we may be a little bit popular, again we are chasing Fools Gold.

The World is full of “Good” ideas, but I want to do “God’s” ideas, Good is the enemy of great. Fools Gold might sparkle, but lets be discerning enough to see the fake Gold from the real thing.

“Good ideas might be good, but they will never be truly great, or truly fruitful”.

So lets build with Gold, real Gold, pure God and ignore the distracting sparkles of false God.

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Mission Shaped Church, values, vision

Vision and Values…

Last night I was at the Mission Shaped Ministry Course, it was very very good, we had a guy Liam, talking about Values for mission…

It is interesting, we talk about Vision lots, but it is our values who really shape who we are!

The truth is we all come with values and expectations, we rarely tease out what are values are, and often chase after a vision and realise that most Churches and Christian groups unravel around values.

We all have values, often just below the radar, and for us we just think that these are obvious things that everyone holds. Yet sadly the truth is our values differ massively from person to person, and what is “obvious” to one isn’t “obvious” to another.

Our behaviour often is determined by what our values really and truly are.

Jesus says “where your heart is there your treasure is”… What is in our hearts? What is our treasure? What is it we really value and what don’t we value?

Take a moment to think about the values we hold, the values that jar against us as the ones that resonate with us?

A bigger and a tougher question, what do our values look like when compared to the Christ of scripture (remember he smashed up the temple too, ask ourselves if we truly have a handle on what Jesus’ values actually were?).

Are our values the values of Christ?

Then think of the people who you admire, and those whom we struggle to ‘see eye to eye with’. and think about why we think what we do and why they think what they do.

We often think of other people as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because they do/don’t hold the same values to us.

There is an old proverb, don’t judge anyone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, by which time you are a mile away and got their shoes!

As we look at what our values really truly are under the light of Christ, be prepared for him to profoundly challenge you!!

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conscience, ethics, justice, Kingdom, Life in the Spirit, Life styles, priorities, values

What does it mean to be different?

My daughter has joined an ECO club…

It made me think that I am not as good on all things GREEN as I should be, and as I thought more about the whole Green issues I thought when was the last time I heard a sermon that mentioned things like carbon footprint, pollution, fracking and all those issues.

Yet when we think that we have a God given responsibility to be good stewards of creation, why is the Christian voice so hard to find on the national debate?

A while ago I was really challenged on my consumer ethics, the amount of clothes and other commodities (both high and low end of the market) that have been traded in an unfair and evil way, and yet it is a challenge to keep fairtrade teabags in our local Church.  In fact someone once said that often fairtrade tea-bags in Church often is more about a ‘sop to our conscience’ feeling like we are doing something, rather than really thinking about the ethics and power we have as consumers. A quote I heard once was “every pound you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in”… Lots of web-pages about how to be a more ethical consumer, yet how often do we talk about our power as consumers.

There is something really wrong when we are more worried about how much of our bodies is covered up by what we wear, than whether or nor it was made by a child in appalling inhumane conditions.

Then I began to think about politics and faith, something I am passionate about, but then as I thought actually as Christians we  seem to focus narrowly on one or two issues such as (in the states) Abortion or here in the UK Gay Marriage, but there are so many more issues where we have good things to say that are worth hearing on debates. It was great to see ++Rowan Williams step up and ask tough questions in the House of Lords  on the validity of the war in Iraq, or the Bishop of Portsmouth, Christopher Foster condemning the effect  of the austerity cuts on the most deprived and vulnerable in our society.

Yet I think as Christians and Churches we ought to be thinking how does our faith effect not only our view of political issues, but also our practices and behaviors on them.

Sometimes I think we a need a wider world view as I think the Kingdom of God is something that is all pervasive, challenges our view on everything, we are ‘alien ambassadors’, this world is not our home and we are living to point people to a different Kingdom, a Kingdom where Christ is King, a Kingdom where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Described by Bishop Graham Tomlin as “where what God wants happens here” as a definition of the Kingdom, this means where people are loved, where truth is spoken, where victims are comforted and lifted up, where sin is challenged, where power is rebuked, when darkness is driven back and good news is proclaimed.

And Good News has got to be good news for everyone, I believe that good news isn’t simply something awaiting us when die, but should be seen and visible in life now

Too often we have thought of Christian living and holiness as not saying naughty words, not smoking or drinking… rather than what my friend Si Hall described as “Dirty Holiness”, about intentionally rolling up ourselves and getting down where people are broken, hurting and marginalized. Holiness defined by what you DO rather than simply what you AVOID.

It is meant to look different from the world.

Bishop Tomlin again said that the problem with people coming to faith is they look at Christians and they seem almost indistinguishable from themselves.

Yet alongside this my friend Jonathan Dowman once commented that the greatest desire in many peoples heart is “I want to lead a good life and be a good person” and yet they don’t come to the Church for help with this as they so often don’t see us as Christians as different from them.

So, lets embrace the Kingship of Christ over all our lives.

I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer “Live in such a way that makes Atheists question their disbelief in God”.

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