Tag Archive: worship

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.

It seems to me that belonging to the church presents two significant challenges. 

 The first is that living in good relationship with other people isn’t easy.  As James says, “You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour,” (James 3:18 – The Message).

The second is that developing a healthy approach to mission isn’t easy either.  Finding the right balance of personal space, social time and church activity – valuing the salt and light impact of individuals in their own community circles apart from the “work” and organised events of the local church – presents tensions that have as many outcomes as there are people involved.

So if the local church is to be effective as a community of people on a mission together (which I think  it should be) we have to tackle both challenges.  We need to be pastoral in our approach to our own people and not sacrifice their well-being to the goal of evangelism (which is surely a self-defeating strategy) and also place an appropriate emphasis on the desperate need of the lost to hear the good news about Jesus.

Those challenges can only be worked out by individuals living together in community.  Start by looking at your own contribution.  Ask yourself questions like – am I taking good care of myself, my family and my church family?  Am I connecting with people who don’t know Jesus yet?  Then start talking to people in your life group / small group / cell group and ask questions like – are we relating together well?  Are we strengthening and encouraging each other, building one another up?  Are we impacting our community with the love and purposes of God?

Take care as you do this, and take time.  Consider the changes that may need to be made and work them out together.  There may be more change needed than can be made in a short space of time but the goal is a clear one.  The church is, “a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2:9).  A people declaring His praise.

Are you up for the challenges that this presents?

being in mission with God

I’ve been thinking about the church recently – and it’s amazing what feeds into that.  On Sunday the talk at Jubilee was about Adam and Eve in the garden and it seems to me that since that is the situation God created, it is His ideal.  God in close relationship with people.

When God has flooded the earth and saved righteous Noah and his family, His word to them is, “As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it,” Genesis 9:7.  An earth filled with the descendents of a righteous man.

When God calls Abraham in Genesis 12 He speaks about making him into a great nation and blessing all the people’s of the earth through him.  A world full of people who know God and His blessing.

This theme is repeated in the prophets.  “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea,” Isaiah 11:9 and is picked up by Paul as being continued through the church when he says that, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing,” Colossians 1:6.

I would like to suggest that this is God’s mission:  to fill the earth with people who know and love Him and who live for His glory.

The church is the present-day expression of what God has always desired.  One day – in our glorious future – that desire will become fully realised.  Until then, our call is to live in relational harmony with God and through that relationship (which is to be experienced in community) to demonstrate the love, power and grace of God to everyone who doesn’t know him yet.  We have been co-missioned with God.

It’s important to get your theology right isn’t it?  Get it right and live by it.

This morning in our meeting we were singing a chorus centred on Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The song is Nothing Shall Separate.  It’s a lovely song that has been really helpful in my worship since I first heard it and the verse has been special to me ever since my wife underlined it in my bible 24 years ago and told me to live in the truth of it.

It’s a truth that has deepened in significance as life has gone on – and all the more so over the past couple of years.  Why?  Because when you go through really tough experiences it’s verses like this one that you re-examine and hold on to. 

It’s all too easy to throw this out as a gentle platitude to people when they are in a difficult time – as if knowing this makes everything right again.  It doesn’t.  The truth of this verse does not diminish the pain of our experiences, the suffering caused by our own sin or the sins of people against us.  They are real and sometimes incredibly difficult to process.

The verse doesn’t say that everything that happens is good.  Not everything that we experience is good.  We mustn’t under-estimate the damage that can be done by suggesting otherwise.

And it’s not an excuse to live badly – the idea that we can do whatever we want and it will turn out all right in the end because God will make sure it does as though we are, “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” Jude 1:4.  Or that the fact that God works good into our lives, that He continues to show us grace, in some way justifies our own sinful choices and decisions.  It doesn’t – that He does continue to show grace is a testament to His goodness, not ours.

But the verse is an assurance that all the wrong that we suffer, all the pain and hardship, all the repercussions of sin (whoever it is perpetrated by), all the damaging  blows life, people and the enemy throw at us, are used by God for our good.  That doesn’t make life easier.  I’m not sure it lessens the blows.  But it does give us hope and it does give us grounds to be thankful.  And when we can look back and see exactly how God has used those experiences for good, it gives us a great story to tell.

Maybe one day, I’ll tell you more of mine.

it all starts at home

Do you want to do great things for God?  Do great things at home.  You want to make a real difference in the world?  Make a difference at home.  You want to lead people?  Lead at home.  You want the world to worship Jesus?  Worship Jesus at home.

It’s not complicated.  If you want to live for God, you have to live for God at home.  If you don’t do it there, you can’t do it anywhere. 

So when Gideon sets out to change the world, to free his nation from the tyranny of foreign rule, he has to start by tearing down the altars to other gods at home (Judges 6:25-27).

Now you may not have wooden poles to strange fertility gods in your front room, but you probably do have a TV.  Just imagine how many gods a day that thing shows you.

Why had Gideon and his family got an altar to Baal at home?  Because we can learn to live with anything.  We can even learn to live with other gods.  Here’s why it’s tough.

  1. Other gods creep in unnoticed.
  2. Everyone does it so it must be OK.
  3. It’s too much hastle to rock the boat.

But God doesn’t tolerate rivals.  And we cannot bring into the public realm what we do not have in the private one.  Trying to is hypocrisy.  Jesus never really liked that much.  So even if the thought of it scares you, it’s good to sweep your house clean every now and then.  That’s what Gideon did.  Because for every great man and woman of God, it all starts at home.

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