In every generation of Christians, there have been those who have thrown away their inherited ideas about what it means to be a Christian and what the Church should look like. They have thrown away their preconceptions and simply opened the Bible and sought to put into practice what they read there.
God loves a sticky wicket.
It seems He loves to stack the odds against Himself, and often, it appears, also against His people.
Think of Gideon’s army- God whittled them down from 32,000 to 300. That’s 0.9% of their original number. He deliberately and openly thwarted their natural strength because He wanted to be their strength.
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – Autumn, described famously by John Keats, seems to bring out the poet in all of us. To some, the season of new beginnings, with the start of the academic year, the end of Summer and the onset of everything being suddenly flavoured with pumpkin (blame the Americans!)
Every culture or group have traditions that grow over time; some of them good, some of them eventually a bit pointless. One tradition that we have in the Christian community house I live in, revolves around peoples’ birthdays. Everyone gets a cake (or pavlova, or cheesecake, or fruit salad, depending on their tastes) and we all sit around, eating and taking it in turns to tell that person what we appreciate about them. We also pray and ask God if there’s anything He wants to say to them. (Disclaimer: it is my birthday soon, so this might be why I’ve been thinking about it!)
In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, John 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.
Most people seem to think that the Christian church was born on Pentecost day in Jerusalem, as described in the book of Acts. Ten days after Jesus had risen to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on over a hundred disciples and they started to speak new languages (Acts 2:1-4). After Peter had powerfully preached the Gospel, 3,000 were saved and baptised and suddenly there was a church in Jerusalem, in which everyone had everything in common, miracles abounded and people were converted daily (Acts 2:42-47).
The Arctic is alarmingly warm this year, in fact, 20 degrees hotter than usual. What scientists have been warning us against for decades is becoming reality. If nothing is done, we might see an enormous climate catastrophe that would kill and displace hundreds of millions.
WHEN Jesus was on the cross he cried out: “It is finished” (John 19:30)
The work that the Father had sent him to do, he had done. And this work was to show us how to live, to show us the kingdom of God, to show us how to live in right relationship with our Father and each other, to show us the beauty of living to serve, to show us the power and glory and healing of the reign of God.
I was grabbed recently by something in a piece of literature put through my front door. Unusual, I know. It was a prayer diary for the Middle East. In it I found a prayer for government officials to return to displaced peoples equality, dignity and responsibility. Lack of these things, or violent suppression thereof, in many countries is the very reason many refugees are fleeing in their droves. And it really got me thinking.
Since the 70s we’ve been called Jesus Fellowship. On April 7th 1987 we took on Jesus Army as our second, parallel identity, a public brand under which we’d reach out to the UK for Jesus. This post is all about names.
Why do names matter? Names shape culture and values, they help form first impressions. Choosing a good name for a church is no quick fix to changing a culture, but what organisations choose to call themselves carries weight both in gathering members around a vision and communicating to outsiders.
It is an exciting time for the church, new people are coming and finding Jesus and the promise of Isaiah is once again fulfilled in our age:
“Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, and your daughters will be carried in the arms.”
One thing that I’ve always loved with this church is the bold proclamation of Jesus and how we make that clearly and publicly visible. ‘Jesus Army’ is written on vehicles, on flags; some of us wear red crosses or even colourful Jesus jackets; our social centres are called Jesus Centres where the cross is the first thing you see. As someone told me some years ago: “We’re loud and proud!”
And we should be.
The comedy troupe Monty Python once performed a sketch called The Four Yorkshiremen. Four old rich gents sit on a fancy veranda, puffing cigars. One after another they start telling stories about how difficult their upbringings were, each story more ludicrous than the last. Finally, the fourth Yorkie finishes his story with the crowning phrase “And you try and tell the young people of today that, they won’t believe you!”
It’s fair to say that we live in a cynical age. Everything is questioned, picked apart and doubted. But it’s no wonder. This past week or so has seen the nation and the government divided, leading to a bubbling over of hate and prejudice, with accusations flying from both sides.