Category: musings

The unstoppable Jesus

This morning in our meeting, we sang a song which asked the question, “Who can stop our God?” and I was led to think about how His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted.

When men from the East asked, “Where is the one born King of the Jews?” Herod’s slaughter of the innocents could not stop Him.

Temptations from Satan could not stop Him.

The traps, questions and plotting of religious leaders could not stop Him.

False accusations, lies and a secret trial could not stop Him.

Flogging, mocking, beating, the Roman authorities and the cries of the crowd could not stop Him.

Jesus was determined to go to the cross.

Where death could not stop Him.

A stone across the entrance to His tomb and a Roman guard could not stop Him.

As He ascended into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father, nothing could stop Him.

Today, nothing can stop Jesus pouring out His Spirit, His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

When He returns, riding out of heaven with an army of angels to establish His kingdom in all its fullness, nothing will stop Him.

Jesus is unstoppable.

a sense of loss

My colleague and close friend Carl Taylor, founder and visionary of Faith Hope and Enterprise, died earlier this month.

Carl was a quite remarkable man. Someone of whom, in my estimation, the world was not worthy.

His compassion for the poor and his commitment to helping people turn their lives around against the odds was absolute. He enabled people to overcome abusive childhoods, mental health illness, learning disabilities, addictions and their past offending behaviour to find a meaningful place in society. He worked for the benefit of others at tremendous cost to himself.

Even in hospital, in the last week of his life, he would talk to me about the future of the company and the people we currently work with. He never once switched off.

He was the kind of man who said it the way he saw it. He could be uncompromising and intimidating. He was honest. He lived out the call of God on his life for the whole of his life. In the last days we remembered God’s promises to “make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15), “to proclaim good news to the poor…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” (Isaiah 61:1,2).

We remembered the promise of Jesus to the man next to him on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43). I know that Carl has also heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).

Friendships like ours don’t happen very often in life. We were open hearted with each other, we shared common values and purpose, we felt that God had brought us together for a reason and we pursued that vision with everything we had.

I will miss him. I will miss his warmth and his love. I will miss his humour and his clarity of thought. I will miss his wisdom and understanding.

Carl leaves an amazing legacy in the lives of the many people that he supported and the many different projects and enterprises that he was involved with. His vision continues and his ministry lives on.

Well done, my friend.

Lonesome Dove

I have just finished reading Lonesome Dove.  It is an amazing story, beautifully crafted, vividly detailed.  It explores the beauty and brutality of life and the kindness and cruelty of the people who inhabit it.

Set in the American West, following a group of cowboys herding from Texas to Montana, Larry McMurtry skillfully rotates perspective among the characters as the tale unfolds.  It is brilliantly done.

It is the fatalism of the novel which impacted me most though.  The regular deaths, the cruel treatment of key characters, the fears and failings of ordinary and extraordinary people.  Woodrow Call, a natural leader of men who gives his life over to doing right, is challenged at the last that he has never been right.  It unsettles him and the  futility of his own life is joined to the hopelessness of so many others.  He is unable to do the single most important thing he has ever needed to do.

It is this sense of futility that resounds so deeply at the moment.  The sense that nothing really matters, nothing you do makes any real difference.  The sense that we count for nothing.  That our lives have no meaning.  That we have failed.

It seems to me that this fear is a common human experience.  Yet we struggle to face it.  It is too hard.

But it’s there.  Unchanging.  Unrelenting.  Is there any purpose or meaning to our lives?  For all we achieve, have we ultimately failed?

We need to engage in this conversation, to recognise and understand the fears that haunt so many people.  Christians have hope and purpose.  Life is not futile.  We have a different narrative to tell.

city centre lifegroups

I’ve been led through a rather radical change of heart in the last couple of years.

I moved to the Peak District because I love the countryside.  I was definitely not a city person.  I still believe that God called me to the beautiful market town in which I live.  And I absolutely love it.  However, I now work predominately in the city of Derby and I serve in a church with a clear vision for the city.  Which makes the city quite central to my life.

So when it became apparent that I could play a part in establishing, growing and multiplying LifeGroups in the city centre I thought it would be a good thing to do.  And having made the decision to do it, I am more excited and enthusiastic about it than I ever would have believed I could be.

Our first group meeting was two weeks ago.  Seven of us met McDonald’s and enthused each other about what God was saying.  Last week twelve of us met in a bar and this week I am confident that more will join us.

There is something really challenging and edgy about this group.  It’s very different from a traditional small group based in a home.  Meeting in bars and coffee shops automatically gives a feel of being friends together.  Every meeting is a social.  And meeting in public places means that outreach is automatically at the heart of what we are doing.  Talking at normal volume about our faith, our love of God, our walk with Jesus and our desire to see the Spirit move, is challenging and fun.  Praying together is scary and wonderful.

Of course, such groups have to be different from what happens in homes.  We are already discovering that.  Plotting a way forward is huge fun.  My enthusiasm feels boundless.  I long to see more groups of this nature growing out of what we are doing and I am confident that they will.  I am confident that in turn we will have a real impact on the people around us.

What better way to be salt and light than to meet, talk and pray in the very bars and cafe’s where so many others are gathered?

And of course, it is a really simple transition for our alpha guests to make.  Already, several have indicated that they will join the group when the course has finished in order to continue their journey.  Which means that the groups will have people in them who haven’t yet given their lives completely to Jesus but who are being drawn to Him and want to continue their journey of discovery.

It seems to have filled me with life again.  I don’t think our Christian lives should feel “safe” in that sense – I like feeling out there, on the edge, putting myself in places where I am totally reliant on God.  But I can only do that when I am confident that He has called me to do it.  And I am confident that He has called me to do this.

I will let you know how it goes.

the kingdom of God

OK, so we’re singing away this morning about God being a king, ruling with authority and I begin to think, “Why is that feeling weird today?”  And then I think, “Maybe it has something to do with the state of various nations in the world right now.”

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

You see, world governments don’t exactly fill us with confidence do they?  They get themselves in debt, can’t pay their way out of it, political unions are on the verge of collapse and corruption sometimes appears to be endemic or they go totalitarian and start shooting people who are looking for a better way and deny basic rights to millions.

“Democratic” nations use military power against nations they don’t like in what seems to be an inconsistent way (although believing they can win and in the process defend their own financial interests do seem to be major factors) and even in wealthy nations the gap between rich and poor is rising and unemployment is heading in the wrong direction.

Do we want a king?

And then I start thinking about the kind of king that God is.

Does God have any debts?  Er, no.  In fact He has paid all our debts for us and still has an abundance of good gifts to shower us with.  Is he corrupt?  No.  Everything He does is just and true.  Is he good?  Absolutely.  Will His kingdom come crashing down because of economic ruin or more powerful nations?  No – of the increase of his government there shall be no end.  His kingdom is an eternal kingdom.

The feeling in many countries across the world right now is described as uncertain.  But there is certainty with God.  We can be certain that He will do all that He has promised to do.  We can be certain that His kingdom will be made known through the church and will one day fill the earth.  We can be certain that His love and goodness, His grace and mercy, His justice and righteousness, His truth and honour will last forever.

Do I want God to be my king?  Yes I do.  And he will be my king forever.

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