– – –
Community is in our blood.
In the early ‘70s we discovered the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a church, and God led us out of stale, safe Christendom onto a radical path. God packed us out with scores of hippies, students, drop-outs and dissatisfied Christians, and consequently life got much more colourful.
The other day I read Colossians 1:15, 18: Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” and “the firstborn from the dead”. I considered this; that He is the new Adam, the first member of God’s new creation. When He rose from the dead, He started something entirely new to replace the old fallen order. God does not improve the world by moral laws or even example, but He will scrap it altogether, and in Christ he has initiated the new world already.
Throughout our lives, God brings different ‘pearls’ of revelation to us. Some of these pearls are small; they help us to work out temporary situations. Other times, they are a lot bigger, brighter and longer lasting; they change the way we think about ourselves and those around us. Not long ago God dropped one of these very precious pearls into my hands.
We watched a typical gospel video on Sunday. It was about this criminal, Barabbas, whom the crowds opted to be set free so that Jesus might be crucified. The video explained how we are all like this criminal, Barabbas, deserving of death but set free so that Jesus might take our place.
One of my favourite scriptures is “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) It’s become my mantra over the years.
I’m a fan of the summer: I love sitting outside and feeling the heat of the sun on my skin. There’s a feeling of contentment and peace that can only be described as internal warmth.
There’s a book that was written back in the 50s by a guy called Richard Niebuhr, called “Christ and Culture”. It mentions the importance of every church understanding what the outside culture’s attitude is towards the church. He looks at different ‘seasons’ that churches go through.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered in sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table…” (Luke 16:19-21)
Every generation has its ‘Lazarus’: the poor, mistreated, abused, and neglected. Part of this generation’s Lazarus is the third world migrants who wash up on the shores of Europe. Their governments oppress them, abuse them, imprison them, torture them; so those that can escape head for the rich man’s gate known as Europe.
What is the greatest force on earth today? I would say it is culture. Culture has the greatest impact. When you read in the papers about lists of the most influential people in the world, they’re talking about people who carry the authority to influence and shape culture. When ideas meet with humanity, they create culture.
I’ve never made a cake, but this is what I think you’d need:
A good kitchen with a decent table. An oven. The ingredients. Time and no distractions. A mixing bowl and the various bits of pans and stuff to make it. (I’ve really never made one).
If you were, for example, in a warehouse, with the oven on one side of the warehouse, the table on the other side, half the ingredients missing, no mixing bowl, forklifts driving by you, and only three minutes to make it in, then the forklift drives over the pan and squashes it, you would, I think, find it very difficult to make a cake.
I’ve often heard people say “there is beauty in our brokenness”. Recently I saw a post on Pinterest about “Kintsukori” –
“the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken”.
It’s a lovely expression, but do we really believe it?
Northampton Jesus Centre celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2014. What have we learned along the way that has seen us through to this point?
Early on we discovered that where you think you’re going when you start isn’t where you end up but in it all God gets you exactly where He needs you to be in order to bring Him the glory.
Those who are truly born of God have had a deep transformation in their hearts. They are not hard work to disciple, and they will not remain committed to their old life with its addictions and values. We need to become sharp in identifying those who are born of God and those who are not- not so we can condemn, but so we can pray for them.
If we’re into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, why not also the ministries?
We need vision. It’s easy to see what’s wrong about a church if you’re around for a while, and we’ve been facing up to a lot of that over recent years. It’s also easy to point the finger at people who may seem to be slacking or backsliding, and blame them for failures.
Community works when we enjoy spending time together. This means we aren’t always hiving off to our bedrooms but perhaps sitting downstairs and reading a book. We need to make meal times a focal point of sharing our hearts and enjoying each other, switching off from the business of other things and giving time to build relationships and family.
Three weeks ago, I picked up a few friends who were new to the country and took them to our mid-week small group. When I got to the hostel where they stay, eight happy souls were waiting for me outside. I wound the window down, waved, and called them to cross the road to get into the minibus. We began talking as soon as they sat. I enjoyed their company for that half hour journey to our small group.
I love shopping, but if there’s one thing I dislike shopping for, it’s jeans! If you’re female and reading this, you will probably understand where I’m coming from. It is so hard to find the right fit/feel/length and material, at a good price. So when I discovered that my favourite jeans that I’ve pretty much lived in for the last two years had a big hole in them, I was devastated. I sent up a small prayer to heaven that God would give me some new ones and forgot all about it. A few days later someone randomly handed me a pair of Levi jeans which fitted me perfectly!
I was 22 or 23 when I was first asked to move to another community house in 1998. When I moved in there were only five of us living there and it was up to me to make things happen. I wasn’t an evangelist particularly, but I was stirred by a desire to love people and share Jesus with people. In those days, we took a few risks, there were lots of good things that happened but also loads of mistakes. I was learning wisdom, learning to love and win people into the church.